I’ve just returned from guiding clients on a 12 night journey on the east coast of Australia. We experienced spectacular and iconic destinations and some of the best wildlife and natural beauty Australia has to offer.
Byron Bay (on the northern New South Wales coast) has long been hailed as having some of Australia’s best surf beaches - with endless miles of white sand, mighty waves and very few people.
The general sparsity of people in Australia is something my American clients always comment on – the reality is that Australia has 15,000 miles of coastline with a population of only 24 million to share it. It is not uncommon to have a beach or island to yourself.
Cape Byron Lighthouse provides a commanding panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and is the ideal location to observe the migrating humpback whales. Hiking down to the beach for an up close and personal maritime activity, we paddled sea kayaks among the resident pod of 60+ dolphins and a number of sea turtles off Wategos Beach. Hitting the waves for a late afternoon surf lesson was the perfect way to end a great day of fun filled activities.
Flying over the Great Barrier Reef by helicopter en route to Orpheus Island we were fortunate to see a school of humpback whales breaching among the myriad of reefs and islands. Snorkelling the fringing coral reefs is simply breathtaking and, with only a handful of guests at secluded Orpheus Island resort, we were treated like friends by the wonderful staff while at the same time indulged with cuisine fit for a king. The scientific Research Station provided an amazing and unique insight on issues threatening certain coral species. Another highlight was hiking to a pristine waterfall on nearby Hinchinbrook Island, literally like stepping into the set of Jurassic Park.
Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest have so much to offer it is difficult to know where to begin. Snorkelling the Ribbon Reefs with its incredible biodiversity of marine life is only equaled on land by the unique flora that abounds. The Botanical Ark, a privately owned ethno-botanic garden, provides insights into the tropical rainforests of the world through the encyclopaedic knowledge of Alan Carle. Epic clients are always blown away by the full immersion experience here.
Over the winter months, Kangaroo Island, off the South Australian coast, is so verdantly green one might think they are in Ireland…except for the koalas in the eucalypt trees. Undulating pastures dotted with thousands of sheep, massive sugar gums, mobs of kangaroos and native wildlife make for fabulous photography. The endemic Tamar wallabies with joeys (baby wallabies) in their pouch are just unforgettable. And a candlelit dinner in a 150 year old shearing shed creates an experience never to be forgotten. If you are looking for spectacular scenery and a microcosm of Australian endemic wildlife this island is hard to beat.
Of course, no visit to Australia is complete without sailing on Sydney Harbour, cruising beneath the Harbour Bridge and having photos taken with the Opera House as a backdrop. This iconic piece of modern architecture is one of the world’s busiest performing arts venue and its vaulted ’sails’ and adjoining Bennelong Restaurant dining experience are not to be missed. A stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney is another ’must do’ – its location in The Rocks overlooking the Harbour and its exceptional service are second to none. Climbing to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a fitting finale to bid farewell to Australia.
The above itinerary was based on 12 nights. If you have more time and want to experience the wild heart of Australia, Epic recommends visits to South Australia, Tasmania, the Red Centre, the Kimberleys and Kakadu & Arnhemland in Australia’s North (Top End).