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I'm Going Down Under!

It's official! I'm leaving for Australia on December 20th!!! Nearly everything is PAID!

This will be the first time I've ever visited another country, so I'm nervous....BUT I'M SO EXCITED! I'll only be there 13 days, which seems like such a short time, the more I think about it, but I will be making the most of that brief time.

Since I'm new to the whole travel thing, I decided to plan my adventure through a travel agency (which isn't the cheapest way to go about it, but it's more organized than I would have been, so ultimately *I* will probably not be spending as much). Everything is pretty much scheduled for me, I guess, so I won't be just sitting around my hotel room, wondering what there is to do. And the itinerary sounds pretty exciting, too!

Day 1: Depart the US

Set off on your exciting down under adventure as you board a flight bound for Australia’s largest city, Sydney.

What’s Included: flight

Day 2: Cross International Date Line

Set your watch forward by a few hours as you near Australia. Don’t worry, you’ll get the time back on your return trip.

Day 3: Welcome to Sydney (Sydney)

Favored with one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbors, iconic landmarks, sophisticated restaurant and bar scenes, and a vibrant, multicultural outlook, Australia’s largest city is also one of its most interesting.

Begin your adventure by meeting your private chauffeur who’ll take you to the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel in the historic Rocks district — your home for the following four days. Freshen up after your long flight, then set out to explore the area; the hotel is situated within an easy walk of the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and dazzling city foreshore.

In the evening, enjoy sweeping city views and a splendid dinner at the award-winning Altitude Restaurant, which you’ll find on the 36th level of the hotel.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 4: Beautiful Sydney Harbour (Sydney)

Port Jackson, the natural inlet that contains Sydney Harbour, just so happens to be one of the finest in the world. Devote your time to the attractive city foreshore by embarking on a harbor cruise on board a luxury yacht. Travel past Sydney’s famous sights, grandiose waterfront mansions, quiet coves and busy ports, and discover what makes the city unique. Drop anchor at a secluded spot and make the most of the temperate climate with an alfresco barbecue lunch, while taking the opportunity to swim, fish or lounge back with a glass of wine.

Alternatively, turn your attention to Sydney’s iconic landmarks: the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. As you tour its magnificent interior, listen to the fascinating tale of how the opera house was designed and how rivalries and intrigues eventually drove its creator to resign. Then, as evening nears, set your eyes on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and climb one of its arches to the summit for unrivalled city views.

What’s Included: accommodation, Sydney Opera House tour (optional), Sydney BridgeClimb (optional), Sydney Harbour cruise (optional)

Day 5: Beaches, Bays and Beauties of Sydney (Sydney)

With golden beaches, breathtaking bays and must-see sights, hidden between skyscrapers, parks and headlands, Sydney is a city that requires a bit of exploration in order to reveal its secret beauty.

Discover some of its best-concealed secrets on a “Sydney Essentials” tour. Gaze over the harbor from Observatory Hill and then stroll through the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens until you reach the lookout at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair where you’ll enjoy a picnic.

After lunch, wander to the posh suburb of Wolloomooloo and hear the tale of its historic Finger Wharf, which has transformed from port facility, to derelict wreck, to some of Sydney’s finest apartments and restaurants. Amazingly, less than a kilometer south of the exclusive area, you’ll find Sydney’s infamous red light district, Kings Cross. Walk its main strip and listen to tales of how this once reputable, albeit bohemian, place transformed into its present form.

Continue east to leafy Paddington, which abounds in pretty terrace homes, boutique art galleries, antique shops, and then the world-famous Bondi Beach. Pause for a few minutes to drink in the vibrant atmosphere, beach views and the sunbathing crowds, before heading north to Manly. Finish up at the scenic North Head, a craggy headland that juts out into Sydney Harbour offering unparalleled ocean and city views.

What’s Included: accommodation, Sydney Essentials Tour (optional)

Day 6: Meet the Mountains and Wildlife (Sydney)

Spectacular though it may be, tear yourself away from Sydney Harbour and discover some of the great natural attractions nearby. Start your morning with cuddly koalas at Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney’s west. Pat the lazy creatures, feed adorable kangaroos and wallabies and meet some of Australia’s other quirky inhabitants. Once you’ve had your animal fix, resume your journey west until you reach the magnificent Blue Mountains.

Stop at breathtaking lookouts to gaze over sapphire-hued valleys, visit Scenic World and take a gondola ride or descend into the rainforest on the world’s steepest scenic railway, enjoy lunch in a picturesque mountain setting and finish up at a clearing where you can sip champagne while wild kangaroos calmly graze around you.

Alternatively, join a small group luxury 4WD tour into the Southern Highlands. Spend your day admiring the local flora, lookouts over sweeping valleys and searching for Australia’s native animals: kangaroos, koalas, platypuses (little mammals that look like a cross between a duck and beaver), wombats and emus.

What’s Included: accommodation, Blue Mountains tour (optional), Southern Highlands Wildlife tour (optional)

Day 7: Idyllic Island Paradise (Sydney – Cairns – Lizard Island)

Change the scenery and pace of life, as you exchange Sydney’s busy streets for the white sand beaches, crystal waters and relaxed tropical climate of Far North Queensland.

Gaze out the plane window as the scenery changes on your three-hour flight to Cairns. Then hop on a one-hour charter flight to the idyllic paradise of Lizard Island. Located 240 kilometers north of Cairns, the island is blessed with vibrant reef, colorful marine life, pristine beaches and a luxury resort that has received numerous national and international awards for excellence.

Settle into your Anchor Bay Room (option to upgrade to a suite) — one of only 40 villas on the island — and enjoy the stunning sea views and easy access to the beach, just in case you’re tempted to take a dip or a sunset stroll.

What’s Included: domestic flight, airport transfer, accommodation, use of resort amenities

Day 8: Dive the Coral Gardens (Lizard Island)

When in paradise, do as the local fish do and dive beneath the rippling waves to discover sensational underwater worlds. The marine park surrounding Lizard Island has been favored with a myriad of exciting diving spots, each with its own individual — and intriguing —merits.

Gear up and discover the fascinating soft and hard formations that abound with tropical fish life or explore the famous Cod Hole diving spot, where huge, but gentle, potato cod swim up to investigate what you’re up to. If you’d rather stay closer to the surface, there are plenty of fantastic snorkeling spots blessed with effervescent coral, flamboyant tropical fish and giant clams, for you to explore. The resort also offers glass-bottom boat trips if you’d like to stay completely dry while seeing what goes on in the clear waters below.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, use of resort amenities

Day 9: Explore Secluded Beaches (Lizard Island)

Capture the feeling of being cast away in a world untouched by anybody else. Lizard Island boasts 24 beaches, most of which are gloriously secluded.

Begin your day by grabbing a gourmet picnic basket for two and setting off to explore the island on a motorized dinghy. Admire the green flora of the national park, the silvery glint of the sand along the island’s shores and the stark contrast of the turquoise water that surrounds it. Pull the dinghy onto the shores of a private beach, roll out the picnic blanket and indulge in a gourmet picnic lunch and a glass of bubbly as you toast to your heavenly isolation.

If you’d rather leave the steering to somebody else, explore the area from the deck of a luxury catamaran as it sails around the island, taking in the most spectacular views and snorkeling sites.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner, use of resort amenities

Day 10: A Day of Pure Indulgence (Lizard Island)

Lizard Island was created for complete and utter indulgence. Give into your instincts and pamper your senses by dedicating a day to pure, unadulterated extravagance.

After a long and languid breakfast, find the perfect spot on the beach, set your towel down and relax, thinking of nothing but the gently-lapping waves. Take a break for lunch and then enjoy a tropical juice while lounging in the breezy bar area.

In the afternoon, treat yourself to a pampering at the lavish Azure Spa. With a natural focus that draws from ancient Aboriginal wisdom and a healing, tranquil atmosphere, the spa will ease your mind, body and spirit through relaxing massages, signature scrubs and water therapy.

As the sun dips below the horizon, combine fine dining with spectacular vistas in Lizard Island’s Sunset Degustation experience. Select one of two beaches, where you’ll be treated to a seven-course degustation menu with matching wine, in glorious, romantic seclusion.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, signature beach dinner (optional), Azure Spa treatments (optional), use of resort amenities

Day 11: Follow a Nature Trail (Lizard Island)

Aside from superb beaches and the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island also boasts more than 1,000 hectares of beautiful, wild national park. Escape under the canopies on a self-guided island walk and admire the dazzling fauna and local wildlife. Depending on which time of year you come, you might see cute green tree frogs, flying foxes, lizards, or a wide variety of exotic bird life.

If you’d rather keep your exploration to the crystal waters surrounding the island, head out on a game fishing expedition on board the “Fascination” charter or learn more about the area on a guided paddle ski tour.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, full- or half-day fishing trip (optional), use of resort amenities

Day 12: Drink in Tropical City Life (Cairns)

After a final sun-kissed breakfast, depart Lizard Island in style on an afternoon charter flight to Cairns. A private chauffer will meet you on arrival in the vibrant coastal city and take you to your harbor-view room at The Shangri-La Hotel.

Freshen up while gazing out over the hills that surround the tropical area, before heading out to explore the Esplanade – a winding pedestrian walkway that offers prime views over the ocean as well as a swimming pool lagoon. Pop into art stores, photography galleries and souvenir shops to see if anything catches your eye, before settling at a waterfront bar or restaurant. Indulge in fresh seafood and a glass of wine, as the evening turns to night and your romantic Australian holiday nears its end.

What’s Included: breakfast, charter flight, private transfer, accommodation

Day 13: Farewell Australia (Cairns – US)

Bid adieu to the tropical shores of Cairns as a private transfer takes you to the airport and you board your return flight home, with a thousand treasured memories.

What’s Included: airport transfer, International flight
Yeah, I think I can put up with babysitting naughty adults for the next 10 months, if I've got this to look forward to.

Hopefully you will get some free time for some personal exploration
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