Dear Viv and Tom,
I have always believed that the best way to explore a place is to find wonderful people along the way who are fun, sympathetic and, most importantly, great storytellers. These interpreters of their worlds help us to see aspects of the destination of which we would never have been aware. And their broader knowledge of history and local culture, their familiarity with the flora and fauna, their love of markets and art and food, all help to contextualize the location and make it sing. This itinerary that I have designed for you is studded with some of these people. I know you will enjoy being together.
Day 1: Arrive Sydney & an Afternoon on the Water
You will be met at the airport by Paul who I have known now for a dozen years and driven to The Langham Sydney. If you are wide awake, Paul will happily point out the wonderful sandstone buildings of the city center and tell you about the history of The Rocks.
Early check in has been arranged. Have a bite of breakfast and a flat white before putting on your swimmers and sunscreen and heading out into the harbor with Mark Dalgleish. His boat will pick you up at Towns Place Wharf and zip you off around the Opera House, hugging the coast while he tells you the stories of the finger wharfs and the different bays, each of which has its own personality. You can disembark on any of the public beaches for swim.
Knowing that you love your seafood and, in particular, your crustacea, we asked Mark to stop by the fish market this morning for a platter of Sydney Rock Oysters, Moreton bugs, smoked salmon and kingfish ceviche.
Early afternoon return to Towns Place Wharf and hop an uber up to Paspaley Martin Place where we have arranged for you to meet Michael and Peter Bracher, Paspaley family members, for a private visit of the downstairs vault rooms where the greatest cultured and fresh water pearls are graded and displayed. Arguably the purveyors of the most beautiful pearls in the world, the Brachers will tell you their family history surrounded by wonderful photographs and memorabilia from the early days of pearling. Returning upstairs to the retail showroom, a few minutes with James will further educate you on pearl color and size after which you can shop to your hearts’ content!
Return to The Langham. Rest, freshen up and then head out for dinner to Mr. Wong, a Sydney institution and a delicious one at that!
Day 2: Sydney Harbor National Park
Today I would like you to understand a bit more about Sydney’s history and its unique flora and fauna. To that end, I have asked Jamie and his wife, Katie, to meet you at The Langham and to take you on a long walk or a bike ride, as you prefer, into Sydney Harbor National Park. Jamie is a botanist and Katie the historian, but they are both Sydneysiders and are therefore a wellspring of general information. Sydney has done an extraordinary job at protecting vast tracks of land in the city and you can walk for miles through its various habitats, enjoying the unique flora that so engages Jamie. Walking all the way to the Heads and looking back at the CBD, it is hard to believe that you are in one of the world’s great metropolitan areas. But this is what makes living in Sydney so appealing to locals and foreigners — the ability to blend a physically active life with a professional work life. There is always a trail to hike or bike, a beach to swim from, wildlife to admire.
A barbecue lunch will be at Jamie and Katie’s house near Manley, after which you will be driven back to the hotel. Suggestions for the afternoon could include a visit to Taronga Zoo, a visit to the Natural History Museum (we can arrange a behind the scenes visits to both if you wish), a bridge climb if you still have the energy, an e-bike ride, or some gallery visits to look at Australian art.
Choices for dinner tonight could be at Bennelong in the Sydney Opera House or, If you want something a bit funkier, Radio Cairo in Mossman which is run by an old friend of mine from Kenya, or around the corner from the Langham is Sake, a very good Japanese restaurant.
Day 3: Blue Mountains Adventure & Overnight
We have arranged a private charter this morning to fly you north of the city to the Blue Mountains where you will be met on arrival by James Castrission, a remarkable young man who has set records with all kinds of intrepid adventures. James and his fellow explorer kayaked solo from Australia to New Zealand and undertook another extraordinarily treacherous journey in Antarctica. Today, at 37, James is on call for motivational speaking engagements when he is not guiding special clients in his beloved Blue Mountains. You will spend the day with James engaged in any outdoor activity that appeals to you. These can be as gentle as walking amongst kangaroos, wombats and wallabies or as adrenaline pumping as canyoning and repelling. You can also horseback ride, hike, and bike. We have a comfortable camp set up for you with ensuite accommodations and you will end your day around the fire pit with a delicious spit roasted dinner and loads of storytelling.
Day 4: Lord Howe Island
We will private charter you back this morning to the domestic airport where you will connect with your 1h20m flight to Lord Howe Island. You will land on the grassy strip and be collected by Libby from Capella Lodge, a Luxury Lodge of Australia with only 9 rooms.
Lord Howe is the southernmost coral reef in the world and is one of the most beautiful islands I have visited. Though so close to Sydney, it feels remarkably remote and mysterious. It is, in fact, very pristine both on land and underwater. It is dominated by two mountains that offer challenging hiking opportunity and is forested by Norfolk pines and the Kentia Palm for which it has been known for decades. Birds are everywhere and remarkably tame for there are no predators on the island. Tropicbirds, terns, sooty terns are just some of those nesting in trees above your head or wheeling on thermals above the cliffs.
This afternoon, why not take a sunset cruise over to Ball’s Pinnacle , a remnant of a shield volcano that has galvanized rock climbers for years.
You will have three nights on Lord Howe at Capella Lodge,
Day 5: Getting to Know You (on land)
Meet Ian Hutton this morning at the Lord Howe Museum. Ian is a biologist – THE biologist – of Lord Howe. He is also responsible for the fascinating two-room Museum which he will guide you through this morning. The first room you will visit gives you an in depth understanding of the island’s geology and biology and describes both the successes and failures they have faced. The second room covers the human history of Lord Howe with displays, maps, paintings, letters and books. The collection is surprisingly original and deep.
After your museum visit, Ian will take you off on a hike. If you are up for it, hike Mt. Gower at 2800 feet. If you prefer something less challenging, there are a myriad of trails that Ian can lead you on while sharing fascinating stories about the geology, plant and animal life you are witnessing.
Day 6: Getting to Know you (underwater)
If you are a diver, then we must rearrange your day 5 and 6 and set up your diving for day 5 so that you are ready to fly on day 7. If you are a snorkeler, it does not matter in which order you explore the land and the underwater.
Lord Howe is the most southerly coral reef in the world and it offers species that are not seen elsewhere. You will also find sharks and turtles, reef fish and, further out, pelagic species. There are ten very good dive sites so there is no need to become bored with your underwater adventures. Apart from snorkeling and diving there are a couple of suppliers of SUPs, kayaks and boards, and with its many bays, you can usually waters that cater to the different activities.
Day 7: From One Island to Another
Depart Lord Howe this morning on your flight to Adelaide and connect on down to Kangaroo Island. On arrival at Kangaroo Island, you will be met by Craig, your private guide and companion during your stay. Craig will provide a brief orientation session on Kangaroo Island, with a walk among the eucalyptus trees to look for birds, koalas, and other wildlife. After lunch, you will travel to Southern Ocean Lodge and you will be able to settle in for the afternoon. Dinner this evening will be served at Southern Ocean Lodge, where you will stay the night.
Day 8: All About Wildlife
This morning, you will get out onto the water with a private ocean rafting expedition. On the way, you will enjoy a scenic drive to Emu Bay. On the cruise, Craig will provide an in-depth explanation of the coastline and its marine inhabitants. You also will be able to snorkel with wild dolphins.
After your cruise, return to the beach for lunch. Then, continue along the northern coast to meet with a local wildlife biologist from the endangered Glossy Black Cockatoo recovery program. This program is one of the most successful recovery programs for threatened species in Australia and aims to preserve the Glossy Black Cockatoo population growth by conserving and maintaining their nesting sites and minimizing the interference with their nesting sites by other animals. Return to the lodge in the late afternoon for time to relax before dinner.
Day 9: In the Bush
Venture out early with Craig this morning to try “breakfast in the bush.” This will be followed by a private tour of the Australian sea lion colony at Seal Bay Conservation Park—your early start will ensure you get there before it is opened to the public. At Seal Bay, Craig will take you for a walk along the beach among the sea lions to learn about the biology, breeding, and behavior of these creatures, as well as the environmental challenges they are currently facing.
Continue the day with a private free-flight bird and reptile experience at Raptor Domain, where you will meet a selection of native Australian birds of prey and reptiles.
After a break for lunch in the bush, you will have the opportunity to take a private tour on all-terrain vehicles through the local bushland. Return to the lodge in the afternoon for some time to relax and freshen up prior to dinner.
Day 10: Escape to Seascapes
Craig will be waiting for you after breakfast to explore another region of this diverse island. Travel to nearby Flinders Chase National Park and visit the iconic seascapes of the southwest coast—including a natural sculpture perched on the clifftops, a sea cave known as “Admiral’s Arch,” and a heritage lighthouse precinct overlooking a large fur seal colony. Enjoy a seafood barbeque before taking a long walk through a pioneering farming district now home to large numbers of kangaroos that come out of the bush to graze on the pastures each afternoon.
Day 11: Melbourne: City with a Vibe
Depart Kangaroo Island for Adelaide and on to Melbourne. I love Melbourne, and I am sure you will as well. The city has grit, it has beauty, it has diverse and superb food, it has a constant flow of sporting and cultural events, it has great coffee and it has been voted to have the best croissant in the world! You will be here just after the Australian Open has finished so crowds will have diminished but, even so, the city is vibrant and active.
Dean will meet you at your hotel, United Places, midday and run you over to Supernormal for a delicious Asian fusion lunch. Dean is a Melbournian and he adores his city. He is energetic, knowledgeable, funny and super connected, able to make anything and everything happen. We love him. Get to know each other over lunch and review your plans for the next few days.
After lunch, I have asked Dean to give you an overview of the city so that you have a sense of where you are. The city center’s arcades are a good place to start as they are beautiful architecturally and lead into the lanes where pop up restaurants thrive. Drive over to Collingwood and Fitzroy, a grittier part of town but, to me, more fun and interesting. Here you have some of Melbourne’s best street art, something for which the city is celebrated. If you begin to flag mid-afternoon, Pop into Proud Mary for a coffee, some Proud Mary coffee stories, and a bit of vinyl!
Dine tonight at Matilda next door to your hotel. The food here is cooked over coals and wood fire and, if you like meat, the Tomahawk to share is delicious!
Day 12: Mornington Peninsula & the Weedy Sea Dragons
Start your morning going with a kayak ride on the Yarra River and then pop over to Luna for what is reputed to be the best croissant in the world! Dean will pick you up and take you down to the Mornington Peninsula. About an hour down the peninsula, stop at Bayplay where we have preordered your wetsuits and gear. If you want to snorkel you can, but your chances of seeing the weedy sea dragons are much better if you dive. The depth where the weedies are is only 15 to 18 feet so you can also snorkel and free dive down to see them close to the bottom where they tend to hang out. Snorkeling around the dock, a series of pilings that are cloaked in seaweed and other beautiful creatures, is an experience in itself. You will be in the water for about 45 minutes – after that you will be quite cold – and then shower and change. Depart Bayplay and head to Port Phillip Estate, a beautiful small winery, for lunch and a wine tasting.
Return to Melbourne stopping enroute, if you wish, at the Moonlit Sanctuary to see some wildlife in a very pleasant and quiet setting.
Dine tonight at Yagiz Restaurant known for its modern Turkish cuisine.
Day 13: Your Day
Today is your day..Dean is at your disposal if you want him – and I believe you will as he is such fun to be with! You might wish to play a game of tennis, go for a run around the Formula 1 track, head down Brunswick Street to look at new fashion designers and vintage clothing shops. If the weekend, the markets are on selling both vintage furniture and wares as well as artisan creations. RM Williams sells great boots, T2 is the best tea shop in Australia and is a source of presents to take home. And then, of course, we can drive you down the Coastal Road to the 12 Apostles, one of the great drives in Australia (3.5-4 hours), stopping at small fishing villages along the way. We would private charter you back to Melbourne by helicopter.
If you want a white glove restaurant reservation for your last night in Australia, we can book Vue du Monde, one of the top in the city. But you may prefer something different..a delicious Japanese restaurant, more fusion food or an edgy option like Transformer Fitzroy.
Day 14: Departure
Depart this morning from Melbourne.