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Client blog: Down Under

Australia has been a hot destination this year with both clients and staff alike. Brian and Diane Rice were no exception. Looking for the perfect trip down under, we crafted a wonderful itinerary to suit their every whim. Here’s how their trip went…

“Our long haul flights were Business class with Emirates, flying from London Heathrow to Brisbane via Dubai.

The return trip saw us fly from Christchurch to London Heathrow via Sydney and Dubai. There were no actual stop overs so we travelled for 24 to 28 hours each time.

The business lounge at Dubai provided little relief and was particularly poor as it was very big and extremely busy. However, Heathrow’s business lounge was superior to any others.

We were met by friends on arrival at Brisbane and it wasn’t long before we were ticking things off of our bucket list.

Although we had been to Australia before, this time we were able to visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) which had been on our “must see" list for a long time. Uluru was a magnificent sight and worth the early morning start to watch the sunrise and the colours change in the sky. Likewise the domes of Kata Tjuta, although the sunset did not seem as spectacular.

We had a Silent Dinner under the stars near Uluru. Sadly we had cloud cover so there were very few stars visible. We understand the difficulty in preparing/serving food in the open but it was a little disappointing.

Our accommodation was the Desert Gardens Hotel, which was a little tired. Offering the only rooms with views of Uluru, our room was up to a fine standard as we were given an upgrade for being kept waiting.

On our drive from Brisbane to Sydney we tried to keep off the main road as much as possible as we wanted to see more of the countryside.

Our first stop was two nights at Elements of Byron, where we had an extremely tasteful and well appointed villa. Amongst the facilities was an adults-only pool, plus a large family pool with free sunscreen and water. There was also a lovely beach.

During our stay we took a scenic drive and visited a town called Newrybar. After enjoying a drink in Harvest, Diane found the best fresh tomato juice she has ever tasted. We later regretted not staying and having a meal there.

Our next two nights were at Aanuka Beach Resort, Coffs Harbour. The Villa there wasn’t as nice or comfortable as Elements, but the facilities were ok with a small pool. The beach location was fantastic though and we took a scenic drive into the hills, where we enjoyed lunch in Bellingen.

Our next night was at Rydges Apartments, Port Macquarie. We paid a little extra for an upgrade so we had a sea view.

The next day we drove into Sydney over the Sydney Harbour Bridge to The Rendezvous Hotel. Our room had a view towards the nearby Opera House. The hotel was located close to many restaurants, bars, ferries and shops.

The next leg of our adventure saw us travel to New Zealand. It was our first trip there, but the islands had been on our bucket list for some time and we were not disappointed with its scenic beauty and huge lakes.

In New Zealand there were two hotels in particular which stood out.

The Sebel in Auckland which overlooked the Marina with its many restaurants and bars. The room was extremely comfortable and well appointed with a lounge/kitchen area and separate bedroom and bathroom.

The Edgewater at Wanaka was again extremely comfortable and well appointed. The view from our room across the lake to the mountains was superb.

The organised tour with MoaTrek was very good, taking us to numerous interesting areas of both the North and South Islands. The guide/driver was excellent. His knowledge of New Zealand, the plants, animals and places was superb and he was always on hand to give help and advice.

The tour included all breakfasts, which were generally buffet style and very good. For evening meals we generally ate out but the meals were very similar to those available in England. We did expect more in the way of seafood, but it mainly seemed to come as fish and chips.

One of the meals was a private lunch at Akaunui Farm Homestead, the home of farmers Ian and Diane MacKenzie. It was held in their garden and included plenty of excellent food and wine in a beautiful setting. We were told that they only did this for MoaTrek as they were personal friends of the tour owners.

The highlights included visiting the area around Mt Cook and the glacier region. Milford Sound, although it was raining hard, was made spectacular by the numerous waterfalls. We had a scenic flight which was rescheduled by MoaTrek as our flight from Milford Sound was cancelled due to the weather. The hour long flight we got was taken in fantastic weather and took us over the mountains and glaciers, a truly magnificent treat.

Unfortunately our whale watching trip was cancelled due to poor weather and likewise our boat trip to the edge of the Mt Cook glacier as big chunks of ice had broken off, which meant the boats couldn't go, but these were forces of nature and could not be helped.

Looking back, the helicopter flight over and then landing on the Franz Joseph Glacier was something we should have done. Those on the tour who did it said it was a fantastic experience.

We added on a couple of extra nights stay in Christchurch. It had suffered in 2011 due to severe earthquake damage and it was interesting to see how they were rebuilding their city.

This was before the latest atrocity to hit the people of Christchurch.

We might return to Australia to visit our friends in Brisbane in the future. Over a couple of trips we have now seen much of the East Coast and now the Red Centre.

We were more than happy with the service we received from Abbotts Travel and in particular, Julie, who took a great deal of time in organising our trip through First Class Holidays."

Brian and Diane Rice

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