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I recently returned from a Virtuoso educational in Australia. It was one of my most rewarding trips and destination. I would definitely go again!

Traveling with Swain Tours – I departed for Sydney on Quantas Airlines. I had the opportunity to experience the new A380 Airbus. It is amazing! My business class seat - located in the upper level (bulkhead) was divine. So quiet, peaceful and relaxing! The attendants were most accommodating and vigilant to ensure us all of the comforts (lounging outfits, drinks to keep hydrated and wonderful meals for the overnight flight).

 

My tour in Australia was exceptional! Being a lover of safari and the outdoors, the opportunity to visit Tasmania was an opportunity not to be missed! We took a short flight from Sydney to Launceston, Tasmania before being picked up for a drive across country to Freycinet (on the east coast of Tasmania). We had the opportunity to see the beautiful countryside (vineyards, olive groves, farmland, and cattle/sheep country) and sample the local goodies of the small towns (cheeses, hot breads, and some of the best home cooking Aussie style). Two and a ˝ hours later, we arrive inside Freycinet National Park on the Freycinet Peninsula - beautiful blue waters and pink granite peaks. Our accommodations at the Freycinet Lodge were well appointed, large, and spacious, nestled in a secluded bush setting on the coast of the Great Oyster Bay. Though little time was spent at the lodge – the welcome chocolates in the refrig. were awesome!!! Sightings of wallabies and other small (unknown) animals were evening drama.

One of the most memorable events at the Lodge is the food – truly a gastronomical experience! Some of the largest shrimp, oysters, mussels, and lobsters I have seen – this is only the appetizers. A seafood lover’s delight! The local preparations of beef or lamb were the signature entrees! That too was a “to die-for event”. Too much food to eat at every meal? We did! All paired with an offering of local wines and beer.

The exciting adventures in Tasmania started with the full-day Signature Experience – The Wineglass to Wineglass climb (steep) up- between Mt Mayson and Mt Amos, to view the Peninsular and the Tasman Bay. Later, we rested on the beach of Wine Glass Bay (one of the top 10 beaches in the world (Outside magazine). We then trekked across the isthmus to Hazards Beach and finally to our secluded haven for an outdoor dining experience to match the fantastic meals described previously. As the day comes to an end – we wade out to our tender (in icy cold waters) for our 30 minute coastal cruise back to the lodge. An exhilarating experience – I know why it is called the Signature Experience. Good physical shape is highly recommended (however, I made IT!!)

I had an opportunity to visit the new Saffire Freycinet coastal retreat (Australia’s newest luxury lodge) scheduled to open this month. This sanctuary on the East Coast captures the uniqueness of the region and connects it with the environment through unique design, form, and selection of materials. The building is conceptually organic – water, open spaces, plant life and granite are reflected through out the sanctuary.

Our drive to Hobart afforded us the opportunity to visit the Meadowbrook Winery for lunch and yes, wine tasting, and unique gift shopping before going on for a private tour of the Bonorong Wildlife Park.

In addition, a personal experience with the Tasmanian Devil (a humble, little creature), Koala and Kangaroo. I love those guys!

In Hobart, I stayed at the infamous Henry Jones Art Hotel on Hobart’s waterfront. What a perfect location. The historical restorations, natural furnishings coupled with the ultra modern are fascinating. My harbor view was perfect. In the evening, we took a brisk walk across the harbor to a private Wine and Cheese reception at the Handmark Gallery (extraordinary collection of Tasmanian artwork). Throughout the hotel and city are excellent examples of aboriginal, as well as Tasmanian Art.

 

The Salamanca Market (on Saturdays) transform the town into a local outdoor market place with fruits, vegetables, arts and craft items, flowers, an array of odds and ends – at great prices.

My day trip to The Lodge of Tarraleah (Australian Travel and Tourism Hall of Fame award for the last 3 years) provided another unique experience. Available only on an exclusive basis – one can experience your own private chef, biking, golf, fishing, wildlife walks, rainforest or wilderness adventures.

Our adventure ended with a brunch and cooking demonstration (smoked salmon and quail) on the banks of the river. Such a fun day!

As if the trip had not been exciting enough the next morning – our guide for the day Leon picked us up and headed to Port Arthur (one of seven locations on the Tasman Peninsula Convict Trail), chatting endlessly on the history and countryside along the way. The visit in the beautiful gardens, grounds, and historical building are most memorable. A lesson learned on Australian history.

After a short briefing we transferred to the beautiful On Robert Pennicott’s award winning three hour costal wilderness cruise – we saw the highest sea cliffs in Australia, entered deep sea caves, saw abundant sea and costal wildlife of seals, dolphin and birds of prey. All of this at various speeds and maneuvers that chilled the bones with excitement and glee!

After a short flight to Melbourne we are now back in the big city – cosmopolitan, high fashion, sports and some of the most beautiful modern architecture. Our accommodations at the Crown Towers (Riverview) were exquisite - in downtown Melbourne on the southern bank of the Yarra River. Chilled wine and custom designed pajamas awaited us in our rooms.

The highlights of this whirlwind tour were many - Hot Air Ballooning at sunrise over Melbourne – what a view, sleepy city walking, parks and gardens, the river activity (kayaking) and joggers. Such an incredible adventure in the city - from a different angle; the next was the visit to Phillips Island where I strolled through the Nobbles Center to experience koalas in their natural habitat (a koala safari), nesting seabird colonies and Australia’s most popular wildlife attraction – The Penguin Parade. At sunset, the largest Little Penguin colony return from the sea to march (by the thousands) across the beach to their sand dune burrows. Such a natural phenomenon! Amazing! My final highlight was lunch on board the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. The tramcar offers the experience of a unique tram ride, sightseeing tour of historical part of the city, while having a 3 or 4 course 5 star dining experience and being serenaded by a dashing singing waiter! It doesn’t get better than that! Oh yes, I must not forget that a part of the Swain experience was the opportunity to visit the Parliament House, and to wine and dine in its Dining Room – guest of Tourism Victoria!

I look forward to returning in November to travel with Swain Tours on my custom Aboriginal Cultural Tour. Space is still available. Photos compliments of Jami! Contact Meredith for more information on booking this tour.

 

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