I'm currently on the flight back from my summer holiday in Australia and I can't help but think about how it all started. This trip was two years in the making. The plan was to spend NYE 2015 in the land down under but late planning lead to rising costs and the rest of the group opted for Colombia instead. So being the planner that I am, I monitored flights in January 2016 and when the price dropped in March my friend Pio and I jumped on it and purchased our ticket. The stops Sydney, Byron Bay, and Melbourne.
The first stop of the trip, or layover rather, 14 hours in Fiji. And the perfect way to enjoy a half day in Fiji, a visit to a floating island bar and lounge in the middle of the Mamanuca Islands. The day consisted of sunbathing, wood fire pizzas, tanning oil, and an attempt to snorkel.
After adding three shades of color to my skin tone, it was off to Sydney. And it was more of the same there. Hot, sunny days spent laying out and working on my tan. To cool off, we hiked along the coast from Bondi to Coogee. It was a gorgeous view. We stopped for lunch at Icebergs ending with a meal at Coogee Pavilion. I realized very quickly that Sydney loves their outdoor patios. And with reason. From Coogee Pavillion to Opera Bar to the Watson's Bay Boutique Hotel. The summer weather brought out good vibes and beautiful people. And the food. Delicious. Chiswick was my favorite meal in Sydney. A must.
The biggest bang of all. The NYE fireworks show at the harbour. We bought tickets to a party along the harbor that included a million dollar view of the best fireworks show on earth. The Opera House was our backdrop with the harbor bridge to the left. What a visual. It was definitely a sight to see. This fireworks show was like no other and given we were the first big city to ring in the new year, it was special. I'm certain this won't be the last time I spend NYE in Australia.
Next stop Byron Bay. A short 1.5 hour flight from Sydney to Brisbane followed by a 1.5 hour drive to Byron Bay. But this wasn't a normal drive. Why, you might ask? Because in Australia, the sterring wheel is on the right side of the car. It took a few hours of practice before being comfortable with the switch. With that said, the journey was well worth it. Byron Bay is an absolute stunner. A small, posh, beach hippy town. A cross between Berkeley and Santa Cruz with a sprinkle of Napa Valley (pinkies up). We started each day with a home cooked breakfast accompanied with sweetest mangoes I've tasted . We had a meal at The Farm, burgers at Top Shop, and pizza and drinks at the Treehouse. And a visit to Byron isn't complete without some time at the beach. 3 days in Byron was just enough to get a taste of its offerings.
And a trip to Australia isn't complete without the most touristy activity around- a meeting with koalas and kangaroos. For the record, I'm typically against visiting and supporting a "zoo" as it pains me to see an animal held captive for the profit of man kind. But I'm told the animals at the Lone Tree Sanctuary are treated very well- which helped put me at ease. Here's a tip when visiting oz- if you want to hold a koala you can only do so in Queensland. There are rules in New South Wales that forbid holding a Koala. We were late for the holding period so a photo op it was.
It has the street art culture of Berlin and the food and music scene of San Francisco. The vibe in Melbs felt very much like San Francisco; Sydney felt more like Los Angeles. This leg of the trip was easily dominated with eating at a bunch of restaurants, enjoying the street art culture, boutique shopping, walking around the different neighborhoods, connecting with friends I've met through traveling over the years, all while listening to 90's music everywhere we went. When in Melbs be sure to grab a bite at Chin Chin, Hawker Hall, Mr. Miyagi, and Higher Ground.
There are too many moments to cover with any 17-day holiday but this was a little taste of my experience. From the Macca's to learning the Aussie language and falling in love with this country everyday, I couldn't have asked for a better way to end 2016 and kick off 2017. And of course, this trip wouldn't have happened without Les, Joyce, Jenpot, Tony, Kimmy, Jorge and Pio. It was our first visit to Australia and hopefully it won't be our last.