Australia

Boat trip to Whitsunday National Park is a must to see the whitest sand on earth.
— Alex J.
  • More about your Oliver Guide: Alex Jennings

  • Trip Type: Family

  • IDEAL LENGTH OF TRIP5-6 nights Sydney and 5 nights Hamilton Island

TO & FROM

  • San Francisco direct to Sydney on Qantas (14 hr flight). The service was lovely on Qantas and the flight attendants were so nice to our girls - they got to sit in the cockpit with the pilots after we landed. 
  • We Uber'd all over Sydney,  taxis and Uber are very easy. The ferries in Sydney are also an efficient way to get to all of the beaches and fun things to do.
  • Great Barrier Reef: Virgin Australia from Sydney to Hamilton Island (2 hr flight). There are no cars on Hamilton Island, only golf carts. Most villas come with their own carts. We left half of our things in Sydney because there is a weight limit on the island flights.

STAY

Sydney

  • The Four Seasons-- in a very convenient location near the ferries in Circular Quay. Make sure to book a room with a view of the Opera House! The concierge was incredibly helpful in booking our restaurants, tours and activities. 

Hamilton Island-Great Barrier Reef

  • We rented a villa which is preferable than staying at one of the hotels. Ours was in the "Edge" building -- similar to THIS --and we loved it. The Yacht Club Villas are also nice.

EAT & DRINK

Sydney

Make sure you have reservations when eating out at the nicer places. There were not many kids at these restaurants but if your children or older and/or well behaved they will be fine!
Our favorites:

Hamilton Island- Great Barrier Reef

The dining options in Hamilton Island are somewhat limited. There is a little general store to get dinner supplies for your villa. The two restaurants I would recommend are:

DO

Sydney

  • Day trip to the Blue Mountains with a stop at the Koala Sanctuary. The tram ride and the "World's Steepest Railway" are really fun.
  • Private Surf Lessons on Manly Beach (recommended over group lessons). Manly beach is less touristy and nicer than Bondi.
  • Take a dip at iconic Icebergs pool on Bondi Beach
  • Beautiful coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte Beach (or go all the way to Coogee Beach). 
  • Visit the Toronga Zoo (I know its a zoo but its amazing!) Visit on your first full day, its a great way to keep the kids engaged without feeling jet lagged.
  • Do the short coastal walk from Manly to Shelly Beach and have lunch at the Boathouse

Hamilton Island-Great Barrier Reef

  • Snorkeling and Diving of course! 
  • Boat trip (or helicopter) to Whitsunday National Park is a must to see the whitest sand on earth.
  • Sunset Catamaran Sail
  • Go paddle boarding or kayaking at Catseye beach
  • Kids ATV course if its raining
  • Hike to the top of Passage Peak for panoramic views
  • Have cocktails or dinner without kids at Qualia Resort

INSIDE SCOOP

australiaajhike.jpg

Sydney

  • We always book Four Seasons though my travel agent mother-in-law for upgrades and breakfast included: Karen Jennings- karenj@t100g.com

Hamilton Island-great barrier reef

  • Be prepared for rain - it rains almost every day there
  • You will have to wear stinger suits when snorkeling because of the irukandji jellyfish (but don't be scared we didn't see any)
  • With kids its best to do the snorkeling tour to the Inner Reef - you will still feel like you're in a National Geographic special even if you don't go to the Outer Reef!
  • Kids under 12 eat free at most of the restaurants
  • The main resort pools were not that great - stick to your villa pool

SKIP IT

Sydney

  • The Rocks area is very touristy, only go there if you're getting a drink at the Park Hyatt
  • We skipped the Harbour bridge climb, with kids they go very very slowly
  • The Darling Harbour area is quite touristy (think Fisherman's Wharf in SF)
  • Unless you have 7+ days skip a visit to Watsons Bay (although the ferry ride is lovely)

Hamilton Island

  • Its a tiny island so there's nothing really to skip! You can tour the whole island on your golf cart in 20 minutes