Journey Through Australia’s Queensland & Victoria Regions
My trip to Australia began in Brisbane (or “Brissie” as the locals call it), the capital and most populous city in Queensland. Our flight arrived early in the morning, so we pre-registered for early arrival at our hotel, the Emporium Hotel South Bank located in Brisbane’s cultural epicenter. After a quick check-in and breakfast, our group was met in the lobby by our private ECO Safari driver who would be taking us on a full day of touring. We started at the top of Mt Coot-Tha which is the best place to take in a panoramic view of Brisbane. We snapped some pics at the Summit Lookout and ordered Australian coffees to-go then headed to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary. In addition to interacting with Northern koalas, we also got up close and personal with other native animals, like red kangaroo, Eastern grey kangaroo, wallabies and wombats. Next up was a late lunch at Joey’s on the Brisbane River, followed by an afternoon of sightseeing in Brisbane’s CBD (Central Business District).
We started day two with a quick breakfast at the hotel then met our driver in the lobby. First stop was Birrunga Gallery and Café, Brisbane’s only Indigenous owned and operated art gallery, café and bar. Here we did an ‘Importance of Place’ workshop with Birrunga Wiradyuri, the founder and principal artist at the gallery. During this three-hour experience, Birrunga shared his cultural place, personal and family lore as well as stories from his ancestors while guidance was given to us to create our own artwork, which we were able to bring home. Lunch was at Harvey’s Bar & Bistro along James Street, a shopping and dining precinct beloved by locals that is now firmly one of the city’s most fashionable offerings. After lunch we met up with Alex and Drew, the founders of Kiff and Culture, a local company operating premium food and culture tours which include many of their favorite spots that travelers otherwise may not experience. Also on James Street, we stopped by Hellenika Bar in the Calile Hotel for a quick cocktail and then on to Grandad Jack’s Distillery in the industrial backstreets of Albion for a memorable cheese and spirits tasting with the founder and head distiller. Dinner was at Mr. Percival’s Restaurant at Howard Street Wharves. Nestled between Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge and the New Farm cliffs with a 180-degree vista of the city skyline and river sits Howard Smith Wharves. This once-neglected piece of land has been transformed and is now Brisbane’s vibrant new dining and lifestyle precinct.
The next morning, we were up bright and early to meet our driver for our transfer up to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. Our first stop in Noosa was the Ikatan Balinese Day Spa, built around a Balinese village concept set on acreage, where treatment rooms are villa style, set in the gardens. I opted for the Essential Package which consisted of a 45-minute Massage followed by a 45-minute Facial. After our morning of relaxation, we met Josh, the owner of Creative Tours, which specializes in award-winning local food tours & experiences on the Sunshine Coast, Noosa and Hinterland. Josh took us to lunch at Sum Yung Guys, a modern Asian restaurant with massive influences from Southeast Asia. The four owners are old friends who have spent years traveling through Asia and have brought back their favorite recipes to share with the rest of us. After lunch it was off to Seabourne Distillery for a gin tasting with founder, Hayden Weir. Seabourne celebrates the harmony forged between the land and sea and embraces the vibrant soul of Noosa today. Next, we headed to our hotel, Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, the only luxury 5-star hotel in Noosa. The Resort is located in the heart of Noosa on Hastings Street and just 1 mile from Noosa National Park. Once you step inside, you’ll feel a blend of coastal chic and Parisian elegance. After we checked-in and had time to freshen up, we met our local hostess in the lobby and then headed to a private champagne happy hour at a beachfront property that is part of the Private Collection by Spicers Retreats. Happy hour was followed by a hosted dinner at Sofitel Noosa Beach House Restaurant with an elaborate spread by Bret Cameron, the award-winning restaurant’s new executive chef.
Upon waking up on day four, I was elated to find out that we were still on for the Noosa Coastal & Everglades helicopter tour with Salt Air Aviation that morning. The scenic 30-minute flight took us over Boreen Point and the beginning of the beautiful Noosa Everglades, a 74km tropical wetland which boasts over 40% of the countries bird species. Some other areas of interest that we flew over were Mt. Tinbeerwah and Mt. Cooroy, just to name a couple. We then headed back to our hotel for a quick change of clothes before our next adventure with Great Beach Drive 4WD Tour. The tour covered more than 70km of iconic beaches with the vehicle travelling right on the sand, so we could soak in the scenery and wildlife, such as dolphins, manta rays, turtles, soldier crabs, birdlife, birds of prey. Lunch was a gourmet picnic lunch amongst the spectacular-colored sands with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Fraser Island. Dinner was at ALBA by renowned local chef, Peter Kuruvita. The space is a hub of food and beverage offerings with Sunshine Coast produce and the local community at its heart. The beautifully designed venue combines a cafe, providore, pizzeria, cocktail bar and linen-set restaurant. The venue also hosts ALBA Chef’s Kitchen, a creative space that hosts cooking classes, private chefs’ tables, and a kitchen studio.
The next morning, we were up and out early for our Virgin Australia flight down to Melbourne, Victoria. Upon arrival to Melbourne, we were transferred to our next hotel, Park Hyatt Melbourne. Park Hyatt Melbourne is distinctive in location, design and interior. Set among century-old elm trees, overlooking St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Fitzroy Gardens, Park Hyatt Melbourne is a private haven. That evening we enjoyed a fabulous meal in the hotel’s private dining room at Radii Restaurant.
Day six began with breakfast at the hotel followed by a private tour of Melbourne City with our local guide, Raph. Australia’s undisputed capital of culture and ‘cool’ is a stunning blend of 19th-century grandeur, innovation, color and creativity and the tour was a great introduction to Melbourne’s inner city and its most vibrant local neighborhoods. Dinner was at Gimlet at Cavendish House, one of Melbourne’s hottest restaurants and most sought-after reservations. Located in a landmark 1920s building on leafy Russell Street, the cocktail bar and dining room bring classic European charm to the heart of the city.
The next day we met our guide and departed for the Mornington Peninsula, an hour drive from Melbourne. The peninsula is bursting with galleries, spas and cafes in breezy seaside villages where you can cool off with a day on the beach or escape to the hinterland for gourmet delights at boutique wineries. Our first stop was for a quick photo at Murrays Lookout at Arthurs Seat for beautiful views of the coastline and Melbourne on the horizon. Next was Pt. Leo Estate, a captivating celebration of internationally acclaimed art, design and world-class dining and wine, providing the most sought-after cultural and culinary experience in Australia. We enjoyed a wine tasting and then headed out to the privately-owned Sculpture Park, housing an ever-evolving outdoor gallery of over 60 Australian and international exhibits delineated by indigenous flora, set against an immense backdrop of rolling vineyards and ocean views encapsulating glimpses of Phillip Island and Western Port. Next up was lunch at the Restaurant at Montalto, where we dined on estate-grown heirloom produce, alongside the very best locally sourced ingredients from across the Mornington Peninsula while overlooking the surrounding vineyards, olive groves and pastures. After lunch we hopped back in the van and headed to Peninsula Hot Springs, an award-winning natural hot springs and day spa destination on the Mornington Peninsula, just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Natural thermal mineral waters flow into the pools and private baths at this coastal oasis, providing an idyllic setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. Following the tour, we headed back to Melbourne City and checked-in at our last luxury hotel, The Langham.
Day eight was a long and exciting one where we got to visit Yarra Valley and Phillips Island. Located only 50 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD, the Yarra Valley feels a million miles away, with vast rows of vines and mountain ash forests. First stop was Rochford Wines, a fully operational vineyard and winery that houses a spectacular award-winning restaurant and café, as well as a permanent sound shell for outdoor performances. Just over the bridge and a world away, we arrived at Victoria’s Island sanctuary – Phillip Island. Just two hours from Melbourne, Phillip Island is famous for little penguins, untouched nature, and its compact abundance of one-of-a-kind attractions. Once on the island, we headed to the ancient pink Granite of Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island’s highest Point. Through a series of walking tracks and viewing platforms we were able to get unrivaled views of breathtaking areas such as the Pinnacles, the Woolamai Light and the old Granite Quarry. Cape Woolamai is also home to one of the most popular surf beaches in Australia. Finally, we arrived at Phillip Island Nature Parks, home to the world-famous Penguin Parade where we prepared for our Ranger-Led Guided Tour where we experienced the magic of watching these amazing seabirds waddle home from the ocean to their burrows from beachfront viewing platforms and boardwalks.
Our last day in Melbourne began with breakfast at the hotel followed by a walking tour of Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District). We were lucky enough to have tickets to the art exhibition TIME RONE. Set in the long-abandoned third-floor wing of Flinders Street Train Station and inspired by an era when European migrants powered the city’s booming manufacturing industries, this exhibition captures beauty in a forgotten, mid-century, working-class life.
After a delicious lunch at NOMAD Melbourne, we were whisked off to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) for the Alexander McQueen exhibition. Organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), in partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse is the first major Australian exhibition to explore the work of the boundary-pushing fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969-2010). Showcasing 60 garments and accessories drawn from LACMA’s holdings of important works by McQueen, the Melbourne presentation also features nearly 50 designs by McQueen from the NGV Collection, making this Australian-exclusive presentation especially rich and comprehensive. Finally, our last stop of the afternoon was at Melbourne Skydeck, the highest public vantage point in Melbourne, Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. That night we took part in the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival with a progressive dinner concept along Lydon Street at the heart of Melbourne’s vibrant Italian community, full of Italian restaurants and cafes. Kicking it off with a bite and a beer at Bar Idda, before sliding over to Figlia for an exceptional pizza and a glass of something good before finishing up at the moodily lit Bar Romantica for a silky pasta delivered directly to our red-leather booth.
While there’s an endless list of epic experiences and destinations to visit in Australia, I would consider Queensland and Victoria as must-visit regions. Queensland is the tropical paradise that will fulfill all your Australia travel dreams. With reefs, national parks, city life, sun, surf, and sand, Queensland really has it all. Melbourne is food-obsessed, marvelously multicultural and a showpiece for Australian culture. Beyond the city limits, Victoria offers rich history, stunning wilderness and culinary excellence. Contact me or your current Royal Travel advisor to book this as your next great adventure!