It was about as far away from our home in sultry, monsoonal Siem Reap as we could get at the start of a 66 day Australia trip that has so far taken us from the east coast to the west, last week transported us from north to south, and over coming weeks will slowly return us to the east coast again.
A crazy couple of months of pre-trip planning, punctuated by work in Bangkok, plenty of clients passing through experiencing my itineraries, visits by friends, and dealing with a pregnant cat (don’t ask) explains why we’ve been a bit quiet on Grantourismo recently.
The pace hasn’t slowed since we’ve been back in Australia, making it hard to find time to post, however, we have been keeping busy sharing our travels on our social media channels when we’ve had internet access, so do join us on the journey on Instagram at @grantourismo, Twitter at @laradunston and @gran_tourismo, and on Facebook at laradunston and grantourismo.
Here’s what we’ve been up to so far and what’s ahead on our trip bouncing around on Australia trip in 66 days:
My beautiful birthplace and our home for many years before, Sydney welcomed us back with glorious sunshine and balmy spring weather after a flight from Siem Reap via Saigon (and a bowl of pho at Ho Chi Minh City airport) with Vietnam Airlines.
We kicked off the trip with a brilliant dinner at Bennelong at Sydney Opera House, recently taken over and revamped by the Fink Group (of Quay, Otto, The Bridge Room, and Firedoor fame) and helmed by Chef Peter Gilmore. A meal at Bennelong is a must-do experience for visitors who want to sample contemporary Australian cuisine while gazing at gob-smacking views of Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia’s most iconic building. More on that here soon.
After a laksa fix in Chinatown and last-minute preparations for our Australia trip, which meant ensuring we would be able to stay connected and get online whenever possible (we went with Vodaphone instead of Telstra this time and will report back on that choice at the end of the trip), we found ourselves at Sydney’s Central Station…
Sydney to Perth on the Indian Pacific Food and Wine Train
Next activity on our Australia trip was this epic 66-day Australia trip was motivated by an invitation by Great Southern Rail earlier in the year to do a special journey on The Ghan. We couldn’t make that journey but the kind people at GSR kept us in mind and extended an invitation to not only do the Ghan but also experience the special Indian Pacific food and wine train from Sydney to Perth and the Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne.
Showcasing new food and wine offerings and surprise experiences, the food and wine train was a delicious adventure made all the more memorable by the presence of special guests such as indigenous Australian chef Mark Olive and Australian wine expert Jeremy Oliver, who led tastings of native ingredients and legendary Australian wines – some of the finest we’ve ever had.
See this post for a guide to the three train journeys. We’ll be publishing a series of stories on all trips in the New Year.
Exploring Perth from Adina Apartments
We’ve long been a fan of TFE Hotels’ Adina Apartments and have stayed in their excellent serviced apartments many times over the years on our travels in Australia, so we were delighted when they offered to send us to Perth for five days to settle into their apartments, spend some time in the city, and share our experiences on our social media channels.
We were over the moon that we were able to have my sister and niece come and stay for a couple of days and that TFE had organized an itinerary packed with quintessential Perth activities for us. You can catch up on the fun we had by scrolling through our various social media feeds. Also see these posts on Our Adina Apartments in Perth, Where to eat in Perth – the not so cheap but always cheerful, Fremantle for Families, Parks, Gardens and Picnic Spots in Perth, and a Slow Swan River Wine Cruise to the Swan River Wine Region.
The Margaret River Wine Region
We spent four fantastic days in the Margaret River, kicking off our visit with hikes (in the rain!) along parts of the Cape to Cape track with Walk Into Luxury, and a couple of days based at The Triall luxury apartments in Margaret River Town experiencing the region with two excellent tour operators, Top Drop Tours and Margaret River Discovery Company, eating some of the best food of the trip so far at Will’s Domain and sampling some of the best wines we’ve ever had.
Darwin to Adelaide on The Ghan Train
I’d been so disappointed we couldn’t accept Great Southern Rail’s invitation to do their special Ghan ANZAC journey from Darwin via Alice Springs to Adelaide, as my grandfather served in Darwin and the Top End during World War II and I have a special connection to Alice Springs where my family lived for eighteen months when I was 12 years old and my dad worked on the railways. I remember going to the official opening of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs section of the Ghan line and standing next to a towering Gough Whitlam.
We were therefore thrilled when GSR invited us to do the journey this trip. Terence and I took The Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide many years ago for some magazine stories and guidebooks we were writing and we absolutely loved it. It was a real privilege to be able to do it again.
While the dramatic landscapes haven’t changed, and are reason enough to trundle through Australia’s Red Centre, the food and wine on the train is more fabulous than ever thanks to a recent change in ownership at GSR that has resulted in an overhaul of the F&B offerings and really special surprises added to the already wonderful whistle-stop tours.
We’ll be writing more about that journey here soon as well, along with our experiences in the capitals of the Northern Territory and South Australia.
Darwin and Adelaide
We spent five nights in Darwin before boarding the Ghan and thanks to The Oaks hotel group we got to settle into a stunning Darwin city centre apartment at the new Oaks Elan with spectacular vistas overlooking the CBD and Darwin harbour.
We’ve just arrived in Adelaide where we’re spending a week and where we’ll be sampling another Oaks property, however, in the meantime I’m writing this from a stylish apartment at the Art Series The Watson, which has sweeping views over a very pretty Adelaide, where we’re also blessed with similarly beautiful weather to what we had in Perth, above. We’ll also be testing out a new luxury hotel called The Mayfair, slap-bang in the heart of the CBD. Watch this space for reviews of all properties.
Adelaide to Melbourne on The Overland
After Adelaide we’ll be trundling through South Australia and Victoria to Melbourne on our final Great Southern Rail train, The Overland. This will be a completely new experience for us, as we’ve always driven that route, so we’re really looking forward to it. We have no idea what to expect.
Melbourne and Victoria
We’re spending a bit of time in Victoria focusing more on the regions than the city this time, which has been our main focus on previous trips. We’ll spend a few days in Melbourne catching up on what’s new, but we’ll also head down to the Geelong and The Bellarine, return to The Yarra Valley wine region, which we wished we’d spent more time in last trip. From there we’ll head up to Bendigo and enjoy some family time before making our way overland via Canberra back to Sydney.
Canberra and New South Wales
Australia’s capital Canberra has shaken off its image as a dull administrative centre and is emerging as a cool little city with a fantastic food and wine scene. We’ll spend four days experiencing the best of the city before making our way back to Sydney via the Blue Mountains, a destination we’ve haven’t been to in years but which we’re told is blossoming right now.
The last stop on our epic Australia trip will be Queensland. We’ve been inundated with invitations to visit Queensland, which we haven’t been to in many many years, so we hope to try to squeeze in a short trip to the Gold Coast and Brisbane before returning to Sydney for a brief visit and a few exciting experiences before we head back home to Cambodia.
That’s the plan anyway! More soon…