Honeymoon Part 1: Adventures Down Under
Being that the anniversary of our honeymoon is this month (November), I thought I'd share about our journey with you.
I can't believe it's been a year! I knew exactly where I wanted to go when the discussion of our honeymoon initially came up...
Down under…to the land of the “Awesome Aussies.”
My decision to study abroad in Sydney, Australia during college was one of those pivotal moments in my adolescent life that changed the trajectory of my entire future. It remains a decision I look back on to this day, constantly reminding myself that I ventured to a foreign country at the tender age of 19 for six months, without a clue of what I was doing and with little support from my parents. (They’ve never really understood my desire to do things differently, even to this day—but I love them dearly).
When I realized we were going to be fortunate enough to take a month off for our honeymoon, Australia became a no-brainer. You need at least two weeks out there to make the trip worth it from the states, but I promise it's so worth it!
Ryan, my husband, was excited to navigate my old stomping grounds with me—but was equally intrigued by the adventurous lifestyle of the Kiwis, so New Zealand made it to our itinerary as well. And last not but least, if we’re going to gallivant around the Pacific, we obvi had to make a pit stop in Bora Bora!
Two and a half weeks in Australia, five days in New Zealand, and five days in Bora Bora. Seven cities total. Nine flights in 30 days. It was a lot, but who would ever complain about being able to take such a trip?
I quickly remembered why I LOOOOOVED Australia as a teenager—everyone is so kind, the food is clean and delicious, and the scenery is stunning.
We spent our first five days in Sydney being tourists—you know, climbing the Harbour Bridge, checking out and surfing Bondi Beach, walking through Coogee (where I lived during study abroad), and visiting the Sydney Zoo. It was all fantastic, but if I were to do it again, I would spend 3-4 days in Sydney instead of five.
Funny fact: If you’re one of those people who wears lululemon pants everywhere when you travel like I do, and you tend to go commando (don’t judge me), make sure you DON’T do that when you climb the bridge. They make you take off all of your clothes except your bra and panties, so yeah…I climbed one of Australia’s top tourist destinations sans undergarments.
Next, we headed to what is still my favorite location in the world: Hamilton Island on the outskirts of the Great Barrier Reef. The resort in which we stayed, Qualia, was one of the only 5-star resorts that I’ve spent significant time in that truly deserves its rating.
AH-MAZING. From the raw freshly-caught seafood, to the true wagu beef, to the round-the-clock phenomenal service, to the daily activities including helicopter rides to the Whitsunday Islands and sake and sashimi pairings, to having your own private golf cart to roam around the island, you seriously can’t go wrong staying here and you won’t want to leave.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the spa. I drag my husband to every spa when we travel and this one was the best by far.
The best experience we had on Hamilton Island was our first scuba dive. To see the Great Barrier Reef with your own two eyes is a moment that is unparalleled. You feel like you’re in a different universe. And it’s fun to learn to scuba--although if you’re slightly claustrophobic, it may not work out. (I didn’t do a second dive and chose to drink champagne with a friend we made on the trip instead, naturally).
One of my favorite parts about traveling through Australia is that not all of the tourists are American. It seems that no matter where we go in the world, we run into Americans from New York. Don’t get me wrong, this can be a great thing and make for a fun trip if you meet the right couple(s), but in Australia you have couples traveling from all over the world. Doing group activities or tours becomes even more exciting because there’s so much to talk about.
From there, we ventured to Melbourne. I was definitely nervous to travel here as it was unchartered territory for me in Australia from my prior trip and Qualia was going to be pretty hard to beat (and again, I haven’t found a place I’ve enjoyed more while traveling to this day!).
Boy, were we surprised. Ryan and I decided after our first 24 hours in Melbourne that we could totally live there at some point in life. That says A LOT coming from my husband, who has been an NYC/CT dude since he was born.
It’s that cool of a city. Arbitrary art in random alleyways, hidden bars with “low-key yet fancy in their own way” mixed drinks, tons of great shopping, and to sum it up, it’s simply a fun city with action happening on every corner.
Our two weeks in Australia were a blast, but it was time to venture to New Zealand. Warning: if you’re traveling to NZ, bring warm clothes. We had to go shopping and buy down vests because it was freezing.
But the sights in Queenstown? #worthit
Ryan tried lamb for the first time, we ate the best chocolate we’ve ever had (because of how their cattle are raised), we went jet boating through the mountains, and oh…the bungee jump. I’ve been skydiving twice and I was terrified to bungee (that expression on my face is totally legit). So fun. Probably won’t ever do it again though :)
I would’ve stayed in Queenstown if we were to venture that way again, but to see the North Island of New Zealand (and because we had to pass through Auckland anyway to get to Bora Bora), we spent a few days wine tasting in Auckland. I may have a tainted view because it rained both days…who knows.
I’ll save Bora Bora for a separate post, but all in all Australia and New Zealand are MUST VISITS and should be on your bucket list. Yes, they’re a pain to get to. But the transition is actually much easier to make from the states than going to Europe, because you get adequate hours to sleep and arrive in Australia during morning time.
If you’re planning your honeymoon and want a little adventure combined with luxury sun time, then Melbourne + Hamilton Island would be my pics in Australia. You could totes venture around a little bit more depending on your budget and timing. I’ve heard the Gold Coast and Brisbane are also fantastic.
I linked to a few of the hotels we stayed at as well as restaurants we went to below…
Enjoy and I hope you make it over there while the Great Barrier Reef is still bright and beautiful!
Amora Hotel Jamieson: This was a nice hotel in the “business” part of Sydney (what they call the CBD, or central business district). If I were to do it again, I’d probably stay closer to the Harbour.
The Gallery Restaurant in The Amora Hotel: This is totally weird, but the first and last night we ordered room service from here. The first night because we were exhausted, and the last night because I was dying from a terrible sore throat. I had this amazing pasta dish, called The Beetroot Gnocchi.
Rockpool Bar & Grille: You need a res here, which we didn’t have, so we sat at the bar and schmoozed the bartender. Aussies are super nice and love to connect with guests.
Tetsuya: Worth the hype but make sure you book well in advance.
THR1VE: This place is cool and is actually underground in what is one of the coolest “food courts” I’ve ever seen. All healthy food that local business peeps come eat on their breakfast and lunch breaks. I WISH we had something like this in the states! Anyway, THR1VE offers organic and local food from smoothies to breakfast bowls to salads. We walked here from our hotel nearly every day for lunch when we were in town.
Qualia: It’s a bit more expensive than most hotels on the island, but it’s worth every penny.
We ate at both of Qualia’s restaurants which were equally delicious (get the wagu that’s cooked right at the table at Long Pavilion), in addition to…
Mariner’s Restaurant: Try the raw salmon sashimi. It’s the best I’ve ever had.
Romano’s: This dinner was our first night here and I can’t remember exactly what I had, but for an Italian restaurant on an island known for seafood, it didn’t disappoint.
The Blackman Hotel: Cute and artsy hotel that was a bit out of the way, so I would stay closer to the center of the city next time.
We did a bit of drinking in Melbourne (they have some awesome bars and cocktails and beers and…you get my point), so I can only remember three restaurants:
Hunter’s Kitchen & Bar: This was right near our hotel and we randomly ended up here one night (breakfast is great too), and the food was surprisingly really good.
Chin Chin: You’ll wait 45+ minutes for a table, but for an eclectic dining experience, it’s worth it. We literally ordered 10 dishes because everything looked so good. Expect a sodium hangover.
MoVida: The squid pasta and the rabbit are EVERYTHING. Some of the best Spanish food we’ve both ever had.
Hotel St. Moritz: Super cute hotel that I loved, although it’s about a ½ - ¾ mile walk from the center of town. More budget-friendly and still really nice.
Botswana Butchery: For a more intimate, fancy-pants dinner, and for the best lamb EVER (if that’s your thing), go here. Spectacular views of the water, and right near the best chocolate and ice cream shop in the world…
Patagonia Chocolates: I don’t care if you don’t eat dairy. Really, I don’t. But here, sister, let loose and try their hot chocolate, chocolates, ice cream, and maybe all of them at the same time. New Zealand treat their cattle like gold, and it shows in their dairy.
Fergburger: It’s a legend, and you have to go here. I had the lamb burger and Ry had the beef, and both were amazeballs.
I’m not posting anything about Auckland because I honestly can’t even remember where we stayed or ate. Oh wait. We did a wine tasting on Waiheke Island (worth it for that alone—I shipped home 12 bottles from their organic vineyard) and I think we ate at another Botswana Butcher after that. I blame the wine :)