- Australia + Pacific,
- Bouddi Peninsula,
- New Zealand,
exploring the southern Pacific
Bistro Moncur, Australia
Tel: 61 2 9363 2519
Ask any stylish Sydneysider for their favorite neighborhood bistro, and chances are at least a few of them will grudgingly give up this name. Bistro Moncur is an antidote to the flashy, harborside marquee names: Tucked on a quiet, leafy side street opposite Sotheby's, this is the kind of place you'd make a Monday night tradition if you lived here. A recent makeover—a timber barrel-vaulted ceiling gives the impression of sitting in a chic aircraft hangar—has only enhanced the grown-up yet lively feel of the place. The food coming out of chef Damien Pignolet's kitchen is unfussy and well executed; representative dishes include house-marinated salmon, twice-cooked gruyère soufflé and homestyle "bangers and mash." The wine list is extremely well priced—there's an excellent pinot noir for under $30. Reservations are not accepted, so arrive before 7:30 or wait in the adjoining bar of the Woollahra Hotel, a well-heeled scene in itself.
Open Tuesdays though Sundays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm.
Tel: 61 2 9328 7997
Breakfast at Bills is a near-religious morning experience for Sydneysiders. This location (the original is in Darlinghurst) has a cluster of tables in a sunny outdoor courtyard. It's the perfect place to greet the day with Bill Granger's "sunrise drink" of orange juice, banana, yogurt, and berries, or his mouthwatering ricotta hotcakes with bananas and honeycomb butter. Lunch dishes include linguine with fresh crab and chiles, and grilled chicken salad with grapefruit, pistachios, and mint.
Open Mondays through Fridays 7:30 am to 5 pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 8 am to 5 pm.
Tel: 61 2 9252 2555
Aria gives newcomers a crash course in Aussie pop culture. Views of the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge? Check. Native A-listers like Nicole Kidman? Check. A local celebrity chef? Check. Matthew Moran, star of the foodie documentary Heat in the Kitchen and a judge on a popular reality TV show My Restaurant Rules, is king of the kitchen here. All fun, but as with so many made-for-TV chefs, Moran's taste for drama outshines his food. A VIP table for eight in the kitchen trumps more important items such as, well, appetizers; the pan-fried scallop tortellini, for instance, are just tiny, overpriced morsels. The main courses, only slightly more expensive than the apps, are a better bet; try the flavorful baked snapper fillet or the zucchini flower with crabmeat.
Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11:30 pm, Saturdays 5 to 11:30 pm, Sundays 6 to 10:30 pm.
Pretty Beach House, New South Wales, Australia
Tel: 61 2 4360 1933
Hilton Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 9 978 2000
Set right at the edge of Princes Wharf overlooking Waitemata Harbour, this chic, modern property—the best large hotel in Auckland—is where jet-setting business travelers pull into port. The building itself (white, with walls of shimmering glass and twin prows jutting over the water) resembles the posh cruise ships that dock just outside; the interiors, though, are all slick, urban minimalism. The 165 guest rooms have angular, clean-lined furnishings, crisp white linens, and chocolate leather chairs—plus large desks where you can plug in a laptop. The best rooms, on the "starboard" side of the hotel, have water views. The five Bow Suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious balconies, and massive marble bathrooms, have hosted major VIPs (Bill Clinton, Al Gore); minor VIPs—well, PR types and their clients—fill the stark, aptly named White restaurant and the plush, low-lit Bellini Bar. In the gleaming fitness room and around the rooftop pool (whose fabulous underwater window frames the harbor), guests work their cell phones and PDAs. The well-pressed, efficient staff can be slightly chilly to guests who show up rumpled or gritty from a beach walk outside the city.
Kauri Cliffs, North Island, New Zealand
Matauri Bay, North Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 9 407 0010
American investor Julian Robertson picked a prime piece of real estate for his plantation-style sporting lodge: a Bay of Islands cliff top with views stretching from Cape Brett in the south to the Cavalli Islands in the north. The 6,000-acre property—which includes a par-72 championship golf course, tennis courts, and a stable full of horses for equestrian safaris—has the feel of an exclusive country club. The old-money vibe carries through to the 22 guest suites, divided among 11 private cottages and stocked with roaring gas fireplaces, deep tubs, and not-so-mini minibars. A few suites even have small adjacent units for nannies or bodyguards. The main lounge, where pre-dinner drinks and canapés are served and men must wear jackets, is similarly upper-crusty. But there are plenty of ways to escape into nature here. The lodge's resident naturalist leads guided bush walks, and day excursions take guests to prime scuba diving, fishing, and even quad bike–riding spots around the Bay of Islands. Especially remote sights, like the Waipoua State Forest, can be reached via (ahem) the property's private helicopter.
Closed in June.
North Island Nightlife, North Island, New Zealand
New Zealand has a pub-culture tradition, so even the smallest North Island towns have at least one watering hole. But for dancing, live music, and sophisticated cocktails, you'll need to hit the city. Auckland, in particular, has a healthy nightlife scene, much of it focused in the city's center.
Young fans of '70s and '80s dance music—and a few oldsters reliving their disco days—head to Boogie Wonderland, with its Saturday Night Fever–ish flashing dance floor (Customs St. at Queen St.; 64-9-361-6093; closed Sun.–Wed.). The Khuja Lounge packs in the hipsters, who groove to live soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, samba, and bossa nova bands (536 Queen St.; 64-9-377-3711; www.khujalounge.co.nz; closed Sun.–Tues.).
Chichi cocktail lovers appreciate the mixologists at Match Lounge Bar who can shake up a mean poached-pear-and-apple martini, among other concoctions (Hopetoun St. at Pitt St.; 64-9-379-0110; www.matchlounge.co.nz; closed Sun.–Tues.). Beerheads, on the other hand, head straight for Galbraith's Alehouse, where owner Keith Galbraith serves up seasonal pilsners, bitters, and ales that he brews on site (2 Mt. Eden Rd., Mount Eden; 64-9-379-3557; www.alehouse.co.nz).
The neighborhood of Ponsonby, adjacent to the city center, also has its share of hot spots. The city's favorite (hetero-friendly) gay bar and restaurant, SPQR, is here, occupying a onetime motorcycle shop (150 Ponsonby Rd.; 64-9-360-1710; www.spqrnz.co.nz). Another top pick is The Whiskey, an old-fashioned bar with leather banquettes, where the drink of choice is spelled right out in the name (210 Ponsonby Rd.; 64-9-361-2666; www.whiskeybars.com).
See + Do
Beaches of the North Island, North Island, New Zealand
North Islanders are big-time beachgoers, and the island's thousands of miles of coast give them plenty of thundering stretches and sheltered bays to choose from.Near Auckland, the two best-known beaches are the wild, black-sanded Piha and Karekare, both about a 30-minute drive west of the city. Piha has one of the island's top surf breaks; on windy days, it's breathtaking to watch wet-suited locals brave the dangerous rips. Just to the south is Karekare, bordered by dramatic cliffs, which starred in the opening scenes of Jane Campion's The Piano. While the scenery at both these beaches is fabulous, inexperienced swimmers and surfers should be warned: Lifeguards are on duty solely during summer weekends.
The island's far north (known to Kiwis as Northland) is famous for the westerly golden sweep of Ninety Mile Beach (pictured). In fact, the beach is only 60 miles long, but nobody's quibbling. It stretches all the way to Cape Reinga, the tip of the island where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific. Although driving along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway and stopping at points along the way (such as the seaside towns of Ahipara and Kerkeri) is magical if you have the time, viewing the seascapes from the air is wonderful if you don't. Salt Air runs "flight-seeing" trips from Paihia, in the Bay of Islands, which take in locales like the Karikari Peninsula and the Cavalli Islands. Prices for these trips (in Cessnas carrying about a dozen passengers) start at about NZ$365 (US$270) per person. Pricier, individually tailored helicopter rides are also available (64-9-402-8338; www.saltair.co.nz).
See + Do
Royal Botanic Gardens, Australia
Tel: 61 2 9231 8111
This undulating series of gardens wrapped around the southeastern edge of Sydney Harbour was the site of the city's first farm. Today it's an oasis where massive Moreton Bay figs tower over picnicking office workers and joggers, and where the junglelike Palm Grove shelters a colony of fruit bats. Exhibits include the mysterious Wollemi Pine, one of the rarest plants in the world, which was thought to be extinct until its discovery in the Blue Mountains in 1994. On show in the hothouse—otherwise known as the Tropical Centre—is a display that plots the life of an orchid, enticingly entitled "Sex and Death." There are several entrances along Macquarie Street, Mrs. Macquaries Road, and near the Opera House.
Open November to February 7 am to 8 pm, March and October 7 am to 6:30 pm, April and September 7 am to 6 pm, May and August 7 am to 5:30 pm, June and July 7 am to 5 pm.
See + Do
The Rocks, Australia
Just a few streets west from Circular Quay is a neighborhood that seems frozen in time, with a 19th-century pub on nearly every corner. The oldest preserved convict precinct in Australia, The Rocks gained its name from the natural sandstone rock ledges lining Sydney Harbour. A rough area in the late 18th and 19th centuries, today the foreshore is home to a cluster of upscale boutiques, restaurants, and hotels housed in restored wharves and warehouses. Be sure to have a drink in the Lord Nelson or the Hero of Waterloo.
Hugo's Bar Pizza, Australia
Tel: 61 2 9332 1227
Yes, there's pizza—but what really draws the almost-too-gorgeous types here is the glamorous backlit bar, the great cocktails, and the other hotties that come to bump elbows with one another. There's also a sunken lounge and fireplace, which keeps things cozy. The only drawback here is the attitude: Some staff can be curt and dismissive if you don't seem sufficiently fabulous.
Open Mondays through Saturdays from 6 pm, Sundays from 3 pm.
Tel: 61 2 9420 3040
This soignée, Moroccan-themed bar is the swankiest at the Establishment property (which includes a fine-dining restaurant, boutique hotel, and several drinking holes). Well-heeled types and celebs (Sting and Robbie Williams have been spotted here) come to listen to DJs spinning soul, funk, and bossa nova, and the live jazz band that plays on Friday nights. Every imaginable libation is available here, including absinthe; the "applesinthe," one of the most popular concoctions, is a blend of Green Fairy absinthe, apple Schnapps, passion fruit purée, apple juice, and a touch of lime over crushed ice.
Open Mondays through Wednesdays 5:30 pm to 1 am, Thursdays 5:30 pm to 1:30 am, Fridays 3 pm to 2 am, Saturdays 6 pm to 2 am.
Tel: 61 2 9240 3100
Home to those who prefer the night. A boutiquey spot that occupies a repurposed warehouse a block from Circular Quay, this hotel has attracted a fabulous young crowd since it opened in 2000. The 33 rooms are decorated in slate and dark wood, with tall beamed ceilings and elegant bathrooms outfitted in marble or bluestone. Only the two penthouses have any views to speak of, but most guests seem content to size one another up at the two nightspots—the loungey Hemmesphere bar and Tank, a pulsing nightclub. If staying at such a sceney joint is too much, but you'd like a sampler, stop in at the foodie-mecca restaurant, est.
Bungalow 8 Sydney, Australia
Tel: 61 2 9299 4660
Forget everything you know about the Manhattan nightspot of the same name; this completely unrelated bar, with its rattan furniture, cane lanterns, and bamboo ceilings, is definitively Australian. First, there are the views across Darling Harbour, which make a fabulous backdrop for summer drinks; cocktails aren't mixed here, but there's plenty of cold Aussie beer, crisp white wine, and about 35 vodkas to choose from. And though weekends bring trendy crowds vying to charm their way past the doorman, weeknights are more relaxed, with specials like all-you-can-eat mussel feasts.
Open Sundays and Mondays through Thursdays noon to 1 am, Fridays and Saturdays noon to 3 am.
Quay Grand Suites, Australia
Tel: 62 2 9256 4000
If comfort is more important to you than hipness, this place is an excellent pick. The suites are blandly and beigely decorated, but they also have their own kitchens, balconies, whirlpool tubs, andcome on, admit you want iteven private washerdryers. There are one- and two-bedroom options, both of which have dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows. The best look directly onto the Harbour, with full-frontal Bridge vistas; others overlook the bustle of Circular Quay; and the least expensive (but not necessarily the least desirable) have views of the Royal Botanic Gardens across the street. The Opera House is a few steps away; you can jog in the park, hop on a ferry, or stroll across to The Rocks in no time flat.
InterContinental Sydney, Australia
Tel: 888 424 6835 (toll-free), Tel: 61 2 9240 1200
You can literally step—and sleep—inside a piece of Australia's past here: Part of the hotel is a historic building site. Three stories of dramatic sandstone arches, all that remains of the 1851 Treasury Building, have been beautifully incorporated into the architecture. The arches surround the interior lobby lounge and café—known as the Cortile—which has recently emerged from a major facelift looking more genteel than ever. The rest of the property, while modern and luxurious, is relatively ordinary in comparison: A major renovation in 2004 updated the 509 rooms in cream and brown fabrics and innocuous contemporary furniture; some have flat-screen TVs and marble bathrooms with spa tubs (and Bulgari toiletries). The best units are those on the rooftop club level with views over the harbor and Royal Botanic Gardens, and an outdoor deck for lingering over breakfast. Staff members have eschewed the polite but distant five-star model for an ebullient friendliness that might take seasoned travelers off-guard.
Amazing Australia: Great Barrier Reef
Out of the Blue: It is the only World Heritage Site visible from outer space, and indeed the statistics that describe the Great Barrier Reef verge on the astronomical. This coral wilderness spans 135,135 square miles, encompasses about 2,900 reefs, and has greater diversity than any other ecosystem on the planet. How best to explore a site so vast? Here, eight ways to take the plunge
Amazing Australia: Fraser Island
A Line in the Sand: The first sweet surprise upon approaching the world's largest sand island (stretching 76 miles) is that it is not a desert island but rather a landscape thick with coast-to-coast rain forests, freshwater lakes that sparkle like jewels in the dunes, and creeks that spill onto the golden beaches. Here, some of the best reasons to go ashore
Amazing Australia: Sydney Opera House
Edifice Rex: Like no other landmark, the Sydney Opera House and its signature silhouette symbolize modern Australia. A guide to the icon, inside and out
Amazing Australia: Gondwana Rainforest
Lush Life: The Gondwana Rainforests (formerly the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia) comprises eight distinct regional groups scattered between Newcastle and Brisbane. Collectively, these regions tell the tale of the continent's evolution and are one of the few sites where you can walk amid living links to species that date back more than 100 million years. Here, how to enjoy the area's ancient history