- Australia + Pacific,
My wife and I love to travel. Between the two of us, we have been to many countries and experienced diverse cultures. She, however, has never been to Australia. As a graduation gift, I would love to take her on a two week tour of West, Southwest Australia - Sydney, Melbourne, Philip Island, etc. She loves food, wine, beaches, and nature. I would love to take her to a sanctuary so she could see some native Australian animals - roos, koalas, etc. Koala Park Sanctuary - West Pennet Hills
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.
See + Do
Harbour Bridge Climb, Australia
Tel: 61 2 8274 7777
The three-and-a-half-hour climb up and over the bridge, snaking along the girders, is thrilling, but not for the unfitand best avoided on very windy or wet days. If you're not the superadventurous type, it's also possible to walk across the bridge at roadway level, free of charge, and still take in the views.
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.
See + Do
Circular Quay and Ferry Rides
It may be the name of Sydney Harbour's busy ferry hub, but Circular Quay also encompasses the wide sweep of foreshore jammed with boutiques, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and a convenient (though ugly) train station. The ferry terminal, with six wharves, is right in the middle and is the place to board ferries to Manly, Darling Harbour, and Taronga Zoo as well as catch the RiverCat to Parramatta.
The state government–owned ferries are the cheapest way to get around Sydney Harbour. In addition to regular commuter services from Circular Quay, there are three daily harbor cruises with sightseeing commentary. The one-hour morning and one-and-a-half-hour evening cruises make a circuit of the harbor, while the two-and-a-half-hour afternoon cruise winds around the bays of the exclusive Eastern Suburbs, explores Middle Harbour, and goes through the Spit Bridge (yes, through it, because it opens up to let water traffic pass) and into little-known bays. Private companies, including Captain Cook Cruises and Sydney Showboats, have a variety of lunch, dinner, and "entertainment" cruises, with offerings ranging from skimpily clad showgirls to opera singers. For a more sophisticated day out on the water, an outfitter such as Flagship Charters offers stylish yachts—there's even a classic Italian wooden speedboat to create a vintage James Bond moment.