After gallivanting around Golden Bay and Queenstown, New Zealand, Mr. Wallaby and I jetted to our third honeymoon destination: Sydney, Australia, famous for its opera house, Mel Gibson, and beautiful harbour views. After retrieving our luggage from the baggage claim, we took the train from Sydney Airport to our hotel in Potts Point. Mr. W and I are big fans of Brett Dennen, and this song was running through our heads as we walked out of the train station onto the bustling city streets:
And now, a little tribute to our fab hotel, the Diamant: we loved you. We felt like such hipsters walking down your sleek hallways and lounging in our minimalist room. Bees, if you travel to Sydney, I would highly recommend staying in one of the trendy local neighborhoods rather than in one of the more touristy areas—Mr. W and I had unlimited dining options, cool bars, grocery stores, etc. just a stone’s throw away from our hotel in Potts Point/Darlinghurst.
Minimalist room in the Diamant / Image via Diamant Hotel Sydney
That night, we were feeling pretty lazy after a day of travel, so we grabbed a burger at Grill’d, a couple blocks from our hotel. The burgers were delicious (but expensive—sad face). We split a bottle of cider, and we did something I’ve never done at a burger joint before…we donated to charity. Well, kind of. When we paid for our meal, we were handed two bottle caps. By the door were three large bowls, each representing a different Sydney charity, and by dropping our caps into the bottle of our choice, we donated 10 cents to our favorite cause. Cool, no?
The next morning we were ready to hit the town. Mr. W and I both love to walk everywhere, so we began our self-led tour of Sydney by walking through Hyde Park, in the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD = downtown). I loved the romantic tree-lined pathways:
Oh hey mate! 😉 / Personal photo
And peeking out from a nook in a big tree, we spotted a possum. I guess it’s cute, but it kind of creeped us out at the time. We’re used to seeing squirrels run around our parks, but the possum’s confused, deer-in-the-headlights stare was a little disarming.
From Hyde Park, we wandered up to the Royal Botanic Gardens—a much cooler park, to be honest.
Outside the gate to the Royal Botanic Gardens / Personal photo
Mr. W mean mugging outside the gate / Personal photo
Remember how much I love plants? Well, the Royal Botanic Gardens had some of the coolest plants I’ve ever seen. I recognized a lot of trees and shrubs from my college plant bio classes, and Mr. W and I marveled at tons we had never seen before. Check out this ginormous Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla):
And this whimsical dragon blood tree (Dracaena draco) which overturned during a heavy rainstorm in 2008:
We spotted a lot of wildlife, too, including this adorable chick with enormous feet.
What a cutie! / Personal photo
We encountered a museum in the middle of the park—the Art Gallery of New South Wales—and Mr. W asked what it was. I replied that it’s the bacon museum—“They serve bacon while you enjoy the art”—and he was instantly enthusiastic about taking in some exhibitions.
The bacon museum / Personal photo
After eating our hearts out—visually speaking—in the Royal Botanic Gardens, we arrived at the Sydney Opera House, just in time for our 10:30 tour.
Outside the Sydney Opera House. Daww. / Personal photo
A dramatic (or Instagram’ed) view of the Opera House / Personal photo
I’m not really one for guided tours or crowded touristy places, but the Opera House far exceeded my expectations. It’s really an architectural marvel. By the end of the tour, we had a hundred unanswered questions. I would’ve loved to see a performance or concert there, but we didn’t get around to it. The only tickets available were for the ballet, and Mr. W has been unwilling to trade in his “man card” to watch a ballet ever since I took him to The Nutcracker last year. Oh well.
If you are ever in Sydney, I would highly recommend signing up for the guided tour of the Opera House. You’ll see the beautiful interiors and learn a little bit of Sydney history, and maybe you’ll have a sweet Aussie tour guide with a cute accent to boot. 😉
A corridor inside the Opera House, with metal beams mimicking the concrete “shells” on the exterior / Personal photo
Afterward, we lunched at the Opera Bar, which overlooks the beautiful harbour. We were too focused on eating to take any photos, but trust me, it was a sight to see.
By afternoon, Mr. W was starting to get tired of walking, so we made our way back to the hotel for some R&R. I talked him into going out for Thai food for dinner (second time in four days! #winning) and we had a great meal at S. Thada Thai, a cute hole-in-the-wall BYOB restaurant around the corner from the Diamant. And because Skyfall had just come out in theaters that day, we went to a late-night showing at Palace Verona, a sleek, modern movie theater in Darlinghurst.
The next day was Thanksgiving back in the US. (Sydney is 19 hours ahead of Houston, so it was Friday in Sydney, but we just pretended it was Thanksgiving.) We couldn’t miss the Texans game, so we Skyped with Mr. W’s family back in Houston, and they tilted their iPad camera toward the TV so we could watch the game through our own tablet. Technology at its finest. Here’s Mr. W tensely watching the final few minutes of the game:
WOO go Texans! / Personal photo
The Texans won, so that meant it was OK to go out and celebrate and enjoy the rest of the day in Sydney. Once again, we set out on foot toward the hustle and bustle of Sydney CBD and the tourist areas. Our first stop was the Pylon Lookout at Sydney Harbour Bridge. We couldn’t stomach paying over $200 each to do the famous bridge climb, so instead we paid $10 to walk to the top of a lookout tower on the bridge with its own pretty cool views.
The tiny people in blue suits are bridge climbers. Jealous. / Personal photo
Sydney Harbour, from the Pylon Lookout / Personal photo
Near the Harbour Bridge is The Rocks, the famous historic district of Sydney, where there was an outdoor market going on. We got some lunch at a restaurant overlooking the market and did some serious people-watching. I loved the blackboard signs in front of each stand—and I started to miss our wedding.
Outdoor market in The Rocks / Personal photo
On the way back to the hotel, we did some window shopping envying at David Jones (as far as I can tell, the Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom of Australia), and we popped into Laduree for a little snack:
Laduree Macarons. Mmmmm. / Personal photo
Oh, and we spotted these in a grocery store. Wallabies for the win! 😉
One of my BFFs from high school, B, is in law school at the University of Sydney, so we met her for dinner and drinks (and ice cream) that evening. She led us to Gazebo, a super-charming little restaurant/bar in Darlinghurst, for happy hour:
B and me under the canopy in Gazebo / Personal photo
And then she took us out for pizza, ‘Strayan style. Mr. W bravely ate a few slices of this “Coat of Arms” pizza, with kangaroo and emu meat:
Coat of Arms pizza at the Australian Hotel / Personal photo
I couldn’t get into the exotic animal meat, so I stuck with classic margherita pizza. But at Gelato Messina, where we loaded up on gourmet ice cream, we all got a little adventurous. My favorite flavor was pear and rhubarb, but honestly, I think every single flavor at Messina is incredible.
Some of the beautiful gelatos on display at Gelato Messina in Darlinghurst. I’m drooling. / Personal photo
It was hard to say goodbye to B, who I see very infrequently since she moved to Australia, but the next day it was time for the Wallabies to jet to our final location: Port Douglas.
We flew from Sydney to Cairns on Saturday afternoon, and once we landed we rented a car from Avis to complete the journey up to Port Douglas. It was a one-hour drive along the Queensland coast, and the drive itself was pretty treacherous—we passed an accident involving an overturned motorcycle near a sharp twist in the road at one point. We were much happier when we arrived at our Port Douglas accommodation—Shantara Resort:
FINALLY tropical enough to put on my day-glo green cutoffs. Yess! / Personal photo
Our room was very comfortable and spacious, and it was well equipped with a small kitchenette. I’ll explain more in my next post, but the hotel kitchenettes really helped us save money on food—each dinner we ate out cost an arm and a leg.
When I booked our room ahead of time, I included a note that we were on our honeymoon—and it totally paid off. Shantara left us a bottle of bubbly as a sweet welcome:
The next day, we embarked on my favorite excursion of the trip—snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef!* We signed up for a day trip to the reef with Wavelength, a snorkeling tour company recommended by another bee (thanks, MrsJJC!). Wavelength provided breakfast and lunch, a snorkeling tutorial, an on-board marine biologist, and, of course, sexy wet suits:
Wet suits: so hot right now / Personal photo
After gearing up, we plunged into the Coral Sea:
Beneath the surface, we saw the most incredible corals—I am a big fan of Planet Earth and other nature shows, but nothing compared to swimming up to the corals and seeing them with my own eyes. They were beautiful. We saw corals in every color, every form, and all different sizes—it was hard to take it all in. We saw a ton of awesome fish and other creatures, too. The marine biologist who accompanied us took photos with a super-high-tech underwater camera (Mr. W was a little jealous). Here are some highlights from the day:
Diverse corals / Photo by Wavelength
Perfunctory newlyweds photo / Photo by Wavelength
Oh hi, Nemo! / Photo by Wavelength
On the boat ride back to Port Douglas, we even saw a pod of three dolphins swimming alongside the boat. Here’s a photo Mr. W snapped just in time of one of them:
All in all, I loved our experience with Wavelength. The whole crew was really friendly (and knowledgeable—you can bet I asked about a million questions about the reef!). And I was really impressed by what we were able to see by just snorkeling—Wavelength took us to three separate reefs, each unique in its own way. The third site, on the Nnrthern end of Opal Reef, is a favorite of National Geographic.
Our very last day of our honeymoon was pretty amazing. (Spoiler alert: koala photos ahead!) We woke up to a beautiful day in Port Douglas. We donned our most rugged outdoors clothes and drove 30 minutes north to the Daintree Rainforest to do some hiking. Y’all know by now that Mr. W and I love the outdoors. And I am totally mad about trees: I love anything that photosynthesizes. Well, check this out:
A fig tree with flying buttresses (teehee) at the Mossman Gorge / Personal photo
And check out these wombat berries:
Wombat food in the Daintree Rainforest…sadly, the wombats themselves were in hiding. / Personal photo
Mr. W had his “George of the Jungle moment” playing on the rainforest vines. This is a candid photo, by the way:
Yes, that’s my husband. / Personal photo
The Daintree Rainforest is a Wet Tropics World Heritage site, and it’s just like I imagined a tropical rainforest to be: humid (oh lawwwd it was hot and sticky); loud—from a multitude of insects chirping; full of dense canopy and some of the earth’s earliest plants (mosses and ferns); and home to a lot of creatures we’ve only ever seen in zoos. We even spotted a tree frog!
We couldn’t leave Australia without some kind of koala encounter. I researched the subject ahead of time and found Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat, a zoo just down the street from our resort. So after we sweated our behinds off in the tropical rainforest, we drove back down to Port Douglas to see the wildlife habitat. Every zoo I’ve ever been to has been pretty crowded with families, but we had this whole zoo to ourselves. A lot of the animals are free to roam around the zoo, so we had a lot of close encounters with animals, like Cassie:
Cassie the cassowary, at Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat / Personal photo
And this sweet bird:
Oh hii! / Personal photo
But the icing on the cake was the koala presentation. One of the zookeepers gave us a mini-lecture about koalas, and then we had a chance to hold a koala and have our photo taken with him. He was really sweet and snuggly, and sleepy—koalas sleep 20 hours a day! His fur smelled like eucalyptus, since his diet consists solely of eucalyptus leaves.
The Wallaby Family / Personal photo
OK, now I want a pet koala.
And last but not least…we fed a bunch of friendly wallabies. Weddingbee avatar win!
A friendly little Wallaby. Awwww. / Personal photo
We celebrated the final night of our honeymoon with a fancy dinner at an Italian restaurant in Port Douglas, and we had a late-night walk down the beach. Then we forced ourselves to go back to our room to pack, and at 4:00 AM the next morning, we began the long trip home back to Houston.
Up next: Wallaby tips for travelers!
*I really wanted to go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, but I have hearing problems and my doctor advised against it. We also didn’t have time to get certified in Houston before we left for the trip, so we would’ve spent too much time learning to scuba dive and very little time exploring the reef. We hope to return someday to scuba dive, though!