Two weeks ago, my mom made the long trip across the US and the Pacific Ocean to pay me a visit in the land “down under.” We had a lovely visit, and we packed an enormous amount of activity into our short time together. For the first half of our trip, we enjoyed Sydney and then for the second bit of our visit, we headed north to the Whitsunday Islands at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
Despite the long flight, Lenore took quickly to Sydney, and we immediately began to see the sites.
Within her first 8 hours in Sydney alone, she not only glimpsed the lovely Bondi Beach,
experienced her first flat white,
and explored Sydney’s Botanic Gardens,
(and caught a glimpse of the infamous flying foxes!)
but she also caught her first view of the Sydney Opera House, and of course, had her first taste of some delicious Australian wine.
The busyness of her first day in Sydney continued for the rest of her time in Sydney, and I had a great time showing her around my favorite parts of Sydney. Here’s a top 5 “hits” list of my favorite things in the Sydney area that I got to enjoy in the company of my mom!
In no particular order….
We took the Manly Ferry out to the beachside neighborhood of Manly, where we spent the day scouring the sands of Shelly Beach for shells and enjoying the views from atop the Manly Cliff Walk.
Find anything good?
What a view!
2. Circular Quay
My mom treated Thomas and I to a fancy dinner at Cafe Sydney, which has amazing views of Ciricular Quay. Dinner was delicious, and check out these views!
Afterwards, we met Aisha at the Opera House for a Bell Shakespeare theatre production of “Much Ado About Nothing”, a great comedy about two pairs of lovers who are tricked in different ways.
3. Hunter Valley- wine!
What would a trip to Sydney be without a foray into Australian wine country? My mom and I made the trek to Hunter Valley for a day of wine tasting- Yum!
4. The Blue Mountains
Another one of my favorite Sydney activities is hiking in the Blue Mountains. We began our day in sunny Sydney, but by the time we got to the Blue Mountains, the weather had turned cloudy and rainy. Still, we managed to grab a shot of the Three Sisters (with a rainbow in the background!) before the storms set in….
Despite the rain, we enjoyed a cliffside walk from Katoomba to Leura. By the end, we weren’t too wet, were we?
5. Watsons Bay
Watsons Bay is perhaps my favorite Sydney spot, and we welcomed a full (and sunny!) day of wandering the cliffside trails and relaxing at the quiet harbourside beach.
As you can guess, our time in Sydney passed quickly, and we soon headed up north to the Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef. Here’s a map to give you a bit of perspective….
Upon landing in the Whitsundays, we were convinced that we had arrived in paradise. For example, check out this view of the airport from the ferry that took us to Airlie Beach on the mainland.
Have we landed in paradise?
From there, the ferry trip through the islands to our lodging on the mainland was just gorgeous….
Do you feel like you’re on vacation yet?
Yep! Upon arrival in Airlie Beach, we checked into our bed and breakfast and made arrangements for our sailing trip, which would leave the next morning.
After a delicious breakfast,
we trekked down to the marina to meet our boat and to begin our sailing adventure. We were led aboard the Eureka, a beautiful racing boat, and our captain, Mal, proceeded to get us out on the water.
Of course, we all had to lend a hand as well…
Our sailing trip was amazing. We spent 3 days out on the water, during which we explored many of the Whitsunday Islands, visited some truly stunning beaches, and went diving and snorkeling on the reef. There were only 8 other people on our boat, 7 of whom were female, and we passed a happy few days out at sea.
Here are some photos from our time on the boat:
On the first day, we sailed across the Whitsunday Channel to Blue Pearl Bay, next to Hayman Island.
There, I went for a dive, and the rest of our boat went for a snorkel in the clear blue waters of the Whitsundays. The reef was incredible to say the least; I wish I had photos to share, but unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera. The number and diversity of fish and corals was astounding; I could have spent all day taking in the underwater scenery!
After our snorkel, and Mal dropped us at Cataran Bay to watch the sunset from this quiet beach. Beautiful!
Sunset view of our boat!
The next morning, we were dropped at Whitehaven Beach, probably the most breath-taking beach I have seen in Australia. Pure white silica sands met the clear blue waters. We firs t walked to a lookout where we viewed the beach from above….
….and afterwards we all ran down to the beach to enjoy these beautiful waters!
But don’t go swimming without your stinger suit! We had to wear these truly fashionable suits to protect us from dangerous jellyfish stings….although mostly I was glad for protection from the sun!
The tide went out during our swim, so afterwards I walked down the beach to check out how things had changed. Can you believe how beautiful this is? I love the patterns in the sand that are left behind by the outgoing tide….
All too soon, we were picked up by our boat and we spent the afternoon snorkeling on the reef, sunning ourselves on the deck of the boat, and sailing to our evening resting place, where we watched the sun slowly set over the islands.
Of course we need some snacks to accompany the sunset!
Can you believe these colors?
We spent the last day of our trip as we had the previous days; we sailed around the islands, stopping at prime stretches of reef for a snorkle.
Our captain also dropped us off on a sandbar that was slowly being uncovered by the outgoing tide.
Here we passed a pleasant afternoon of snorkeling,
wandering, and of course, bumming on the beach!
Soon enough, it was time to set our sails for Airlie Beach and, with the wind behind us, we sped to the mainland. Our sailing trip had finally come to an end! After another night in Airlie Beach (and several drinks at the local Rum Bar….), we were on our way back to Sydney. It was to be my mom’s last night in Australia, and after a quick and rather fruitless search for some Australian beer, we returned to the apartment to pack for my mom’s departure.
My mom’s time in Australia was full of action, and I feel like I was able to show her a good bit of what my life is like in Australia. I hope she enjoyed the trip as much as I did, although I’m sure she’s glad to return to her garden in Virginia!