Margaret’s Australian Fam Trip with Gold Medal & Travel 2- May 2019
Friday 03rd May
Margaret arrives in Darwin from Singapore, she firstly flew from Dublin to London and then onto Singapore, in Singapore Margaret and the rest of her group were greeted by the Tourism NT Host – Kirsten Clarke and Grand Touring Coaches.
Their first stop was to check in at their hotel – Vibe Darwin Waterfront Hotel. Margaret considered this hotel to be modern and was amazed that it had its own waterpark and manmade beach. Vibe Hotel is perfectly positioned on the doorstep of the Darwin Waterfront Precinct, surrounded by great shopping, a range of pubs and night clubs, as well as some of the most amazing restaurants and cafes in the Northern Territory (NT)
Later that evening they all met up in the lobby and walked to Stokes Hill Wharf to check in with Darwin Harbour Cruises where they would all depart on their Sunset Buffet Dinner Cruise on the Vessel Charles Darwin. They had dinner while cruising along the coast.
Saturday 04th May
At 6am they were all to be ready to meet their AAT Kings guide and depart on a three day/two night tour of Kakadu National Park, Katherine and Litchfield Park.
About two and a half hours later they arrived at Pine Creek for breakfast at Mayse’s Café. They would then depart Pine Creek, making their way to Kakadu National Park.
Later they arrived at Gunlom where they had a delightful picnic lunch and time for a hike to the top of the waterfall for a swim in the plunge pools overlooking Kakadu.
The Gunlom (Waterfall Creek) was a major highlight for Margaret. She thoroughly enjoyed the hike up the side of the waterfall and to swim in nature’s own infinity pool. This is a spectacular site in the south of Kakadu National Park. Over millennia, water has run off the Arnhem Land escarpment over a sheer cliff, creating a large plunge pool fringed with pandanus palms. A hike to the top of the waterfall is rewarded by magnificent views over the Kakadu landscape as well as a series of beautiful terraced pools that are ideal for swimming.
They departed Gunlom and made their way to their next accommodation; Cooinda Lodge. Margaret and her roommate had their own lodge and pool. Later that day they met up together again to make their way for the two hour Yellow Water Sunset Cruise.
Yellow Water Cruises operate exclusively on the Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu’s most famous wetland, which is located at the end of Jim Creek, a tributary of the South Alligator River. About one third of Australia’s bird species are represented in Kakadu National Park, expected to see Whistling Ducks, Magpie Geese and Kingfishers. There are plenty of crocodiles in their natural habitat, and buffalo on the floodplains. A huge Jabiru’s nest is nearby, and depending on the season, Brolgas can be found dancing. Margaret did see a Wedgetail Eagle and also a bird known to the locals as the Batman Bird.
After this amazing sunset cruise they were transferred back to Cooinda Lodge and had their dinner with Barra Bistro.
Sunday 05th May
At 07:30 everyone met again at Barra Bistro Restaurant for breakfast. Departing Cooinda Lodge for 08:15 to make their way to Top Didj to commence their Aboriginal Cultural Experience Tour. After the tour they had free time to browse the art gallery and souvenir shop. Margaret and the rest of her group got to paint Aboriginal figures using ancient methods. They had a truly authentic indigenous cultural experience lead by indigenous artists from the Katherine and Red Centre Regions. This fantastic two-hour interpretive experience not only taught them all about Australia’s local indigenous culture but also provided them with many hands on activities
After, a picnic lunch was eaten in the shade within the Top Didj Grounds and then they made their way to Nitmiluk Gorge where they checked in with the Cicada Lodge with another beautiful sunset dinner cruise – Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner Cruise; provided by Nitmiluk Tours. Margaret and her roommate again had another a lodge to their selves. She said this 5* accommodation was very luxurious with beautiful rooms and balcony doors that opened out onto the rain forest – loads of wildlife.
Cicada Lodge is perfectly positioned as a base from which to explore Nitmiluk Gorge and its ancient landscape and indigenous culture. The lodge has 18 rooms elegantly furnished in a contemporary, sophisticated style fusing modern Australian and Indigenous design elements. Facilities include an outdoor pool, restaurant, room service and exclusive touring options.
The locals call it Katherine Gorge, whereas the Aboriginal call the gorge – Nitmiluk. Margaret described it as a similar feeling to the Grand Canyon. It had amazing scenery, waterfalls and rapids. They were told to sit back and relax as the tranquil surroundings transported them into a spiritual world of the Jawoyn culture and history. They got to discover the stories and ways of the Jawoyn people against the magnificent backdrop of the Nitmiluk Gorge, changing colour with the setting sun. The tour included a three course candlelight dinner, featuring fresh, local Australian produce cooked on board.
Afterwards, they docked the boat and then hiked to see Aboriginal Rock Art – up to 40,000 years old! There were lots of crocodiles here (always crocs!). This area had the larger saltwater crocs – so maybe don’t swim here?!
It was when they got back to the docked boat that it had been transformed into a restaurant with it’s very own chef & fine dining. Margaret describes the food as supersonic! Later, as the sun went down; it revealed a star gazers delight. As the crocs nonchalantly cruised past us! It was here where the group got to try the Australian food delicacies; Kangaroo and Crocodile.
The next morning, Margaret thoroughly enjoyed here breakfast here and has advised that the Cicada Lodge is renowned for their food. From here, they departed for Litchfield National Park. They journey took them approx. 3 hours and 40 minutes. One they arrived; their first stop was at Wangi Falls.
Wangi Falls is one of Litchfield National Park’s most popular attractions. The waterfall has created a large plunge pool that is ideal for swimming. There is also a pleasant walk that loops through the monsoon forest to the top of the falls.
Next, they made their way to the spectacular Florence Falls, which cascade into a plunge pool, set in a pocket of monsoon rainforest. They good to take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of the rock pool, then enjoy a scenic walk back up to the viewing platform high above the falls for panoramic views of the open valley and the waterhole below. Margaret says she actually loved this; better than she thought she would have and they were able to do some wild swimming!
Late afternoon time, they departed for Darwin – this journey took approx. 1 hour and 45 mins. They checked into the Hilton Darwin. On their way back to Darwin they stopped to look at the astonishing Termite Cathedrals.
Once they all got settled at the hotel, they all met up again to go for dinner at Char Restaurant – a lovely restaurant on the waterfront in a really bustling area for locals and tourists alike with an amazing array of eateries. This was their last night in Northern Territory, the next morning (Tues 07th) they departed in the early hours to Darwin Airport for their Virgin Australia flight to Adelaide where they flew over the Red Centre and were met by rain in Adelaide.
A one-stop destination for world-class wine, unbeatable gourmet food and produce, spectacular natural scenery and unique wildlife. The state’s varied and diverse regions offer visitors a broad range of experiences. Whether it’s wine, food, nature or culture – every region is a place you can be immersed, surround yourself and get up close and personal to your passions. The pristine coastline and rugged beauty of Kangaroo Island is the perfect contrast to the untouched bush of the Flinders Ranges and Outback. Lazy days can be spent cruising on the Murray River or adventure-seekers can get the adrenaline pumping with shark cage diving in the Eyre Peninsula. No matter what kind of traveller you are, South Australia is sure to get experience seekers closer to their passions.
Tuesday 07th May
Arrived into Adelaide about noon time, where they were met by their South Australian Tourism Commission representative. They departed Adelaide Airport with Kanda Coachlines and made their way to Stella Restaurant, set overlooking the foreshore of Henley Beach, where they stopped for lunch. Margret describes this as a lovely beach area where all the locals go at the weekend; it had beautiful architecture with old ornate wooden buildings on the edge of an ultra-modern city.
Adelaide is bursting with culture, flavours, events and entertainment. Taste your way through world-famous wine regions only minutes away from the city, soak up the sun at one of their picture-perfect metropolitan beaches, join the party at their immersive festivals and events or spend the night exploring Adelaide attractions and a thriving restaurant and bar scene. Adelaide is a gateway to some of Australia’s best wine country as well as historic buildings, lush parklands and some of the country’s best beaches.
After lunch they departed for Adelaide City where they checked into the Mayfair Hotel and had a chance to freshen up after a seven-hour flight. Margaret thought this was an amazing 5* hotel, really central and luxurious, where she said, “Breakfast was the best I ever had!” The Mayfair Hotel is located right in the heart of the city in a beautifully renovated Romanesque-style heritage building. The hotel’s 170 stylish and well-appointed rooms and suites are complemented by Mayflower Restaurant and Bar, and the rooftop bar Hennessy that offers stunning views across the city.
That day, they had an EcoCaddy Tour which lasted about an hour and 15 mins. EcoCaddy is proudly a privately-held South Australian company. Suitable for personal and group-bookings as well as events, EcoCaddy tours boasts an unrivalled ability to ride the footpaths, cycleways, parkwways and laneways of Adelaide and its surrounds. Showcasing the landscapes, architecture and history of Adelaide in a unique eco-friendly, cycling tour.
In the evening time, it was onto the ‘scary’ roofclimb. The group had themselves a RoofClimb Adelaide Oval Experience. An exhilarating adventure across Adelaide Oval’s unique roofline with a wide range of climb responsibilities. The guided tour runs for about two hours and covers a distance of 1.2 kilometres in total, climbing up and down ladders and multiple flights of stairs, walking on open metal grate walkways and a stepped bridge. Climbers are harnessed and attached to the railing at all times, but you’ll still need to overcome a fear of heights, especially at the peak of the climb on the Riverbank stand.
Margaret said “I was very nervous but so glad I did it in the end, it was such an amazing experience. You were very safe as we had lots of harnesses”
Adelaide Oval, located a short walk from the city centre, is widely regarded as the most picturesque Test Cricket ground in the world, with St Peter’s Cathedral rising behind an elegant Edwardian scoreboard and Moreton Bay fig trees at the northern end.
Once they got their feet on solid ground again, “thankfully” says Margaret, they made their way back to the beautiful Mayfair Hotel to get ready for an evening of discovering Adelaide’s ‘Eat Street’. In Adelaide, you can find entire streets devoted to dining. These ‘Eat Streets’ are a mix of cafes, pubs and restaurants. Gouger Street is Adelaide’s key Eat Street. It is the gateway to the Adelaide Central Market and the exotic, bustling mall and food halls of Chinatown. Take a five-minute stroll and you’ll be embarking on a world tour of restaurants. Traditional Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Japanese, Asian fusion, noodle bars, regional Chinese and yum cha, French and Argentine cuisine, and a number of first-rate seafood restaurants. Margaret describes the food aromas as fabulous!
Adelaide has finally discovered its laneways and side streets, and what a transformation it has made to little Leigh Street and neighbouring Peel Street in the heart of the city. The conversion of Leigh Street to traffic-free al fresco dining area, with beautifully restored buildings and fashionable new bars, cafes and restaurants.
Wednesday 08th May
After breakfast in the hotel they all met Matt again to be transferred to Adelaide Airport for their short ½ hour flight to Kangaroo Island on a tiny aeroplane where they were met by Island Odysseys (touring company) in Kingscote.
Kangaroo Island Odysseys provides personalised, quality four-wheel drive wildlife and nature discovery touring. You can experience a wide variety of wildlife in its natural habitat, while also enjoying spectacular coastline, pristine beaches and natural bushland sanctuaries. Interpretive guides share their knowledge and passion for Kangaroo Island’s flora and fauna, also providing gourmet food and wine.
Margaret says, “it was a coach designed for the outback as the island was wild and wonderful! This two-man team were hilarious; one drove and the other narrated. Their knowledge was fantastic, and it was so obvious that they loved the environment and the wildlife”.
There’s an unmistakeable sanctity about Kangaroo Island. As you step off onto the island, its impossible not to relax. Kangaroo Island is known as nature’s playground. Hit the road and you’ll find out why. Wildlife abounds as friendly pubs accommodation and restaurants give-way to towering cliffs, wild plains and impeccably clear waters. Follow the road less travelled and discover unique wildlife, mouth-watering food and wine, breath-taking scenery and a laid-back lifestyle.
Margaret says, “we had two full days and one night on the island, it was beautiful, rugged and not unlike the Donegal Coast! (with good weather)”
The itinerary on this day included; Seal Bay Conservation Park, a gourmet picnic lunch, Koala viewing, North Coast, Stoke Bay and then afternoon tea.
At Seals Bay there are no enclosures or cages. Instead, you are taken into the heart of the colony where experienced guides teach you about the Australian sea lion. There is nowhere else in the world where you can listen to an expert give you a unique insight into how these endangered animals hunt, surf, rest and interact with their pups and defend their territory. This is a truly exceptional wildlife experience not to be missed.
After this touring, they arrive at the Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge for their overnight stay. Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge is situated 30 minutes from the ferry port of Penneshaw and the Kingscote Airport in the small fishing and holiday village, American River. Situated in bushland on the banks of Eastern Cove, the Hotel offers 38 superbly appointed guest rooms, most with exceptional views over the Bay. Margaret describes this hotel as completely eco-friendly with walking tours available throughout the day and night…as there are lots of nocturnal animals in Auz.
That night, they dined at the hotel’s in-house restaurant; Reflections. Margaret – “This hotel’s good was simply amazing, everyone really loved it”.
Thursday 09th May
A second tour with Kangaroo Island Odysseys, the itinerary including: Vivonne Bay (Kangaroos ran wild everywhere in great herds), Hanson Bay Koala Sanctuary (American and Auz guys bought the land and created this reserve), Gourmet Picnic Lunch, Flinders Chase National Park, Admiral’s Arch, Remarkable Rocks and Grassdale.
Flinders Chase National Park, covering the western end of Kangaroo Island, boast spectacular rugged coastlines, views of a vast wilderness, remarkable sculptured rocks and encounters with native wildlife. At 74,000 hectares it is one of Australia’s largest parks and was named after the man who discovered Kangaroo Island in the early 1800s – English Captain Matthew Flinders
The park is home to a feast of fauna including Kangaroo Island kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, platypus, tammar wallabies and the endangered Cape Barren geese. And on the coast around Cape du Couedic live over 10,000 New Zealand fur seals.
After all this touring, they had to say goodbye to Kangaroo Island and get their ½ an hour regional flight at Kingscote Airport to Adelaide and then transferred to their overnight accommodation – Majestic Roof Garden Hotel; perfectly situated in Adelaide city near popular Rundle Street with its array of restaurants, cafes and boutique shopping.
Where they enjoyed a casual dinner at Sunny’s Pizza – “the best pizza in town!” – Margaret
Friday 10th May
After breakfast, they set off for their full day tour of the Wine Region Barossa Valley with See Adelaide (touring company). Just a 50 minute drive north east of Adelaide, the Barossa is an internationally-acclaimed wine region encompassing the towns of Tanunda, Angaston and Nuriootpa. Wander into over 80 cellar doors, tasting some of the most awarded wines in the world and digging into sumptuous local produce. Meet winemakers, chat with passionate staff and mingle with proud locals. It’s a region founded on passion, pride and South Australian spirit.
First up was the Barossa Shiraz Estate, where they had a site inspection. Margaret – “There was lovely self-catering cottages in the vineyards with beautiful local villages packed with fabulous restaurants and antique shops”
Next, an Intro to Wine Experience at Jacob’s Creek. Margaret – “Yes, there really is a creek call Jacob! This was a full wine tasting and learning experience, a very modern and beautiful winery; all about how different foods taste with the different wine and vice versa.”
Jacob’s Creek is situated on the banks of Jacob’s creek, offers public wine tasting areas and facilities for professional and specialised tastings. A gallery area includes information on the history of the Barossa and of the Jacob’s Creek brand, wine production techniques and viticulture. In addition, there is a restaurant offering a menu using quality local produce married with a selection of premium wines. This experience teaches you about what goes into making great wines by immersing you in the vines in our display vineyard. Our host will provide an overview of the 14 different grape varieties grown within the vineyard. A structured wine tasting will explore a selection of white, rose and red wines plus a sneaky taste of one of Jacob’s Creek Heritage Wines and covering basic wine education.
Their lunch that day was with Harvest Kitchen and from their ‘Feed Me Like A Barossan’ menu with a selection of dishes for everyone to share. Margaret describes this experience as so amazing with all local and fresh food.
Harvest Kitchen is located in the beautiful Barossa Valley region and has a fresh and flexible approach to seasonal dining. Located at the top of Magnolia Road just outside the township of Tanunda and with views across the valley looking over the surrounding vines, they have one of the most sought-after outlooks in the region.
Then, they departed from Tanunda for Seppeltsfield Wines, where they met their host at cellar door and joined the Taste Your Birth Year tour. Margaret – “I probably costed them a fortune….I got to taste a 50 year old port and it was remarkable!
Seppeltsfield Wines is the Barossa’s most historic operational winery. Classified by the State Heritage Act as an historic village, the winery, grounds and gardens are impeccably maintained in their original condition. Seppeltsfield is the only winery to release a hundred-year-old port every year – the legendary Para Liqueur Port.
Outside of Portugal, Seppeltsfield Wines, are world leaders in port. They have the oldest winery in constant operation.
Next up, they arrived at Landmeil Winery for tastings. Margaret – “This was my favourite winery, it was a small original vineyard, but the wine was truly amazing and delicious. The owner was so knowledgeable and asked what types of wine you liked then made a choice for you to taste. We got to taste wine from the original vine which was brought to Auz in the 1700s
Langmeil Winery was first established in 1832 and is set amongst the old Langmeil Village, adjacent to the picturesque North Para River. Here visitors are able to taste a range of premium wines within the backdrop of historic buildings and an 1840’s vineyard.
Later that afternoon they departed the Barossa Valley for their return to Adelaide. They had the evening to their leisure and to get in some last-minute shopping and more food before heading home the next morning via Singapore.
Margaret truly and thoroughly had an incredible time on this familiarisation trip organised by Gold Medal. She made some remarkable memories and friends along the way. She would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about your own travel plans for Australia. You can contact her on [email protected] or Tel. 028 6632 1153.
Thank you for reading!