Fifteen Days in Australia
A Trip to Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, and Diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea
- United Global First Class Lounges – Washington-Dulles and Los Angeles
- United Global First Class Los Angeles to Sydney
- Sydney: Days One and Two (Arrival, Walking Tour, Manly Beach, and Darling Harbour)
- Sydney: Days Three and Four (Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, Bondi Beach, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Woolloomooloo, and the Sydney Fish Market)
- New Year’s Eve at Sydney Harbour
- Virgin Australia Economy Class Sydney to Brisbane to Cairns
- An Evening in Cairns and a Flight to Lizard Island, AU
- Spirit of Freedom Live-aboard Dive Trip (4-night Coral Sea and GBR)
- Qantas Economy and Business Class Cairns to Sydney to Melbourne
- Two Days in Melbourne and the Park Hyatt Melbourne
- United Global First Class Sydney to San Francisco
Park Hyatt Melbourne
We arrived quite late into Melbourne after a short flight from Sydney and quickly found the taxi queue. From there, we hailed a cab to our hotel — the Park Hyatt Melbourne. I booked the Park Hyatt with points for two nights, and with cash for the third night. We chose the Park Hyatt over the Grand Hyatt solely based on reputation. Up to that point, some of my best stays ever had been at Park Hyatt properties in Tokyo, Dubai, and Zurich — so I was pretty sold on trying the Park Hyatt Melbourne even though the Grand Hyatt probably had a more ideal location in downtown Melbourne.
By the time we got to the hotel, it was a ghost town. The Park Hyatt features a beautiful lobby, but we didn’t spend too much time in the hotel facilities.
After waiting a few minutes for a check-in agent (like I said, it was a ghost time at 1am), we finally were given our keys to a room on the 11th floor. We had a standard, Park Twin room. The finishings in the room were extremely nice and high quality. There was a generous walk-in closet and a very large bathroom. The beds were very comfortable, and the room featured most of the creature comforts that I’d grown accustomed to staying at Park Hyatts. The major drawback for me was the very small size of the television in the room — and this ended up being a big deal for me — I’ll explain later. Though it was a perfectly nice room and property in general, I just didn’t possess the “wow” factor that I’ve felt at other Park Hyatt properties. I was overall pretty happy with the property, but if I had to do it again, I’d probably choose the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne due to its more convenient location to downtown Melbourne.
We were pretty exhausted when we got to the hotel room, so we promptly went to bed. The first full day in Melbourne featured absolutely perfect weather — it would have been a wonderful day to explore the city. However, my attention was diverted elsewhere.
2014 BCS National Championship Game – Auburn vs Florida State
That day, I had zero interest in touring Melbourne because my alma-mater Auburn Tigers were set to play in the BCS National Championship Game against Florida State that afternoon around noon local time (around 6pm local time at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California). Since I’m a huge college football fan (I’d already been to four Auburn games that season in person), and this was essentially College Football’s Super Bowl, it was the only thing I really cared about that day. As such, my nerves were out of control. Thankfully, my dad is extremely familiar with my Auburn football “problem,” so he was a good sport about it and never once complained that we’d be spending the majority of the day in Melbourne watching a football game on TV in our hotel room. He was obviously aware of the game, and much preferred watching it with me in Australia over me bailing on him to go to the game (Yes, I briefly considered flying directly back to LAX after our dive drip to attend the game in person at the Rose Bowl).
We grabbed breakfast and took a stroll around downtown Melbourne before heading into a grocery store to load up on some tailgating supplies — snacks and drinks for the room. As kickoff neared, we headed back to the Park Hyatt, and I setup shop on the corner of the bed ready to watch our very small television as my Auburn Tigers played for the National Championship. Like I said, I was a nervous wreck during the game. I didn’t move from my spot on the bed for four hours. I didn’t eat or drink a thing because my stomach was in knots.
Yes, I take my Auburn football very seriously. Irrational? Maybe. Am I sorry about it? Absolutely not.
Despite starting out in complete control of the game, Auburn eventually succumbed to a last-minute Florida State touchdown, and lost the game 34-31. I was pretty silent for about thirty minutes after the game, as I was pretty heartbroken.
Chinatown and Dinner at Hutong Dumpling Bar
Eventually, my dad suggested we go get food, so I agreed. We decided to take a recommendation from Trip Advisor and tried a Dim Sum place in Chinatown called Hutong Dumpling Bar. The meal was excellent – I mean, it was very, very good. I certainly recommend this place. After dinner, we walked around the Chinatown area and then headed back to the hotel for the evening. By this point in the trip, we were pretty exhausted, so we had no problem with being in somewhat early.
I’M FREE Walking Tour
We really, really enjoyed our free walking tour in Sydney, and thought that it would similarly be a fantastic way to get an overview of Melbourne in the limited time that we had. The same company, I’m Free Walking Tours offers walking tours in Melbourne, so naturally we decided on that. We met the group at 10:30am in front of the State Library of Victoria. Once again, there was a large group ready to take the tour on another perfect weather day in Melbourne (about 76 degrees and sunny). Like Sydney, the tour was excellent. We walked from the State Library of Victoria to the Old Melbourne Gaol to the Royal Exhibition Center. We then proceeded back through Chinatown and through the many laneways of Melbourne, replete with urban art (basically classy graffiti). We then walked through Burke Street Mall, and through the galleries to Flinders Street Station and Federation Square. We crossed the Yarra River and ended the tour in the shadows of Eurkea Tower after about three hours of some awesome sites and wonderfully informative commentary. The tour ended by the Yarra River with a great, panoramic view of the Melbourne skyline, so we took that in for a bit before deciding that we needed some food.
We backtracked to some of the really cool galleries that we’d walked through. These narrow passages are located all over the downtown Melbourne area, and are lined with restaurants, cafes, and shops. We settled on a burger joint called Huxtaburger in the CBD, and it ended up being the best burger we had on the trip (yes — we had a lot of burgers).
After this late lunch, we were pretty beat from walking around, so we hoofed it back to the hotel for some rest and to pack for our trip home.
That evening, we took a suggestion from our walking tour guide and tried another noodle / dim sum place called Camy Shanghai Dumpling House. Though it was much, much cheaper than our dinner the previous night, it was pretty disappointing — especially compared to our excellent meal we had the night before. We strolled around downtown one last time before retiring to the Park Hyatt for our last night’s sleep in Australia.