Australia

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Ten Days in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Great Barrier Reef

With white-sandy beaches, unparalleled reefs, blue mountain ranges, fertile wineries, arid desert and urban metropolises, Australia has virtually every landscape imaginable--and some that must be seen to be believed.

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Day 1-3: Sydney

Sydney

Get an overview of the city--literally. Begin your stay with a helicopter ride or opt for a boat tour on the water (kids will love the wet and wild Oz Jet boat tours). Have a seaside lunch at the classic Doyle's on the Beach (order any dish featuring its famous prawns), the all-glass modern Catalina on Rose Bay or Aqua Dining overlooking the Olympic swimming pool. If the morning’s activities have chased away the jet lag, tempt the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Alternatively, take a leisurely stroll through the stunningly serene Botanical Gardens. Enjoy dinner at celebrity chef Neil Perry's Rockpool or Sailor's Thai, serving authentic, spicy Thai cuisine. If there's a performance, don't miss the opportunity to see a show at the Jorn Utzon–designed Sydney Opera House.

Test your "hang ten" ability the next morning with surfing lessons on Bondi or Manly beaches and check out the famously cool scenes there. Dry off for lunch at classic Iceberg's or quaint and laid-back Sean's Panorama (on Bondi) or try the fantastic pizzas at Hugo's (on Manly Wharf). Afterwards, head to the vintage retro Luna Park amusement park, followed by the Taronga Zoo, known for its Koala bears. Book dinner at Tetsuya's, which many consider the best dining in Australia; swanky Otto; or the sophisticated but informal Bistro Moncur.

Start off day three with some shopping in the leafy neighborhoods of Paddington and Darlinghhurst, which are full of charming boutiques. Favorites include the one-off design and furniture atelier He Made She Made and cool and relaxed Sass & Bide. Stop for a delicious Italian lunch at Lucio's. Non-shoppers can visit the Sydney Aquarium, which will delight and can be followed with lunch at Eat Love Pizza. Be sure to check out the city's innovative art scene at the newly renovated Museum of Contemporary Art and White Rabbit Gallery, which highlights ahead-of-its-time Chinese modern art. A final evening in Sydney should begin with cocktails at the Roosevelt and dinner at Billy Kwong (for the duck with blood-orange sauce), Neild Avenue (for the beer-battered mussels) or Flying Fish (for the reef fish with edamame and crayfish butter).

Day 4-7: Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains National Park is located a three-hour drive west of Sydney; it’s the home to the verdant Wolgan Valley. Sitting among eucalyptus groves (the trees' vapors give off a blue tinge, giving the mountain range its name), the Wolgan Valley resort is located on 4,000 acres of privately owned land abutted by national parks. It is thus fitting that the eco-resort places a strong emphasis on the land, sky and all of its native creatures. Guests are encouraged to experience the wildness of Australia with wildlife tours, horseback trail rides, nocturnal safaris, photography expeditions and canyoning (the exploration of canyons by means of hiking, rock climbing, swimming and rappelling). Understanding the early settlers' lives is encouraged too; the developer restored a 19th-century farmhouse that is open to guests.

The acclaimed eco-conscious resort’s forty suites all have private plunge pools and fireplaces and come with mountain bikes for setting off around the property. Dining options--and their wine pairings--are exceptional, with an emphasis placed on seasonal offerings from local purveyors. The chefs pride themselves on sourcing the majority of their ingredients from within a one-hundred-mile radius.

Day 7-10: Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

The flight to the Great Barrier Reef airport takes about two-and-a-half hours from Sydney. Once arrived at Hayman island resort, guests will want to do nothing but relax on the beach and by the pools (must-read books set in Australia include The Thorn Birds, In a Sun-Burned Country and Road to Coorain). Spa treatments are famously indulgent with such offerings as papaya and pineapple de-ageing body wraps and an ocean massage, conducted while floating on a raft on the sea. Cooking and wine-pairing classes are available--and will be appreciated after sampling the restaurant's spectacular offerings.

But the star out here is, of course, the Great Barrier Reef itself. It’s the largest in the world (nearly the size of Germany) and contains approximately 1,500 different species of fish, not to mention the coral, turtles, whales and dolphins. Snorkeling and SCUBA diving can be organized, along with speedboat expeditions, deep-sea fishing and sunset sails. For land-based activities, the resort can arrange golf outings and private beach picnics.

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