Recently, I have been one busy lady! I went to Australia for about 2 weeks, have been consumed by paperwork to get my Australian nursing license (see separate post on that) and to separate from the Army, and went to Hawaii! Plus working in between, but who wants to hear about that? So I went to Oz ready for my first Contiki (a tour company very similar to the Topdeck one I did in Greece- but “better” according to some…by some, I mean our tour manager haha), I went on the ‘Beaches and Reefs (Start Sydney)’ one- I opted not to do the sailing portion (though the ones that did it had a great time). We had about 42ish passengers on our tour- from all over the world.I could give you the lengthy blow-by-blow of all the things we did, but that would make for a very long post, and this is already long! Instead, I will briefly list one or two things I did each day that were memorable.
Day 1: Contiki kickstart meeting at 5pm, basically just a meet-and-greet. I arrived early in the morning so I headed to Bondi Beach and caught some rays and stumbled upon a nearby Farmer’s Market where I enjoyed the most DELICIOUS fritter I’ve ever had.
Day 2: 2 hour(ish) drive to the Blue Mountains. It was pretty but not the most exciting thing I’ve seen. I found the lunch pit stop in the cute little town of Leura more enjoyable. Later that night after a group dinner, we went out to the bar for a first night out which was fun but pretty tame.
Day 3: Went to Manly Beach and played some beach volleyball- fun! Later walked around Sydney and got photos in front of the Sydney Opera House. That night I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge- what a view at night!!!
Day 4: First of a few long day drives. We went to (or near) Coffs Harbour at a “surf camp” type hostel- it was pretty…rustic… each of the rooms were “renovated” shipping containers with 2 bunk beds in them. Pretty dirty. However, the group made the most of it by getting hammered with the rest of the backpackers staying there. And we wore onesies.
Day 5: Surf lesson in the morning! We drove to Byron Bay later that day, and had a group night out to the bar. Byron Bay has lots of cute shops and restaurants… the beach and surfing there is excellent too.
Day 6: This day was jam-packed with awesomeness. Byron Bay is an awesome, chill town! I did a kayak tour where we were supposed to but didnt see dolphins. The crew was hilarious though. Had a stop at the Carrumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where I got to hold a koala and feed kangaroos out of my hand- so awesome! Then onto Surfer’s Paradise where we went to a cabaret show called Dracula’s and then a nightclub after.
Day 7: Free day in Surfer’s Paradise- I had a chill day and went to the beach.
Day 8: Drove through Brisbane on the way to Noosa. Unfortunately it was super windy and I didn’t enjoy the beach, but it was a nice spot to shop around.
Day 9: Drove to Fraser Island by way of a 4WD truck/van-like vehicle. It was pretty nice, though a long day. We had a stop at Lake Mackenzie and enjoyed a barbecue that was quite delicious! Later on, took awesome photos on the beach at sunset and had a white t-shirt party- where we wrote inappropriate things on each others shirts.
Day 10: Ferry back to the main land and another long drive to “Farmstay” night- Langmorn Station, a cattle ranch. We got a tour of the ranch, had a buffet dinner and did some karaoke. This was definitely a change of pace.
Day 11: Another long drive to Daydream Island. The ones who opted to go sailing left us for 2 days while the remainders enjoyed the resort. We had a buffet dinner, and a chill night after.
Day 12: I did a full-day sail with a few others on the Camira. We sailed out to the Whitsunday Islands and snorkeled, it was so beautiful! We docked in the water near Whitehaven Beach and hung out. Great day.
Day 13: Longest drive yet (10 hours?) to Cairns. I had kangaroo steak for dinner. It was surprisingly delicious. Explored the night markets a bit (tourist trap…shocker).
Day 14: My last full day 😦 Did a Great Barrier Reef cruise and snorkel. I did not do the scuba, but I definitely want to get my scuba certification when I move there. It was AMAZING! The fish were huge! And of course, I found Nemo! Group bar crawl later that night.
So, would I recommend a group-style tour, more specifically Contiki? Absolutely. If you’re a solo traveler, it’s a great hassle-free way of taking a trip, meeting new people, and ensuring you get to do and see the most that you can in a shorter period of time. Sure, sometimes you have to put up with people who aren’t your favorite, but you are bound to find your niche. Additionally, since it’s a group doing the tour, there are plenty of “optional activities” to add on during the days you have less pre-planned for you, and you get a cheaper group rate for these activities than you would if you were to travel without a group. The day-to-day cost is likely more than you would spend if you’re used to backpacking on the cheap, but you don’t have to do a thing on your own but book the tour and show up when you’re told to. The tour manager organizes everything, so all you have to do it sit back and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is!