They had to wait a whopping 10 months after their wedding, but Glendale, Calif., residents Catie and Daniel Johnson more than made up for the delay with the trip of a lifetime: 12 days Down Under. Before hopping over to Auckland, New Zealand (for details on that portion of the trip, read New Zealand Honeymoon – Catie and Daniel), the couple visited Melbourne, Cairns and Sydney in Australia, spending their days snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, having their first-ever encounter with a platypus, and eating some seriously delicious food.
Yet after all the excursions and gourmet meals, their favorite part was pretty simple:
“We got to hold a koala bear and cuddle with it,” Daniel said.
While staying in Cairns, the couple rode the historic Skyrail up to the town of Kuranda, overlooking the Barron Gorge. There they spent the afternoon at Koala Gardens feeding kangaroos and wallabies, and watching in horror as a Macaw destroyed Daniel’s watch.
“It took my watch completely apart, it was really aggressive,” he said.
Then, finally, it was koala time. Catie said they’re just as cute as you’d imagine, but also generated a few laughs.
“It was really funny because they keep the male and female koalas separate, and the male koala was trying to court the female koala while we were holding her, so it was making this weird grunting noise,” she says. Maybe the koala’s wanted a little honeymoon action of their own?
Afterward, the trip down from Kuranda was almost as noteworthy as the koala encounter.
“We took the Sky Rail, a scenic gondola, over the Barron Gorge and jungle as far as you could see, it was gorgeous, that was one of my favorite parts of the trip,” Catie said.
When it came to adventures, Cairns was hands down the couple’s favorite destination during their Australian honeymoon. Not only did it let them get up close and personal with Australian land animals, but also their under-the-sea friends at the nearby Great Barrier Reef.
“The Great Barrier Reef is kind of amazing, you just have to go there,” Daniel said. “I’ve gone snorkeling a few times around California and stuff, and (the Great Barrier Reef) is so much cooler and just ridiculously awesome. It’s something you really couldn’t imagine. I was like ‘oh I’ve been snorkeling before, it’ll just be more fish, brighter fish.’ But it’s not, it’s kind of ridiculous, it’s overwhelming.”
However, while the catamaran ride to the reef and snorkeling were astounding, there was one part of the excursion Catie would definitely not repeat.
“They also took us to this bird island, it’s just a stretch of sand covered with birds,” she said. “I was terrified. I don’t like birds.”
While the Great Barrier Reef is one of the best places in the world to see fish and other sea creatures, it wasn’t the only place where Catie and Daniel visited aquatic life during their honeymoon. The pair also went to the Sydney Aquarium – but it was a quick trip.
“We went to the aquarium, walked in, saw a platypus and were like ‘sweet’ and walked out,” Daniel said, laughing.
Both admitted this was a bit odd, but they had their reasons.
“We’d seen dolphins and stuff like that before, we didn’t really need to see it again,” Catie said. “But we’d never even had the opportunity to see a platypus before, they’re nowhere, so we weren’t going to miss it.”
The couple felt similarly about wombats, another rarity back home.
“We went to Sydney Wildlife World, next to the aquarium, it’s not the big Taronga Zoo, but it was good,” Daniel said. “There were some adorable wombats.”
Adorable, but also a bit depressing, Catie said.
“There was this wombat that kept digging and digging and then he finally hit the glass and he looked so disappointed,” she said. “Then he moved over and started digging again. The zoo person said they just fill up their holes every night. It’s kind of sad.”
Catie and Daniel may have been bummed out by the tenacious wombats, but there were plenty of other happy distractions to focus on during their honeymoon. One of the biggest: The food in Australia.
“We had competitions for who got the best meal each time we ordered,” Daniel said. “Catie won most of the time.”
Friendly rivalry aside, they both agreed on the best – and by far the most expensive — meal of the trip.
“We ate at the Maze by Gordon Ramsey restaurant (now closed) at the Crown Metropol in Melbourne,” Daniel said. “And actually we looked at the menu and we were like, ‘wow, this isn’t that expensive, we can do this.’ And then we found out that every single course is like two or three bites and they suggest you order six to eight of them. But at that point we had already ordered a bottle of wine so we were like ‘oh crap, we’re screwed.’ We probably shouldn’t have stayed (budget-wise), but it was delicious and I’ve never had flavored foam before.”
Flavored foam was just the beginning. The meal also included scallops and a gourmet spin on cotton candy. But while it was outstanding in terms of quality, the couple admits the quantity was a bit lacking. Even after spending more than $100 each, they weren’t quite finished.
“I think (the meal) was worth it, although we did go out for burgers afterwards because we were still hungry,” Catie said.
Other culinary highlights included fantastic dim sum in Melbourne and the meal Daniel handedly won: lamb three ways at Salt House Restaurant in Cairns.
“They were three separate, very different, very satisfying dishes but they all went well together because the mildly gamy flavor of the lamb tied everything together,” Daniel said.
The couple also indulged in the famous Australian steak, although they weren’t overly impressed. They did not, however, partake in any of the kangaroo dishes found at the more touristy restaurants.
“The farmers see (kangaroos) like rats, pests that get into their crops and stuff,” Daniel said.
“And would you eat a rat?” Catie added.
Clearly the couple preferred to have their foodie adventures be more of the flavored foam variety over rodent soufflé, but either way they would encourage other couples to explore the culinary scene in Australia, especially in the big cities like Melbourne and Sydney.
Another piece of advice from the pair:
“Pack light and pack layers because the weather can be unpredictable and change dramatically from city to city, especially if you go during Australia’s winter like we did,” Catie said. “It ended up raining off and on in Melbourne, but it was hot and sunny in Cairns so we had to bring clothes for both.”
The varying temperatures might make packing light easier in theory than practice, but Daniel says it’s a must if you plan to city-hop like they did.
“It felt really obnoxious when I was lugging around that huge suitcase, but we didn’t have much choice,” he said. “We stayed at four different hotels, and we had flights in between each one, so there was a lot of travelling.”
Catie and Daniel were glad they got to see so much of Australia during their honeymoon, but they’d advise other couples to consider whether they want to spend so much time hopping in between airports and hotels. Remember that Australia is nearly the size of the United States. The distance Catie and Daniel traveled isn’t that different than a couple visiting Atlanta, Miami and Boston on the same trip.
“I think if we were to re-do it we’d spend more time in each individual space, because we spent a lot of time actually traveling between location, location, location,” Daniel said. “And I personally don’t find traveling relaxing.”
Next, see how the couple fared during the New Zealand portion of their honeymoon …
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