Recommendations: Melbourne, Broome, Margaret River, Perth and Sydney

Old Dec 26, 18, 1:53 pm
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Recommendations: Melbourne, Broome, Margaret River, Perth and Sydney

We leave tomorrow for 2.5 weeks in Oz and could use a little help filling out our plans and feedback on what we have so far. We are traveling with another couple and he is from Melbourne and she is pregnant. For my husband and I, this will be our first trip to Australia, as well as our first trip together without our toddler. We enjoy good food (we have California standards), wine, animals and a mix of unique, local and interesting experiences without it being too hectic. The flights are all set, so it's too late to change any of that. We will have a rental car in every city except Sydney. Here is what we have so far:

SFO>MEL (arrive Sat, leave Thurs)
Our friend is mostly planning restaurants and things. On my list that I'd like to do: Vic Market, St. Kilda pier/market, walk around and coffee in the laneways, Phillip Island (tickets booked for NYE - any restaurant recos?), botanical gardens, NGV, maybe Chinatown
We are still trying to plan a wine day for just my husband and I - we are thinking Mornington over Yarra since we prefer Sonoma over Napa. We would love recos for wineries and or small group tours. I think it will just be my husband and I and we will have a rental car but not sure how smart it is to drive - we've heard they can be very strict.

MEL > BME (arrive Thurs, leave Mon)
We are staying at the Ramada eco beach resort and I'm nervous about the location being so far from everything else since we aren't big on laying on the beach and doing nothing, but it's important to our friend to have some time to do that and I couldn't find another place in a similar style and price range available in town. It's also supposed to be very hot so not sure how much we will want to be outside.

The activities I am interested here include: Pearl farm and or tour (looks like Wille's is the only one available), Kayaking, Camel Rides, Sun Pictures Theatre, Gantheaume Poiunt, the Broom Courthouse and maybe diving in Rowley Shoals.

Would love restaurant recommendations and thoughts on activities near the Ramada (or a brilliant other accommodation ideas since we have until tomorrow to cancel the Ramada)

BME > Margaret River (arrive Mon, leave Fri)
We are staying at an airbnb in town. We want to do all the wine, cheese and chocolate. I'm not big into beer, but the guys would enjoy it if there's a fun brewery. Looking for specific recs for wineries, restaurants and other fun things to do. I'm fine skipping the beach here unless it's that different than Broome. Also any fun stops for the drive between Perth and MR?

Margaret River > PER (arrive Fri, leave Sat)
We will drive up late morning after checkout and leave the next afternoon, planning on staying at the Intercontinental. Restaurant recos for lunch along the way and our only dinner in Perth (and last meal with our friends)? Any sights or activities you would recommend squeezing in late afternoon or the morning before we leave?

PER > SYD (arrive Sat, head back to SFO Weds)
We are planning on staying at the Intercontinental here as well. It will just be my husband and I, so we are hoping to make it a bit of a mini-honeymoon without the kiddo or friends (but we aren't really into spas or cheesy romance). I've been so focused on the early parts of our trip that I haven't really planned anything here. We've enjoyed the free walking tours we have done in Europe and will look for something similar here. We aren't really into Opera, but wouldn't mind visiting the Opera House. Wondering if there are good wildlife sanctuaries here. Also looking for good restaurants near our hotel or activities.

If you've read this whole thing congrats and thank you in advance for the help!
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Old Dec 26, 18, 6:44 pm
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I wouldn't plan on doing winery tours and driving. It's the Christmas holidays and all highway patrol get no holiday leave so they can be out busting drink drivers. Victoria is the most draconian state when it comes to road rule enforcement in Australia – they'll book you for doing 3km/h over the limit. Also the drink driving limit in Australia is .05, not .08 as it is in the US.
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Old Dec 26, 18, 8:49 pm
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Broome might be cooler than MEL as there is a big heatwave hitting Oz east coast just in time for your visit. For restaurants for NYE in MEL, good luck as the name ones will be fully booked some time ahead and also double normal price. But there are hundreds of great local restaurants which can serve great food. just hard to find randomly. I like Hell of the North (French fusion-Oz), and Tipo00 (Italian pasta as you may guess from the name). Both have very good and reasonable wine lists as well as really good food. If cost is no object, Rosetta at Crown Casino is great particularly the outdoor seating, but certain to be sold out NYE.
For food between Margaret River and Perth there isn't any Not that much in Perth either compared to SYD/ME/HBA or even CBR. Much of Margaret River is not actually at the town but in 20 km radius. For me Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin, Voyager, Shaw+Smith are must see wineries (quite a range in style and ambiance, but all noteworthy). As for Perth I usually eat at Guillaume (French restaurant in Crown casino) as they have a great rack of lamb.
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Old Dec 26, 18, 11:04 pm
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Number_6. Thank you for the suggestions! For NYE dinner we are thinking it's best to eat an early dinner on Phillip Island since our Penguin tour is at 8:15 pm. Any restaurants there that will be better than mediocre?

Bensyd, thanks for the insight. We heard they were strict, but I didn't realize how strict. We will book a driver.
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Old Dec 27, 18, 4:31 pm
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In country Australia the best food is invariably in the local pub (called "hotel") and generally serve good chicken parma and steak. Some of the best fish&chips I've had was there. I've never eaten on Phillip Island and imagine it doesn't have enough year-round tourism to support fancier restaurants, so eat as the locals eat. By contrast Melbourne is well represented in most "50 best restaurants in the world" lists, in fact sometimes more than NYC or London In general food in Oz is stunning due to high quality ingredients (for example the best Vietnamese food is in Australia not Vietnam).
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Old Dec 28, 18, 3:33 am
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In Sydney, restaurants to try around the InterCon (if you can get in):

The Bridge Room (mod Aus with exceptional ingredients - so a bit California cuisine a la Chez Panisse)
Aria (same)
est. (same)
Rockpool Bar and Grill (same)

None of them are cheap but all are very good.

In Melbourne, try:

Maha (Middle Eastern)
Coda (Pan Asian)
Supernormal (pan Asian)
Cumulus Inc (mod Aus)
Tipo 00 (Pasta that Marco Pierre White rates as his favourite in Melbourne - and it is that good)
Dukes (for coffee)
Sensory Lab (for coffee)
Market Lane (for coffee)
Hardware Societe (cafe and sophisticated brunch)
Higher Ground (similar to Hardware)


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Old Dec 28, 18, 2:11 pm
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In Margaret River, try Wills Domain and Vasse Felix (both wine and food).

Sydney’s zoo is Taronga Zoo, take the ferry from Circular Quay, 1 block from InterCon.


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Old Dec 29, 18, 1:10 pm
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JClasstraveller and number_6 - thank you! we just arrived in MEL yesterday and had a lovely day walking around the city. Looking forward to checking out some of these recommendations!
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Old Dec 29, 18, 1:44 pm
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If you don't mind a simple pub-style menu, I quite like Ocean Reach Brewing on Phillip Island (Cowes). Mainly I like the beer, but the food is tasty, might be a good quick stop before the Penguins.

Originally Posted by bensyd View Post
I wouldn't plan on doing winery tours and driving. It's the Christmas holidays and all highway patrol get no holiday leave so they can be out busting drink drivers. Victoria is the most draconian state when it comes to road rule enforcement in Australia – they'll book you for doing 3km/h over the limit. Also the drink driving limit in Australia is .05, not .08 as it is in the US.
Agreed. Also Australia do enjoy their random roadside breath testing. I have encountered one on a weekday at 1 pm in the middle of nowhere country Victoria. You don't have to commit any traffic violation to end up blowing in a tube. Suggest anyone driving severely limit their drinking intake or don't drink at all. Luckily Australia does cater to this, by selling small beer sizes (a pot is a 1/2 pint) and 'mid-strength' beers. Ask what mid strength they have available, which would be around 3.5%. There are usually some decent options.
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Old Jan 4, 19, 10:03 pm
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SYD:
Spit to Manly hike. Lunch in Manly, then ferry home. (Pretty well known, google it)

Couple of other day or half day hikes. Georges head park/Balmoral beach

Botanical Gardens

Hyde Park Barracks museum
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Old Jan 5, 19, 1:48 am
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Originally Posted by Exec_Plat View Post
SYD: Spit to Manly hike. Lunch in Manly, then ferry home. (Pretty well known, google it)...
Sydney Ferries used to publish a brochure of a dozen "ferry walks" all of which start/end with a ferry and got to some astonishing parts of sydney. Great views and much more wilderness than you would imagine in such high-density and expensive real estate. I only did 3 or 4 but all were great walks and time well spent.
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Old Jan 7, 19, 6:06 pm
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We just arrived in MR last night and are looking forward to exploring!

In Melbourne, we enjoyed meals at Dainty Szechuan, Laksa King (both favorites of the friend we are traveling with) and Matilda. On Phillip Island we had lunch at the brew pub next to the mini golf place (can't remember the name, but it was good) and dinner at Pino's Trattoria (also pretty good, and seemingly the most popular restaurant we passed). The penguins were awesome to see and I recommend paying extra for the VIP seats.

In Broome, we had lunch at the Dragonfly Cafe downtown (good fish tacos) before doing a 30 minute camel ride and then driving down to the Ramada Eco Beach lodge. The resort was very remote, and once you are there you are pretty much stuck. It's nice if you want a few days of doing nothing, but not worth flying across the world to IMO, but the locals love it.
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Old Jan 8, 19, 1:00 am
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In MR you must have a car and a trip to some of the beaches is mandatory ... personally I like Prevelly but all are great! Some nice pics at https://www.ytravelblog.com/margaret-river-beaches/
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Old Jan 8, 19, 8:12 pm
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Originally Posted by number_6 View Post
Sydney Ferries used to publish a brochure of a dozen "ferry walks" all of which start/end with a ferry and got to some astonishing parts of sydney. Great views and much more wilderness than you would imagine in such high-density and expensive real estate. I only did 3 or 4 but all were great walks and time well spent.
I kept those brochures and like you did a few. I'll keep a scan of them for future reference
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