2018 February 23 to March 5
A Gay Australia Cultural Tour Down Under, including Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras!
What is the mystery surrounding the Great Land called “OZ?” And no, it’s not the ruby slippers…
Explore Gay “Down Under”, including visiting the Sydney Opera House to dining with an Aboriginal family. From sophisticated afternoon tea and 4-wheeling in the Outback, to sunset dinner aboard a private yacht and a fabulous Gay Mardi Gras, this is the trip of a lifetime!
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Beginning in Melbourne and ending in Sydney, this trip is one of our most amazing and culturally diverse Gay adventures ever! We will spend three glorious nights in luxurious accommodations in Melbourne, on the banks of the historic Yarra River. From Melbourne we will drive up into the hills to explore the Yarra wine region, and taste the delights it has to offer.
Our next three nights are in the Outback, marveling at the iconic Ayers Rock and Cave Hill. During our sojourn there, we will learn about the Aboriginal way of life through an amazing art and light installation in the desert after dark. We take a 4-wheel-drive tour to one of the most historically significant sites in central Australia, and view magnificent cave paintings.
We conclude our journey with four nights in Sydney! While there we will sip, stroll, prance, shop, savor, tour, learn and SHINE our way through seductive Sydney during the weekend of Gay Mardi Gras, immersed in one of the biggest GAY Parties in the world!
Day 1: Welcome to OZ!
When you arrive at Melbourne International Airport, one of our representatives will greet you and assist with your transfer to our luxurious hotel on the banks of the Yarra River.
Most flights from North America arrive by mid-morning, whether non-stop or via Sydney, so an afternoon Melbourne city tour and tea will welcome us to this friendly city. The evening will be at leisure to stroll along the riverbank and dine at one of the many al fresco cafes and restaurants of every possible ethnicity. Then take time to rest and recover from the long journey and adjust to the time change, since you’ve just jumped ahead an entire day!
Day 2: Wine and Dingos…
After a delightful breakfast, we will venture out to the world famous Yarra Valley, renowned for its pinot and chardonnay wines. Morning tea can include something bubbly, as well as a cheese tasting (and some tea!). During our tour we will sip, swirl and sashay our way through some of the valley’s finest wineries as we are regaled with stories from Australia’s most prominent wine makers.
We’ll enjoy a hearty lunch together, including fresh local produce, in the historic town of Healesville before heading out to a wildlife sanctuary in the Victorian Bush. Have you always wanted to feed a kangaroo or walk a dingo? We will have our chance!
Day 3: A Day in Melbourne at your Leisure
Melbourne has been named one of the “most livable cities in the world,” and today you can find out why. People from many different cultures have come to this young and vibrant city, all of them adding their own special magic to the mix that is Melbourne. Enjoy some world class shopping, relax in the hotel spa, or sample some of the many exotic culinary delights in the lanes of the neighborhood just across the pedestrian bridge from our hotel.
If you would like another up close and personal wildlife experience, join our optional tour to Phillip Island. This is an opportunity to experience one of Australia’s most well known and loved wildlife phenomena, the Penguin Parade as numerous penguins return to their beach nesting areas at dusk! During this excursion, we will also stop at a wildlife park and iconic surf beaches, and learn about the local Boonwurrng people who are native to the area.
Tonight we will dine together as a group in one of Melbourne’s most fabulous restaurants.
Day 4: Outback here we come!
After breakfast, we say goodbye to Melbourne, and head to the airport for our flight to Uluru / Ayers Rock. We will have a casual lunch together during our Alice Springs layover, and then make the short flight to Ayers Rock Airport. Here we begin our 3-day stay in the Outback, indulging our Crocodile Dundee fantasies, and learning the mysteries of the oldest inhabitants of this unique landscape!
We will visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, including Uluru, the true Aboriginal name for what many people know as Ayers Rock, one of the country’s most recognizable natural icons. Learn about the local flora and fauna, what “bush tucker” is (it’s not what you think), and the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories of the area.
This evening, we will be whisked off to a remote desert location with majestic views of Uluru as the sun goes down.
As darkness falls, our “Night in the Field of Light” begins, one of the most memorable experiences of our trip. This art installation of 50,000 glass spheres of coloured lights gently sparkle to life as we indulge in an outback-inspired gourmet buffet. A local Indigenous performance will add to the wonder of the evening.
Day 5: All about Uluru!
We will get up before dawn today for our guided walking tour to a special location from which to observe an amazing sunrise over Uluru. After an Outback picnic breakfast, we will learn about the Mala people, and hear their stories of world creation with “Liru” and “Kuniya,” two snakes often depicted in their petroglyphs. We will visit the Mutitjulu watering hole, an amazing natural phenomenon, before returning to our resort and enjoying an afternoon at leisure.
Day 6: Aborigines and Petroglyphs
After breakfast, off for adventure! Our 4-wheel-drive safari to Cave Hill takes us deep in to the Outback for a cultural experience that will provide us with an insight into everyday Aboriginal life.
We will meet the Anangu people and learn about their indigenous culture in the desert, including traditional food gathering and the preparation of desert bush tucker delights. The highlight of our tour is the magnificent cave paintings – one of the most significant archaeological sites in Central Australia. Climb to the top of Cave Hill to admire a 360-degree panoramic of the surrounding countryside, including a view back toward Uluru, about 70 miles away.
We’ll enjoy an Outback picnic lunch along the way, and then head back to our Ayers Rock lodge, arriving in the late afternoon, just in time for a nap before dinner!
Day 7: Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney
After breakfast, it’s party time! We fly out to Sydney, a sunny, seductive and friendly city famous for its beaches, and get ready for the celebration of a lifetime! After we check in to our hotel, we will have the rest of the day at leisure to enjoy Sydney.
Mardi Gras will be in full swing, and we will be working to maximize our enjoyment of this colorful fest by including spontaneous party opportunities as they present themselves. Flexibility will be the key to having the most fun possible at one of the biggest parties on Earth!
There is so much to see and do in Sydney that you will have a hard time deciding! Here are some ideas!
In the evenings, the gay Oxford Street district will be particularly active during Mardi Gras weekend, with lots of fun to be had!
Day 8: Art, Opera House and Sunset Splendor!
After breakfast, we will enjoy an overview bus tour of Sydney, including stops at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
We finish our tour at one of the most iconic buildings on the planet. The Sydney Opera House Tour brings to life the saga behind the making of this modern masterpiece. We will go inside one of the working venues to experience the magic behind the world’s most extraordinary artistic spaces!
For our late lunch, relax and unwind at one of Sydney’s newest dining spots, Opera Kitchen. The restaurant brings together some of Sydney’s best chefs, food artisans and producers who each feature dishes made famous in their own restaurants. Soak in the Sydney Harbour views while enjoying a tasting plate of culinary delights.
Tonight we head out on Sydney Harbour’s sensational sunset dinner cruise. We will board our luxury yacht and be mesmerised as the sunset reflects ever-changing light on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Our cruise concludes with a shipboard gourmet barbeque dinner with 5 star service, so enjoy your evening!
Day 9: Dreamtime, and Gay Australia Mardi Gras!
We start our day with a short trip to The Rocks, just under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. One of Sydney’s first English settlements was here, but this strategic location jutting into the harbor has long been held sacred by the Aboriginal people of the area a well. An Aboriginal guide will lead us on a 90-minute walkabout tour around The Rocks to learn about Sydney’s “Dreamtime” Heritage. The traditions of these saltwater Aboriginal people share some attributes, but are also quite distinct from the culture of their distant cousins whom we met earlier in the Red Centre near Uluru.
The rest of the day will be soaking up the festival atmosphere. There’s no way to describe the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras except with superlatives. It’s the world’s largest Mardi Gras celebration, Australia’s biggest attraction for overseas visitors (and for locals, both gay and straight), and the world’s grandest gay party. In fact Sydney Mardi Gras is a month-long event, with gay and lesbian cultural, social, and sporting events, culminating in the festive parade and countless parties.
This evening, our group will enjoy premium grandstand seats for the Mardi Gras parade, an event so extravagant it draws a crowd of some 600,000 people.
The parade is followed by an official all-night Mardi Gras party, and dozens of unofficial parties around the city. Party tickets are not included with our package, but we’ll advise on how to get them. It’s not difficult, but you do need to order well in advance most years.
Day 10: Do what you will…
Today is for recovering from the party! Rest, relax, or lounge—it’s up to you.
Optional excursion: Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb:
For those who have recovered from last night’s party, we offer the amazing Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb as an optional tour this afternoon. It is a 3.5 hour experience, with views down onto the Opera House and across its magnificent harbour. (Be warned, you have to pass a breathalyser scan to be allowed up!)
Harnesses, helmets and gloves are provided. The Climb starts when you attach a strong carabiner (hook) onto a continuous metal rod that goes all the way up to the top of the bridge, and all the way down the opposite side. You walk part way onto the bridge, climb up a ladder, then start the gradual ascent to the top. The footpath is wide enough that most people don’t get too scared – but it’s not recommended to spend much time looking down at the speeding cars and subway trains a few stories below!
At the top you walk from one side of this great icon to the other, and Climb Leaders will point out key landmarks. A clear day will afford you views that stretch from the Pacific Ocean to the Blue Mountains. You then return to the starting point on the opposite side of the bridge.
Tonight we will all meet for one last time to swap stories at a delightful farewell dinner with our new best friends.
Day 11: Goodbye Mates!
After breakfast, transfers will be provided to the airport, then it’s off to home. Or for more high adrenaline fun and frolic join our “Wild Kiwi” New Zealand Adventure! (see Extension) for details!
Join us for “Wild Kiwi”, our gay travel New Zealand Adventure that takes place on the South Island, the adventure capital of the world! The variety and depth of natural beauty of this isolated South Pacific island group will impress and inspire you. Enjoy hiking trails and glaciers, kayaking, biking, canyoning, rafting, and bungy jumping!
Price includes: Arrival and departure airport transfers, but transfers for group flights; group ground transportation, starting in Melbourne and finishing in Sydney; flights from Melbourne to Ayers Rock to Sydney; hotels for 3 nights in Melbourne, 3 nights at Ayers Rock, 4 nights in Sydney; all breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 6 dinners; entrance for activities shown on the itinerary; Mardi Gras parade viewing tickets (seated); and services of an HE Travel tour director accompanying the group within Australia (subject to minimum participation). HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage. Base price shown is per person in a shared room.
Not included: ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) for admission to Australia (we will provide instructions shortly before the tour); International airfare to and from Australia; activities listed as Optional Tour Choices; Mardi Gras party admissions/special events tickets; Souvenirs, snacks, admissions, alcohol; 5 lunches and 4 dinners; Gratuities for tour director and local guides.
Optional Tour Choices:
TBA Single Supplement (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom)
TBA Phillip Island Visit
TBA Sydney Bridge Climb
(to be decided): Mardi Gras all-night party tickets
“Australia is indeed a Continent – any visit will be too brief to see it all, but on this trip we will see the diversity of this unique land, including mountains and oceans, deserts and rivers, cities and villages. We will also see how both European and Aboriginal people have interacted with the often-harsh landscape – and thrived!” – Phil Sheldon, President, HE Travel, Key West, Florida, USA
Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself.
For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.
This tour starts in Melbourne and ends in Sydney, Australia.
This Cultural Tour of Australia requires some walking on each day, at a modest pace, often on uneven surfaces. Someone with less mobility could still enjoy the tour, but would need to sit out some of the more strenuous activities.
Each of the hotels used for our tour is one of the highest rated hotels in its area. We have chosen our deluxe hotels due to their history and comfort – and uniqueness! Our two city hotels are in central locations allowing easy access to charming restaurants, cityscapes and nightlife.
For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174