Amazing Australia
Australia | Aug 16 - Sep 14, 2022

Tom B.
Kennewick, WA | Reviewed on Sep 21, 2022

Kimkim's associates in Australia, first Jasmine and later Hugh, helped us plan a wonderful 30-day vacation in Australia. Jasmine worked up a candidate itinerary and we worked with it, tweaked it, and fine-tuned it for several months -- way back in late 2019 and early 2020 for travel in August and September of 2020. But then COVID happened. We tried again in 2021, but Australia still had not opened up to tourism and didn't open up until 2022. We picked it up again early this year (Jasmine had... read more

Kimkim's associates in Australia, first Jasmine and later Hugh, helped us plan a wonderful 30-day vacation in Australia. Jasmine worked up a candidate itinerary and we worked with it, tweaked it, and fine-tuned it for several months -- way back in late 2019 and early 2020 for travel in August and September of 2020. But then COVID happened. We tried again in 2021, but Australia still had not opened up to tourism and didn't open up until 2022. We picked it up again early this year (Jasmine had moved on and we were turned over to first Jay and then Hugh with Global Tours Specialists). We worked with them to make a few additional adjustments to our itinerary and Hugh did all the bookings and reservations for our time in Australia. There were some struggles with Australia's recovering tourism industry, but Hugh did a wonderful job handling the challenges. In the end everything worked out almost flawlessly. One of our lodgings (Alice Springs) was a disappointment, but there were no alternatives to be had due to a big auto show that sucked up all available lodging the weekend we were there. We were lucky to get anything, but Hugh found something for us -- better than nothing.

The vacation itself... Wow! We covered lots of ground (literally) from Melbourne to Adelaide, then by rental car to Port Augusta, Coober Pedy, on through the Outback to Uluru and Kings Canyon, and on to Alice Springs. After a couple nights there we flew to Darwin (a few days there), then (by air) to Cairns where we rented another car to explore the Atherton Tablelands and the coast up to Cape Tribulation (including Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge, and the Daintree Rainforest). Our stay in Cairns included a day out on the Great Barrier Reef. We then flew to Sydney for a few days before our trip home.

We spent quite a bit of time on this trip traveling by car (about 2 weeks in the Outback and 6 days around Cairns). This was a lot of driving (roughly equivalent to driving from our home in Southeastern Washington to Chicago!) but what a great way to see the country! We loved it! It gave us flexibility to stop (or not stop) whenever we wanted, stay as long as we wanted, and take little side trips whenever we wanted. We were a bit apprehensive going in (e.g., out of touch in the Outback, long driving days, risk of adverse weather conditions, and driving on the left side of the road), but it all turned out perfectly. We'd do it again in a heartbeat.

All lodgings that were suggested by Jasmine, Jay or Hugh were all excellent (except as noted above). The Flynn Hotel in Cairns was particularly exquisite! Highly recommended (book one of the "09" rooms!). Our room at the Mantra 2 Bond Street in Sydney was really an apartment. Probably overkill, but we enjoyed the space.

Breakfast at the hotel was included on most days and usually was full... very full... breakfast from a buffet (needless to say, we tended to overindulge).

Jasmine and Hugh set up eleven tours for us over the course of the vacation. We enjoyed all of these, but our favorites were the small group ones (e.g., the Melbourne City tour, the Melbourne Lanes and Arcades tour, and the Sydney City tour). The two city tours were just the guide and the two of us -- this was ideal. The big coach tours (Kangaroo Island, Barossa Valley, Uluru, and Kakadu National Park) are not really our cup of tea but this might have been the only practical way of getting a guided tour of some of these sites. Two of these tours (Kangaroo Island and Kakadu National Park) were full days and involved a lot of time on the bus getting to and from the sites -- almost too much time relative to the time we spent actually visiting the sites.

Prior to our travel we set up a WhatsApp chat with Kimkim (actually, with Hugh and his team in Australia) for real-time support during our trip. We did have a few issues that came up along the way, but through this chat we could get their help and they were alway very responsive. Things alway got resolved very satisfactorily.

Generally we prefer vacations where we "park" somewhere for a long restful stay. This wasn't one of those trips. We didn't see any way to give Australia some of the justice it deseres without a lot of traveling. During the planning phase, we tweaked the itinerary to ensure that we had at least two nights at each location (with three or more at several of them). The only exception was the one night we stayed in the Daintree Rainforest. Now we have some good candidates for our "long restful stay" type vacation should we return to Australia!

All in all, this was a great experience and it was a real pleasure working with the team at Kimkim and Global Tour Specialists. They were very patient with us and very adaptable to our preferences and desires. I highly recommend a Kimkim vacation if you want something designed especially for you with help from a local specialist who can provide recommendations where to go, where to stay, and what to see. However, be prepared to spend some time with them to make sure they know what you want out of your vacation and don't be afraid to let them know if something isn't just right. They are there to work with you and are really good at it.

Hotel Reviews
The Savoy Hotel on Little Collins Melbourne

Very nice room, great location -- right downtown. Very quiet. The included breakfast was elegantly presented and in a elegant high-ceilinged room. And -- most importantly -- it was delicious. The staff at the reception desk was very friendly and helpful.

Authenticity & Character
A very modern interior in a historic building. It must have been gutted (leaving the outside walls) and rebuilt from the inside out).
Short walk to all downtown sites. Very quiet, even though it was directly across from the Southern Cross train station.
Reception staff was very friendly and helpful.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Nicely decorated. Not a large room but certainly adequate. Nice view from the window overlooking the Southern Cross train station.
Majestic Roof Garden Hotel

Comfortable room and pleasantly large. Breakfasts were included, although there were only several choices from a limited menu. One downside (although we were aware of this going in) was that there was a per-night charge for parking our rental car on site. The location is right in central Adelaide, so it was easy to walk to nearby shopping and dining venues and just a 15- to 20-minute walk to the very interesting Adelaide Central Market.

Authenticity & Character
Clean, generously-sized room. Good views of downtown. Seem to be a good local hotel -- not one of the big-name chains.
Near shopping and dining.
Front desk and restaurant staff were friendly and helpful. They made us feel welcome.
Cleanliness & Comfort
The cleanliness and comfort were fine, although I can't point to anything that was particularly exceptional.
Desert Gardens Hotel

This hotel worked very well for us. It did seem like a "tourist destination" hotel (which it is!), not the more local, boutique-y hotels that we are accustomed to with Kimkim bookings. But... the choices are limited at Uluru.

Authenticity & Character
This is a large hotel in multiple two-story buildings. The grounds are well-kept and very in-tune with the Outback environs. It has a "resort" character to it which is not our first choice for accomodations, but here there aren't too many alternative (other hotels, yes, but they are all part of the same resort and just vary in style and amenities)
There are several hotels in the complex, but all are close to each other and as close as they can be to Uluru. Can't do much better.
Professional but not particularly personal. They had to process lots of guests -- it's a big complex. The first lady who checked us in did not, in fact, check us in. We got a text that we still needed to check in and had to go back to get properly-programmed room keys. Only a minor annoyance. To their credit, they did provide us with very nice "box breakfasts" (for our early tour departure), as was arranged for us by Kimkim. Our breakfast on our third day in the restaurant was excellent.
Cleanliness & Comfort
The grounds and the room were clean and well-kept. The room was nice and comfortable. The hotel provides a complimentary self-serve laundry, which was a pleasant surprise and very welcome.
Mantra 2 Bond Street

This is a large high-rise hotel in central Sydney. It appears to be a converted apartment building. The "room" was huge -- separate bedroom, full bathroom, sitting room (parlor?), full kitchen, and living/dining room. Much larger than we really needed but it was a pleasant surprise. The apartment was showing some signs of wear and probably is due for some renovations (at least a thorough carpet cleaning or replacement). That being said, it was a very comfortable stay for us. Unfortunately the view from the apartment (windows in the bedroom and in the living room) was disappointing -- just adjacent buildings (not even a street view) with only a narrow glimpse of the skyline if we craned our neck. Although there was a small restaurant in the lobby (open only for breakfast), breakfast was not included in our Kimkim booking (I think we had expected it to be included). We ate there anyway our first morning -- a minimal menu and expensive. We ate down on the waterfront the next morning.

Authenticity & Character
Apparently an older building but the lobby and hallways are very modern. A better view from the windows would have been an improvement.
Right in downtown Sydney. Easy walk to the waterfront and other sites.
Maybe a little more friendly or engaging. They were pleasant but, in retrospect, nothing stands out as remarkable.
Cleanliness & Comfort
The comfort was fine and the apartment was huge (two TVs, two sofas, dining table and chairs, sitting chairs, and more). But overall, it was showing some age... a little "tired". The carpet was in need of a good cleaning or replacement, the tile in the bathroom needed some grout work... things like that. That being said, it worked nicely for us.
Local specialist: Jasmine Harvy