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Diving, bushwalking, beaches, and the world's biggest gay parade

 


Boomerang!: An adventure vacation in Australia

An illustrated itinerary of one of our many travel adventures for gay men, lesbians, and friends.

This information supplements our
shorter Overview of Boomerang!.

   

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

 


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For years you've wanted to travel to Australia; Boomerang! is your chance to explore this country in ways most tourists never do. From canyoning in the Blue Mountains to snorkeling and whitewater rafting up north, you'll experience Australia rather than merely see it.

Australia is the size of the continental United States. It would be impossible to travel the whole country in a 15-day holiday. Our carefully-planned itinerary lets you see many distinct faces of this fascinating land, while changing locations only three times within our stay.

Who else will join you for this holiday? Quite a mix. Boomerang! has been enjoyed by people ranging in age from mid-twenties to early seventies, with the majority in the 30-to-55 range.

Most of us will be looking forward to the big Mardi Gras parade, but this isn't a circuit-party group; other companies focus on that audience. With our emphasis on active vacations and the outdoors, our trips draw people who are energetic and outgoing, who enjoy interacting with life and with each other. The majority of people on a typical trip are traveling alone, but there are usually several couples as well. Single travelers don't need to pay a single supplement. We'll match you with a roommate if you'd like the double-occupancy rate.

Here's a day-by-day itinerary of what's in store on this once-in-a-lifetime holiday.Back to Top

 

 

 

1: Bondi Beach
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We begin in Sydney, a sunny and friendly city famous for its beaches, with a night at the elegant Swiss Grand Hotel, overlooking the best beach of them all: the sandy crescent of Bondi. Our hotel offers separate living rooms in all suites, a pool, fitness center, and the Pacific Ocean outside the hotel's front door. It's a perfect spot to catch some rays and rest after your flight.

The trip officially begins this evening, with a 6:00 p.m. reception and orientation. But most of the group will be arriving this morning, or will already be in Sydney, so you'll get to meet most of the others during the day.

Take the morning to unwind and recover from jetlag, if you're one of the morning arrivals. Tan, bodysurf, and swim. Tightly-knit units of volunteer lifeguards have kept watch over these beaches for decades. Their weekend competitions, as they race out in a narrow boat or on surfboards wearing just their Speedos, bring large crowds of fans.

Then, follow a meandering cliffside trail with spectacular overlooks above the Pacific. A fifteen-minute walk leads to Tamarama Beach, a particularly gay spot during this pre-Mardi Gras week. It's a perfect spot for the great Australian sport of lifeguard-watching.

In the evening, you can officially meet the other members of our group at a reception and our welcome dinner. Afterward, the gay Oxford Street district will undoubtedly beckon to some.Back to Top

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Bondi Beach

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Meet The Locals

 

2: Meet The Locals
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Today we travel to the Blue Mountains, two hours inland from Sydney. Time permitting, we'll stop at a wildlife park for our first view of Australia's unique animal life. Stroll with a wallaby, pet an emu, watch the koalas doze -- stoned, they say, from eating too many eucalyptus leaves.

We arrive in the mountains with plenty of time for a hike. Spectacular valley views greet us. First stop: a triad of rock spires known as the Three Sisters. Rock climbers are making their way to the top of Sister #1 as we arrive. If that looks like your type of adventure, you can link up with a local guide service tomorrow and give it a try.

We can expect to see colorful parrots and other birds as we hike along the top of the cliff. At one overlook, we're mesmerized by a slow-moving cloud of bluish haze rising from the trees below. The tint, caused by eucalyptus oils, gives the Blue Mountains their name. Another overlook offers a majestic view of a waterfall spilling from the cliff above.

It was in the Blue Mountains, just a few years ago, that bushwalkers discovered a species of tree that had once covered the earth -- a tree that, scientists believed until recently, was long extinct. Stop in at the large-screen theater where you can see the fascinating account of this historic event and a history of the Blue Mountains.

Leura House is our home for three nights -- a romantic, gay-friendly, country home (c. 1880) surrounded by a Victorian garden. It features stylish antiques and eclectic art. Here we'll have our wine-tasting, featuring vintages from several of Australia's top wine-growing regions. Don't be surprised if we're greeted by a flock of snowy white cockatoos as we settle in. It's their home, too.

We offer a 4-evening dinner option package with this trip, for those who would enjoy additional group dinners where we do the planning, at special restaurants selected by our tour directors. All you have to do is show up to enjoy good food and great company. Dinner tonight is the first of these dinners, at a restaurant in Leura.Back to Top

 

 

 

3: Thumb in Your Bum
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The lush mountains offer a wealth of activities. For decades, these cliffs marked the limit of the Australian frontier. It took many years of exploration before European pioneers discovered a route beyond them.

We've got a special optional activity planned for today: the distinctly down-under sport of canyoning.

Begin with rappelling lessons in the morning. You'll learn to safely descend a vertical cliff face by feeding rope through a belay device that allows you to control your rate of descent. "Thumb in your bum!", the guide calls out as a reminder of how to position your hand. Soon everyone is rappelling like an old pro.

After lunch, we pull on wetsuits and hike to the bottom of a narrow sandstone canyon. There we follow a mountain stream by wading and swimming, occasionally sliding or jumping into pools of water. As we break for a snack, admire the gracefully sculpted sandstone walls towering above you decorated by ferns and moss. The tourists at the parking lot gift shop will never see this side of Australia!

Our canyon ends abruptly at a slit in the valley wall where the stream tumbles down a sheer 120-foot cliff. We'll have fun on a natural water slide as the guides set up a rappel anchor and drop down a rope.

Then, one by one, we make our way to the edge, clip into the rope, and rappel down through the waterfall. Those who've joined us for canyoning agree that this is a day they'll never forget. They even rate it above the Mardi Gras parade as the highlight of their trip. Canyoning is also a highlight of our New Zealand trip, and we've a special canyoning web page for those who would like to know more.

As for those who'll take a pass on the canyoning option, a scenic half-day horseback ride is another tempting possibility. Or buy a day ticket on the Explorer bus, which stops at a dozen of the most interesting sights in the Blue Mountains. Stay at each as long, or as briefly, as you'd like. Typically about half of our group goes canyoning, so you'll have company if you choose other options today.Back to Top

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Thumb in Your Bum

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Bushwalking in the Blue Mountains

 

4: Bushwalking in the Blue Mountains
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Today we recommend a walk on Darwin's Trail. Wander alongside a meandering stream renowned for the variety of nearby wildlife. A pair of crimson-and-green parrots dart through the brush in a one-sided courtship. Watch for a kookaburra in the gum trees, easy to spot with its distinctive white head and thick beak. The path leads us across the stream, past a waterfall, to sheer cliffs overlooking the valley below.

Those feeling energetic can follow an exhilarating path down the cliff face, making use of the sturdy steps and railings provided by the park service. A spectacular trail, carved right into the side of the cliff, takes us past more waterfalls and cascades as we follow the zigzag path of the cliff walls.

Other activities available in the mountains, today and tomorrow, include rock-climbing, horseback riding, cave explorations, and mountain biking. Or just stroll around the mountain villages of Leura and Katoomba.

Dinner tonight will be the second of our 4-dinner option, at one of our favorite Blue Mountain restaurants, called Silk's Brasserie.Back to Top

 

 

 

5: In the Heart of Sydney
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We return to Sydney for a full exploration of this lively city. Our accommodations are in centrally-located apartments, near both Darling Harbour (home of the Aquarium, Maritime Museum, and other attractions), and the gay district of Oxford Street. Each 1- or 2-bedroom apartment includes kitchen and living room. The hotel also has a pool, 24-hour reception, and a friendly staff. Breakfast will be on your own in your apartment, but our guides will assist in getting breakfast supplies.

The afternoon allows time for sightseeing: Visit the Chinese Garden. Walk through the vast Botanic Garden with species of plants you've never seen. Stroll through Hyde Park with an ibis. Tour the Sydney Opera House, and learn the story of Australia's famous landmark: the original Danish architect designed a building that was impossible to construct. Australia's signature building was almost never built; and the architect, who left in a huff, has never returned to see the finished work.

Visitors to Sydney have lots of options for offbeat activities. You'll want to save a few days for seeing the town, but there are also opportunities to venture further out: Fish for shark. Dive to a sunken wreck. Ride in a hot air balloon. Skydive with an instructor. Take the 3801 steam locomotive on an outing to the Southern Highlands.

Our included dinner tonight will give you a taste of Sydney's diversity and unique flavors.Back to Top

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: In the Heart of Sydney

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: So Many Sights!

 

6: So Many Sights!
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Start off the day by climbing Australia's most famous symbol: the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Catwalks and ladders allow you to admire the Harbour, the city, and the Opera House from 40 stories above the water -- all the while, safely tethered to the bridge.

Afterward, you'll find that Sydney is packed with fun activities. Here's just a sampling of what you can choose from:

Museums. Sydney is famous for them. The Museum of Contemporary Art traditionally has exhibits of special interest to gay and lesbian Mardi Gras visitors (including Robert Mapplethorpe and Keith Haring in recent years).

So does the Powerhouse Museum; particularly memorable one year was its colorful exhibit of costumes from previous Mardi Gras celebrations. Sydney is home to one of the world's most renowned Holocaust Museums and a major Maritime Museum. You can see extensive displays of aboriginal art at several locations.

Then boat across the harbour to Taronga Zoo for a look at more of Australia's critters, a pug-nosed wombat, for example.

Shopping. Pierre Cardin called the grandly renovated Queen Victoria Building, "the most beautiful shopping center in the world." Even if shopping isn't your idea of an adventure vacation, you'll want to at least walk through.

Manly Beach. Ride the memorably-named Manly Ferry to a beach across the harbour. Apart from the usual beach activities you can parasail, rollerblade, or take a surfing lesson. Similar watersports are available at many other terrific beaches, but why pass up a chance to ride the Manly Ferry?

Back in Sydney, escape the afternoon heat with a visit to Sydney's world-famous aquarium. Here you'll see the creatures that might elude you in the wild: A cartoonish duckbill platypus burrows for cover. Sharks glide fearlessly in an enormous pool, and giant manta rays gaze down from overhead as you walk through an underwater tunnel.

Nightlife. Sydney is one of the world's great cultural cities. Apart from the bars and clubs that line Oxford Street, you can enjoy a concert or opera in the Sydney Opera House -- or simply take an evening stroll to see the illuminated domes of the famous building.

Diva Tour. And finally, for the most memorable city tour you have ever experienced, join us for an optional evening tour of Sydney led by one of the city's most engaging drag queens!Back to Top

 

 

 

7: Nuns in a Scrum .
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Sydney Harbour is the lifeblood of Sydney. It's often easier to get around on a water ferry than by subway, bus or cab. And the ferry is always more scenic and relaxing.

Catch a ferry at Darling Harbour and cruise under the landmark Harbour Bridge. We glide into Circular Quay, the hub of Sydney, right next door to the Opera House. From this vantage point, it's easy to see how the building got its nickname, "Nuns in a Scrum". Lunch is included today to give you a taste of Sydney's seafood.

Those who'd like time in the sun can take a short, dramatic cliffside walk to Lady Jane, the gay, clothing-optional beach.

Another short walk takes us up to The Gap, the high cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Stroll through the park here to the lighthouse, invigorated by the salty air.

Tonight is the third dinner of our 4-dinner option, showcasing one of Sydney's diverse array of ethnic restaurants.Back to Top

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Nuns in a Scrum
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An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

 

8: Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
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There's no way to describe the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras except with superlatives. It's the world's biggest Mardi Gras celebration, Australia's biggest attraction for overseas visitors, and the world's biggest gay party.

The Mardi Gras is really a month-long event, with gay and lesbian cultural, social, and sporting events, culminating in a festive parade and countless parties. Sydneysiders have been anticipating this day all year. Spend the day on Oxford Street catching the holiday excitement. Do some last-minute shopping for a Mardi Gras mask. Don't expect though to compete with the locals, some of whom have spent twelve months preparing their elaborate costumes.

In the evening, we have great seats for the Mardi Gras parade, an event so extravagant it draws a crowd of some 600,000 people. The Dykes on Bikes lead things off, as they do in so many other Pride parades around the world. Then come floats and marching groups. Never before have so many imaginative costumes left so little to the imagination.

Here comes the well-toned Chinese Women's Swim Team -- what are those nasty comments about steroids? Fifty drag queens each do their own imitation of a Sydney politician. The local gay gym is well represented; a hundred buff men with towels around their waists, tempting us to wonder what's underneath during their choreographed dance.

For an hour or two the floats and marchers continue, with every group represented having put in long hours to create an entertaining effect.

The parade is followed by an official all-night Mardi Gras party, and dozens of unofficial parties around the city. Some of our group will spend the night dancing; others will save their energy for the snorkeling, hiking, and rafting days ahead. (And a few have the vigor to do it all.) 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.Back to Top

 

 

 

9: A Rest Day
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Based on feedback from past travelers on this trip, the Sunday following the parade is entirely free for you to choose how to spend your last day in Sydney, and to decide where to eat (or to head back to a favorite spot where you have already had lunch or dinner).

Back to Top

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Port Douglas

 

10: Port Douglas
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We fly up to the Great Barrier Reef on Monday, for 4 nights at the Balboa Apartments, right on the beach in downtown Port Douglas. Set against a backdrop of the town and of rainforest and mountains on the edge of the Coral Sea, these comfortable apartments offer air-conditioned units with TV, kitchen, living room, a large outdoor patio, a pool, a spa and tropical gardens.

After arrival in mid-afternoon, some of us are happy to spend the afternoon by the pool. Undoubtedly, a group will also explore the town to shop for gifts and to check out dinner possibilities.

Tonight is our final offering of the 4-dinner package at a fun restaurant called On the Inlet.

You can also venture out on your own for dinner in Port Douglas. Seafood is the obvious choice; you might want to tackle crabs, lobster, barramundi, and that distinctly Australian creature listed on menus as a "bug", but more agreeably described as part lobster, part crab, and part crawfish.

Other appealing choices include a restaurant that does a great job with American Southwest style cuisine, a bit unexpected in Australia's Northeast!Back to Top

 

 

 

11: The Great Barrier Reef
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The next day we head out to the reef. Getting there is half the fun, with time to bask in the sun.

There's superb snorkeling here, which is offered as part of the tour. The technique is easy to learn even if you've never snorkeled before.

Those who have their scuba certification can opt to head under the waves with a divemaster during our cruise today.

Our boat may offer introductory scuba lessons for beginners as well. One brief lesson is all you need to experience your first dive. You'll learn how to control your buoyancy, so you neither float nor sink; how to clear your ears as you descend; and how to ascend when you're ready.

Then, with an instructor close by, put on a mask, fins, and air tanks, and slide into the sea. Diving opens up a new world of gracefully sculpted coral, colorful fish, and giant clams with lime-green lips. If you enjoy this introductory dive, we hope you'll eventually become fully certified with us on our dive trip, An Octopus's Garden.

Most of us will stick with snorkeling rather than scuba diving today. We've selected a location that offers an enormous variety of corals and fish for viewing from the surface with a snorkel mask, or at greater depth through a scuba mask.Back to Top

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: The Great Barrier Reef

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Tully River Rafting and other Choices

 

12: Tully River Rafting and other Choices
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The hardest thing today will be deciding which of several enticing options to choose.

Our group option will be to head out very early in the morning for a drive to the Tully River, known for the best whitewater rafting in this part of Queensland. Plunge through Class II, III and IV rapids (variable based on recent rainfall) as you raft through lush jungle and past magnificent waterfalls cascading down the gorge walls of this World Heritage Site river. We return to our hotel in the evening, tired but exhilarated! You're guaranteed to get soaked, so dress accordingly.

Another tempting choice is Tjapukai Cultural Park in Cairns where you can watch aboriginal dancers, look at native art, then view the rainforest canopy from above on the Skyrail cablecar.

Certified scuba divers and serious snorkelers may want nothing more than another day on the reef. With dozens of prime dive and snorkeling spots to choose from, it's easy to find an underwater world quite different from what we saw yesterday. If you're daring, head for a reef where sharks are commonly spotted. For a more laid-back day, join a sailboat from Port Douglas to one of the inner islands with a sandy beach.Back to Top

 

 

 

13: Aboriginal Tour of Daintree Rain Forest
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For our last full day, there's nothing scheduled until our farewell dinner, so you can relax at our seafront condos, explore Port Douglas, take a swim at nearby Turtle Cove gay resort, or ask our guide to help you arrange for an optional excursion.

One option would be to visit the beautiful Mossman Gorge of the Daintree Rainforest, landside of the Great Barrier Reef. We've already seen quite a few of Australia's unique life forms, but this forest is a time capsule of primitive plants and exotic birds. You can hike through the forest with an aboriginal guide, who shares dreamtime legends of the area.

One of the most interesting plants in the Daintree, the oldest living rainforest on earth, is the Strangler Fig. The seeds of this plant lodge high in the branches of a neighboring tree, then send down roots that entwine the host. Gradually, this root network strangles and kills the tree that supports them. By the time the host tree rots away, the Strangler Fig has created a veiny tube, now strong enough to support itself.Back to Top

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

Boomerang!: Aboriginal Tour of Daintree Rain Forest

 

 

An adventure vacation in Australia

 

14: Departure Day
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Unless you're on an early flight, you'll have time for a leisurely breakfast before you head back to Cairns to start your journey home.

The hardest thing about our trip will be saying goodbye to a wonderful group of new friends, and to this vibrant country. But you've seen parts of Australia that many visitors miss; you've interacted with the country and the people in ways that give you an extra appreciation for it.

Now you understand why we call this trip Boomerang! Once you've been here, you'll be eager to return. We'll bet you've made some new friends. Thank you for joining us -- and we hope to see you again on your next holiday!Back to Top

 

 

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