When you think of Australia, we have a feeling you think of the Bondi Icebergs Pool (you know the one), kangaroos, and yes, the Sydney Opera House—but there’s so much more to this country than you prob realize. Betches co-founders Sami Sage and Jordana Abraham-Marinelli just got back from a trip there—and now, they’re sharing their entire itinerary so you can steal it for later. While it may be a pain in the ass to travel to a completely opposite hemisphere, trust us when we say it’s totally worth it.
United recently started running a new route direct to Queensland, between San Francisco and Brisbane. You depart in the evening and land in the morning two days later after 14 hours in the air, which is confusing but actually the right amount of time if you want to simulate a fake night’s sleep.
United graciously let us try out their Polaris cabins, which adjust so you can lay fully horizontal on a regular and/or tempurpedic-type pillow. The entertainment selection and WiFi were strong, as was the menu (three meals, a snack, and complimentary drinks), and the food was easily as good as your standard NYC restaurant. They’ll also give you pajamas (to keep!), along with an adorable mini Away suitcase full of travel essentials. The flight attendants were extremely helpful and friendly, and the cabin screen has a setting so you can choose when you’d like them to wake you up (for meals, at the end of the flight only, when hell freezes over, etc).
What To Do In Brisbane
We only had one day in Brisbane, so we headed straight to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where you can see a ton of iconic Australian animals just a 20-minute drive from central Brisbane.
There are dozens of koalas sleeping everywhere—and yes, you can hold one (for a fee of $29, that is, which also includes a photo). The koalas may be the HBIC of the sanctuary, but don’t let the name fool you. You can also feed kangaroos and get up close with tons of wildlife including Tasmanian devils, wombats, platypi, wallabies, and other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for dating app pics.
Where To Eat In Brisbane
We ate at Hellenika for lunch and Agnes for dinner. Hellenika is at the Calile Hotel, which we were told is a popular spot for celebrity sightings. The restaurant has a mix of indoor and outdoor seating, delicious Mediterranean food, and was filled with groups. Agnes has a moody vibe and is a perfect date spot. All the food is wood-fired to conserve electricity.
Other spots we looked into but ultimately didn’t end up going to: Same Same, Joy, Alchemy, Otto, Elska, Greca, and Paddington Social for breakfast.
Where We Stayed In Brisbane
The Incholm is an adorable city hotel with spacious rooms, electric decor, and a classic Australian breakfast. We were greeted with the hotel’s signature make-your-own martini kit and the rooms were cozy, peaceful, and equipped with Netflix for when you’re up late with jetlag.
The Gold Coast
What To Do On The Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is a gorgeous area on Australia’s east coast, with some of the nicest beaches we’ve ever seen. It’s Australia’s go-to summer destination and has an extremely casual energy. The area is known for surfing so we took a surf lesson at Get Wet Surf School, which was about $80 for a 2-hour group lesson.
The instructors are great at both helping you actually get up on the board and making sure you get the shot (that you’ll have to pay for online after the lesson, but they’re not going to mention that until later).
Where We Stayed On The Gold Coast
The QT is a large, newly-renovated hotel that’s a 3-minute walk from the beach. It feels modern and fun, with pool cabanas for daily rental and the vibey Stingray lounge that features DJs on the weekends.
We stayed in the qtQT Cabins, which are set in an outdoor space on the hotel’s second floor rooftop. We had two cabins next to each other with a connected outdoor patio, bathrooms that came straight from the Explore page (including Dyson products so you can feel fancy AF), and what we agreed was the most comfortable bedding we’ve ever slept in.
Several people recommended Yamagen to us as the best Japanese restaurant on the Gold Coast without knowing that we were staying in the hotel where it’s located. It’s a more modern take on sushi but it fully lived up to the hype.
Easy beach access while living in a major city is clearly the big draw of Sydney, and even though we weren’t sent good weather, we still wanted to go to the beach. The Bondi to Coogee Beach Walk is the perfect way to see several of Sydney’s beaches at once.
The pool that’s launched a million Instagrams? It’s the Bondi Icebergs Club, which is open to the public for %15 with a locker and towel.
We’d also recommend climbing the Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo or Featherdale Wildlife Park. You can also eat and drink outside (or inside) the Sydney Opera House, take a water taxi to Manly Beach or Watson’s Bay, go shopping at The Rocks markets on weekends—they have great street food, galleries, and artisanal shit—as well as go on a day trip to the Blue Mountains.
Sydney In Bad Weather
We spent out last day walking around the Queen Victoria Building, which is basically a mall where you can justify spending your day because it’s a historic building. There are four floors of restaurants and stores in every price range, from a mix of Australian and international brands. We bought souvenirs at a specialty spice store called Gewurzhaus.
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, make a reservation for high tea at The Tea Room at QVB. For something more casaul, we had lunch at Yama which was very good but had way fewer scones.
Where To Eat In Sydney
There’s so much incredible food in Sydney that we couldn’t possibly try it all. We had dinners at Chiswick Woollahra (modern Australian), Mr. Wong (Cantonese Food), and The Potting Shed at the Grounds of Alexandria (craft cocktails and a visual experience).
We’d also recommend: Mimi’s for lunch, Porch & Parlour at Bondi Beach, Bathers Pavilion, BILLS for breakfast, Spice Alley (a complex with six Asian restaurants), Fred’s Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, and Aria for a tasting menu.
Where We Stayed In Sydney
The Ovolo Woolloomooloo hotel’s unique design is thanks to its conversion from a former wool factory into a modern space with amenities, including a pool and gym, a glass-encased bar, and very large rooms. It’s located in a quiet area on a wharf close to central Sydney, and the restaurants adjacent to the hotel were also highly recommended (Otto and China Doll).
All photos courtesy of Samantha Sage.