In partnership with Tourism Australia, Luxury Link hosted a live Facebook Q&A on May 18, 2012 with John Vlahides, co-host of
Lonely Planet: Roads Less Traveled on National Geographic TV.
Q: I've been to Australia several times but never the Whitsundays. Any recommendations on the best way to experience these islands?
John: The best way to see the Whitsundays is by sailboat, and hire a skipper, or, for a quicker tour, by helicopter. Here's my tour of the Whitsundays: http://youtu.be/F_LnepMSuM4
Q: Regarding Australia....Where is the best wine making (and tasting!) region?
John: Regarding wine making/tasting...the most accessible wine region Yarra Valley (an hour from Melbourne). It has over 80 wineries
Q: What would you recommend for romantic locations?
John: For romance, its hard to be Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, overlooking Sydney Opera House and the "Ballet of Ferris" in Sydney Harbor
Q: How easy (and expensive) is it to get around - Cairns to Sydney to other locales?
John: The best way to get around Australia is to fly. Remember - Australia is nearly as big as the US. Flying is by far easiest. I, personally, was extremely impressed by Qantas' domestic service. They even serve food on one-hour long flights...in economy! To make air travel in Australia most comfortable, join Qantas and join it's club. The airport lounges are remarkably good and worth the extra money
Q: John I come from Australia lived in the US for many years now. I get asked all the time what is the best way to see Australia, what would you suggest.
John: Remember they're the opposite season to us 2) Budget enough time; at least three weeks 3) Choose a variety of destinations from Melbourne's food scene, the north coast's tropical beaches and DON'T SKIP ULURU!
Q: Are there any specialty or "can't miss' foods or restaurants a visitor should seek out?
John: Seth, Melbourne is to Australia as San Francisco is to the US; it's the epicenter of Australia's "Mod OZ" food scene.
Q: where are the best surf spots to go to?
John: The capital of surf culture is the Gold Coast, but there's great surfing across Australia, so base your trip around another activity as well. For example, artisanal food & wine in Australia, and then surf forgotten beaches nobody knows about. But you have to go to Tasmania in summer.
Q: John, for someone who has never been to Australia. What are the key unique places to visit?
John: The thing about Australia, it's full of surprises; until I've seen every locale, I can't answer your question. Every place I see strikes me as better than the last!
Q: Hey John, I've never been to Australia, but have always been intrigued by Perth and it remoteness – what’s there to do out there for a first time visitor?
John: The thing to see in Perth is it's beaches; you'll never see more spectacular beaches
Q: Is it true that there are a lot of poisonous snakes and big spiders in Australia?
John: Australia has the world's most poisonous animals -- snakes, jellyfish, etc --- however, everybody I know has come back alive and happy.
Q: I'm interested in outdoor adventures in Australia. What tour guides or regions or specific activities would you recommend to really see the Australian countryside.
John: If you want to see countryside, go to Tazmania in (their) springtime. However, understand that the center of Oz is essentially desert, not verdant countryside.
Q: What's your advice for keeping young kids entertained in Australia? Any spots we need to check out?
John: To entertain kids in Sydney, you can't beat Luna Park; an old-fashioned amusement park like Coney Island overlooking Sydney Harbor. You don't have to leave Sydney to go to the beach. There's one in this video near the mouth of the Harbor: http://youtu.be/10Ros-WKync
Q: I'm a diver and heard mixed things about the Great Barrier Reef. Is it a must-dive location or is it just completely overrun with recreational divers?
John: The farther you go out the Reef, the more pristine its character. Have a look at this video - remember, the Great Barrier Reef is 50 miles off-shore: http://youtu.be/F_LnepMSuM4
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest living organism. Surely, that warrants your attention. Just choose your actual destination carefully; do good research. The Lonely Planet guidebook has good dive tips.
Q: What are the best spots to experience arts and culture? Please give me several top places to visit. I want to see it all!
John: My personal recommendation for arts ad culture is to compare and contrast Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney's culture is flashier, Melbourne has more grit. Remember, Lonely Planet
is based in Australia, so we make the best guides for Australia, full of specific recommendations.