Discover Handa Opera’s Westside Story and the gems of Sydney

Westside Story Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour

Tonight, tonight the world is wild and bright. Going mad, shooting sparks into space!

As sun sets and the lights of the Sydney Harbour skyline take hold, settle in and relax for Opera Australia’s incredible production of West Side Story. A uniquely magical experience, the production takes place on a purpose built stage spilling into the harbour.

Two and a half times larger than any indoor stage in Australia, the set itself is a sight to behold. Featuring graffitied subway cars, highway overpasses and the famous torch of the Statue of Liberty, the impressive stage sets the scene for a larger than life performance.

The stage itself ways 40 tonnes, and 16 pylons have been sunk into the ocean floor to support the stage. Custom built stadium seating allows you to enjoy this outdoor opera, with the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge completing the scene.

Handa Opera’s West Side Story is the centerpiece of our Sydney and Surrounds 6 day tour, departing Saturday 30 March 2019. With departure options from Brisbane and the Hunter, this is a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and colour of Sydney.

Day one

This new All Australian Journeys tour also offers you the opportunity to step inside some magnificent architecture, including the 19th century mansion Vaucluse House, surrounded by its original gardens and grounds. Originally built and furnished in the 1840s, the house has been refurbished to reflect the lavish interiors enjoyed by Sarah and William Charles Wentworth, who developed the fine estate over five decades.

Vaucluse House
Photo ©: James Horan for Sydney Living Museums.

Day two

On day two, you also have the option to attend church at St Mary’s Cathedral, built on the site of the first catholic chapel in Australia, this church in the centre of Sydney is built in the Gothic Revival style, reminiscent of the great medieval cathedrals in Europe. After a day exploring the Rocks Markets, enjoy a twilight dinner cruise on the Sydney Harbour.

St Mary's Cathedral Hyde Park Sydney
St Mary’s Cathedral Hyde Park

Day three

Day three promises some more special experiences—cruise the Harbour to Taronga Zoo, catch the Sky Cable gondola to the top of the hill for a day with the animals at the zoo with the best view and top it all off from the top of Sydney—an indulgent dinner looking out over Sydney at the Tower Buffet. As the lights of the city take hold, choose from the diverse foods on offer.

Sydney Taronga Zoo
Sydney Taronga Zoo Giraffe

Day four

Day four is our day for shows and stars covering the breadth of Australian performances. From Palm Beach and a tour of the scenes of ‘Summer Bay’ to our evening at Handa Opera, this will be an enjoyable day.

Palm Beach Summer Bay
Palm Beach Summer Bay

Day Five

Begin day five with a fresh experience—visiting the Sydney Fish Market. In addition to a huge variety of the freshest seafood, enjoy browsing the numerous restaurants and cafés, bakery, butcher, gourmet deli and greengrocer. Shifting gears, take a look inside the interesting displays at the Power House Museum, the museum of applied arts and sciences and the NSW Art Gallery, home to a regularly changing collection of Australian and international works.

Art Gallery NSW
Art Gallery NSW

Day six

Day six is our last day exploring Sydney, finishing in a similar way to how the tour started, with a tour of Elizabeth Bay House, maintained by the National Trust. Its elegant rooms and fine proportions, sweeping staircase and lavish furnishings reveal the tastes and aspirations of its original owner, Alexander Macleay, one of the most important public officials in colonial Sydney. As his fortunes changed, Alexander Macleay was forced to sell the house and much of its contents to stay afloat. But the detailed records of its contents have allowed the furnishings to be recreated to reflect its original lavish interiors.

Library, Elizabeth Bay House Sydney
Photo ©: Stuart Miller and Haley Richardson for Sydney Living Museums. Elizabeth Bay House

This is a fascinating and spectacular insight into Sydney, allowing you to see some of the gems of one of Australia’s most prominent cities.

To read the itinerary click here, or to book give us a call on 1300 631 383.


Tate Down Under – Canberra Art Tour – your questions answered

National Gallery of Australia Canberra

In January and February 2019, All Australian Journeys’ Canberra Art Tours will be overnight bus trips from the Hunter and Sydney—with the focus on Love and Desire, the exclusive exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces on loan from one of the world’s most famous art galleries, Tate Britain.

So what makes this exhibition worth an overnight bus trip to our nation’s capital? We answer your questions, as well as some you didn’t know you had.

Can I have a quick explainer on the Pre-Raphaelites?

Not just another art genre, the Pre-Raphaelites were a secret society of young artists (and a writer) from the mid-19th century. Their name refers to Renaissance painter Raphael and the group’s revolt against society, the establishment and the style of painting promoted by the Royal Academy of Art.

Like every good art movement, they were initially controversial and opposed by the masses, but grew to become highly influential. Taking serious themes and treating them with maximum realisim, they began with religious themes, literature and poetry, themes of love, death and modern social problems.

Flouting convention, the artworks feature brilliant colour, meticulous detail and exquisite layering.

Some big names in Pre-Raphaelite art were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt.

The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse
John William Waterhouse
The Lady of Shalott 1888
oil on canvas
© Tate

What will be on show at the National Gallery in Canberra?

The exhibition features 40 of Tate’s most famous Pre-Raphaelite works, alongside 40 more pieces on loan from other British and Australian collections. Rarely lent, many masterpieces from the Tate have never been seen before in Australia.

You’ll also have time to explore the permanent exhibitions of the gallery, including more than 160,000 works of art across four main areas: Australian art, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander art, Asian art and European and American art.

Why are there so many redheads?

You may have noticed that many of the Pre-Raphaelite works feature beautiful redheaded females—so is it true that redheads have more fun than blondes?

Not necessarily the flavour of the time, the artists were infatuated by red-headed models, with Rossetti in particular discovering his muse in Elizabeth Siddal, the first supermodel. She showcased a new chapter of beauty—tall, graceful, long neck, erect posture and flowing red hair.

The art from the Pre-Raphaelites probably changed the destiny of redheads everywhere, starting a new trend of beauty. Well respected ladies of the time traditionally wore their hair up, often covered in public, with flowing hair reserved for the husband’s eyes.

Red hair is now a clue to a fiery woman, who is wild or otherwise dangerous.

Why is Tate a leader in Pre-Raphaelite art?

Henry Tate was an industrialist who provided funding—and his collection of 19th century art—to the nation of Britain. He was a patron of Pre-Raphaelite artists, and his bequest of 65 paintings included Ophelia 1851-2 (John Everett Millais) and The Lady of Shallott 1888 (J.W. Waterhouse). The bequest was initially turned down because there was not enough space in the gallery.

Ophelia, John Everett Millais
John Everett Millais
Ophelia 1851-2
oil paint on canvas
Tate collection presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894
© Tate

What is Australia’s connection to Tate Britain?

Tate Britain was originally known as the National Gallery of British Art, built on the site of the Millbank Penitentiary—originally a departure point for sending convicts to Australia.

What are some of the other highlights of the Canberra Art Tour with All Australian Journeys?

  • A picnic lunch in Bowrall’s Corbett Gardens—stop for a break in the beautiful, leafy gardens.
  • Relive history at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia—be amazed at how the moments of our history have been captured, including films, television and radio programs, videos, audio tapes, records, CDs, phonograph cylinders and wire recordings. Discover documents and artefacts such as photographs, posters, lobby cards, publicity items, scripts, costumes, props, memorabilia, oral histories, and vintage equipment.

Read the detailed itinerary here and check our departure dates, or contact us to book.


Birdsville to Alice Adventure – in pictures

Birdsville Hotel

Australia is famous for its outback landscapes and its road trips between iconic landmarks, many established in pioneering days by explorers, pioneers, miners, convicts and farmers seeking to establish a life in a sometimes harsh environment.

In amongst early landmarks is breathtaking beauty, and it’s for this reason that international travellers and Australians alike seek to conquer the outback and discover its unique history.

In August 2019, we’re travelling on the Birdsville to Alice Adventure. Here’s a small snapshot of what you’ll discover on this tour.


Travellers from Queensland will fly into Newcastle, where they will join Sydney and Hunter passengers for lunch before embarking on this 9 day journey. The first overnight stop is in Gunnedah, the beautiful agricultural town that inspired the poetry of Dorothea MacKellar, author of ‘My Country’.

Gunnedah, NSW
Sculptures at Pensioner’s Hill, Gunnedah.

On the way to Roma

Today you can stand in two states at once, in Mungindi, on the border of New South Wales and Queensland. After lunch along the river in St George, we continue on to Roma, lined with Bottle trees along the streets. You’ll enjoy a town tour of Roma tomorrow.

Roma Bottle Tree
Bottle tree in Roma, QLD


After travelling through Mitchell and boulder opal country, Quilpie, you’ll arrive in Birdsville, on the banks of the Diamantina River. We have two nights in Birdsville to experience this outback icon and all it has to offer. The famous pub was built in 1884 and has weathered storms, floods, fires and cyclones, being upgraded along the way. We’ll of course have time to enjoy a drink and chat to the locals.

Birdsville Hotel
The iconic Birdsville pub

You’ll have time to view and climb Nappamerri, or ‘Big Red’, Australia’s highest sand dune which rises up to 35 metres above the surrounding plains. Maybe try a camel pie at the Birdsville Bakery and visit the Birdsville Race Track, home of the Birdsville Races. This small town offers plenty of character.

Big Red sand dune
Nappamerri or ‘Big Red’, Australia’s tallest Sand Dune.

The Birdsville Track

From Birdsville, we travel the remote outback along the Birdsville Track, an iconic road journey between Birdsville and Maree in South Australia, covering about 517km. Rest assured, it is more than just a track these days, now a well travelled dirt road.

Tom Kruse (the mailman, not the actor) was made famous in this part of the country by the documentary ‘The Back of Beyond’, documenting his 2 week mail route between Birdsville and Maree, which he worked from 1936 to 1957. You’ll have the chance to have your photo taken in one of his original mail trucks.

Oodnadatta Track

Another of Australia’s famous outback road trips, we join the Oodnadatta Track to the Southern tip of Lake Eyre, stopping near the water’s edge for a picnic. Lunch will be at another famous outback pub, the William Creek Hotel. The town has a population of 10, but is bolstered by tourists and visitors to see Australia’s famous lake.

Oodnadatta Track
Image courtesy South Australian Tourism Commission. The Oodnadatta Track.

Coober Pedy

We cut across the channel country to Coober Pedy, famous for its underground buildings. It’s cooler to live and stay underground, and you’ll stay overnight in one of the dug out buildings, the Desert Cave Hotel. Tour this interesting town and you’ll have the opportunity to see and perhaps purchase some beautiful Coober Pedy opals.

Sturt Desert Pea flower
The Sturt Desert Pea, iconic flower found in the region around Coober Pedy.

Camels – the ultimate desert transport

At the foot of the James Ranges at Stuart’s Well, you’ll have the opportunity to take a short camel ride, often called the ‘ships of the desert’. This is one of the fun highlights of our tour.

Stuart's Well Camel Ride
Take a camel ride at Stuart’s Well

End in the middle, in Alice Springs

The heart of Australia is where our tour finishes, but there is plenty to see in this Northern Territory town. Take a look at the Old Telegraph Station, see how education is different at the School of the Air and take in the view of Alice Springs from the Anzac Hill Lookout.

Alice Springs Old Telegraph Station
The Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs

In this outback tour we cover the remote and incredible landscapes of four states. This is a tour like no other. Relax on board your flight home, with unique memories of a unique country.

Download the itinerary here, or call us to book on this tour.

Exploring the outback to support farmers

Birdsville Hotel Pub at sunset

Over recent months we have heard a lot about how farmers are doing it tough, with much of Australia recording some of the worst drought it has seen in 20 years. Hopefully, by the time you read this, Spring may have brought with it some relieving rains and changing fortunes, but continued rain is needed.

It has been inspiring to witness many individuals and companies donating to support farmers and their fellow Australians.

Another way you can help is by travelling—see the many interesting, historical and creative sights and attractions that are keeping farming communities thriving. Invest in local accommodation, restaurants and tourist attractions, which keeps the economy going and provides other opportunities for growth.

In our October 2018 holiday brochure you’ll see some fascinating outback adventures:

We’ve got every state of Australia covered in this brochure, giving you the opportunity to explore every part of our beautiful country.

So please join us in discovering the magnificent places of Australia, and the experiences and local people who make it memorable.

To view all our tours, click here.

2018 October Holiday brochure NSW Day tours October 2018 Queensland Day tours October 2018

An intimate journey along the scenic Lions Road

Lions Road creek crossing

The Lions Road is a privately built road connecting Beaudesert with Kyogle, following a scenic route through rainforests, rivers and mountains of the McPherson Ranges along the Queensland and New South Wales border.

What’s it like to travel the Lions Road?

Get up close and personal to creek crossings, rainforest walks and top for breathtaking scenic lookouts through the Border Ranges.

While travelling, stop to see the incredible border spiral loop on the interstate railway line  –  an impressive engineering feet. Allowing trains to rapidly climb elevation in order to cross the range, the loops, curves and shorter tunnels were more cost effective than building a much longer and more expensive tunnel.

The road is narrow in parts and is not suitable for larger, heavier vehicles. Instead of our larger luxury coach, we are taking our mini-bus, along with a trailer, meaning you’ll have a more intimate experience of the beautiful scenery in a small group tour.

Lions Road tour

Why was the road built?

After the NSW government decided not to build the road connecting the Northern Rivers of NSW with Brisbane via Richmond Gap, the community took matters into their own hands.

Opened in 1970, the road was a project of the Kyogle and Beaudesert Lions Clubs, who received incredible support from the local communities and businesses in the form of funding, materials, construction and expertise.

The road has been continually improved through the support of the local border town shires, NSW, QLD and Federal governments, the Australian Army, Parks and Wildlife and other organisations who have contributed to the road.

Lions road scenery

Tour highlights

Our three day tour departing from Brisbane spends the first day traversing the beautiful Lions Road, crossing the state border and continuing to Lismore where we unpack for two nights at the Karinga Motel.

On day two, we get lost in the enormous Lismore markets, tapping into the creative and alternative arts, antiques, bric-a-brac and fresh produce of the Northern NSW region.

In Ballina, enjoy a Devonshire tea at heritage listed Ballina Manor and visit the Maritime Museum.

On day three, enjoy morning tea at Macadamia Castle before continuing on to the most easterly point of Australia, the Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Continue via the coastal route back to Brisbane, via Kingscliff Beach for lunch, then Pottsville, Hastings Point, Cabarita Beach and Tweed Heads.

An unforgettable, intimate journey, close to nature.

We have two departures in 2018, 3 November and 1 December. Find out more here.

Lions Road view Cape Byron Lighthouse Devonshire tea at Ballina Manor

The return of the Mary Valley Rattler

Mary Valley Rattler

Since 2012, the rails have been silent, but after an extensive upgrade and restoration, the Mary Valley Rattler now steams along the rails once more.

This incredible train journey is one of Australia’s standout heritage experiences, and its return has been long awaited.

The Rattler’s standard route travels between the historic and beautiful Gympie station through the scenic Mary Valley, the C17 class steam engine passes through Dagun station before arriving in Amamoor. The engine then turns around on the fully restored turntable for its return journey to Gympie.

For Cross Country Tours, the Rattler’s return on 6 October has been highly anticipated.

‘More than 200 people have registered their interest to find out about our tours to see the Rattler when we first heard news of its return,’ said Tony Gear, Cross Country Tours’ Managing Director.

‘Now that it’s officially back up and running, we’ve put together some great day tours so our passengers can be among the first to enjoy the new experience.’

Cross Country Tours day tours begin with the first departure on 14 October, and continue through November and then March and April 2019.

The day tour includes a ride on the Rattler between Amamoor and Gympie station, followed by lunch in the historic Gympie Station Cafe. All touring, morning tea, lunch and train ride are included in the fare of $95.

Find out all the available dates or call 07 3869 7444 to book.

Mary Valley Rattler bookings open


Fundraising for Mission in Action

Renee and Phil Fundraising for Mission in Action

In November this year, two of our staff, Phil Bromley and Renee Lambert, will be travelling to Kenya to help out at an orphanage run by Mission in Action.

Started in 2004 by a man from Lismore, the orphanage is currently looking after about 90 children, seeking to provide a roof over their heads, clothing, education, love and a chance at a brighter future.

Renee and Phil do not need any funds to help them travel to Kenya, but have been busy collecting donations towards school packs for children starting high school next year (approximately $450 each pack), and general living expenses for all the children.

We are very proud of Renee and Phil, and Cross Country Tours will also make a donation as a company.

If you would like to contribute, you can do so in one of the following ways:

  • (if you need a receipt)
  • On our tours or at our Christmas Parties (no receipt provided)
  • In our offices at Brisbane and Thornton (no receipt provided)

Payments for Queensland Day Tours

Payments for day tours

In recent months, we’ve been working towards all our Queensland Day Tours requiring payment before the day of travel. 90% of all tours already require payment one month prior to the date of travel, or at the time of booking.

Our new brochure is about to be released (mid-October) and you’ll notice that all day tours now require prepayment. Here are the reasons why:

  • Safety of our on road team—it’s essential that we minimise the need for our crew to move around the coach while we are travelling, to prevent any injury in the event of an emergency stop. Safety of our passengers and crew is our first priority.
  • Less managing cash on the day—our team’s first priority on the day of travel is making sure everyone is on board and ready for an enjoyable day out. By having our payments squared away before we travel, we’re not spending valuable tour time recording payments and managing cash and change.

Some other things to remember to make your life easier:

  • You can still pay in cash—you can drop into our offices in Sandgate (QLD) or Thornton (NSW) to make a payment for your tour. In Sandgate, we’re open standard Monday – Friday business hours and also Saturday mornings until midday.
  • Traveller’s Refund Guarantee still applies to QLD day tours—this means that if you are unwell and need to cancel up until the day of travel, we will provide you with a full refund of your tour fare—but you need to let us know before tour departs. If any need to cancel arises, please let us know as soon as possible so that any waitlisted passengers may have the opportunity to travel.

If you have any enquiries about prepayments or day tours, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 1300 631 383 or send us an email.

5 Things you need to know about Canberra Floriade

Canberra Floriade

It’s time to shake off the winter blues and warm up ready for spring and Floriade season. While we have been shivering in our jackets, beanies and gloves, the tulip bulbs have been quietly preparing for blooming season.

1. Tulip garden beds are designed and planted more than six months in advance.

Tulip bulbs require at least six months planted in cool, dark soil before blooming. So planting for Floriade takes place during autumn, with careful planning and design. Floriade 2018 is embracing pop culture, so each of the garden beds has been inspired by music icons, Australian artists such as Ken Done, stars of the silver screen and even Where’s Wally?

Tulips at Canberra Floriade

2. Canberra Floriade features flowers from more than 1 million bulbs and annuals.

Imagine Commonwealth Park, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, coming alive with the bold colours of spring. Commonwealth Park is about the size of 34 football fields that you can expect to be blanketed with colour and intricate floral designs—with space for live music, workshops and food stalls of course.

Canberra Floriade Lake Burley Griffin

3. Gnome Knoll is a mainstay of Floriade.

Every garden needs a garden gnome! Create your own design and take him (or her) on tour of this floral extravaganza. Perhaps enter your gnome creation into the Rotary Club’s competition for best design, or snap a photo of your gnome amongst the beautiful garden designs.

There are plenty of entertaining activities and attractions that can add to your Floraide experience. Perhaps try a workshop such as a Terrarium Workshop—well known florists Moxom + Whitney lead a session in terrarium making, terrarium care and the power of getting dirty.

4. Photos will be colourful and long lasting.

If you’re a budding photographer (pun intended), then Floriade will be paradise for you. With a vast array of colours and designs, perhaps one of the biggest questions is whether to get a close up of the immaculate petals of a tulip, or of the bigger picture. The answer is of course up to you, but if you’re looking for some great photography tips, read this blog by photographer Carol Elvin.

Photo of tulips at floriade

5. Canberra is about more than Floriade.

Our nation’s capital certainly comes alive during Floriade, but also boasts fascinating history and museums that have shaped our country’s history. Our Canberra Floriade tour ticks off the following attractions:

  • A guided or independent tour of Australia’s War Memorial, commemorating members of our armed forces who have participated in wars
  • Panoramic views of Canberra City at night time from Mount Ainslie
  • More flowers at Bowral’s Corbett Gardens, the centerpiece of the Bowral Tulip Time Festival
  • Admire the precision of the National Bonsai Garden
  • Explore 10 acres of tulips, daffodils and blossoming spring trees at the Tulip Top Gardens, open for only a month each year.

Find out more about this tour, departing Sydney and the Hunter in September 2018. Download the itinerary.

If you’re based in Brisbane, why not consider our Southern Highlands and Floriade tour.

Six reasons to travel overseas with Cross Country Tours

Central European Cruise

When you’re planning to travel overseas, it can be hard to tell the difference between one tour provider and another. At Cross Country Tours, our passengers tell us they choose us for international travel because of ‘peace of mind’, ‘friends made on tour’ or because we’ve ‘taken care of everything’.

To help you see all of our group international tours in one place, we’ve just released our touring catalogue for 2018-2020. And of course, if you have a specific destination in mind for your independent travel, we can help with that too.

Here are six reasons to join a Cross Country Tours international tour:

1. Group travel overseas – travelling with friends

You can enjoy the ultimate experience of different cultures, amazing architecture and natural wonders—and we’ll take care of the rest.

There’s nothing quite like travelling with friends and with Cross Country Tours, you’ll be exploring the world with like-minded travellers.

Once together at our international destination, our Cross Country Tours host will connect you with fellow travellers to make getting to know others stress free. We’ll also provide you with options in each location if you’d like to explore your destination with a group.

2. Your connection to home

Cross Country Tours is your connection to what’s happening back home. If a need arises while you’re travelling, such as luggage, insurance or medical concerns (either at home or away), our Cross Country Tours host will work with our office team to work towards finding a resolution.

3. Hand picked destinations

All of the destinations in our touring catalogue have been visited by one of our experienced team members to ensure a great experience. We know the key sights and attractions to look out for, but most importantly, we’re looking for exceptional, caring service from our international suppliers.

4. Prices and inclusions

When you travel with Cross Country Tours, you can rest assured that our prices include all airfares, taxes, accommodation, tips and gratuities, meals and attractions as listed on the itinerary. This means our tours are affordable because there’s no unexpected costs. We’ll also give you an idea of how to budget for spending money in various locations on the tour, if needed.

5. Getting to and from the airport

We’ll take care of your transfers to and from the airport from the Greater Brisbane area, the Hunter, the Central Coast and Sydney.

6. Information sessions

Prior to your tour departure, you’ll be invited to an information session, getting you excited about your tour, and helping you to be prepared with what to bring and what to expect throughout your journey with us.

Click here to download our international touring catalogue.