In my more than 25 years covering the travel trade industry, I’ve been on some pretty luxe trips, from safaris in Africa and vast temple complexes in Southeast Asia to helicoptering into a “haute LZ” in Cannes and basking in the South American sun on Copacabana Beach in Rio.
But the 2017 Dreamtime post-event “famil”—that’s Australian for “fam,” mate!—was one of the more splashy I’ve waded into.
Let’s start with the helicopter flights. For me, it always comes down to the helicopters.
Our group of high-end incentive planners took three flights: two over the verdant, rolling countryside of northern Queensland and one over the Great Barrier Reef. High-achievers on incentive trips have lofty aspirations, it seems.
Our famil really kicked off even before the Dreamtime conference started with a Brisbane city tour and trip to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary via a 7.5-mile cruise on the Brisbane River. Lone Pine boasts more than 130 koalas, along with roos, wallabies—just about every iconic Aussie animal imaginable. Photo ops abounded! Dingo and croc alert!
Day 1: The first official day of the post-trip found our group taking an hour-long coach ride to Spicer’s Hidden Vale, a rural expanse perfect for a retreat-like atmosphere. Highlights included cuisine grown on-property by the culinary team.
A great place for stress-free brainstorming!
Boarding our first helicopter, we then flew to Kooroomba Vineyards and Lavender Farm, a countryside event venue where, you guessed it, lavender was a featured menu item, accompanied by wine, of course! It was like being in France in Australia. The helicopters then shuttled us down the Gold Coast back to Brisbane.
Day 2: After a Virgin Australia flight to Cairns, the group next bussed up to Port Douglas with a stop to see the crocs and other indigenous animals at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. This is the place for a real intensive Aussie animal experience, including swamp cruises to feed the snapping reptiles in their spacious digs. Arriving in Port Douglas, the group stayed for two nights at the 295-room Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, which features an ocean of resort pools and 17,000 square feet of meeting space.
Day 3: The highlight of any Port Douglas incentive is a cruise out to the famed Great Barrier Reef, and Quicksilver Cruises delivered with a speedy jaunt to its dedicated, event-ready platform at the end of the Australian continent, where participants snorkeled, scuba dived and, yes, even took flight in a helicopter over the “bucket list” destination. By this time the famil was really gathering steam, and the final night delivered with a fine-dining feast for the ages at Flames of the Forest, in a rainforest just outside of Port Douglas, with live Aussie entertainment rousing the crowd to song.
Day 4: All good things come to an end, but on our journey back to Cairns we stopped in for even more goodness via a beachside lunch at Palm Cove’s NuNu, and the final overnight, at Shangri-La Marina Cairns, was a seafood-centric final feast to say our goodbyes.
Cheers, and good on ya, Australia!
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