ASI Tours Update


February 3, 2018 - AAT Update 4



Greetings AAT 2018 Tour Members:
We hope this finds all of you well and preparing for the Around Australia Tour, a little more than seven months from now.   We wish to update you on a few topics.  
AAT Domestic flights in Australia:
Our amazing tour is made possible due to the utilization of particular flights in getting us to the far corners of the continent in a timely manner.  Utilizing non stop flights for all but our final flight sector is essential.   Between some of our destinations there is only one suitable non stop flight per day.  Therefore we are subject to any time changes Qantas makes, and must adjust our itinerary accordingly. 
Our air agent just advised us that Qantas changed the time of the one daily nonstop flight we must use from Perth to Alice from early afternoon to a very early morning departure.  In this case any discomfort from this early departure is more than balanced by having valuable extra time in Alice Springs; a clear net gain.  The point is simply to convey to tour members there is always a sound rationale for why our flights are when they are.  Again we never know when changes in flight times might happen but we are always ready to adapt.   We have just had 4 flight time changes and  each  provides us with additional opportunities we did not have before. 
In terms of the itinerary, we have now added a visit to a lavender farm in Tasmania as well as a unique goat, cattle and cheese making family farm operation. I have updated the daily itinerary on the website and will post this update on the ASI Tours Update page.  So you do not have to figure out which days are changed,  I have copied them below, exactly as they appear on the website.   
Day 6
Sep. 24 -   MO - PORT ARTHUR
This morning visit historic Port Arthur, the site of Australia's most famous and rugged convict settlement.  An educational guided tour and harbor cruise of the UNESCO World Heritage Site settlement will provide great insight into early Tasmanian and Australian history.  Lunch is on your own.  
After lunch we meet the chocolate makers of one of the finest artisan chocolate mills in Australia.  Enjoy demonstrations as they use methods and equipment reminiscent of yesterday. Tasting of their delicious treats is included. Our next stop is the Pt. Arthur Lavender Farm for an informative look at this unique Tasmanian industry.  There will be time for a self-guided tour and to enjoy interactive displays describing the lavender farming process as well as sampling lavender products.  Return to Port Arthur for a relaxing evening at your charming inn. Dinner is on your own, tonight. 
 (B)  Fox & Hounds Inn
DAILY ACTIVITY: Port Arthur walking tour apx. 1.0 miles. Lunch break free time walking at Port Arthur. Short walking time at chocolate mill.  Short walk at Australia Lavender Farm.

Day 7
After departing Pt. Arthur we have an exciting stop at a small working goat and cattle farm.   Meet with the owners and learn about their fascinating lifestyle and the many facets of their operation including cheese making.  We then continue traveling northward along the scenic east coast of Tasmania to the seafront village of Bicheno with stops enroute at a special coastal vineyard and cottage industry sites. We head to Freycinet Peninsula and some of the most breathtaking ocean vistas in Australia.  On entering the Freycinet National Park we stop at the Tourville Lighthouse to undertake a short scenic walk to a lookout with sweeping views of the pounding sea far below.  Continue to our overnight accommodation. On arrival check into your sea-view accommodation. This evening experience an up-close nature encounter on a captivating Fairy Penguin Tour on the Bicheno seafront.  Dinner is included tonight.
 (B, D)  Beachfront Bicheno
Daily Activity: Short walk at Goat and Cattle Farm. Scenic walk .60 miles at Freycinet National Park. Evening Penguins tour requires a short walk.
Day 8
Depart this morning traveling to Tasmania's heartland, visiting the historic colonial towns of Campbell Town and Ross before continuing south to Brighton and the award winning Bonorong Wildlife Park.   Bonorong provides an exciting opportunity to get up close and personal with a wide array of Australian native wildlife including animals, birds and reptiles.  This amazing wildlife encounter is a heart capturing experiences. We then continue to the Hobart Airport for our flight to Melbourne and transfer to our city center apartment style hotel.
 (B)     Mantra on Russell
Daily Activity:  Possible short walk in Campbell town and Ross.  Walking tour and free time walking at Bonorong Wildlife Park .40 – 1.00 miles
Day 10
 Transfer this morning to the airport for your flight to the capital of South Australia, the festival city of Adelaide.  On arrival, commence a sightseeing tour of the expansive surrounding parkland's, charming Adelaide Hills and some of the enticing wine country for which South Australia is so well known.  There will free time to visit the multi-cultural City Market, the National Wine Center and Adelaide's beautiful Botanical Gardens.  In the afternoon we have an exciting visit to the Aboriginal Living Kaurna's Cultural Centre which will include a walking tour of the Warriparinga Park and Wetlands. We will be introduced to the history, language, dreamtime stories, seasonal bush tucker, traditional bush medicine and music of the Kaurna people.  Learn about the native plants and animals of the wetland’s reserve.  
Continue on to Murray Bridge to board our 18 cabin, purpose built, riverboat for a relaxing but highly educational two night cruise on Australia's mighty Murray River. The River Murray forms the greater part of the 3,750 km (2,330 mi) long combined Murray, Darling River system which drains most of inland Victoria, New South Wales, and southern Queensland.  Our cruise adventure will be on the lower course of the Murray where, tonight on deck, you discover the magic of ‘cruising the river at night’.  The ships powerful floodlights unveil a nocturnal wildlife environment including birds such as owls, coots and night herons.  On the cruise, all meals are included and your on-board culinary indulgence begins with dinner tonight. 
  (B,D)   Proud Mary - Riverboat 
Daily Activity:  Guided walking tour at Aboriginal Reserve .5 – 1.0 miles.  Riverboat stairs between lower and upper decks Days 10, 11, 12.
Day 12
 This morning, cruise downstream to Mannum and Board a waiting coach for a tour to beautiful Reedy Creek Environmental Park.  On a guided walk the ecologist guide will explain the effects of this unusual ecosystem on the surrounding countryside and original aboriginal inhabitants. Back on board, we continue to cruise downstream with more amazing lens friendly scenery.  An informative Murray River ecology documentary will be shown on-board to further your River Murray education.  We disembark late afternoon at Murray Bridge and transfer to the Adelaide Airport for an evening flight to Australia's West Coast and its inviting capital city, Perth. On arrival in the beautiful river city transfer to your apartment style hotel. Dinner in-flight.
 (B,L,D)     Mantra on Murray 
Daily Activity: Reedy Creek walking tour.
Day 15
 Early transfer to Perth Airport for our flight eastward to Australia's isolated desert and gateway to the Red Center, Alice Springs. Alice is a most unique town; a true mixing of colonial heritage, aboriginal culture with the many challenges of isolated outback living.  On arrival, commence a sightseeing tour with an overview of Alice Springs from Anzac Hill. 
 Continue on to visit three important Northern Territory landmarks including the historic Overland Telegraph Station; an outpost which served as the vital link in connecting frontier settlements across Australia.  Enjoy a tour of the impressive Royal Flying Doctor Service with its impressive history of providing medical services throughout remote Central Australia, and tour the famed School of the Air that has been delivering air schooling to children on remote outback stations for decades.  After checking into our centrally located hotel the evening is free to begin exploring outback Alice on your own including observing the desert locals at work and play.  Breakfast in-flight. 
 (B)     Mercure Springs Resort 
Daily Activity:  Evening free time walking in Alice Springs.
Day  17
 The morning and early afternoon are free to relax and explore some of Alice's attractions on your own.  Among your many choices are the Alice Springs Desert Park, Kangaroo Sanctuary, Road Transport Hall of Fame, Women's Pioneer Museum, the Araluen Arts Centre and Yubu Napa Art Gallery both featuring Aboriginal arts and culture.  In late afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight north to the tropical top end of the Northern Territory and its colorful multi-cultural capital, Darwin.  Transfer to your apartment style hotel on arrival.  
(B)    Mantra on Esplanade
Daily Activity:  Morning self guided exploring.



January  22, 2018 - AAT Update 3



 Dear AAT tour member,

 Many of our tour members are currently planning their pre-tour days in Sydney.  We want to update you regarding hotel check in and time to meet up with the group; for the first time.

 Some of our tour members may belong to the Holiday Inn Rewards Club, allowing you free upgrades when checking into a HI hotel.  If you are not a member, it is free to join.  I have copied the website below, for you. 

 ASI Tours group hotel rooms are booked as ‘standard rooms’.  When checking into the HI Old Sydney, if you identify yourself as a HI Rewards member, you may be given an upgrade, but only on a space available basis. If you are upgraded for any pre tour nights this does not guarantee you will have the same upgrade extended once the tour begins on Sep. 21.  If you are in an upgraded room for pretour nights it is possible you may be required by the hotel to change rooms.  If you wish to avoid the possibility of having to change rooms please do not request an upgrade upon your initial check in. You should inquire about the upgrade situation when you check in. Be advised that our tour hotel is in a premium location in the Rocks, adjacent to Circular Quay on Sydney Harbor and tends to be at full occupancy much of the time.    

 We have set the group meet-up time for 1:30 PM on Sep. 21 to allow tour members to have the full morning for activities such as the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb or other organized or self directed exploring.  We will depart from the hotel on the afternoon sightseeing tour of Sydney about 2:00 PM.  


Please email or call us with any questions or if you need assistance with any of the above items.



December 29, 2017  -  AAT Update 2

Pre and Post tour information

 Dear AAT tour member,

We hope everyone had a joyous Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year filled with new destinations and friendships.   We would like to provide you with the following update and information to help plan your upcoming trip to Australia in September 2018.

This update will include both, pre and post tour information and advisories as well as Australia arrival and departure information. 

ETA – An Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) is required of American citizens for travel to Australia.

If you have not yet secured the ETA, see the ASI Tours website under Tour Details and Passport and Visa information -


The easiest transfer option from the Sydney Airport  to our tour hotel at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney, 55 George St, Sydney, NSW, is by taxi.  The taxi fare currently averages around $35AUD, apx. $28USD.  This is easily the best option with two or more people sharing the ride.  An airport shuttle which may stop at several hotels can be pre-booked by single travelers for apx. $16-18AUD, $12-$14USD. 

Website for Airport Transfer: 

If you go to the ASI Tours website, then Tour Details, then Featured Hotels you will be able to click on the button below the picture of the hotel.  It will take you to the HI Old Sydney’s website.  You will see a map, information about the hotel and the area and be able to contact the hotel directly for pre tour booking and information.  You can also use other booking sites to book the hotel such as Trivago, or other booking sites.

Holiday Inn Old Sydney website:

Click on 'Show' button for full update.

Australian Money on Arrival     

You will need to have some Australian dollars once you arrive in Sydney, to pay for your transfer to the hotel and have as spending money. All major credit cards are accepted in Australia but you will want to have local currency for smaller shops, some restaurants, taxis and drinks in pubs. There may be minimum purchase amounts in smaller stores, in order to use a credit card. 

Using your Bank ATM card will usually give you the best exchange rate.  It allows you to withdraw in local currency.   You will want to check with your own bank to see what branch in Australia they may have a banking relationship with, in order to save on ATM and exchange fees.  For example, Bank of America is a member of a banking partnership called Global ATM Alliance, with WestPac Bank.  By using the WestPac Bank ATM to withdraw money in AUD there is no ATM fee or international transaction fee, by either bank.

To easily determine the conversion of  your USD into AUD, use the XE Converter.  You may want to download the app to your Smartphone, which is free.  The current exchange rate is apx. $1.00USD = $1.30AUD.

The following link is to the list of banks and ATMs in the international terminal of the Sydney Airport.  You will know ahead of time what terminal you arrive at so you will be able to determine where your closest affiliate ATM or bank is located.


The Around Australia Tour spends only two nights in Sydney.   We recommend that tour members arrive in Sydney a day or two prior to the beginning of the Around Australia Tour which starts on Sep. 21st.  At this point almost all tour members are planning to arrive early.   We also recommend spending the extra night(s) at our centrally located hotel in the historic Rocks area; the Holiday Inn Old Sydney. The hotel is ideally located to walk to The Rocks area, restaurants, downtown, many attractions in Circular  Quay, including Sydney Opera House and pickups for tours.

Most flights to Australia from the USA arrive in Sydney in the early morning.   Normal hotel check-in time is apx. 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM so it is unlikely your hotel room will be ready on arrival at the hotel, mid morning unless the previous night has been pre-paid.  Most people choose not to do this because of cost.  If your room is not available upon arrival you can request an early check-in subject to availability.  Your bags can be secured in hotel storage and you can freshen up using hotel facilities. You can then spend time exploring the Rocks area and the attractions of Circular Cay until your room is ready.  A plethora of varied, convenient dining and snacking options are available in these areas and also at our hotel.   The hotel front desk or concierge will have local maps and suggestions for restaurants and help with a walking route for you.  You will also be able to get brochures of attractions in the area, at the hotel.

Some tour members arriving early may wish to experience a tour, performance or combination tour and performance at the famed Sydney Opera House.  

The link for Opera House bookings is,

You may want to sign up for new updates from the Opera House, at:

The following performances are currently scheduled prior to and for our scheduled nights in Sydney.  Keep in mind that we have a group welcome dinner shortly after the completion of our Sydney city tour on Friday Sep. 21.  


Most of the tour members on the 2018 AAT are traveling to Sydney 1-2 days in advance of the beginning of the tour.  We are, therefore, compiling a voluntarily list of tour members who would like to be in contact with fellow tour members prior to the tour.   This is primarily for those who may be interested in participating in pre-tour activities in Sydney with other tour members before the group convenes for the tour orientation and city sights on the afternoon of Sep. 21.  Examples of these activities, particularly on Sep. 19 or 20 are activities such as doing a specific guided tour, independent sightseeing or attending a performance at the Sydney Opera House.  If, as a result of contact, you find that you are traveling to Australia on the same flight as other tour members on the list there may be an opportunity to connect up at the airport prior to the outbound flight. 

If you are interested in being included in this pre-tour contact list, advise us by email or phone with your contact information.  Please let us know as soon as possible to give tour members time to contact each other and work on their plans.

Once our tour begins you will find you are traveling with a very cohesive group of friendly, experienced world travelers, most of whom are long time ITN readers.  On evenings when dinner is not included tour members often choose to dine with other members.  It is difficult, on tour, to tell who is traveling with a roommate and who are traveling as singles. Tour members also often participate together in free time activities of mutual interest.  Your tour director will, also, always be available to assist.     


The official end of the Around Australia Tour is after breakfast at our Gold Coast Hotel, the Mantra Legends which is apx. a 55 minute airport shuttle ride to the Brisbane Airport.  A number of tour members will be commencing their own post tour arrangements in Australia or other destinations.   For those not extending the most convenient return option is the Qantas #15 nonstop flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles which is currently scheduled to depart Brisbane at 10:20AM and arriving LAX at 6:00AM, the same day.  You re-cross the International Dateline gaining the day lost enroute to Australia. This is a daily flight.  This may be an additional motivation for doing your international flights to and from Australia with Qantas Airways.   Qantas is a member of the One World Alliance and an alliance partner with American Airlines and Alaska Air.  If you are traveling to Australia on another carrier you may be required to connect via Sydney, or in the case of Air New Zealand, Auckland. 

Our tour members book their international air either directly with their airline of choice or one of the on-line sellers of international air.   You may contact ASI Tours if you have any questions or need assistance.   


Post tour airport transfers are easily arranged from our Gold Coast Hotel, The Mantra Legends, to the Brisbane Airport, an apx. one hour ride.  The standard airport shuttle transfer rate per person is apx. 54 AUD (39 USD) per person.  It is likely that many of our tour members will be returning to the USA on flight - Qantas #15 departing from Brisbane currently at 10:20AM on Oct. 14; our tour departure day.  When we know the number of tour members departing the same day, it is very likely we will be able to arrange a discounted group transfer rate.  Airport transfers can also be arrange with the concierge at our hotel.  


Some tour members are planning to extend their Australia holiday by spending a few extra days at our wonderful beach located hotel. 

Additional nights can be booked directly through your favorite on-line booking site such as  You can also book directly with the hotel at, Tel: 61-7-5588-7888.  Click on the button under the hotel picture on the ASI Tours website in the Featured Hotel list.  Or copy the following into your browser:

Contact us if you need information and advisory regarding other post tour arrangements.


Many of you have already booked your international air from your home city to Australia and return.  Others have not yet done so and may or may not have determined your booking source.  Some are also planning to use frequent flyer miles for their international flights.

Qantas Airways offers the most frequent service to Australia from the USA with, currently, five daily non stops from LAX, two from SFO, one from DFW and a one stop service from JFK.  Qantas has connecting service and fares in conjunction with its One World Alliance partner American Airlines from cities throughout North America. 

Qantas flights can be booked on-line through the following link:

If you prefer to book with an agent, Qantas through fare flights can be booked with our Qantas Vacations, booking agent Rozelle at 800-252-6239 ext. 1016.  Qantas Vacations is the booking agent for the domestic flights included in our tour. 

Alternatively you can call the toll free number for direct Qantas reservations is 800-227-4500, but we recommend using Rozelle as she is familiar with the Around Australia Tour.  When securing a quote remember to ask for the best through fare from your home (originating) city and be aware of the rules and restrictions of the fare.   


On arrival at the Sydney International Airport, take a moment to visit the Sydney Airport Tourist Information Centre, where you can pickup brochures of day tours, the Red Bus brochure and ask where to catch a taxi or other transportation.  

Below are just a few websites of the most famous attractions you won’t want to miss.  

1. Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Opened in 1816, the garden is the oldest scientific institution in Australia and one of the most important historic botanical institutions in the world. It is open every day of the year and access is free. It enjoys a stunning position on Sydney Harbour, immediately adjacent to the Sydney central business district and the Sydney Opera House. 

For detailed information about the Gardens – click on the link below.


 If you would like to sign up for updates about what is going on at the Royal Gardens, click on the website below and type in your name and email address and hit the send button. 


2.  The Rocks, Sydney -The Guide to the Rocks –

The Rocks area features a variety of souvenir and craft shops, as well as many themed and historic pubs. The Rocks Market operates each weekend, with around 100 stalls. During the week, shopping options include galleries exhibiting Australian artists, such as Ken Done and Ken Duncan, as well as Australian clothing and Australian opal shops. There are numerous historic walks through the area, visiting historical buildings such as Cadmans Cottage, Sydney Observatory and the Dawes Point Battery which was the first fortified position in New South Wales.

Two separate pubs in The Rocks claim to be Sydney's oldest surviving pubs: the Fortune of War and the Lord Nelson. Others in the area include the Observer, the Orient, the Mercantile, the Palisade and the Hero of Waterloo.

3.  Sydney Taronga Zoo

Discover the home of over 2,900 animals at your own pace with an entrance ticket to Taronga Zoo. Reach the zoo in Sydney Harbour by rocket ferry from Circular Quay and then ride the Sky Safari cable car on arrival enjoying the  spectacular views of Sydney Harbour.

​You can pre-purchase your Taronga entry ticket to save time and avoid queuing at the ticket booth. By public transport - Take the ferry to the Taronga Zoo wharf and then the bus or the gondola to the entrance at the top of the hill.  Buying a ticket that includes the return boat trip from Darling Harbour, the gondola ride and the entry to the park is the best way to experience this attraction.  You can also book this at your hotel.  Wear good walking shoes and carry some water - it is set up on a hill!

Website for Taronga zoo:

 4, Art Gallery of New South Wales -

The Art Gallery of New South Wales, located in The Domain in Sydney, is the most important public gallery in Sydney and one of the largest in Australia. The Gallery's first public exhibition opened in 1874. Admission is free to the general exhibition space, which displays Australian art (from settlement to contemporary), European and Asian art. A dedicated Asian Gallery was opened in 2003.

 For updates -

 For more information on the Gallery - 

         Website: - 

5. Interactive map of Sydney’s attractions:

           Website: -

This interactive map will take you to each attraction listed on the left side of the map, by placing your cursor on a name of a place, a picture opens up on a map.  If you click on (most) of the names, the website will open and will give you information about that site.  There is a + and – on the lower right side of the map.  Hitting the + several times, will enlarge the map to the point names of stores, banks, restaurants, art galleries, etc, will be appear.

6. Downtown Sydney

To find your way to the heart of downtown Sydney make your way to Martin Place - on the interactive map (above).  Martin Place is a pedestrian mall in the central business district of Sydney.  It has been described as the "civic heart" of Sydney. As home to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Macquarie Bank, Westpac and other corporations, it is also a centre of business and finance. The Sydney GPO (General Post Office) and the Seven Network's Sydney news centre are also located on Martin Place.

Martin Place has become a national Australian icon in popular culture for attracting film and television productions and actors to the area. Martin Place runs between George Street and Macquarie Street, and provides entrances to the Martin Place railway station below street level; an underground city of magnificent restaurants and shops - a must see stop.  Other cross streets includes Pitt Street, Castlereagh Street, Elizabeth Street and Phillip Street.

The history is of Martin Place is fascinating.  For more info:




The Red Bus is the ideal way to get around to all of the attractions you want to see during your pre tour time in Sydney.  You can purchase a 24 or 48 hour pass.  The website above will show the route the Red Bus travels with a brief description  about each stop. You will be able to obtain a brochure at the airport before you catch your transportation to the hotel, or at the hotel information desk.

First tour starts at 8.30 am. Frequency 15- 20 minutes* Bondi Tours: depart from and finish at Stop A - Eddy Avenue (Central Railway Station) First tour starts at 9.30 am. Frequency 30 minutes All services terminate at 7.30 pm in peak season and 6.30 pm in off peak season

We hope you will find this information helpful in making your pre tour time in Sydney educational and highly memorable.  It is a beautiful city and very easy to navigate.  

 Please email or call us with any questions or if you need assistance with any of the above items.


December 18, 2017 - AAT Update 1

Itinerary Changes in Sydney and Tasmania

Dear Around Australia Tour Members,

We are excited to announce the following Around Australia Tours 2018 UPDATES.

To date our group has 20 tour members confirmed plus your tour leader, Randy Keck.

We are thrilled to announce the following itinerary changes which will allow another full day of touring with additional exciting educational visits in beautiful Tasmania.  These added visits will include a working Australian sheep farm, a unique chocolate mill, a coastal vineyard and more sightseeing time in historic towns.  This also changes a previous one night stop at Pt. Arthur to two nights.  These changes will not affect the tour cost or duration.

Click on 'Show' button for full update.

To do this we are changing our Sydney stop from three nights back to the original two nights.  Most tour members are already planning to go to Sydney one or more days early, so you can plan your Sydney arrival accordingly. 

Our Sydney city sights tour will be in the afternoon of the first tour day in Sydney, Sep. 21.  The Welcome Tour Dinner will be on the first night, Sept. 21.   Our included Sydney Harbor Cruise will be on the morning of our second day in Sydney, Sep.22, with the afternoon free for exploring on your own.  With our itinerary change we now depart the following morning, Sep. 23, for Tasmania.

Please visit our official revised itinerary, on our website, at: details/itinerary/

Our new additions with an extra night at the charming Fox and Hounds Inn in Port Arthur, will allow a more relaxing and in-depth experience in Tasmania.   We continue to update as part of the Aussie Specialist program with the Australian Tourist Board while exploring possible options for inclusion in our tour. 

If you have any questions, please call or email me.  I am happy to answer your questions regarding the tour.