Image: Sydney Opera House
Barbara Walton  /  EPA file
The nine-night road trip through Australia includes four nights in Sydney's Four Points Darling Harbour Hotel, which is near the iconic Sydney Opera House.
updated 2/19/2008 2:21:50 PM ET 2008-02-19T19:21:50

The Real Deal: Nine nights' accommodations, six-day car rental, and a wine-tasting tour for $1,675 per person — including taxes.

When: April 1-Sept. 30, 2008.

The fine print: Included are a midsize automatic rental car for six days with unlimited mileage, private airport transfer on departure, five breakfasts, a wine-tasting class and a tour of Hunter Resort Wine School, hotel taxes, and rental-car taxes. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $1,560. To enter Australia, U.S. passport holders must obtain an Electronic Travel Authority, equivalent to a visa (just without the stamp), which is valid for up to three months. It can be purchased here for Aus$20 (about US$17). Refer to this code when booking: SWSP5245. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: Swain Tours, 800/227-9246,

Why it's a deal: In comparison, nightly rack rates start from $177 at the Hunter Resort, $197 at the Four Points Sheraton, and $632 at Lilianfels. When you do the math, booking two nights at Lilianfels, three nights at the Hunter Resort, and four nights at the Sheraton on your own adds up to a total of $2,583, which is about $1,291 per person. For an additional $384 per person, Swain Tours will cover nine nights' accommodations as well as a car rental for six days, a tour of the wine country with a tasting class (list price is about $23 per person), and airport transportation upon departure. You also get the benefit of 24/7 access to Swain Tours' local offices in Australia — enabling travelers to add optional tours, get restaurant recommendations, and resolve any problems or complications.

Trip details: The Sublime Wine and Sydney package includes nine nights' accommodations divided between the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, and Sydney, plus, a six-day car rental with unlimited mileage from Budget.

After clearing customs in Sydney, you'll pick up your rental car and drive for about two hours to the Blue Mountains for a two-night stay at Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort and Spa, a Victorian-style country house. Aside from spacious guest rooms, the resort features a spa with a swimming pool, a lounge for tea and refreshments, and two restaurants. Lilianfels, surrounded by two acres of landscaped gardens, is adjacent to the Blue Mountain's main attraction: three giant rock formations known as the Three Sisters.

Named after the bluish haze that appears to envelop the sandstone formations when seen from a distance, the Blue Mountains are a plateau of eroded gorges that rise close to 4,000 feet above sea level. You'll be free to explore the untamed mountainous landscape, which is teeming with wildlife.

Noteworthy attractions include Wentworth Falls, a mix of cascades and free-falling water, and Jenolan Caves, limestone formations and underground rivers that are technically part of the Oberon area but are easily reached from the Blue Mountains. You'll also discover picturesque towns and villages chock-full of cafés, shops, and art galleries.

After two nights at Lilianfels, you'll drive north for about two more hours to the heart of the Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest wine-growing and producing region; the industry dates back to 1832. The 35-room, family-owned Hunter Resort will be your home base for the next three nights. The 70-acre property boasts a collection of vineyards, a wine school, a cooking school, and the Blue Tongue Boutique Brewery, which makes six kinds of beer.

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A highlight of the trip is a two-hour educational tour of the resort's vineyard, crusher and winery. In addition to covering the wine-making process, the tour also includes a wine-tasting tutorial, during which you'll sample a selection of wines and learn how to blend them yourself. Upon completion of the tour, participants will receive a personalized certificate of wine appreciation.

Then it's back to Sydney, approximately two hours by car from Hunter Valley. You'll stay four nights at the 630-room Four Points Darling Harbour Hotel in a "city side" room, which, as the name implies, overlooks downtown Sydney. Note that the Four Points is offering a special promotion through September 30, 2008 that will let you upgrade to a room with a view of Darling Harbour at no additional cost, if space allows.

The Four Points, the largest hotel in Australia, is near Pitt Street Mall, the Queen Victoria Building, and Chinatown. Other popular Sydney sites include the iconic Opera House, Harbour Bridge, trendy Oxford Street, Woolloomooloo Finger Wharf, Surry Hills, and the National Maritime Museum.

Swain Tours also offers an array of optional tours, if you have the inclination and the budget, such as a coffee cruise along Sydney Harbour ($40 per person) or a city tour with a lunch cruise ($135 per person).

If you don't feel like embarking on the long flight home just yet, you have the option to extend your stay in Sydney for $245 per person per night.

For more tips on what to do in the area, visit the official tourism Web sites for Australia and New South Wales. Before you go, check the latest exchange rate, the local time, and the weather forecast at

Getting there: According to a recent search on Kayak, the lowest round-trip fares to Sydney in early April were: $1,296 from L.A. (Qantas), $1,385 from Seattle (multiple carriers), $1,457 from New York City (Qantas), $1,468 from Chicago and Houston (multiple carriers), and $1,515 from Miami (multiple carriers).

Summer fares are slightly higher, with June departures staring from $1,566 from L.A. (Qantas), $1,720 from New York City (Qantas), $1,766 from Seattle (United), $1,847 from Houston (United), $1,868 from Chicago (multiple carriers), and $1,965 from Miami (multiple carriers).

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

Photos: Awesome Australia

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  1. The sacred monolith of Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is located in Central Australia's Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which is a World Heritage site. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Be careful going down the road in Western Australia. There could be camels, wombats or kangaroos trying to cross. (Nick Rains / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A kangaroo stands next to a rare waterhole as sheep gather and look for food on a station near White Cliffs in the state of New South Wales. (William West / AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Tourists look at spectacular cathedral termite mounds in the Litchfield National Park near Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory. Often visible along the Northern Territory, also know as the "Top End" highways, they are amongst the largest mounds built by termites anywhere in the world and are reminiscent of mediaeval cathedrals. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A koala rests on a branch at Sydney Wildlife World, which features Australian flora and fauna set amongst natural habitats and ecosystems. Koalas feed almost exclusively on tough, toxic eucalyptus leaves, which they can digest because they have the longest gut for their size of any mammal. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Located near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, the East MacDonnell Ranges Aerial are part of the remains of mountains that once went as high as the Himalayas. The East MacDonnell's are more varied and less crowded than the more popular West McDonnell Range. (Brian Geach / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Visitors stand on a cantilever at the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk tourist attraction that overlooks rainforest and coastline in the center in the Illawarra region, south of Sydney, in Australia's New South Wales. The Illawarra region gets its special character from the way the escarpment meets the sea. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Pinnacles, ancient limestone formations, rise out of the sand in Nambung National Park. There are thousands of pillars in this Western Australian area, which offer photographers images at sunrise and sunset. (Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The Three Sisters jut out of the Blue Mountains near Katoomba, New South Wales. The character of the rock formation changes as the sunlight brings out magnificent color.
    According to Aboriginal legend, there were three sisters in the Katoomba tribe who were in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry. The brothers were not happy with this law and used force to capture the sisters, which caused a battle.
    A witchdoctor turned the sisters into stone to protect them from harm, but he was killed before he could reverse the spell. And so the sisters remained in the rock formation. (Lincoln Fowler / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The large leaves of the Canna x generalis flowering plant from the Cannaceae family display their unusual coloring in the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens. The Botanic Gardens were founded on their current site by Governor Macquarie in 1816 and is the oldest scientific institution in Australia, playing a major role in the acclimatization of plants from other regions. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A droving team heads off from camp during the Great Australian Cattle Drive preview on May 7, 2009, in Oodnadatta, Australia. The Great Australian Cattle Drive takes place July 30-Aug. 29, 2010, and offers the general public the chance to experience an Australian adventure. (Quinn Rooney / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Many residents of opal mining town Coober Pedy, Australia, live underground in dugout homes. The Underground Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the town's must-see sites and includes rock carvings in the walls, a high-roof ballroom-style design and stained glass windows. (Quinn Rooney / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A young indigenous performer during the Yeperenye Federation Festival on Sept. 9, 2001, in Alice Springs, Central Australia. The Yeperenye Festival involves traditional elders with thousands of dancers, artists, singers, musicians and spectators, who gather at Blatherskite Park on the traditional lands of the Arrernte people. It was one of the largest cultural gatherings of indigenous and non-indigenous people since colonization. (Matt Turner / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Mount Borradaile in the Northern Territory was inhabited for up to 50,000 years by aboriginal tribes, and it's cave walls feature some of the best examples of aboriginal art. The drawings show a huge range of dates and events. The mount and the surrounding Arnhem Land draw tourists from all over who want to see real Australian history. (James Fisher / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The wetlands of the Yellow Water area of the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territories are a mecca for wildlife and flora. The flora in the park is among the richest in northern Australia with more than 2,000 plant species recorded. The park is also considered to be one of the most weed-free national parks in the world. (Adam Pretty / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rex the crocodile swims in a tank at Sydney Wildlife World on March 29, 2010. Rex, a saltwater crocodile, was caught in the Northern Territory and moved to his current habitat in December last year. (Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Cows have the right of way on Norfolk Island, east of the Australian mainland, where motorists also take the time to wave to each driver they pass. (Lawrence Bartlett / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is a combination of a shrine, museum and archive, which commemorates the sacrifice of Australians who died in war. (Geoff Lung / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A giant statue of famed Australian outlaw Ned Kelly at Glenrowan, the location of his final stand, about 110 miles northeast of Melbourne. Long dismissed as tourist kitsch, Australia's "Big Things" -- giant models of everything from koalas to pineapples -- are now being heritage-listed and recognized as works of folk art. (William West / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Ghan railway, which runs from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north, offers travelers the chance to see great Australian landscapes through the country's Red Center. (Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Vineyards are shown in the internationally renowned Margaret River wine region in the south-west corner of Western Australia, situated between the two coastal capes of Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A rock climber heads up a dolerite stack known as Totem Pole in Tasmania's Cape Hauy. (Nick Hancock / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Beach-goers soak in the sun on the Gold Coast in Queensland. The Gold Coast is a favorite tourist area that features some of the world's finest beaches and lively nightlife. (Sergio Dionisio / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. American Kelly Slater performs a cutback during an aerial expression session on day one of Surfsho at Bondi Beach on March 12, 2010, in Sydney, Australia. (Cameron Spencer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off of Australia's coast offers one of the world's best places to snorkel. The reef is one of the richest, most diverse ecosystems and extends from the tip of Cape York in Queensland and goes south almost to Bundaberg. And it takes up an area larger than Victoria and Tasmania combined. (Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. These massive porites corals at the Great Barrier Reef are hundreds of years old. The corals are like trees in that each year a new band is laid down in their skeletons that record their environmental histories. (Jurgen Freund / Freund Factory) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Fish of all colors swim in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's northeastern coast. In January of 2009, Australia announced a crackdown on pollution of the Great Barrier Reef as the World Heritage-listed site comes under increasing threat from toxic chemicals and climate change. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Crimson clouds provide a beautiful backdrop during a match between Australia and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia. (Adam Pretty / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an iconic landmark in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales, with a population in excess of 7million people, is shown in this photo taken on May 26, 2009. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Sydney Opera House is easily one of Australia's most recognizable landmarks. The buiilding, on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbor, is a multi-venue performing arts center and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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