Exploring Oprah's Australia on Your Own Dime

Hikers moving up Ayers Rock in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia. Frommers.com Community
By Charis Atlas Heelan

She came, she saw, she conquered.

You may have heard that Oprah Winfrey recently descended on Australia, causing a media storm that will likely generate millions of tourism dollars when her four-part "Ultimate Down Under Adventure" special airs early next year.

Here's how to follow in the talk-show queen's footsteps -- albeit not flying there in a private jet or accompanied by an entourage of 200 production crew and 300-plus audience members.

Photo Caption: Hikers moving up Ayers Rock in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia. Photo by JessicaLMaurer/Frommers.com Community.
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Koala at Hamilton Island Wildlife Park in Queensland, Australia. Andrew Parnell
Oprah's first stop was Hamilton Island, a major resort area in the Whitsundays on the Great Barrier Reef. The TV goddess stayed at the ultra-luxurious Qualia Resort (www.qualia.com.au), where room rates start at A$950 per night.

Everyone else can experience the island by staying at the more affordable Palm Bungalows (www.hamiltonisland.com.au/palm-bungalows), from A$314 per room per night.

Round out the trip by cuddling a koala at Hamilton Island Wildlife Park (www.hamiltonisland.com.au; A$20 for adults, A$10.50 for children).

Photo Caption: Koala at Hamilton Island Wildlife Park in Queensland, Australia. Photo by Andrew Parnell/Flickr.com.
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Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, Queensland. Frommers.com Community
A pristine stretch of almost four miles of white sand awaits you on Whitsunday Island, where Whitehaven Beach is often considered the country's most beautiful.

Although you can't stay there unless you camp, you can visit by ferry (as Oprah did) aboard Fantasea Adventure Cruising (www.fantasea.com.au). A day cruise departs from Airlie Beach and spends three hours each on Hamilton Island and Whitehaven Beach (A$140 for adults; A$55 for kids).

Photo Caption: Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, Queensland. Photo by girlunmapped/Frommers.com Community.
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Aerial view of Ayers Rock in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia. Frommers.com Community
Get a bird's-eye view of the Uluru monolith with a helicopter ride (www.ayersrockresort.com.au, from A$240 per person). Experience the Kuniya Walk at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with an indigenous Anangu guide (www.ananguwaai.com.au; A$69 for adults, A$35 for children).

If you want to be nearby, stay at the Ayers Rock Resort (www.ayersrockresort.com.au), from A$225 per night at the Outback Pioneer Hotel. Dine under the stars with the Sounds of Silence Dinner, a BBQ buffet of authentic Australian delicacies like barramundi, kangaroo, emu, and crocodile (A$159 for adults; A$82 for children).

Photo Caption: Aerial view of Ayers Rock in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia. Photo by cweisberger/Frommers.com Community.
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Illuminated boats along the Yarra River, Melbourne. Frommers.com Community
Stroll along the Yarra River -- though you likely will not have Australia's Prime Minister escorting you as Oprah did -- and check out the funky architecture and museums at Federation Square before shopping and people-watching in the up-market Toorak area.

Bed down at one of the three Crown hotels (www.crowncasino.com.au/hotels), from A$210 per room per night at Crown Metropol.

Photo Caption: Illuminated boats along the Yarra River, Melbourne. Photo by Caitlin83/Frommers.com Community.
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Sydney Opera House. Frommers.com Community
The city renamed the Opera House "Oprah House" in honor of the talk-show queen and emblazoned the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a massive "O." Although you may not necessarily get the same treatment, you can climb the famed bridge (www.bridgeclimb.com; from A$198 for adults, A$138 for children) and tour the Sydney Opera House (from A$29.75 for adults; A$20.85 for children).

Sail around Sydney Harbour (www.sydneybysail.com, A$150) -- sorry ladies, Russell Crowe won't be joining you. Stay at the Intercontinental (www.sydney.intercontinental.com), from A$293 per room per night.

Photo Caption: Sydney Opera House in the city's harbor. Photo by Alex Gonzales Baguio/Frommers.com Community.
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The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road-Australia Andrew Akeroyd
Oprah split her 302 audience members into groups and sent them to visit destinations like Great Oyster Bay, Tasmania; Daintree National Park, Queensland; the Twelve Apostles and Philip Island, Victoria; Hunter Valley, Byron Bay and the Blue Mountains, New South Wales; Canberra; Perth and Margaret River, Western Australia; and Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

You can navigate these destinations on your out with our Australia destination guide or pick up a copy of a guidebook to Sydney, Melbourne, or the entire country.

Photo Caption: The Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road outside of Melbourne, Australia.
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Qantas plane Simon_sees
Yes, Oprah flew on a private jet, but for us regular folk, there are several airlines that make the journey non-stop from Los Angeles or San Francisco to cities on Australia's east coast: Richard Branson's V Australia (www.vaustralia.com); United Airlines (www.united.com); Delta (www.delta.com) and Australia's flagship carrier, Qantas (www.qantas.com).

Round-trip airfares start at around $1,000 including taxes (non-stop from Los Angeles), depending on the time of the year. You can even find seasonal specials for around $700.

Photo Caption: Qantas plane at Sydney Airport. Photo by Simon_sees/Flickr.com.
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