More airlines than ever are flying the nonstop route between Los Angeles and Sydney. They bring with them state-of-the-art aircraft, friendly and efficient service, a variety of travel classes for those willing to spend that little bit extra, and in many cases, an unusually generous luggage allowance. It all helps make the journey more comfortable than ever before.
Yet, there’s still that 15 hour duration, which as nice as the flight might be, still dampens the enthusiasm of far too many Globetrotters who’d otherwise love to visit on an Australia vacation. Since the land Downunder is one of our favourite destinations (and my former home, so I make no apologies for being biased), this simply will not do.
After numerous trips between Australia and North America, I’m now pretty used to the cross-Pacific flight (great for catching up on movies if you’re not able to sleep on planes). Still, if you’re not convinced, want to take things easy your first time out, or just want to add a second country to your Downunder adventure, there are now more routes to Sydney available than ever! Here are five of our favourites to help rest your flying legs while enhancing your travels. We’ve also included the flight times for each option.
Entry airport: Honolulu
Airline: Hawaiian Airlines
Flight durations: 6hrs 10mins from LAX, 10hrs 35mins HNL to Sydney (Total: 16hrs 45mins)
By the numbers, a quick Hawaii stop cuts your long-haul flight by almost a third, even if it’s not the shortest route in total. While it’s a still domestic trip for US Globetrotters, a Hawaii vacation in many ways feels like visiting another country, since the state spent much of its history as a separate kingdom, and many aspects of its culture remain distinct from the “mainland.” Like most of the stopovers on this list, a few days in Honolulu isn’t really enough time to fully immerse yourself in Hawaii, but it’s a good start. Visit the Arizona Memorial Center for a sobering glimpse at this pivotal moment of WW2. Tour the USS Arizona and Pearl Harbour, and visit the National Memorial Cemetery. Hawaii’s history far predates this of course, and a tour of Honolulu will put at least some of it into perspective, taking you to the only Royal Palace in the United States, and to the statue honouring Kamehameha, Hawaii’s first king. A few hours on Oahu’s beaches will then leave you refreshed and recharged for that Sydney-bound flight!
Entry airport: Nadi (pronounced Nan-dee)
Airline: Fiji Airways
Flight durations: 11hrs 30mins from LAX, 4hrs 45mins NAN to Sydney (Total: 16hrs 15mins)
Bula! You’ll hear this greeting frequently in Fiji, most likely as soon as you step off the plane. That’s how seriously the Fijians take hospitality toward visitors, including those on their way someplace else. Few destinations can compete with this island paradise as a tempting Australian stopover. Fiji is also a favourite getaway with Australians, so it might make you feel right at home Downunder before you even arrive. There is a concept called “Fiji time” that can make getting around the islands a somewhat “relaxing” experience, so it’s probably wise to stick close to Nadi if you’re only planning a short stay. Still, by the time you’ve flopped beside the pool, enjoyed the cooling breeze of a trip out to the smaller islands, or experienced the immense warmth and generosity of the Fijians, we doubt you’ll mind very much! Don’t miss going on an island cruise that takes in the beauty of Fiji’s natural coral reefs either.
Entry airport: Auckland
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight durations: 13hrs 5mins from LAX, 3hrs 35mins AKL to Sydney (Total: 16hrs 40 mins)
Both culturally and geographically, New Zealand is perhaps the most logical add-on to an Australia vacation. Just don’t be fooled into thinking you’re in for more of the same. New Zealand’s remarkable history, geography, and strong Polynesian roots, including its long-standing tradition of manaakitanga (mutual respect and hospitality) create a culture all the country’s own. Auckland in particular embodies the best of both worlds when it comes to nature and quality of life. Built on an isthmus separating the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean, Auckland is a city where unspoiled rainforests thrive just minutes from downtown. You can immerse yourself in Maori history, capture views of New Zealand’s two coasts from the one spot, and enjoy a day out on the bay in the City of Sails. It’s all about lifestyle in Auckland, so feel free to explore the city at your leisure, or leave the skyline behind and sink your feet into the cool, volcanic sands of the west coast.
Entry airport: Narita or Haneda (both Tokyo)
Airline: Japan Airlines
Flight durations: Approx 12hrs from LAX, 9hrs 40mins TYO to Sydney (Total: 19hrs 40mins)
There’s no denying Japan is out of the way on your Australia vacation, but this most unconventional of routes to the land Downunder is oh, so worth it! If you want a stopover in stark contrast to Australia – or anywhere else, for that matter – Tokyo is your dream destination. Still alien to westerners in many ways, yet utterly intuitive and extremely enjoyable, Tokyo is one of those great world cities you have to experience once in your life. The attractions in the world’s largest megalopolis are surprisingly low key, so snap your photos at Senso-ji, the Imperial Palace, and Shibuya’s eye-popping scramble crossing, then simply explore. Get lost in the consumer utopia of Roppongi Hills, geek out like an otaku in Akihabara, shop until you drop in Ginza or Harajuku, and enjoy a night out Japanese style in the tiny pubs of Shinjuku. By the time you leave, you’ll probably want to make Japan your next big trip!
Entry airport: Hong Kong
Airline: Cathay Pacific
Flight durations: 15h 50mins from LAX, 9hrs 20mins HKG to Sydney (Total: 25hrs 10mins)
Okay, deeeeep breath. This is a long one! Nobody comes to Australia through Hong Kong to cut down on flight times, but there are some major benefits, not the least of which is top notch service in every class aboard Cathay Pacific. This route adds one of the world’s most exciting and satisfying city breaks to your Downunder trip – satisfying because Hong Kong packs a lot of must-try experiences into a relatively tiny land area. Eat your way through family restaurants and learn about the city’s most atmospheric neighbourhoods on a progressive “foodie” tour. Bask in the beauty of the city’s temples and perhaps have your fortune read. Bargain up a storm at the night markets of Temple Street. Catch the nightly Symphony of Lights along the harbour’s skyline, and of course, take in the incredible view from majestic Victoria Peak. While you could spend months exploring all Hong Kong has to offer, it’s possible to leave satisfied after a few days. Just don’t be surprised if you immediately start planning a return trip.