GETTING THERE: Qantas Airways has nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne. For a December flight from Washington via Los Angeles, the fare is about $2,500 round trip; in March it drops to about $1,400. United operates nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Sydney, with continuing service to Melbourne. Several other airlines have code shares with Qantas and United. We flew from Melbourne to Adelaide on Virgin Blue for about $150 each way, but fares are much cheaper if booked weeks in advance. Info: www.virginblue.com.au.
WHERE TO STAY: In Melbourne, we liked the modern Chifley off Little Bourke Melbourne (11-17 Cohen Pl., 011-61-3-9662-3422, www.chifleyhotels.com) in the heart of downtown and Chinatown. Rooms and suites start at about $130 a night. Melbourne has an extensive network of trams, which makes the sprawling city easily accessible from this downtown location.
In Adelaide, we stayed at the Hilton Adelaide (233 Victoria Sq., 800-HILTONS, www.hilton.com) for about $130 a night, including buffet breakfast.
WHERE TO EAT: The Flower Drum (17 Market Lane) is the most celebrated Chinese restaurant in Melbourne, and although incredibly expensive (lunch was $175), every dish was perfection -- from the lobster and cream to the Peking duck and sauteed fillet with black pepper sauce. If I could eat only one meal in Melbourne, I would make it the Flower Drum. Ocha (156 Pakington St., Kew), also in Melbourne, is a tiny Japanese restaurant (35 seats) with impeccable and innovative sushi. We snagged two seats at lunch without a reservation, then begged our way into dinner reservations the next week. Lunch for two about $75.
Ezard at adelphi (187 Flinder Lane) is one of the top places in Melbourne for Modern Australian, which is in fact a fusion of the many influences on cooking here, including Chinese, British, Thai, Japanese and even Middle Eastern. Dishes include scallop tarts, oxtail dumplings and sumac-spiced lamb in pomegranate syrup. Lunch for two about $140. O'Connell's (407 Coventry St., South Melbourne) is an old pub transformed into a more affordable venture into Modern Australian cuisine. Lunch for two about $75. The Lincoln Hotel (91 Cardigan St., Carlton) is a classic pub with the menu listed on a blackboard, including such items as duck bastilla. Two can eat well for $40.
In Adelaide, the Universal Wine Bar (285 Rundle St.) is the place to taste some of Australia's best wines, and the food is good, too. Dinner for two about $75. Jolley's Boathouse Restaurant (Jolley Lane) overlooks the moat-like river that encircles Adelaide. The stuffed zucchini flowers and tempura prawns were two of the best dishes. Lunch for two about $100. Nu's Thai (117 Gouger St.) has as many seats on the sidewalk as inside. It's a favorite with local chefs and offers authentic Thai food at down-home prices. Dinner for two about $60.
TOURING WINERIES: Most "cellar doors" are open daily from 10 or 11 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. But openings vary, so check local listings. There are signs along the main roads directing visitors to the wineries, but markings are better in some regions than others. Tours and samples are generally free.
* In McLaren Vale (about an hour south of Adelaide): Foggo Wines, Lot 4 Foggos Rd, 011-61-8-8323-0131, www.foggowines.com.au; Wirra Wirra Vineyards, McMurtrie Rd., 011-61-8-8323-8414, www.wirra.com.au; d'Arenberg Vineyard & Winery, Osborn Road, 011-61-8-8323-8206; Fox Creek Wines, Malpas Road, 011-61-8-8556-2104, www.foxcreekwines.com; Kangarilla Road Vineyard and Winery, Hamiltons and Kangarilla roads, 011-61-8-8383-0533; Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards, Kays Road, 011-61-8-8323-8201, www.kaybrothersamerywines.com; Tapestry Wines, Olivers Road, 011-61-8-8323-9196, www.tapestrywines.com.au.
* In the Barossa Valley (about an hour north of Adelaide): Kaesler Wines, Barossa Valley Way, Nuriootpa, 011-61-8-8562-4488, www.kaesler.com.au; Peter Lehmann Wines, Para Road, Tanunda, 011-61-8-8563-2100, www.peterlehmannwines.com.au; Rockford Winery, Krondorf Road, Tanunda, 011-61-8-8563-2720, www.rockfordwines.com.au; Torbreck Vintners, Roennfeldt Road, Marananga, 011-61-8-8562-4155, www.torbreck.com; Trevor Jones Fine Wines, Barossa Valley Way, Lyndoch, 011-61-8-8524-4880; Two Hands Wines, Neldner Road, Marananga, 011-61-8-8562-4566, www.twohandswines.com.
INFORMATION: For info on South Australia's wine region: South Australian Tourism Commission, www.southaustralia.com. For general information visiting about Australia: Tourism Australia, 800-723-1400, www.australia.com.
-- Nancy Lewis