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Need help for Dec.-Jan. Australia trip--Melbourne, Tazzie?, KI?, GBR

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I was amazed to find frequent flier seats for family of four (young adult daughters) next Christmas. Now what to do? Arriving Melbourne Dec. 26, with 14 full days in Oz before departing Cairns Jan. 10. Trip is a graduation celebration for younger daughter, an environmental scientist. What we want to see most is quintessential Aussie nature/wildlife, but also culture/history. We're not beachy and don't need much city time.

We like staying at least 2 nights in each location (more where needed) so we get a feel for a place and aren't always moving. But we also don't know when we'd be back so we want to have as many don't-miss Aussie experiences as we can. A balancing act.

Yes, it's not the best time of year for GBR, but rest of family (I don't dive) really wants to see it. I figured we'd spend most of trip in the south. How much to bite off? Is 3 or 4 days enough for the north--to do GBR and Daintree when it's hot and rainy? If so, what can we reasonably do with 10 days in the south? Though our Fodor's guide has an itinerary that fits Melbourne, Tasmania, and KI in that time, I'm worried it'd be hectic with too much time (and expense, esp. w/luggage issues) on planes or ferries. Or is that reasonable? How much time should we be in each place? What experiences should we be sure to fit in (e.g., Phillip Island penguins)? If we do go to KI, should we drive via Great Ocean Road (how long total?) or fly to Adelaide? (I read some posters who likened GOR to California coast, which we've seen a lot of, but it also sounds beautiful.) If it's not enough time to do it all, do we leave out Tazzie or KI?

Any and all suggestions are welcome, as I'm still in the "my head is spinning" stage. With Fodorites' help, I'm sure we'll have an incredible time.

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