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13 day AUS trip in feb need advice on itinerary/internal tours with kid

13 day AUS trip in feb need advice on itinerary/internal tours with kid

Old Nov 21st, 2011, 05:12 PM
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13 day AUS trip in feb need advice on itinerary/internal tours with kid

we just booked our tickets to a 13 day trip to australia ( excludes travel days). This is a side trip we added to our family trip to India in feb/march. we will be flying out of Hong Kong Sydney and then back to USA. we will have full 13 days,need some guidance and advice in fine tuning our itinerary. we have always loved to travel on our own in the past and this forum has been of tremendous help in planning our several Europe trips before , once again i wanted advice on booking internal flights and day tours/packages i can book within Australia. DH doesnt want to rent a car this time, but we are not averse to driving, we are traveling with a toddler ( 3 year old) who has done 3 international round trips so far.

THis is a trip that we added last minute and usually i spend a lot of time doing my research/picking places/searchign forums and we enjoy doing indepedent travel but this time, since its last minute trip, we havent been able to do whole lot of homework. DH prefers going on a package tour once we are in AUS, but i prefer indepent travel or doing things at our own pace as that gives us the ability to pick and choose how long we stay in each place or skip/add attractions on the go or rest a bit if toddler is crancky. we dont mind booking local tours Or day trips. If you have any suggestion or tour operators we can refer to please share, i would really appreciate that.

THis is my initial itinerary but i am open to changes based on your feedback and advice. I know 13 days is not enough to see australia esp with a toddler, so we want to skip few places like Darwin/Red center in this trip and just stick to 3 main areas and come back to see what we missed in this trip at a later time.

Sydney ( 4 days)-> melbourne area ( 4 days) -> crains GBF ( 3 - 4days) -> sydney

Feb 16/17: travel days
Day 1: early morning 7am land in Sydney, rest day, take it easy
Day 2: sydney area (see most highlights in 4 days)
city sights, walking tour of rocks, opera house, etc)
Day 3: sydney ( take harbour cruise, Taronga zoo, etc)
Day 4: Bondi beach/ anything that we missed
Day 5: Sydney to Melbourne. Melbourne sight seeing
Day 6: Melbourne: sight seeing tours to view historic land marks
Day 7: Phillip Island etc
Day 8: great ocean road tours / gold cost
Day 9: Fly to Cairns, explore cairns
Day 10:1 day to explore rainforest/aborigial experience: kuranda train/sky rail
Day 11: 1 day Great barrier reef: take glass bottom boat cruise etc
Day 12 : where should i add this day?
Day 13: back in sydney, rest, see anything we missed.
Day 14: March 2nd:fly back to Hong kong early morning, rest overnight to break long flight @ Hong Kong
Day 15: march 3rd: fly back to USA

Do you think we should do the other way round, crains and then melbourne. I read that Feb is still rainy session in Crains/GBReef area, do you think we should still be able to get on a glass boat tour/cruise for viewing the reef, or should we go towards southern part of the reef to places such as Lady Elliot Is and Lady Musgrave. Should i add Brisbane or not?

any advice on places to see, or what is must see, what we can add/skip is much appreciated and also if you have links to tours/booking internal flights within AUS can you please share.

Thanks for your feedback.
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Old Nov 21st, 2011, 10:52 PM
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Day 8 - I'm hoping that's a slip of the fingers & not an indication of Great Ocean Road and Gold Coast (Qld).

It's a long day to do a full day organised tour of the Great Ocean Road (GOR) and might not be such a great thing with a 3 year old. I know you said your husband isn't keen on driving, but I really think that would be your best option for day trips. That way, you can vary your schedule to fit in with him/her if necessary. And he/she will drop off to sleep in the car between stops.

Cairns: I'd keep Day 12 free in case the weather doesn't suit the reef trip on Day 11. Lots to see & do up there - just don't be too tightly scheduled & give yourself a little flexibility. The weather gods and toddlers don't always heed our timetables.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2011, 02:00 AM
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I think the basic outline of what you have is pretty good.

Day 3 - forget the "harbour cruise". Take the ferry to Manly (from Circular Quay) - about 30 minutes - walk up the Corso to the beach, have a coffee/breakfast/lunch, depending on the time of day, sit and people watch, take the ferry back. You'll see Sydney harbour from that trip and it's far better/cheaper than any "harbour cruise"

If you go to Taronga Zoo, you can get a combined ferry/zoo ticket (ferry leaves from Circular Quay).

As Bokhara2 has pointed out, for day 8, the Gold Coast is in Queensland, and an hour or so south of Brisbane (and 800 miles from Melbourne)

Day 7 - I live in Melbourne but have never been to Philip Island. A long way to go to see a cute bunch of penguins come ashore. If I was here for a week, it would be worth the effort (it's a fair drive from Melbourne) but on a tight itinerary, I would give it a miss - YMMV.

Cairns. Stay in Palm Cove (25 mins) or Port Douglas (1 hour), up the coast from Cairns. You'll get different opinions around here as to the attractiveness of Cairns but for me, it has no attraction (it's a dump) and the beach resorts to the north are far nicer. Do the Kuranda train/skyrail - well worth it, I think. Take the train up and the skyrail back. Wherever you're staying can arrange it for you (pick up/drop off at your hotel etc.). Likewise for reef trips. As Bokhara2 suggests, an extra day in the itinerary is useful in case the weather doesn't co-operate on the day you want to go to the reef.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2011, 03:09 AM
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Oh, please tt7, just more general ignorance so often displayed here about Cairns. Have you been to Flecker Botanical Gardens, Lake Morris, Lake Placid,the Wooroonooran rainforests (larger than Daintree a bit south), Frankland Islands?


I've actually chosen to live near "dump", and couldn't be happier. Cairns is a great little regional city, sure it has its problems, but it's not entirely devoted to tourism with schools, hospitals, government departments providing local employment etc and an amazing cultural diversity which you are not likely to find in the more sanitised highly touristed areas.

Anyway, wanderlust, Bokhara is right, you haven't left enough time to begin to guarantee good reef weather with such a brief stay, so good luck. If all else fails take your 3 yo to Muddies playground on Cairns Esplanade, little kids just love this.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2011, 09:38 AM
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Thank you all for the quick response and advice. Like TT7 said. i will take the ferry to Manly instead of cruise.

guess i got it wrong about gold coast, i will drop that, as we are not planning to fly or go anywhere close to brisbane, as we are already seeing two cities sydney and melbourne.. so i dont see the need to visit brisbane in such a short trip.

Sure i was planning to keep 4 days anyways to cairns area, so i will use Day 12 for that, like you all suggested an extra day in this area wouldnt hurt.

about philip island, do you really think that its a lot of driving to see penguins? is it not worth? i was hoping we can take day thours from melbourne?

btw what about blue mountain day trip via some tour operators while we are in sydney? i know its a lot to do in 4 days, but i have kept day 1 as rest day and last day just to fly back from cairns area to sydney, so i can add 1/2 tour for sure, but if its too demanding for my daughter, can cancel, thats the reason i want to plan independently and do the trip on our own than going with tours, as that gives us the flexibility like Bokhara2 suggested...

toddlers and schedules might not go well at times.. so keeping extra time than normal at each place, as i know 1/2 day goes away just in airport transfers/flight to new cities.

Btw is it worth spending a day towards full day organised tour of the Great Ocean Road ? should we rent a car for that day and if so how expensive are renting cars vs going with tours.. if its a scenic drive, i prefer renting car and stopping at places.. any advice/links would be helpful
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Old Nov 22nd, 2011, 02:07 PM
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I knew if I disparaged Cairns I could rely on pat_woolford to immediately leap to its defense and suggest all the great things to do!

As for the reef, were you intending to go snorkeling? It's usually a 1+ hour trip out from Cairns to the Reef, depending on where you go. Some of the trips take you out to a permanently-moored pontoon, from which you snorkel. Others may take you to an island, such as Michaelmas Cay - http://www.oceanspirit.com.au/ - where they take you ashore and you snorkel off the beach. I'm not sure where your 3 year old is in the swimming stakes but having the beach to snorkel off is probably a lot easier than trying to drop them into 20 feet of water off a pontoon ... I've done the Michaelmas Cay trip and there were certainly plenty of young kids around. These trips usually also have a submersible vessel of some sort so those who don't want to get wet can see the reef (and even if you do go snorkeling, the submersibles are usually well worth it). Most reef trips depart from Cairns but wherever you stay will be able to arrange it for you, including pick-up and drop-off at your hotel.

If you do the train/skyrail to Kuranda, I would take the train up and the skyrail back. There are usually 2 trains up in the morning - that gives you a 'fixed' starting time to your day, which suits most people. Unlike the train, the skyrail runs continuously so if you take that back down, you can just leave whenever you've had enough, without being tied to a fixed train time back. When you get off the train, take the free shuttle bus to the top of the village and visit Birdworld (http://www.birdworldkuranda.com/) and the Butterfly Sanctuary (http://www.australianbutterflies.com/).

I'm not sure what weather you are used to but a word of caution - the Australian sun can fry you in the blink of an eye, so wear hats and sunscreen at all times.

Phillip Island is a bit of a drive - about 2 hours. Lots of information here - http://www.penguins.org.au/ According to the site, they are currently coming ashore about 8.15pm. When you go to leave .... so does everybody else, so getting off the island can apparently be a bit tedious. It's probably possible to find overnight accommodation in the area which might make it easier - though maybe the 3 year old will just fall asleep on the way back to Melbourne.

Some suggested "Melbourne Activities For Kids" can be found here - http://www.onlymelbourne.com.au/melb...s.php?id=11362. The Healesville Sanctuary is in the Yarra Valley so you could combine a trip there with a visit to some of the wineries, if that is of interest (to you, if not the 3 year old!). Several of the wineries can provide a decent (sit-down) lunch. The Yarra Valley is about an 1+ hour drive from Melbourne.

That list of suggested kids activities also includes Puffing Billy steam train, which may be of interest. It starts in Belgrave, which is about an hour on the (not-as-interesting commuter) train from Flinders Street Station in Melbourne.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2011, 05:41 PM
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Well tt7, I guess if I told you that you choose to live in a dump you'd spring to a defence too):

By the way, Ocean Spirit has very recently been sold to Australian Cruises, and has received very bad local publicity for not honouring a local deal. New brochure and website in pipeline, haven't seen them yet, so can't comment on the trip or price.

Both Passions of Paradise and Sea Star also visit Michaelmas Cay, as well as outer reef sites, where snorkelling is better. Sea Star takes only a max of 30 people.

Yes, the Kuranda Train Skyrail trip is very popular, but for those not interested in mass tourism there are other rainforest alternatives. Such as www.wildernessecosafaris.com out of Cairns, Kevin takes a max of 7 passengers, often less, and takes you off-road where no other tours go.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2011, 07:40 PM
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Here is my 2 cents worth:
Cairns is not a "dump" as one poster put it, it is a tropical regional town/city with a port and its the centre for the surrounding sugar industry and other agricultural adventures. Because it has a good infrastructure it was made the centre for the tourist trips and tours long before Palm Cove and Port Douglas was ever thought of.
Actually I have been to Cairns about 15 times I guess and I always stay there in preference to other "touristy" places around because there are lots of activities in Cairns, it has heaps more restaurants, tours, trips, activities, hotels and other accommodation etc etc there and I love the relaxed atmosphere of the town and its people.
I vote for Cairns too and I vote for local knowledge before anything else.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2011, 10:25 AM
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Driving the Great Ocean Road's fine. I think you said you'd prefer to hire a car. That's fine. Only suggestion. But it means more time taken up with this part of your trip. Maybe stay the night in Apollo Bay, or somewhere down there?
And then drive back another route so you see other things? Just a suggestion. And yes, the Yarra Valley is worth a trip too. ALOT closer to Melbourne, and sooo much to do.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2011, 04:10 PM
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Thank you all for the feedback responses.

we are not going to snorkel as i am not a swimmer and only my husband can and my daugther is just starting to swim, so i would prefer going on reef cruise/tours for non swimmers. I might just try doing a bit of first time diving/snorkeling that they provide in reef magic or quick sliver cruises.

whats your take on this?

http://www.quicksilver-cruises.com/
http://www.quicksilver-cruises.com/wavepiercer.htm 205$ /102$ child , transfers available from PDouglas
http://www.reefmagiccruises.com/ ,180$/90$ child

Also i looked up online for day trips from melbourne and found some info.

atwad has 1 day great ocean tours and philip island tours

http://www.atwad.com.au/tour_gor.html

i might skip philip island if its going to be too stressful and if we have to hire a car just for that. will i be missing anything if i skip philip island?

Thanks
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Old Nov 23rd, 2011, 04:13 PM
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Also i am yet to book hotels and was narrowing down to following hotels for sydney lodging options

Intercontinental
Quay West
Shangri-La
Russell
Sydney Harbour B&B
Marriot Sydney Harbour


i havent called anyone of them yet,as i got very busy at work, plan on doing so this tomorrow, i truely hope its not too late as i know hotels get booked early on, but i didnt have a choice, as we thought of doing Australia trip as a last min trip . we are not looking at 5 star hotels, just a place to rest, which is clean, has its own shower so we dont have to share and central to all sights/tours so we dont have to take cab/taxi all the time or rent a car.

if you have any other recommendation please let me know.

Thanks again
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Old Nov 24th, 2011, 03:22 PM
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Of the hotels you mention I only know the Shangri-La a bit and it is very fancy - I think you'd enjoy your stay there. Amazing views! On the downside, it's in a street (Cumberland St) on the top of a big hill, so think whether you'd want to drag yourself up there at the end of the day. I do think the accommodation and views would be worth it, though.

Lavandula
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Old Nov 25th, 2011, 07:45 PM
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Phillip Island's worth a trip there. Im just not sure if it's worth sacrificing another part of your trip ( around Melbourne of course )for. There's much to see on Mt Dandenong and as Ive previously mentioned, the Yarra Valley. In the Yarra Valley, you also have The Healsville Sanctuary, that's like a zoo. But only with animals, that you find only in Australia in very natural surroundings.
Phillip Island's something you do if you have alot of time, or you've been here before.
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Old Nov 26th, 2011, 03:09 AM
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There's a lot more to Phillip Island than the penguins, charming though they are and, having been there a couple of times now, I think it's well worth a day and night. http://www.visitphillipisland.com/

For example: Churchill Island http://www.penguins.org.au/index.php...9&mytabsmenu=4

Take a boat from Cowes and see one of the world's biggest seal breeding colonies http://www.phillipisland.net.au/attr...se/cruise.html

The Koala convervation centre: http://www.penguins.org.au/index.php...1&mytabsmenu=3

There is plenty to see and do; an abundance of accommodation and dining options ... and it's all an easy 2 to 2 1/2 hour drive from Melbourne, depending on whether you take the picturesque Mornington Penninsula or inland route.
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