1st time visitor tour itinerary help needed

Mar 20th, 2002, 10:51 AM
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1st time visitor tour itinerary help needed

I've read through many posts and see many experienced people with great tips so I thought I'd ask for some help. My wife and I are 30 in the midwest of U.S. and want to come to Australia in September for 2 weeks. We are considering a tour, because we want everything taken care of for us (travel to and fro, hotels, but most importantly we want to listen, learn, and become educated about the sites we are seeing from someone who knows what they are talking about).
We also don't want to "miss anything". We want to spend little time in big cities (we have those in the U.S.) and more time with nature, animals, and natural wonders without backpacking and camping.
One tour we saw is Sydney up to Cairns with stops at about 5 coast/island areas. The other is Sydney, Uluru and Cairns but less time around Cairns.
Will we be missing too much of the "outback experience" if we just do the coast trip? Do you only see coast rainforests or is there still somewhere nearby to see some red rock desert scenes? You can tell I know little about your great land but thought I could start here to learn. We really like the idea of spending much time with acquatic life though. Help we are torn! Will we kick ourselves if we skip Uluru? Maybe we'll do it ourself (no arguments about tours vs. independent trips please) I am more interested in what not to miss in our 2wk dream vacation, regardless of how we travel. Thanks to anyone who considers helping us! Cheers!
Mar 20th, 2002, 11:33 AM
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If you live in the mid-west of USA then I would say that Uluru and the area around Alice would be a big YAWN!!!!! ( depending of course where in the mid-west you are. But if you have been to Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, 4 corners, Grand Canyon just to name a few then you will be disappointed with Uluru.
The tours you have suggested are far too in long in distance for a 2 week holiday, you would see nothing for very long and certainly you would miss most of the highlights i.e. the Great Barrier Reef which is a 2 week holiday on its own. Just the drive there and back from Sydney would neally take that long.
If you want us to comment on any tours then let us know which ones and we will check the itinery ourselves and make suggestions then.
Mar 20th, 2002, 11:49 AM
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Hi Brian-
We went last summer for 16 days and had some of the same questions as you. We had to fly into and out of Sydney, wanted to go to the GBR, and had to stop near Brisbane to visit family.

We wanted to see Uluru, but in the end, we realized that the transportation time to Uluru would take a minimum of 2 days so we skipped it.

I am really glad we did. We had so much fun, and had to make so many "this place or that" choices as it was, that I can't imagine losing 2 or 3 days from the ones we had. In addition, a lot of the activities you want to do take time...hiking, wildlife spotting, etc.

You might be able to squeeze more places in, especially with a tour guide moving you along, but may feel you're being rushed. Australia is so huge, doing all this would be like doing the entire east coast of the US, then tossing in the Grand Canyon.

We will go back to Australia someday... and that time we'll head west. A great book to read prior to going is Bill Bryson's, "In a Sunburnt Country (or land?)." He crams a lot of history, geography, and his own weird humor into this book. have fun planning!
Mar 20th, 2002, 12:06 PM
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Hi Brian, my two cents worth- I live in Australia by the way. The choice of whether you see Uluru is really up to you, but yes, it does take a chunk of time to get there and then back to the coast, so that would be a factor in your decision making.

Because of the long distances involved, if it were me, I'd choose cities and fly to them and then find somewhere nice to stay, and do short tours from each place. Have you considered doing it that way? I think taking up the whole 2 weeks with an ongoing tour might make you feel a bit rushed?

This is only my opinion, of course. And having said that, I'm wondering how that would stack up, cost-wise. But doing it this way you get to stop a little longer in places that really appeal to you, and move on from those that don't.
Mar 20th, 2002, 02:21 PM
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Hi, Brian!

I don't think you'll kick yourself if you miss Uluru.... after all, it's just a big rock, and while it is certainly in the outback, it isn't by any means the only outback experience, it's just one of the most isolated and expensive! (Moreover, it's so full of tourists that you may not feel you are getting a taste of what the outback of Australia really is... for that you need to travel to the outback towns where people actually live, and maybe stay a night with them at the town "pub".) With only two weeks to spare, I think you might be wise to concentrate on the coast areas, especially the Barrier Reef, which will be lovely at that time of year; if you really feel you must sneak a peek at inland Australia, take a day/night out of Sydney and fly to Broken Hill and back, or take a day/night out of Cairns and fly out to Mt Isa. You don't have to go too far inland in Australia before you start to see desert! But you will probably feel, after a few hours of this, that you'd just as soon say that you'd seen it now, flies and all, and it was time to get back to the blue waters of the east coast.
Mar 20th, 2002, 03:08 PM
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Thanks so much for the replies so far! The itineraries we are considering are similar to the Qantasvacations.com site or the Trafalgar tours. (we still may be adventurous and do it on our own, who knows).
The one we are leaning towards is:
13 days from Sydney, Coffs Harbor, Surfers Paradise, Brisbane, Fraser Island, Rockhampton, Hamilton Island, Dunk Island, Port Douglas, Cairns, Fitzroy Island.
Two other alternatives
One is: Discover Australia
11 Days From Sydney, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Cairns
Tropical Rainforest & Barrier Reef
13 Days From Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Gold Coast, Fraser Island, Rockhampton, Townsville, Port Douglas, Cairns
I don't know much about a lot of the stops up the coast but staying on the islands a few nights sounds good to us to snorkel and explore.
If you've been to these or would recommend one of the 3 itineraries, feel free, I'm always looking for advice. We know it'll be rushed but we want a sample of as much as possible for this first trip, then maybe more in-depth if we make it back again. Thanks again!

Mar 20th, 2002, 05:36 PM
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I am sure I will be corrected if I am wrong but I don't think you will find any snorkeling at the islands you mentioned unless you plan a boat trip for the days you are there. The first time we went to Australia we did a tour sounding exactly like the first one you described but it was with Australian Pacific. We loved it and learned so much and it was certainly relaxing to not have to think about anything and just relax and enjoy. You might find that the group will be a good bit older than you if that would make a difference to you. It is extremely easy to travel in Australia and everyone is so wonderful you just might want to go it on your own and pick up day tours wherever you wish. Check out www.oztravel.com.au - lots of information which may be helpful.
Mar 20th, 2002, 07:09 PM
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Hi Brian - I beg to disagree with some folks on Uluru. We were in Australia for 18 days 2 years ago. I planned the entire trip myself by looking a planned tours, message postings, a few guide books and 100s of hours on the internet (but I'm a "planning" freak - love it. We went to Sydney for 4 days with a day trip to the Blue Mountains for horseback riding, then on to Uluru for 2.5 days, then Cairns for 2 days and on to Heron Island for 4 days before ending in Brisbane. We love animals and the outdoors. Uluru was very memorable. Not just the Rock but the desert as a whole and the Sounds of Silence Dinner. We went to the Rock and did a walkabout with an aboriginal - very interesting!! Did a camel ride during which the guide taught me a lot about the fauna and flora as we went. If we had not wanted a good chunk of time at Heron we would have spent a little longer in Cairns. A hightlight there was our one day rafting trip on the Tully River - what a blast. We had been on the Colorado and Snake rivers plus some big river action in Alaska before the Tully. It is not a Class 4-5 river but the rapids were fun, exciting at times and the day was great!. Our day trip to the Daintree was nice but less memorable and exciting. We LOVED ever place we stayed - The Russel Hotel in Sydney, The Outback Pioneer in Uluru (I think the best because of the fun and relaxed atmosphere), Sebel Reef Hotel just north of Cairns (in Palm something Cove?) and Heron Island. We cannot wait to go back to Australia and do the west side. If you do go to Uluru - spend the money and go on the Sounds of Silence Dinner. If you are spending time in Sydney get a Sydney Pass - handy and worth it. Good luck.
Mar 21st, 2002, 02:38 PM
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I see that Taylor (above) is ANOTHER person who loved his stay at the Russell down at Circular Quay. Every time someone askes for a hotel recommendation for Sydney, you can bet that there will be half a dozen respondents recommending the Russell. I have never stayed there, but I have seen the place (a tiny but lovely very old building... only two floors!) and I have checked out the location, which can't be beaten. For anyone coming to Sydney, this little hotel, as different from the "chains" as chalk is from cheese, must be given serious consideration.
Mar 21st, 2002, 07:07 PM
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Hi Brian,
We're retired Australians and travel around Australian reasonably frequently. My recommendation would be to take the first tour you mention. If you go to Uluru, then you really should also see the Olgas, Kings Canyon and Alice Springs, and then of course, there is Darwin and the national parks around there. Do your coach trip from Sydney to Cairns this year - the places listed are good spots to visit - and come back another year to do Central Australia.
Incidentally, if you want to see outback Australia, you could take a coach trip from Cairns to Cooktown. Alternatively I think there is a day trip from Cairns out to a cattle station - I don't have any more info on that but I'm sure the visitors' information office could help. Another outback adventure from Cairns would be to the Undara lava tubes - I think you can do it as a day trip. That takes you over the Atherton Tablelands into real bush country.
Whatever you do, have a great holiday.
Mar 21st, 2002, 08:41 PM
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If you go to Alice Springs book a day ticket with the Aboriginal Mail Run. They do a couple of different trips a week. My husband went from Alice into Western Australia. This mail run drops of Mail, Groceries, picks up people who have to go to Alice, at Aboriginal reserves see a lot of the outback.
Mar 21st, 2002, 09:10 PM
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I agree with lcuy, read Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country" (He knows it should read "sunburnt" but uses "sunburned" anyway.) It gives some great, fun info on the country that you can't get in guidesbooks. I actually read the book AFTER my trip to Oz, and probably appreciated more. The people on the airplane kept getting irritated that I was laughing so hard.

My favorite place was Port Douglas...it really felt like a island, without those island prices!

Australia is a great country...you've gotten lots of great suggestions here. Enjoy!
Mar 24th, 2002, 12:14 PM
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Thanks ICUY and Mina for the book recommendation, I got it and can't put it down, it's hilarious. For the trip we've decided on Sydney up the coast to por douglas with stops at about 5 islands on the way. Thanks so much for the help. Now only if we could get a cheap flight. No luck there so far for Sept/Oct. Do you think I should wait until closer to departure and take my chances on finding a cheaper flight? I'm getting quoted $1800 US from the midwest to Sydney (seems a bit pricey to me). Thanks again to all!
Mar 26th, 2002, 10:09 AM
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Hi Brian
We just got back from Australia/NZ two days ago. For a more decent airfare try Abeltasman.com. We booked with them at #999 including 5 nites Sydney hotel. Hotel was super comfortable and downtown. We also stayed two nites at Quay West overlooking harbor and Opera House - for us LOVED IT!!
Sydney was super, great people, food, and easy to get around. Great Barrier Reef - we did Port Cove and loved it there too - lots to do - Uluru is mystical and expensive - sorry but that is my opinion. Each trip to the rock is another tour price and Sounds of Silence is expensive and a lot of bug bites. New Zealand has spectacular scenery - it just takes a lot of hours to get to each site. If you want everything taken care of a tour will do it and you'll also get up each morning and be ready to get on the bus again w/ your luggage.
Take a good trip AND plan on going back it's a fantastic country with some of the nicest people we've ever met and some of the best food ever eaten.
We saw Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne, Syers Rock, Cairns, Christchurch and Queenstown. We're going back!!
Mar 26th, 2002, 01:16 PM
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We too are planning a trip to Australia this December. We have 3 weeks and plan to spend the first week in Port Douglas (day trips) then the second week in Noosa (day trips) and third week in Syndey and the vineyards. We plan to fly to each destination via Qantas or Virgin Blue (Best prices) and then rent cars once we get there.
There's great artican markets in each place, train rides thru the rain forests and diving at the reef.
Check on diving and snorkeling conditions for your time of year, be on the lookout for killer jelly fish.
Apr 1st, 2002, 07:36 AM
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Brian, I would wait on the flight from US to Sydney. You can get a flight for under $1800 from Chicago closer to the date you are flying I would think, although I suppose it's nice to have the trip and flight planned ahead of time too.
Apr 1st, 2002, 03:13 PM
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United have good fares at this time. You may want to try bestfares. It is very often less expensive to buy your ticket from LA to sydney return and then a roundtrip domestic ticket. I have just been through this for a May trip.
Apr 1st, 2002, 04:01 PM
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Try the above site for fares.
Also you could probably come through Cairns and out from Sydney or the other way around.

Fares bought in USA are very expensive compared with others so check out the website and make note that its in Australian $
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:57 AM
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I'm off to australia in may. Just bought airfare from ny for $1098. Try out orbitz.com or Discover Wholesale Travel, [email protected]
1-888-768-8472. they have $940+ from la at least.
Apr 6th, 2002, 07:59 AM
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do you know anything about the housing? or what offends people

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