2 weeks in Australia - itinerary help please

Feb 16th, 2009, 02:06 PM
  #1  
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2 weeks in Australia - itinerary help please

We live in Sydney, and 6 months ago hosted a French exchange student for 2 months. She had such a good time, the whole family now want to come back (Mom, Dad and kids aged 10, 15 and 17). 17 year old speaks some English, but none of the rest. They have written to us and asked for help in planning their itinerary. It all seems so much in so little time that I thought I would ask you guys for some help - I think we will ring them over the weekend and discuss options - our daughter speaks French thankfully. Any ideas welcome, please!

Initially they planned to fly into Melbourne and drive along the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. We suggested including Kangaroo Island here. About 4 or 5 days later the plan was to fly to Brisbane. They are now reconsidering the Melbourne / Adelaide part of the trip. They have not said why, but I can only imagine it has to do with the buishfires - although I don't believe that area has actually been affected by the bushfires. So instead they are now considering flying into Perth for 4 or 5 days. They suggest Perth, Fremantle, Bunbury in the south and Cervantes / Pinnacles in the north. Then from either Perth or Adelaide they will fly to Brisbane. (I think they are planning on checking out a university there for their daughter). Then drive Brisbane to Sydney, including places like Byron Bay, Port Macquarie and Port Stephens. Port Stephens was our exchange student's most favourite place!! (and we took her to Port Douglas, Dubbo, Blue Mountains as well when she was here). Then finish off with 3 - 4 days in Sydney.

I last did the Great Ocean Road some 20 years ago, so I am rusty on that, and have never been to Kangaroo Island. I have only once been to Perth (Margaret River area) and while we had a nice time, I would not think of it if I only had 2 weeks in Australia. Brisbane to Sydney .... have not holidayed that strip for quite a while. I am not a fan of either Port Macquarie or Byron Bay, although someone told me the other day that Yamba is lovely.

Timing - they plan for October 24 to November 9 - not sure if that includes flying time from France.

I don't want to let my ideas and prejudices (or even lack of knowledge) spoil their plans, so I would appreciate help from fellow Fodorites.

Just for background, they live inner city in Lyon during the week and in Macon (more the wine region) over the weekends. Father does not like crowds - generally they like to take walks in the country and seem to enjoy outdoor pursuits. Daughter LOVED Australian beaches.

They have also asked for hotel suggestions bewteen Brisbane and Sydney, and around Manly when in Sydney. As we tend to be apartment holidayers, we are light on with knowledge.

All help appreciated.
PRLCH is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 02:18 AM
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Hi PRLCH, I feel your pain!

Had the same experience this time last year for a family of five from Europe who wanted advice/recommendations for their 17 day “trip of a lifetime” to Australia. Lucky for me, at least all spoke some English – the three kids (15, 18 and 20) were actually the most fluent. Their original itinerary was so ambitious and my emphasising that it was impossible to achieve all their ‘highlights’ and remain sane resulted in almost aggressive responses on their part. So I ended up taking huge steps back with the ‘advice’ and found lots of accommodation websites and travel forums in their own language for them to make up their own minds (ie: responsibility for success) on the trip planning.

They shrunk their original ideas to ‘only’ exploring Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle and Surfers Paradise and were all slightly demented by the end! They did concede even their curtailed itinerary was too ambitious but were adamant - with forced chimpanzee-like grins – they had a ‘challenging adventure’ (but when we met them towards the end of their ‘adventure’ half the family were no longer speaking to each other and they all loathe, loathe, loathe airports!)

You have the added difficulty of no common language other than your daughter’s translating and trying to help people you don’t know, oh my I don’t envy you!

So if it’s just two weeks less travel time from/to France, that’s really just 12 days – so I’d advise two destination ‘bases’ from which they can do day trips – for the relaxing, non-crowded, laid-back section of their trip Port Stephens would be ideal and a plus as it’s your exchange student’s favourite place - for beaches, nature, great bush walks, surfing, day trips to the Hunter Valley vineyards (there’s also a little zoo on Nelson Bay Road), the Barringtons, Myall Lakes etc.

If they land in Perth, (our friends stayed at Cottesloe Beach) three days there before flying to perhaps Sydney or Brisbane(it’s a five/six hour flight, so there’s another day gone) then three days there and then on to Port Stephens (2.5hr drive from Sydney) for the remaining 4/5 days.

Wouldn’t even consider the Brisbane to Sydney drive – it’s approx. 13hours non-stop (with 3 kids in the backseat!) so at least two days driving if it’s to be in any way bearable, and that still means driving 6hrs a day, so very little time to enjoy exploring any townships on the way.

Good luck!

FurryTiles is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 12:04 PM
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The bushfires were nowhere near the GOR but on the otherside of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley region. I am sure they would love the GOR drive to Adelaide and after that would really have no need to go to KI. Add Phillip Island and Penguin Parade to Kangaroos (GOR), Koalas (Phillip Island & GOR), Seals (PI) and spectacular scenery on one of the world's great coastal drives.
DownUnder is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 04:39 PM
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Thanks DownUnder for confirming what I thought to be the case regarding the bushfire areas.
FurryTiles - you are not filling me with confidence here, but you did make me smile with your account. Looks like we will have to have a family conference to decide what we should tell them
PRLCH is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 04:48 PM
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It's a bit hard ain't it when they are expressing different ideas from one side of the country to another.

I suppose if they are flying Emirates they could fly into Perth and no doubt a few other airlines could via Singapore and so Perth for 4/5 days and Margaret River winery country sonds good and if anything I'd suggest they stick with the SW corner, a drive around to Esperance being possible, some beach country on way as well and then the forests on the way back with tree top walks, farm stays etc.

Mel will possibly be along to link her recent trip report but perhaps could also give a highlights summary.

Given the interest Brisbane way and getting back to Sydney, a flight to there sounds about right and though there are plenty of options out of Brisbane, Lady Elliot and Fraser Island Packages, Australia Zoo, Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island, Mount Tamborine and Lamington National Park for O'Riellys or Binna Burra to get to see some rainforest but if they want to check out the University scene, they'll need to allow time for that.

Driving from Brisbane to Sydney can offer beach locations more peaceful than BB, Southwest Rocks and then at Forster/Tuncurry there's dolphin swim trips and if its countryside Dad likes, plenty of farmstays on northcoast/hinterland and maybe even a winery, perhaps one out Mudgee way would be less touristy than Hunter Valley.

Though the fire season is not necessarily over yet, a fair portion of Yarra Valley vineyard country has been spared at this stage, and then you have Mt Macedon and Mornington Peninsula regions as well as Clare and Barossa Valleys/Adelaide Hills etc.

Victoria and SA still remain very dry and hopefully there'll be some good rains throughout the coming months but nothing is guaranteed as you know and WA is also likely to still be dry.

But if they swing back to the eastcoast, doing an Adelaide to Melbourne trip via GOR, Mornington Peninsula, Phillip Island, The Dandenongs and Yarra Valley is possible in 5-6 days, then fly to Brisbane and back to Sydney.
Haven't been to Kangaroo Island myself either but another regular poster here was not really impressed and they're going to have their time cut out whatever they do.

Tell them to have a look at sites like www.travelmate.com.au to get an idea of land distances and www.webjet.com.au for flight times.
Bushranger is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 12:21 AM
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So sorry PRLCH, certainly didn’t mean to sap your confidence with posting my experience. I do apologise.
FurryTiles is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 12:30 PM
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Don't take it to heart FurryTiles - my comment was meant in good humour. You just confirmed in your post what I (sadly) felt to be true in my heart.

Thanks also for your input Bushranger. I will sit down with my map, their proposal and all your comments and "do my homework".
PRLCH is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 06:25 PM
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Relieved to hear my experience of itinerary-planning for our European ‘family’ only served to confirm what you “(sadly) felt to be true in my heart” and not as a confidence-depleter, PRLCH

It was posted more as a reality-check as I know how responsible I felt if any of my recommendations turned out to be a disappointment or even disaster, lol.

We have – with great triumph and many joyful memories - travelled the globe as a family of five with our three kids, from the time they were babies through to teenagers and young adults, for the past twenty-five years so do know first-hand some of the planning/expectations pitfalls.

[As an aside, one of our trips included Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls, plus safari in Hwangi, and another Maritius – and just checking your Profile (great addition to the new Fodor’s!) see your recent Trip Report! Five weeks, I note from the title, wink – way to go! And two teenagers! Just glimpsing your itinerary, see you deserve Master Planner stars on both shoulders, so much of the info below is now probably preaching to choir, but will post it anyway as it may be of help to others. Off now to enjoy all your TR details.]

Good idea to ‘homework’ your ideas with a map plus times and distances; what I recommend you keep in mind when nutting out your ideas ....

*Flying in from Europe they will ‘lose’ a day crossing the International Dateline (regained when returning) and all will suffer jetlag to different degrees. So ideally, especially if they’re not breaking up the long, long flights from France with a 24hr ‘recovery’ stopover in say Singapore or Bangkok – their first Oz arrival location should be minimum 2 nights accommodation.

I tried to explain to ‘my family’ that the effects of jetlag should not be trivialized (can take 3-6 days for the bodyclock to adjust) but they were convinced the ‘excitement’ of being in Oz would overpower any jetlag symptoms and crammed too much into the first leg resulting in bad karma/frayed tempers for the rest of the trip. Their 3 kids (16, 18 & 20) were older than your family’s (10, 15 & 17) and asserted their ‘adult independence’ to opt out of planned excursions to just hang out in the hotel room; if the parent planners had included jetlag/flight ailments/exhaustion after 24hrs of travel into their planning, this could perhaps have been avoided.

*You have the added difficulty of not being able to explain your thoughts to the French family other than through the two teenage interpreters – and to extend that obstacle, the young daughter of the French family will of necessity be the one who has to interpret/guide the rest of the family throughout their entire trip. Fun maybe for the first couple of days, but soon gets old – even fully-matured adults have been known to baulk at constantly having their own plans (even something as simple as having a long shower/shampoo/nap) sabotaged by Freddie needing an interpreter to buy a new thingum for his whatchamacallit. Or Dad needing driving sign/navigation instruction interpreting.

*Try to find out the main priority for their trip – it sounds as if checking out Unis in Brisbane for daughter is the magnet, so perhaps most of the time/focus should be on Brisbane – checking out unis, if it’s more than just driving past the campuses, is pretty time consuming and once again, if the parents want an interview with enrolment/information staff at the various Unis, the interpreter/time factor raises its head.

*You’ve mentioned their idea of independent driving trips (GOR and Bris-Syd) and from our experience, three kids in the back seat for hours and hours of driving is not conducive to relaxing/fun exploration! Even if the scenery is stunning, after a while, hey they’ve seen it, I’m hungry, I need a toilet, I feel sick, she’s taking all the room, are we there yet? If the family have made long driving trips and lots of accommodation changes (where they don’t speak the local language) with great success before, then of course the above doesn’t apply, and oh how I would love to know their secret!

*The Dad doesn’t like crowds, so is all advice/planning targetted to his preferences? What about the Mum, and most importantly, what about the kids – especially given the disparate ages of young teenagers and a 10 y.o.? Bet the kids would love (crowded) Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo north of Brissie, the (crowded) theme parks on the Gold Coast etc., and if so, maybe a compromise of the Dad doing for example, a nature walk on Mt. Coot-tha whilst the rest daytrip to an adventure park? If they all have mobile phones, then it’s much easier to accommodate the different ‘wish lists’ of individual family members, although with only one speaking English they may be obliged to do everything as a group. Maybe the Dad and Mum do know some English from school but are perhaps shy about using their rusty knowledge? If so, this would make your helping with an itinerary and their own research on different tourist/accommodation options so much easier.

Guess this is probably ‘too much information’ but it’s given in the spirit of attempting to help both the French family and yourself in achieving a truly wonderful Aussie visit for them and not as a disincentive or confidence-downer.

Feel free to pick my brains!
FurryTiles is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 12:37 PM
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Thanks everyone. Daughter had a long chat with them over the phone, and we have a better idea now of what they want. No Melbourne or Adelaide - mainly because they have decided they definately want to see "the desert". Now don't ask me why WA versus the Red Centre etc - I don't know. They want to go to Brisbane because they "want to swim"!?!? Dates are not finalised, so it is still unclear whether they have 14 or 16 days in Australia. Briefly, it seems something like this is the plan:
Day 1 Perth / Freemenatle
Day 2 Rottnest Island
Day 3 Pinnacle/ Cervantes (wildflowers?)
Day 4 Kalbarri National Park
Day 5 Back to Perth
Day 6 To Brisbane
Day 7 Explore Brisbane
Day 8 Byron Bay
Day 9 Coffs Harbour
Day 10 Drive to Port Stephens
Day 11 Port Stephens
Day 12 onwards - Sydney

If that is too crowded, they can leave out Rottnest Island or Kalbarri, or cut a day out of the trip to Sydney.

All in all, I don't think it is too bad - they are moving around a lot, but at least they don't seem to be covering horrendous miles every day. I am sure the kids will love the beaches, so if the weather obliges they will probably enjoy coming down from Brisbane. While they are targetting quite "touristy" towns, this is probably better for them given their limited English.

So thanks guys for your help.
PRLCH is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 12:40 PM
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Oops, sorry for the typos. That should read Freemantle and Pinnacles!
PRLCH is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 01:39 PM
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Rottnest Island for a couple of days woould be a great "jet-lag" recuperator location and if they haven't flown long distance before it should be mentioned to them rather than they consider doing any driving on our right/left side of the road too soon.

And if they want red centre, I'd suggest they skip Pinnacles/Kalbarri [a mad rush in 1-2 days] and fly Perth to Uluru and then Uluru to Brisbane.

On touristy towns being better for people with limited english, it can be kind of the opposite for in touristy towns everybody can be so busy not to be too interested to 'chat' but interested in raking the $$$ in.
Smaller towns are more likely to have friendlier people but with limited time they have few options.
Bushranger is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 01:57 PM
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Hi PRLCH -

Please make sure these folks know that Kalbarri Nat'l Park is 591 kms north of Perth. That's 6-7 hours by car or a 1.5 hour flight. Kalbarri is a good place to see wildflowers from July-Oct, but then so is Kings Park, which is right here in Perth!

The Pinnacles are 245 km north of Perth on the way to Geraldton.

I think the WA portion of their trip is insane.
Melnq8 is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 04:41 PM
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The problem with Australia--and the US has the same problem with tourists here is that people from overseas want to see everything at one blow. Impossible! Of course, we all know people who try to do the same thing in Europe or elsewhere.

The world is a big place and you can only see little pieces wherever you go in a trip of a couple of weeks.

by the way, I spent 6 weeks in Australia July-August 2008 and I only got as far north as Fraser Island and as far south as Sydney. I did two home exchanges and, due to the exchanges, was centered in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. I went to Sydney before I got to the first home exchange. It was a fabulous trip but there is so much I did not see. Gotta go again, I guess!
LaurenKahn1 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 06:55 PM
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LaurenKahn1 - you are right - the country is so big and people just don't comprehend that. We even gave them a map of Australia with Europe superimposed on it, but people just don't comprehend the distances and time taken to get from A to B.

Bushranger and Melnq8 - I have passed on your comments. They may drop Kalbarri but I know that for them the Pinnacles is non-negotiable. I appreciate your help. Just because I live in Australia does not mean I know anything about Western Australia. In fact we have only ever been there once - had a good time, but we have never felt the urge to return. (Very sorry to all those Western Australians - this is not meant as a dig - it is just that we have not spent enough time there to get to know its highlights).

Once again, thanks to all for the input. I hope the final itinerary works well for them.
PRLCH is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 09:44 PM
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They all want to do these trips "to see it all". In Europe they get Eurail passes and end up learning what all the train stations in the big cities look like but they never stay in any city long enough to see what it looked like. In the US and Australia they do it with planes. Then they go home exhausted and can't even remember where they've been.

Unfortuntely, it takes a lot of travel before you realize you actually see more if you take it easy and go to less places. By the way, I was perfectly satisfied with my 6 week trip where I only "did" Sydney to Fraser Island. I flew from Sydney to Brisbane. The rest was done by car. I will either go back some day or I won't. There is so much to see. I'd have to go to Australia 5 times to really make a dent in it. I'd love some more home exchanges there sometime. This year, however, I'm exchanging in Finland.
LaurenKahn1 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 09:52 PM
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Mlnq8 has commented on the WA section (woops, ‘insane’), and Bushranger with some added input re the hazards of jetlag and driving on the left, and Lauren with the 'vastness' of Oz input, so I’ll just comment on the east coast section with which I’m more familiar.

Don’t forget, there’s a whole ten months before their planned visit in late October, so plenty of time to revise and fine-tune the itinerary and for them to read some guide/info books on Oz - and perhaps for the four non-English speaking members to take a basic course in English, which would not only be such an asset on their visit here, but also in daily European life, as English is without doubt the new Global Language – however much the French protest this fact!

From the proposed itinerary you posted:

“Day 6 To Brisbane
Day 7 Explore Brisbane
Day 8 Byron Bay
Day 9 Coffs Harbour
Day 10 Drive to Port Stephens
Day 11 Port Stephens
Day 12 onwards – Sydney”

If you break down this section into detail, this is the reality:

Day 6 – to Brisbane from Perth. Good to have an entire day for this travel, as apart from the 5/6 hour flight, they may also need to transit through Sydney or Melbourne, plus they will lose a couple of hours due to time difference.

Day 7 – one day to ‘explore’ Brisbane because they ‘want to go swim’ . What can I say.

Day 8 – drive to Byron Bay. Depending on the hassle/time to get out of Brisbane through its pretty notorious traffic snarls, this is the kindest leg of the Brisbane-Sydney trip at just 170km/2hrs+ driving time.

[We’ve done the Syd-Bris drive many times, and although it’s a ‘coastal road’ there are only a few glimpses of the ocean during the 1,000 km journey and to enjoy the views/beaches, they’ll need to take side roads off the Pacific Highway. We actually came to prefer the inland route.]

So best scenario, they’ll arrive after lunch. Then an afternoon to ‘explore’ BB and a single overnighter before continuing on the next morning.

Day 9 – drive Byron Bay to Coffs Harbour, about 250kms taking about 3.5 hrs.
So arrive Coffs with only the arvo to ‘explore’, single overnighter before continuing on to Port Stephens.

Day 10– drive Coffs to P.Stephens, over 400kms and around 5.5 hours.
Best possible arrival would be late arvo, so it’s good to see at least here they’ve planned a two-night stay in PS before continuing on to Sydney

Day 12 – drive P.S. to Sydney, 210kms, about 3 hours, but add on time with traffic snarls at the end of the F4 freeway, so arrival in Sydney would also be arvo.

Doesn’t look real appealing for first-time visitors with three kids on a relatively short visit, niet? My suggestion for this six night section of their trip would be:

Day 6 (late arvo), 7, 8 to morning Day 9 (3 nights, 2 days) - explore Brisbane and surrounds. No beaches in Brissie, but there is a man-made lagoon with some sand in South Bank, where they could also take a Rivercat ferry trip along the Brisbane River.

Morning day 9, days 10, 11 to morning Day 12 Fly Brisbane/Newcastle (just over an hour’s flight) and then on to the Nelson Bay area (about 30 mins). They could hire a car at Nctle airport to tour Port Stephens and surrounding areas.

Three nights in PS – in day 9, out day 12, fly Newcastle-Sydney (about 35mins) arrive Sydney about mid-day.

Then rest of day 12 to 14 (or 16) (2 or 4 nights) exploring Sydney before departing Sydney for home.

FurryTiles is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 10:03 PM
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Oops, premature 'submit' there, quick ... call the 'clinic'

Or an alternative option altogether, bearing in mind that arriving in Oz will entail minimum two long, long flights (between 9 & 12 hours, depending on their route which probably includes a Heathrow connection – oh blah!) factoring in jetlag their ‘beach/swim’ preference:

Beaches and swimming: Day 1 to morning Day 6
Fly into Cairns international airport, spend five nights exploring the GBR, relax and de-jetlag; diving, snorkelling on the reef, tropical rainforest, beaches etc and all the unique wonders this area offers.

Desert and perhaps a wildflower or two:
Day 6 arvo to Day 8 morning
Fly Cairns to Uluru, two nights to explore this amazing area
Fly Uluru to Brisbane

Day 8 arvo to Day 11 morning
Three nights in Brissie, but not ‘to swim’ as they’ve got their beach fix in FNQ, lol – but seems to be an important destination in their route.
Fly Bris to Sydney –

Day 11 arvo to departure day
remainder of holiday exploring Sydney, three/four nights depending on whether their trip is 14 or 16 days.

This way, they would experience our Big Three (bit like Africa’s Big Five wink): The Reef, The Rock and the Opera House/Bridge and hopefully, a suitcase full of great memories.
FurryTiles is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 10:53 PM
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Sounds like a reasonable plan to me Furrytiles, sure hope they listen.

What the heck is 'arvo'?
Melnq8 is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 11:16 PM
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g'day Melnq8

arvo = afternoon

not part of Perth colloquialisms?

Oh my, just saw that "the Pinnacles is non-negotiable" so there flew my 'alternative option' over the cockoo's nest
FurryTiles is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2009, 12:47 AM
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I never would have guessed it meant afternoon. Hadn't heard that one yet. Guess I need to get out more.
Melnq8 is online now  

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