3 week first anniversary trip - advice please!!

Old Aug 24th, 2008, 12:48 PM
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3 week first anniversary trip - advice please!!


We're planning a 3 week trip to Australia and would be really grateful for some Fodorite input!

Some background: we're in our early 30's, live in the UK and are unlikely to be able to visit Oz again - so we want to see as much as possible without exhausting ourselves! We're not bothered about going to Ayers Rock and, due to time constraints, have decided to skip Perth.

In particular, I was wondering whether April or May is better, weather-wise, on our route? Have we missed out anything major / could we omit anything?

The rough plan is:

1 day: travel from UK
3 days: Sydney
1 day: Blue Mountains
1 day: Hire a car and drive up the coast to Brisbane
2 days: Brisbane and around
1 day: 'Sunlander' train to the Whitsundays
2 days: Whitsundays
1 day: Drive up the coast to Cairns
4 days: in and around Cairns, including a trip to the Great Barrier Reef
1 day: Fly back to the UK
2 days: Singapore (en route)

Thanks in advance
RosieRR is offline  
Old Aug 24th, 2008, 03:03 PM
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Ok you have 3 weeks and would like to see as much as possible. I would say that April would be better than May bet there is not all that much difference. Firstly I would make it 4 days in Sydney because you will need one just to settle in and get over jetlag. If you really want to see as much of this country then have one day going up to the Blue Mountains, and another perhaps integrated with the Blue Mountains to see the Southern Highlands around Berrima, Bowral and the Kangaroo Valley which would then include an overnight stop. Skip driving to Brisbane but instead fly to the Gold Coast and spend a few days seeing the hinterland of the Gold Coast and the Border areas of the Gold Coast and N.S.W. and Byron Bay etc. Get to Brisbane airport either by train or bus and fly to Whitsundays and have more days there. However I would be more inclined to fly direct to Cairns and spend at least 5 days in and around that area because there is so much to see other than just the reef. The biggest problem with getting to the Whitsundays and then to Cairns is the cost of travel because it is not a normal stop en route to Cairns and all the specials either go to Whitsundays or to Cairns. Alternatively you could fly into Brisbane from Sydney - rent a car, seeing the hinterland of the Gold Coast and Northern NSW etc and then drive to Brisbane and further on to say the Australia Zoo at Beerwah and then drive around the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast and check out the scenic areas of the coast there. Fly from Brisbane to the Whitsundays - from Whitsundays get into Prosepine ( short bus trip) and pick up the Sunlander en route to Cairns if its not a dreadful time of the day to get the train. Then you will have spent more time in interesting areas without the boring drive and the boring parts on the train. If you do go by train from Whitsundays then perhaps you could factor in a trip over to Hinchinbrook Island from Caldwell for the day as its a very diverse and lovely island and there really is not anything else like it anywhere else up there.
LizzyF is offline  
Old Aug 24th, 2008, 03:16 PM
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I think you may need to re-assess your driving times.

You will have a very long day's drive from Sydney to Brisbane - it's about 950km and takes around 12-13 hours with fuel stops only.

I think you'd want to allow time for some detours & stops to make the drive worthwhile and see something other than the Pacific Highway which, while passing through some quite lovely scenery occasionally, is essentially just that - a transit route and a long one.

Likewise, assuming you're taking Proserpine as your Whitsunday point, it's about 600km to Cairns and that will take around 8 hours.

There's a handy link at Google which gives maps, driving routes & approximate times. Just Google "Driving Directions" and follow the links.

April used to be our most reliable month weatherwise, but these days it's hard to predict. That said, it's Autumn and a lovely time for travelling; cool evenings & mornings & warm days. As you'd expect, it gets warmer the further North you go.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Old Aug 24th, 2008, 06:02 PM
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I got back from an incredible Australian vacation two weeks ago (I just posted 90% of my trip report but it is very long -- you should probably skip down and read about Port Douglas though - this may be in Part 3 - I added by adding a response.)
I recommend staying at the Taj Blue in Sydney because it is the least expensive of the 5 star hotels and is extraordinary.
In Port Douglas, I recommend dinner at Sassi's at the Bale' resort if you are willing to spend $80./person. It is really nice.
I strongly recommend Wavelength snorkeling tour of the Great Barrier Reef. Please skip down to where I talk about it in my trip report - I think it is in Part 3. Wavelength is such an extraordinary outfit. I also recommend Hartley's Crocodile Farm - it is a great Australian wildlife park as well as a lot of Crocodile-type fun. Also I recommend you make a dinner reservation before you leave at Salsa's in Port Douglas. I was not able to get in, but I am told it is fabulous. If you go to Karanda then (1) leave the car in Cairns and take the Skyride and (2) Be prepared to shop - bring a list of all Australian goods that you want to pick up.
I have one more comment. If you take the skyride Karanda and Hike for a little while at one of the two forest stops, the Blue Mountains may be sort of redundant and not necessary. The BLue Mountains are basically a very pretty foresty area, but the forest lookouts on the way to Karanda were just as magnificant. This frees up a day in Sydney to do the opera tour, a vip tour at Taronga, and maybe even get tickets to Billy Elliott (unless you already saw it in London). One more thing - Do NOT, I repeat do NOT eat at AKi. I love Indian food but did not like Aki at all.
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Old Aug 24th, 2008, 11:10 PM
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The differences between the temperate eucalypt forests growing in sandstone country around the Blue Mountains and the tropical rainforests growing along the escarpments near Kuranda are so different that I do not know how one could compare them. They are both forests, they both have steep slopes, trees have leaves ... Rosie RR, do both, you'll not regret it.
Sorry to be sarcastic SkaiSW to one who was so nice about our national character but did you have your eyes and/or nose open?

I would go for the flying rather than the driving option. A lot of country to cover and if you are not into the subtilties of the landscape ...

More likely to have dry conditions in the north in May than April. Don't forget the Atherton Tablelands in your planning as that is where you'll see lots of wildlife in the wild if that means something to you.

Of course a guide will improve your experience and I recommend Carol Probets in the Blue Mountains and Alan Gillanders on the Atherton Tablelands.
Saltuarius is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2008, 02:17 AM
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Thanks, all - that's really helpful and you've given me a lot to think about!

Just a few questions for now:

- Which are the best websites for cheap internal flights? In particular, from what you say, we will probably try to fly from Sydney to Brisbane.

- Lizzy, which are the 'boring bits' of the drive from the Whitsundays to Cairns so I can check on a map and try to avoid them?!
RosieRR is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2008, 05:51 AM
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Hi RosieRR,
The 3 internal carriers are:
Qantas - www.qantas.com.au
Virgin Blue - www.virginblue.com.au
Jetstar (subsidiary of Qantas) - www.jetstar.com

Virgin Blue has a 'Happy Hour' 12 noon - 1pm AEST and they often have specials.

There's another website - Webjet, where you can get fare comparisons, book etc. Right now, there's fares of $75 one way Syd-Bne. www.webjet.com
Bokhara2 is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2008, 06:27 AM
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You cannot avoid any boring bits because there is virtually only the one highway ( road ). Once in the Whitsundays its not too bad from there to Cairns but its still 500 miles - Whitsundays to Townsville is not fantastic as is the next 100 klms after that till you get to Cardwell - from there on its OK into Cairns. The one way car rental drop off fee could be expensive and add to that the petrol and accommodation and it could be expensive. I, myself, would prefer to either fly or go by train, if you cannot do the former then at least you are relaxed doing the latter.
LizzyF is offline  
Old Aug 26th, 2008, 02:21 AM
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I just came back from a four week trip to Australia and though it was not exactly the same as yours it has some similar moves.
Three days in Sydney seem fine.
The Blue mountains, in my opinion , are very nice but do not deserve a day that you could use in the northen beaches and the national park just above.
Driving up to Brisbane seems a lot of driving. remember gasoline is 1,6$ per liter and car rental plus insurance may be expensive, plus eventual cost of car drop. The cars they rent have big engines for european standards.
In Cairns we stayed at Palm cove and really loved it.
We did not go to Brisbane but went to Uluru (the ones that have visited avoid calling it Ayers Rock)
And found it fantastic, i have to say that I had a lot of hesitation about doing this part of the trip and the result was a great visit.
Loving place Oz.
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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 09:00 AM
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RosieRR- Your trip sounds great! I got back a bit ago from a similar trip (3weeks etc) I really wanted to drive between Sydney and Brisbane because I wanted to SEE the country. Due to much advice on this site, we flew from Sydney to Brisbane, rented a car there, drove around, returned it at the airport, and flew to the next spot. Note: I didn't like this plan when we came up with it, I was sure we would miss out on EVERYTHING because we weren't driving. Well, as I have learned, Fodorites are pretty smart. I am SO glad we flew!! We saw lots of the country driving around (up to Fraiser Island, and over to Mt. Warning) Brisbane for a week. WE were happy to fly the long distances. Fuel is spendy, but what got us was the exorbent price of rental insurance. The insurance was twice the cost of the rental! We found cheap flights on virginblue and jetstar to get us in-be-tween. Hope this helps, and have a great trip!!
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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 04:35 PM
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Good that you're considering a flight rather than drive Sydney to Brisbane given time available, and other than that your program looked quite reasonable and for sure if you had another week, or two or three, you could start looking at a lot of other options mentioned.

It seems a pity to come all this way on what as you say could be a once in a lifetime trip and only allow yourself three weeks and I would do everything you can, even taking leave at half pay if that was possible (hopefully all who have jobs will still have them next year!).

As to April/may, I would definitely be opting for May as though seasons vary year by year (global warming aside), Australia has been in a ten year or so drought and right now for the first time in at least five years in this part of Qld. where I am now, we are having good tropical intensity rains when it has been bone dry and last couple of years has seen rain extending well into the year, going back a bit to longer wet seasons of old.
May will be humid enough up north, real sweaty like when just doing some normal walking, and April would have it oozing out of you.

If anything, I would be limiting time in Sydney to three at most including Blue Mountains or not, a great city for visiting it is, but do make the effort to have a few days in the Whitsundays by trimming Sydney and Cairns if necessary - do a sail - http://www.ozsailing.com.au/ - press your toes into talcum powder sand at Whitehaven - http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=e...cr%3DcountryAU and maybe even have yourself taken with camping gear for an overnight camp on your very own beach or you could do worse than to stay at www.hookislandresort.com

It is experiences there that could leave you with far lasting memories than trapsing around the more crowded touristy spots of Cairns.
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