Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Australia & the Pacific (
-   -   5 Weeks in Australia (

JessicaRDH May 11th, 2009 03:36 PM

5 Weeks in Australia
I am planning to go to Australia for 5 weeks beginning August 10, 2009. On my list of must sees are Sydney, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. I have been to both Sydney and Byron before. I plan to stay at the Sydney Central YHA and at the Beach House in Byron (I know that the Beach House is on the total end of the spectrum from YHA...but I've stayed there before and I don't think it gets better than that! --their breakfast is fabulous!)
Because I have 5 weeks to cruise around I would also like to make it up to the Great Barrier reef. Where do you recommend staying there? (I think I'm looking in the mid-price range, possibly a YHA but I think I want more solo time up there). Also, before heading to Byron and then the Gold Coast I'd like to stay in either Melbourne or Adelaide, flying in from Sydney. I have reviewed a variety of Australia books but am still indecisive at this point as to which would be the better choice. Can you help me with this?
I am an outdoor lover, and love the beach. I come from Hawaii and am looking for similar pristine waters, but with nightlife/a bit of city life. Laid back metropolitan is my style.
Also, any pointers in regards to length of stay in any of the places I have listed (with regards to my 5 weeks total trip) would be greatly appreciated.

Bushranger May 11th, 2009 08:19 PM

Melbourne and Adelaide are debatable as far as having Hawaii style pristine waters for they are not exactly surrounded by ocean, Melbourne being at the head of a huge bay with bay beaches, no surf and Adelaide being on a Gulf of types, again limited suf and August for both will be as about as cold as it could get for you - not exactly beachy weather!

Adelaide is a lot smaller, limited with nightlife and for that Melbourne is the place and it has just as many if not more outdoor potential, some areas like the Dandenongs being reachable by public transport and there's also reasonably priced tours to places like Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island and Wilson Promontory though there was a big bushfire there in summer which will have blackened a large section of the NP.

Good news is there are cheap flights between Melbourne and the Gold Coast with and Byron Bay is just a couple of hours away by bus.

For the GBR you can go as far north as Cairns [good nightlife] and the region has more to offer than just the reef or you could just go as far north as , and the LEI/Fraser Island Combo you'll find under Bookings may appeal, also whale watching season and Hervey Bay is Capital for that.

Cairns of course will be warmer [not hot] whereas further south will be a bit on the cooler side[not too cold, ~15-20C during days, ~5-10C at night].
You can drop ~5-10C of those temps to get an idea of what Melbourne or Adelaide will be.

I'd say depending on what you want re weather and what it'll be like, 2-3 weeks for Sydney, south and GC/Byron seems good and then you'd have time to do LEI/Fraser, maybe Agnes Water for Lady Musgrave Island on GBR or Rockhampton/ or Whitsundays and Cairns area.

Great Botanical Gardens at Rockhampton, complete with a free mini Zoo section, complete with Crocs and Cassowaries.

If it was I and seeing as you've already been to Sydney and Byron, you could restrict yourself to say 2.5 weeks for first section and then another 2.5 weeks would allow you ample time for possibly all places in Queensland and warming up as you headed north.

ivenotbeeneverywhere May 11th, 2009 10:58 PM

Bushranger - Have you been to Rockhampton? How AN
YONE could recommend Rockhampton is beyond me and that goes for Great Kepple Island as well. Rockhampton is Australia's 3rd worst town with a stinking climate and is an embarassment. I personally would not go the extra distance and go to the Whitsunday Islands if they could not go to Cairns. Its probably cheaper to get to either the Whitsunday Islands and Cairns than some of the more out of the way and second rate areas in the south.

Saltuarius May 11th, 2009 11:04 PM

One can take solo time at a youth hostel.

Head to Cairns and then see if you want to take group trips out to the hinterland or do it by yourself. Third possibility is to pick up a step aboard guide but that might be a bit much by yourself although you do get great value for monsy in that everthing is tailored to your interests.

ivenotbeeneverywhere May 11th, 2009 11:33 PM

I meant to say that I WOULD GO the extra distance to the Whitsundays or preferably Cairns

Bushranger May 12th, 2009 06:41 AM

Yours is but one opinion long name and a stinking climate!, in September and GKI as far as beaches go is up there second to only Whitehaven [just my opinion] and yes, I've been there and have no issue with anyone going there nor it not being to their liking, even without using Capitals.

And hey Salty,
a re-read [ (I think I'm looking in the mid-price range, possibly a YHA but I think I want more solo time up there). ] and you might see that it's a YHA or solo time somewhere else.

And Jessica, re places for solo time you ought to check out some of our caravan parks that can have little cabins at about $50/60 for one that time of year and parks often in great settings right on a beach or estuary/lake.
For Cairns area, give a thought to as they have a backpackers style section over there, whole resort just having had a remake, not sure if Bps is done yet but was scheduled and because it is a bit away from Cairns nightlife, you may still get some solo time there, a couple of beaches, one clothes optional and snorkelling off the beach.

There's no beach right in Cairns itself and you have to head out of town a bit, there's being a few smaller northern beaches villages on way to Palm Cove and then Port Douglas, Trinity Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Half Moon Bay and Ellis Beach from memory, maybe no backpackers except for PD and maybe PC by now but you can find some reasonably priced good value three star type places, probably be plenty of stand by offers about and it could be Ellis from memory that is an idyllic strip of beach, possibly a caravan park with cabins there and you're not all that far from Cairns. is another place you may want to try for a couple of nights.

And on the way heading north, also give thought to checkig out Noosa on Sunshine Coast, though that may be long name's second worst smelly climate place!

Neil_Oz May 12th, 2009 01:27 PM

Rockhampton? ROCKHAMPTON? Surely you jest, Bushranger.

Jessica, I'd recommend Melbourne over Adelaide for nightlife, urban vibe and surrounding attractions, but certainly not for its beaches. The weather will be brisk in August but not unbearable as long as you pack a few warm clothes.

If you're not planning on renting a car it would be best to stick to reasonably sized urban centres. This rules out places like Ellis Beach and certainly caravan (trailer) parks, which tend to cater to the motorised mum-and-dad brigade.

pat_woolford May 12th, 2009 03:02 PM

Bushranger, the new Hunt resort at Fitzroy opened in December, 2008 and closed in April, 2009, due to dispute with builders. Don't bother to look it up, its official website is temporarily closed. Several weeks ago all guests were evacuated as both generators failed, and this from a brand new resort. There is some doubt that Hunt will not be able to meet its obligation to house some 500 Victorian bushfire victims, free of charge, as promised. It was a nice idea. Fitzroy is still available as a day trip out of Cairns with Raging Thunder.

Ellis Beach is almost impossible to get to without a car, the Cairns metropolitan bus route stops at Palm Cove, and Ellis is north of that. And there's nothing to do there at night.

Jessica, for night life you'd be better staying in Cairns city when in FNQ, all ranges of accommodation from YHA's, backpackers, up to 5 star. Cairns is an excellent hub for reef, rainforests, Tableland trips. There is no surf as in Byron Bay and Gold Coast, North Queensland's beaches are protected by the Great Barrier Reef; but do be aware that August is our winter, and coming from Hawaii you may find beaches rather chilly at this time of year. I know I do, and I live here!

ivenotbeeneverywhere May 12th, 2009 04:00 PM

Good morning Bushranger. Yes I do have a long name and I do have an opinion as I see you do on just about everything and spot in Australia and outside whenever possible, BUT I have to wonder if you just sit at your computer and find websites for people and give them those ( they could actually do that themselves you know) as opposed to actual, been there/ done that and know what its like information which is really what people are asking for.
I think your choices Jessica are good ones for what you are looking for and if possible you will find that the further north in Queensland the better for climate and options in accommodations. Check out the flight specials from Brisbane to Whitsundays and Cairns Listen to Pat Woolford as she is from Cairns as are some of the other writers. I am only new here but have been reading this forum for quite some time and getting ideas myself for my overseas holidays.

Bushranger May 12th, 2009 06:13 PM

Just for you Snoz, again and Rocky is kind of the regional centre you head to by air/land to get there.

Good and bad on the Hunt Pat, good for the update and is dispute with builders just over getting the generators fixed or more to it do you know, shame/bad as though it was a lengthy project with opening continually delayed, it is a great island.

And not that I need to tell you ivenbew, yep done plenty of travelling, still do though less frequently and yep sit at my computer and just as yep there's plenty of great web sites that have loads more info than you would ever want to type out based on experience.

And you can ignore if you wish how web sites I offer are references with more general info given, and as can occur such as with the Hunt mob situation, nothing like on the spot info either, but it does not detract from Fitzroy Island being a great island.

Don't trip over the name tripping about now.

pat_woolford May 12th, 2009 09:44 PM

Its a lot more than two generators breaking down, Bushranger, This article was published on 23rd April, today there's no-one answering phone, website is down, and TTNQ, local tourism body says they've been informed that the resort is closed until further notice.

Bushranger May 13th, 2009 03:22 AM

Sounds like more victims of the crunch we're going to have to have, especially for those living beyond their means or aiming too high.
Maybe Raging Thunder will come out of it well with a bargain multi million dollar resort or someone with some spare dollars wiil - maybe some China Dollars
Be good to at least see it up and running without delay.

You ought to stay tuned for that one Jessica as could be some great standby holiday deals, and typical of what you could find right along the Queensland coast given economic circumstances trend and holiday business down.
GKI is in a similar situation with a project scheduled for main resort there at some stage of flux but there's also other accommodation there too, fixed tent style village used to be YHA and other cabins etc., it's the sort of place that ferry pulls up on a sandy point and you just walk ashore onto the beach, plenty of it and also snorkelling of a beach.

JessicaRDH May 14th, 2009 11:06 PM

Thanks for all of your help! After reviewing your suggestions I have come up with a more definite itinerary.
I plan to stay 5 nights in Sydney (at the YHA Central)
then off to Melbourne. Not sure how many nights there (I am realizing that I may need to extend my time in some of the places that follow, as 5 weeks is looking longer than I thought!).
From Melbourne I plan to fly to Lismore (or is it Lisbane --near Byron Bay). It appears that from your responses Bushranger, that Tiger airlines has the cheepest rates?
I will be staying in Byron at the Beach House for at least 3 nights before heading to Brisbane. I plan a short stay (or maybe a longer one if you suggest) in Brisbane, as my heart us set on flying to Brampton Island. The activities provided at that resort sound wonderful!! --I have decided against Cairns the beaches there aren't really what I am looking for.
Now, my biggest question at this point I head on to Perth? You all have mentioned that the weather can be somewhat chilly in August/September. How are things in perth at this time? I don't plan to stay in Perth long but spend most of my time on that side of the country at the Monkey Mia (probably 2 days). Being being that it looks like there is nothing else much to do there but swim with the dolphins I could just imagine hitting bad weather and I'd be, well, screwed. And about Monkey Mia....all of the pics on their site depict people standing in ankle deep water with the dolphins. Am I allowed to SWIM there? At all times of day, even when the dolphins are about?

From Monkey ever I'd get from there to Perth, I'd eventually be flying from Perth to Sydney and then back home to Hawaii.

Any suggestions at this point now that I have more of an idea what I want to see and do? Any ideas of must do/see in these places, as I am finding myself with extra days to vacation?

Bushranger May 15th, 2009 04:02 AM

Certainly a bit more flying for you Jessica but the Tiger [a subsidiary of Singapore Air] has been leading the way for a few years now with cheap flights and flying to some smaller cities which looks like it'll work well for you.
I didn't know that they were flying to Lismore and it isn't on their site - but maybe it isn't updated yet as they are continually revising and adding to their network - where did you find out that they do?
But if not you can always still fly Melbourne to GC and then get a greyhound bus back to Byron Bay, possibly more services than from Lismore.

Brisbane gets mocked a bit by those who favour the larger Sydney and Melbourne but it's always going to be warmer and is developing more of interest, a day trip out to or even a night there for dolphin feeding and your timing could also suit a whale watching cruise.

Perth still has a winter but not a too severe one, more like Sydney and getting across from Brampton Island, there'll be no direct flights from Mackay and you may want to also check out Tiger prices for Mackay - Melbourne and on to Perth Vs Mackay to Brisbane or Sydney and on to Perth, and probably not a huge difference re actual hours in the air and if Tiger connection in Melbourne is good, you'll possibly save time on change of flights.

Actually, you'd probably do less hours in the air and save some $$$ if you do Sydney up to Ballina for BB, on to Brisbane [ also check out if you want to cuddle a Koala/feed a Kangaroo ] fly to Mackay for Brampton and then do Melbourne either on way to Perth or on way back when weather will be warming - with Tiger you could do Perth to Melbourne and then get best price you can off for Melbourne to Sydney - alternately if you do Melbourne on way over you could do Perth to Adelaide and onto Sydney on way back, and gives you another possible stop.

Hope you understand those options.

Monkey Mia is known for dolphin feeding at the beach but there's nothing to stop you having a swim about the time they may come along and you could get lucky -

There are designated places where you can do dolphin swims, only about five in Australia I think and there's Rockingham, south of Perth, and Forster-Tuncurry about three hours drive north of Sydney.

You'll lose a full day or even more getting from Brampton Island right across to Perth and likewise need to allow another full day for Perth back to Sydney but if you have the time it'll all be doable and quite an interesting itinerary.

To make it more interesting, it'll be a good time of the year for Australias red centre, Alice Springs/Uluru and Tiger also fly Adelaide to Alice Springs reasonably cheap and one of the best ways to see Uluru is to do a camping trip from Alice Springs - being a mid range option but quite a few operators do similar trips and some more extensive longer trips if you find you have the time.

Wayward also do a three day trip from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road too and that's well worth doing as well.

When in Melbourne and for something totally differnt seeing as Hawaii has no snow, check out what packages the YHA has for trips up to their hostel at Mt. Buller - good fun skiing and even learning if you haven't before.

And for Sydney, the YHA also have a newer hostel called Railway Square, just at other end of Railway Station than Central and for something different they have converted railway carriages you can book a bed in - best YHA hostel I've ever been in.

Ifyou're not a member, it'll pay you to sign on for there's YHA at Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Perth and even MM.

Bushranger May 15th, 2009 04:43 AM

Just remembered too, Virgin Blue have an airpass that could give you some value but a few hooks in it to by sounds of experience re this thread -

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:15 AM.