A Taste of the Outback

Dec 26th, 2015, 07:08 AM
  #1  
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A Taste of the Outback

In April 2016, my husband and I will be in Australia after a month in New Zealand. We have booked accommodations in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane and have a list of attractions and activities for those cities. However, those are cities, and we feel we're missing out on some of those things that are iconic -- aboriginal art and culture, kangaroos and koalas and dingos in the wild, etc. I would welcome any suggestions on how we might get a taste of those things in a three- to four-day excursion from Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. By the way, we are not into backpacking, long day hikes, or camping.
CamilleSMA is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 08:02 AM
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Having visited Australia many times (and lived there for a few years as well), I can definitely say that some of the best of Australia is outside of the major cities. Unless you are already financially tied into going to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, I recommend that you drop one of the cities completely from your itinerary and spend that time in a less-populated area of the country. (I'd recommend skipping Brisbane myself.)

If you can't skip one of these cities, you could get a taste of some of the things you mention (aboriginal art, kangaroos in the wild, etc.) by taking a 3- 4 day trip from Sydney to Canberra. Canberra is known as the "Bush Capital" and you'll find wildlife not only right outside of town, but also inside the city limits. (Yes, that was a kangaroo hopping down the street near my house when I lived in Canberra.)

You can see kangaroos in town on Red Hill, Mount Ainsley or at the home of the Governor General. Outside of town, you can see them at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve or Namadgi National Park. I highly recommend doing the easy 6km RT Yankee Hat Hike at Namadgi National Park because: 1) you will see LOTS of kangaroos hanging around the trail and 2) there are Aboriginal drawings on a rock at the turnaround point of the trail. Tidbinbilla is a good spot to see other native animals. (Don't think you'll see dingos in the wild anywhere.)

As for Aboriginal art, you can't beat the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra (free admission) which has an amazing collection of this art. There are also many other excellent (and free) museums in Canberra.
longhorn55 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 10:17 AM
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How much time do you have in Australia? I agree that to have a more complets experience of Australia you have to get out of the cities. From Sydney you can take a day trip to or spend a couple of days in the Blue Mountains. Good trips outside of Melbourne include the Great Ocean Road, the Grampians, etc. For wildlife in variety and in quantity, think about Kangaroo Island, Tasmania, or Far North Queensland.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 10:54 AM
  #4  
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Tripplanner001 and longhorn55, thanks so much for your recommendations. Canberra and the Blue Mountains sound promising. We will already have spent four weeks seeing lots of natural beauty in New Zealand when we fly to Sydney. We have booked flights and hotels for 5 nights in Sydney, 4 nights in Melbourne, and 3 nights in Brisbane. Those cities seem to be popular destinations, and I'm sure we'll stay busy and enjoy them. However, we may never return to that part of the world, and I don't want to miss out on a "must." We're not interested in the Great Barrier Reef or any beach time. Any thoughts on a trip to Uluru? Since we're not really hikers, would we find enough there to stay engaged for 2 or 3 days?
CamilleSMA is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 02:17 PM
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With the limited amount of time you have (12 days), you don't really have time for the "three-to four day excursion" you first mentioned wanting to do unless you skip one of those cities. Since it sounds like you are set for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, then about the best you can do for an "excursion" would be a one-day trip out to the Blue Mountains. While you'll see some nice scenery there, you won't encounter Aboriginal artwork and culture or much in the way of native animals.

You could go to Uluru, but a decent visit requires at least 2 - 3 days, so you'd have to really cut down on Sydney or Melbourne or skip Brisbane. I've been to Uluru twice and really enjoyed it, but considering the cost (both money-wise and time-wise), it's probably only worth it if you are REALLY interested in going there (and not just "checking off a box".)

If you decide you do want to go to Uluru, I think there would be plenty to keep you busy for a couple of days even if you aren't "really hikers". The only real "hike" at Uluru/Kata Tjuta is the full circuit of the Valley of the Winds walk at Kata Tjuta which is about 8km long over some steep terrain. There are other shorter walks at Kata Tjuta, including the Walpa Gorge Walk, which take an hour or less to walk. At Uluru, you can walk around the base which is over mostly-flat terrain. While it is about 9km, it's easy to walk. If that's too much for you, there are many shorter sections you can walk and there's a very good park ranger walk (free) each morning around a portion of the base.

In addition to the walks, there is a Cultural Center and some activities in the park, some for a fee and some which are free.

Just note that there's not much is the way of native wildlife at Uluru/Kata Tjuta. And in April (the month that I last visited), the flies will be out in full force.
longhorn55 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 03:17 PM
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You're welcome. Like longhorn55, I too found my visit to Uluru and Kata Tjuta to be unique and worthwhile, although it's not the place for wildlife. If you are interested in wildlife, then perhaps think about Kangaroo Island for 3 or 4 nights. And if you're like me, you will fall in love with Sydney at first sight and want to return to Australia again and again.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2015, 02:27 PM
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Every time we have visitors we take them to a wildlife park to see koalas... then had a random moment with a thirsty koala during a drought in suburban Adelaide...see photos..

https://flic.kr/s/aHskctTEHC
Adelaidean is offline  
Dec 29th, 2015, 08:41 AM
  #8  
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Well, based on additional research and your comments, we have expanded our trip to include the following:

Sydney - 6 nights
Melbourne - 4 nights
Uluru - 3 nights
Cairns - 3 nights (am looking for a scenic, interesting place to stay)
Canberra area - 4 nights

We'll be flying between Sydney and Melbourne and between Melbourne and Alice Springs. In Alice Springs, we'll rent a car and drive to the resort at Uluru. We'll fly from Alice Springs to Cairns and from Cairns to Sydney, where we'll rent a car at the airport and take our time driving southward along the coast. We thought we'd find a place in the Canberra area and visit Canberra and Kangaroo Valley. I'd welcome any suggestions on must-dos and a base in that area. I've looked for nice accommodations on the coast but didn't find anything especially appealing. We like oceanfront and privacy. However, nice, scenic lodging inland would be fine. Thanks in advance for your help.
CamilleSMA is offline  
Dec 29th, 2015, 08:43 AM
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Your itinerary looks much better, although it may be worthwhile to take one or two nights out of Canberra and add it to Cairns / Port Douglas. Also logistically, it makes more sense to do Canberra between Sydney and Melbourne.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2015, 09:19 AM
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I think you could easily cut out one day from Sydney and still have time to see it very well AND do a day trip to the Blue Mountains too.

Don't drive to/from Alice Springs just to see Uluru--fly straight to Uluru. (The airport code is AYQ) The drive from Alice Springs is long (6 hours) and while you might find it interesting once, it won't be interesting to drive twice. I would only recommend making this drive if you intend to spend some time in Alice Springs AND spend a night in Kings Canyon as well. However, with your limited time in the Red Center (3 nights), you don't have time to do this. I would actually recommend flying in and out of the Ayers Rock Airport and spending just 2 nights there. That will give you plenty of time for sightseeing and doing the easy walks.

Add the two days from Sydney and Uluru to the Cairns portion of your trip. Five days is a good amount of time in this area so that you can see the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, do the scenic train and/or Skyrail to Kurunda, hike and/or swim in the natural pools at Mossman Gorge, see the native animals at the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas, etc. With 5 days, I would recommend staying in Port Douglas. But, if you want to splurge, stay in the luxury eco lodge in Daintree called Silky Oaks Lodge.

Having lived in Canberra, I would have no problem filling up 4 days there. I love museums and hiking, so my recommendations would be: Australian War Museum (where I could spend--and have spent--a whole day), National Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Australia, Parliament House, Old Parliament House, Lakeside Walk at Lake Burley Griffin , Lanyon Homestead, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Tidbinbilla Tracking Station, Namadgi National Park, Australian National Botanic Gardens, etc.
longhorn55 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2015, 01:22 PM
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How about doing a short trip to the Grampians - about 250 km from Melbourne. Lots of kangaroos, good possibility of seeing koalas, great scenery. You could travel one way through Ballarat - nice city with lovely old Victorian buildings and great art gallery. Stay overnight in Halls Gap, then back to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road which won't be quite as spectacular as there has been a very bad bush fire over the Christmas period. There will still be great views over the sea and by April, the gum trees may be starting to regenerate.
marg is offline  
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