Any suggestions on our itinerary?

Dec 20th, 2004, 06:16 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Any suggestions on our itinerary?

Arrive Melbourne 2/25/05
Depart Melbourne 2/28/05 Driving to Port Douglas
Leave Cairns 3/13/05 fly
Arrive Sydney 3/13/05
Depart Sydney 3/17/05
Arrive Auckland 3/17/05
Depart Auckland for US 4/07/05
chuckann is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 07:14 PM
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chuckann, have I got this straight? You're planning to drive from Melbourne to Port Douglas AND see the Cairns area ... all in 3 days? You'll be going like a bat out of hell just to do the drive in that time and all you'll see is road surface. Have you checked how far this is and what the road conditions are like? This sounds like something you'd do for a bet, not a vacation.

It would be easier to coment if I knew what you wanted to get out of your trip, but my advice is to PLEASE rethink! You've given yourself a very short time in which to see two countries - only 2 clear days in Melbourne, 3 in Sydney and a big fat zero in Cairns. At least fly to Cairns - even so you'll only have 2 clear days there, which is really selling the area short. Melbourne and Sydney too, for that matter. And what are your plans for New Zealand? Please don't try to do both the North and South Islands in 7 days!

I hope I've got that schedule straight - we write the date the other way around here (25/2 rather than 2/25) and it's easy to confuse this simple Aussie.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 07:23 PM
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Is there any particular reason why you are doing NZ after Oz? If you did NZ first, you'd have a better chance of catching NZ in warmer weather, and you'd also reach Far North Queensland later and hence further into the tail end of The Wet, which I'm guessing would be desirable.

You're giving yourself 3 weeks to see NZ, which sounds wonderful. I've never been to NZ, other than to refuel at Auckland, but people here say one needs 3 weeks to do it justice (although it sounds as if one can do a reasonably good circuit of it even in 2 weeks).

I can't really understand your jumping around Australia. Why not see Sydney while you're passing through it en route from Melbourne to Cairns? For the Australian portion of your trip, you did have a good idea in starting in Melbourne and then heading up towards Cairns.

If I've counted correctly, you have 20 days in Australia. If you want to travel along Australia's eastern seaboard, here's what you might consider doing:

5 days - Melbourne (1 day for Melbourne itself, 1 day for the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley east of Melbourne and 3 days for a circuit of the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians)

2 days - drive along the coast from Melbourne to Sydney (I have done the coastal drive, and it is beautiful. If you want to go via the inland route instead, I have not done that, and will leave it up to others to advise you.)

5 days - Sydney (3 days for Sydney, 2 days for the Blue Mountains)

3 days - Sydney to Brisbane (I have never driven this stretch myself, but there are other posts by the local congnisenti -- a.k.a. Australian Fodorites -- and that's how much time they say is required -- at a minimum!)

1 day - Brisbane

5 days - Cairns (1 day for Great Barrier Reef, 1 day for Daintree Rainforest, 2 days for overnight trip to Undara Lava Tubes, 1 day spare for miscellaneous good stuff that's available up there and also in case weather conditions preclude your getting out to the GBR on your 1st day)

Okay, I've just realised that I've used up 21 days in Australia, 1 more day than you have, and I haven't even driven you the 1,715 kilometres between Brisbane and Cairns. Sorry, kiddo, you're going to have to fly that.

If you need to cut back on something, you could have 4 days in Far North Queensland, cut out the overnight trip to the Undara Lava Tubes, and do a day trip to Kuranda instead.

Hope that helps.

Before posting this, I previewed my reply and saw that Neil had responded in the meantime. Jeez, I sure hope one of us has understood you, otherwise we're all going to have to go back to the drawing boards.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 07:28 PM
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AAAGH! The Christmas season must be getting to me, even though I was dealing with the American date format!! APOLOGIES, ignore the foregoing, I need a drink. Or something. You've given yourself 2 weeks to drive to Port Douglas and spend in the Cairns area, haven't you? That's more like it, but how long are you planning to be on the road? It's still a hell of a long drive - parts scenic, very long stretches anything but scenic, in fact deathly boring IMO. The optimistically named "Pacific Highway" doesn't provide many glimpses of the Pacific Ocean, for a start. If you had 2 weeks to do the drive you'd at least be able to spend a little time in some of the places en route, but I'm not convinced it's the best use of your time. Maybe if you drove from Melbourne to Sydney (but not by the most direct route, which is one of the deathly boring bits) and then hopped a plane to Cairns... are you comfortable with driving on the LH side, BTW?

Again, sorry about the screwup in my first post. I've just realised I read your 3/13/05 as 3/3/05, which in my language is 3rd March...
Neil_Oz is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 07:48 PM
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>>>>>>are you comfortable with driving on the LH side, BTW?<<<<<<

The warning that I think is implied by Neil's question is valid in a large city like Melbourne or Sydney. Traffic is busy and parking is expensive. Add to that unfamiliarity with driving on the left, if that applies to you, and it's a recipe for discomfort to say the least. In the big cities it makes sense to use the good and reasonably priced public transporation system.

But, speaking as someone who is not that confident a driver, I found driving on the left easy when it was on the looooooong stretches of road through Australia's countryside.

Here's a website that gives distances, driving times, driving directions and maps between Australian towns, which I think you would find useful in drawing up your itinerary:
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 09:01 PM
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I did the "circle" route when I went to Australia last year. Sydney-Cairns-Ayers-Sydney-Auckland. If nothing else, see the Great Barrier reef at Cairns. (we've been on both and; or go to google ands search for "Great Barrier Reef cruise scuba" and any other keywords that might help.)For an interesting overnight, the former was very good. Even if all you do is snorkel, you'll be amazed.

Look at the Virgin Blue and Quantas web sites, and you'll see that it's a waste of money to drive any great distance. You can fly, e.g. Sydney to Brisbane for $A100 each way! To Cairns for $170 each way. etc. (Or, at the other extreme, for $1067!) Fly to where you're going and rent to drive around there.

Be careful! Virgin Blue is fussier about luggage weight - Qantas seems to make allowances for N. Americans inside Australia (probably figure you came over on Qantas, and they let you board in NA with a 2 piece 40kg limit? I forget the details). Virgin Blue charged us $50.00 for one overweight case last year, while Qantas this year from NZ to Sydney wanted to charge us $200! (one way! $17/kilo over 35Kg!)

Anyway - if you've drive the Chicago-to-Denver or Winnipeg-to-Calgary sort of drive, why would you want to reproduce that experience over in Australia. Fly! Then drive the hour or two 9or 4) from there and back.

As for driving - two suggestions. First, you need a co-pilot whose main job is to always remind you (especially on "left" and "right" turns!) - which lane you are going into - and you have to be tolerant and accept that the constant reminder is for you mutual well-being and the integrity of the vehicle. Secondly, I found it easier to remember where to drive in big cities with other traffic as a marker. I got most forgetful on empty country roads and especially in parking lots where the absence of markings leaves you to your (backward) instincts.

Oh, and keep a running score how many times you hit the windsheild wipers instead of the turn signal!
MD is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 09:04 PM
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Judy, thanks for the clarification I omitted. Our first experience of driving on the "other side" was in Boston, not a city known for placid traffic, and initially discomfort, just short of panic, pretty much summed it up. But yes - once out of town and with a few hours' practice, no real problems. Deserted roads, though, can be a trap - it helps to have other traffic around to remind you of where you should be. I find crossing the street on foot tougher - I have to keep reminding myself to look left for oncoming traffic.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 09:25 AM
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THANKS for ALL THE info. Some of this is confusing at best.We have 20 days EA in AU & NZ. When we booked flts were full (ff)to do NZ then OZ! Yes There will be another couple..."co pilot"! We will NOT have auto in Melbourne or Sydney. We are planning on 3 full days in Melbourne..Then drive to Pt.Douglas for 4-5days there hopefully. Fly to Sydney for
3 days before going to NZ. The GUYS are the ones insisting on driving to Pt.Douglas from Melbourne! We will by pass Sydney till we fly down from Cairns. Yes we plan to Snorkle at the reef! If time is tight guess we can drop the auto in Brisbane and fly on up??? THANKS. I'm sure I will ask more soon. Taking a break from plans to have Christmas. WE are excited to visit what we hear is WONDERFUL in lots of ways. Appreciate all the input from y'all.
chuckann is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 04:01 PM
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Hello Ann,

I hope you have a happy holiday season.

When you get back to Fodors, please pass on a message to Chuck from me. Please tell him Judy says, "That dog won't hunt." The "dog" to which I'm referring of course is the idea of driving from Melbourne to Port Douglas.

I'm pulling your leg a bit. I saw the "y'all" and guessed you might be from the Southern U.S. The dog not hunting is something I picked up from one of the very few occasions I've watched Dr. Phil on TV.

But, for all my tom foolery, there is more than a little truth to my claim about the driving, and it has been echoed by other posters.

Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 05:23 PM
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The whole drive from Melbourne to PD is as boring as batshit - no respectabgle views, just roads and traffic. Not even that many towns - as I presume you're using the inland route.

Do they have any comprehension of the distance? The roads are not the highways you see in US - they'll often be just 2-lane roads, winding and congested. I'd hate someone's view of Australia to be that bloody boring!

I like to drive, but I'd pass on that!
margo_oz is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 06:32 PM
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Chuckann, et al,

On the other hand if you do drive through, you'll come over the Tully River crossing between Townsville and Cairns, the wettest spot in Australia. Chances are the crossing will be closed and you will be able to sleep in your cars at the Euramo Hotel ( read pub) where Kath Nolan , the publican will feed you'all a free sausage breakfast to thank you for all the beer you consumed the night before. She'll even let you use her shower. It was one of the highlights of our 5 weeks down under and a wonderfully wacky only in Oz experience.

If you want a lovely overnight in Cairns, you can't do better than Pat and Mike Woolford's Lilybank B&B.

Pat is the Fodorian expert on all things far north Queensland. The Lilybank is adjacent to the fabulous Garden Room , the best restaurant down under, imho


AndrewDavid is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 09:07 AM
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Had to take a break and get back HERE! Thanks for the inputs.I get it!..Chuck not ready to
fly north just yet! Can we not get from Mel to 8-9 days not stopping in Sydney on this leg. What would the scenic portion be coastal vs.inland Time being of concern?
chuckann is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 11:09 AM
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Would you drive across the desert of America in the middle of summer to see the scenic spots?? NO, then that is the same answer to your question. You are looking at something like 5,000 klms in probably our hottest month and for Queensland the wettest month in all probability. I thought I answered this somewhere but now cannot find my post so I can only repeat what I said that I would not drive under any circumstances on the inland section and you will add a further day to your trip going via the sea-side areas. Having lived in Queensland most of my life I would not drive up north in February as I know that the chances of flood rains are high and therefore the chances of being stranded somewhere are high. Do the drive along the coast road from Melbourne to Sydney if you want but fly the other points and give yourself time to see some of the area en route i.e. fly Sydney to Gold Coast and rent a car and tour around the South East - fly then to Mackay or Prosepine and do the same there then on to Cairns and do the same there. Many in between areas are dead boring especially if you use the inland route in the middle of summer. Then you also have to contend with wild-life on the roads before 9am and after 4pm which also limits your driving time.
lizF is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 12:21 PM
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Ann, what kinds of things do you all enjoy doing? I can give you some suggestions for the North Island.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 02:34 PM
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Hello Anne,

I just want to clarify something that I said earlier about driving in Australia's large cities. It's true that driving in the cities is a pain in the neck and it's better to use public transportation there. However, if you have only 3 days in Melbourne, you should be spending only 1 day looking around the city, and you should be spending 2 days doing day trips, IMO. You'll need a car for at least one of those day trips and perhaps even both of them.

You say you'll get in on February 25th. That's relevant because one of the things on my Melbourne checklist, namely, the Queen Victoria Market, is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.

From my experience, flights from North America often get into Melbourne about mid morning. I think it'll be late morning by the time you can check into your hotel. I would suggest you get over to the Vic Market (in the NW corner of downtown) ASAP. It's better to go to the market earlier in the day rather than later in the day. You can have lunch there too. Look around and soak up the atmosphere, but don't buy. Stuff is cheaper in Queensland.

After that do a circuit of the downtown core on the free City Circle Tram, which will provide you with a pre-recorded explanation of the places you're passing.

After that, just wander around and see as much of downtown as you can -- the Burke Street Mall, Federation Square, Southbank, whatever.

Suggest you spend Saturday, Feb 26th, doing a day trip to the Dandenong Ranges to the east of Melbourne. There are a few ways you can do this. You can go on a guided tour that includes a section of the Puffing Billy steam train line, lunch at a winery, and a visit to Healesville Nature Sanctuary, where you can see native Australian animals.

Alternatively, you can catch a regular train from Flinders Street Station to Belgrave and transfer to the narrow gauge Puffing Billy line at Belgrave. Take Puffing Billy to the last station at Gembrook, and have lunch there. Then return. This being Saturday, you can stop at the Menzies Creek Station on the Puffing Billy line on the way back, if you wish, to visit the locomotive museum. (It's open on Sat, Sun & Wed.) If you do get out at Menzies Creek, you can hop back on the next time Puffing Billy comes by, return to Belgrave, and return to Flinders Street Station in downtown Melbourne.

Neither the guided tour nor the train rides will require a car, of course.

Yet another alternative, that could be done by car or by public transporation, is a visit to the William Ricketts Sanctuary. I've only gone there by car, but I understand one can catch a train to Croydon Station and a bus from there to the William Ricketts Sanctuary. Bill Ricketts' sculptures are my favourite human-made objects in Australia. Their setting in the temperate rain forest, nestled amongst the mountain ash trees and ferns, with moss growing over them and eastern rosellas flying overhead ...... Well, it's something that doesn't easily lend itself to description. It needs to be experienced. It's nice to have lunch in Olinda or Sassafras afterwards, but I think that only would be possible with a car. If you don't have a car, there is a tea room at which you could have lunch just across the road from the Wm. Ricketts Sanctuary.

I would recommend you rent a car on Sun, Feb 27th, and drive as far along the Great Ocean Road as you can. It would be ideal to do this as a 3-day drive along the coast between Adelaide and Melbourne, or alternatively as a 3-day, circular drive from Melbourne that encompasses a good chunk of the GOR, Halls Gap and the Grampians. However, even if you have only a day, you can drive as far along the coast as possible and return to Melbourne. I recommend ducking in behind the town of Lorne to visit Erskine Falls. Climb down the steps, and walk along the banks of the Erskine River for a little way. Magical. You may be able to drive as far as Apollo Bay and back.

Having taken delivery of your rental car on Feb 27th (or maybe even Feb 26th?), you'll be set for your desired departure from Melbourne on Feb 28th.

If you choose to do the attractive coastal route from Melbourne to Sydney, I recommend taking a detour from the main road so that you can visit Wilson's Promontory, the most southerly point on the Australian mainland. Visit Squeeky Beach. The sand really does squeek.

Other than the detour to Wilson's Prom. , that route goes inland until you hit the ocean at the very attractive area of Lakes Entrance. (This is one of those places where you bump up against Australian English. The lake to which the name refers is what I would call a lagoon.)

Then you go inland again until you catch another glimpse of the ocean at Eden. From Eden northwards, through Merimbula, Tathra, Bermagui, Narooma, to Batemans Bay, you can hug the coast for much of the way. This section is known as the "Sapphire Coast."

If you still are absolutely determined to by-pass Sydney on your northward journey, I think Batemans Bay is a convenient place to turn inland and head for Canberra. I have not done that myself, but I have a recollection of a discussion about that route having taken place when a previous poster posed a question about it.

Well, that's as far north as I'll take you. At this point I'll pass the baton to others.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 03:56 PM
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Some afterthoughts.

Dandenong Ranges

If there is a total fire ban in the Dandenong Ranges (very hot, dry day), the William Ricketts Sanctuary is closed, and Puffing Billy is not a steam train but rather a diesel train (still worth going on, though).

Fairy Penguins at Phillip Island

I deliberately had left out of my suggested Melbourne itinerary the most visited tourist attraction in the state of Victoria, the "Penguin Parade" at Phillip Island. That happens daily at dusk when the little penguins or fairy penguins come ashore for the night. It's really cute to see them crossing the beach in their hundreds.

The penguin parade has a couple of disadvantages. Busloads and busloads of people go to watch it. Furthermore, because Phillip Island is some distance from Melbourne and the parade takes place at dusk, one gets back to Melbourne pretty late (all the more so at the height of summer, when sunset is at its latest -- you already will be past the worst dates in that regard).

I've thought of a way for you to overcome these disadvantages, but it would mean you would have to pack up and load your luggage in your car when you set out for the Great Ocean Road.

Upon returning from the GOR, do not return to Melbourne. Instead, drive to the town of Queenscliffe on the west side of the mouth of Port Phillip Bay. Catch the ferry across the entrance of the bay to the town of Sorrento. From there drive to Phillip Island.

Another poster has told us about a more exclusive viewing area that is available. I don't know how much more it costs than the regular viewing area, but I'll wager it's worth the extra bucks.

Then spend the night in the vicinity of Phillip Island. Then you'll be well set to head for Wilsons Prom and Lakes Entrance the next day.

Sunset will be about 8.00 p.m. on Feb 27th, so you'll need to time your drive and your ferry crossing to ensure that you get to Phillip Island in good time if you want to catch the penguin parade.

Tilba Tilba

If you have time, take a detour inland from Bermagui to visit this cute, heritage village.


My remarks about Canberra (if you really want to go inland) may have given the impression that it is a mediocre city. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although I have not been there, my time at Fodors Talk has taught me that Canberra is an interesting city, and it now is on my wish list for a future visit to Australia.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 03:58 PM
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I think we need to give Judy her Aussie Specialist plaque as a Christmas present w/ a special honorable mention for Melbourne. She really knows her stuff. Will someone please send her some TimTams.

If Chuckann follows her advice they'll be too tired (Judy, I think you forgot to factor in some time for jet lag) to drive to Cairns and might heed Liz's counsel. However if they drove, I think they'd see the giant mango, pineapple, banana and guava. Does that sound boring? Not!

We attempted to cross the Tully at the predicted end of the wet and the road was closed for 48 hours. There are great puddles for swimming in front of the Euramo Hotel during the flood.


PS Judy et al in Calgary Happy New Year
AndrewDavid is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 04:03 PM
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Thank you for your kind words, A/D. The Fraternal Order of the Tim Tam. I can imagine no greater honour.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 05:32 PM
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By the way, A/D, about the ACTUAL Tim Tams, that's such a kind thought on your part, but a Calgary friend of mine is visiting Melbourne as we speak.

When he asked me what I'd like him to bring back from Oz for me, he was surprised when I put in a request for Macleans toothpaste.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 06:23 PM
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Judy, I thought Macleans was a Canadian company. Do they have special flavors in Melborne?

AndrewDavid is offline  

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