August in Oz - help make it great

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Mar 24th, 2005, 08:18 PM
  #1
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August in Oz - help make it great

We'll have around 19 or 20 days in Oz starting the first week in August, as part of our round-the-world adventure (timing necessitated by onward travel to S. Africa.)

We plan to use our allotment of 4 internal flights to see as much of the diversity of the country as we can. It will be a lot of flying but we love it and can cover a lot of ground, which we want to do. I don't expect it will be our last time in Australia, so in one respect it's seeing what to see more of next time.

The outline plan is Sydney for 3 or 4 days mainly to overcome time change and get our bearings, then two days at Ayers Rock and the Olgas, then 5 days in/around Melbourne with a couple of days on the Great Ocean Road.

From there we'll fly up to Cairns for another 5 days or so for some (presumably) warmer weather to get a feel for N. Queensland, see the rainforest, maybe some beach time, boat tour of the GBR (not divers) - open to suggestions.

Then it's back to Sydney for a further 4 or 5 days, probably including some day trips out of the city to… where? And then onward…

So as first-timers with that basic itinerary, what should we be certain not to miss, or what opportunities are accessible from those places that many/most visitors ought to see but don't? More time in one place but less in the other? We anticipating hiring cars in all locations, so overnights in smaller towns or in (accessible) rural/bush/outback areas - anything's possible. Former Alaskans here so relatively fearless (if older and softer) travelers. (Read, occasional idiots.)

Hotel and restaurant recommendations are very welcome, of course, but let the weird ideas (or the not-weird) flow. Cheers and thanks.
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Mar 24th, 2005, 09:24 PM
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I think your itinerary sounds quite wonderful, and certainly not too fast-paced... in fact, you could afford to take a coouple of days off Sydney (it's not all that big!), and you should certainly consider, given the time of year, shortening the Melbourne sector, as the weather down there won't please you!

You have left Canberra out of your itinerary, which is a pity.... since August is snow season in the Snowy Mountains, might it not be a good diea to go from Sydney to Canberra, and then on to the Snowy Mountains for some skiing (if you don't mind alternating between tropical Queensland and snow-covered NSW!) and consider even skipping Melbourne altogether? I know the Snowy Mountains is actually colder than Melbourne, but at least, in the Snowy, all activities are geared to the weather -- and July/August is peak season, when it's all happening!

Have you thought of including Darwin in your itinerary? A touch of South-East Asia right here in Australia, and, since you're going to the Olgas, etc, not such a huge jump. I think, by the way, that you are VERY wise to do the interior of Australia at this time of year, because it's not so pleasant after October! Darwin would probably be at its nicest at this time of year, also.

I am sure our other regulars will have lots more ideas to use up your 20 days memorably.... have a great time!
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Mar 24th, 2005, 11:00 PM
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I agree with Alan about Darwin - there is nowhere in the world that is like some parts of the Northern Territory and just as wild as any of your early "west" in the USA :0) Also it is a touch of Asia and its an ancient land with everything that goes with it. Either that or the NW of Western Australia is a different distination from anything else in Australia.
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Mar 25th, 2005, 06:20 AM
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What if we spent just a day or two in Sydney at the beginning (only a 3 hr time change since coming from Hawaii, so no major jetlag issues) hired a car and drove to Melbourne via Canberra/Snowy Mts.? (We're not skiiers but not frightened by winter driving conditions - actually pretty good at it after Alaska.)

Then we could fly from Melbourne to Uluru, thence to Cairns, thence to Darwin, thence to Sydney - four flights still (our limit) plus some on-ground experience in NSW/Victoria.

How many days to drive (comfortably but not pokey) down the coast or via the mountains/Canberra (or part way inland, part way on the coast)? How long would you recommend for Darwin? (I have maps and tour books and will start researching the options anyway.)

I can't cut out Melbourne. Ever since Ava Gardner sat in her A-H watching Dwight sail off into the End of the World I've had to go there. Besides, here in Seattle we get to ride a former Melbourne tram along our waterfront and I'd like to see its former home. Yeah, know the weather may be poopy, but we like to go stormwatching here too, so I'd imagine the 12 Apostles in big water would be fairly interesting to see.

Thanks for replying - more ideas, please!
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Mar 25th, 2005, 06:26 AM
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If it were me, I'd spend less time in Sydney and spend more time in the Red Center (4-7 days, taking in Kings Canyon and perhaps West MacDonnell Ranges). In August I'd forego Melbourne and the G. Ocean Rd and go somewhere else in the north....Darwin/Kakadu or the Kimberley, for example. In North Queensland, I'd avoid all the touristy junk in and around Cairns....for the taste of the outback it would be tempting to rent a 4WD, drive to the Undarra Lava Tubes and then Chillagoe Caves. Just my 2 cents.....
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Mar 25th, 2005, 01:51 PM
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OK, Gardyloo, when you bring Ava Gardner into it, I won't tell you to miss Melbourne (her assessment of the city was pretty fair, actually; have you noticed how many visiting celebrities run into problems in Melbotne -- Frank Sinatra andJudy Garland, to name just two). I think your idea of driving sounds just great, as long as you're not phased by winter driving conditions on the wrong side of the road..... I am not sure how far you can get without chains, etc, so you will need to check this, and also check out what the car rental companies say about where you can and can't go.

Your itinerary is shaping up very nicely!

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Mar 25th, 2005, 04:04 PM
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August isn't the best time to do the Great Ocean Road but the wild windy weather can be quite spectacular. At that time of year, you should be able to do some whale watching - there are lookouts near Warrnambool. I think Logan's Beach is the best. If you have time, drive just a bit further to Port Fairy - lovely little old fishing port with good range of accommodation and eating places. If time allows, return to Melbourne via the Grampians National Park and Ballarat, but to do this in comfort you will need three days/two nights.
Two markets that are musts - Mindil Beach market in Darwin at sunset - great food and atmosphere. Also Queen Victoria market in Melbourne - big, bustling and good for food, souvenirs and clothes.
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Mar 25th, 2005, 06:25 PM
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Gardyloo, in case you missed Alan's reference, while filming "On the Beach" Ms Gardner commented that Melbourne seemed like the perfect place to make a movie about the end of the world. This didn't do much for her popularity in Melbourne - they're a touchy lot - but endeared her to the citizens of Sydney.

I really don't think the Snowy Mountains have much to offer a former Alaskan - they have more in common with the Appalachians than your kind of mountain. In any event, there's no simple way through them en route from Sydney/Canberra to Melbourne and you'd have to double back.

I think the south coast of New South Wales would be a better idea, at least for some of the way. So, take an easy (3-hour) drive from Sydney to Canberra on the Hume Highway. Ask the car rental agency how to pick up the tollway south, which runs past the airport, and you won't see a traffic light till you hit Canberra. The toll is $3.30, BTW.

Spend a night in Canberra - check out www.canberratourism.com.au but the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House and the National Museum of Australia is a good start. Eat at Manuka (pronounced for no good reason MAHNeka), not the city centre ("Civic").

Next morning, head east to Batemans Bay, a 160 km/2-hour drive. En route, stop off at the small town of Bungendore and check out the fine work at the Bungendore Woodworks Gallery, one of the best in Australia. At Batemans Bay, take a left as soon as you cross the bridge over the Clyde River, pull into the car park beside the river and buy a load of fish and chips from the fish shop alongside - don't forget the excellent local oysters.

After that, head south on the Princes Highway to Merimbula, stopping off at the historic albeit touristy village of Tilba Tilba. This will be enough driving for one day, so stay at Merimbula for the night before continuing along the coast route to Melbourne. I'm afraid you're on your own now as far as I'm concerned, as I've never driven much past Merimbula.

An alternative is to drive south from Canberra to Cooma (118 km) then veer left to drive over the mountains to Merimbula via Bega. Any way you do it the roads are OK, but the escarpment on the east (Pacific Ocean) side is a little steepish, with hairpins (switchbacks). Nothing to be concerned about, though.
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