Australia & New Zealand in late March

Old Apr 28th, 2004, 09:04 AM
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Australia & New Zealand in late March

I have been dreaming of a trip here for years and have finally accumulated the required frequent flier miles to do it in high style. I just secured two tickets on Qantas (in first class, even!) to arrive in late March. Despite our combined best efforts to escape from our offices as long as possible, we must limit ourselves to four weeks. We are currently planning to do two weeks in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand. We realize that will sadly limit the number of places we can see, but we are unable to choose just one of these wonderful destinations.

We are fairly avid outdoors types, prizing especially hiking and snorkelling and intend to become certified divers before we go. Our must see destinations in Australia are Sydney, the GBR and the rainforest nearby. We're considering a variety of other options, with a slight nod towards the Red Centre. In New Zealand, our plans are vague, but we intend to focus on the South Island and will probably try to see some of the LoTR sites as well as just revel in the natural beauty.

My first (of what may be contless) question concerns weather. My instinct is that we should try to do New Zealand first (the two weeks spanning late March and early April) and hit Australia after. However, the airplane situation requires to go to Sydney first. Would there be much difference between March and April in terms of weather? Should I aim to do NZ first and hit the reef last?

By the way, I have learned an emormous amount reading here over the last several months. I am awestruck at the amount of time and thought that many of you (you know who you are!) spend answering questions that often repeat over and over. Thank you all!
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Old Apr 28th, 2004, 10:20 AM
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Hello Mike,

>>>>>>Would there be much difference between March and April in terms of weather? Should I aim to do NZ first and hit the reef last?<<<<<<

I've never been to NA, only Oz. But even if one hasn't been to a place, one can do some sleuthing on the Internet.

A factor that I think would be somewhat relevant to New Zealand would be the number of daylight hours. The amount of daylight seems to decline fairly noticeably as fall progresses. According to the New Zealand Alpine Club website, Christchurch experiences sunset at 6.41 p.m. on March 21st, but by April 20th sunset has moved up to 5.49 p.m. If one adds the differences between sunrise times on those dates, April 20th has lost 88 minutes of daylight compared with March 21st.

http://www.alpineclub.org.nz/site_pa...on/weather.htm

The above does not take into consideration Daylight Savings Time, as the published sunrise and sunset times are based on New Zealand Standard Time.

Any days spent in New Zealand prior to the switch from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time on the third Sunday of March would have sunsets that were another hour later. But I get the impression you will be arriving after that, so this point probably is irrelevant.

http://webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/newZealand.html

When I've travelled, I've found that the amount of daylight in the later afternoon / early evening has made some difference to what I've been able to accomplish in a day.

Christchurch's average temperatures don't appear to change a huge amount from March to April. The average high in March is 68 deg F, and the average low is 50 deg F. In April the average highs and lows are 62 deg F and 44 deg F respectively.

Monthly rainfall for each of March and April is around 2 inches.

Of course Christchurch isn't the only place in New Zealand, but its climate statistics give one some basis for comparing conditions in March and April.

I've been to Brisbane and the area around Cairns in July and the Whitsunday Islands in September (all were great), so have not experienced Queensland in March or April. While posts here suggest that one can go to Far North Queensland at any time, they also suggest that, if one has a choice, April is better than March.

In the case of FNQ, rainfall and humidity are the main factors. Being so much closer to the equator than NZ is, FNQ would not experience such dramatic differences in sunset times.

Oz is a fabulous place, and I've heard NZ is too. Four weeks is nothing to sneeze at, and is a longer time than many people posting here are able to spend. I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time.
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Old Apr 28th, 2004, 12:17 PM
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I hadn't even considered daylight, thanks for making me think of it! I am fairly convinced that I would prefer to hit NZ first. I will be arriving the day before daylight savings time ends, but my jet lag will likely be so complete that I won't even notice.

Four weeks is indeed quite extravagent for those of us from the vacation-challenged USA. I'm happy to be able to get away that long, although I really think I could spend a month in Sydney alone. We're bad at the type of vacation where one spends each night in a new place, so we'll probably have to drop Western Oz from our consideration altogether and omit places that we'd really like to be able to see, but I'm still certain it will be my favorite trip thus far (until the next "trip of a lifetime"). I'm currently in my obsessive research phase in which I read every printed word I can find. As the son of a librarian, I enjoy that part ALMOST as much as the actual trip.
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Old Apr 28th, 2004, 03:45 PM
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Congratulations on getting 2 First seats. I have been trying to get 2 business from Quantas LAX-AKL via my USair FF for the past month, and just got them a few days ago, also for late March, although we would like to go sooner. I was offered 2 business seats earlier, but that involved going from LA to Melbourne to Sydney to Auckland. I turned that down, and waited for the direct flights. All this is to say that if you keep trying, you may get a non stop LAX-AKL which is simpler if you decide to go to NZ first.
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Old Apr 28th, 2004, 04:30 PM
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It is always risky making calls on the weather but I think you should go to the south island of nz first and tropical oz last.

You may beat the first of the cold fronts in nz and get out of the "wet" up north by following that timeline.

A better balance nz\oz would be 12days/17days.
Fly sydney-chch..9 days south island loop...then do auckland and surrounds (3 days) on the way back to nth america.
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Old Apr 28th, 2004, 06:21 PM
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Hello Mike!

Sadly, I'm envious because your alloted vacation time is a whole WEEK longer than I normally spend! And, of course, you realize that now that you've secured 2 First Class tickets that you'll never be able to "go back" again?!

I agree with John that you should do NZ first from LAX to AKL. Or even SFO to AKL, because now there are direct flights, which eliminate the dreaded LAX as well as the layover, security check, etc. You didn't say which airline you have miles on, but if it's UA, you should be able to work those Air NZ flights.

There is more than enough to keep you occupied in the South Island for 2 weeks or 12 days,whichever you decide. This will depend on what you want to do in Australia. As you're considering Sydney, GBR and the Red Centre, you have to keep distances and travel time in mind.

Hope this is helpful!

Melodie
Certified Aussie & Kiwi Specialist
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 04:17 AM
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Jed: I'm in exactly the same situation. Using US miles for this trip. Unfortunately, the QF service direct to Aukland is only two class service, so I could never get first class there. Of course, once they have the new sky beds in J, it will be almost the same and that would probably have been a better bet for me.

John: That is an interesting suggestion. Just from reading I do feel that I'm having to be more slective in what I do in Oz in two weeks, although I've yet to meet a person who thought they spent long enough in NZ. I shall continue to meditate on that -- unfortunately, these "free" tickets require me to make decisions far too early.

Mel: I use US, but if I went on NZ I would be able to connect in SFO. That would be better for me because I have family I could see for half a day or so. My friends at flyertalk insist that first class on QF is better, but I'm not completely convinced. I fly a lot and my status gets me first class most of the time and I do agree that sitting in the back is much harder now. If I had to do it for 20 hours, I think I would die.

All: If I did it this way round, I'd end up at the GBR in mid-April. I was considering a couple of days on an island, maybe the Whitsundays, when I ran into a warning that mid-April was high season there due to "school holidays." Should I be concerned?
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 05:42 AM
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Mike, it isn't clear to me how you're going to get back and forth between Australia and New Zealand.

Anyway, be that as it may, if you allow 2 weeks in Australia, this is what I think is realistic to accomplish during the Oz part of your trip:

Sydney - 3 days
Blue Mountains - 2 days
Canberra - 2 days

The above adds up to a week, all of those are excellent places to visit, and they make a logical group, in that they are relatively close to each other. There are numerous previous discussion threads on them, so I highly recommend doing a word search here at Fodors if you haven't already done so. If you read the old threads and still have questions, there are resident experts on each of those destintions who will be able to give you answers.

Your 2nd week in Oz easily could be taken up by Far North Queensland, the area around Cairns. This would give you access to the GBR and the tropical rainforest. If you travelled inland from Cairns, you also could reach the Outback from this point. Some people choose to visit the Outback with Cairns as their starting point rather than going to Alice Springs and Uluru. I haven't been to the Outback at all, so I don't know which Outback experience is better. However, the FNQ Outback does have the advantage of belonging to a logical "group," along with the GBR and rainforest, in the same way that Sydney, Blue Mountains and Canberra form a logical cluster.

In my opinion this is as much as it would be realistic to do in 2 weeks. If you took up John's suggestion of devoting 17 days to Oz, maybe you could fit in another destination, perhaps the Whitsunday Islands or Darwin and Kakadu National Park. As Melodie pointed out, travelling from one part of Australasia to another chews up time, and this is something that needs to be factored into the calculation.

I personally wouldn't worry about the school holidays. I haven't been to FNQ or the Whitsundays over the Easter holidays, so cannot comment from experience. However, we were in FNQ during the July school holidays, when southern Australians are even more inclined to escape their winter and flock to the tropics, and it was just fine.

The Whitsunday Islands are a magical place. If time constraints force you to choose between FNQ and the Whitsundays, however, I recommend FNQ. While the Whitsundays are GORGEOUS, they are something like 700 km south of Cairns, and their vegetation is not the tropical rainforest that one finds in FNQ. The rainforest in the far north is something to experience.

Although I think it would be ideal to visit NZ first from the point of view of trying to stay ahead of cold fronts, if you are interested in optimizing the use of your time by visiting places in "clusters," perhaps it would be efficient to visit Sydney, Blue Mountains and Canberra first (since you have to land in Sydney initially), then visit NZ, then fly from NZ to Cairns and visit the tropics last. But if I were you I would take Melodie's advice and try mighty hard to get to NZ first. Melodie said something about Air NZ. I guess it's a member of Star Alliance along with United Airlines.

Just to clarify, of the places I've discussed, the ones I've personally visited are Sydney, Blue Mountains, Whitsundays, coastal FNQ from Cairns up to Cape Tribulation but only as far inland as Kuranda on the edge of the Atherton Tableland / Cairns Highlands.

The places that I've mentioned that I have not visited are Canberra, Alice Springs, Uluru, the Queensland Outback, Darwin and Kakadu National Park. These are all places about which I've learned a lot from reading Fodors posts and that I dearly want to visit in future.
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 06:47 AM
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wlzmatilidia - When I checked with travelocity, there are no non-stop or same plane flights from SFO-AKL. All require changing planes in LAX.

Mike - As far as I can tell, the 747's that Quantas uses - LAX-AKL - have 3 classes. Are you choosing First because of the beds?

FYI- USAir is supposed to be joining Star Alliance, which means that US FF could be used for ANZ. Of course, I will believe it when I see it.
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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Jed: I am told that the Auckland flight (QF 26) is on the 747 configured with 66 business and 366 economy seats and is last to be converted to skybeds (the 74J configuration). I have not been able to confirm this independantly. The beds are probably the main feature that attract me (and they aren't on NZ).

Also, the official start date of US in the star alliance is May 4th. I even have my fancy new "Star Gold" frequent flier card!
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 08:14 AM
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Judy:

Thanks very much for your thoughtful reply. My transportation plans are a bit complex. My "free" ticket will provide me with a flight from SYD-AKL. They will also handle my return from Cairns or Alice Springs or Uluru. I would be have to find my own way from NZ to the other destinations. If I followed your suggestion, I would have to buy two one way tickets from NZ to Cairns.

I appreciate your suggestions and I am generally a person who would prefer to see fewer places and feel that I really knew something about them than to try to get to 20 different locations in 21 days. However, if I only see Sydney and FNQ, I fear I may have too many regrets about the places unseen. I have read many, many previous posts and would agree with all of the places you mention as leading attractions for me. I was intending to do the Blue Mountains during my Sydney "cluster", but had been considering dropping Canberra in favor of some of the other places. FNQ is a clear must-do. My instinct is that I could fit in one other place (leaning towards Red Centre or Whitsundays) but I'm not sure. At the moment, I don't have to decide on the final schedule, but I do have to pick the flight over to NZ and the departure flight within the next few weeks. As one decision seems to affect every other, I am forced to think about a lot of these issues.

I'm currently pricing out various one way tickets on the new "discount" airlines to try to determine what makes sense for us in terms of the cost. I have a feeling that dropping Uluru and Alice might make sense in terms of distance and cost, but I fear that I will missing something uniquely Australian. The other problem is that I would probably want to some of the other central attractions as well, especially King's Canyon, which probably means I'd need 5 days there. 5 days in FNQ, 5 days in the middle and 5 days around SYD seems to add to more than 14!

Sorry to ramble so. There are far too many thoughts rattling around in my otherwise empty noggin.
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 08:51 AM
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Mike, I was doing a word search here at Fodors to find a certain piece of information for you, but while I was at it I stumbled on this extraordinarily useful message outlining the pros and cons of the various islands in the Whitsundays group that Amanda had posted a while back, and I thought I should give you the URL before I lost it:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...3&tid=34487940
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 09:28 AM
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>>>>>>I have a feeling that dropping Uluru and Alice might make sense in terms of distance and cost, but I fear that I will missing something uniquely Australian. The other problem is that I would probably want to some of the other central attractions as well, especially King's Canyon, which probably means I'd need 5 days there. 5 days in FNQ, 5 days in the middle and 5 days around SYD seems to add to more than 14!<<<<<<

Well, I think your wish list is doable. Five days for Sydney + Blue Mountains is reasonable. So is 5 days for FNQ. I suspect it would be possible to visit the Red Centre, including Ayers Rock / Uluru and Kings Canyon in 5 days. There are people who do it in as few as 3 days, as Jake's trip report demonstrates. In fact, Jake's itinerary covers the destinations that you consider to be "must sees."

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...=3&tid=2019151

I was trying to find a message from Paul_S, who lives in Alice Springs, in which he strongly discouraged folks from visiting the Centre in the summer, because of the incredible heat and the incredible flies. May - August was the only period that he recommended for visiting the area. However, if you visit the Centre towards the end of April, it'll be towards the end of the hot season, and you may get away with a tolerable experience in terms of weather and flies. I'm not saying this from personal experience, but rather from what I've read here at Fodors, especially Paul's advice.

I didn't find Paul's post that I was looking for, but I did find another informative thread in which he participated:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...3&tid=34403787

I was interested to note Paul's cautions about the crime situation in Alice Springs. It's a pity. I have a woman friend who lived there years ago, and she loved it. But I don't think that should deter you from visiting Uluru and King's Canyon.

It sounds as if you will have to make a choice, however, between the Whitsunday Islands and the Red Centre, i.e., if you want to retain NZ, Sydney and FNQ, all of which are worthy destinations, in your itinerary.

To choose between the Whitsundays and the Red Centre, I think it would help if you considered whether you wanted an idyllic, comfortable beach experience or whether you wanted an experience that might not be quite as comfortable but one that would be quintessentially "Australian." From what you've said so far, I get the impression you really do want to include an experience that widely is regarded as uniquely Australian. If that is the case, I think you might be better off turning your back on the Whitsundays, tempting though they are.
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 10:56 AM
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Judy:

I am stunned by your generous replies. Thanks a million for all your thoughts and help.

I'm not sure where to start. I've read the links you pointed me to and then spent a while reading almost all of Paul's posts. He may rival Alan as my favorite poster now! Interestingly, when he listed his top ten Australian destinations, he notably omitted many that we have discussed.

I do really like the idea of seeing those places that are quintessentially Australian, but I'm concerned by the strong debate here and elsewhere about them. I'm especially troubled by the people who say it compares poorly to the Sedona/Painted Desert area, which is one of my favorite places in my own country. I'm also not wild about being mobbed by flies and had hoped April would avoid the worst of it. I'd have to say my visit would be more fairly described as early April. Paul pretty unambiguously advises May in many posts.

The islands do appeal, but I grew up on the ocean and have done a lot of time in Hawaii and the Caribbean, so I'm not sure about that one either. Maybe I should do Adelaide or the Ocean Road! This is why I wish I had a lot more time!
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 12:05 PM
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Well, Mike, given the additional information you've provided, I think you should seriously re-consider including a couple of days in Canberra, since it's a pretty special place, is a half day drive from Sydney (less from the Blue Mountains), and reputedly is a small enough city to be seen in a couple of days.

The other place I think you would do well to think about again is the Top End, specifically Darwin and Kakadu National Park. Here's a good post by Fish_Boy:

START OF FISH_BOY'S MESSAGE

Just a quick note on "ideal" time to visit Kakadu.

The peak tourist season for Darwin/Kakadu is May - June - July. This is in the middle of the Dry Season - no rain. Unfortunately, most of the country is either dead, dying, burnt or currently on fire. The wildlife is either migrated, dead, burnt or on fire. The creeks are stagnant pools, the wind blows dust and there is generally an expectation of waiting... for something to happen.

That something is the Wet Season - a spectacular explosion of not only rain but the life that follows. Very exciting and awesome time. People say dont go in the Wet because its warmer (about 2.5 degrees warmer on average) and its much higher humidity (pushing 100% at times). They also say that many places are closed due to flooding - this is partially true - SOME roads are SOMETIMES closed to flooding - and for every location that disappears under water - ten other places become "must see" attractions because of the water ! The Wet Season also supplies the Top End with the best sunsets in the world. Im a photographer born and raised in Darwin and every year I still take hundreds of photos of the storms. Truly gobsmacking in colour and granduer. Anyway, the point is, the two seasons make the same place totally uncomparable between times. You really need to see both. But if its a once off.. dont dismiss a late Wet Season, when everything is still green and the water flowing - say March - April.

Chris.

END OF FISH_BOY'S MESSAGE

That comes from here:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/postrep...0&tid=34494996

Tasmania is reputed to be wonderful. Having lived in Melbourne for 2.5 years, I can also attest to the beauty of the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne's attractions. But I would save them for another trip if I were you. When one travels, one HAS to draw a line somewhere. Australia is the same size as the lower 48 American states, and New Zealand is about the same length as the US west coast from the Canadian to the Mexican borders. You just cannot see it all in a month.

To be honest, every corner of Australia that I visited was lovely, even the ones that were less known to overseas visitors. For example, the coast from Sydney to Melbourne is delightful. The "Sapphire Coast" in the south eastern part of New South Wales (Bermagui - Merimbula - Eden) is drop dead gorgeous, in my opinion. But why doesn't every guide book tell you the Sapphire Coast is a "must see"? I think it's because Australia is so overflowing with beautiful scenery, the Sapphire Coast is RELATIVELY (and I emphasize relatively) less inspiring than some of the big name tourist destinations.

I'm trying to be helpful here, but I don't know if I'm succeeding. Anyway, I'll get back to my "real life," and give some other Fodorites room to jump in with their opinions.
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Old Apr 30th, 2004, 07:21 AM
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You have been uncommonly helpful, even if we have both swerved a bit from the original topic. I have concluded that I will in fact do NZ first and I'm leaning in the direction of the advice to change from 14 days in each country to 12 in NZ and 16 in Australia. I don't have to make all the decisions of destination now, just when I go to NZ.

My current plan is to spend 5 days in and around Sydney (including the Blue Mtns) and then fly into Christchurch and start my NZ portion (March 31 or so). I have 3 weeks to decide where to do my return flight from! If I do the Red Centre or Darwin, I'd probably choose to end there and fly from there. If I don't I'll probably fly out of Cairns and end there.

I'll have to buy (gasp!) my own tickets one way from Aukland to Cairns and Cairns to Uluru or Darwin. It looks like buying them will be cheaper than the Boomerang Pass in my case. After I do some more research, I'll probably post again and seek more opinions. We are also avid "geocachers", so I'll have to check out the site to see where the best places are for that! Its all so complicated! Thanks a million to all -- I realized that declaring Alan and Paul my favorite posters was quite rude. Of course, all those fine folks who replied to MY thread are really my favorite.
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Old Apr 30th, 2004, 09:45 AM
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>>>>>>Thanks a million to all -- I realized that declaring Alan and Paul my favorite posters was quite rude.<<<<<<

Don't feel badly, Mike. I enjoy Alan's and Paul's posts too. But there are many other great posters here, as you said. As your questions become more specific, specialists in certain areas will step forward to answer.

But if you exclude Canberra from your itinerary you'll deprive yourself of Neil_Oz's wisdom. That's my hidden agenda in recommending Canberra. I want to throw a few crumbs in Neil's direction.

Just kidding. Neil has provided some excellent info on Canberra, and it is what has motivated me to visit Canberra next time I'm in Australia.

The inside joke about giving Canberra a bit of attention is that Neil was a little cheeky a while ago. When someone challenged him on it, he excused himself by claiming he was suffering from "relevance deprivation." There are so many more questions about Sydney, which Alan often fields, than there are about Canberra.

On a more serious note, Pat Woolford's writings on the Outback part of Queensland also have motivated me to go further afield than the coast the next time I'm in FNQ.

Pat and Fish Boy (Chris) have helped me to be less paranoid about The Wet in FNQ and Darwin / Kakadu. I am seriously considering going there towards the end of The Wet, some April, as you're thinking of doing in the case of Queensland.
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Old May 1st, 2004, 07:52 AM
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Thought I'd put my 2 cents in regarding Mike's original message and some of the follow up.

Seems to me the most efficient and logical thing is to do is to tour Australia first and then go to NZ on the way home. The changes in weather and daylight will not be that dramatic that they should factor in. With limited time why waste a day or two with unnecessary flights?

Another thought...a huge percentage of visitors from the States pretty much follow the same itinerary, or the reverse....Sydney/Blue Mts, Cairns, Alice/Ayers Rock. That is fine and these are great destinations. The trouble is it takes a bit more effort to get away from the same crowd in the same tourist buses going to the same places.

To see reef and rainforest, Cairns is not your only choice, by any means. Southeast Queensland easily has as much to offer - Heron Island on the southern GBR, Fraser Island (a huge wild sand island with beautiful perched lakes and rainforest), Lamington National Park (rainforests, mountains, waterfalls and miles of hiking trails) and great surf beaches.

As for outback - most of Australia is outback. Alice Springs is just a dot in the middle of it where everybody goes. There are a lot of other possibilities, needless to say. Even a drive not too far inland from Cairns gets you into some very remote savannah country. The Undarra Lava Tubes, a half day drive from Cairns are in real outback country. A superb place for seeing Aussie wildlife as well. Carnarvon Gorge in Central Queensland is stunning, largely off the usual tourist beat. Fantastic hiking and wildlife too!

As for how much time between Aus and NZ - seems appropriate with just a month to spend more time in Aus. It's not that NZ doesn't deserve more (I'd love to go there for a year!), it's just that you can get a good overall picture of NZ in 7-10 days You would have no hope of doing that in Australia even with a couple of months.

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Old May 3rd, 2004, 04:36 AM
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Hi there,

I just happened to be browsing this forum for a friend who works in the travel industry and thought I might be able to help.

As a Tasmanian bushwalker, I find the information at http://www.bom.gov.au absolutely essential. BoM can give you current warnings and forecasts, satellite/radar imagery and perhaps more usefully for you in this case, archival meteorological data.

To get an idea of what to expect, click on:

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/

There is an absolute load of information here, select type of data required, select map and then (depending on option selected) select a base station near where you intend to travel.

For example this great tool will create maps based on monthly temperature min/max:

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/map/anual_rainfall/

I took a quick look, comparing March and April across Australia based on historical data. I found maximums really didn't change, but minimums told a bit more about what it's like.

In another example, here's a map of daylight across Australia in March:

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averag...gifs/mar.shtml

Personally, I have not been to the centre, or the GBR, but have lived in Darwin, Atherton (near Cairns) and Sydney. Naturally the weather will be hotter closer to Christmas, but should be quite enjoyable for watersports in April, on the mainland anyway.

I'm no traveller, but I hear that NZ has similar weather to Tasmania. In that case I would do NZ first in the warmer part of the year, then head to Australia and warmer climes. Here in Tassie, Easter is my wrap-up date for walks for the season (I prefer sunny weather, not rain/sleet/hail .

As a practical example, I went to Maria Island ( http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/natparks/maria/ ) for a four-day bushwalk on April 15. Originally we decided to go to Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair ( http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/recreati.../overland.html )
but there was massive rain forecast and we took a bet on the east coast instead. The western mountains took all the the rain and we had a great trip with warm, fine weather.

Tassie is the coldest state, so if you were anywhere north of Brisbane, I would say it wouldn't really matter which month you were there.

I hope these resources will be of use to you in making your plans, and that you enjoy your visit to our nation.
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