Australia and NZ - How many days and where

May 27th, 2004, 03:21 PM
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Australia and NZ - How many days and where


We are planning on a trip to Australia and New Zealand in December for 3 weeks and have just started doing some research on this trip. We are a couple in our late 30s, love nature, scenery, architecture, history and culture.

Here is what I am thinking of doing (havent gotten to the point of deciding what to do in each place, suggestions welcome!).

Australia - 14 days
1. Melbourne - 2 days
2. Sydney - 4 days
3. Gold Coast - 3 days
4. Brisbane - 2 days
5. Cairns - 3 days

New Zealand - 7 days
1. Queensland - 3 days
2. Auckland - 2 days
3. Christchurch - 2 days

Does this sound right ? Any suggestions on what to modify ? Any tips appreciated !

Thanks in advance,
CarlPost2 is offline  
May 27th, 2004, 04:34 PM
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Hello Carl,

I cannot comment on the NZ portion of your trip.

As far as the Oz part is concerned, I think you're squeezing Cairns too tightly. It would be tricky to fly in and out of there and still fit in the two top priority activities for that area, the GBR and the tropical rainforest, each of which really needs the better part of a day.

You also run into the possibility of the conditions out at sea being unsuitable for a boat ride on the day you want to go out to the GBR. Then, if your schedule has no wiggle room in it, you may not get out to the GBR, which would be a horrible shame, IMO.

So, much as it pains me to say this, because I like Brisbane, I think you should consider shaving a day off Brisbane. It is a city of about 1.5 million people, and it's possible to get an overview of it in a day.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
May 27th, 2004, 07:00 PM
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Carl, December would be a nice time to visit supernatural Tasmania There's great scenery, food and history there. Pace of life is like N. California in the 70's.
AndrewDavid is offline  
May 27th, 2004, 07:03 PM
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CarlPost2, I agree with Judy, you need a bit more time in Cairns. I'd go further and ask if you have a special reason to include the Gold Coast - nice hinterland but otherwise Australia's Miami. I like Brisbane too, but 2 weeks isn't long to experience Australia.

Bearing in mind your interest in history and culture, you might like to consider Australia's capital, Canberra, instead. Canberra's national institutions (including the excellent National Gallery) will give you a compact intro to our history, arts and culture, supplemented by what you can see in Melbourne and Sydney. Check for the full range of attractions.

If you have only 7 days in NZ and you don't mind driving on the left, I'd stick to the South Island and rent a car. You could comfortably cover Queenstown, Milford Sound and surrounds that way, maybe drive up the west coast and return to CHC via Arthur's Pass. That will satisfy your appetite for scenery. The north island is also very attractive, especially if you're interested in Maori culture, but is not so scenically spectacular.
Neil_Oz is offline  
May 27th, 2004, 07:37 PM
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Carl: With just 14 days in Australia, I'd stick to just 3 areas and get your money's worth out of where you do go. You will also eat up a lot of valuable time just getting from A to B. I'd count Gold Coast/Brisbane as one area as they are so close to each other. Flying all the way down to Melbourne for just 2 days seems a bit silly to me.
RalphR is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 08:08 AM
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Thanks for the replies, all. Is th Gold Coast area really like Miami in the US ? If so, then I'd probably skip it totally - overcrowded beaches and hep culture isnt our cup of tea.

Also, I'd love to be able to drive in NZ, but not knowing how to drive on the left makes me a little nervous.

So hows this now ?

Australia - 13 days
1. Melbourne - 3 days
2. Sydney - 4 days
3. Gold Coast\Brisbane - 2 days - if I skip this totally, how should I spend these 2 days ?
4. Cairns - 4 days

New Zealand - 8 days
1. Queensland - 4 days
2. Auckland - 2 days
3. Christchurch - 2 days

Thanks again !
CarlPost2 is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 06:14 AM
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Hi Carl: I perhaps should have said I don't think it's worth your time or money fly anywhere anywhere for just two days. It obviously depends on what your interests are and how you plan to get around. I'm assuming, based on your interest in nature and scenery, that in any given city you'll want to spend a significant proportion of your time getting out and about into the surrounding countryside (into the bush as they say). In the case of Melbourne (a big city of ~4 million), perhaps the most spectacular attraction outside the city is the Great Ocean Rd - you would most likely need 2 days and an overnight just for that.

Miami Beach is perhaps a bit extreme in describing the Gold Coast. But it is an urbanized resort area - in Surfers Paradise (the main district) there are numerous high rise hotels, besides restaurants, stores, etc. - all right on the beach. Elsewhere on the GC there are a number of theme parks (Seaworld, Dreamworld, etc) and some excellent nature parks (e.g., Currumbin Bird Sanctuary). The GC may not be your cup of tea (it isn't mine either), but I will say the beaches are spectacular and it is an excellent base for seeing what is otherwise a very beautiful part of Australia. (I know this because my mum-in-law lives there and we have visited many times.) Head south to Byron Bay for some superb surf beaches and coastal scenery or head inland into the mountains of the Gold Coast Hinterland. Lamington Nat'l Park is famous for its scenery, rainforests, waterfalls and wildlife and has the most extensive trail system of any NP in Australia.

So a few possible itineraries taking into account the above:

Sydney 4 days, Melbourne 4 days, Cairns 5 days.

Sydney 4 days, GC/Brisbane 4 days, Cairns 5 days

I like the idea of Tasmania in Dec so here's another possibility:

Sydney 4 days, Hobart 4 days, Cairns 5 days.

Doing one moderate-length drive along the coast between cities may also be worth considering and could fit into your timetable, e.g. Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane or Melbourne-Adelaide along the Great Ocean Rd.
RalphR is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 07:14 AM
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CarlPost2, I hate driving in unfamiliar cities on the "wrong" side of the road, but I found driving in the countryside to be really, really easy. I'm not a confident driver, so if I found it easy, I bet you would too.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 07:46 AM
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Hi Ralph,

I like your idea of spending time only in Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns. I particularly like the idea of driving along the Great Ocean Road.

Let me ask you something related to this - how do one way car rentals work in Australia ? I know in the US, its fairly expensive to do this and they charge all kinds of fees. So if I did drive from point A to B along the Great Ocean Road, would renting a car be breaking the bank ?

Also, finally, given that we drive along the Great Ocean Road - which would be a better drive - Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane or Melbourne-Adelaide ? Please keep in mind that since we are new to driving on the left, I'd like to avoid heavily congested roads with lots of traffic, but at the same time would like to take the most scenic and beautiful route - so I guess I would like to strike a balance between scenic routes and trafic. Any suggestions ?

Thanks again for taking the time to help me out !
CarlPost2 is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 10:20 AM
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Hi Carl,

One way car rentals between major cities have never been a problem in my experience. You would have to go with a major rental agency that operates Australia-wide. I took an Avis car from Mackay to Cairns a couple of years ago without dropoff fees and have done it a few times between Sydney and the Gold Coast.

The Great Ocean Rd is not the major thoroughfare between Melbourne and Adelaide so apart from the stretches close to the cities, traffic will not be an issue. Same for the coastal route between Sydney and Melbourne. There are two major routes between Sydney and Brisbane - the Pacific Hwy and the New England hwy, which tracks inland. Two lanes most of the way, with the occassional town and divided hwy. Not a lot of traffic by US standards, but quite a few big trucks.

Whichever way you go, you'll need a bit of time to divert here and there to see the sights. Each of the three routes offers some great places to see and some lovely scenery. Still, my pick would be Melbourne-Adelaide along the GOR. Fly to Melbourne, spend a day in the city, rent a car and take a couple of days to drive to Adelaide, perhaps spending two nights en route. Adelaide is a very nice city and it might be worth your while to spend a extra day or two seeing the nearby wine country (eg, the Barossa Valley) that Adelaide is famous for.

So here's the suggestion:

Sydney 3 nights
Melbourne 2 nights
Melbourne-Adelaide (GOR) 2 nights
Adelaide 2 nights
Cairns 4 nights
RalphR is offline  
May 30th, 2004, 09:09 AM
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Hi Carl: Upon further reflection on my last suggestion, that itenerary still seems a bit rushed. Starting a drive from Sydney will save a day or two. Question is: do you go north or south? Tough question. I'm more familiar with the trip north than south, having done the whole coastal trip to Melbourne just once. However, I have seen the south coast closer to Sydney numerous times when I lived in Canberra and used to go down to Batemans Bay on weekends. There are some very nice spots, e.g., Jervis Bay with its great beaches, among the whitest in the world. If you're a bit adventurous you could consider a day hike up Pigeon House Mt, near Ulladulla. Spectacular views into the wild reaches of Moreton NP. I've not yet been, but I hear very good things about Wilson's Promontory NP in Victoria, closer to Melbourne. Coastal walks, secluded beaches and lot of wildlife.

Going north along the Pacific Hwy you can detour to numerous little towns with fantastic beaches. The pick of the bunch is Byron Bay with its beautiful walk along the cliffs from the lighthouse and panoramic views up and down the coast and inland. If you probe inland a little there are other great spots, e.g. Barrington Tops, Mt Warning (great day hike!)and Lamington NP.

So the new suggestion would be:

Sydney 4 nights
Sydney-Brisbane (or Melbourne) 4 nights
Cairns 5 nights

RalphR is offline  
May 30th, 2004, 11:54 AM
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Thanks Ralph- this looks great. In fact Sydney-Brisbane might be better, since I am headed up to Cairns anyways, this will be in the same general direction. This means I'll probably skip Melbourne, but then with limited time and limited $$$ something's gotta give, and looks like the axe is gonna fall on Melbourne.

Would the Sydney-Brisbane drive be ok for newbies (driving on the left) ? Are these major highways (like the ones you see in the US, multiple lane divided highways) or smaller roads ?

Finally, how far of a drive would be from Brisbane to Gold Coast and would it be worth it ?

Thanks again for taking the time Ralph !
CarlPost2 is offline  
May 30th, 2004, 08:17 PM
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Now you are starting to make progress Carl.

Cutting melbourne is a smart move.

Try and hold about 8 days for a south of the south island of NZ loop..chch,arthurs pass,glaciers,queenstown,sounds,maybe otago peninsula.

You can handle the pacific highway north.Getting out of sydney probably the biggest hassle.The highway from sydney to Taree is basically the equivalent of a US interstate.There are some sections of good quality road after that but not that frequent.Get off the highway and its real backroads stuff..but thats where you will find the real aussies.

Take 4-5 days to go sydney-brissy
see the snake venom milked at the gosford reptile park,check out a hunter valley winery,do the dlophin cruise at port stephens,stay each night by the beach..wake up with a morning surf in the crystal clear pacific,stay at the smoky cape B&B,visit Bellingen and the Dorigo rainforest,stay at or near Byron Bay,swim at the base of Minyon falls in the rainforest,buy a didge at the channon markets,sea kayak round the most easterly point of oz,climb mt warning,go to the david fleay koala park and currumbin sanctuary.....

the gold coast is on the route sydney-brisbane.It is about an hour by road south of brisbane.
Get a cheap flight brissy-cairns.
johhj_au is offline  
May 30th, 2004, 08:39 PM
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Hi Carl: some good words there from John. As he pointed out, you will drive through or around the Gold Coast as you head north to Brisbane. But don't rush there - many of the better places, with the definite exception of the Gold Coast Hinterland, are well before then. Important thing is to do your research, take your time, get a good map, and get off the main drag here and there to see the sights. Speaking of maps, a good idea would be to stop at an NRMA office in Sydney (the equivalent of AAA in the States) and pick up an NRMA map or two for your drive. The maps are quite detailed and have good "things to see" suggestions on the back as well.
RalphR is offline  
May 31st, 2004, 08:29 PM
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Hi Carl,

If you only have eight days in NZ, I would also recommend sticking to one island or the other. We loved our 10 days on the North Island, but since it looks like you're planning most of your time on the South Island, you ought to try to fly into Christchurch rather than Auckland.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
May 31st, 2004, 09:08 PM
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As RalphR rightly pointed out, my Gold Coast-Miami comparison was a bit misleading and meant to stretch no further than beaches overshadowed by high-rise development. "Hep culture" is perhaps not the first phrase that would leap to mind when thinking of Surfers Paradise, and Cuban restaurants are in short supply.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 08:47 PM
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I have just a few comments here. We did 3+ weeks in Australia and New Zealand last year and enjoyed both countries. Having said that I would recommend considering doing one but not both countries in three weeks. Australia is a large country and even three weeks is not enough to do it justice. New Zealand is smaller but packed with more than enough to do in three weeks. I would recommend New Zealand especially the South island for a first trip down under. New Zealand is also less expensive to visit as you do not have to fly many thousands of miles to get around. If you wished to do Australia for three weeks you could easily do Sydney, Cairns, Kakadu, Melbourne, Alice Springs/Uluru, and Tasmania in three weeks.
If you are commited to both countries I would probably do my schedule differently. Consider Sydney (4) days, Cairns (4) days, than either Melbourne or Hobart for (3-4) days. I would than do
Auckland/Rotorua/Glow worm caves
(2) days than the rest on the South Island with driving between Queenstown, Milford Sound, Wanaka and Haast pass, Glaciers, Arthur's Pass, Christchurch, Mt Cook etc.
mjs is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 03:37 AM
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Hi, Carl,
mjs has given you some excellent advice re New Zealand. The South Island is magnificent for its scenery, the North Island fora very different type of scenery. Auckland offers the Kelly Tarlton Aquarium, a must-see, among others. Rotorua has the hotpools, Geyserland, Orakei Korako which is not a well-known place but is another great 'hot' area like geyserland. Glow worm caves at Waitomo are also well-worth it.
Suggest for accommodation check out - a great website for a range of accommodation styles and grades. Should also be able to find some ideas of activities to do in each place. At the time of year you are coming over here I would suggest Milford Sound / Doubtful Sound. At least try to cruise during the daytime if you don't have time for an overnight cruise. Just awesome scenery.
Next point is that in both countries schools will be finishing about a week before Christmas for around 6 weeks so bookings will be at a premium - pay you to book fairly soon.
Enjoy your preparation and fulfilment of your plans.
dotty is offline  
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