Australia Itinerary: 5 weeks

Old Apr 6th, 2009, 07:56 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 211
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Australia Itinerary: 5 weeks

My husband and I will be leaving for Australia in the end of September for 5 weeks. Then, after that, we will be spending 4 weeks in New Zealand. We want an Australia itinerary that allows us to see the sights but at a fairly relaxing pace because we are going to be traveling for such an extended period of time. At the same time, we both love scenery and good food and wine so we want to maximize our time in places where we can enjoy those. We enjoy beaches but aren't huge beach people, so we'll be perfectly fine with just a week or two near the beaches.

Currently, I am thinking about one of two different itineraries:

Sydney - 1 week
Drive from Sydney to Melbourne - 1 week
Fly to Uluru/Alice Springs - 1 week in the Red Center
Fly to Cairns - 2 weeks driving from Cairns to Brisbane

OR

Sydney - 1 week
Fly to Uluru/Alice Springs - 1 week in the Red Center
Fly to Perth - 1 week spent in Perth and Margaret River area
Fly to Cairns - 2 weeks driving from Cairns to Brisbane

But, I am completely open if you have other thoughts because it is so hard to narrow down our choices in such a vast country. Thanks in advance for your help!
akila is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2009, 08:03 AM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 211
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Oh, one other thing, the reason why I really like the idea of driving from Cairns to Brisbane is so we can see the Whitsundays and also (hopefully) see the humpback whales.
akila is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2009, 03:41 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 911
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you decide on your second itinerary I suggest you change the order to Sydney - Perth - Uluru - Carins to Brisbane. This will reduce the time in the air.

It is possible to fly Cairns - Proserpine from where you could take a vehicle down to the Fraser coast. However two weeks is not a lot of time to see the east coast of Queensland in a relaxed fashion. Even just that bit south of Cairns. You might be better off skipping one of your three destinations. Cairns and hinterland would be the largest area in terms of sights and things to do so you decide if that gets priority or causes it to drop off the list.
Saltuarius is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2009, 11:48 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Qantas is the only airline servicing Uluru and that can effect flight planning involving there though if looking at a flight into Alice Springs you have the option of using www.tigerairways.com.au which have fairly cheap flights using Melbourne as a hub.

Depending on what you decide it may even be worthwhile to consider an in/out of separate airports, ie. in to Melbourne and out from Sydney.

Melbourne also has many near city wine regions and in a total sense has more to offer than Perth, being especially known for its diverse dining precincts.

You could go something like Melbourne > Alice Springs > Uluru > Cairns > Whitsundays, perhaps even then fly to Brisbane and back to Hervey Bay for the whale watching or it's an easy enough two day drive from Whitsundays to Hervey Bay though not spectacularly inspiring countryside.

www.travelmate.com.au will help with driving distances/times and trimming a day or two from Melbourne and Alice Springs/Uluru and allowing four or five for Sydney as well will still not having you feel too rushed and give you some extra time for Cairns region, GBR, Whitsundays and the Whales.

Also check out www.qantas.com.au re the Qantas Aussie Pass as that could give you some reasonable cost advantage, especially if flying to Perth and back.
Bushranger is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2009, 08:19 AM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 211
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks - this is really helpful. Bushranger, I priced out the Qantas Aussie Air Pass but it isn't cost-effective because we would need to do the upgrade to 3-months which is $500 extra and would end up running us $1900. I have priced out the below itinerary plus New Zealand and Fiji for $2000.

I priced out a couple of more options based on your thoughts and the bottom line is that it is a lot lot cheaper if we avoid flying into Brisbane. For some reason, every time I include Brisbane on the itinerary, the fare jumps by about a $1000. And, Saltuarius, I think you're right --- trying to drive Cairns to Brisbane in 2 weeks might be a bit rushed. So, here are the revised possible options:

Fly into Cairns - 1-2 weeks, possibly flying to the Whitsundays during that time
Fly to Alice Springs/Uluru - 1 week
Fly to Perth - 1 week
Fly to Melbourne and drive from Melbourne to Sydney - 1 week
Sydney - 1 week

That seems like a very doable itinerary to me and not too crazed. The reason why I picked this way rather than starting in Sydney is because it reduces our air fare significantly because we can take a cheaper flight from Sydney to New Zealand.

So, my questions are:
1. Is the Whitsundays really worth the extra cost and effort to get down there? They look incredible but, at this point, everything looks incredible.
2. Would you recommend Perth? I feel like I am reading varying ideas about Perth. Some people say that it is the best part of their trip while others feel like Western Australia and Perth are boring. What do you think?
3. Between the two --- the Whitsundays or Perth --- which would you pick? Right now, our must sees are Sydney, Cairns, and Uluru.
4. Should we do the drive from Melbourne to Sydney? Or should we drop Melbourne from our list? I liked the idea of driving from Sydney to Melbourne because it looked like there were many wineries along the way, but if we would be better off spending more time visiting the wineries in a different area, we could do that. Or, we could just stay longer in Melbourne and drop Perth from the list.

Thanks in advance for your help!
akila is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2009, 08:41 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 211
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
One more thought: I get somewhat seasick and I realize that the prime attraction of the Whitsundays is to go on a sailing cruise. If we would want to avoid a sailing cruise, is it worthwhile to go to the Whitsundays?
akila is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2009, 03:52 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,124
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I wouldn't suggest driving Brisbane-Cairns. Mackay-Cairns or Townsville-Cairns would be more reasonable. The long Rockhampton-Mackay stretch, in particular, does not offer that much to see. Also, do not neglect the area north of Cairns - Daintree, Cape Tribulation, Cooktown. You could easily spend 10 days to two weeks enjoying north Queensland. Also, as nice as the Whitsundays are (I've been to Brampton Island and loved it), you dont need to go that far south to see beautiful rainforest islands...there's Dunk Island off Mission Beach and Hinchinbrook Island off Cardwell.

Instead of Sydney-Melbourne, I'd suggest Melbourne-Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road, one of the most scenic roads in Australia. And Adelaide is a wonderful place with famous South Australian wine country nearby (Barossa, Clare, Maclauren Vales) and the spectacular Flinders Ranges in the Outback north of the city. If you do drive Sydney-Melbourne, the main road (the Hume Hwy) is not the most exciting. You'd be better off driving on back roads through the mountains or along the coast, even though the "coast road" doesn't hug the water that much at all.

I havent been to Perth, but have traveled extensively throughout the rest of the country...from what I know and have seen, I'd suggest a couple of other areas first...Tasmania, The Top End (Darwin, Kakadu, etc) or the Kimberley region in northern Western Australia (Bungle Bungle Ranges, Broome, etc)
RalphR is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2009, 08:13 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'll just try and get back to answering what you're looking at instead of giving any more options and as you've already discovered yourself there're many.

First off, starting in Cairns is a good approach in that weather will be already warm enough there and at Alice/Uluru whereas it'll be getting warmer still as summer beckons.

The Whitsundays are a lovely lot of islands and yes it is as much about sailing about them and out to the GBR for beaches/snorkelling experiences, Whitehaven Beach of talc like sand that is just amazing for its whiteness and softness, but yes if you're prone to sea-sickness any "weather" or just open water swell can do wonders with the stomach you'd rather not have.

A trip to the Whitsundays may not give you the whale watching you sought and if you want that to still be on your agenda, you'll need to do some more tweaking.

You would also find that getting to Uluru will mean either a flight back to Cairns or getting down to Brisbane.

Perth is a lovely enough city with the Swan River making for a great setting but just on size alone it'll lack the diversity or extent of it that Sydney or Melbourne can offer and though there are regions from Perth to visit, Margaret River wineries for instance are quite a hike, even more so than Hunter Valley is to Sydney and certainly nowhere the proximity of Victorian vineyards to Melbourne.

If you fly into Cairns you could always have a look about that area and still include a drive to the Whitsundays allowing a few days for that so as to include some of the Cairns hinterland on the way which would be an efficient use of your travelling/touring time and then you could see how the weather was at Whitsundays to decide on sailing or with just a day trip about the islands in more sheltered waters you could still get to see a highlight like Whitehaven Beach before flying on to Sydney.

You could still do the drive to Melbourne and yes northern Victoria and the region around Melbourne have along with SA regions agreat density of wineries, a drive south from Sydney to include Royal National Park/Lawrence Hargreaves drive and on to just before Bega before heading inland for Cooma/Jindabyne and Alpine Way into Victoria via Kiewa Valley/Bright or Beechworth will give a great coastal, alpine and rural driving experience that'll include many options for wineries.

You could then still use a cheaper Tiger flight to Alice Springs, tour out to Uluru and fly back from there to Sydney.
I'd think that'll be better use of your time than flying over to Perth for which you'd be looking at another day lost both ways with flights.
I'd say something like the following time allocation would not see you too rushed
Days 5-6 Cairns
6-9 Drive to Whitsundays
10-12 Whitsundays [-14 if extended sail]
Days 15-20 Sydney
21-24 Drive to Melbourne
24-28 Melbourne region
29-34 Alice/Uluru
35 Back to Sydney
Just an approximate indication and if sailing is not on for Whitsundays, you could arrange to fly to Brisbane and back to Hervey Bay for Whale Watching and then on to Sydney.

You certainly do not have time to cover your initial interests and go Ralphing off to Tasmania, Flinders Ranges, the NT and WA or wherever but great areas to cover on another trip if having more time at right time of year for best weather.
Bushranger is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2009, 08:18 AM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 211
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wow! Thanks so much for all this information RalphR and Bushranger. Fodors people are the best!

After thinking about it some more, we are going to extend the Australia portion of our trip to 6 weeks and do 4 weeks in New Zealand which will give us a bit more breathing room in Australia. And, given that I am prone to seasickness (especially on sailing ships), we are going to drop the Whitsundays from the list. Three days on a sailboat with no chance of escape doesn't sound very pleasant.

Instead, I think we will and add more time to the Cairns area so that we can see some of the off-shore islands near Cairns and also spend more time in the Cape Tribulation/Daintree area. After doing a bit more research, I think we would probably base ourselves in Port Douglas and rent an apartment for that time-frame.

I am still wavering on the Perth part. Both of us are attracted to the Perth area because Western Australia seems to be more about natural beauty and we love finding places with wild, open air beauty (one of our favorite places is Donegal in Ireland). And, we love wildflowers and read that the wildflowers bloom everywhere in Western Australia in October. So, that is the allure of Perth. But, if the wildflowers will be mostly gone by October, then, we probably wouldn't want to go. Or, maybe we should go to the Kimberley or Tasmania instead.

So, with Perth, our revised itinerary would look something like this:

10 days in Cairns
7 days in Alice Springs/Uluru (we want to make sure we have time to see the various sites)
[7 days in Perth area OR we could spend 10-14 days in Western Australia]
Fly to Melbourne - 4 days in Melbourne area [or should we add the extra time to this portion of the itinerary and drive from Adelaide to Melbourne]
4 days driving from Melbourne to Sydney
7 days in Sydney
Fly to New Zealand

Again, I really appreciate all of your help.
akila is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2009, 05:45 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 911
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Sounds like you are getting it worked out.

A Port Douglas or northern Beaches apartment would be a good base for your Cairns /Cape Tribulation part of the north Queensland stay but I do not see you mention the Atherton Tablelands. I know I am prejudiced but it is a marvellous area and from there you can take day trip out into the semi-arid country if you are interested in geology of lava tubes or limestone caves. Base yourself in Atherton or Yungaburra for at least three nights.

The reasons one should not miss the Tablelands is the variety of wildlife: wallabies, platypus, tree-kangaroos, colourful and rare birds and beautiful scenery. They also have tea and coffee plantations and produce fruit wines and liquors. You can swim in the clear waters of crater lakes and under waterfalls.

If it were me, I would take the extra time in the W.A. area and on the drive to Sydney. Take local advice in Perth on the wildflowers as each season is different but count on the flowers being out at the latitude of Perth and further south at that time of year. If you want to understand what you are looking at then I suggest a tour of a couple of days with a guide. I am an amateur botanist and I find their botany confusing.
Saltuarius is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2009, 03:20 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I reckon you could keep jumping around a bit with different ideas and at this stage I'd be researching the different areas a bit - google's great and then make yourself up a priority list.

Looking ar what it is in different areas, it's easy enough to work out time you'd reckon be best, eg. how many day hikes or getting around to a few different spots etc. and then travel times are easy enough to calculate and so you'll get a structure based on your specific interests.

Then if you have an overall time run over, you start dropping off lower priorities or review what it is you intend doing at particular locations and thus time allocated.
Bushranger is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2009, 10:09 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 211
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Okay, so here's the big question that we are left with:

Do we spend 2 weeks in Western Australia (starting in Perth and driving around that area) OR do we spend 2 weeks driving from Adelaide to Sydney (including the Great Ocean Road)? Both have beautiful scenery, off-the-beaten path towns, and great wineries. And, if we do one or the other, then we will be able to keep our airfare under budget. It seems like the road from Adelaide to Sydney has more tourist attractions --- but we love losing ourselves in off-the-beaten path places as long as those places are beautiful and interesting. I would love to hear your vote! Thanks.
akila is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2009, 08:16 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
As lovely as the SW of WA is and two weeks is a great ammount of time to do a casual wander about, off the beaten path towns and wineries ain't exactly wedded bliss for wineries do depend on some travelling trade for survival and they'll be more clustered about less than off the beaten paths.

Actually, one exception I can think of is Tilba Valley Winery on south coast of NSW, a pristine area if ever there was one too.

But generally speaking there is just so much more to do in the SE of Australia, two weeks between Adelaide and Melbourne also a great enough ammount of time to meander about a bit combining some terrific coastal and alpine territory if you so desired and far far more scope for wineries when you take into account those of SA and Victoria.
WA you'll also find is more spread out, it being quite a bit less populous and so whereas you can have a great time there too, it'll seem at times as though you are driving some long distances between places, and you are in relatively flatter less interesting terrain than you have about the whole SE.
Bushranger is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2009, 08:22 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Once you have more input and come to a decisionif it is the SE which I know a lot of pretty well like the back of my hand, I can give you some travelling ideas that will get you to some interesting off the path places if you like.
But not much point if you could head the other way.

Our US poster Mel, currently travelling I think but residing more or less in Perth did a loop of the SW WA last year and has compiled a comprehensive trip report if you want to read on some nitty gritty detail.
Scroll down a bit and you'll find it easily enough - the trip reports have like a little book indicator if you hadn't noticed.
Bushranger is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2009, 04:12 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 597
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm just kind of curious why you never mentioned the possibility of going north from Alice Springs to Darwin and a visit to Kakadu National Park? There are plenty of tours there and Greyhound goes there at least once a day. When I read that you love beautiful scenery I just had to ask. But I hate to confuse you even more. Australia is gorgeous, and you will probably love every place that you visit. But here goes, my take on your trip.

I agree with the comments that going to Perth will take up valuable time flying back and forth.
I also agree with you that maybe the Whitsunday's are not the best place if you are not hot on beaches or sailing.

Cairns is nice, but Port Douglas is less developed and more special because of that. It is lovely. There is a drop dead gorgeous beach that you can look at, even if you are not really beach people, and the trip to the Barrier Reef is much shorter from Port Douglas than it is from Cairns. Maybe 1.5 hrs vs 3 - 3.5 hrs each way. Port douglas is about an hour or 45 minutes N of Cairns. An easy drive through sugar cane country. The Dainetree is beautiful too and you can do a river cruise at night searching for crocodiles which is fun.

I live in Sydney. It is gorgeous with plenty to keep you busy for at least 2 weeks. So one not is not too long. Both Sydney and Melbourne are great cities, if you want to see 2 cities.
Both have great restaurants, cafes, art galleries, cute neighborhoods, etc. The Great Ocean road can be done in 2 days easily from Melbourne and it is pretty. Both cities have wine regions close by if you like doing that. Going a bit inland for one or two days from either city would bring you to lovely small towns. Melbourne has Beechworth, and Sydney has Leura.

Since you have made a very wise decision to add one week to Australia, you are in the unique position of being able to go nearly anywhere. The suggestion of flying into one city and out of another is a very good one.

I honestly would suggest you look into dropping Perth and adding Darwin. If you go to Cairns/Port Douglas, Darwin, Alice Springs/Uluru, Melbourne and Sydney, you will have seen an amazingly wide spread of the beautiful and different environments in this country. At that time of year I would fly into Cairns and out of Sydney. The 'wet' can begin anytime from late September and the weather is getting warmer here in Sydney at that time. I would fly between cities as driving the coast takes much longer than you may expect it to. If you get a car in the cities and use it to go outside, you will see lots. Keeping a car in the city may be difficult depending on where you stay and what the parking is like. Sydney and Melbourne could be bad. The closer you stay to the centers, the more difficult and expensive it gets.

If you are from the US, driving times are about 50% longer here for the same distance you might expect to drive there. Super highways only exist in sections, and many roads may be only one lane in each direction at times. For example, driving Syd-Brisbane is about 12 hours, as is Syd-Mel. Someone gave you a link to a web site with driving times, and I'd go there to help you.

Also, you may want to look into the Alice Springs/Uluru part as per traveling in between the two. If you rent a 4-wheel drive in Alice, I think it's about 5 hours to Uluru, and I'm not sure, but I think you'd have to drive back to Alice too. Maybe flying into Alice and taking a tour is the best as they would take you to special places along the way, such as Kings Canyon, Palm Valley, and more. You would want more time for that than you'd want to stay in Alice itself. Alternatively, you could fly into one, Greyhound bus to the other, and then fly out. I don't know about the smaller airlines.
Here are some links to help you:

http://www.google.com/search?client=...UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
http://www.google.com/search?client=...UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
http://www.google.com/search?client=...UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
http://www.google.com/search?client=...UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

I hope this helps and doesn't confuse you even more. Also, you should expect real bargains coming down here later in the year. Keep looking for special airfares and also other specials in the local areas you want to visit. You should have a great trip!
tinydancer is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2009, 07:18 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,321
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
As you finalize your itinerary, become familiar with Virgin Blue's Happy Hour fares. There's a little learning curve, but climbing it resulted in significant rewards for our five week trip in late 2006. By the way, the airline honored our international baggage allowance for each of our flights.

http://www.virginblue.com.au/

Look on the left-hand side of the page for Happy Hour info.
Betsy is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2009, 11:29 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 211
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks everyone for all your thoughts. Fodorites are the best. It looks like flying to Darwin is both cheaper and much less time-consuming than flying to Perth so, here is what we have finally worked out:

Fly from Los Angeles to Sydney;
Sydney - 1 week
Cairns/Port Douglas/Daintree/Atherton Tablelands - 1 1/2 weeks
Darwin/Kakadu - 1 week
Alice Springs/Uluru - 1 week
Adelaide/Kangaroo Island/Great Ocean Road/Melbourne - 1 1/2 weeks
Fly to Christchurch from Melbourne

Do you think that this is a fairly relaxed pace so we'll have time to just rest and enjoy the cities/countryside along the way instead of rushing from spot to spot?
akila is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2009, 04:16 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Darwin/Kakadu, you may not exactly love in October, sort of getting into one of the worse times of year to go there.
Not just because of weather but being towards end of the dry season, the place is furtherest from being at its best.
Bushranger is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2009, 06:05 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 65
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Akila FYI the closest departure point to the GBR is Cairns. Green Island is a 45 minute cruise from Cairns & reefs such as Norman, Moore & Michaelmas Cay are 90 minutes to 2 hours from Cairns. Not 3 -3 1/2 hours as previously mentioned. The outer reefs such as Agincourt are 1 hour 45 - 2 hours from Port Douglas.
I would skip Upolu Cay if you have seen other outer reef sites.
Every time you snorkel or dive on the reef you will see different corals, fish etc. so why not wait until you have done a couple of outer reef cruises & then decide if you want to see more. You may even choose to go on the same trip twice.
September/October are generally good months for seeing the GBR. Waters are beginning to get warmer & sth easterlies are not as strong.
Webboe is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2009, 09:10 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Is it posible you have got the threads crossed webbo for think it was Big Russ mentioning 3-3.5 hrs. somewhere, possibly as return trip.
Bushranger is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -