Australia Itinerary Advise Please!

Old Aug 5th, 2004, 02:22 PM
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sockboy
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Australia Itinerary Advise Please!

I have been constantly "simplifying" my Australia itinerary over the last several weeks. I started out with way too many destinations and have now reduced it to a pretty basic form.

Day 1 Arrive Sydney from Singapore
Day 2 Sydney Orientation
Day 3 To the Blue Mountains, spend the night
Day 4 back to Sydney
Day 5 Sydney
Day 6 Sydney
Day 7 To Canberra
Day 8 Canberra
Day 9 Fly Canberra to Cairns
Day 10 Cairns
Day 11 Rainforest
Day 12 Great Barrier Reef
Day 13 Cairns
Day 14 Fly Cairns to Auckland

My questions are:
Have I gone too far? Do I have too much time in one place?

If I take the train to the Blue Mountains, will I be be able to get around and to accomodations in the area to spend the night?

Would it make more sense to travel directly from the Blue Mountains to Canberra to combine two days of travel into one?

I had thought of basing myself in one place in the Cairns GBR area. Is this a good idea, or should I break it up?

Again, I am hoping to avoid needing a car in the GBR/Cairns area - is this do-able?

Thank you all in advance!
 
Old Aug 5th, 2004, 04:01 PM
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Hi, sockboy!

I would say that your time has been very well allocated, and I wouldn't see the need to change a thing. Your train trip to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains will take you only two hours, so, yes, you will have plenty of time to settle yourself into some accommodation on that same day. You may be wise to pre-book this, depending on what time of year you are making this trip, and also what day of the week -- the Blue Mountains is a popular weekend destination for Sydneysiders. My advice to you (especially since you are travelling by train) is to avoid weekends for this journey.

There's no reason why you couldn't do the trip from the Blue Mountains to Canberra in a single day -- the only negative I can think of here is that it would perhaps mean that you'd need to take all your luggage with you on the train to the mountains, whereas if you planned to return to the same hotel in Sydney you could ask them to put it in storage for you and travel light. If you were travelling by car, going direct from the Blue Mountains to Canberra would be a very good idea, as you can bypass Sydney altogether and save yourself hours. It may be worthwhile your considering doing a car hire for this part of the journey, in fact -- Budget Car Rentals, which has a branch at Emu Plains, at the foot of the Blue Mountains (an hour from Sydney on the train and an hour from Katoomba) is a major rental company with branches all over, so I should imagine that the idea of hiring in Emu Plains, seeing the Mountains by car, and then returning the car to the Canberra branch wouldn't be too complicated for them to handle (and cost). It would certainly save you a good two hours of travelling. Doing the whole thing by train, however, means coming all the way back to Sydney on the Mountains train (well, practically -- there is one stop about twelve minutes' west of Sydney where you can pick up a Canberra train, but there's not much saving there) to join the Canberra train, which is on a different line.

Another advantage of a car in the Blue Mountains is that it will give you some flexibility of accommodation. The train is best for day trips, but if you are staying the night, you need to know that most of the best places to stay are a couple of kilometres from Katoomba Station, closer to Echo Point and the sights you came to see. The walk is pleasant but hilly. With a car, you could even stay at Leura or Wentowrth Falls or Blackheath, none of which is more than ten minutes' drive from Katoomba.

Canberra is a great place and I am glad you are visiting it, especially if you are coming in the next two months, at which time Canberra is at its best (type "Floriade" into google for more information). However, a car is a really good idea to get around this city, as the roads are seldom congested and the attractions far-flung. I get lost, to be perfectly honest with you, every time I drive in Canberra, despite the excellent signage, because the city has been designed so that there is little built-up area around the main arterial roads, which gives it a nice country atmosphere, but also means that there are no landmarks to guide you -- everything looks the same. Without a car, however, you would miss much -- the observatory, the many consulates, and the interesting Cockington Green, to name a few.

I'll leave the Barrier Reef questions to the experts. Have a great holiday!
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Old Aug 5th, 2004, 04:26 PM
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I agree that driving from the Blue Mts to Canberra is a good idea. The train's a drag. If you do it, get yourself a suitable fold-out map. Drive down the mountains as far as Kingswood, then throw a right onto the Northern Road. Just before Campbelltown there's a prominently-marked right turn to Goulburn and Canberra. At this point you've got good 4-6 lane conditions (110 km/hr) all the way to Canberra. From Katoomba it's a 4-hour drive, tops. Watch for speed cameras, though, which infest the area around Goulburn in particular. Cruise control is a great money saver (118 km/hr works for me).

Alan, I got lost yesterday on an expedition to the far-flung southern suburbs of Canberra, and I've lived here for 20 years. But then, I can get lost anywhere. Especially when I don't bother with a road map. "When all else fails, read the instructions."
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Old Aug 5th, 2004, 06:18 PM
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sockboy, You might base yourself at Pat and Mike Woolford's Lilybank B&B. Pat is a frequent contributor to this site and extremely knowledgeable about n. Queensland

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Old Aug 5th, 2004, 07:23 PM
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I think your itinerary is spot on. If you take a train to Katoomba and stay the night, there is adequate transport to get you to echo point (the famous 3 sisters) and Katoomba is a great place for a short stay. The train station is basically at one end of the main street and there is wonderful old hotel right in the middle of Katoomba, not far from the station - The Carrington. It is a Katoomba landmark. Go to www.thecarrington.com.au. The rates are very reasonable for such a lovely old hotel, espec midweek.

I think you are best to go back to Sydney and then on to Canberra as the train is now very quick from Central. You will be able to arrange getting to the different Canberra attractions from your hotel much easier than trying to figure out where the hell you are in a car.

Cairns is very tourist friendly and again, you should be able to organise tourist stuff from where you stay. There are some different options as far as where to base yourself - rainforest, beach, city etc. I would think Cairns city is best for a short stay as everywhere is pretty accessable. There are some good Cairns websites, one being www.cairns.aust.com.

I think you have designed yourself a very good short Aussie stay. I hope you enjoy it!
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Old Aug 6th, 2004, 10:44 AM
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Thank you all for the information! I think I will reshuffle to travel from the Blue Mountains to Canberra in one day. I am still to make the decision if we will take the train or drive though. Taking the train may be slower, but it is always relaxing compared to having to figure out where you are going! (Especially driving on the unfamilar side of the road!)
 
Old Aug 8th, 2004, 01:07 AM
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I think that's an understandable attitude, sockboy, and certainly you wouldn't find the trains too dire. Change at Strathfield for the connection to Canberra and save yourself a few minutes.

One last push for the driving, however. If you drive from the Blue Mountains to Canberra, you have to make exactly four turns. That's it, I swear. Having passed the penrith turn-oo, you take a right off the Motorway onto the Great Northern Road (it's signposted, but won't mention Canberra). You follow this to the bitter end, where you turn left. About 200 metres of driving and there's a major turn right, marked "Campbelltown". Five more kilometres and you take the final, right turn onto the freeway which goes all the way to Canberra (this time the sign WILL mention Canberra.)The traffic is minimal and most of the journey will be on a divided road. The only narrow road is the Great Northern, but it's a country lane and not at all busy.

Whatever you do, your itinerary is turning out just great. Have a wonderful time!
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Old Aug 9th, 2004, 10:00 AM
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I second the recommendation for staying at Lilybank in the Cairns area. I just can't say enough about the good time I had staying there ... despite the pouring rain my entire visit. Thanks to Pat I flew with a bush pilot doing the postal runs out into the outback, and it was one of the best experiences I've EVER had on vacation. I never would have found out about something like that staying in one of the cookie-cutter chain places. And breakfast is amazing. (Croissants almost the size of my head!)

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Old Aug 9th, 2004, 10:54 AM
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Would heading to the Blue Mountains on a Sunday afternoon be considered "avoiding the weekend"? Or should we try to wait until Monday to avoid the crowds?

Thanks!
 
Old Aug 9th, 2004, 04:51 PM
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Hi, again, sockboy!

My advice to avoid the Blue Mountains at weekends wasn't ONLY so that you'd avoid the crowds; but let's get that out of the way first. The answer is, yes: you would find that when you arrived, most of the weekend tourists would already be on their way home, and the town is yours for the taking.

But there's another factor to consider here. It's called Cityrail. The Sydney Railway system has been, in the last few years, a bit of a disaster, losing untold millions of dollars, sometimes through court-ordered compensation paid to people involved in accidents (only a couple, but notorious ones) deemed to be caused by old rolling stock and inadequately-serviced tracks. Cityrail's response to this has been to recoup some of the losses by cutting back services, and, naturally enough, the weekend services are the first to suffer. One train an hour is the maximum you can expect, and they are generally slower (and stop at more stations)than the weekday counterparts. Timetables are not treated like the Holy Bible at the best of times, but on the weekends they are treated with almost laughable disregard. Worst of all (from your point of view) in an effort to show the world that they are really serious about servicing the old tracks, Cityrail frequently closes down the rail system, replacing it with buses, for two days at a time. The Blue Mountains line is about the worst-affected of these closedowns, which happen ALWAYS on Saturdays and Sundays and are, at present, running at the rate of about one weekend closedown for every two "normal" weekends. The substitute bus service is, in a word, appalling, operating to its own rules which are unpublished, illogical, and not understood even by the people working for it. Catching a bus instead of a train can involve, first of all, hauling your bags all over the place looking for the bus stop (there are temporary signs, but they are often unhelpful), and then sitting in anything Cityrail has been able to hire for the weekend (some of the buses, especially the Westbus ones are disgracefully uncomfortable) for anything up to two hours more than the train would have taken you -- that's twice as long! Often the buses will operate for only part of the route, and unload you at some intermediate spot (often Saint Mary's, which you would have to be a saint to love), from which (after waiting for maybe an hour) you can catch a train -- great fun hauling your bags yet again, and trying to find a seat because of all the people who arrived in the buses that ran prior to yours.

My VERY STRONG advice to you is NOT to commit to a Sunday afternoon train to the Mountains until you have assured yourself that the trains will be running as normal. To do this you need to wait till 6 days before your day of travel (they don't like to plan in advance, these people) and to ring 131500 and ask what the story is. Obviously, you will actually be in Sydney by the time you can do this.

This is a very negative appraisal of what USED to be a very good train system, but I think anyone who reads this who is a resident of Sydney will agree with it. You have two chances in three of getting a "normal" Sunday, but a closedown day could make your Sunday journey a most unpleasant experience indeed.
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Old Aug 9th, 2004, 05:57 PM
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sockboy
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Thanks for the promt and very convincing responce Alan! I will plan on a monday morning train!
 
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