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Cowboy1968 Dec 9th, 2012 07:50 AM

Australia - Where to base myself for 1-2 weeks?
In a bit less than a year, I will have the opportunity to take three months off from work.

My current plans gravitate towards the BA/Quantas or OneWorld RTW ticket, with a short 2-3 day stay en route in - probably - Bangkok or Dubai and then the first "real" stop in Australia.
Will be first time visit, so no knowledge whatsoever other than it's a massive area to cover. I think I will have 4-6 weeks to spend downunder. But I do not plan to "see it all".

While the actual routing will probably take a lot more time to come up with, I am already looking for advice where to base myself for 1-2 week periods in between my intra-OZ travels. One thing I have learned from past longer vacations is that after a week "on the road" with changing hotels every night, I prefer to stay at one place for a week or more.

With that in mind, which of the (major?) cities would you suggest as a 1-2 week homebase?
My focus would be on number of sights/attractions either in town or in short distance that would still qualify as leisurly day trips, i.e. within 1-2hrs travel by bus, train or rental car to get there.
Another item (also with regard to costs) would be which hub would not necessarily require a rental car - or at least not for the whole period of my stay.
So far, I am thinking about Sydney and Melbourne as potential candidates for 1-2 wk stays. Any other opinions?

And, finally, when traveling in US I often used "Extended Stay Motels" for such purposes. Usually not in a scenic neighborhood, but fully equipped with kitchen, and at very low weekly rates (i.e. around US$ 250), Does this type of accomodation also exist in Australia?

Thanks for any tips, hints and advice.

Melnq8 Dec 9th, 2012 02:55 PM

Well, there's always Perth, but most overseas visitors don't bother to come this far (they don't know what they're missing).

Perth has a pretty good public transport system. Easy to base yourself in the city and get around by train, ferry and bus using Transperth services. Fremantle makes a good base too, only 30 minutes from the CBD and easy to get to/from via public transport.

Having said that, Western Australia is HUGE and you'd definitely need a car to do much beyond the CBD, Freo, Swan River area and inner suburbs. Beaches can be reached via public transport, but it's a bit of a pain. The Swan Valley requires a car or some sort of tour to see properly.

There are beaucoup nature reserves and national parks surrounding Perth, but you'd need a car to access most of them.

The best of WA lies south, and you'd definitely need a car for that. Margaret River is about three hours south, Denmark about four, Albany about five. But man, it's worth the drive. The SW of WA is incredible. Beaches, forests, fabulous food and wine...and not many people.

Prices in Australia are quite a shocker for most North Americans (myself included). As far as I'm aware, WA doesn't offer anything like an American extended stay hotel, unfortunately. $250 might get you a nice hotel for the night around here. There's an accommodation shortage in WA due to the fly-in-fly out workers and costs are very high.

A serviced apartment is probably the way to go. The longer you stay, the more competitive the rate, but it still won't be cheap.

Hostels are another option, as are private holiday rentals. Suggest you take a look at sites like,,, etc. is another option as is

Good luck with your search.

peterSale Dec 9th, 2012 03:54 PM

Pretty much all our cities have radial transport systems, ie all roads/raillead to that city.

So depending on what you like there heaps of choices. Melhas covered Perth. This is a good option as it givesyou one of the widest varieties of things to see beaches, wineries, forests desert etc. and less touristy than some of the others.

Let's go through the others to give you some homework to do
ADELAIDE - South Australia Smallish city
Wineries, Churches, Beaches, Kangaroo Island (brilliant),Fleurieu Penisula (Lovely)

MELBOURNE - Victoria (my home town) pop. 4m
Phillip Is for penguins; Great Ocean Road; Gold Rush History - take a train to Ballarat for Sovereign Hill; Museums; Galleries, Gardens, Theatre, Puffing Billy steam train in the Dandenong Ranges (pretty), Mornington Penisula; the bay for boat trips swimming with dolphins; diving.

SYDNEY - New South Wales pop nearly 5m
The Harbour cruises;Opera house; Bridge (climb it);The Blue Mountains (spectactular); surfing; Convict History; Darling Harbour; museums and galleries. Size makes some journeys slow.

HOBART - Tasmania
Small city more like a large town. Convict history, mountains, rivers, wineries pretty towns and scenery. Great national parks nearby.

CANBERRA - Australian Capital Territory
Our capital city. Parliament House. Museums aplenty especially the War Memorial covers all our wars and conflicts (need a day at least) and the National Museums. Ballooning over the lake is great. The mint, Walks, obseratories, space tracking station and heaps of things that slip my mind but easily a weeks worth.

BRISBANE - Queensland
Day trips to Fraser Island, and other islands. Do a trip to one of the southern Barrier reef islands but it is a long day.
Historic buildings.
Don't know much about Brisbane having only been once for a conference and a few days either side.

DARWIN - Northern Territory (I haven't been there)
Kakadu National Park. Tropics, crocodiles, relaxed lifestyles, multicultural. A very small city, but certainly has a weeks's worth of things to do and see.

These are the Capital cities others places you could base yourself for a week include:-
VIC - Ballarat, Bendigo, Lakes Entrance, Warrnambool.
NSW - Eden, Coffs Harbour, Port MacQuarie
QLD - Gold Coast; Sunshine Coast; Cairns; Townsville, Bundaberg
WA - Broome, Albany, Margaret River
SA - Mt Gambier
TAS - Launceston; anywhere it is a small island.
NT - Alice Springs

Now your turn - do some homework. Let us know your interests and then we can help some more.

Toucan2 Dec 9th, 2012 04:02 PM

I think Cowboy may actually be coming from Germany. He just happens to have traveled in the US quite a bit.

Mel, it seems that serviced apartments might be the closest approximation wouldn't it? I know that is one of the things my friend in Sydney suggested when we were visiting.

Bokhara2 Dec 9th, 2012 04:23 PM

Self catering apartments would be the thing - or if Cowboy is looking for economical alternative out of the CBDs, cabins in caravan parks can offer superb locations @ modest charges.

Cowboy: great you are coming to visit us. What dates are you considering? this will make a considerable difference.

dreamon Dec 9th, 2012 10:27 PM

If you want to do day trips without a car, then Melbourne and Sydney are your best options, with more choice than the other cities. It's not that the other cities don't offer a lot to see and do but day trips would be more reliant on a car.

Cowboy1968 Dec 9th, 2012 10:36 PM

WOW.. a BIG thank you to all of you. You definetely gave me lots of input to work with!

And yes, I'll be flying in from Germany.. and I noticed that the strong AUS$ won't make it a budget holiday..
But as the other half of my trip will be Argentina, I hope to level costs between there and Australia to end up with an average more or less of what life and traveling cost here in the rotten Eurozone.

The hints re. serviced apartments and cabins in caravan parks are greatly appreciated.

Also the info on WA, indeed a region you do not get much info here. But as an ex co-worker of mine moved to the middle of nowhere 4-5hrs inland from Perth, and since I see several flight connections into Perth from my stopovers I might as well start my trip there.

Bokahra: I plan to go in either Mov or Dec 2013, more probably Nov.

Thanks again to all of you.

Cowboy1968 Dec 9th, 2012 10:39 PM

Sorry.. dates in last para should read NOV(ember) or Dec 2013

Cowboy1968 Dec 9th, 2012 11:13 PM

Just noticed that I have not yet said anything about my interests.. sorry

First, and above all: nature/landscape.
So the centre of Australia would be high on my list.
Another thing I would love to do (I've seen couple films on it when I was a kid) is to take the train across the Nullarbor plains/desert.
And, of course!, probably number 1 on each tourist's list: Get in touch (not necessarily literally) with kangaroos and koala.
Beaches are not that high on my list. Nice if there is one, no drama if there isn't.

Aside from nature/ natural wonders, I am also interested in history - from Aborigenes to first European settlement, and how your country developed from then.

Items like fine dining and 5* accomodations are usually not high on my list. I'm pretty low maintenance during vacation.

Melnq8 Dec 9th, 2012 11:53 PM

<Mel, it seems that serviced apartments might be the closest approximation wouldn't it?>

Yes Toucan, but in my experience, serviced apartments are much more expensive than US extended stay hotels. I've been staying in extended stay hotels in the US for ages. I just had a month long stay at one in CO for $59 a night, no tax. A heck of a deal, especially by OZ standards!

Cowboy - I can provide a mountain of info on WA if you need it, just ask.

Just an FYI that accommodation that isn't serviced will save lotsa $$$. Labor costs are very high.

And, for what it's worth, we do call it Movember!

Melnq8 Dec 9th, 2012 11:54 PM

And the $59 included daily free breakfast and Happy Hour four days a week.

Bokhara2 Dec 10th, 2012 01:50 PM

November is better than December, because our high season starts with school holidays around mid-December and continues until end of January; with the peak around the Christmas/New Year week in the major cities. And it's usually a little cooler which can be useful in Central Australia and the top half.

I'm tempted to suggest you have a look at Air bnb,Stayz, YHAs as well as self catering apartments. If you find an AirBnB or Stayz you like, ask us to check it out for you. There's sure to be someone who knows the area and wouldn't mind popping in to have a look at the property for you. Local pubs can offer good options for basic accommodation, good food and a more 'local' touch than traditional tourist accommodation.

Flying into Perth is a great idea. WA has so much to offer, and with 6 weeks you could see a part of Australia few tourists (or locals) do.

Leaving Sydney & Melbourne aside for a moment (because I can't decide & want to say "both"), I want to send you up to FNQ (Far North Queensland) - Cairns, Port Douglas or somewhere in the Atherton Tablelands, for a week. Or more.

You don't want a car in the major cities, except for day trips, but you need one outside of them. Just rent as needed - unless you get a really sweet deal on a multiple day basis. This isn't the best link, but it will give you an idea.

It's a wonderfully diverse area; Great Barrier Reef, extraordinary landscape & wildlife. Alan Gillanders' wildlife expeditions would be right up your alley, I think.
He's a Fodorite & hopefully will add something here.

If you snorkel/ dive, do a live-aboard for a night or two.
Take a drive up through the Daintree to Cooktown, or go up through the old Palmer River goldfields.

Central Australia: Fly into Alice Springs, spend 2-3 nights & explore this fascinating area. It's the nearest we have to a frontier town - with all the nuances that brings.

Then take a couple of days to drive to Uluru (Ayers Rock). Or see if you can do a one-way tour over 2 days. Stay in one of the basic motels (or in the tour group's tented accommodation). Two nights and then fly to Cairns.

Toucan2 Dec 10th, 2012 05:20 PM

Gotcha Mel. I wasn't thinking about the "serviced" part.

I'm eavesdropping on Cowboy's thread as well so I can gather ideas for my own trip. Hope you don't mind Cowboy!

AlanJG Dec 11th, 2012 01:48 AM

Young fit Germans are not put off by the heat or the threat of it in northern Australia.

Thanks for the link posting Bokhara2.

Cowboy, there is a lot to do and see in the Cairns hinterland. As this did not meet your criteria of being a city I did not respond but goaded by others here a few ideas for you to check out if you would base yourself on the Atherton Tablelands

Check out:-

Nywoman Dec 11th, 2012 07:30 AM

There is a trememndous amount of nature and wildlife in Auistralia. I am sorry that I never got to the western parts but I did see a lot in the Eastern part.

As far as extended stay vacations you may want to look into hostels. It seems that they offer weekly rates and rooms are equipped with refrigerators, and there are communal cooking facilities as well.

I also thorougly enjoyed reading Bill Brysons book "Down Under" before my visit.

If you have time look at my trip report.

Cowboy1968 Dec 11th, 2012 08:19 AM

Thanks again!

This is just great food for thought and planning.
And the huge diversity makes it both fun and also a bit demanding to find the "ideal" itinerary.

A very, very rough draft version of an itinerary I have come up with would be:

Perth & a bit of WA

(Train across Nullarbor to Adelaide is still under discussion. The fare looks terribly expensive)
If this gets axed: fly direct to Alice Springs

"Red Centre"/ NT (and yes, I do like temps of up to 40C as long as it's dry)

Darwin is more on my "B" list now. I have recently been on Bali and I think I am fine with skipping the tropical rainforest next time.

From Central Australia I would move on NE towards Cairns, and then follow the coast to Melbourne (by different means of transportation, using a mix of air and surface transport, NOT driving all that distance!).

Bokhara2 Dec 11th, 2012 09:30 AM

Looks good, Cowboy.

The mix of fly/drive works well here because of our size, the fact that something like 80% of our 23m people live on the Eastern Seaboard, leaving quite some distances between settlements in our 7.6m square kms.

You may be right about Darwin, loath as I am to discourage anyone from visiting Kakadu, & the other National Parks there,, it's likely to be a tad warm & sticky in November/December.

Driving Brisbane to Sydney or Sydney to Melbourne (about 10-12 hours each,) so 2 - 3 (or more with a mini-base) night stops to see a little enroute, might be something to consider.

Standby car relocations can sometimes work to give you a bargain: I had a car for 3 days to drive Adelaide to Melbourne last year $5/day.

Unless you want to see something of the country in between (and you know we all want you to do that) - it's very often better, cheaper and certainly quicker to fly.

Subscribe to,
Just now Virgin has $70 Gold Coast - Sydney; $235 Perth - Syd one way. They both often have specials lower than that.

Virgin has a daily "Happy Hour", which can have some bargains.

Jetstar is Qantas' low-cost carrier, and there's also Tiger Airways, which has had a pretty indifferent reputation for delayed & cancelled flights. Some people like them and if you're not committed to a schedule, may be ok. Costwise, they can be as expensive as the others when you add all their extras.

Melnq8 Dec 11th, 2012 03:01 PM

You might enjoy a short stay in Coober Pedy Cowboy. I sure did. It's an eight hour drive from Adelaide through the outback and is probably the most unique Aussie town I've visited to date.

Melnq8 Dec 11th, 2012 03:02 PM

You can also get to Coober via the Ghan:

lavandula Dec 11th, 2012 08:33 PM

Hey Cowboy! Great to see you are headed to Australia! You've had some great advice from the Fodorites here. Also if you are looking into apartment hotels in cities there is a chain called Medina which has a lot of locations in capital cities - they often do people wanting to stay longer-term: - rates are comparable to the upper end of properties on Stayz. Also like for cheap accommodation - the longer out you can book, the cheaper you will get it. If you want to end up in Sydney around New Year's Eve (highly recommended), start planning that as early as possible as accommodation fills up fast for that celebration.


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