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cram Dec 17th, 2004 04:38 AM

First time Australia
Have been on the Asia board, but not on this one. We have a general plan to visit Australia, sometime in 2005. We have about 17-18 days available in the country. We have never been to Australia before. My question is very general, sorry for the old hands of this board. We could use domestic flights and drive parts of the trip. We are interested in culture, city visits, nature, but not trekking. We are afraid of long and demanding visiting days.
We need some general orientation from those who know Australia.
- what would you recommend to visit in this vast country?
- which time of the year is best for such an itinerary?

Mucky Dec 17th, 2004 06:13 AM

Hi Cram,
You have 17-18 days which should allow you to base yourself in 2 or even 3 places.If you like Cities then Sydney a must see,with some of the most recognisable icons in the world, along with the Blue Mts area it is a must. Melbourne and the surrounding area is great too, if you want to head North to Queensland there are beautiful areas there too long empty beaches everywhere.
My family made a similar trip in 2001 as our first time and we used our 21 days in Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns areas, then the second time last year we went to Sydney,Melbourne and Brisbane areas, all fabulous in their own right.
Of course there are plenty of other places too but I suspect its better to see 2 or 3 areas without wasting too much time flying around.You could waste days in airports.
Once you have a specific direction come back here and you will no doubt be overwhelmed by the knowledge and helpfullness of our Australian friends.


Judy_in_Calgary Dec 17th, 2004 06:35 AM

Hello Cram,

For a first time visit:

3 - 5 days - Sydney (3 days for Sydney itself and 2 days for the Blue Mountains)

5 days - Far North Queensland (FNQ), around Cairns / Port Douglas (snorkel or dive in the Great Barrier Reef, visit the Daintree Rainforest, take an overnight trip to the Undara Lava Tubes)

7 - 10 days - driving around Tasmania (combination of scenery, Australian native wildlife, history - you could forego the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, and use those days to increase your time in Tasmania from 7 to 9 days)

Best time to go in my opinion : October. I consider that to be the best compromise.

Driving is very easy in the Australian countryside. Do not be scared by driving on the left if you live in a country in which you drive on the right. It is easy as long as you're outside of the cities. Traffic is heavy and parking is expensive in the big cities like Sydney. In the cities it makes sense to use the good public transportation system.

Ideas for subsequent visits to Australia:

* Darwin and nearby Kakadu National Park

* One or more of Queensland's many gorgeous islands

* Brisbane and the many natural areas in all directions from that city

* Hunter Valley and Port Stephens, just north of Sydney

* Canberra

* Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road (GOR) route between Melbourne and Adelaide

* Adelaide, nearby Kangaroo Island and nearby wine growing valleys

* Ayers Rock / Uluru (but only during the southern hemisphere winter!)

* Perth and its hinterland

It's difficult to name a single best time to visit Australia. The country covers such a range of latitudes that there is no month in which all of the country is at its best.

The southern latitudes can be cool, windy and wet during the southern hemisphere winter, and spring weather can be lovely but it can be unstable with weather that also is cool, windy and wet.

In the far northern latitudes summer is known as The Wet for obvious reasons. I've never been there during The Wet, and previously had been told it was a period in which to avoid the area, but Fodorites who live there tell us it's a refreshing time of year, bursting with new life.

Unless you have months to tour around Australia, flying from one region to another is essential.

Of the places I've mentioned, the ones I've personally been in are Melbourne, the GOR, the coast from Melbourne to Sydney, Sydney itself, the Blue Mountains, Brisbane, the Whitsunday Islands, FNQ. The rest I've learned about from diligent reading of the Fodors Talk website.

In previewing my message, I see that Mucky already has responded, and some of our information overlaps. However, I feel my reply has enough additional information that it's worth posting anyway.

lizF Dec 17th, 2004 02:14 PM

The best month, as far as I am concerned, is April. Sydney weather is wonderful then, you have the Sydney Royal Easter Show. North Queensland is great at that time of year and so is the rest of Queensland. Spring in the southern part of Queensland and in NSW is not as good as it hasn't yet rained to give that green look about it. Autumn is also great for Tasmania where the colours are starting to come out a little bit and it is lovely then.
Victoria - well who knows about its weather - one morning its raining and cold and in the afternoon it can be sunny and hot. With a visit to the GBR OR around Darwin en route to the GBR then down to Sydney and onto Tasmania would, in my opinion, be a wonderful trip.

cram Dec 18th, 2004 04:51 AM

Thanks LizF
I suppose that when you speak about spring and autumn, you mean the seasons as they are there in Australia, in the Southern hemisphere, right?

Judy_in_Calgary Dec 18th, 2004 07:46 AM

Hello Cram,

I'm sure Liz won't mind my reading her mind and stating that she's referring to southern hemisphere seasons. If you hang around the Fodors Australia forum you'll come to know which posters, like Liz, live in Australia and which posters, like me, know something about Australia but live elsewhere.

But, regardless of the poster's physical location, any seasons that are mentioned mean the seasons in the destination country, not in the traveller's home country. I post on the Fodors Africa forum too, and the same convention applies to Southern Africa.

When Aussie travellers ask questions on the Europe, United States and Canada forums, they refer to northern hemisphere seasons.

Hope that helps.

cram Dec 19th, 2004 04:15 AM

Thank you, Judy, I thought so, but wanted to be 100% sure.

pat_woolford Dec 19th, 2004 05:21 AM

Hey Mucky - I remember one of your older posts where you mentioned Palm Cove Surf Club - I was there the other night and enjoyed every minute of it = down to earth locals, but certainly not very chich.

pat_woolford Dec 19th, 2004 05:31 AM

Sorry, I just mis-spelt "chic". How refreshing in a place like Palm Cove, which is becoming so "tourist chic" that the locals are moving out, to find a place like the old Palm Cove Surf Club. They'll all chat away and buy you a beer.

Mucky Dec 19th, 2004 06:35 AM

Hi Pat,
Yes I often mention the surf club and you are the first person I know to ever go there we had a great night there, we were treated as friends and as you said it's not very chic...which is just how I like it.
Inexpensive and great friendly atmosphere, I am so pleased you liked it. I am a big fan of PC but the tourist stuff is great to leave behind occasionally.


pat_woolford Dec 19th, 2004 04:57 PM

Hi Muck - think we'll have to make the most of Palm Cove Surf Club whilst its still there - the land its sitting on is a developer's dream. If you're ever back in the area try Yorkey's Knob Yacht Club at Half Moon Bay (about 8km south of Palm Cove) - non-chic, unpretentious locals - spacious outdoor eating area built over water with marvellous view across ocean. You can share your meal with large fish which hang around for a free feed.

Mucky Dec 20th, 2004 03:48 AM

Thanks for the tip Pat, sadly your probably right anything of any real value gets swallowed up for financial gain. I hope to get there again over the next few years, who knows when, so I will look forward to it as I do everyday, in fact we were in Oz this time last year and last night I watched the video footage, and boy was I feeling down, the rain is pouring here it's freezing cold and all my ££ is spent on others for xmas..bah


SnRSeattle Dec 20th, 2004 08:30 AM

Lucky you, planning a trip to Australia! We went last summer and can't wait to go again! If you use frequent flyer miles (Quantas--partners with lots of other airlines) to get to Australia, you can fly from place to place for only 10K miles each leg. That makes it easy to get to more places if you wish. We had 26 days and went to Sydney (also staying in the Blue Mountains at the Jenolan Caves) Ayers Rock, Kakadu, and Cairns/Port Douglas (nine days and still could have done more!) We went in July which was perfect timing, not too hot and not too cold and some perfectly lovely days in between.
Happy traveling,

Judy_in_Calgary Dec 20th, 2004 08:40 AM

>>>>>>We went last summer [in a post that later refers to July] and can't wait to go again!<<<<<<

Cram, the "convention" that I claimed existed on the southern hemisphere travel discussion forums sometimes is honoured in the breech more than in the observance. :)

I quite often specify "southern hemisphere winter." It does take a few more key strokes, but I hope it reduces the chance of a misunderstanding.

MD Dec 20th, 2004 09:38 PM

Two places I went in 2003, and again last month - Ayers Rock and Cairns (for the Great Barrier Reef).

If you come from a culture that honours works of nature by climbing them (I do)then December is a bit late for Ayers Rock. I was there about Dec1 last year, and it was closed all 3 days for climbing. The temperature was 37C (whatever that is in real degrees, I've forgotten Farenheit by now). I was there Nov. 8-10 this year, and it was closed the 9th due to high winds and last night's rain, and the 10th after 8AM because the forecast was over 36.

At those temperatures they close the circular part of the Olgas walk too; although I drove out to King's Canyon and there are no restrictions - other than carry water and be in passable shape.

If you love the wide open wilderness, it's amazing!

From Cairns, take a cruise to the GBR. We did the Reef Magic cruise last year, but this year their prices had gone up. We found a great deal with Compass Cruises ( The ship that took us out was slow and looked pretty ratty, but the ship that circles the reef area was fabulous! For $700 My wife and I went out at 9AM, came back the next evening at 5PM, and I got 5 dives, and my wife went snorkelling. The only extras were wetsuit (optional) and if you wanted a diving guide.

The reef is amazing to behold, if you've never seen tropical reefs. I have never seen other ones, so I have no basis to compare.... but it beats the heck out of any wild area I have ever seen. The first thing you see when you put your head into the water while preparing for a dive is a hundred football-sized fish sheltering under the boat where it's cool. I saw (small) sharks, a ray, a turtle, Wlly the 4-foot long Maori wrasse, coral of ever colour, squid, giant clams (just like in the bad horror flicks!), etc. Fish colourful enough for any aquarium, but far too big and running wild in their natural environment.

If you can't dive, just snorkel. My wife got a life-ring to hold onto, and just cruised around on the surface.

Bring sunscreen!

And then, near Sydney, there's the Jenolan caves - quite the drive to get to those! Start early!

As for flights, unfortunately, everything seems to go through Sydney. We had planned a circle route Sydney-Brisbane-Cairns-Ayers. The Cairns to Ayers direct is tricky to catch at the cheap rate - you have to book well in advance. (Otherwise it jumps from $250 to $550 or more). The alternative is to waste a whole day going to Sydney from whereever and back. If you have the time (we didn't) stop in Alice Springs...

When booking a car, be sure to get unlimited kilometers. Just driving the 20km back and forth to Ayers rock, several times a day, we exceeded our 200km allotment. Add in 80km to the Olgas and back, and we owed about 100km at 20 cents each (If I recall correctly). This time I rented Avis and got unlimited km, and drove 3+ hours each way to Kings Canyon.

I hope you enjoy your trip!

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