First trip to Australia--itinerary advice!

Feb 27th, 2010, 03:50 PM
  #1  
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First trip to Australia--itinerary advice!

We are planning our very first trip to Australia. We've always wanted to go, and I think it might finally happen! We live in NYC and for the last few years we've been going to Maui--we love it there so much. There's a lot to do, including snorkeling, hiking, swimming, relaxing.....and we hope for a similar balance of fun activities and relaxation in Australia. Because we can only take off for about 2-ish weeks, and we are thinking of going in late September, here is our tentative itinerary. We'd love ideas and suggestions on how to tweak or add to this!

--Fly to Sydney, spend 5 or 6 nights--we are Starwood members and have been looking at the Westin and Sheraton's in Sydney but are open to other hotels. These are both in the CBD and we've been told that might not be the ideal place for us to stay--would welcome thoughts on that and suggestions of alternatives. We'd like to be somewhere within walking distance of fun restaurants and bars (we're in our 30's and like to enjoy a night or two out) and also some of the key attractions in the city. Coming from NYC, we're used to walking a lot, public transportation, cabs, etc. We've been told the beaches near Sydney will not be warm enough for swimming, but we'd love to be out and about as much as possible walking, at least visiting the beaches, etc.

--fly to Cairns, but stay in Port Douglas for the rest of the time, 8-9 nights (again, have been looking at the Sheraton in Port Douglas because we think we can use points to get some free nights). We'd like to visit the GBR, Daintree Rainforest, what else?

would love to hear feedback on the following:

--places to stay in Sydney, thoughts on Westin and Sheraton
--must-do things in Sydney
--rent a car in Sydney? or get by with public transportation and cabs?
--staying at Sheraton in Port Douglas?
--must-do things in that area?
--rent a car in Port Douglas? Thinking yes, but would love thoughts on that

Thank you everyone in advance for your help!
maitai1 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2010, 04:35 PM
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I cannot help you with your hotel selection as I've never stayed at either property. I have been to Australia 6 times in the past, with trip #7 coming up next week. I have stayed at Darling Harbor Novotel on half of these trips, and will be there again this next time. I like the area. Yes, it's touristy, with souvenir shops and such, but also some food options are right there, and this smaller harbor is scenic.

I always take the water taxi from Darling Harbor over to Circular Quay to have a look at the Opera House, and take the ferry or jetcat over to Manly Beach, or perhaps visit the Sydney Zoo. All boat trips can be arranged at the Quay.

I also enjoy riding the Sydney Explorer (hop on, hop off) bus around the city. It makes stops at a number of points where you can get off, see a museum or shop, etc. I really do not think you would need a car in Sydney.

Do the bridge climb! It's really awesome!

Have fun on your trip. I'm so looking forward to my 7th one!

Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2010, 10:22 PM
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The Westin Sydney looks like a beautiful place to stay and a good location close to the Harbour and walking distance or a short public transport to Darling Harbour. 1 block to a main train station Wynyard giving easy access to Bondi Beach and all of Sydneys options.

Sheraton has 2 Sydney options one located at Hyde Park right in the city or the Four Seasons at Darling Harbour if you would rather stay there. If I had my choice I would stay at the Westin, then Sheraton Darling Harbour and then Hyde Park. First two have best dining and bar options.

Sydney Harbour is beautiful make sure you spend plenty of time on ferries or other boat cruise options. A good day is catching a ferry (actually a cataraman) to Watsons Bay. You get a great close up view of the Opera House from the harbour view then on past our naval docks, upper class suburbs of Rose bay and Double Bay. Getting off at Watsons Bay there is a very famous seafood restaurant called Doyles, they even have a takeaway close to the park.

A short walk up to the Gap gives a spectacular view and there is a great ocean walk all the way to Bondi. Or in the other direction to South Head - one of the heads into Sydney Harbour. Manly is another great harbour boat ride and of course Taronga Zoo right on the harbour.

Definitely do the bridge climb, again spectacular views. There are lots of day tours to the Blue Mountains. Sydney has a lot to offer you wont be disappointed.

We did a trip up to North Queensland recently and spent some time in Cairns - visit Kurandar, Atherton Tablelands and there are trips to the reef from there also. We hired a car and then stayed some more time in Port Douglas which is smaller and more intimate than Cairns.

Port Douglas we did another trip to the reef, Daintree, Mosman Gorge and drove up to Cape Tribulation. They also have a good market morning in Port Douglas.
aussie_10 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2010, 11:55 PM
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The Westin would be my choice for good downtown location and walking distance to everything (it used to be the GPO) but you may not get harbour views. For harbour views think Shangri La , Four Seasons, Park Hyatt, Intercontinental, Sir Stamford at Circular Quay, Quay West etc. none of which are Starwood hotels. The Sheraton at Darling Harbour is close to many restaurants etc. but is not quite as central as the Westin never the less Darling Harbour is a good location.
DownUnder is offline  
Feb 28th, 2010, 04:51 AM
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"Darling Harbour is a good location." Thanks for saying that, Downunder. I often get criticized for saying that I like staying in this area!
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Feb 28th, 2010, 12:00 PM
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If you want to be in an area within walking distance of good restaurants, don't stay at Darling Harbour. If food is not a high priority, it's well located in terms of public transport, personally I think it's an ugly tourist trap with overpriced mediocre restaurants--sorry Simpson.

I'd stay at Potts Point, Wooloomooloo or Darlinghurst which are all in the inner east and near some great restaurants: Jimmy Liks, Onde, Four in Hand.

There are a number of excellent restaurants in the city also, so the Rocks area or the CBD are also areas to consider.
Susan7 is offline  
Feb 28th, 2010, 02:56 PM
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OTOH Darling Harbour is convenient to Chinatown with many good restaurants such as the Golden Century, if that's your preference. Darilng Harbour and its immediate surrounds though I do find a bit ordinary, but it's not an inconvenient location by any means.

Ever since 1788 colonial and state governments, the city council and their allies in the property development business have been doing their very best to overcome Sydney's natural beauty and turn it into a soulless modern anywhere-city with appallingly mediocre architecture. It says much for Sydney's surrounds that they haven't quite succeeded. But they're working on it.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 28th, 2010, 03:24 PM
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I live in NYC too and am making my first trip in Mid-March
StuQ is offline  
Mar 1st, 2010, 02:47 PM
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your hotel choice sounds good...anywhere in Sydney is actually fine, not a very big place compared to NY.Plenty of good public transport...cars are a hazard in the city and will drive you crazy winding around streets that end up as one way etc...
So much to do in Sydney! all great suggestions in above replies. I'd try the Bondi hop on hop off bus too and the Explorer hop on hop off as well. These buses give you your bearings.Take a train trip to the Blue Mountains from Central station in the city and get off at Katoomba and catch the hop on hop off bus or get off at Leura, see the village then the Everglades gardens or get the train in the opposite direction (also from Central) and go up to the Central coast. Get off at Woy Woy(yes, that's its name) and get the short bus ride or taxi to Pearl Beach...a stunner!!!
moonrise
moonrise is offline  
Mar 1st, 2010, 05:14 PM
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I thought this poster might be maitaitom - and ws looking forward to one of his great trip reports....
margo_oz is offline  
Mar 1st, 2010, 05:38 PM
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Where does one catch the Bondi hop on, hop off bus? Anymore information on this option would be most welcome.
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2010, 05:19 PM
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Thanks so much to everyone for your replies! This info will be great as we start to fine-tune our plans. I am looking at a flight that leaves NYC on a Thursday evening and gets into Sydney in the AM on Saturday. I'm trying to get a sense of how to plan our first few days based on how we'll feel from jet-lag (the longest flight we've taken is 11-ish hours from NYC to Honolulu). Most people seem to say the jet lag hits on Day 3, which would mean Monday.

With that in mind, we'd be able to explore a bit on Saturday and Sunday, rest up Monday, explore more Tuesday and Wednesday. Can the Blue Mountains be done as a day trip? And what do folks think about the beaches near Sydney, and the weather in late September. Worth blocking out time to spend at Manley beach? Will definitely want to wander a bit, just wondering if we'll actually be able to swim.

Then we were thinking of flying up to Cairns on Thursday. Then, we'd rent a car and drive to Port Douglas (maybe staying at the Sheraton there). In that area, we want to do the GBF, explore Cairns for a day, go to Daintree, and also enjoy some downtime.

Would love feedback on this tentative schedule of time, and thoughts on must-dos in the Cairns/Port Douglas area. Thank you everyone!
maitai1 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2010, 04:03 PM
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Returning to Australia from North or South America, I find the jet lag really bad when I have an early morning arrival, 6 AM or 7 AM. I often can't stay up past about 7 PM that night and then it's often a week before I am in the time zone. When you are visiting as opposed to arriving home, I think excitement might help keep you awake!

If you can get a flight that arrives late afternoon or early evening, it's much easier to start sleeping at the right time. Two things that help with jet lag: getting out into the sunshine and eating meals at the right times, even if you are not particularly hungry.
Susan7 is offline  

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