Itinerary & accomodation suggestions please...

Old Nov 16th, 2004, 04:59 PM
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Itinerary & accomodation suggestions please...

My wife and I (late 20s) will be traveling in Australia for about two weeks, starting end of this month. This is almost a last minute trip and any suggestions on itineraries and accomodations would be very helpful. The only arrangements we made so far are our flights: SYD-CNS-MEL

Sydney - 5 nights
- Sydney city attractions
- Blue mountains
- Any other?
- Suggestions on accomodations in the range of $100-$130 AUD

Fly to Cairns - 3 nights
- Stay in Port Douglas (accomodation suggestions please)
- GBR
- Daintree Forest

Fly to Melbourne
- Great Ocean Drive - 2 days (any suggestions on a good place to stay the night along GOR?)
- should we consider 3 days for GOR?
- Melbourne City attractions - 3 days
- Tasmania - 1 day?
- Accomodation suggestions?

On searching the Internet, I found reasonable places to stay in Sydney city center for approx. 100-130 AUD, I am assuming it's a reasonable price range. Would it make sense to stay all five nights in Sydney? Should we try driving to a different city (not sure which one's closeby) and stay there a night or two?

Thanks for any and all suggestions. I have a very few days remaining to plan out the trip. Looking for all Fodorites expert suggestions.

Thanks!
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Old Nov 16th, 2004, 05:49 PM
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With that schedule you guys will be very busy. I'm not saying the distances are identical, but as a guide your itinerary is a bit like flying in to Washington DC, then to the Bahamas, then to NYC with a side-trip to Amish country plus a quick flight to Burlington to check out Vermont (apologies if you're not American, but others will get the drift).

I'd sacrifice either the Great Ocean Road or Tasmania - it's just not worth going to Tasmania for anything less than 3 days, preferably a week. You'll only see Hobart, which is a nice little city but not the state's primary attraction for visitors (any more than Burlington is for Vermont).

Bear in mind that you'll lose the better part of a day travelling SYD-CNS and certainly CNS-MEL - you're talking seriously long flights here. If you have any flexibility I'd take a day from the Melbourne end and tack it on to North Queensland. Five nights for Sydney and the Blue Mountains is OK - don't try to add in any more side trips.

$100-130 is pretty cheap for decent and convenient Sydney accommodation, but try www.wotif.com for discount rates (also for other cities).

If you search on this board you'll find plenty of suggestions for accommodation and attractions in all the places mentioned. In particular check out opinions on the merits of Port Douglas vs Palm Cove vs Cairns.
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Old Nov 16th, 2004, 11:03 PM
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What is it with Fodors' site lately? I posted a reply and the thread still shows zero responses. Let's see if this changes things.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 05:38 AM
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Hello Vinshil,

I would go further than what Neil has said. I wouldn't just choose between the GOR and Tasmania. I would choose between Melbourne and Tasmania.

I love Melbourne and its surroundings. I haven't been to Tasmania. But, since I've come to Fodors I've learned that Tasmania has a wonderful combination of scenery, wildlife and history. So the choice between the two of them is tough.

I'll break down my responses into a post for each of Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne (in case you do choose Melbourne). If you choose Tassie instead, I can't help you there, but there are several informative discussion threads on it that a word search will bring up for you.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 05:44 AM
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SYDNEY

There is heaps of information here at Fodors and elsewhere on what to see and do in Sydney.

Stay in a central location, and rely on public transportation. Look into the combination tickets that give you access to trains, buses and ferries. The ferries are an integral part of the system that will get you from point to point and also show you Sydney's stunning views. Don't even think about renting a car.

When it comes to your day trip to the Blue Mountains, you have a few options:

(1) Catch the train to Valley Heights (to escape Sydney's heavy road traffic), then rent a car and drive on the excellent highway to the Blue Mountains.

(2) Catch the train to Katoomba, and then use the hop on / hop off trolley to sight see in the Blue Mountains.

(3) Go on a guided tour in a 4 x 4 vehicle that takes about 10 passengers.

Avoid the large tour buses, because they cannot drive to a couple of the best spots.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 06:14 AM
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FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND (FNQ)

You need an absolute minimum of 3 full days in FNQ, not counting the day you arrive and the day you leave. I think it's much better to have 4 full days.

Prime activities are:

(1) GBR
(2) Rainforest
(3) Kuranda

Schedule the GBR for your first day in the area. If weather doesn't permit boats to go out, you'll have the option of switching to a land-based activity and postponing your visit to the GBR. If you schedule the GBR for your last day and the weather doesn't cooperate, you can't reschedule. Visiting the GBR is close of an all-day exercise.

Wavelength and Ocean Spirit are two GBR companies that consistently get rave reviews here at Fodors.

The Daintree Forest can be visited on a self drive basis, but it's very interesting to have the rainforest and mangrove swamp ecosystems explained by an experienced guide. This too makes for a long day. Expect it to take at least 11 hours (pick up at approx 8 am, drop off at approx 7 pm).

There are many good companies that offer rainforest tours. They include David Armbrust, Heritage & Interpretive Tours, Tony's Tropical Tours, and Trek North. Most of the ones I've mentioned take only 4 or 6 passengers. Trek North takes 12. I imagine the smaller groups are better, but they also tend to be more expensive. If price is an issue for you, I can say that my husband and I very much enjoyed our day trip with Trek North. We felt the guide took good care of everyone, and the group was still small enough that we could hear everything the guide said.

Kuranda is a small town on the edge of the Atherton Tableland. It's fun to go by Skyrail in one direction and a regular train in the other direction.

If you stay in FNQ for only 4 days, you don't need a car. All of the day tours (GBR, rainforest, Kuranda) pick up and drop off from Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas accommodations.

If you choose not to have a car, you need to catch a shuttle bus from the airport to your accommodation and back again. Some hotels arrange this for their guests. If your hotel does not include this service, you'll need to arrange it separately.

The only town in which I've stayed in the area is Port Douglas. It has a population of about 5,000 if I recall correctly. It's a charming town. One of the nice things about it is that buildings are not allowed to be higher than the tree tops. However, it is an "artificial" town in the sense that its existence virtually depends on the tourist industry. The people in the town are either tourists (both Australian and foreign) or folks who work in the tourist industry.

Palm Cove is similar, except that it's even smaller than PD.

Cairns, on the other hand, has a population of 150,000 and is a "real" town. Sure, it has a significant tourist component to it, but it also has a more authentic side to it.

If I was planning my honeymoon, I would head for laid back Palm Cove.

Otherwise, I would find out if Pat and Mike Woolford have a vacancy at Lilybank B&B in Cairns. Pat is a regular poster here. I haven't met her in real life. I've only "met" her at Fodors. Several Fodorites have provided complimentary reviews of Lilybank. It's in a leafy suburb of Cairns, and close to a good restaurant. One of the benefits of staying there, as I understand it, is that Pat makes GBR and rainforest tour reservations for her guests if they wish. She has a wealth of knowledge about the local tour operators. Since you are planning this trip at such short notice, I imagine there would be merit in having someone look after those details for you.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 06:42 AM
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MELBOURNE

Let's see, if you've taken my suggestion to increase your time in FNQ, you'll have only 4 days in Melbourne. Is that right?

Stay in the city centre or just across the Yarra River in Southbank.

You won't need a car for the first couple of days.

MELBOURNE

Catch the free City Circle Tram, and do a full circuit. Then get off and visit the Queen Victoria Market. It's closed on Mondays and Wednesdays. If necessary, switch the day you'll spend in central Melbourne so that it's not Mon or Wed. Use the City Circle Tram to return to Flinders Street Station. Cross the Swanston Street Bridge to Southbank, and have lunch there. Cross St. Kilda Road, walk through the Alexandra Gardens and Kings Domain to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Shrine of Remembrance, and look through it.

If it's a rainy day, substitute the National Gallery of Victoria for the Royal Botanic Gardens. Take the guided tour. It costs nothing over and above the gallery entrance fee, and you get an excellent explanation of the progression of Australian art.

The next day, do a day tour of the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley. There are guided day tours that take you for a short ride on the Puffing Billy steam train, give you lunch at a winery, and then take you to Healesville Nature Sanctuary, where you can see native Australian animals.

An alternative is to do a more in-depth trip on Puffing Billy. I would recommend this, particularly if you've already seen native animals in FNQ. You don't need a car. Catch a regular train from Flinders Street Station to Belgrave. At Belgrave switch to Puffing Billy, and ride it for its full length. Have lunch at the last stop, Gembrook. Then return.

Still another alternative for the Dandenongs is to drive to the William Ricketts Sanctuary, have lunch in Olinda, Sasafrass or somewhere inbetween, then visit the National Rhododendron Gardens. Unfortunately you'll be too late for the rhododendrons, but they are beautiful gardens at any time. The sculptures in the William Ricketss Sanctuary are my favourite human-made objects in the whole of Australia, or at least what I've seen of Australia.

Yes, it would be nice to do the GOR in 3 days, but it can be done in 2 days.

Drive out along the coast as far as Port Fairy, then turn inland to Halls Gap and Grampians National Park and return.

I recommend leaving the GOR till last. The reason is that Tullamarine Airport is to the NW of Melbourne. When you return from the GOR you'll be driving in from the west, and there is no reason to drive across Melbourne or into downtown Melbourne.

Hope that helps.

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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 11:22 AM
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Well for the time that you have I would be only going to Sydney and Cairns. There is enough for you to do in Cairns and surrounds.
If not then I would take out Melbourne altogether and head only for Tasmania.
I would put Tasmania before the Great Ocean Road any time.
As someone else said it will take you neally a full day just to get from Sydney to Cairns i.e. arrive at Sydney from hotel up to 1 hour, be at airport 1.5 hours before flight - flight is 3.5 hours or more, then add 1/2 hour at the other end for getting your luggage and then add 1 hour to Port Douglas. So there is a day gone so really you will only have 2 full days there and that is nowhere near enough time.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 01:53 PM
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You Fodorites are awesome! I feel a lot more informed within a day, thanks to all your suggestions.

As per your suggestions:

* I am making arrangements to change our CNS-MEL flight to the next day. We will then have 3 full days in Cairns.

* Spoke to Pat of Lilybank B&B in Cairns and made reservations there.

* Thinking of sticking to GOR, since we may not do much justice spending only two days in Tassie. Besides my wife doesn't want to miss the penguin parade!

Now, a few more questions for you guys:

* I am assuming the fares for combination tickets (ferries, trains, buses etc.,) in Sydney are pretty standard. I don't need to worry about buying them in advance or anything like that, correct?

* How about the train to Blue Mtns. and Katoomba? Do they require advance reservations?

* What's a good place for staying the night along GOR? We will be spending two full days on GOR.

Thanks again. I will be sure to post how our trip went, once we return - or perhaps while we are traveling

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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 02:10 PM
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Vinshil,

I hate to tell you this, but I think Phillip Island is an over-rated experience. I just read a website that said that a visit to the fairy penguins at Phillip Island was THE most popular tourist activity in the state of Victoria. Gag me with a spoon.

The fairy penguins themselves are immensely cute. BUT, they come ashore at dusk. Since the sun sets late in summer, that makes for a late return to Melbourne. Phillip Island is 130 km (80 miles) from Melbourne. We drove there between Christmas and New Year, and we got back to Melbourne after midnight.

The other thing that detracts from the experience is the number of people. There are busloads and busloads of them. We arrived at a time that we thought was reasonably early, but the bleachers were full already. It was standing room only. And more people continued to arrive after us. We went with friends. Our friend had to perch his daughter on his shoulders so that she could see the penguins.

There are a few ways of getting around these problems. Prosaic as it may sound, one can see fairy penguins at Melbourne Zoo (although not in the numbers that exist at Phillip Island, of course).

Another Fodorite also has mentioned an evening harbour cruise that allows one to see a colony of fairy penguins closer to Melbourne.

If you really do want to go to Phillip Island, I think it would be good to do it the evening before you set out for the GOR. In that case, I suggest you not return to Melbourne the night that you see the penguins, but find accommodation somewhere in the vicinity of Phillip Island.

Then, the next morning catch the ferry from Sorrento across the mouth of Port Phillip Bay to Queenscliff, and then proceed to the GOR from there.

Oh yes, the beach at Phillip Island was cool after dusk, although it had been a hot day. Luckily we had been warned of this, and we went suitably equipped with jackets, etc.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 02:16 PM
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Oh yeah, you asked some more questions about Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Alan, who usually answers many of those questions, is on vacation in India at the moment. So, until he get back into harness .....

No, you don't need to book a tick for Sydney's public transportation in advance.

When it comes to the train from Sydney to the Blue Mountains, Alan and others have mentioned a rather crafty device for keeping the fare down, if you're watching costs. The off-peak fare, which goes into operation at 9.00 a.m., is cheaper than the peak time fare. Interestingly enough, there is a train that departs from Sydney for Katoomba at 9.02 a.m., and it JUST qualifies for the off-peak fare.

Oh yes, no need to book that one either.
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 10:56 AM
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Hi

Unfortunately, flights from CNS-MEL are all full for the next day, so we have to stick to my original plan of staying in CNS for 2 full days + 1 half day (We land in CNS at around 11:30am).

So we now have one more day to spend in MEL. Guess we've plenty to do there as well.

Btw, we are thinking of staying in St. Kilda. Heard from a few others that's a great place to stay and we can get to city center fairly quickly using trains/buses. Any recommendations on places to stay there?
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 12:14 PM
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I don't know whether you are going through a travel agent or not but you could try re-routing from Cairns to Melbourne. For instance either go Cairns - Brisbane - Melbourne or Cairns - Sydney - Melbourne or anything in between. I cannot believe that you cannot get a change of flights as it is not the peak season.
I think you will be so sorry that you didn't have enough time in FNQ. Melbourne is OK but for my money it is not an International destination - Tasmania is but Melbourne and area has about as much excitement as a State funeral. Tassie has more chances and places to see Penguins as well and far nicer coastal drives.
You can get a Day pass or multiples of those in Sydney by the way which will give you travel on ferries trains or buses and are very good value. I find it is better to go on multiple ferries and see the sights than to take on of the ferry tours around the harbour.

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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 08:35 PM
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Hi Vinshil

I like big cities - but I personally think Syd is a 3 day town (max).

PD - is nice. We satyed at the Outrigger Heritage - good location, but the kitchen was really tiny and ill supplied. The bathroom (at least in our unit was impractical and there were no drawers (so you live out of you bags.) I know. Very picky.

GBR - we like to snorkel. Read a lot about which baot to take and how the smaller the boat the better the site etc etc., we took Wavelength, (another slightly larger size like a Haba) and QuickSmart (not Quick Silver - which we referred to as the death star. Hands down, QuickSmart beat the other two - for accomodation, equipment and sites. Also. make sure you look around for coupons for discounts (e.g., car rental site). Also, please wear a lot of sunscreen - even if you don't usually burn otherwise - you will unless you take care.

We took a tour of the Daintree and enjoe it a lot - only four of us. But you could see a lot on your own with a car.

I loved Melb. It was one of my favroite cities in OZ. We did not take the GOR (but we live in Northern California and drive the coast alot.) We did go to Tasmania for three days and drove from Lanceston to Hobart. It has very pretty countryside - but nothing that you could not pick up soemwhere else.

And, even with the really nice airfares, one day is just too too impractial - save your cash and time (e.,g Phillip Isld. - Fairy Penguins - - tip - opt for Penguins Plus - it is just $9.00 more than base rate and well worth it). Or, stay an extra day at the GBR).

In Melbourne - some things we we enjoyed were a tour of the old Parliment building - you get to go on the floor and sit in the Speaker's Chair etc. If you are a wine drinker - try to some of the Coonawara (an area not a brand) Cab's are excellent, the tram and even a tram dinner, Federation square (usually has something going on in the evening), a long lunch at a resturant overlooking the Yarra (sp?)river, china town bakery shops.










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Old Nov 19th, 2004, 11:32 AM
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I guess after reading all these replies, one can get more confused than ever about Aussie destinations.
I really comes down, to what interests one person, perhaps may not interest another person. I notice it takes quite a few replies, then further replies, until the instigator of the post, gets an idea of what he or she wants to visit.
Melbourne is "not" on my high list of places to revisit, and yet I could easily spend a week or more in Tasmania (3 days there would only be scratching the surface)- walking the National Parks, etc. but then bushwalking is "my scene" and not a past time that others have, here on this board. Some only want to look at scenery, or historical buildings.
I think it would help, if each post spelt out exactly what that person really wanted to see, without too much generalisation. The reason I say this, is that I quite often recommend certain National Parks to walk, only to find in a reply message, that the instigator is elderly or is not interested in walking alot. I must say that some postings do mention interests, whilst others don't.

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Old Nov 19th, 2004, 12:04 PM
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Good point, tropo. As a general observation, i.e. not related to this particular post, I get the impression that a lot of people try to use the Fodors site as an alternative to buying a Fodors/Frommers/Lonely Planet/whatever guide to their destination. There's no way that even the best-informed, best intentioned Fodorite can adequately answer some of the more open and general questions that turn up on this board, like "I'm going to Australia - what should I see" (!!!). A good guide book is well worth the money and the cost is trivial in relation to what you spend on a trip.
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Old Nov 19th, 2004, 01:41 PM
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I am from Melbourne. You definately should not miss the Great Ocean Rd and Melb is a great city with some beautiful places like the Dandenongs near by. Just for your info everytime I have been down the GOR I have seen penguins in one of the coves. It is not a parade like at Philip Island but they are there. I also love far north QLD. Cairns is not a spectacular place so try to get out and about from there.

You make me pine for a trip home reading your plans!

Have fun
J
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Old Nov 19th, 2004, 06:36 PM
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Hi Vidon - as you probably know by now, Lilybank is not in Cairns city. It's in Stratford, which is an established older suburb in rainforest/sugar cane area, 8 km north of the city. There are no buildings over 2 levels in height and trees are the dominant feature of the landscape. The Barron River which starts in Atherton Tableland, turns into spectacular Barron Falls near Kuranda (well, they will be spectacular if we ever get decent rain)then runs through the suburbs of Caravonica and Stratford on its way out to sea. It's near the Freshwater station for train to Kuranda, not the city station. Just to give you an idea of where you're staying!!
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