Looking for feedback on four week itinerary


Oct 4th, 2014, 04:58 PM
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Looking for feedback on four week itinerary

Looking for some feedback on a proposed itinerary for a four week visit to Australia in October 2015. We are four “seniors” who want a mix of nature and city experiences. We have recently traveled together to Tanzania, New Zealand, southern Africa and Iceland – we like private or small group day tours, scenery, wildlife, birding, and photography. Good to better food and accommodations are preferred. We are willing to do some driving but prefer flights from one location to another since the distances are so great. So here goes the initial idea which is a counterclockwise journey around the eastern half of Australia. Our budget is high end and relaxed pace.

Nights 1 and 2 - Arrive Brisbane from LAX – two nights to recover from jet lag and a day tour to the zoo or other wildlife attraction

Nights 3, 4, 5, 6 - Fly to Cairns, overnight near airport, then following day pick up rental car, drive to Port Douglas for two nights to explore Kuranda Skyrail and Daintree along the way, and Great Barrier Reef by Quicksilver most likely, return car, then another overnight near Cairns airport.
Question: Is it silly to go to Port Douglas or will the experience be equally good if we settle in Cairns?

Night 7 - Early morning flight to Ayers Rock, overnight one night at resort, sunset and sunrise visits to Uluru and The Olgas
Question: Can we do the sunrise visit to The Olgas and make the 10:30am flight to Alice Springs/Adelaide?

Night 8 - Late morning flight to Adelaide via Alice Springs, overnight one night in Adelaide, explore Adelaide
Question: Is the drive from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs better than the flight with a two hour layover before the Adelaide flight?

Nights 9, 10, 11 - Ferry to Kangaroo Island, and three nights for KI discovery two day tour

Nights 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 - Ferry back to Adelaide and afternoon flight to Melbourne – five nights in Melbourne in two bedroom apartment in CBD – explore Melbourne, day tour to Great Ocean Road, day tour to Dandenong Ranges
Question: Any other ideas for day trips or destinations in the city of special interest?

Nights 17 and 18 - Noon flight to Hobart for two nights – MONA and either Port Arthur tour or Tasman Peninsula cruise
Question: Other ideas besides exploring town?

Nights 19 and 20 - Pick up rental car and drive leisurely to Strahan for two nights, World Heritage Cruise

Nights 21 and 22 - Drive to Cradle Mountain Lodge for two nights, explore national park – Tasmanian devils at night

Nights 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 - Drive to Launceston (return car) via Cataract Gorge for early afternoon flight to Sydney, five nights in Sydney in two bedroom apartment in CBD, explore Sydney, day tours to Blue Mountains, Harbor Cruise, Zoo, Opera House tour, beaches, etc.
Question: Any special places to consider during our stay in Sydney?

Flight back to LAX with possible stop in Hawaii

Please provide comments and ideas. We imagine this will be our only visit to Australia. What have we missed? We had Darwin and Kakadu on our list but eliminated then since we wanted a more leisurely pace and it was challenging to fit it into our time frame. We might consider adding one or two more nights! Thanks for any help you can provide.
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Oct 4th, 2014, 09:05 PM
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FWIW, my comments are based on living in Australia for several years and visiting all the places you plan to go at least once--and some of them I've visited multiple times.

1. Having been to Port Douglas many times, I would recommend going there as opposed to staying in Cairns. The town itself is an enjoyable laid-back place and Four Mile Beach is excellent. (Cairns City does not have a beach--you have to go to the northern suburbs for that.)

2. Uluru is the place where you need to add your extra time. One day there simply isn't enough to adequately experience both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Plan to spend at least 2 nights and 2 days there.

3. In October, sunrise at Kata Tjuta will range from 6am to 6:30 am. If you leave Kata Tjuta by 7am, you will be at the Ayers Rock Airport by 8 - 8:15am, which give you plenty of time to return your rental car and check in for your 10:30 am flight. (It's a small airport.)

4. The drive from Uluru to Alice Springs is around 6 hours. I would not do that as opposed to sitting in the Alice Springs airport for 2 hours.

5. I don't think you can take a rental car on the ferry to Kangaroo Island, so you should verify that you can do this with the car rental company and with Sealink before you book this. (We took the ferry, but we took our own car.)
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Oct 4th, 2014, 09:57 PM
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A couple of comments. You have obviously done some research and have chosen some interesting places to visit.
Cairns and Port Douglas are very close but I recommend you base yourself in lovely Port Douglas from where you can do your proposed trips. I don't think you have devoted enough time to the Uluru area . Better to cut down somewhere else imo.In regard to the harbour cruise in Sydney ok but I would recommend the regular ferry to Manly ( sit outside )instead and you wil see a lot of the harbour and enjoy Manly as well. Just a few thoughts which may help you.You seem to have your accommodation sorted? Good luck, enjoy and get back to us with further questions.
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Oct 9th, 2014, 08:33 PM
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I would endorse two nights / two days at Uluru - we had 2 nights and 1 !/2 days, and struggled to get in all the exploration we wanted to do. It's a shame you are not spending at least a day or two in Alice Springs as it is an interesting place.
BTW, I think Kuranda Skyrail is best explored while in Cairns.

If you are interested, Healesville Sanctuary in Melbourne is worth a visit. They have a number of interesting and unique Australian animals there.


Enjoy the rest of your planning, and Australia when you finally arrive. It's a wonderful country.
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Oct 14th, 2014, 04:28 AM
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you say that you like small/private tours and wildlife/birding and you will actually be going near a terrific area for this when you are in Northern Queensland ie the Atherton Tablelands. We did a 2 day tour with Alan Gillanders [who we found out about through Toucan2 who had done tours with him before] and it was one of the best experiences of our 5 week trip.

you can contact him here:

he is based in Yungaburra, which is about a hour's drive from Cairns; we had been staying in PD [strongly recommended] so we met him at Mareeba and spent the day visiting various habitats with him before reaching Yungaburra where we spent the night in a local lodge. In the evening he took us spotting wildlife, and then in the early morning we did a tour of the local river where you can see platypus [we saw 6 in about 45 minutes]. We finished off in the forest visiting one of the bower birds that he has been studying for several years so they have become very tame. A really unique experience that with your interests, I'm sure you would enjoy.
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Oct 14th, 2014, 09:43 AM
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I'd replace the Dandenongs tour with a day tour to Phillips Island. The Dandenongs (and Puffing Billy) were pleasant -- but not "wow." But Phillps Island is beautiful. Our tour included a wonderful stop at a koala sanctuary -- and the highlight was the penguin parade. HIGHLY recommended.
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Oct 14th, 2014, 06:10 PM
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I will echo that the Tablelands are excellent for wildlife.

Lots of options for things to do/see around Hobart - Bruny Island, Huon Valley, Bonorong wildlife sanctuary - though I really enjoyed the city as well.
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Oct 17th, 2014, 04:15 PM
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Thanks all for your feedback... Here is a progress report:

Annhig - I contacted Alan Gillanders and we are working on a plan for a day with him when we drive from Port Douglas to Cairns - - we will skip Kuranda if Alan can make it work.

Songdoc - We are spending three nights on Kangaroo Island and wonder if Phillip Island would be a very different experience.

Sorry folks - Can't convince my travel buddies to spend two nights at Uluru so we will make it work for a one night visit.

Now it looks like this:
2 nights Brisbane
3 nights Port Douglas
1 night Cairns
1 night Uluru
3 nights Kangaroo Island
5 nights Melbourne
3 nights Hobart
2 nights Strahan
2 nights Cradle Mtn
5 nights Sydney

Currently working on apartment accommodations in Melbourne and Sydney.

We wonder what's the best option for Botanic Gardens? Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney.

What's the best bet for visiting a zoo?

Also, there are so many wildlife parks - any preference? I guess one experience cuddling a koala is enough!
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Oct 17th, 2014, 07:38 PM
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Two sanctuaries we enjoyed that are on your route are [email protected] at Cradle Mountain and Bonorong outside of Hobart.

Hanson Bay on KI has a koala walk (no touching) and a nocturnal tour.

You can see fairy penguins on KI and Tasmania.
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Oct 18th, 2014, 07:06 AM
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jeep - that sounds like a good plan. We met Alan at Maruba bus station at about 9am and then spent the whole day with him visiting various habitats until we ended up at Yungaburra [his home town and base] at about 6pm. We then spent the night there, going spotting with him after dark and on an early walk with him in the morning to see the platypuses and other local wildlife. We ended with a visit to one of the bower birds that he's studying in the nearby tropical forest.

This left us with an hour or so's drive to get to Cairns for our flight back to Brisbane.

I see that your itinerary has you spending a night in Cairns, presumably at the end of your proposed day with Alan. Depending on the time of your flight out of Cairns, you might be able to do something like we did so as to get the most out of your time in the Tablelands. just a thought!
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Oct 18th, 2014, 09:41 PM
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Annhig - That's exactly what we are hoping to do we Alan but will not do the overnight part; just waiting for him to finalize his availability.

Still looking for guidance on zoos and botanic gardens. Is it really necessary to cuddle a koala?
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Oct 18th, 2014, 09:57 PM
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No, it's not at all necessary to cuddle a koala. They would prefer to be left alone & not have humans pawing them.
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Oct 19th, 2014, 05:18 AM
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that's a shame jeep. But I'm sure that you will still have a terrific time if you spend just a day with Alan. You could always book yourselves into a hotel/motel in Yungaburra and go looking for the platypus yourselves. They live in the river at the bottom of the town and were out and about by 7-8 am. We stayed at the Kookaburra lodge which was very nice and quite cheap.
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Nov 13th, 2014, 11:46 AM
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Time for an update on our four week visit to Australia in October/ November 2015. It continues to be a work in progress. All comments and suggestions are very helpful in sorting out what suits us best. We now have firm dates, just about all accommodations are done, international and internal flights will be done in about a week or so. Only unknown now is the flight schedule to and from Adelaide/Kangaroo Island. Rex does not make it easy for OCD vacation planners!

We will regroup after the new year and start looking at individual day tour options. So this is what it looks like now:
October 6--Depart LAX for Brisbane

October 8--Two nights in Brisbane - nothing ambitious, probably City Cat ride and visits to a couple of museums

October 10--Fly to Cairns, pick up rental car at airport, drive to Port Douglas for three nights (Quicksilver for sure and not sure which option for Daintree tour.

October 13--Birding with Alan as suggested by several and overnight near Cairns airport

October 14--Return car, non-stop flight to Ayers Rock, pick up rental car, explore on our own, one night only at Sails in the Desert

October 15--Sunrise at the Olgas, late morning flight to Adelaide via Alice Springs, REX flight to Kanagaroo Island for two nights at Seascape Lodge at Emu Bay - this is a long travel day!

October 16, 17 and 18--Two or three days tours with KI Wilderness Tours (either one more night at Seascape or evening flight to Adelaide on Oct 17 for one night) - Depends on whether REX operates the afternoon flight to Adelaide on October 18; if not we need to get to Adelaide the evening of Oct 17. We will arrive in Melbourne for five nights in Southbank apartment early evening October 18 either way.

October 19 through 23--Relaxed pace exploring Melbourne with day trips to Great Ocean Road and Dandenong Ranges

October 23--Morning flight to Hobart for three nights. Day tour to Tasman Peninsula/Port Arthur and Tasman Island cruise and Saturday at Salamanca Market and MONA.

October 26--Pick up rental car, stop at Mt Wellington on drive to Strahan with another stop at Russell Falls.

October 27--Gordon River cruise

October 28--Drive to Cradle Mountain for two nights at Cradle Mtn Lodge

October 29--Walk around Dove Lake and evening Devils feeding

October 30--Drive to Launceston, stop at Cataract Gorge, return car and early evening flight to Sydney

October 31 through November 4--Five nights in apartment with easy pace exploring Sydney including day tour to Blue Mountains, ferry rides, zoo, opera house, botanic gardens.

November 4 Early evening flight back to LAX

November 5 begin countless hours sorting and organizing photos from our travels!

It will be nice once the Kangaroo Island flights are resolved but we have a contingency so all will work out.

Continue to appreciate all comments or suggestions...
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Nov 13th, 2014, 12:04 PM
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looks like a great trip. I can't comment on the specifics of places we've not been to but so far as PD is concerned I might have liked you to have another night so that you could go to Mossman and have half a day on that glorious beach, but you can't do everything.
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Nov 13th, 2014, 12:50 PM
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Thanks Annhig! I am surprised you mentioned Mossman as a beach since I thought it was a bit inland and more lake a river/gorge. The flight into Cairns arrives at noon so we might be able to visit the Mossman area that afternoon after checking into Port Douglas hotel. Can you help clarify my confusion or lack of knowledge?
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Nov 13th, 2014, 02:38 PM
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oops - I can see that what I wrote might mislead - what I meant was that it would be a shame to miss a 1/2 day trip to Mossman, and a shame to miss spending the afternoon on the magnificent beach at PD.

yes you could visit Mossman in the afternoon, and if you do so, a late lunch or early supper at Mojo's might be in order:


we had a fab meal there - definitely worth the trip [Lonely planet go so far as saying that it's worth visiting OZ to eat there, but that might be going a BIT far]

sorry that I was confusing.
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Jul 20th, 2015, 02:51 PM
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Jeep, was just looking at old posts in advance of upcoming trip. Will be in Australia Oct 15-nov 7 staying in many of the same places but slightly different days following you in every case. We will overlap in Sydney, arriving Nov 2 from Hobart. Wondering if you plan to post feedback as you go (btw we are in your same age demographic)
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Jul 21st, 2015, 07:02 PM
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Thank you for your Tasmania itinerary. We're heading to AU in March. Adelaide is our destination city and plan a week in Tasmania and will take the train to Alice Springs and Uluru. May follow your lead for Taz. What are your accommodations?same age range. Last trip included Brisbane, Cairns, KI and Sydney. Stayed at the Stamford in Brisbane, Grace hotel in Sydney. Both lovely. Enjoy your time down under.
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Jul 22nd, 2015, 03:48 PM
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FromDC - We will try some live postings as a
"trip report on the go" but no promises. We have some very long days and who knows what the hotel wifi will be like! There have been some modifications to the itinerary and I will post an update in a few days. Most of the day tours are set but there have been several minor changes in flight times. More details to follow... perhaps in a new thread?!?!

RoxAnn24 - We will only have an evening and morning in Adelaide so not sure how ambitious we will be. The flight times to and from Kangaroo Island have been challenging. I am so happy we are devoting a full week to Tasmania - just saw in Travel+Leisure it is a top rated island! I will post current itinerary sometime soon.
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