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Need help for Dec.-Jan. Australia trip--Melbourne, Tazzie?, KI?, GBR

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Mar 27th, 2015, 09:33 AM
  #1
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Need help for Dec.-Jan. Australia trip--Melbourne, Tazzie?, KI?, GBR

I was amazed to find frequent flier seats for family of four (young adult daughters) next Christmas. Now what to do? Arriving Melbourne Dec. 26, with 14 full days in Oz before departing Cairns Jan. 10. Trip is a graduation celebration for younger daughter, an environmental scientist. What we want to see most is quintessential Aussie nature/wildlife, but also culture/history. We're not beachy and don't need much city time.

We like staying at least 2 nights in each location (more where needed) so we get a feel for a place and aren't always moving. But we also don't know when we'd be back so we want to have as many don't-miss Aussie experiences as we can. A balancing act.

Yes, it's not the best time of year for GBR, but rest of family (I don't dive) really wants to see it. I figured we'd spend most of trip in the south. How much to bite off? Is 3 or 4 days enough for the north--to do GBR and Daintree when it's hot and rainy? If so, what can we reasonably do with 10 days in the south? Though our Fodor's guide has an itinerary that fits Melbourne, Tasmania, and KI in that time, I'm worried it'd be hectic with too much time (and expense, esp. w/luggage issues) on planes or ferries. Or is that reasonable? How much time should we be in each place? What experiences should we be sure to fit in (e.g., Phillip Island penguins)? If we do go to KI, should we drive via Great Ocean Road (how long total?) or fly to Adelaide? (I read some posters who likened GOR to California coast, which we've seen a lot of, but it also sounds beautiful.) If it's not enough time to do it all, do we leave out Tazzie or KI?

Any and all suggestions are welcome, as I'm still in the "my head is spinning" stage. With Fodorites' help, I'm sure we'll have an incredible time.
PortiaLucy is offline  
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Mar 27th, 2015, 03:28 PM
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I'd spend two or three nights in Melbourne, then drive the Great Ocean Road as far as Port Fairy then loop back to Melbourne via Ballarat. You can see kangaroos at Anglesea golf course and koalas at Cape Otway, Port Fairy is a pretty little old town and Ballarat has a great folk museum (Sovereign Hill), art galleries and museums, plus some lovely old buildings.
That takes care of six or seven nights, which leaves a few more days. Possibly fly to Hobart and spend three nights there before flying to Cairns. In Hobart, you could drive to Port Arthur for the day, wander around town for another day. I'm assuming you will hire a car - much the easiest and cheapest way to get around with a group of four.
If you want to get to Philip Island for the penguins, be aware that it is about two hours each way from Melbourne and the penguins don't start coming in until dark which will be about 9 pm at that time of the year. If you really want to do this, best to drive there, stay overnight then instead of driving back into Melbourne, take the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff and then drive the Great Ocean Road.
You are visiting at the peak holiday season so make sure you have accommodation bookings in advance.
Hope you have a great time here in Australia.
marg is offline  
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Mar 27th, 2015, 04:03 PM
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I probably wouldn't fly to Tassie for only 3 nights. You may leave feeling like you should've allotted more time whereas 3 nights is a good amount of time for KI.
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Mar 29th, 2015, 11:17 PM
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At that time of year, 3 - 4 days in the GBR will be sufficient. Also, it's not necessary to know how to dive to enjoy the Reef. If you can swim, you can snorkel and snorkeling is a great way to see the Reef.

Also, I would not recommend a visit to Tasmania unless you can spend at least a week there. We were there for 5 days and it was not enough time.
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Apr 13th, 2015, 02:30 AM
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The GOR is beautiful but no more so than other beautiful coastlines ( or maybe I'm just immune to it because I live nearby). It's also very busy in the Summer so you will be sharing the road with LOTs of other tourists. Similarly, visiting the penguins is at least an overnighter from Melbourne and very crowded at that time of the year.
I'd be more inclined to visit Sydney for a city experience and fly to either Tasmania or KI for some wildlife experience.
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Apr 20th, 2015, 02:24 PM
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Thank you all so much for your great suggestions. We are leaning toward a version of marg's itinerary but carving out more time for Tassie per Patty and longhorn55.

Melbourne Dec. 26-28 or 29. We'll have a full day and a couple of partials for the city.

Phillip Island Dec. 28: The penguins etc. seem more unusual coming from the US than more time in Melbourne (assuming it's as fun as it sounds), so we would either take a small tour (anyone know about the Little Penguin Bus?) or drive and stay the night. If the former, we'd get back to Melbourne late and rent a car the next morning for GOR trip. If the latter, we'd drive PI to GOR via the ferry marg described. Any estimate of how long/complicated/difficult that is? We usually travel independently and seems shorter than going back via Melbourne, but not having to deal with a ferry (if rental companies even allow it) and letting someone else drive to PI and back have an allure, too. Is the ferry worthwhile for its own sake, like views?

Also, is it worth giving more time to PI than just the evening of penguins? Koala Centre? Nobbies? Or should we spend more of the day in Melbourne?

GOR Dec. 29-31: Based on recommendations on this forum, I booked two nights at the Great Ocean Ecolodge at Cape Otway. I figured we could drive there from Melbourne or PI on the 29th in time for their guided bushwalk. Dec. 30 is for Port Campbell NP/Twelve Apostles. Dec. 31 we circle back toward Melbourne airport, perhaps via Ballarat. Otway Fly worth fitting in?

Tassie: Fly Dec. 31 eve or Jan. 1 morning, and stay to Jan. 6, concentrating on the south: Hobart, Port Arthur and the Convict Trail, Huon Valley? Should we go further afield? We want to see natural beauty as well as history/town. We could spend weeks on the island, but better 5 days than none.

Fly to Cairns (or elsewhere for GBR?) Jan. 6, maybe even the 7th. That leaves until Jan. 10 for GBR/Daintree. Haven't even begun to think about that yet.

Would love any reactions, big or small.
PortiaLucy is offline  
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Apr 20th, 2015, 08:25 PM
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There are penguin viewing areas in Tasmania as well in Bicheno and on Bruny Island (there are others in the north but would take you further off your itinerary).
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Apr 20th, 2015, 08:44 PM
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Personally, with just 3 days in Melbourne... and one of them being Boxing Day, which is a public holiday and may have some things closes... I'd pick either the GOR or PI but not both. A good day out at either is going to take at least all day, if not an overnight for the GOR. If I was visiting, I'd probably go with the GOR as the main thing unique about PI is the penguins.

Personally, I prefer the coastline views at Sorrento Back Beach and thereabouts more than those on PI. So theoretically, if you were doing an overnight and could do a reverse loop on the GOR (west to east), technically you could take the ferry from Queenscliffe.... and come back around that way. Just to complicate things more.
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Sep 29th, 2015, 05:13 AM
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Hi, if you are travelling down to Adelaide I have to say there is the iStay Precint Adelaide. Fully furnished and very homely! Definitely my choice!
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Sep 29th, 2015, 08:35 AM
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That is peak holiday time for Tassie, so plan and book ahead.

Hobart, Port Arthur, Freycinet, Mt Field NP, Strahan, the Huon, the Tiers, Cradle Mountain, you will be spoiled for choice.

Happy travels!
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