Need help in planning trip to Australia

May 19th, 2005, 09:34 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 56
Need help in planning trip to Australia

I have been researching and avidly reading these forums in hopes of traveling to Australia within the next year and a half. My husband and I are in our early 50's and enjoy nature and wildlife viewing rather than visiting cities. We are active and like to walk and hike. Following is a very, very tentative itinerary (actually it is more of a wish list). I have no idea if it is doable, but would welcome advice. Length of trip is flexible.

Fly into Melbourne. Spend two nights.
(The 2 nights is primarily to recover from jet lag. Is this enough or too much?)

Travel to Adelaide via GOR for 3 nights.
(Have not decided on overnight stays)

Arrive Adelaide. Spend one night

Travel to Kangaroo Island. Spend 1-2 nights

Return to Adelaide Spend one night

Fly to Darwin Spend four nights in Northern Territory, visiting Kakadu and Litchfield

Fly to Cairns. Spend 4-6 days
While in N Queensland would like to
spend at least 2 nights in Atherton
Tablelands at Chambers Lodge or
similar, rest of time at Trinity
Beach or Port Douglas to do GBR, etc.

Fly out of Cairns to home

I know some will question that we are not going to Sydney, however we would rather see the natural side of Australia. I have several questions.

What would be the best time of year for this itinerary?

Are we jumping around too much? During the first part of the trip, we are in a new hotel nearly every night. However, to see what we need to see, it seems like this is a necessity.

Would it be better to stay at Trinity Beach or Port Douglas while in N Queensland?

I am planning on renting a car at each of our stops, but have considered using Wayward Bus for the GOR drive instead. Would this be recommended?

Thanks for any advice.

sari80 is offline  
May 19th, 2005, 11:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,113
I'd say that two nights would be right on arrival - you'll get over jet lag and be able to see a bit of the city.
If you feel confident about driving in Australia, a hire car would be the best way to do the Great Ocean Road. I'd suggest an overnight stop at Port Campbell, then drive to Port Fairy, have a look around then head north-east to the Grampians National Park. Plenty of accommodation in Halls Gap and lots of birds and animals. Overnight there and then drive onto Adelaide via the Western Highway the next day.
In Queensland, my suggestion would be to stay at either Port Douglas or Palm Cove. Palm Cove is a delightful little village and much nicer than Trinity Beach.
As to weather, can you reverse your trip and start in Queensland? If so, late August/September would be a good time. If not, March/April would give you reasonably good weather in both the north and south of the country.
Hope this helps.
marg is offline  
May 19th, 2005, 11:36 PM
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Hi, sari80!

That question about the best time of year for this trip is a tough one; it's a bit like saying what's the best time of year to do a circular trip that takes in both Mexico and Alaska! On the theory that you can always rug up when it's cold but you can't do ANYTHING about the flies when it's hot, I would say that, first of all, you should avoid the summer months (December-February). But, then, Melbourne is pretty dreary in winter! If it were me, I'd opt for September-October or April-May.

I understand what you say about seeing the natural side of Australia, so I won't try to talk you into ditching Melbourne in favour of my home town. But I might ask you to consider ditching Melbourne in favour of Tasmania, which is VERY natural and very lovely -- a bit like Scotland. Did you know that you can get an overnight ferry from Sydney to Devonport (in Tasmania), and then get one back to Melbourne? (not sure about to Adelaide). That might be a nice way to get over your jet lag.... a peaceful ride across the Tasman Sea, with the harbour of Sydney your first scenic wonder. There you are -- I did get in a "plug" for my home town!

Your trip is certainly doable -- anything is doable if you have the time to do it in -- and you are heading for some interesting places. You will be able to shorten some parts of your journey -- three nights on the Great Ocean Road is at least twice as much as you will need, and I can't imagine why you'd need more than one night on Kangaroo Island.

Your trip to Cairns and the reef is long, but not overlong, and this might be the factor that should decide whether you do the trip in April-May or in September-October. When it rains up there it REALLY rains, so you need to find out which is the drier month: May or October. I can't tell you this, but I know it has been mentioned on this forum, so a search should turn it up. Otherwise, post again and ask the question specifically of Pat Woolford, who is a mine of information about that part of the world (accommodation included).
Alan is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 06:11 PM
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Posts: 3,680
Thanks Alan, wish I was. For the very optimimum time in Far North Queensland (we are now supposed to refer to it as Tropical North Queensland) I'd pick late October/November. This is well after the SE trade winds of winter, which can make reef snorkelling bumpy, and still well before wet season, if it happens. Also the time when you are most likely to see maximum bird and mammal life in rainforests.

sari, you've already mentioned Chambers in Atherton Tablelands (now supposed to call it Cairns Highlands) and that's a great spot for wildlife and worth 2 days at least.

Trinity and Palm Cove beaches are much of a muchness as far as actual beaches, both easily accessible for trips to GBR. Trinity is more a "family" beach with a lot of selfcontained apartments and has a larger residential population than Palm Cove, which has the edge as far as more up-market accommodation and restaurants. Still there's some fine places to eat and stay at Trinity and a great view from the pub on its northern headland.

You might also like to look north of Port Douglas at accommodation in Daintree area - gives a variety of rainforest hideways, with more wildlife spotting opportunites, which won't cost an arm and a leg.
pat_woolford is offline  
May 23rd, 2005, 05:07 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 56
Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I have been going back and forth on April or October. If October will be the best for wildlife viewing, then I think that will be the month we will go. I will probably be back with more questions as I get further into my planning.

sari80 is offline  
May 23rd, 2005, 08:18 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 240
You should have no problem making this itinerary work.

Depending on your level of energy on those first two days, you might choose to spend some of your Melbourne time visiting Phillip Island where you can see the Fairy Penguin Parade. There are several tours that go there that vary in the amount of physical activity and types of stops along the way. Realize that the penguins come in after dark, so it makes for rather late night/long day though (and it's in the opposite direction of the GOR).

I liked driving the GOR myself. There are a lot of nice little towns to stop in along the way and several scenic lookouts. The roads in Australia are wide and easy to travel which makes the adjustment to left-hand driving much easier than in Ireland or Great Britain.

The Northern Territory will be a great change of pace from Victoria and
South Australia. Kakadu and Litchfield are amazing.

In Queensland, I enjoyed staying in Palm Cove (resorts seem to be multiplying there though). The other areas north of Cairns were very nice as well (toured around Port Douglas and visited friends in Trinity Beach). I wouldn't suggest staying in Cairns.

If you take the sky rail from Cairns to Kuranda (or stop there on your way to the Tablelands), I'd suggest stopping at the bat sanctuary. You get to see the huge fruit-eating bats up close. The rest of the town is really built for tourism though.

I was in Cairns last March & June and had great weather for both. However, the stinging jellyfish were in the waters in March...and they had just had some serious storms that washed out roads and took out beaches.

Australia is a great country to just drive around and stop at whatever interests you along the way, so your flexible attitude will fit well there. As for changing lodgings so much...I'd just pack light and consider it part of the adventure.

Have a great trip.
yesiree100 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2005, 05:24 AM
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To experience nature at its very best consider including 3-4 days in Tasmania, the island state. A one hour flight to Launceston (Pop.78,000) and from here you could do a great day trip to Cradle Mountain. World class scenery. Overnight back in L'ton or one of the many B&B's then travel down the East Coast of the state;more magnificent scenery and the whitest beaches anywhere in the world. Overnight at Coles Bay and take the exhiliarating walk to Wine Glass Bay. Travel onto the capital, Hobart and overnight in this small, but beautiful city. Next day a 4-5 hour trip south through the Huon Valley would enable you to do some great walking and visit the Tahune Airwalk above World Heritage rain forest.You could then fly from Hobt. back to Melb. This fleeting visit would only give you a small taste of so much more that is on offer, however I strongly suggest you research Tassie and consider including it in your itinery. Early April would be a great month weather wise to visit.There are very economical fly/drive packages available from Melb.
dheathco is offline  
Jun 11th, 2005, 10:13 AM
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Queensland: would recommend to stay in Port Douglas. It is about 1 hour north or Cairns and has all conveniences you need. It is a small, nice little town right on the famous 4-mile beach. All tours leave also from Port Douglas.
You said you want to see the natural side of Australia, so I would highly suggest to see the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation Nationalpark. It is a beautiful area with lots to see. The tablelands are great for wildlife viewing and maybe get a glimps of the Outback too.
If you want to take a tour to see the different regions, I would highly recommend Pete Baxendesll of Daintree-Specialised-Tours. He offers charters to all those areas (Daintree, Tablelands, Outback...) and he is a great guide who knows the area very well.
For the reef I would recommend the Quicksilver (if you don't want to be in the water (all the time) to see the reef. They offer glass bottom boat rides. If you are happy snorkelling to enjoy the reef, I would recommend Calypso Cruises, Poseidon or Wavelength.

In regards to the best time for your itinerary, I totally agree with Pat, September/October/November would be a good time to go. November is the start of the wet season, but generally it is still good. Of course it is getting hotter the closer you get to Summer.
My preferred time would be mid to end of October.

If you want more info and links to tour operators and other sites, just visit

Hope this will help
myaustralia is offline  
Jun 11th, 2005, 08:05 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 56
Thanks so much for your suggestions. I really appreicate all the help I have received in planning my trip. I am still feeling overwhelmed with all the possibilities that exist in Australia. Would you recommend that I make the arrangements myself, or contact a travel agent to do it for me? Do you have any suggestions for a travel agent?

sari80 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2005, 08:03 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,630
We were able to plan 5 weeks down under successfully ourselves, but my partner says I spent way too much time online on this site and w/ my nose in travel books!

Melodie, who often appears on this site ( Kennedy Kruises in San Jose, CA?) is a certified Aussie specialist. You might do a search here for here contact info.

In planning our trip independently I felt I uncovered some really unique touring and lodging opportunites. My best luck however was to actually meet johnj, Alan , Pat and margo oz who all made our trip unique.

AndrewDavid is offline  
Jun 14th, 2005, 04:27 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 3,680
Andrew, I don't think you ever finished posting your marvelously entertaining trip report in Port Douglas, or maybe I just missed it.

Yesiree has said not to stay in "Cairns" and has given no reason why. There's about 38 suburbs in Greater Cairns from rural Gordonvale in the south to Palm Cove in the north, streching over some 50km. Cairns city may not have a sandy beach, neither does Sydney Harbour where ships dock, but it does have an extraordinary range of restaurants with wonderful food at very reasonable prices. And here we are in "winter" still wearing shorts and sleeveless T shirts.
pat_woolford is offline  
Jun 14th, 2005, 06:26 AM
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Posts: 5,546
On the question of jet lag:

It depends on when you leave, when you arrive, and how much sleep you get.

4 of us left Los Angeles in the evening and arrived in Auckland in the morning. On the flight of 11 hours, there was plenty of time to get a reasonable sleep, and since there was minimal distortion of our perception of time, our bodies did not know we had missed a day, and had minimal jet lag.
Jed is offline  
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