Need help with dream Australian vacation

Mar 27th, 2008, 12:26 PM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 6
I'll tell you what you do. You stay home and send me your ticket!!!
Two years?!! I have not had good luck with escorted tours. To many people and their hang ups to contend with.
Remember opposite seasons.
micolh is offline  
Mar 27th, 2008, 01:47 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 8
Dear Scudam,
I have never replied to one of these before but I will "give it a go". My husband and I lived in Australia from 1971-1974 and loved every minute. We returned in 1989 and again in 2000 and will go back again in a couple years (retired teachers and business owners). We have had many Aussies come here to stay and as many have commented they are "a very friendly lot".
You are very intelligent in researching ahead of time and know the country is very big (only slightly smaller than the U.S.). We lived in both Brisbane, Queensland and Adelaide, South Australia. We loved them both. We toured the outback with 2 busloads of high school kids on a bus - so we REALLY had an experience which will never be forgotten - my point is that, like others said, everything you do will be a worth-while adventure. Three weeks is great / definitely get the airpass through Quantas or whomever / definitely do: Sydney, Brisbane,
Cairns/Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne and Adelaide (most people do not do Adelaide but it is a great one-story city - also has not only famous wineries but the area behind Adelaide is worth a day visit (the "REAL" country).
Sydney has, of course, the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House - they also have a magnificent zoo (I would choose the Sydney zoo and then the Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane if you are wildlife people). Behind Sydney is a great drive up to the Blue Mountains. In Brisbane I would recommend a bus tour (or rental car) and travel up behind Brisbane to the rain forest and Gold Coast - eventhough the Gold Coast has become more "touristy" the ocean scenery and beaches are definitely worth it. At the Gold Coast DO NOT MISS the Karrumbin Bird Sanctuary - you will NEVER forget this experience...... You will also be able to see kangaroos, koalas, wombats, etc. Definitely do the Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane as I mentioned above (you could miss it if you go to the Karrumbin Bird Sanctuary instead although whenever we return we return to Karrumbin and whomever we take with us always enjoys it (no matter what age). If you have time, drive up North on one day-if not, give it a miss as you need to go to Cairns/Port Douglas/Great Barrier Reef area and you can see that instead. In Cairns be sure and do the aerial tramway!!! even if it is 'touristy'. Again, you would not come to the U.S. and miss the Golden Gate Bridge because it is a "tourist trap" - don't miss the aerial tramway - you CAN miss the aboriginal "show" at the bottom of the tramway (definitely miss it, in fact). We stayed at a great Bed and Breakfast in Cairns. If you can, take a tour boat for the day to GREEN ISLAND - you can snorkel right off the shore and you can walk around the island in about 20 minutes (but you will want to take longer because it is so pretty - it is a true coral cay. You can then fly to Uluru - we were there when it was actually "empty" - no hotel/lodge, etc.- it is still worth seeing but I noticed no one mentioned taking a flight over the OLGAS (if it is still offered). They are outcroppings of Uluru and we found them a fascinating piece of geology-evidently most people are not aware of them (maybe they don't offer flights anymore). It is definitely worth the money (and we were on teacher's pay). If Adelaide is your next stop (or you may have to give it a miss) - go to Port Noarlunga to see the water (we were scuba divers so we did a lot of scuba there) - it is shallow at the shore and there is a great breaker so you can snorkel if you like (or do that in the North in Cairns). Downtown Adelaide is a great friendly place. There is a community around Adelaide up in the hills - Hahndorf - which is worth a visit (day or 1/2 day trip). The Barossa Valley is the wine country area which many people like (at the time we saw it, it was not very developed but still very pretty - but, since my parents live in Napa, CA I guess we didn't take much notice of "another wine area" so get someone elses opinion on that.
There are 3 places NOT to miss if you go to Melbourne: 1)the fairy penguins and wild life (free roaming koalas & kangaroos) on Phillips Island and 2)Bill Rickets Sanctuary and 3) The Great Ocean Highway. Even most Aussies do not know about Bill Rickets. It is one of the most unusual places we have seen (and we are not real "artsy" people) but this is worth visiting. The drive to get there is beautiful anyway (hills behind Melbourne). I guess you will do the "Great Ocean Highway" on the South Coast with the "Twelve Apostles" (12 large rock outcroppings from the ocean) - very scenic drive and dEfinitely a must do. I hope this is not too much info and I hope it is helpful. By the way, my husband and I had been married only one week (june, 1971)when we moved to Brisbane - we are so glad we did. We loved Australia and the people... let me know if you want any specific info. P.S. If you had to miss out on one of the cities I guess I would miss out on Brisbane (eventhough we love it) because you can do the "ocean" stuff up North in Cairns) - or miss out on Adelaide although it is really different than Sydney or Melbourne. BUT, you can always return another time if you like it that much......... Sydney: 3-4 days Brisbane: 3 days Cairns area: 4 days Uluru: 2 days (1 night) Adelaide: 3 days Melbourne: 4 days
That already adds up to 20 days!!!! so some decisions will need to be
made - also you lose a day going but gain it returning - 2 total days going and returning.... GOOD LUCK - YOU WILL LOVE IT....
hula is offline  
Mar 27th, 2008, 01:52 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 825
O.K I will give them a plug as they sent me a free one, but honestly Fodor's Australia 2008 is a very comprehensive guide with some excellent itineraries and lots of info. Combined with this forum and you will be able to plan a dream holiday.
DownUnder is offline  
Mar 27th, 2008, 02:01 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 8
I just wrote a long message but forgot to comment on months to go - remember, Christmas is summer (hot-which we like) and also remember: school holidays are SIX WEEKS AT CHRISTMAS (about December to 2nd week of Jan if I remember correctly) - 2 weeks in June and 2 weeks in August or something - find out for sure. Aug, Sept, Oct (spring) or Feb, Mar, Apr (fall) would be fine -
hula is offline  
Mar 27th, 2008, 03:25 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 762
I noticed that someone mentioned Hayman Island for your anniversary...if you get a chance, read my trip report that I just posted from my trip 10 days ago. It's a nice place for anniversary, but there are things you should know about hayman that isn't mentioned in the brochure (Like the ocean closes,lol).
anita63 is offline  
Mar 27th, 2008, 03:35 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
The Christmas school holidays vary by State, but typically start mid-late Dec and end late Jan/early Feb.

Neil_Oz is offline  
Mar 27th, 2008, 04:59 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,092
Scudam, can I just say, try not to see all that there is to see in Oz, as so many overseas visitors do.
Pick out about 3 major regions, then consider flying between each to allow more time in those regions.
Consider getting a rental car at each region to explore in depth for one week.
On this chat board, you will get heaps of advice, with everyones personal favourite regions or places.
Possibly the 3 regions could consist of br /> 1. Great Barrier Reef & Hinterland

2. Central Australia.

3. ??? Now the last could be tricky, some will say Sydney or Melbourne, others will say Sunshine Coast of Qld, or Tasmania. If your not into cities, then I would pick Tasmania, for a number of reasons, colonial history, great seafood, lovely villages, good seascapes, excellent wines, small on people population, quiet roads to drive on, excellent walking trails, short or long.
tropo is offline  
Mar 28th, 2008, 08:26 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 25
I want to thank all of you for such terrific advice. My wife and I greatly appreciate it. Thank you for convincing me to do this trip myself. I wouldn't have had the confidence to try it without you guys. Everybody on this site has been great. I will have my wife start reading her Fodor's that I gave her for Christmas and start deciding on what she would like to see. After we decide on our itinerary, I'm sure I will be asking more questions. Thanks again
Scudam is offline  
Mar 29th, 2008, 06:42 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 1,854
The advice about picking 3 key areas is excellent and there's tons of good advice here.

My guess: For 95 percent of the folks headed to Australia, planning your own trip is better than any tour.

It all depends on what the wife wants (where's the understatement font)but a good basic three-part trip might include Far North Queensland (for the reef, Daintree, etc), a trip out to Ayes Rock and sometime using Sydney as a base.

I've heard some folks who favor outdoorsy travel say "a city is a city is a city," but Sydney is not only a fantastic place to visit, but you can also do trips to places like the Blue Mountains. A ferry trip out to Manley with a return at sundown is a simple, but wonderful excursion.

BTW, I think the advice that is posted on Australia is one of Fodor's most reliable boards.
repete is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 06:52 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 25
Greetings All,
Again, I just want to say thank you for all of your great advice and being so friendly. You have convinced me to book my own trip and given me some great suggestions for itineraries. The one the most intrigued us the most was ARay's itinerary which is as follows:

Melbourne - 3 nights
Kangaroo Island - 2 nights
Adelaide - 1 night
Port Douglas - 5 nights
Uluru - 2 nights
Sydney - 5 nights (included day trip to the Blue Mountains)

We are going to use it as a starting point for our plans. I now have one more question for all of you: budget. I goal to have a minimum of $15,000, shoot for $20,000, and be happy to fall somewhere in-between. Is this a reasonable budget for this kind of trip? We are planning on flying out of JFK using the Aussie Air pass (thanks for the recommendation). We are very simple people and don't need to stay the 5 star hotels or eat at the 5 star restaurants. We would much rather spend the money on seeing and experiencing Australia. Is my budget doable? Your help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Scudam is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 12:19 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 483
I think your budget is more than fine. We have never spent more than $11,000 for a month long trip, including airfare, but we also travel in Australia's winter as a rule. Expensive choices on the Barrier Reef like staying at Lizard or even the more moderate Heron, will push it up, or pricey excursions. Some complain here about more expensive food costs than the US, but we don't find that to be the case. If you don't have to have a $100 meal everyday, you'll be fine. I like your itinerary, but hope you'll consider Tasmania - hard to get all that in in 3 weeks, so go with the wife's preferences - lucky girl!
oliverandharry is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 04:20 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 4,039
When you start planning your accomodations, I recommend you look for "serviced apartments". You should be able to find nice 1-bedroom serviced apartments which would fit in the budget you listed. The good thing about serviced apartments is that you get a separate bedroom, a living room and a full kitchen. We always liked having the extra space and we always used the kitchen to make breakfast and often, picnic lunches. It certainly saved us some money which we could then use for fun activities. Also, many serviced apartments have washers and dryers in the room and that's a big bonus when you are traveling for 3 weeks!
longhorn55 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 07:09 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 21
Your budget is totally doable, Scudam. We spent about $6,000 each for three weeks, including airfare, airport transfers, food, tours, shopping, etc...

Other than the "splurge" for the private tour and apartment on Kangaroo Island, all of our hotels were in the $100 per night range (except Uluru, where everything is more expensive).

Along the lines of what longhorn suggested, we stayed in an UNserviced apartment in Port Douglas (Port Douglas Retreat) that was A$516 for five nights. We didn't have anyone clean our room, but it had a beautiful pool and was less than a five-minute walk to the Four Mile Beach and the main street (Macrossan). No washer and dryer in the room, but we had access to one and it was five bucks to wash and dry a load of laundry. It also had a small stovetop, microwave and fridge, so you could take some meals in the apartment.
ARay is offline  

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