Need travel advice

Old Jan 15th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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Need travel advice

My husband and son hope to travel from USA to Australia in early December. We plan to stay for 2 weeks. Our son will be 5 years old. We have never been to Australia and have no idea where to go and how long we should stay at each location. If anyone has any advice, it surely would be appreciated!!! THANKS!
robertsmommy is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2005, 10:25 AM
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Hello robertsmommy,

Australia is the same size as the lower 48 states of the U.S. It has many neat things to see, but there is no way that even 2 adults can experience it all in 2 weeks, much less adults travelling with a 5 year old. So one is forced to make choices.

In giving advice, it would help to know your interests. However, I'll make some recommendations based on the fact that you'll have a young child with you and based on the attractions that seem to appeal to many first time visitors to Australia.

If it was my trip, I would choose 2 places, and do each of them justice. I would probably go to Sydney plus one other place. That other place might be Far North Queensland (Cairns / Port Douglas area) or it might be Tasmania.

Sydney has that beautiful harbour that will impress you grown ups. Perhaps your son will be more impressed by the workings of the ferry while you cross the harbour.

If you visit Taronga Zoo, your son probably will be intrigued by the animals, but your husband's and your jaws will drop when you see the view of Sydney that the giraffes have.

I have never been to Tasmania, but have learned about it from hanging out at Fodors. Fodorites say it offers a marvellous combination of history, scenery and wildlife. Apparently it takes 10 days (but, failing that, at least a week) to do it justice.

Far North Queensland (FNQ) offers the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropical rainforest, the Atherton Tableland, wildlife, and other interesting things. Do an Internet search and also a word search here at Fodors for Undara (Undarra?) Lava Tubes. That's something else that I regret not having done when I was in FNQ, and also is something that I've only learned about in any detail since coming to Fodors.

The best place to stay in Sydney is somewhere near Circular Quay, which will put you in a central position.

I do not recommend a car in Sydney. Traffic is heavy, parking is heavy and, if you're travelling from North America, the traffic will feel as if it's on the wrong side of the road. Public transportation (combination of ferries, buses and trains) is very good and reasonably priced. There also is a hop on / hop off bus that is a good way of getting an initial orientation.

Once you get out of the big cities and are on the open highways or country roads, driving on the left is not at all daunting, at least I did not find it to be so. Of course, as in any new situation, it helps enormously to have one person driving and one person navigating.

Driving in Far North Queensland would be easy from the point of view that it's a rural area with small towns. The only town of any appreciable size is Cairns, and even that has only 150,000 people (compared with Sydney's 3.5 million).

As long as one is staying in the coastal communities of Cairns, Palm Cove or Port Douglas, however, it's not necessary to have a car. The GBR, rainforest and Kuranda tours pick passengers up from their lodgings.

I would mention just one proviso. If you choose Port Douglas as your base for FNQ, and if you also choose to do without a car, I recommend staying within walking distance of the main street, Macrossan Street. Although PD has a population of only 5,000 (if I remember the numbers correctly), it's rather spread out, and some of the outlying accommodations are not within walking distance of the centre of town.

Another thing to do if one chooses to forego a car is arrange a shuttle bus from the airport to one's accommodation. If you venture beyond the Cairns / PC / PD corridor, e.g., to go to the Undara Lava Tubes for a night or 2, you of course will need a car.

I gather a car is essential in Tasmania.

This is how I would allocate my time if I was going to Sydney + FNQ:

Days 1, 2, 3 - Explore Sydney
Days 4 & 5 - Overnight trip to Blue Mountains (catch train to Valley Heights Station so as to get beyond Sydney's traffic, then collect rental car from Redicar in Valley Heights -- thanks to Alan for the Valley Heights tip)
Day 6 - Fly Sydney to Cairns
Days 7, 8, 9 in Cairns or Port Douglas (book GBR outing for first full day in the area in case weather conditions force postponement)
Days 10, 11, 12 - Gulf Savannah region, including Undara Lava Tubes
Day 13 - Fly back to Sydney
Day 14 - Fly home

(You also could investigate the possibility of flying directly from your home to Cairns, doing FNQ first, and then departing Australia from Sydney. However, I've never looked into the air fares, and don't know how affordable it is to do it that way.)

If you were going to Sydney + Tasmania, you might consider allocating 3 full days to Sydney and all the rest to Tasmania.

And, last but not least, remember to Slip, Slop, Slap because of the sunshine in Australia (slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat).

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2005, 10:34 AM
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>>>I do not recommend a car in Sydney. Traffic is heavy, parking is heavy<<<

Intended to say parking was expensive.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2005, 12:49 PM
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All in all, I do not think Dec is the best month for Australia, but often times people don't have much choice, which could well be your case. It can stinking hot just about everywhere (except Tasmania perhaps), schools are out for summer, accommodations are more difficult to get, etc, etc. But it is a great time for Australia's magnificent beaches, of which there is no shortage.

If you stick to Dec, I'd definitely recommend driving the Great Ocean Rd between Melbourne and Adelaide. You could do it over 2-4 days. Very scenic, great beaches and opportunites for seeing wildlife along the way. Tasmania would be another good option.
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Old Jan 16th, 2005, 09:28 PM
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RalphR's suggestion about a leisurely drive along the Great Ocean Road is a good one. If you are doing it as a round trip from Melbourne, you could also include some of the national parks, particularly the Grampians where you should see kangeroos, emus and possibly koalas and lots of bird life.
Ballarat would also be on your route back to Melbourne and you could easily spend a few nights there as there is a lot to see and do in that area.
Re the weather, if you stay south of Queensland, it shouldn't be too hot. School holidays usually start about 18 December but you should be able to get accommodation without booking ahead right up to Christmas Day.
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