One week in Australia...Any suggestions?

Old Jan 6th, 2014, 12:42 PM
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One week in Australia...Any suggestions?

American couple in our 30's going to Sydney for work in late March, and extended the trip by a week to explore a little. We're more into natural sights and the outdoors, so we're looking at the GBR and perhaps driving the Stuart Highway from Darwin, or maybe some combination of both. However, we're concerned about the wet season on the top end as well as the box jellyfish in the GBR. Does anyone know what travel might be like around Darwin/Kakadu in late March? Or has gone to Cairns/PD/GBR while the jellyfish are there? We just want to avoid a situation where roads are impassible or we can't go on a diving/snorkeling trip. Also, if there are any suggestions beyond that we'd definitely like to hear them! Thanks!
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 02:54 AM
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Do you know Australia is about the size of the USA, with 23m people?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but your question is roughly the equivalent of my saying I'm going to NYC for work & would like to spend a week visiting Seattle with a side trip driving somewhere from Denver.

It's 2900 kms from Darwin to Cairns.

You could certainly fly SYD - Cairns,
Spend a day or so on the GBR and then do a road trip up to the Atherton Tablelands, Daintree Forest & Cooktown.

Suggest you get a good guide book & use google maps to get an idea of the distances & driving times involved.
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 07:12 AM
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You definitely don't have time to visit both Cairns and do a driving trip around Darwin, which I would not recommend anyway since it will be the middle of The Wet.

A week around Cairns in March would be fine even though it is still stinger season. Stingers are primarily a problem along the coastline/beaches--not on the Outer Reef where you would be snorkeling. Also, you will be provided with a stinger suit on any snorkel trip you do at that time of year. I like Bohkara's recommendation of GBR, Atherton Tablelands, Daintree and Cooktown. It sounds like a great way to spend a week.
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 11:04 AM
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Yes, thanks, I am aware how big Australia is! In fact I spent 2 months there many years ago. I guess I didn't say it but we were planning to fly between major cities, but if we did the drive from Darwin to Yulara obviously we know that that would take up the entire week (to the exclusion of the GBR). What we are considering now in light of the wet and stingers is flying from SYD to Cairns first, then Cairns to Alice, and a (relatively) short drive to Yulara, then back to SYD. But nothing is set in stone, of course.

I posted because I just wanted to get an idea if there were seasonal problems associated with the top end and the GBR/Cairns/Daintree that would make travel there unpleasant. I appreciate the suggestions, Bokhara, of going beyond Cairns to the north--I'm just concerned about the wet season. And thanks to you, longhorn, re the stinger situation. If we could still snorkel/dive despite the stingers then I think we will brave the rainy season and go to Cairns. If you have any other suggestions we'd love to hear them! Thank you!
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 11:52 AM
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Hi clue,

we spent 5 nights in PD in November, followed by a night in the Tablelands on our way back to Cairns. We found plenty to do in that time, though we would have liked to have seen the Daintree Forest and more time in the Tablelands. A whole week would have been great.

To answer some of your questions specifically, we were able to swim in the sea thanks to a net set out on the beach at PD - it wasn't as good as just being able to run into the ocean but it was better than nothing. and as said above, when DH went diving on the GBR he was given a stinger suit.

if you decide to go, make sure you go to Mojo's restaurant in Mossman [about 20 mins away from PD]. we went because of the terrific recommendation it gets in the Lonely Planet guide and it didn't disappoint.
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Old Jan 7th, 2014, 08:04 PM
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Dear clueheywood, Australia is a nice place to be. Just relax and understand your new environment. There is no need to rush. Just start with your immediate surroundings.
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Old Jan 10th, 2014, 10:32 AM
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Thanks for suggestions and information, all. We have settled upon the following itinerary, flying between major cities of course:

Days 1-4 Sydney
Days 4-8 Cairns/Port Douglas
Days 8-10 Uluru
Day 11 Sydney & flight home

Any suggestions on reef and/or Daintree trips from Cairns/PD (or other local knowledge) would be great. Thx!
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Old Jan 10th, 2014, 12:31 PM
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cluehey - from PD we did a 1/2 day trip to Mossman Gorge, which started off sunny but we ended up drenched so cut our losses and left early, which is how we ended up at Mojos.

http://www.mossmangorge.com.au/

There is a nice walk at the gorge [best accessed using the little tourist train] which takes about 2 hours if you do it all [our walk was cut short by the torrential rain] and you can also do some longer tours with the local indigenous people if you wish. THere is also a pool where you can have a dip but we didn't fancy swimming with loads of other tourists.

Mojos is back in Mossman in the main street [next to a motel] and once we'd found it we sat under the veranda and watched the rain hammering down outside whilst we feasted inside.

http://www.mossmangorge.com.au/

The lunch menu is less extensive than the dinner one, but both include the yummy udon noodle soup and salt and pepper squid we had for lunch. for dessert we shared the best sticky toffee pudding I've ever had [called figgy date pudding on the menu] and delicious strawberries romanov. The lonely planet guide says that Mojos is worth visiting Queensland for, and we wouldn't disagree. Definitely try to include lunch or dinner there, preferably both, in your itinerary! Apparently lots of people book a night at the motel just so they can dine there and i can well believe it. [I'd book dinner if you were going to do this, though we didn't do so for our lunch].

We stayed in PD for 5 nights and I wouldn't say that that was too long especially if you want to go out to the GBR though it would be easy to fit a night in Mossman into this at the end of your stay if you wanted to. We originally booked the Rendezvous Resort but then i realised that it was some way out of town so we cancelled and booked at a place closer to the town:

http://www.bytheseaportdouglas.com.au/

We had a very nice one bedroomed apartment [Room 21] and loved it. It's about 50 yards to the beach [100 yards to the netted off swimming area] and an easy walk to the restaurants and shops. The Surf lifesaving club at the far end of the beach is very nice for lunch or dinner [we ate both there on different days] and we also liked these:

http://www.ontheinlet.com.au/

the boatshed [another club where you have to sign in, like the life savers but there's no problem with that]

we really liked PD's laid back style and would thoroughly recommend it, though we only drove through Cairns to get to the airport so we can't really compare the two.
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Old Jan 10th, 2014, 05:36 PM
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I'd chop back your time in Uluru. Two full days with an overnight is sufficient. There are two sites to visit: the rock itself, (which from memory takes about 3-4 hours to walk around) and Kata-Tjuta (the Olgas), where there are various walks. I'd add the extra time to Far North Queensland.

Don't forget you will lose the best part of a day flying between destinations. For example, Sydney to Uluru is 3.5 hours flight time, when you factor in getting to the airport an hour before and getting to and from the airport you are probably looking at about 6-7 hours traveling time. Also, depending on the availability of direct flights between Cairns to Uluru (I think there are 10 a week) you could shift the order of this and go to Uluru first then Cairns.

There are also time differences to contend with. Queensland doesn't have daylight savings (this would affect you in March) and Uluru is (I think) 1.5 hours behind Sydney. It might be worth factoring this in to your advantage when thinking about the order of your itinerary post-Sydney.
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Old Jan 12th, 2014, 06:44 AM
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Wow, we very much appreciate the detailed local knowledge for PD. I think that's where we will stay after comparing Cairns and PD...smaller town, maybe a little less touristy than Cairns (though, still touristy) but it still offers great options to tour the reef and Daintree. we'll check out mossman, too.

I was thinking the same thing about Uluru...Ive been (albeit 15 years ago) and as an Arizonan I kind of likened it to to Grand Canyon: it's great to look at, maybe go on a little hike, but you're not going to spend several days there. Nevertheless I think we're going to stick with flying in in the late afternoon, having one night with the sunset, waking early the next day and going hiking at the Olgas and/or Uluru, then wake the next morn g for the sunrise and go. The flight times that Qantas and Virgin have into/out of Uluru are mostly mid-day...if there were a way to come in early one day and leave the next I think one night would be great but the flight schedules don't appear to allow it.

Really want to thank everyone for their input and help here...very kind.
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Old Jan 12th, 2014, 08:28 AM
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I think you've got a very good, workable itinerary there, Clueheywood. We've been to Port Douglas many times and I'm sure you will enjoy your time there. Since you will be based in PD, I highly recommend you do a trip to the GBR with Wavelength. We've been out with them 5 times (and out with other companies too) and we feel they are the best. They are a snorkel-only boat, so if you were intending to dive or do an intro dive, you'd need to look for another boat.

You might also enjoy eating at the Tin Shed (Combined Services Club) in Port Douglas. Good food, reasonable prices, great views.
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Old Jan 12th, 2014, 12:53 PM
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longhorn - we had a drink at the Tin shed one night but never had an opportunity to eat there, sadly. it had a great atmosphere.

clueyhey - I've just started my TR on our stay in Port Douglas, you may find it helpful. [or possibly not].
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 09:29 PM
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I also plan for trip in australia.
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Old May 13th, 2014, 01:36 PM
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We're back...well, we've been back for a month-plus, but we're back. Thanks to everyone who chimed in. Your suggestions were invaluable, particularly the suggestions to go to PD instead of Cairns and to cut back on Uluru time. We absolutely loved PD and it was the highlight of our trip. We also took the suggestion for Wavelength (great call--smaller boat, snorkel only, so there's shorter wait times before getting in the water) and had our post-snorkel dinner/drinks at the tin shed. So thanks for that. Uluru was, well, Uluru...as I said before, it reminded us Arizonans of the Grand Canyon: you see it, you hike around for a bit, then you get on your way. Yulara was terribly expensive as well. If we could've eliminated the trip there and stayed in far north queensland we would have happily done it. Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions, they were very much appreciated!
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Old May 13th, 2014, 05:51 PM
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>

Love that description clueheywood - that's exactly how I feel about the Grand Canyon! Haven't made to Uluru and thinking I don't really need to.
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