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jenmakin Apr 13th, 2008 08:15 PM

Organized Tour vs Independent Around Australia
Hello all,

I'm not planning a trip to Australia until 2009 so I've got plenty of time!

I've looked at several tour descriptions and most of them cover Cairns, Ayers Rock, & Melbourne, sometimes Sydney. It seems that Kangaroo Island, Fraser Island, Brisbane, Darwin and Canberra are overlooked and I don't know why! I'm debating about flying to these places after a tour ends but curious to know if they're worthwhile seeing?

Second question: Would it be cheaper just hopping from one city to another on my own?

Thanks a bunch!

LizzyF Apr 13th, 2008 11:23 PM

Organized tours for Australia and not very good because they only go to a few well trodden places and leave out more than you could imagine. Because getting around is easy, accommodation is easy and everything else like small tours in a specific place are easy to get it kind of does away with the tour companies.
Flying from place to place is preferable because of distances and time constraints and I cannot think of anything worse than sitting on say a bus for miles and miles and miles of nothing then rushing around to see everything in a short space of time. Not flexible enough for my liking.
Sydney is the most popular destination and rightly so with a lot of things to do and see right in the city. Then there are easy to get to places just outside of Sydney for some side trips i.e. Blue Mountains and the Wine regions of the Hunter Valley.
Kangaroo Island is not really accessable without spending lots of money or time and besides there is many more places in Australia which deliver the same, and some, interests. Fraser Island is best in summer and mainly if you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle. It is not a swimming or surfing island and there are no roads, or very short ones. It is more a family fishing and sand driving island with some nice clear water lakes to swim in.
Brisbane is a laid back city which has little to offer an International Tourist in the city itself - most of its attractions are within a 1.5 hour drive either north to the Sunshine Coast or south to the Gold Coast and surrounds. Darwin is an interesting city/town and from there you need local knowledge and small tours to take you into places like Kakadu National Park. The best tours are ones in smallish 4 Wheel drive vehicles and tents. This way you get to see things you would not see on a big tour bus. Canberra again is an interesting place and because its small you can find out everything yourself that you need to see and do it easily. I guess I have answered you final question about hopping from one place to another - yes that is best but mind you leave enough time in and around the GBR to completely take in all that is there. If you look up Sally in Seattle's trip report it is very informative and interesting and covers a lot of areas that a lot of tourists miss. The other thing is to ask a lot of people here who can tell you more about their own specific areas that they live in and that way you will learn far more than you would getting a big tour.

AustraliaZooIsGreat Apr 14th, 2008 01:30 AM

Hi Lizzy.

Just out of interest, why do you say Fraser Island is not for swimming or surfing?

Is the surf side too dangerous or something?

I've been to fraser Island and I'll admit that when I was there the surf beach was closed but I don't recall it being permanently closed.

I recall beautiful crystal clear streams and lakes fit for swimming. We didn't have our own 4x4. There are tour operators on the Island that operate 4 wheel drive buses. This made the island quite accessible to us. I'd suggest it to anyone but unfortuantely can't recommend any particular operator as it has been too long since I was last there.


I'd recommend Sydney over Melbourne or Brisbane to any international tourist. Melbourne and Brisbane are both very nice places to live but neither city has a lot to offer an international tourist.

Canberra is the epitomy of boredom. It's a small city with little to do. There are some museums that may be of interest to domestic tourists and school children (not to mention parliament house) but none are worth going out of your way to see.

Unless you are travelling during the ski season and are into that kind of thing, I wouldn't recommend canberra.

Domestic flights are not particularly expensive. Check out and I recently booked flights for AUD$70 to get from Brisbane to Sydney and while investigating that also found flights from Sydney to melbourne for AUD$60 (just to give you an idea of the price ranges to expect).

It can sometimes be good to get off the beaten tourist track to get a better Idea of what the country is like... but that's always going to be risky so do your research.

afterall Apr 14th, 2008 06:00 AM

How long are you coming for? What's your travel style? What's your budget?

If you want to go to places like Kangaroo Island (imho one for a second trip) then you are probably not one for a tour. Ditto Darwin (for Kakadu, one assumes).

Bottom line - if the tour don't fit; don't do it.

Look, this is an English speaking country with a fantastic infrastructure for all sort of visitors.

You can make your own itinerary -absolutely no need to take a tour unless you want to stray from the well worn path. I guess I should qualify that. No need to take a tour between the capital cities. If you want to stray from them, then you still don't need to take a tour; you just need info on point to point options. Loads of them!!

If you care to post again with an indication of what your priorities are, then would be happy to suggest possibilities.

Oh, and budget. Very important!!


pat_woolford Apr 14th, 2008 06:36 AM

"is the surf side (Fraser Island east coast) too dangerous or something?". You can bet it is, one simple word "sharks". And another, rips. I do have a fair knowledge of the island, having worked there for several months and have had many holidays there with kids from toddlers through to teenagers.

The perched lakes on Fraser are marvellous with safe swimming, cleanest water imaginable, but mainland side of coast is a mosquito and sandfly heaven. But tourists don't go there, so is of little concern. And the inland grows rainforest, pretty incredible on a sand island, in fact the largest sand island in the world.

I do agree with Lizzy, Fraser is a summer destination, can be quite miserable at other times of year.

longhorn55 Apr 14th, 2008 04:23 PM

Jenmakin, I'm glad to see that you are considering a visit to Canberra. I have to disagree with AustraliaZooIsGreat's assessment. I am an American but lived there for several years and have been back to visit twice within the past 5 years. The museums there are fantastic and not just for domestic visitors and school children. The National Gallery of Australia has a fabulous collection--my favorites being the Aboriginal collection, the Sidney Nolan paintings of Ned Kelly and the contemporary art, including "Blue Poles" by Jackson Pollack--GREAT! The museum is free and if you like, you can go on one of their guided tours or use their taped tours (both of which were free during my last visit). Another museum which appeals to everyone is Questacon, the hands-on National Science Museum and it's not just for kids! We went there numerous times and I always found something fun and educational to try. There is a reasonable charge for this museum. We also enjoyed the National Museum of Australia and the Australian War Memorial. They may have more appeal for domestic vs. international visitors, but if you have an interest in the history and culture of Australia, you will appreciate these (free) museums. If you enjoy architecture, you can't miss Parliament House which was built into a hill in the center of Canberra. They offer free tours hourly of the building and I loved learning about the architecture, history and art in the building. If you enjoy politics of any kind, arrange to go to Question Time if possible. We did it on our last visit to Canberra and it was certainly different from anything that happens in the U.S. Congress! Finally, for wildlife and the great outdoors, you can't beat Namadgi National Park just outside of Canberra. We often hiked and camped there. Our favorite hike was the Yankee Hat Hike, an easy 6km RT hike out to a rock with Aboriginal rock drawings. You will also see hundreds of kangaroos as you hike along--just watching you as you walk along. Fabulous!
Canberra is a compact city with a lot of great attractions, good restaurants and friendly people. Don't miss it!

jenmakin Apr 14th, 2008 07:18 PM

Thanks for all of the feedback, everybody. I live in Canada so I want to make the most out of the trip and see (almost) everything because I don't live around the corner. I'm planning to be there for 2 weeks but I'm starting to think that 3 weeks might be better.

I'm saving money for my trip as I type. I'd say that it would be around $5000 Canadian dollars by the time I leave for Australia. Not a huge amount but I would prefer to spend money on My Must Sees, than everything recommended in a tourist book.

I'm very much into learning about different cultures and would like to know more about the Aboriginals I can't see myself sitting on the beach sunbathing. I'm just looking to learn about the history of the country, etc. I wouldn't mind spending a night in the bush. I

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