OZ Holidays with family - pls help review

Nov 22nd, 2004, 08:03 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2004
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OZ Holidays with family - pls help review


My apologies in advance for long post...

I hope some OZ expert on the Forum can help me. We are going for family holidays to Sydney, Gold Coast and Cairns in couple of weeks time with our two kids (Age 7 & 10). The air tickets are booked and can not be changed - everything else can.

Our itinerary is & tentative plan is:

Dec 3, Friday - Day 1
* Arrive early AM Sydney from Singapore
* Check into Apartment at Chattswood
* Sydney sight seeing

Dec 4, Saturday - Day 2
* Day trip to Blue Mountain

Dec 5, Sunday - Day 3
* Sydney sight seeing

Dec 6, Monday - Day 4
* Day trip to Canberra

Dec 7, Tuesday - Day 5
* Drive from Sydney(Chatswood) to Port Stephen
* Check-in Port Stephen Hotel
* Explore Port Stephen in the afternoon

Dec 8, Wednesday - Day 6
* Check-out from Port Stephen Hotel
* Explore Port Stephen until 2:00 PM
* Drive to SYD Airport (fight at 6:30 PM)
* Fly SYD - Brisbane
* Drive Brisbane - Gold Coast
* Check-in Gold Coast Apartment at Burleigh

Dec 9, Thu - Dec, 14 Tue - Day 7 to Day 12
Gold Coast

Dec 15, Wed - Day 13
* Morning flight Gold Coast - Cairns
* Check-in Cairns Hotel
* Cairns city

Dec 16 to 18 - Day 14/15/16
* Great Barrier Reef & other Cairns attractions

Dec 19 PM - Day 17
* Fly home from Cairns

I have following questions:

1. I plan to have a rented car on all days. For the Sydney part of the trip (Day 1 to Day 6), I have rented car with GPS system which is more expensive. Last time I went on business trip to Sydney, I found the GPS system allowed me to drive around Sydney without even bothering to look at Map once. However, for Gold Coast and Cairns part of my trip, I have not booked a car with GPS. Am I correct to understand that in Gold Coast and Cairns, one wouldn't need GPS as much as it would be needed in Sydney? Or would it be recommended to get a GPS system in car for Gold Coast and Cairns as well?

2. As per our plan, we plan to spend Friday and Sunday in Sydney. Is parking in Sydney very expensive on week-end as well? I know Sydney has a decent public transport system, but with four of us travelling, wouldn't the public transport cost as much as (almost) as using the rented car? Are there any cheaper place to park car in Sydney city central? Or are we better off leaving the car at my apartment on Friday & Sunday?

3. What are the must places to visit with family in Sydney on Friday & Sunday?

4. Is day trip to Canberra from Sydney too much? What are the good places to check-out in Canberra in six hours with family?

5. Since we are going to be spending good six days (out of which three days will be spent visiting theme parks) at Gold Coast, is it still worth visiting Port Stephen? What are the attractions at Port Stephen that one can't find at Gold Coast? If we can skip Port Stephen, then we can cover Canberra in two days instead of a day trip and also do one more day of Sydney city sigt seeing.

6. I have heard some of the theme parks at Gold Coast are not suitable for children under 12 years age - what are they?

7. Besides the theme parks at Gold Coast, I have got suggestions to visit Tamborine Mountain and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctury at Gold Coast. Are these two places good to go with kids? Are there any other places that we should check out in Gold Coast? Are there any recommened attractions in Brisbane city for family?

8. Besides Great Barrier Reef, what are the other attractions that are good to visit with family in Cairns / Port Douglas?

9. Any comment on the travel plans?

Thanks for reading long post and hope to share some of your experience.

ozexplorer is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 11:03 AM
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explorer - parking a car in the CBD of Sydney on a weekday is expensive, so use the public transport on that day. Also Chatwood is so close to the city by train. On a Sunday, the parking station fees get cheaper.
A harbour cruise is a must whilst in Sydney, however, to save money, opt to purchase a "Daytripper" ticket (ask down at Circular Quay, or any railway station, eg. Chatswood Railway Station), this will allow you & the children, to travel by train into the city, then with the same ticket, hop on & off ferries all day long. Circular Quay is the place to start all your ferry journeys. You can opt to stay on the ferry, or get off for a bit of exploration, like Watsons Gap. There is a little shop/office underneath Cahills Freeway at Circular Quay, and they sell the daytripper tickets also, but more so they have all the ferry timetables. You can have a fun day out, just jumping from one ferry to the next. Make sure you have your towels/swimmers, there are swimming beaches on some of the ferry runs, eg. Manly, Watsons Bay (pool)etc.
As for GPS - I wouldn't be worried in having one on the GC or Cairns, you mentioned "we" in the your posting, so I guess that means a partner, and also the car rental companies can supply a street directory.
People like LIzF and Pat are experts on the Gold Coast & Cairns respectively.
tropo is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 02:00 PM
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I wrote a very long reply to this post and it is not showing. I am short of time at present so the best thing perhaps is to do a search on this site under Gold Coast or my name and you should come up with a comprehensive answer to some of your questions.
lizF is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 02:01 PM
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ozexplorer, a day trip to Canberra is do-able but it's a 600 km round trip, which makes for a long day. However, once you've crossed the Harbour Bridge you'll be on decent roads all the way.

In Canberra - the Australian War Memorial (an extensive and fascinating museum, one of Australia's premier tourist attractions), Questacon (science and technology stuff that the kids should enjoy) and Old Parliament House (take one of the informative guided tours and the building also houses the National Portrait Gallery). I'd also recommend the Australian National Gallery, but the kids may tire of that before you do.

A good place to unwind and have lunch is the often-overlooked Australian National Botanical Gardens on the slopes of Black Mountain, where you can wander through the flora of a wide range of Australia's climatic regions, and follow a trail illustrating the uses to which Australia's Aboriginal peoples put many plants.

There's enough to occupy several days, so you'll just have to be very selective - check www.canberratourism.com.au to see what's likely to appeal.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 02:54 PM
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Hello Ozexplorer,

In Cairns ......

(1) GBR. Consider going out on Ocean Spirit. Plan this for first day in Cairns in case weather doesn't permit you to go out to sea, in which case you can switch to a land-based activity that day and have a better chance of switching GBR to another day. GBR companies pick up from accommodations in the area.

(2) Daintree Rainforest. Can be done as a self-drive trip, but a guided day tour does make the rainforest and mangrove swamp ecosystems fascinating. Good companies include David Armbrust, Pete Pete Baxendell ( www.nqhit.com.au ), Tony's Tropical Tours, and Trek North. Companies pick up from accommodations in the area.

(3) Visit to Kuranda on the edge of the Atherton Tableland. It's fun to take the SkyRail up and the regular train down. One can drive to the departure point for the SkyRail, but again there are companies that pick up from accommodations and drop off again.

Some people accuse Kuranda of being a "touristy" little town. Yes, it is, but there is so much more to this outing than the "touristy" aspects of Kuranda.

One makes 2 stops on one's way up the escarpment in order to change cable cars, and there are rainforest interpretive centres with park rangers at the change stations. One also sees Barron Falls on the way up.

It is magical to look down at the rainforest from a SkyRail car.

Kuranda has a butterfly sanctuary, several examples of a species called the Curtain Fig Tree, and other interesting things.

A car is a very optional convenience in Cairns. As I said, all of the day trip companies pick up passengers from their accommodations and drop them off again.

If you choose not to rent a car, you'll need to arrange a shuttle bus from the airport to your accommodation and back again. Some hotels in the area book the shuttle for their guests, and some do not.

I don't know if "Cairns Hotel" is a specific property or a generic term for accommodation in Cairns that has yet to be identified. If you have not booked a hotel yet, and if you are open to the idea of staying in a B&B, you might look at Lilybank B&B's website. Pat Woolford is a regular poster here, and her B&B has received favourable reviews from Fodorites. Lilybank is located in a suburb of Cairns, close to a good restaurant. I've never been there myself but, in scanning the website, I've noticed a 2 bedroom suite that strikes me as a good one for a family (that is, if Pat still has an opening for your dates). My understanding is that Pat makes GBR, rainforest and other day tour reservations if her guests wish. Having lived in Cairns for many years, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of the local tour operators.

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 03:11 PM
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Hello Ozexplorer,

One point of clarification re transportation from airport to accommodation in Cairns. I stayed in Port Douglas, which is 40 - 45 minutes from Cairns Airport. In that case, a shuttle bus was definitely the way to go for someone who didn't want to rent a car.

However, I've just realised that, in the case of a visitor who will be staying in Cairns, a shuttle bus may not be necessary if that visitor decides to forego a rental car. In his/her case, the airport may well be close enough to warrant a regular cab. In fact I think I may have read something to that effect somewhere here at Fodors.

Sorry, I was on autopilot, giving my standard Far North Queensland advice.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 03:50 PM
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Re Gold Coast leg of your trip - I think all the theme parks on the Gold Coast are suitable for children of all ages. Some of the rides might not be suitable but there are certainly more than enough to keep your children well and truly occupied. Considering your childrens ages my pick in order would be - Dreamworld, Seaworld, Movieworld. There is Wet n Wild water park but perhaps you could save your money there and have the day on the beach soaking up the surf, sun and sand for free! (You will probably need a breather in between anyway!)
Whilst I think Brisbane is a great place considering your time constraints, really I wouldn't worry too much and just enjoy your time on the Coast.
Burleigh is a great place to stay - (I'd move there tomorrow if I could!!) There's plenty of restaurants and shops - you can get a great casual meal at the Burleigh Surf Club.
It's a busy trip, for sure, but you only live once and you can catch up on sleep when you get back home!!!
claret is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 05:19 PM
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I have tried to post a reply to this post but for some reason my reply is not appearing. I think Fodors is experiencing some problems as I think Liz has also had this problem.


Paul_S is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 05:25 PM
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Hi Ozexplorer,

I have tried everything possible to get my reply to you posted but it just is not happening, so like Lizf said to you if you do a search on this forum for Port Stephens or Paul_S you should get enough information about Port Stephens.


Paul_S is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 05:33 PM
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On day 6, I would allow more time between Port Stephens and Sydney airport. It's usually a 3-4 hour drive, depending on traffic - so you haven't left yourself much free time,. Some airlines are quite unforgiving about checking in a minimum of 30 minutes before the flight is due.
margo_oz is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 05:48 PM
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JetStar is completely unforgiving, and you forfeit your ticket.

Paul, the Fodors site has been a bit of a mess for over a week, and you can bet that if it's going to knock back any of your posts it will be the ones you've spent 10 minutes or more composing. It might be a good idea to compose any long posts in Word and then copy them across. There have been numerous screams on the Europe and USA forums, but it still seems to be intermittently flakey.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 05:50 PM
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Paul, I take it all back - my post just went up OK. It must be just you they don't like.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 08:18 PM
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Well now I cannot post at all I just get the Fodors sorry message.
Paul_S is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 08:22 PM
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Hi Ozexplorer

I have been trying to post this message as one reply so now I am going to split it up over two replies to see if I can get it posted, so here goes.

I am not sure of the ages of your children so I am going to base my comments on the possibility that they are around the 5 to 10 year old bracket.

My expertise is Port Stephens and although I have been to all the other places you mention my personal experience of them is now dated so in that regard advice on the other areas is best left to people with more recent experience.

You ask whether you should skip Port Stephens or not due to going to the gold coast. Well they are very different places, Port Stephens abounds with natural beauty whereas the Gold Coast is more noted for its theme parks and man made attractions. Of course I am talking about the coastal strip and not the hinterland area of the Gold Coast.

You will find plenty of things to do and see in Port Stephens that the kids will love, some of the things that spring to mind is the Duck Dive which allows people to experience exploring the beaches and bay in a Army Duck as you can see by the website below:


Paul_S is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 08:23 PM
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Second Part:

There are the very impressive Stockton Sand Dunes which are just awesome, they are the largest continuous mobile sand mass in Eastern Australia. You can take a family trip to see this and the link below shows you how:


Then there are the Dolphin watch tours that cruise the safe waters of the port allowing you to experience dolphins up close and personal in the wild. Most of the tour boats have boom nets to allow you to get down in the water. The Spirit of the Bay tour boat also has a spa and waterslide which is great fun. Their website is:


I could go on and on about the different activities and attractions at Port Stephens but if you look on the following websites then you will see that there are oodles of things to see and do there.



One thing I will say is that you appear to be wasting some time retracing your steps back to Sydney from Port Stephens. You can fly direct to the Gold Coast from Port Stephens with either Virgin Blue or Jetstar airlines. You can also return your hire car at the airport.

The cost of a ticket from Port Stephens to the Gold Coast with virgin blue start at A$79.00 each one way and Jetstar start at A$69.00 each one way. However Jetstar lands at Brisbane whereas Virgin Blue lands at Coolangatta airport on the Gold Coast.

If you need more specific info on Port Stephens then just ask.


Paul_S is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 08:27 PM
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Whey Hey, I finally managed to get my reply posted. Seems as though Fodors have imposed new length limits on posts.
Paul_S is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 09:36 PM
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Just a few suggestions to add to those already contributed.
In Sydney, the Powerhouse Museum and the Aquarium would interest the whole family. They are near Darling Harbour.
In Port Stephens, take a trip on the water to check out the dolphins.
In Canberra, the National Museum is good; also take the lift to the top of the Telstra Tower.
marg is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:43 PM
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All Fodorites,

I can't say enough - Big Thank you to all for your very helpful suggestions. I need to review them all - may have some follow-up questions later.


Regarding your comment that we seem to be wasting some time coming to Sydney from Port Stephens - well, what can I say... I wish I had consulted you experts before buying my tickets

All my flight segments are Qantas and I believe they charge $75/- per ticket change - so flying Port Stephen to Brisbane/Gold Coast will put me back by $300/-... I will still try my luck and see if I can convince them to let me fly Jetstar.. Just want to be double sure - the nearest Airport near Port Stephen would be Newcastle - right?

Once again - thanks all for all useful suggestions. Please let them coming...

ozexplorer is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2004, 11:17 PM
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Hi Ozexplorer,

Well QANTAS also flies from Newcastle to Coolangatta. The Newcastle airport is actually at a place called Williamtown which is a Royal Australian Air Force base close to Port Stephens about a 20 min drive from your hotel. The RAAF base has a domestic terminal which is the Newcastle airport. QANTAS run a Dash 8 service from there to Coolangatta.

The QANTAS service departs daily at 11:35 am and gets into Coolangatta at 12:00 pm. If you were to stay in Port Stephens on the night of the 8th Dec and fly up to Coolangatta on the morning of the 9th then you could do the dinner cruise on the Moonshadow V on the night of the 8th which my wife and I do regularly. Always plenty of food and you cruise the waters of the port up to Fame Cove and you can look for dolphins etc plus there is dancing as well. The kids are made welcome and all the ones I have seen in the past have had a great time.


Paul_S is offline  
Nov 24th, 2004, 01:51 AM
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We reviewed our Sydney part of the trip and decided to drop Canberra - it would be just too much to cover in a day trip - particularly with children. I am the only one driving...

Based on the feedback recieved so far, we planned our trip as:

Friday - Day 1
* Early morning Arrive Sydney Airport
* Drive SYD Airport to Port Stephens - 3 hrs drive
* Check-in Port Stephens hotel/apartment/B&B (any good place to recommend to stay overnight?)
* Port Stephens attractions

Saturday - Day 2
* Port Stephens until 5:00 PM
* Drive Port Stephen to Chatswood - 3 hrs drive
* Check-in Chatswood apartment

Sunday - Day 3
* Day trip to Blue Mountains - 1.5 hours drive each way
* Return back car

Monday/Tuesday - Day 4+5
* Sydney City attractions using public transport

Wednesday - Day 6
* Sydney City attractions until 3:00 PM
* Take cab from Chatswood to SYD Airport
* Fly Sydney - Brisbane 6:30 PM
* Pickup car and Drive Brisbane to Burleigh Heads - 1 hour

Thursday/Day 7 to Tuesday/Day 12
* Dreamworld
* Seaworld
* Movieworld
* Tamborine Mountain
* Currumbin Wildlife Sanctury

Wednesday/Day 13
* Morning flight from Gold Coast to Cairns
* Cairns City

Thursday/Day 14
* GBR tour

Friday/Day 15
* Daintree Rainforest

Saturday/Day 16
* Kuranda

Sunday/Day 17
* Fly out of Cairns in afternoon

I have some additional questions which I will post in another post (to break up)....
ozexplorer is offline  

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