So excited! Australia in October

Old Jan 20th, 2004, 05:33 AM
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So excited! Australia in October

Well, we finally decided on travel plans and actually have dates set- Leaving 10/14 and returning 10/29.

We have debated back and forth between escorted or not and finally decided on an independent tour. Chose Swain (by the way, after March of this year, Swain will no longer provide fully escorted tours- will sell Trafalger and I think Brandon tours).
Anyway, we fly into Melbourne, there for 3 nights, on to Ayers Rock for 2 nights, 2 nights at Coconut Beach Resort, 2nights Sebel Reef House and then finish in Sidney for 4 nights.

Includes some tours but lots of free time. Guess for us it was the best of both worlds, since my husband enjoys traveling but is not real adventurous getting from one place to another. This way, we don't have to worry.

Interestingly enough, Swain, by my request, sold us the APT tour coupon books for tours. Each book is good for either 4 full day or 8 half day tours or any combination. Saved about 30% off regular rates.

Just want all of you to know how I love this board and enjoy all the advice. Learning how to make the most of our time!

PS Nothing about Australia, but have to brag! Became grandparents Saturday to twins! A boy and girl and they are amazing!
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Old Jan 20th, 2004, 07:48 AM
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You lucky people. Not just one grandchild, but two! I bet they'll give you tons of pleasure. Have you heard the expression, "If we'd known grandkids were this much fun, we'd have had them first." Anyway, congratulations!

Now for your trip to Australia. That too is exciting. You've picked a good time to go. The weather ought to be very pleasant in Queensland, beautifully sunny and warm, shorts and T-shirt weather for sure.

I've never been to Uluru, but I've been to deserts in Southern Africa and California, and I think all deserts have elements in common. They tend to be hot during the day (although October should not yet be unbearably hot in southern hemisphere deserts), and quite cold at night. I would think you would need a spring/fall jacket for evenings at Uluru.

Once you're already equipped with a spring/fall jacket for Uluru, you may find it comes in usefully in Melbourne and Sydney too. It'll be spring in Australia. At the more southerly latitudes, the spring weather can be glorious, but it can also be unstable, and you can encounter some wind and drizzle. An umbrella would not go amiss. This is not a reason to freak out, however. I'm just mentioning it so you will take adequate clothing to ensure your comfort no matter how the weather turns out. It would be good to travel with layers so that you could wear as few or as many layers as were needed to be comfortable.

To put this into context, Melbourne is about as far south of the equator as San Francisco is north of it. October in Melbourne is roughly like April in San Francisco.

If one is going to cover as many different latitudes in Australia as you are going to do, then October is the best month in which to do it, IMO. I hope you have a wonderful trip.
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Old Jan 20th, 2004, 09:32 AM
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Just noticed you were going to be on an independent, as opposed to a guided, tour. I'm guessing that means your flights and hotels are pre-arranged, but you need to organise your own activities. If that is so, I propose the following itinerary for Melbourne.

DAY NUMBER ONE IN MELBOURNE

As you presumably will have arrived from far away, you initially may be a bit jet legged, so I recommend keeping the first day fairly simple and easy. Catch the City Circle Tram, which is a FREE hop-on-hop-off trolley car on rails that takes you around the edge of the central business district. The City Circle Tram is burgundy, while the regular trams are green with yellow trim. Do one full circuit of the City Circle Tram before deciding where to get off. If nothing else jumps out at you, I recommend getting off at the stop that is closest to the Queen Victoria Market, at the northwestern edge of the CBD. (The selection at the market is better earlier in the day rather than later, which is why I recommend going there first. By the way, the Vic Market is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays, but that should not affect you.)

Then hop on the City Circle Tram again and get yourself to the southeastern corner of the CBD, which is a stone's throw from Southbank (literally the south bank of the Yarra River), which is a pleasant place to walk. Have lunch at one of the outdoor cafes along the Yarra River.

After lunch walk over to the Treasury Gardens just to the east of the CBD, and then look inside the lobby of the beautifully restored Windsor Hotel at the eastern edge of the CBD. (If you want a mid-afternoon refreshment, afternoon tea at the Windsor Hotel is a royal treat.) ALTERNATIVELY walk to the Botanical Gardens that are located to the southeast of the CBD. (If you want a mid-afternoon refreshment, there is a pleasant restaurant overlooking the lake where kids throw breadcrumbs to the swans.)

If it's raining, skip Southbank and the Treasury Gardens / Botanical Gardens. Instead go to the excellent Gallery of Art on St. Kilda Road and take a tour that explains the evolution of Australia's art which, in turn, serves as an introduction to Australian history. Very interesting. Have lunch in the art gallery's restaurant, which has floor to ceiling windows looking out onto a charming garden.

If it's still raining, if you still have time left in the day, and if the jet lag hasn't gotten you down yet, go and look inside the war memorial further down St. Kilda Road. That is another fascinating insight into Australia's history.
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Old Jan 20th, 2004, 09:36 AM
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DAY NUMBER TWO IN MELBOURNE

Here I recommend one of three options:

#1 You can drive along the Great Ocean Road, southwest of Melbourne, which is gorgeous on a sunny day, but not worth it on an overcast day, IMO. If you drive along the Great Ocean Road, you probably will only be able to go as far as Lorne and back. It's not realistic to go as far as the famous rocks known as the Twelve Apostles, as that really is a two-day round trip. Nevertheless, even going as far as Lorne is delightful. Have lunch in Lorne, and then drive into the temperate rainforest behind Lorne to see the Erskine Falls. Walk down the steps to the bottom of the falls, and walk along the banks of the Erskine River for a little way. Then return to Melbourne.

#2 You can go eastwards into the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley. While it would be more ideal to see the Dandenongs and the Yarra Valley on a sunny day, they still do have redeeming value on a cloudy day. If you go this route, you have a few choices, including amongst others: a ride on a cute steam train known as Puffing Billy, a visit to Healesville Nature Sanctuary where you can see native Australian animals, and visits to wineries for wine tasting. Although I did all of those things as separate day trips, I believe it would be possible to take a guided day tour that would provide you with a brief exposure to all of those things (Puffing Billy, Healesville and a winery). With the short time you have available, that is what I would recommend if you choose the Dandenongs / Yarra Valley option for that day.

#3 A visit to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, which depicts the gold rush days of the 1850s. This would be a full day trip.

Which choice you make depends on factors like the weather, your tastes, what you've seen before (e.g., a gold rush museum elsewhere, perhaps), and what you expect to see during the rest of your sojourn in Australia. For example, you'll be seeing the coast in Queensland and Sydney, which may affect your decision whether or not to see the Great Ocean Road. Similarly, you may or may not be seeing native Australian animals during your time in Queensland and Sydney.

It will help if you research your options during the rest of your trip, as your subsequent activities may affect what you choose to do in Melbourne.

As far as the rest of your trip is concerned, I will leave you in the good hands of the Queensland and Sydney experts. Not that I'm a Melbourne expert by any means. My qualification for giving you this advice is that I lived in Melbourne from July 1997 to January 2000. This makes my experience a little out of date, and means that my information may be subject to correction.
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Old Jan 20th, 2004, 10:31 AM
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Thanks so much Judy!
Really appreciate the information. You are right in that the independent tours arrange all flights, transfers and accomodations. This one does include dinner on the Tram car in Melbourne, tours and Sound of Silence dinner at the Rock and a half day tour of Sidney with a catamaran cruise of the harbor. The rest is really up to us.

Thinking of a full day tour of Blue Mts. outside of Sidney and also a full day tour of Great Ocean Drive through APT tours- but as I have learned here, only if it is a sunny day!

Also will do Kuranda tour on our own. I understand we can get a bus to the start areas to take a train up and ride the Skyrail back and still leave time to tour. Will be taking the Great Barrier Reef tour with APT as well. My husband doesn't snorkle so looking for the ones that have the mimi subs. I don't have all the details yet but I think it is Quicksilver????

Any other ideas greatly appreciated. Will go back and research board as very interested in doing the "spit" walk. Hope that's right.

Will probably have a ton of questions before we go, but will promise a trip report when we return.
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Old Jan 20th, 2004, 10:51 AM
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Cincytraveler, riding through the streets of Melbourne while dining in the tram car restaurant is delightful. I'm so glad to hear you're doing that.

Which reminds me of a dining suggestion for your other night in Melbourne : Lygon Street with its numerous ethnic restaurants in the neighbourhood of Carlton, immediately north of the CBD. Just about every nationality you can think of is represented on Lygon Street, but our particular favourites were the Greek and Italian restaurants. No need to make a reservation. Just walk up and down Lygon Street till you see a restaurant that grabs your attention.

In case the "Cincy" part of your name is an abbreviation for Cincinnati, I'll mention that I attended Mariemont High School as an exchange student from Swaziland, Africa (which is where I'm from originally) in 1970-71.

My Cincinnati host family and I are still in close touch. My husband and I went to San Diego in December 2002 to attend the wedding of one of my host nieces, and in April 2004 we'll be going to Charleston, South Caroline to attend the wedding of another one of them.
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