Trip to Sydney, Uluru & Cairns

Sep 26th, 2019, 09:29 AM
  #1  
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Trip to Sydney, Uluru & Cairns

We're off in a few weeks and plan on flying into Sydney for 3-4 days (planning on checking out The Rocks, Botanic Gardens, Featherdale Park, the Opera & likely Balmoral & Cobbler's Beach) then flying to Uluru for 2 days (Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and the stars), and then off to Cairns for 6 days (reef snorkeling, Daintree, etc.) . I would really appreciate any first-hand recommendations for sights, restaurants, brew pubs, or any other good tips!
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Sep 27th, 2019, 01:17 AM
  #2  
 
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I would forget Featherdale. It’s far from the best place for viewing Australian native animals - and a fair way out of the city, unless you detour on a driving trip to the Blue Mountains. Even then, I would recommend Taronga Zoo, or Symbio on the southern outskirts - or the Australian Wildlife place at Darling Harbour, instead.

Craft breweries are all over the city; a popular one with a ferry trip to get there & back is Four Pines at Manly.

Have a look at the Sydney.com website for things to see & do;
www.weekendnotes.com for what’s on during your time in Sydney.



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Sep 27th, 2019, 01:20 AM
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If you haven’t already booked your accommodation in Yulara (for Uluru & Kata Tjuta), I would do it sooner rather than later. Climbing Uluru will be banned from the end of October, so the normally busy accommodation will be even busier in the lead-up to that.

As a side note, the local Aboriginal owners ask people not to climb Uluru, for respect and safety reasons.
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Sep 30th, 2019, 07:10 AM
  #4  
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Uluru was booked months ago - thanks. On another site I was thinking Tarona but folks said it wasn't the best for Australian marsupials so I changed things up to Featherdale despite the 45 min uber/taxi drive. What would you do? Thanks for the tip about Four Pines, Manly!
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Sep 30th, 2019, 12:44 PM
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I would go to Taronga. Take the ferry & cablecar.

Just checking - if you’re not an Australian or New Zealander - do you have your Visas/ ETAs?
if not,use this link.
https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1

Last edited by Bokhara2; Sep 30th, 2019 at 12:47 PM.
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Oct 1st, 2019, 10:26 AM
  #6  
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Glad to hear Taronga is good, might splurge for a VIP experience if one is focused on indigenous animals. We've got our Visas and are good to go. How familiar are you with the Cairns area? I am hoping there is more than enough to do there to justify 6 days - it sure looks like there is with Daintree, Atherton, Cairns and the huge reef system....
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Oct 1st, 2019, 01:22 PM
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There’s more than enough to occupy you for 6 days in FNQ. As you say, there’s the Great Barrier Reef, Atherton Tablelands, Daintree ... and more.

I prefer to stay in Port Douglas, which has a laid-back feel, beach & a good selection of places to eat.

If you can drive, I’d rent a car, at least for part of your time up there. It will give you much more flexibility than relying purely on tours.
Small group, day tours are great for highlighting wildlife; birdlife & specific areas we might see but not recognise ourselves. One good guide is Alan Gillanders. Google “Alan’s wildlife tours “ ..

Note: It’s marine stinger season, so you won’t be able to swim off the beaches, so make sure your accommodation has a good pool. Have a look at www.booking.com for accommodation (book direct with the property. They will match and sometimes better the booking.com rate as they don’t have to pay them commission - and usually have better cancellation conditions when you go direct.)

You might have a look at the Trip Advisor Australian Forum. It’s much more active than this one. And there’s a recent very good trip report, that I think would be interesting for you.



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Oct 2nd, 2019, 03:01 PM
  #8  
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Good, I'm hoping it's an entertaining, enlightening trip! We're stating in Palm Cove a bit south but still north of Cairns. Thanks for the guide tip. I'll check out TA, I found several good tips for our trip to France earlier this year here, but it looks as though the Australian section has tumbleweed!
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Oct 3rd, 2019, 03:49 PM
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I spent 7 nights/6 days in Sydney last week. This was my seventh visit as a tourist to the city, having previously visited SeaLife Aquarium at Darling Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Bondi Beach, Australian Museum (which is is closed for renovations), and on each visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Domain, the Royal Botanic Garden, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. On one trip my husband and I rented a car and explored areas north of the city. Once we took a day tour to Canberra. We've stayed at hotels in the Rocks (mostly), at Circular Quay, at Darling Harbour, and in Manly.

We never got around to visiting the Blue Mountains. My reluctance to visit was in part influenced by the opinions of friends who were from Sydney. But last week, while my husband was attending a conference, I joined a small-group day tour to the Blue Mountains with Blue Ribbon Day Tours. I thought it was about time to see this top local attraction. I would have preferred to explore it independently with my husband, but a day tour is easy and convenient. I had a good time, met some nice people and thought it was an overall good value. I wasn't particularly interested in visiting Featherdale Wildlife Park, but it seems many of the Blue Mountain day tours from Sydney stop here. But I enjoyed Featherdale. Though tour buses stop here, it wasn't particularly busy or crowded, though I expect it's way busier during school holidays and in summer.

Taronga Zoo is a very different sort of experience from Featherdale Wildlife Park. The ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo is quick and scenic. The zoo has a striking hillside location by the harbour with amazing views (taronga might mean "beautiful view"). It coves 69 acres and has 350 species from, not only Australia, but around the world. General admission is AUS$42.30 if bought online, though you might be able to find a deal that also includes the ferry fare.

Featherdale is modest by comparison. It covers only 7 acres. From what I could see, its focus is Australian animals. If you'd like to get close to marsupials, you'll have ample opportunity here. I didn't take notes, but from what I recall there were at least four species of kangaroos and wallabies that'll come right up to you, including smaller Eastern Gray kangaroos, Tammar wallabies, and Swamp wallabies. If you'd like, you can feed them; small bags of food cost $3. I didn't feed them, but they seemed content to be scratched or petted.

Up close and personal at Featherdale.

Tasmanian Devil in enclosure at Featherdale

Koala in its enclosure at Feathedale

Fairy penguins in their enclosure at Featherdale.

I believe both Taronga Zoo and Featherdale offer the chance to take a photo with a koala for an extra charge (I wasn't interested, but if you are, check out the prices online as these will be cheaper).

I've been to other Australian wildlife parks and zoos, such as Australia Zoo in Queensland, Moonlit Sanctuary on an afternoon tour to Phillip Island from Melbourne, and the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo. I've also seen many Australian native animals in the wild around Australia, making sure to keep a respectful distance. I've enjoyed all these experiences.

I highly recommend spending some time walking through Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden. The spring blossoms are gorgeous and you can see wildlife roaming freely, such birds and reptiles.
https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/Visit/Wildlife
Even though Sydney is a busy large city, it's a great place for viewing urban wildlife. On this last visit, I also spent several hours viewing birds at Centennial Park, though I would not at all recommend this for your short visit.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/21/w...ney-birds.html

I was in Cairns and Port Douglas in August. While in Cairns, you might want visit the spectacled flying fox colony beside the Cairns City Library. The bats are in tall trees behind a fence, so you should be safe from droppings!
https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/cairns-library-bats

Last edited by Diamantina; Oct 3rd, 2019 at 04:14 PM.
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Oct 3rd, 2019, 10:51 PM
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KayF, who lives in Brisbane, filed a wonderful report of her driving trip through Queensland, though she did not stop at Palm Cove.
Driving trip along Queensland coast (& photos)

Palm Cove is about a 35 minute drive north of Cairns, but if you like prawns, I recommend the Cairns restaurant Prawn Star, which is located on three fishing boats docked at Marlin Marina. The menu is simple--prawns, oysters, mud crab, crayfish, salmon, Moreton Bay bugs (though I expect not all of these foods are available all the time)--and it's got a very limited drinks selection, but we enjoyed it tremendously. You can read reviews here:
https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Restau...ueensland.html
You'll probably have to share a long table with others, but we liked this as well--it made for some interesting and lively conversation.

In Cairns, you'll also find a lot of view restaurants offering lunch specials along Pier Pt. Road and Marine Parade (these face Marlin Marina). We enjoyed our lunches at Ochre and Tha Fish restaurants. We also had dinner at Tha Fish, and, sadly, it was disappointing.
https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Restau...ueensland.html
https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Restau...ueensland.html

If you enjoy produce markets or farmers markets (I do), you might enjoy Rusty's Market in Cairns.
https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Attrac...ueensland.html

Our Queensland trip in August was our second visit to both FNQ and the Brisbane area. On our first visit we did the Skyrail, Kuranda Railway, Kuranda village (which we explored on our own). We weren't overly impressed; it was too touristy for us. But on that same trip we also spent a few days up in Cape Tribulation (which is in the Daintree rainforest), and on a liveaboard scuba dive boat (3 days, 2 nights) on the Great Barrier Reef, which were wonderful experiences. The Daintree is a must.
https://www.skyrail.com.au/cairnstou...l-kuranda-rail

Last edited by Diamantina; Oct 3rd, 2019 at 11:18 PM.
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Oct 4th, 2019, 10:20 AM
  #11  
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Wow, seven trips to Sydney! Do you live nearby? I live in Oregon and haven't been to Crater Lake (which is jaw-dropping) more than 4 times! Thanks for the great trips and adorable animal shots. I think I'll just do Taronga this trip as it's close to where I'm staying (the Rocks) and beautiful. Have you used the VIP pass there at the zoo - it seems like a good way to focus in on what we really want to see. Will do the Botanic Gardens as well, and the bats - good tip, I hadn't seen that yet! The last bats we saw were a small colony down in the Oregon Caves. Planning on Daintree and I'll look over the Queensland coast post, thanks so much.
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Oct 4th, 2019, 02:59 PM
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When we lived in California (Marin County, which is on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge), we vacationed about 10 or 11 times in Australia, so our first 6 visits to Sydney were part of these trips. It was our favorite vacation spot. It's such a large country, we'd knew we'd have to break up our visits, focusing on a certain region or two on each visit. But this recent trip was our first trip to Sydney since moving to the South Island of New Zealand nearly 10 years ago. There's always something new to see, old things we never got around to seeing, new restaurants to try out.

We've stayed three times at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney at The Rocks. It's a great location. The Museum of Contemporary Art is right there and admission is free. Circular Quay, where you catch ferries, buses and trains, is just a few minutes farther. If you keep walking, you'll reach the Opera House, and beyond this, the Domain, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (also free admission) and the Royal Botanic Garden (also free admission). Don't miss the Succulent Garden, the Palm House, the Wollemi Pine tree. There are free guided walks daily.
https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/whatson/Free-Guided-Walks
If you feel like taking another walk from The Rocks without having to get on a bus, train or ferry, head over Argyle St. (in the Rocks) to Argyle Place to Barangaroo Reserve, a 6-hectare (nearly 15 acres) park where more than 75,000 native trees, ferns and shrubs have been planted along the foreshore.
https://www.barangaroo.com/see-and-d...garoo-reserve/
​​​​​​The Barangaroo Reserve is part of larger development project, which you'll be able to see taking shape from the reserve. The walk from The Rocks to Barangaroo Reserve takes about 10 minutes and goes through part of the historic inner-city suburb of Millers Point. You'll see some nice heritage buildings along the way, including the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel (at 19 Kent St.).

Try to attend a performance at the Opera House. We caught a symphony there last week.
https://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/events/whats-on.html

No, we didn't get a VIP pass for Taronga Zoo. But you might as well go for it! You can probably find lots of reviews of the VIP pass on TA:
https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Attrac...uth_Wales.html

I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area nearly all my life, for about 58 years, but I only visited our neighbor, Oregon, once during that time! But my husband and I have revisited since moving to New Zealand. We had a fantastic time exploring the Oregon Coast and visiting with a friend in Portland. It was rhodendron season--so beautiful

Last edited by Diamantina; Oct 4th, 2019 at 03:08 PM.
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Oct 7th, 2019, 08:53 AM
  #13  
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Lots of good tips in there, thanks a bunch! We haven't been down to the SF bay area in years - I remember touring Anchor brewing and the big Japanese Gardens. One thing that has changed is hotel prices have gone through the roof!

The prelim plan is Taronga Zoo VIP, touring the Opera and likely seeing the Vivaldi concert, Manly beach and Four Pines brewing, Australian Wine Ctr or elsewhere for some good tastings of area wines, Royal Botanical Gardens, Barangaroo Reserve and maybe Whiteley's Garden. Wish we had 3 or 4 weeks for this trip....
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Oct 7th, 2019, 03:53 PM
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I wish you had three or four weeks for your trip, too--just as much as I wish I'd had more time for my Australia trips. All the same, you'll have a wonderful trip.

Bring comfortable walking shoes because in Sydney you'll probably end up doing more walking than planned, especially if the weather is fine. It has a good public transportation system, with the ferries and trains being most efficient; buses can be slow because of traffic. The train from the airport into the city center (City Circle) is brilliant. Circular Quay would be the train station closest to The Rocks.

As you're interested in brew pubs, you might enjoy this review of the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel.
https://www.goodfood.com.au/the-lord...0180806-h13lim

Anchor Steam Beer--a good choice! (But Oregon is famous for its craft beers; my jaw dropped at the selections I encountered). The Japanese Garden is fantastic; I used to work next door at the de Young Museum. Golden Gate Park is a treasure; its Conservatory of Flowers is also wonderful. In some ways, San Francisco is like Sydney, in that it's a big city by the water with lots of green spaces. I'm a third-generation San Franciscan; I was born and raised there.. While I still enjoy visiting, I, too, am shocked at the city's soaring prices, of everything, not just hotels, but also restaurants, real estate. It's become a city for the super rich. One out of every 11,600 of its residents is a billionaire. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's San Francisco residence is only three blocks from my childhood home. At the same time, the homeless population has grown; middle class families, unless they bought their homes long ago, are choosing to leave; it's tragic. I'll be returning for a visit in two weeks. I know I'll once again be dumbfounded by the changes.
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Oct 8th, 2019, 01:27 PM
  #15  
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SF is now a lot like Manhattan, you must be loaded to live there! Thanks for the tips - I wrote a bunch of it down and we are flying out of here Friday - I'll try to remember and write a follow up!
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Oct 8th, 2019, 11:17 PM
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Have a wonderful trip!
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