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3 Weeks in Aussie in January

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I am planning a family trip to Eastern Australia this January and am looking for any suggestions. I just booked our main flights and I know that we will be spending about 4+ days in Sydney, 4+days in Melbourne, 4+ days in Brisbane, and then 4 days for the GBR (no clue where to go for that!) A quick note about us... My husband and I are in our 30s, my dad is almost 70, and my daughter who will be almost 2 at the time of the trip. I would like to do a lot of outdoorsy things, beaches, rainforest, wineries, museums, zoos, aquariums, amusement parks, snorkel...

This itinerary is loosely set, will will for sure be flying into Sydney Dec 29 and out of Sydney on our way to Rotorua Jan 19. I have mostly figured out where we will go, now I need to figure out what to see, where to stay (Sydney is covered), where to eat...

Sydney Dec 29-Jan 3
Drive from Sydney to Melbourne Jan 3-6 (gave us 3 days to stop and check out lots of sights, any suggestions would be appreciated)
Stay in Melbourne area Jan 6-9 (possibly check out The Great Ocean rd as well)
Fly from Melbourne to Brisbane Jan 9
Stay in Brisbane/ Gold Coast Jan 9-13
Then we have the 13-17th to devote to the GBR but not sure how to do it. I was looking at Lady Elliot but saw that flights were about $630 pp and therefore will have to mark that off the list. I know that Jan is a very hot and sticky time of year in Queensland and I read in the Lonely Planet that going north of Agnes waters in Jan isn't advised due to stingrays and box jellyfish. Does anyone have any insight on snorkeling the reef in Jan? We could fly up to Cairnes or Whitsundays, I really have no idea. I read in other posts that most Aussies avoid Queensland in Jan so I'm wondering if it's worth it. My dad scuba dives and I know that he really wants to check it out. I would like to be able to do something with my daughter which would likely exclude me to the beach.

Well I hope someone is willing to read this and give me some pointers.


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    Hi there,

    Sounds like you have some great ideas already up your sleeve.

    Can I ask what your planning to do whilst in Brisbane? Its a nice place but not that much of a tourist destination - you will be limited on places to go.

    Your best off extending your stay in either Sydney or GBR. If you head to Cairns from there you can travel out to the reef, you cant swim at the beach in Cairns but they do have a man made lagoon by the water for everyone. Also a short drive from Cairns is Port Douglas which has the bird park which is fun when you have breakfast there. You can visit Kurunda, do the train up and the cable cars back which offers some great views.

    In Sydney you must do the Zoo, offers some of the best views of the harbour and the city. Id recommend a trip to Manly on the ferry - a warm summers day with the water splashing on you and then over there for a swim and some icecream is the perfect day out. You can wander around the city, walk across the harbour bridge and up one of the pylons(the section that doesnt cost a fortnue, visit the rocks and darling harbour. SO many things to do!

    Melbourne its self is nice. See if you can do a day trip down to Phillip Island to witness the penguins coming in from the ocean at sunset. One of those things you feel amazing to be able to see.

    Try and stay in the city centres of all the places to avoid costs of public transport. Take a look on for some great hotels with a detailed map to explain where! Maybe in Sydney one of the Meriton Apartments might suit your family?

    As for the weather in January, its going to be warm wherever you go. If you dont let the water affect you then you will have a wonderful trip!

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    If your itinerary isn't set in stone, I'd certainly re-consider some of your choices. You have selected to visit the 3 largest cities in Australia plus the Great Barrier Reef. I would drop the visit to Brisbane/Gold Coast. As already mentioned, Brisbane isn't much of a tourist destination and the Gold Coast is a congested area of high rises and amusement parks. There's MUCH better places to see in Australia.

    I would add more time to the GBR region, especially since your dad wants to dive. (Use 2-3 days which you have allocated to Brisbane.) We have been to Port Douglas a number of times and really enjoy it there. To me, it's big advantage is Four Mile Beach. They do have a stinger net there so you can swim off the beach. Also, stinger suits are provided on the snorkel/dive boats. From PD, it's an easy drive to Daintree National Park (rainforest) and you can also make a day trip to Kuranda, either driving or via the Skyrail/train. Mossman Gorge is also a nice half-day trip from PD for rainforest walks and natural pools. The Wildlife Habitat in PD is a great place to see native animals and have "Breakfast with the Birds".

    Also, I'd recommend adding another 2-3 days which you had allocated to Brisbane for your drive from Sydney to Melbourne. Take the inland route to get a feel of Australia outside the big cities. Stop for a couple days in Canberra, the capital. (Note: I lived here for several years and I love this city.) There are a lot of excellent (and free) museums here in addition to wildlife--in the wild, not a zoo. Go to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve or Namadgi National Park. At Namadgi National Park, if you do the easy 6km RT Yankee Hat hike, I can guarantee that you will see mobs of kangaroos along the trail. There's also a large rock with Aboriginal drawings at the turnaround point, something you are unlikely to see in/near the big cities. As you continue toward Melbourne, stop in some neat towns such as Beechworth, Bendigo, and Ballarat to get a feel for small(er) town Australia. (There's a lot of history in those 3 towns, too.)

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    January is peak summer school holiday time. If you are driving, I'd strongly suggest booking your accommodation ahead, even if it is only from day to day. Caravan parks have self contained cabins - this type of accommodation could suit you as most have two bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen facilities, plus the use of park facilities such as playgrounds, swimming pools, laundries

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    I had added Brisbane to the itinerary bc I had heard that the Gold Coast was fun and that we could go to Dreamworld and other amusement parks similar to it. If the consensus is that regardless of the heat and stingers we should still go to the GBR then we will. We are so excited to do this trip, I want to make the most of it.

    As far as our drive from Sydney to Melbourne, I was planning on the coastal route with an inland stop-over to visit the Blue Mountains. I wasn't sure if we were going to have enough time to check out the Great Ocean Rd west of Melbourne but if we cut out Brisbane (or at least limit our days there), then we can do both. So Longhorn, you would recommend driving the inland route over the coastal route? I'm sure both are spectacular views.

    I think I will definitely have to add Port Douglas to our trip. Thank you all so much for the suggestions, you have been a big help!!!

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    Hi Vanessa, my thoughts are:

    - If amusement parks are a big interest for your family the Gold Coast is a great option. Despite the high rise buildings there are also some incredible beaches there and you'll have lots of fun. Also you should consider going to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, it's a classic family place to go, generations of Aussies have made the pilgrimage. A quieter, more laid-back option is to go north an hour from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. That's where most Brisbanites will go - a less touristy option. Again with incredible beaches as far as the eye can see. It's more about relaxing pottering about in rock pools and swimming lots. The water is going to get a lot colder once you go further south to Sydney so you should take advantage of beach swimming up north.

    - With your drive from Sydney-Melbourne be aware that most of the coastal route is actually a little bit inland - it's not as though you're going to have incredible views all of the way, it'll be mostly forest. There are lots of protected parklands that run alongside the beaches between towns, so it's not a case of every town being connected by coastal roads. As others have mentioned you need to think about where you're going to stop and book in advance - months in advance for that time of the year. You'll find that a lot of caravan parks will require you to book for two nights or more in January. Seven Mile Beach Caravan Park is a fantastic option and they have cabins. I suppose you could just book for a couple of nights and only stay for one, since this is a cheap accommodation option anyway. The beaches on the south coast of NSW are incredible.

    - I love driving from Sydney to Melbourne but I have to warn you that the road is long and there are extended periods of boredom with nothing much to see on both the inland and coastal route. My suggestion would be: Take the M1 from Sydney to Stanwell Tops. Drive via the local coastal roads from Stanwell Tops - Wollongong. Check out the old Inner Harbour at Wollongong and then get back onto the M1 going NORTH. Go north a little bit 'till you hit Picton Rd and use that to get you onto the Hume Hwy, to complete the inland route. That way you get to see the beach but also the inland areas. I think just allow the whole thing as an overnight trip, if you're starting out reasonably early each day.

    - If you decide to drive the inland route you must stop at the Long Track Pantry at Jugiong - an amazing oasis of coffee and fantastic food! Also they have a little public swimming pool across the road which your family will love a dip in during summer. Check the cafe website though for opening hours.

    - Also on the inland route is Goulburn, which has a wonderful old train yard that is a hidden treasure. The website is here: . Once I went in and a man took me on a little tour (well actually it wasn't so 'little', it took 45 minutes) had actually worked as a 'firey' shovelling coal into the bellies of the old trains when they still ran! They have lots of different old trains and you can go in and sit in the train driver's seat and such - your dad and your daughter will most likely love it.

    - Once you get into Victoria there are lots of lovely little country towns to have something to eat at or stay the night. There's not a lot to do at each of the towns but it's nice to see how things are off the main highway. It could be a good idea to google to see whether any of the towns are having their annual country shows (sheep shearing, sheep dog trials, cattle judging, horse jumping). My favourites towns in this part of VIC are: Chiltern, which I am pretty sure must be used as a set in lots of colonial-period movies. It has a few decent, cheap motels to stay at. Tatura and Murchison, which are serious farming communities. Euroa: has a great pub called Seven Creeks Hotel that's a very country, family friendly place that has an outside area for kids to run around in.

    - The Blue Mountains aren't on the way to Melbourne. It's a side trip, but they are lovely. Frankly though I would cut that out, do the Syd-Melbs road trip as just two days and use the extra time to do the Great Ocean Rd.

    Thanks for giving me an excuse to procrastinate on my studies ;)

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    Wow! Thank you for taking the time to respond. I will definitely have to figure out the sydney-melbourne route! Plus start booking some hotels. Thank you so much for the suggestions. If you think of anything else, please feel free =-)


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