2 Weeks in Australia - Need help figuring out what to do

Discussion in 'Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific' started by nellie, Feb 7, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. nellie
    Original Member

    nellie Silver Member

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    48
    Status Points:
    120
    Hi All-

    My wife and I are planning a 2 week trip to Australia this July. We want to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and possibly check out Ayers Rock or somewhere in the Outback and also do some outdoorsy activities like hike to waterfalls. I'm looking for help with the following questions:

    What are the best hikes on the East Coast? We love waterfalls, scenic views and unique natural sights.

    Is Sydney or Melbourne a more interesting city to fly into and spend time in? If you had to choose 1, which would it be?

    What's the best way to get up close and personal with some wildlife? We'd love to see some kangaroos, koalas, etc. up close and personal.

    Where is the best snorkeling on the reef? I've heard North of Cairns is best (like Port Douglas or even further north), but I'd love advice.

    Thanks for the help!
    Nellie
     
    Fireball likes this.
  2. Illini_Fan
    Original Member

    Illini_Fan Active Member

    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    2
    Status Points:
    75
    I've never been to Melbourne so I can't compare the two cities. Sydney was nice, we did the bridge hike which was touristy but still kinda cool.

    About an hour or so out side of Sydney is Katoomba (If I remember my spelling) in the heart of the Blue Mountains. We did absailing there but I seem to recall their being a decent amount of hiking -- might be worth a look.

    We spent roughly 3 days in Cairns bracketing a 5-day dive trip. The Tully River was a fun little river for rafting if you like that stuff.

    Wonderful country -- I'll think you enjoy it no matter what itinerary you pick and you'll still have plenty of things left over for future visits.
     
    nellie likes this.
  3. Bizi
    Original Member

    Bizi Silver Member

    Messages:
    423
    Likes Received:
    1,209
    Status Points:
    750
    Hi Nellie,
    Great to hear about your trip; I think you'll find a ton of options and locals will be extremely happy to see you, after the devastation of the past month in tropical North Queensland.

    Given the distances and your limited time, try to limit your travel mileage here and try to make the most of your days.

    Where are you flying in and out? If you can minimise connection times and just get to where you want to explore, you will have a better experience, IMHO. Then come back again to see something completely different, in another part of Australia. :)

    I think the best Great Barrier Reef snorkelling trips (those with least travel time and most water time) would be those departing ex-Port Douglas. Just do some research. We stayed at Cairns and drove up to Port for a Reef trip, since the options and experiences would be better for us than a trip ex-Cairns.

    This part of the country is both beautiful and full of options for activities, nature and wildlife. :)
    There is a night zoo just north of Cairns and there are several wildlife parks. Not to mention crocodile farms and tours on the Daintree.

    Definitely focus your time on the options from Cairns and up through the Daintree, up to Cape Tribulation.


    Should you have time in Sydney and norhting better to do, try to look me up! :)
     
    nellie likes this.
  4. moa999
    Original Member

    moa999 Gold Member

    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    3,193
    Status Points:
    1,870
    Agree on most of the above - for two weeks think Sydney, Cairns, Ayers Rock is a good set of timing allowing travel time and still enough of a stay to sill be a holiday.

    Cairns - As above including the crocs! both the farm outside town and the commercial tank inside town - great walks around the skyrail - www.skyrail.com.au/
    Sydney - Bluemountains for walks, beaches, opera house, harbour bridge, quite a few good places for koalas in and around town, as well as the amazingly located zoo
     
    nellie likes this.
  5. nellie
    Original Member

    nellie Silver Member

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    48
    Status Points:
    120
    Thanks for the replies everyone! Bizi, we're not sure where we'll fly into yet. We're coming from Seattle and will likely either fly into Sydney or Melbourne. Thanks for confirming that north of Cairns is where it's at for snorkeling the reef. When you drove up to Port Douglas did you rent a car? Are they expensive to rent over there or fairly cheap? Will my US drivers license work?

    Thanks for any other tips or ideas!
     
    Bizi likes this.
  6. Chimpy
    Original Member

    Chimpy Gold Member

    Messages:
    43,577
    Likes Received:
    228,668
    Status Points:
    20,020
    One thing you have to remember with Uluru (Ayers Rock) Aboriginal custodians have requested that visitors to Uluru do not make the regular tourist climb, as it goes against their traditions and customs. You can still climb up the North Western corner so all is not entirely lost. There are still some restrictions on being allowed to climb, I think the temperature has to be below 36 degrees, it can not be too windy and can not be raining.
     
    Freddie Listo, savydog and nellie like this.
  7. upgrd

    upgrd Active Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    12
    Status Points:
    95
    For "outdoorsy" activities I'd recommend Sydney. Melbourne is a great city, but with the blue mountains, the beaches, and other hiking - Sydney probably wins for what you want to do.

    Regarding Cairns/Port Douglas, most reef tours leave from Port Douglas. If they do start in Cairns, they usually cruise an hour up to Port Douglas and pick up more passengers before continuing onto the reef. I'd recommend just staying in Port Douglas as the rain forest tours are closer there as well.
     
    Bizi likes this.
  8. For question 1, pick up Lonely Planet's Bushwalking in Australia book. Lots of hikes are described in the book, all of varying difficulties and locations.

    For question 2, the farther the boat goes out from Cairns/Port Douglas, _generally_ the better the snorkling is. If you book a cruise while in Cairns, take a look around at what's on offer first and you will start to see the same general areas/highlights show up on the brochure listing. When you find a cruise that is taking you to a place that is more off the beaten path than the others, well, that might be the cruise to take.
     
    nellie likes this.
  9. Bizi
    Original Member

    Bizi Silver Member

    Messages:
    423
    Likes Received:
    1,209
    Status Points:
    750
    Conserve your time for experiences rather than connections and extra flight hours and see which options are most time-efficient to get you to where you want to be. It's a holiday rather than a mileage run!

    Which airline will you be using? I ask in case you can fly directly into CNS via GUM or some other way.

    Car rental is cheap and easy. All of the main international brands are at the airport; I've used Avis, Budget and Hertz in CNS, from memory. There's little price difference between vehicles and I've rented Toyota Corolla and Aurion (aka a bigger looking Camry V6) without trouble. There's even Europecar if you prefer a Euro. :)
     
    nellie likes this.
  10. Bizi
    Original Member

    Bizi Silver Member

    Messages:
    423
    Likes Received:
    1,209
    Status Points:
    750
    There are a lot more international hotel options in Cairns, though. It depends on what you are doing and if you want some time at both Cairns and Port Douglas. If you just want to spend time snorkeling and walking throught the Daintree, yes, stay at Port.

    If you want to try a lot of what Cairns has to offer, stay there, too! I'd be tempted to investigate staying at both.
    The FT Cains Do in 2009 was fantastic.
     
    upgrd and nellie like this.
  11. Chad
    Original Member

    Chad Silver Member

    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    193
    Status Points:
    320
    Freddie Listo, Bizi and nellie like this.
  12. nellie
    Original Member

    nellie Silver Member

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    48
    Status Points:
    120
    Thanks again for the suggestions folks. Feel free to keep them coming. Anyone ever been to Kangaroo Island or Fraser Island? Are they worth the trip? Is there anything to do on them?
     
  13. wingspan
    Original Member

    wingspan Silver Member

    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    139
    Status Points:
    395
    I
    It depends on what you mean by "do". Kangaroo Island is stunning. There are some townships where you can pass the time away sitting at pubs, watching the ocean roll by for hours. And there is a lot of 'nature' to be seen.

    As for the Sydney OR Melbourne debate: I think it really depends on where you live. If you currently live in an artsy, cute alleyway kind of city, don't go to Melbourne because it won't be anything interesting or new. If you currently live in a big, fancy, shiny city, don't go to Sydney because it is much like other such places in the world.

    IF you're travelling for food (as I usually do) then you can't go past Adelaide. It has the best food from all over the world in a square-mile of CBD from the most fancy, high-class restaurants, to small little local snackeries with delicious morsels!
     
    Freddie Listo, Bizi and nellie like this.
  14. jhflau11
    Original Member

    jhflau11 Silver Member

    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    316
    Status Points:
    435
    Thanks for the great info! I'll be doing a similar trip in September.
     
    nellie likes this.
  15. Bizi
    Original Member

    Bizi Silver Member

    Messages:
    423
    Likes Received:
    1,209
    Status Points:
    750
    I totally agree with you regarding Adelaide - and you've not even mentioned the great wine regions and tasting opportunities there.

    However it's a long, long way from N. QLD, so it's using up a lot of precious time which could be spent closer to your main holiday activities.

    Save it for the next trip, where you could visit Melbourne and VIC regions, Hobart or Launceston and some TAS regions, plus Adelaide and its wine regions. :)
     
    nellie and wingspan like this.
  16. If you are going to Cairns and Port Douglas, you might as well stop by Palm Cove. In my view, it is one of the top 5 beaches in the world, and I'm not much of a beach person.

    That all being said, don't try to do too much in 2 weeks. You'll end up remembering more about the flights than anything else.
     
    nellie likes this.
  17. ArizonaGuy
    Original Member

    ArizonaGuy Silver Member

    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    603
    Status Points:
    645
    All those places are great, no doubt. But I'm a fan of the road less traveled. Personally I'd dump mainland Australia save for about two days in either Syndey, Melbourne or both and spend the rest of the time in Tasmania. If you love hiking and nature with wildly different scenery, plus a dose of history, Tasmania has it. And the Boag's Brewery tour in Launceston was one of the best brewery tours I've ever taken. Probably had a pint and a half in samples! How I love that island. But then I'm a sucker for following the path of Irish history.

    See Thomas Francis Meagher - Irish rebel, Young Irelander, sent to and later escaped from Tasmania, general in American Civil War and governor of Montana.

    I've not yet made it to Montana. :)
     
    bluesky and nellie like this.
  18. jonman21
    Original Member

    jonman21 Silver Member

    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    117
    Status Points:
    185
    I spent a semester in Sydney back in 2003 and fell in love with the place - I've been back to Australia five times since! I'm partial to Sydney since I spent the most time there, but I have been to Melbourne a couple of times and liked it a lot too.

    Anyway, you and your wife are going to have a blast on your trip, Nellie! I'll have to live vicariously through you. :)

    A few of my recommendations:

    * My favorite walk in Sydney is the Watson's Bay to South Head walk (you should be able to Google this - and you can also start in Double Bay to make it longer). Just take a ferry from Circular Quay to Watson's Bay - you can have a seafood lunch at Doyle's on the Beach with a view of the Sydney skyline - and then take a gorgeous walk along the coast to the point where the Sydney Harbour meets the Pacific Ocean.

    * Taronga Zoo is great and is worth a visit, but to get up-close-and-personal with some wildlife, if you're based in Sydney, I recommend taking a train to Blacktown and going to the Featherdale Wildlife Park. You'll be able to hold koalas and feed kangaroos and wallabees while you're there.

    * My first Great Barrier Reef experience was based in Hamilton Island - and I had a blast. It's a resort island (not sure how expensive it is these days) that's a lot less chaotic than Cairns. Definitely make time for a side trip (via seaplane!) to Whitehaven Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and I believe the longest white-sand beach in the world. You can't access this beach except by boat or seaplane, so when I went, my 3 friends and I were literally the only people on the beach for miles - we took so many fun photos there.

    Some additional recommendations:

    * If you like Thai food, Longrain is one of my favorite restaurants in Sydney and has killer Thai food.

    * If you like sports, I'd recommend going to an AFL (Aussie Rules Football League) game in Sydney at Telstra Stadium or Melbourne at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). I think the AFL season should have started by July, but you may want to double check.

    * Most flights from the US to Sydney arrive super early in the morning, so if the hotel doesn't let you check-in early, I usually like to leave my luggage at the hotel and the head out to The Rocks (Old Sydney) and have Pancakes on the Rocks for breakfast before starting my day. Yummy pancakes with ice cream!

    I could seriously go on and on for hours, but hopefully some of these tips will help!
     
    Freddie Listo and nellie like this.
  19. FNQ (far north Queensland), further north from the Barrier Reef, would probably satisfy your waterfalls element.

    More sightseeing to do in Sydney, e.g. the opera house, harbour cruise (you could just catch a normal ferry to Manley etc though) etc, but Melbourne is also pretty pleasant. Just not as much to see.

    That's actually harder to do than you might think. Kangaroos tend to hop off once you get fairly close to them, and koalas tend to live in trees and you might not even find them - they're not really everywhere.

    There is Healsville Sanctuary near Melbourne where you can get close to them in an open setting. Quite a fun place, with emus etc as well.
     
    Freddie Listo, alex0683de and nellie like this.
  20. akide
    Original Member

    akide Silver Member

    Messages:
    202
    Likes Received:
    375
    Status Points:
    460
    Just came back from Melbourne, and it's wonderful! Take a day trip to Philip Island, which is 1.5 hrs away from Melbourne, and see the Great Penguin Parade, in the evening thousands of little penguins make their journey from the ocean back to their barrow's on land.
    Also part of the tour, they'll include a trip to the Nobbies, where you can watch a bunch of seals relaxing out on the rocks.
    You'll also see a lot of wallaby's (small kangeroo's) around the area on Philip Island as well.
     
    nellie and Chad like this.
  21. Chad
    Original Member

    Chad Silver Member

    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    193
    Status Points:
    320
    Tasmania is great, but I'm not so sure about in the middle of winter. I see the original poster is from Seattle so might enjoy cold and wet weather ([​IMG]), but if you ask most Australians if they'd prefer to have a holiday in winter in FNQ or Tassie - they'd be packing the sunscreen and heading north.

    Again just personal preference as some people do enjoy the colder regions
     
  22. Fireball
    Original Member

    Fireball Active Member

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    23
    Status Points:
    95
    Thanks for starting this thread. Thanks to the new QF service to DFW, and a few AA CCs from Citi, my family of 5 (getting 5 J class awards on the same plane to Australia will probably never happen again) is going down under for about 2 weeks in late May.

    Anyway, 3 of the 5 have never been to Australia. Right now we're landing in BNE at 5 am on a Sunday and immediately heading up to Cairns. Renting a car there and heading to the Sheraton Port Douglas for 5 nights. Two people in the group are big divers, and the rest enjoy snorkeling.

    Then we're flying from Cairns to Ayers Rock and driving to Alice Springs (even though the two-day, one-way car rental will end up being around $800). Then flying Alice Springs to Melbourne and stay there for 3 nights. Then to Sydney for 2 nights.

    So that's 12 nights Down Under. Is that a decent use of time, or are we trying to do too much? I would probably skip Sydney, but since 3 members of the group have never been there, I figure it's worth a few days. And our flight back to DFW leaves from SYD so we need to be there anyway.

    We considered Adelaide and the wine region there, but figured there wasn't enough time since we don't want to skip MEL or SYD.
     
    nellie likes this.
  23. nellie
    Original Member

    nellie Silver Member

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    48
    Status Points:
    120
    Hi Fireball-

    Did you use miles for your intra-Australia flights? If not, how much were the flights from Brisbane to Cairns, Cairns to Ayers Rock and Alice Springs to Sydney?

    Thanks!
    Andy
     
  24. joanek
    Original Member

    joanek Silver Member

    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    208
    Status Points:
    445
    I opted for a "fly to the reef" snorkeling trip to Lizard Island out of Cairns (with daintree air), rather than a boat with a hundred-plus snorkeling near other boats filled with snorkelers. it was pricey, but fantastic. I've recommended it to friends, who've also loved it. My first trip was about two and a half weeks -3 days MEL, 3 Adelaide, 4 tasmania, 4 port douglas/cns, 4 sydney. I went back a few years later, and revisited Sydney, then went west to Perth and Darwin, Katherine. I took a day trip (also via air) from ADL to Kangaroo Island--would liked to have spent a day there tramping around, but didn't have the time.

    For your trip, I might not bother with Ayers rock, and spend the time in Mel or Syd---both great cities with lots to do in and around them. A day trip to the Blue Mountains from SYD would get out out of the city and onto some glorious walking tracks. In Mel, you could get out of the city and into the wine country for the day.
     
    nellie likes this.
  25. mickc
    Original Member

    mickc Active Member

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    6
    Status Points:
    80
    Hi

    I am envious of your trip to Australia - I've been lucky to spend a fair amount of time there over the last 20 years and never tire of going back. To pick on just one of the questions posted - Sydney or Melbourne for a few city days in amongst a longer trip, I would recommend Sydney over Melbourne.

    Melbourne is a great city, and gives you access to one of the worlds great drives along the Great Ocean Road, but as a pure city destination, Sydney has it for me. Why? - Simple, the joy of a city built around the harbor (or harbour - take your pick on spelling) with the ferries constantly plying back and forth. So many great destinations around Sydney can be reached from the CBD/downtown via a ferry and there is no better way to see the city.

    So much to do where to start - lets give you a busy day walking to get a feel of the heart of Sydney...over the bridge and back (or if you are organised, to the top of the bridge), then cut through the CBD and the botanical gardens to the Art Galley of NSW for a culture break. Down the hill from there to Wolloomooloo for a well earned pie at Harry's Cafe de Wheels. Follow this with a leisurely stroll back along the waterfront round the bays to the Opera House. Time again for refreshment so pick your spot overlooking the heart of the harbor before ambling on into the rocks below the base of the bridge for a browse before dinner. The shops may be a little on the touristy side but we all need souveniers!

    Added to the above I would recommend a little ferry excursion. Look up a great restaurant online and work out how to get there by ferry - I used to enjoy the 'local' ferries rather than the express as I got to see all the communities/suburbs they serve for commuters.

    I won't ramble on anymore - guide books will do a better job than I can but I hope you enjoy Sydney as much as I do if you get there. One final note - don't forget the sun screen!
     
    nellie likes this.

Share This Page