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Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

S G
Los Angeles...
11 posts
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Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

Hi everyone... long time lurker, first time poster. Apologies in advance for the long post.

My newlywedded husband and I will be in Australia from November 1 through December 2 on our honeymoon/Awesome Marriage Bonding Experience. We're starting in Adelaide and driving a campervan from there to the Sunshine Coast over 3 weeks and a day or two, and then flying from Brisbane to Cairns. From Cairns, we depart to Guam (where I grew up) for a few days and lots of scuba diving, and then back home to California. If you have a few minutes or hours, I would greatly appreciate some advice and guidance.

Some info about us:

*Our airline tickets are booked and firm.

*We booked a campervan with a bit of flexibility in the pick-up and drop-off dates. Thanks to some good reviews on Trip Advisor, we selected Awesome Campervans, and selected a campervan that's more like a big, modified mini-van than a standard camper. This gives us the flexibility of being able to park in multi-level parking structures or in the city, and doesn't stick out quite so much.

*We're planning on a combo of caravan park accommodations during the road trips and hotel accommodations in the city.

*We have a somewhat moderate budget, which means we are not strictly hostel stays, but we're not doing four-and-five star hotels and big gourmet meals either. Well, maybe one or two nights. It IS a honeymoon! =) We'd rather save the "big spending" for day sails, or dive trips, and maybe an island stay.

*Some of our stops are "Must Do's": Adelaide (wine region), Sydney, Port Douglas, Gold Coast, and the Great Ocean Road. I'm a little overwhelmed with everything in between.

*Activities: He's definitely into surfing, I love beaches and cute coastal towns, we both like camping, scuba diving, snorkeling, and all sorts of nature, he would like to see "gnarly crocs and some bada** spiders" - I would greatly prefer that this take place in some sort of controlled setting, we are hoping to hug or pet or gaze fondly into the eyeballs of a koala, we do not need to spend all of our time on sand, and we're pretty sure we're going to end up trying to move to Australia once we're done with this trip. We cannot be outdoors and swimming, hiking, surfing, sailing, diving, or jumping off stuff enough.

There are so many incredible things to DO and see in Australia, so here's my draft itinerary! Boy, I sure could use some help.

Nov 1: Arrive Adelaide late afternoon - collapse in a heap, eventually wander to Central Market area for sustenance.

QUESTION: We fly direct from Los Angeles to Melbourne on United Airlines, have a 1 hr 30 min layover, and get on a flight via a Quantas codeshare to Adelaide. I read somewhere on TA that we will need to collect our baggage and go through customs for our flight to Adelaide as there is no international airport in Adelaide. Is this correct? Will an hour and a half be enough time? I'm a one-bagger (even for a long trip) and am okay with carry-on only, but the DH is not. Please advise. I'm trying to convince him. We are applying for visas and whatnot in advance but we do not have Global Pass.

Nov. 2: Adelaide

Get campervan, visit Penfolds Magill Estate (on "Must Visit" list - 15 minutes away from city), go to beach, soak up sun

Nov. 3 : McLaren Vale for more wineries on the "Must Visit" list

Overnight McLaren Vale

QUESTION: I couldn't figure out how to work Barossa Valley in here too without being completely exhausted so soon after arriving in Adelaide. Any ideas? Is it really necessary to go to both? The majority of the wineries on our "Must Visit" list are in McLaren Vale, but there are a couple of great ones (Penfolds, Tait, Barossa Valley Estate) out there. I'm iffy on squeezing Barossa Valley in.

Nov 4: Depart McLaren Vale early-ish, enjoy a four-hour drive to Naracoorte Caves National Park

Depart the Park late afternoon, 1.5 hour drive to Mount Gambier

Overnight Mount Gambier

QUESTION: Is it better to just stay near Naracoorte? I read Mount Gambier is very pretty and has good accommodations - did not get the same information about Naracoorte.

Nov 5: Depart Mount Gambier late afternoon.

3 hour drive to Port Campbell National Park for Twelve Apostles (hopefully at sunset around 7 pm if we time it right), with London Arch, Loch Ard along the way.

Overnight Port Campbell

Nov 6-7: 1.5 hour drive to Torquay, passing through Apollo Bay

2 nights in Torquay and surrounds for surf/beaches

Nov 8-9: 1.5 hour drive to Melbourne

2 nights in Melbourne

QUESTION: What are some things to do in Melbourne while we're there? I'm not really sure of the length of time to stay in Melbourne when there are so many other things to do. I work in downtown Los Angeles, and we live in a large city, so we're pretty satisfied with our current level of city exposure. We do like looking at street art, so that's something.

Nov 10-11: 2.5 hour drive from Melboune to Wilsons Promontory Point

2 nights here

QUESTION: From the photos, it looks incredible. Just different from what we've seen or experienced. Do we need two days on the Prom? What are the highlights?

Nov 12: And here's where we're a little crazed - BIG drive to Sydney - stop in Lakes Entrance for lunch (3.5 hour drive from the Prom), then back on the road for Eden (2.75 hour drive)

Overnight in Eden to recover

QUESTION: We'd like to just get the drive from Melbourne to Sydney done relatively quickly. I thought about doubling back to Melbourne from the Prom and taking Hume Highway (our toll charges are covered on our rental), but was unsure as the driving times looked fairly similar on Google Maps. Any advice?

Nov 13: Four hour drive to Jervis Bay

Overnight in Jervis Bay

QUESTION: I read that Jervis Bay has great surf and is a great town for just relaxing and whatnot. Is it worth an overnight stop?

Nov 14-16: 2.5 hour drive to SYDNEY!

3 nights in Sydney.

Despite all the drivel I said earlier about large cities, we would love to spend a good amount of time in Sydney, and drive out to the Blue Mountains and putter around the various harbors. I would actually like to spend an extra day in Sydney for a day sail around the harbor in a tall ship, if I can find room on here . I would love suggestions!

And here begins the bulk of our meandering road trip and I really need some advice from local surfers, wives married to surfing husbands, people who are familiar with jellyfish season, and others - I picked a coastal route because I'm not sure what's inland and how far inland and I'm mostly concerned with time. And because the DH likes to surf.

Nov 17: Sydney to Port Stephens (2.5 hour drive)

Overnight Port Stephens

Nov 18: Port Stephens to Coffs Harbor (4.5 hour drive)

Overnight Coffs Harbor

Nov 19-21: Coffs Harbor to Byron Bay (3 hour drive)

3 nights in Byron Bay and surrounds (Coolangatta, Surfer's Paradise)

QUESTION: Too much?

Nov 22-23: Surfer's Paradise to Noosaville (2.5 hour drive)

2 nights in Noosaville - one day will be spent at the Australia Zoo.

Nov 24-25: Backtrack to Brisbane (2 hour drive)

2 nights in Brisbane - we'll be dropping off our campervan in Brisbane.

QUESTION: I'd like to somehow get to Fraser Island as it's unlike any place on earth that I've seen. Is a one-day trip sufficient? I'm trying to find space on this itinerary to even do that much - any ideas?

Nov 26: fly from Brisbane to Cairns

Arrive late afternoon in Cairns - and then...

Nov 27-29: Great Barrier Reef

QUESTION: I'm looking into booking a Whitsunday Islands/Lady Elliot 3-day sailing live-aboard dive tour. If I'm able to book this, then we'll forgo the rental car and just rely on tour operator transport. If not, then the idea is to get a rental car in Cairns, drive to Port Douglas/Daintree, and back to Cairns. Is an on-board dive tour worth it? We're pretty savvy boat people and experienced divers, but would like opinions.

Nov 30: Daintree National Forest

Overnight in Daintree

Dec 1: back to Cairns from Daintree for a day trip around Cairns and the airport.

Would like to swing by Hartley's Crocodile Adventures for the "gnarly croc viewing in a controlled setting," as referenced earlier.

Our flight leaves at midnight on the 2nd.

Additional questions:

*Since we're still on the shoulder season, do we need to worry about booking accommodations in advance for caravan parks? Hotels in the cities?

*What are some of the "must sees" that are inland along our route?

*Do you have a favorite restaurant, hotel or caravan park recommendation for any of our stops? (I'm searching the Trip Advisor forums for reviews, but always nice to hear specifics).

Thank you in advance for your time, advice, and opinions. I look forward to hearing back from everyone!

Sarah

Perth, Australia
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1. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

"We fly direct from Los Angeles to Melbourne on United Airlines, have a 1 hr 30 min layover, and get on a flight via a Quantas codeshare to Adelaide. I read somewhere on TA that we will need to collect our baggage and go through customs for our flight to Adelaide as there is no international airport in Adelaide. Is this correct? Will an hour and a half be enough time? I'm a one-bagger (even for a long trip) and am okay with carry-on only, but the DH is not."

Adelaide does have an International Airport. However, same as the US, you must pass through Immigration & Customs at your first point of entry - which in your case is Melbourne. IME Melbourne can be a zoo, dependant on what time you arrive/how many flights are in. I do not think 1.5 hours is enough time to be processed, collect baggage and recheck/drop it if you can't convince your OH to have only carry on. With carry on only, it could still be very tight. You still have to clear security in to the domestic terminal area (Int & Dom are all one building) If you are on the one ticket to Adelaide, you should be able to have your boarding passes from LAX right through.

Just in relation to the baggage, perhaps remind your OH that you are hiring a small campervan. Where will his luggage go???

There are many Q flights to Adelaide every day from Melbourne. IMO, although you say your flights are booked and firm, endaevour to change to a connection with a less tight timeframe. You only need to be 15 minutes late leaving/landing and you are pretty much guaranteed to miss your connection and have to wait for the next available seating - not necessarily the next available flight.

****

"I will be in Australia from November 1"

Central Markets Adelaide are open until 9.00pm on a Friday - which Nov 1st is. A great night to visit - plenty of atmosphere and free tastings available.

The Barossa and McLaren Vale are quite different. However, without rushing around and foregoing your day of relaxing on the beach, I can't see you fitting it in.

Darwin, Australia
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for Darwin
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2. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

Wow, where to start

The flight connection at Melbourne is already well covered above - I agree if you can arrange for more time do it.

McLaren Vale - if is not already on your must see list try and check out Ekhidna wines - small place but great wine and boutique beer (hubby says its the best beer he's ever had and he's tried a few). http://ekhidnawines.com.au/

Overall your drive times seem very optimistic - they make no allowances for being stuck behind slow moving vehicles, road works, loo stops, windy roads etc. To be safe I would add 50% onto all of them (and consider it a bonus if it doesn't take that long).

Nov 6-7 - slow down, there is so much to see along the Great Ocean Road. Spend one night in Lorne, along the way check out Maits Rest, Apollo Bay and Erskine Falls. Spend one night in Torquay, along the way check out Anglesea area and Bells Beach.

In Melbourne you might enjoy snorkelling with Australian Fur Seals and checking out the Mornington Peninsula. Healesville Sanctuary is a great zoo for Australian Wildlife. Philip Island is another good option. In the city itself check out the Moonlight Cinema in the botanical gardens - take a picnic. Try to have breakfast one morning at a café in Hardware Lane - very Melbourne.

Yes do two days at the Prom - it is awesome. With your interests you are bound to love it. Also a great chance to see wombats in the wild.

I know you said you want to do it quickly but try to add another day to the Prom - Sydney drive (again drive times are too optimistic).

Skip Australia Zoo - overpriced and over-rated (although this is a contentious issue - search Australia Zoo on this forum for lots of debate on the point). If you can make it work those two nights would be much better spent at Fraser Island (but could be too far from Brisbane unless you fly - not sure).

Liveaboard dive trips will generally get you to some better dive sites than day trips, plus you get much less boat travel and night dives. But Lady Elliot Island is a looong way from Cairns. Try checking out trips that leave from Cairns - Osprey Reef is great if you can swing it.

Sounds like a great trip - enjoy.

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

Sounds like fun! I can’t comment on anything south of Sydney as I haven’t really been myself.

- In NSW and southern QLD there are no deadly jellyfish, bluebottles are around but they won’t kill you just sting and you can usually avoid them as you will see them washed up on shore before you go into the water.

- The wildlife world in darling harbour has lots of snakes and spiders and the koalas and kangaroos. Taronga Zoo is much better but you need a full day to see it ( if you go I recommend the bird show it has an amazing view of Sydney harbour and a pretty cool bird show!)

- If you are into wine tasting the Hunter Valley is inland from Newcastle (just south of port Stevens) which has many nice wineries. (NSW's biggest wine region)

- In Port Stevens they have LOTS of dolphin tours that sail around the bay which let you get into the water with dolphins near-by.

- Nearly all the beaches up the north coast to QLD are good. The problem is except for Coffs harbour and Byron bay the hwy up the coast is inland and nearly a half hr. drive off the road to the water.

-You will drive past the BIG BANANNA in Coffs Harbour which was the first of the big things in Australia.

- Byron is very popular and that might be around the time of schoolies, same with when you are in surfer’s paradise. (The teenagers that have just finished school all go on holidays and party hard .... I would just check those places for accommodation to make sure that’s when schoolies is not on)

- Fraser island barge leaves from rainbow beach but when you are on the island the main road is the beach so I think u have to have special extra insurance from the hire car company.

- I have been to hartlys and really enjoyed it! They feed the crocodiles while you watch and you get to see the crocs jump out of the water.

- It is at least an hr. on a boat out to the reef from cairns and there are so many options I think you could find a day trip suitable!

- to get to the Daintree you have to go on a car barge and some car rentals will not allow you to go over in a rental car as the roads over the river are unsealed. (I would just double check this before you go!) I loved the Daintree it’s a beautiful place!!!

I hope I covered some of your questions! :)

Destination Expert
for Adelaide, South Australia, Kangaroo Island
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4. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

Such a shame, given your interests, that you won't have time to dash to Eyre Peninsula from Adelaide for a swim with the Tuna, sea lions or even a shark cage dive. All very unique aquatic adventures which are unforgettable !

Your SA Itinerary : McLaren Vale at that time of year is lovely, probably perfect for you..as beaches are just a stones throw away. Tie in a lunch at the Victory hotel or Star Of Greece, you'll love it. Don't stress about Barossa. Also .. yes... Mt Gambier would be my choice for accommodation. Penola also has more choice than Naracoorte if you wanted to stop off at The Coonawarra.

South Pole
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5. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

Nov 13: Four hour drive to Jervis Bay

Overnight in Jervis Bay

QUESTION: I read that Jervis Bay has great surf and is a great town for just relaxing and whatnot. Is it worth an overnight stop?

no surf in the bay. u have to go to the ocean sides of south or north heads for surf eg. caves beach, summercloud bay.

jervis bay's main towns are Huskisson and Vincentia.

the area is well know for its great bay beaches, national parks and native wild life.

whale and dolphin cruises are also a major attraction.

just an overnighter after a drive from eden will limit your enjoyment of this area

S G
Los Angeles...
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6. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

Thank you everyone for the great information and for your time!

PerthiteOZ: I'll call Quantas and see if I can move our flight so we're not so rushed. THANK YOU for the guidance and helpful information.

ShazDwn: thanks for tip about Ekhidna - the husband does enjoy beer, so we'll add it as a stop. =) Thank you also for the great information about Melbourne and the Prom. We'll add the overnight in Lorne. We'll have to see how the surf is and then be a bit flexible on where we spend more time.

Kartia123: thanks for the info on Wildlife World and the Big Banana! I'd hate to go through Australia having missed all of the BIG things!

TW_Yachtgal: Oh now that I've looked at Eyre Peninsula, I have to go! I started the trip planning by looking at a giant map of Australia and blocking off everything west and far north of Adelaide. We do plan to make a return trip in a year or two and traveling from Darwin down the West Coast and back to Adelaide, so we'll have to save Eyre Peninsula for that trip. But it hurts to leave out Eyre Peninsula. Thanks for the reassurance about Mount Gambier, and the tips for lunch.

lien: Thanks for the information about Jervis Bay. Will extend our time there.

Currumbin, Australia
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7. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

I'm a Queenslander from the southern end of the Gold Coast. 2-3 days is definitely not too much time in this region! You may just fall in love! The southern end of Coolangatta/Kirra Beach/Currumbin and up through Mermaid/Miami Beach and Broadbeach is so much nicer than Surfers Paradise - although you do need to get the obligatory photo under the Surfers Beach sign at the end of Cavill Avenue and check out the nightlife if you're into that sort of thing.

In terms of surfing beaches down the southern end, Duranbah is where the local guys go for big waves. There's also a great little cafe up the top of the hill called Cafe Dbah. Spectacular view over the ocean. There can also be good waves right up through Rainbow Bay/Greenmount/Coolangatta/Kirra Beach (which makes for a beautiful little drive up the coast - only 20 minutes or so from one end to the other. Currumbin Alley has a sheltered break great for beginners if you aren't quite the surfer your hubby is, and they do great surfing lessons. <http://www.surfeasy.com.au/> is the company I went with when I first moved here a few years ago and they were great and not expensive for a group surfing lesson ($20-$30 I think), but there are dozens of companies at all the beaches along the coast.

Stand-up paddle boarding is another fun outdoor activity in this area. You can paddle up Currumbin Creek for $15 for an hour out to the Alley (surfing beach) with <http://www.currumbinboatshed.com.au/for-hire.html> which is the company I usually take my friends to. Very informal and nice staff, and they also hire kayaks. There's another one (new I think) across the road which has started price-beating, but I maintain loyalty to the originals!

There are plenty of markets around Coolangatta and everywhere else if you're here on a weekend. Just Google what's on when you're here as they generally move every week.

And in terms of more food recommendations in that '20 minute radius' (Cafe DBah that I mentioned above does a great breakfast, and coffee, and tapas on weekend afternoons), I like Raw Energy for a healthy and delicious breakfast or lunch in Coolangatta and Bellakai in Coolangatta for dinner (a bit more pricey, but the whole beachfront is covered with little cafes - O Sushi is a cheaper option and fantastic sushi, or Earth'n'Sea Pizza which is pricey as far as pizza goes but more than worth the cost). Up the coast a bit there is Kirramisu at Kirra Beach for breakfast, Bread and Butter for tapas or pizza (I think they still have a $10 pizza night on Wednesdays), and a fantastic fish and chip shop whose name I can't remember! Elephant Rock Cafe is up the coast a bit more next to a big, elephant shaped (imagine that!) rock and sports great views especially from the balcony. All of the surf lifesaving clubs along that stretch of coast have decent, cheap food and gorgeous views too.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is cheaper than Australia Zoo and has a great range of Aussie animals and photo ops as well as an adventure park with ziplines and so forth. It's in this region as well.

There are one or two caravan parks and cheaper hotels I think too - not so clued up on that part as I live here!

***

In terms of liveaboard diving trips out of Cairns, I've been a couple of times with Cairns Dive Centre <http://cairnsdive.com.au/> which is pretty basic - aimed at backpackers - but because of that has fun, friendly staff, a generally young crowd and correspondingly low prices. I've always found them good. But to be honest, given the choice, I prefer diving the GB Reef off Hamilton Island a bit further south. Expensive though.

***

Hmmm anyway, hope that isn't infomation overload. I'm incredibly passionate about where I live - I feel like the luckiest girl in the world! I've been here four and a half years and need to go do the travel thing but don't want to leave, because I feel like I've found paradise already!

All the best with your trip!

Happy honeymooning!

Brisbane
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8. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

I will just comment on the drive from Sydney to Brisbane as I know some nice little caravan parks well worth a stay. Port Stephens is a good pick although I havent got a favourite place to stay there. Rather than Coffs Harbour I would pick South West Rocks. It is about an hour south of Coffs and is a quaint little seaside ton with a beachfront caravan park.

mvcholidayparks.com.au/horseshoe-bay-holiday…

Try and book one of the sites on the beach sites 52-59. One of my favourite caravan parks. (Although toilet block is average) It is an absolute beach front position, fabulous little beach. If you can spare another day I would break the next drive up with a stop at BroomsHead caravan park..again another beachfront site (make sure you book the beachfront section if you stay here...otherwise move on)

Byron Bay is a definite. I think it would be easier to stay on the Gold Coast to see Surfers Paradise etc rather than have it as a day trip. Then from Noosa you can go to Aust Zoo. Not my idea of fun but I know many people who love it...Good crocodile show but I was bored by everything else...but I am not a zoo person. You can do a day trip to Fraser Island from Noosa. They are mini bus 4wd tours that drive up Rainbow beach from Noosa and over to Fraser. This is a one day trip...from memory quite expensive (aroung $200 for the day i think) but the quickest way of including fraser Island. You wont have seen any of the Sunshine Coast though so another day to enjoy Noosa would be good. Unless you can do Aust Zoo in half a day and noosa beach for the other half. All a bit rushed and you might end up exhausted ! Still when you want to see it all you can. Le tm eknow if you have more questions about this section of the trip.

Good luck!

S G
Los Angeles...
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9. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

Hey regmarks and Queenslander - thank you for the comments! I'm re-doing my itinerary and the comments are very, very helpful!

Thanks!

By the way, in case anyone is looking for a good on-line itinerary planner, I'm using Tripline (tripline.net) and it's been a big help.

10. Re: Itinerary Help! 30 Days - South, East and North Coasts

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