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.
*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!