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4 week itinerary, some questions

Nijmegen, The...
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4 week itinerary, some questions

My girlfriend and I are planning a ~4 week trip around Australia in March-April 2014. Her brother and his girlfriend live in Melbourne, so we definitely want to stay some time in and around Melbourne. However, of course we also want to tour the continent. After quite a lot of research online and in guide books, and asking our Australian friends for advice, we’ve come up with the following itinerary. I would love to get some good feedback, both in general, and also on some specific points I’ve indicated below.

Flight Amsterdam – Singapore (or Abu Dhabi) – Melbourne

8 nights Melbourne and around (Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island,…; but what to see and do here we’ll basically leave up to our hosts)

Flight Melbourne – Alice Springs

1 night Alice Springs

3 nights (4 days) organised tour Uluru – King’s Canyon – Katja Tjuta – MacDonnell Ranges

- Probably going for an organised tour is best in the red center, right? I’ve looked at renting a 4WD, but it seems this is quite expensive. Or would a normal compact car suffice? In any case having a tour guide is also quite nice.

- Any experience with Viator tour operator for this tour? Specifically, this one: viator.com/tours/…d358-5703W04

- It seems the tours always leave very early in the morning and end quite late in the afternoon, so we really need accommodation for one night before and one night after the tour?

1 night Alice Springs

Flight Alice Springs – Cairns

4 nights in/around Cairns

- Cairns itself is supposedly not very interesting, but we would mainly go here for the rainforest.

- Taking the train to Karunda and the skyrail back is very nice, right? Is it worth staying a night over in Karunda?

- We definitely want to visit the Daintree, especially Cape Tribulation (best part according to our guide book). Should we rent a car to do this by ourselves, or is a tour the better option? If so, should we go for a day tour or 1 or 2 nights overnight tour?

Bus Cairns – Airlie Beach

- Here I’ve also tried to find flights (to Mackay/Proserpine), but it really seems like the bus (by Premier Motor Service) is the best option; very cheap and with a 10-12hr drive probably not even much slower than flying (in case of a transfer in e.g. Brisbane).

1 night Airlie Beach

2 nights (3 days) sailing trip around Whitsundays

- Recommended? We also want to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef while here (we don’t have a diving license). The “outer reef” is the best part? I found this sailing trip operator: whitsundayssailingadventures.com.au/… Is it any good? And what about this one: sailing-whitsundays.com/…

1 night Airlie Beach

Flight Mackay – Sydney

- Proserpine is the closest airport to Airlie Beach, but they only fly to Brisbane. I found it difficult to make a two-leg booking Proserpine-Brisbane-Sydney, does anyone know how to do this? Or is flying from Mackay the best option? (In which case: is there a cheap way to get to the airport?)

5 nights Sydney & Blue Mountains

- Should we try to do the Blue Mountains in one day, or is staying overnight (or even 2 nights) there recommended? And is it better to do an organised (single-/multi-day tour) or go there ourselves (by bus/rental car)?

Flight Sydney – Singapore (or Abu Dhabi) – Amsterdam

As for budget, I found estimates for all the flights and tours mentioned on the various websites. As for accommodation, I think Au$ 150 per night (for two persons) should be sufficient, right? (In Melbourne we will stay with family.) We don’t need luxury, but do want a decent clean hotel or B&B with a private bedroom. For the two nights in Airlie Beach I budgeted Au$ 200 per night. Converting all this to euros, brings me to a grand total of € 2400 per person (excluding intercontinental flights), for 26 nights including accommodation, travel within Australia, and the Uluru and Whitsunday tours. Does that sound alright?

Apart from the accommodation, travel, and tours, I would budget again Au$ 150 in total per day for other expenses like food, drink, museums (coming to about € 1400 per person for 28 days). Again, does this sound reasonable?

Very many thanks for any answers to my questions you might have, or any other comments/suggestions!

Darwin, Australia
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1. Re: 4 week itinerary, some questions

Goodness. What a lot of work you have done!!

One suggestion is you drive from cairns to airlie - it is a pretty drive through some interesting places. Don't get the bus...... Stay in Townsville overnight for a different perspective if a working town.Or There are some caravan parks with cabins. or Rollingstone caravan park north of Townsville 1 hour with cabins are a nice alternative. With straight driving its about 8-10 hrs .

Airline to Sydney. You would need to get to Hamilton Island and from here you can definitely fly direct to Sydney.

Flying....

Cairns - mackay

Cairns- Hamilton Island

Cairns - Townsville and drive 3 hours south but pp have one way drop off fee.

No don't stay in kuranda .... No...!! Just a day trip if you want to do train and cable car trip.

I would hire a car and do a round trip of Daintree / cape trib - great day trip and heaps of places to stop at your own leisure.

Yes, you are correct Cairns is not that intriguing, that's why port Douglas or Palm cove or the Daintree is much more interesting for accommodation, better atmosphere and prettier in my opinion.

Do your snorkelling from port Douglas- it is not cheap though . It's similar price from Whitsunday as from cairns/ port Douglas. I have done both and prefer outer reef from port Douglas.

$ 150 exc accom and car etc should be fine. You can eat cheaply / carefully. But food is expensive in Australia- compared to Europe so this will be a shock. tours like snorkelling etc are also very pricey, so don't expect a trip to the reef for much under $ 250 per person.

Try www.turu.com,au for some alternative caravan/ camp ground accom.

March April is still wet season in North Queensland , so you may encounter some very wet weather from late tropical low systems. You just need to be flexible with your plans

If you like hiking I wound say do two days in blue mountains, it's a pretty area, with many great walks . Public transport while cheap, may limit your choice on easily allowing you to access other areas in blue mountains like went worth falls, Leura etc.

We have only ever driven self drive to Uluru / AS or flown, so can't advise on tours.

Finally my suggestion is come up with a few things that you really want to do in Melbourne and surrounds and don't rely solely on your hosts for what you should see..

Edited: 30 December 2013, 15:34
Nijmegen, The...
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2. Re: 4 week itinerary, some questions

Thanks a lot, those are some great tips. We will definitely consider Port Douglas or Palm Cove as an alternative to staying in Cairns. Maybe one night Palm Cove, then move up to Port Douglas, and then back.

Darwin, Australia
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3. Re: 4 week itinerary, some questions

Great itinerary.

As I understand it Viator is a booking agent, not an actual tour operator. There is no problem booking through an agent, and this itinerary looks good, but you might also want to check out Tourism Central Australia for more options

http://www.discovercentralaustralia.com/ and then check out the operators websites.

The bonus of doing a 4WD camping tour is that you will get to a few spots a 2WD can't go, such as the Mereenie Loop or Rainbow Valley, plus you have accommodation included - accommodation at Uluru and Kings Canyon is expensive.

However, all of the major sites are accessible by sealed roads so you could also hire a car and do the trip independently - it really is personal preference.

Flights to Alice Springs are limited so yes you will need to stay there the night before and after a tour - this is a safer bet anyway as it allows for unexpected delays either with the flight or the tour.

If you have time the Alice Springs Desert Park is worth a visit.

4. Re: 4 week itinerary, some questions

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