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About a month in April/May 2014

Broadstairs, United...
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About a month in April/May 2014

So - we want to go to Australia for about a month to celebrate our 40th anniversary, which is on May 4th 2014. We want 3 star type accommodation, but maybe something special for the anniversary

We no longer work, so are flexible about departures. happy to travel mid week etc and not tied to exactly 4 weeks. We are fairly well travelled, China, Peru, Sri Lanka, Nepal etc etc mostly with Explore or Exodus. We are fit and well at 58 and 62. We quite like the idea of some DIY (self drive or motor home) and some group touring (maybe to the Red Centre, which appears to be a bit of a tourist trap but must just be done - I wish we could afford Logitude 131, but we can't!). A train trip of some kind would be interesting (and presumably more comfortable than overnight from Beijing to Xian!) but it doesn't have to be the Ghan

I do a lot of research about holidays, and usually know what I want but this is a one off and a long way to go, so we probably need some help. We would be happy with 2/3 star hotels and maybe some camp sites, but we would like somewhere nicer for the anniversary

We think it might be sensible to have a stopover for a couple of days each way maybe - we have been to Hong Kong but not Singapore or Dubai or Kuala Lumpur. Alternatively we could stretch to Premium Economy, depending on what the costings come out like.

We like scenery, culture, wild life, food and wine. We only like short boat trips (not long cruises) and we are not interested in scuba etc although quite happy to sit on a beach for a couple of days.

I have had a chat with one of the good big companies and they are recommending flights with Quantas, into Sydney (bridge climb, harbour cruise, botanical gardens, Blue Mountains) visiting Melbourne, Alice Springs/Uluru, Cairns then down the coast back to Sydney. We would do part as independent travel, probably take a tour into the red centre, and possibly part of the way down the east coast by train (sundowner?) and part by motor home.

Does this sound like a sensible plan? Does anyone have any tips or advice on travel/hotels/treats please?

Someone has suggested that in a month we could instead fly to Perth, take the Indian Pacific (train) to Adelaide, fly up to Alice / Uluru and back, pick up a hire car, then go Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road, round the coast to Sydney, swap the car for an RV and on up to Cairns and Port Douglas

Thank you in advance for any suggestions/advice - having looked at other threads I promise to come back and not only answer questions but also tell you how we get on! I am busy taking notes from other threds (eg the Sydney thread)

kind regards

Hervey Bay...
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1. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

The Red Centre is not a tourist trap!!!!!

Not sure where you got that information from but it's completely incorrect. The Red Centre, especially Uluru, is one of the most amazing places on earth. It has amazing natural beauty and is a significant part of our indigenous heritage. Yes, it's not the cheapest place to visit but nowhere in Australia that is remote is, especially in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

As for where to spend your time, a month will allow you plenty of time to drive along the eastern side of Australia and do some really decent exploring and see the red centre or you could fly between capital cities and fit in 4 or 5 places, which would still allow you to do a few day trips.

Most visitors do the rock, reef and bridge combination and then add in other destinations. That is they visit Ayers Rock, The Great Barrier Reef and Sydney.

Given what you have said your interests are and given the time of the year you are coming, I'd encourage you to move beyond this and take into account:

1) Western Australia and visit Perth, Fremantle and Margaret River;

2) South Australia and visit Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and the Barossa Valley or Claire Valley;

3) Victoria and visit Melbourne, Great Ocean Road and Yarra Valley;

4) News South Wales and visit Sydney and the Blur Mountains; an

5) Northern Territory and visit Uluru and Alice Springs.

That's no to discount Tasmania, which is lovely and had lots to offer, but you'd need to interchange it with one of the above.

It's hard to give more concrete advice at the moment as you're still in the early planning stages, so please keep posting as you make decisions.

You should also look at the various Australian and State tourism websites to help narrow down which states you want to visit.

Gungahlin, Australia
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2. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

>>I have had a chat with one of the good big companies and they are recommending flights with Quantas, into Sydney (bridge climb, harbour cruise, botanical gardens, Blue Mountains) visiting Melbourne, Alice Springs/Uluru, Cairns then down the coast back to Sydney.<<

That's a perfectly good standard recommendation. (Btw it's Qantas without the u, from the original acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services.)

>>Someone has suggested that in a month we could instead fly to Perth, take the Indian Pacific (train) to Adelaide, fly up to Alice / Uluru and back, pick up a hire car, then go Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road, round the coast to Sydney, swap the car for an RV and on up to Cairns and Port Douglas<<

That made me smile, it's the sort of thing I'd do. Was it because of the mention of the Great Ocean Road which is one of my favourite destinations, was it because it's just a little more imaginative overall....?

I've heard good things about Perth from family members who have visited. IMO it's well worth including that side of the country if you have the time.

Then crossing the continent, well, I hear it's a whole lot of nothingness but I think that's the appeal, the awesome vast nothingness of crossing the continent. And if you're interested in taking a train then either that or the Ghan are said to be the ones to go for.

Somewhere in there in the vicinity of Adelaide I'd think about adding Kangaroo Island, I've heard good things, it's on my wish list, great scenery and lots of wildlife. And to get there you take a short boat trip :-)

Great Ocean Road. Don't rush it. My first drive along it was as part of a longer trip and we allowed only a day to go from Port Campbell to Melbourne. Having visited again I would suggest adding an extra night, say in Apollo Bay or Lorne.

After Melbourne is where there's decisions to be made. The coast has a lot going for it. Phillip Island, probably on the list for the penguins. But after that you also have the option of the high country. I hear a lot about Beechworth, especially in autumn. Kosciuszko National Park. Canberra. There are a number of places where you can divert back to the coast. So how much coast and how much inland? Your last night before reaching Sydney could be at Jervis Bay which has one of the whitest sand beaches in the world.

I have not driven north of Sydney though I have flown to a few destinations. From what I read here some of the drive especially up in Queensland is not on the coast and needs detours, it sounds like parts of it are a bit monotonous. Perhaps it's fine if you have plenty of time, but it's probably worth researching to see if a combination of flying and driving would suit you better.

If you've been having a read of the forum you've probably noticed the Top Questions, with info about some of the driving routes, car rental tips, links to peoples' Trip Reports, etc. Also no doubt you've noticed the threads about which campervan companies do not have a good reputation.

Well, that's a few thoughts, though I'm not the best person to advise about most of it, but if I can help with more details about Canberra please let me know.

Broadstairs, United...
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3. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

Thank you very much for these replies.

I read the reviews on Tripadvisor for hotels in the Red Centre area and they all (apart from Longitude 131) seem to indicate "tourist trap" However, one of the main reasons for coming is to see (and possibly walk right around) Uluru

I will look again at a possible itinerary and try to be a bit braver - I need to make flight decisions soon. One of the reasons for involving a company rather than doing it all myself is that they can organise internal flights all in one go - I'm not sure how to go about than and still get the best deal

kind regards

Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

Wonderful advice from Kt and MacKnee.

I'm not particularly good with itinerary planning, so I'm only going to comment on particulars.

Airline tickets - purchase it directly with the airlines. The number of things that can go wrong, by booking through an agent is too numerous to list. We can help you step by step through the process if you need it. But to break it down, just focus on your return tickets from the UK, then worry about the domestic flights afterwards. If you lock in the domestic flights now, it'll leave you with less flexibility until your itinerary is set.

When searching for flights, look at sites such as www.skyscanner.com and www.matrix.itasoftware.com to compare routes and fares. BUT once you have decided, take that information and book it with the airline direct.

You mentioned a possible consideration of Premium Economy, if so, both Qantas and BA are superb. And BA fly via Singapore - another tick off your list.

Should you need detailed information about the Ghan or the Indian Pacific, please don't hesitate to ask specific questions.

PS. Should you decide to go with BA, don't forget to sign up for Avios points. You'll probably earn enough for a free flight to Europe by the time you get home.

Edited: 04 January 2014, 18:17
Queensland...
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5. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

Just thought I'd add. If you are flexible and can avoid Easter I would - don't underestimate how overly booked and overly priced everything is then.

Personally, I wouldn't go for the 'start in Perth and then train and drive to Cairns' idea. I'd rather 'cherry-pick' the nice bits and fly between. For example, Tassie is a great place for scenery, culture, wildlife, food and wine. I guess (being more of a wildlife/scenery person and not much of a city/highway lover) I'd rather do a week or more there than drive the highways between the major cities which are often not all that scenic.

Broadstairs, United...
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6. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

Thank you for all your comments - I really appreciate your help

The agent who is helping us has had a good first shot at an itinerary - I would be glad of your comments

Arrive Sydney 08.05 28 April Stay Cambridge Hotel Sydney 4 nights

Bridge tour £272

Sydney (Ferry to Manly, Botanical Gardens, Harbour dinner),

Mount n Beach Safari BM02LM £379 x2 1night away includes lunch and breakfast

(This is an overnight trip to the Blue mountains which is expensive and I think we could perhaps do it differently which would suit us better?)

Cambridge Hotel Sydney

Fly Melbourne 12.00 arrive 13.35 Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens 3 nights

Melbourne

Melbourne

(I am thinking we might be better with less time in Melbourne and extend our trip a bit to go to Tasmania and tour for about a week - but is it getting a bit chilly to go to Tasmania in May?)

Melbourne to Alice 08.45 arrives 11.10 stay Chifley Alice Springs 1 night

Escorted tour Intrepid Travel Red Centre safari £535 x 2 camping (looks good - any better suggestions?)

Red Centre

Red centre

Fly Cairns 17.20 arrive 19.55 stay Peppers Beach Club Port Douglas 3 nights

Quicksilver tour 6 hours £276 (not sure about this.....)

Down under Eco tour Daintree Rainforest

Sunlander Train Queenslander Class Sleeper twin from Cairns at 7.15

Arrives Brisbane 13.35

Motorhome rental 8 days Maui May drive to Sydney and home

Is motorhome a good idea for the drive down from Brisbane? Or self drive and hotels?

At present we are stopping off in Singapore on the way down, but I think we might do that on the way back and start the trip 3 days earlier in Australia.

Am leaving out Perth at present with a view to doing top end and Western Australia on another trip?

Melbourne, Australia
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7. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

Again, I'll only comment on the Sydney component;

>>>Cambridge Hotel Sydney 4 nights<<<

Not a bad apartment, the quality is quite good, but a little bit of an odd location. How much is your agent quoting you for this accommodation?

>>>Bridge tour £272<<<

That's about the going rate. But wouldn't you want to wait and see how you feel? Booking it blind without knowing the likely weather or how you're feeling, maybe a little inflexible. Personally I'd wait to book until you arrive.

>>>Sydney (Ferry to Manly, Botanical Gardens, Harbour dinner)<<<

Ferry is a great idea. Harbour dinner? As in restaurant by the Harbour?

>>>Mount n Beach Safari BM02LM £379 x2 1night away includes lunch and breakfast<<<

That comes to roughly $350 per person. For that, you could go up to the Blue Mountains yourself by train, and stay in a luxury 5 star property (Lilianfels), have an elegant dinner and still have £100 left over. Absolutely do it yourself. We can help you book online.

Edit - WAIT - I misread it. £379 x 2 ???? So a total £758? Oh dear. That's almost $700 per person!!! You could do what I suggested with less than half that.

Edited: 06 January 2014, 15:32
Melbourne, Australia
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8. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

My apologies, but I'm going to double post here because I'm in shock.

I just want to confirm what I read, because I maybe misreading the cost of the Mountain/Surf Safari.

You wrote £379 x 2 - so it's £379 per person?

If so, that is what I previously stated, almost AUD$700 per person for a one night mountain and surf safari. It's absurd.

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

I've just crunched some numbers so you can look at some sort of comparison for your accommodation for Sydney and Melbourne. These hotels listed below, start and progressively increase at the same rate as the hotels suggested by your agent;

Hotel suggested by agent for Sydney: Cambridge Hotel Sydney

Others of the same rate on the dates of travel; Swissotel Sydney, Sofitel Wentworth, Meriton Kent St, Meriton Campbell St.

Hotel suggested by agent for Melbourne: Radisson on Flagstaff

Others of the same rates on the dates of travel; Crown Metropol, The Windsor, The Art Series Blackman, The Art Series Olsen

Personally, I would talk about it with the agent, because all the properties I've listed would be considered superior to the ones which have been nominated by your agent - all at the same rate. Or alternately book it yourself.

Edited: 06 January 2014, 16:46
Broadstairs, United...
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10. Re: About a month in April/May 2014

I can't tell you how much I appreciated these replies. No you have not misread the price, it is in punds and is per person - I will certainly be glad to learn how to do it differently and MUCH more economically.

I hadn't thought about the weather for the Bridge Climb - excellent point - we will wait until we get there

I will definitely chat with our agent about the hotels

Many thanks - I will come back and let you know about developments.

What do you think about Tasmania in May? Should I post on a different forum for help on that?

best wishes