Simple Australia Itinerary

Simple Australia Itinerary

Please note that some posts contain links that earn me a small commission to help keep the site running.

Australia is on a lot of people’s short list of places to go…
…but it is huge and can be hard to know where to begin.

You aren’t going to see everything in a single trip to Australia, but you can see a lot of the highlights. With a bit of planning you can put together a trip for whatever time you have that gives you a good look at Down Under.

This post lists some of places to start and how many days to think about spending in each. Use this as a basis to make your perfect personalized itinerary to see Australia.

Australia doesn’t have to be overwhelming

I recently wrote about 6 countries for new travelers, one of which was Australia. This is a great country to visit no matter how much travel experience you have, but it’s especially easy to navigate for those who haven’t done much traveling. You won’t have to worry about a foreign language, and there is so much to do no matter what you’re interested in.

The country is almost the size of the continental US, so you can’t cover it all in a normal vacation, but these are some of the highlights for first time visitors. Pick a couple places and build your Australia itinerary based on how much vacation time you have. Be sure to include time to get to and from Australia, as well as transportation between locations within Australia.

Discover the Land Down Under 728x90

Sydney – 4 to 5 days

As Australia’s most famous city, it’s a great place to start. It’s Australia’s oldest and largest city (but not the capital), and it has plenty to offer for both city and nature lovers.

  • Sydney Opera House – Whether you want to take a tour or just admire its beauty from the outside, this is one landmark not to be missed. My favorite time to see it was as the sun started setting.
  • The Harbour Bridge – You’ll see the bridge near the Opera House. If you’re not scared of heights, consider doing a bridge climb tour.
  • Circular Quay and the Harbour – The energetic port lies in between the Opera House and the Bridge. Take a boat tour or just hop on a commuter ferry for a different view of the Harbour and the city.
  • Beaches – Escape the city for an afternoon by spending some time at any number of beaches.
  • Royal Botanical Gardens – For a slice of nature inside the busy city, take a stroll through these gorgeous gardens.
  • Blue Mountains – Get out into the scenic mountains and forest not far from the city. Plenty of tour operators have day tours to the Blue Mountains.

simple Australia itinerary

Melbourne – 4 to 5 days

Melbourne is a wonderful city to wander around in. It doesn’t have anything similar to the big iconic Opera House in Sydney, but the city has its own great vibe and lots of delicious restaurants. Consider a walking tour of Melbourne to see the highlights.

  • Federation Square – The perfect starting point. Here you will find a tourist office as well as the Ian Potter Centre National Gallery and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
  • Flinders Street train station – Located across the street from Federation Square, this gorgeous building is worth a look even if you’re not taking a train anywhere.
  • Yarra River – The river runs behind Federation Square, and it’s a nice place for a stroll.
  • Bourke Street Pedestrian Mall – This street and the many surrounding it are the place to go for shopping. Not into shopping? Relax on a bench and watch the world go by.
  • Chinatown – I had a hard time choosing a restaurant here because there are so many!
  • Queen Victoria Market – Stop in here for fresh produce, meats and cheeses, or a wide variety of souvenirs. There’s also a small food court.

simple Australia itinerary

Great Ocean Road – 2 days

The Great Ocean Road is a stunning stretch of coastal road that starts not far from Melbourne. You can do this as a day trip, but I highly recommend taking two days to see as much as possible. Plenty of tour operators start in Melbourne, so you don’t have to drive. I took this tour, and I really enjoyed it.

  • 12 Apostles – This is the area’s most famous section for a reason. The view is truly amazing.
  • London Bridge – See a section of rock jutting out into the ocean named for its bridge-like appearance.
  • Beaches – You are on the ocean after all. There are countless beaches along the way. Stop for the scenery or a swim.
  • Forests – Temperate rainforests in the area are great for a different look at what this region has to offer. Search for waterfalls and get a chance to see koalas.

simple Australia itinerary

Uluru (Ayers Rock) – 2 to 3 days

Uluru is located in the remote center of the country. It’s not exactly a quick jaunt from anywhere, but it’s well worth the journey. It will take you longer to get out here, even if you fly, so this is best added to a longer itinerary.

  • Walk around – The rock is massive. Walking around its 5.5 mile (9km) perimeter will take you approximately two hours without stopping for pictures.
  • Please don’t climb! – Some people still do this, but it goes against the aboriginals’ law and culture, so it is very disrespectful to climb the rock. Also, it’s extremely hot and dangerous.
  • Sunset/sunrise – The rock appears to change color during these magical times of day. Don’t miss it!
  • Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) – This is another national park nearby that is also worth a visit. From the right spot, you can actually see some of these rocks from Uluru.
  • BBQ dinner and stargazing – One of the best ways to end the day after exploring Uluru is to enjoy a delicious meal and admire the starlit sky.

simple Australia itinerary

Great Barrier Reef – 3 to 4 days

The Great Barrier Reef is another one of Australia’s iconic tourist attractions. If you enjoy scuba diving or snorkeling, this is the place for you. Since the reef stretches from just below the Tropic of Capricorn all the way up to the northern tip of Queensland, there are several good destinations for ocean fun. This is a tropical area, so you can also visit the nearby tropical rainforest.

simple Australia itinerary


To get in between Melbourne and Sydney, either book a short flight (hour and a half) or you can choose a bus or train option. Going by bus or train will take anywhere from 10 to 14 hours, so be sure to add in an extra day to your itinerary to account for this.

To get to Uluru, the quickest way is to book a flight into the Connelan Airport (AYQ) in the nearby town of Yulara. Direct flights are possible from Sydney (3.5 to 4 hours), but from Melbourne (4 to 6.5 hours) you’ll have to make one stop. Alternatively, fly into Alice Springs which is about a five hour drive away from Ayers Rock.

How you get to the Great Barrier Reef varies greatly depending on which destination you choose. Some, like Cairns, have an airport and it’s about a 2 hour flight. Some locations do not have a local airport, so you will need to rent a car or arrange a transfer from the nearest airport.

If your itinerary involves two major cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, book an open jaw flight to Australia. This way you fly from home to Sydney and then from Melbourne back home. Then you don’t have to backtrack to catch your return flight.


Australia is far away from almost everywhere, so depending on where you’re traveling from, expect the journey to take anywhere from 16 to 40 hours. Follow my jet lag advice in order to minimize down time once you arrive.

Read here for more about transportation in Australia.

simple Australia itinerary

Australia is a huge country. There’s no way to see it all on a two week vacation. Choosing a couple of these places will give you a taste of Australia. Don’t try to cram too much into your itinerary though. Check out this helpful Australia itinerary book for more advice on planning your trip.

Travel slowly so you’ll actually enjoy your trip and you won’t get burnt out. Even consider adding more days to what I suggested. If you haven’t traveled much, this is a great way to get your feet wet. The possibilities are endless, and I certainly couldn’t include everything here, but this Australia itinerary will get you started.

Other Travel Made Simple readers have booked these tours on Viator

Read more about Australia:

Simple Australia Itinerary

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  1. Mindy and Ligeia

    Wow! Fantastic post! Very thorough and easy to use. We haven’t been to Australia yet and your daily itinerary ideas were just terrific. The pictures look so inviting as well.
    Mindy has planned a birthday surprise trip for me and we leave in less than a month. I won’t know where we’ll be going until I get to the airport. Maybe it will be Australia. I’ll keep you informed. πŸ™‚
    Again, congrats on an excellent post! πŸ™‚

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thank you! A birthday surprise trip sounds awesome! Although it would kill me to not know where I’m going, but it sounds like such a great idea. Definitely let me know where you end up going, and happy birthday!

  2. Jennifer

    We haven’t been to Australia yet, and our first trip will give us 2 weeks at the most to explore since we both work full-time. What would you recommend as your top picks if you only had 2 weeks? Also, were you concerned about box jellyfish at all while swimming?

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      It depends on how fast you’re willing to travel and what your interests are. Sydney and Melbourne are both great cities, but you probably want to just pick one. If you’re really into snorkeling or diving, you can’t miss the Great Barrier Reef. If you like hiking, Uluru and the other nearby parks are great, it’s just farther away. If you’re willing to keep a fast pace, you could probably get away with 4 days in Sydney, 4 days in Melbourne, 2 days on the Great Ocean Road, and 2-3 days somewhere along the Reef. Your flights would be reasonably short, but you probably want to schedule really early or really late flights so you don’t waste too many daylight hours in transit. As for the box jellyfish, when I went snorkeling they gave us these thin body suit things to wear. Not as thick as a wetsuit, but enough to protect from any stings. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  3. Franca

    You’re right, it’s impossible to cover the whole Australia in one vacation.
    There are some very good tips here.
    I went to Melbourne years ago for a short holiday and loved it. From there we did few day trips to the Phillip Islands and to the Great Ocean Road.
    I definitely need to go back and explore the rest of the places you mentioned, so much to see!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      I’m so glad you made it to the Great Ocean Road! That’s one of my favorite parts of Australia. Definitely so much to see, and so much more of Australia I want to explore. Thanks Franca!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      I’d love to go to Darwin and Tasmania! There is just so much to see in Australia!

  4. Michael

    Just what I needed. I’ll be going to Melbourne for 2 weeks in March, will definitely check out the places you’ve listed and of course the Formula 1 race on the 17th πŸ™‚

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      That’s great Michael! Have fun, Melbourne is a great city. I hope you have time for the Great Ocean Road, it’s amazing. And enjoy the race!

  5. Chris

    after spending a year in Australia I totally agree – the only addition I’d make would be slotting Byron Bay in there, my favourite place in Oz πŸ™‚

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      I’ve never been to Byron Bay, but I’ve definitely heard good things! It was so hard to stick to even this long list of places. Australia is a great country with loads to do. Thanks Chris!

  6. Laura

    Some really great tips! I’ll be heading off to travel NT and QLD very soon and this is just getting me even more excited! Thanks!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Laura! I hope you have a great trip, I love Australia!

  7. Anchal

    Hi Ali,

    Thanks for sharing such wonderful knowledge. I want to travel the best of australia in 1 month. This is the limited time i have got and i wish to see the maximum of places. it will be very kind if you can help with an itinerary.

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Anchal! Sorry for the delay, you got me right in the middle of moving from one city to another. I’ll send you an email in the next couple days!

      1. Kaylani

        Hi Ali,

        I love your article on this and it’s very helpful. My sister and I are going to travel around Australia in 1 month this coming December. Same like Anchal, we wish to see the maximum of places there. Your help with an itinerary would be highly appreciated. Thank you.

        1. Author
          Ali Garland

          A month in Australia sounds great! I think a month is enough time to hit the highlights and fill in the rest depending on your interests. So if you enjoy cities, spending a lot of time in the Outback might not be the ideal vacation for you, that type of thing. I think that’s your first step, deciding what kinds of activities and settings you enjoy the most. Then you can decide where to go based on that. Personally, I enjoyed a few days in Sydney, a few days in Melbourne, a few days seeing the Great Barrier Reef, and a few days on the Great Ocean Road. I did go see Uluru, but on your time schedule, I’d recommend a few days, not just one like I did. That way you can see the surrounding areas as well. Just remember, it’s a big country! Check out this interview I did with an Australia itinerary expert which includes a link to her itinerary book, which might be helpful to you. Or if you’re interested in having me help you customize a trip, check out my consulting services here: Either way, you will have a great trip to Australia! It’s a wonderful country.

  8. Corinne brown

    Wow this is so helpful, my partner and I are planning our trip to Aus and this is a great start to our planning,! If you could share any more info with me I’d be very grateful we’re looking to go end of this year and we want to go all over with no deadline to end the trip!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Corinne! Australia is such a wonderful and varied country. If you have the time and flexibility, there is so much you can do. Unfortunately I have only ever been able to go for a week or two at a time. If you truly have no deadline (though keep in mind visa restrictions) you should look into either renting a car or campervan, or buying one that you can resell at the end of your trip. Probably best to start in Sydney or Melbourne, and then you can work your way up the east coast or south and west across the south coast, cut up the center to Uluru and eventually Darwin. And really with that much time and flexibility, you’re probably better off not planning too much. Trying to stick to a planned out itinerary for more than a couple weeks gets really exhausting and stressful. Check out They are from Australia and they’re currently traveling around the country (I believe in a campervan of some kind) with their 2 daughters with no end date for the trip. They’re writing about the places they’re visiting and have really great advice for the kind of trip you’re talking about. I hope this helps, but feel free to email me with any questions!

      1. Annette

        Hi Ali,
        I loved the post. Gave me a few pointers to plan our vacation. Truly travel made simple. I am travelling with my family to Australia and will be there for around 4 weeks from April to May. We would be stationed primarily in Sydney where my brother resides. Since i am travelling with my two small kids( aged 4 and 6) I don’t want to cramp in too many things.

        Am planning an itinerary which includes Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Barrier Reef

        Would appreciate your inputs as to the must see places/ must do things there.


        1. Author
          Ali Garland

          Thanks Annette! Sounds like a good idea to not try to do too many things. If you’re going to Melbourne, a side trip to the Great Ocean Road is, in my opinion, a must do. If you have your own car there, spread it out over a few days, but if not, I’d recommend finding a tour that’s at least 2 days/1 night. I think it’s too much to do on a day trip. As for the Great Barrier Reef, there are so many options. I went to Cairns, which might be one of the less expensive options, but I’ve also heard wonderful things about the Whitsunday Islands. Cairns is closer to the reef itself. The Australia Zoo in Brisbane claims to be the home of the Crocodile Hunter, and I’m sure your kids would love it. With 4 weeks you should have plenty of flexibility to decide a few days ahead of time on most things. If you have any other questions, let me know!


    Hi Ali,

    Thanks for the wonderful post. I am planning a 4 week vacation during X’mas 2014 with my wife and little girl….What seasonal event do you recommend I cover.

    Also is there a 4 week trip itinerary that you have published. Could you share that with me as well?


    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Jitendra, I don’t have a specific 4 week itinerary published, but I can certainly give you some ideas. I will email you, that’ll be easier.

  10. Barry Bakner

    Hello Ali: Question for you. We plan to fly from San Francisco to Honolulu in February and depart Honolulu in early March to fly to AU for a one month visit there. I’ve noted your recommendations, and very much appreciate your guidance. My main question pertains to airline arrangements. If we fly into Sydney or Melbourne from Honolulu and follow your recommendations on days to spend in different areas, just curious if best to go with a fixed air pass schedule, or to fly loose and book trips out of Sydney or Melbourne to get around to Cairns, possibly Ululu, possibly Perth. Is there a way to get an open ended air pass to enable flexibility flying city to city? Any recommendations or suggestions most appreciated.

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Barry! Qantas has this air pass: It should save you money if you’re going to book multiple flights within Australia, and you have to book in conjunction with a Qantas or American Airlines international flight to/from the US. It does look like you still have to pick your dates ahead of time, so it’s not really getting you any extra flexibility, just hopefully some cost savings. If you want to stay flexible, I don’t think this pass is a good option since change fees will add up quickly.

      I did a quick look at a few routes on JetStar to see what prices looked like if I pick a date just a few days out, and it wasn’t so bad depending on the route. More frequently used routes like Sydney to Cairns were less than AU$150 one way. Anything involving Uluru gets a little tricky because it looks like some routes don’t have flights every day, so you might want to nail that piece down ahead of time, plus flights in and out of Uluru can get really expensive since it’s such a popular and remote place.

      I personally love to travel with flexibility, and a month is a good timeframe for that. But it does come with the risk of paying more for last-minute flights. You can get direct flights to/from a lot of different cities in Australia, which does make things easier, so you don’t have to book everything in/out of Sydney or Melbourne. You can fly Perth to Uluru to Cairns, for example.

      This might be information overload, but here are some suggestions I emailed to someone else recently:

      I think about 5 days in Sydney and 5 days in Melbourne would be great. They’re both fun cities with lots to do and see. As for the rest of your month, you could take a little longer along the Great Ocean Road. If you’re going to Uluru, spend a few extra days out there as well. There are lots of other beautiful areas to see besides just Uluru itself:

      The entire east coast of Australia is packed with things to do. Brisbane is a great city where you could spend a few more days. Here’s a guest post a friend wrote for my site about Brisbane and southeastern Queensland:

      And another post about Perth:

      I could easily see 2 weeks between Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. Plus 4 or 5 days at Uluru and the surrounding areas. Plus a week or so along the east coast to enjoy some beach time, see the Great Barrier Reef and Brisbane. Then back to Sydney or Melbourne for your flight home. If you’re not much of a beach person, consider touring Darwin, Alice Springs and then down to Uluru for some extra time in the Outback. Remember to account for the time it takes to get from one city to the next. Flying between Sydney and Melbourne is pretty quick, but out to Uluru is several hours.

      I hope this helps Barry, and please feel free to email me if you have any other questions!

  11. Marco


    Great suggestions

    Wonder what you think about our idea flying into CNS or Melbourne and will be in Oz for 2 weeks. In CNS(Port Douglas) for 3-4 days, then Melbourne 2 days and add to that 2 days great Ocean road, then perhaps The Rock 1 day and the rest in Sydney. Still on the fence about the rock πŸ™‚

    Also in regards to flights is it something that people book seperate and not part of their booking.

    Thanks for any input πŸ™‚

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Marco! I don’t know where you’re flying from, but you might be better off starting with Melbourne rather than Cairns just because of the flight connections. You could spend a few days in Melbourne and then the Great Ocean Road. Then from there fly to Uluru. The airport is AYQ. (The rock is pretty impressive, but it’s a long way to go. If you’re feeling like your schedule is too rushed, that would be the one to cut, simply because it takes so long to get out there and back.) Then fly to Cairns to get to Port Douglas. From there, down to Sydney for the rest of your trip. So if I were you, I’d book into Melbourne and out of Sydney (or vice versa).

      I personally booked my internal flights separate from my international flights when I went to Australia. There are a few airlines inside of Australia you probably wouldn’t be able to connect with your international flights, unless you plan on flying Qantas for every leg. Unfortunately the only way to determine what’s the cheapest way is to play around with different combinations on booking sites. Start by putting in every flight you want in a multi-city option on either or one of the other booking engines like Expedia, and then you can use that as a base price. Then see if you can save money by booking your international flights on one itinerary and your internal hops on Jetstar, Virgin Blue, Tiger, or Qantas.

      Keep in mind the time you will lose every time you switch cities, including time zone changes. Add at least three hours (if not more) to every flight to account for getting to the airport, being there ahead of time, and getting through once you land. Again, this is probably the biggest negative to going to Uluru. Plus, assuming you’re coming from North America, you lose a day getting to Australia just by crossing the international date line. So if you leave LAX Thursday night, you land in Melbourne Saturday morning. Make sure that’s all factored into your two weeks.

      I hope this helps, but feel free to email me if you have any other questions! And enjoy your trip to Australia!

      1. Marco

        Thanks so much, I will be coming from Europe. First staying a few days in Hong Kong then continue to Australia. Some recommended to fly first to CNS since its further up, however the direct flight from Hong Kong is not cheap so will do Melbourne first.

        The Uluru is kind of wish by partner but we might drop it. The Stops Melbourne, CNS, Sydney in 2 weeks is that enough you would recon or perhaps a place like Adelaide or Canberra can be thrown into the mix.

        The plan at the moment for Sunday+2 weeks:
        Fly into Melbourne (Sunday morning)
        Tuesday-Great Ocean Road
        Wednesday fly to CNS
        Monday fly to Sydney, plan to go to the Blue mountains to spend a day there.
        Sunday fly home.

        Also without a car, with Melbourne and some organized trip on great Ocean road be managble?

        1. Author
          Ali Garland

          Yeah, Cairns isn’t a big airport, so it doesn’t surprise me the flights aren’t great.

          Honestly, I think you may have too little time for the Melbourne/Great Ocean Rd part and a bit too much on the Sydney part. You’ve left yourself a day and a half in Melbourne and a day on the Great Ocean Rd, but 5 – 5 1/2 days in Sydney. Even if you book a nonstop flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne, that’s still 9+ hours just in the air. I’d add a day or two to the Melbourne/Great Ocean Rd part of your trip and subtract from Sydney so they’re closer to even on number of days. That’ll give you a chance to catch your breath when you land in Australia, and you’ll actually have time to see the city while still leaving plenty of time for Sydney and the Blue Mountains. If you leave your schedule as is, I’m sure you’ll be fine, I’m just not sure how much of Melbourne you’ll actually see.

          You don’t need a car, no worries about that. Sydney and Melbourne have decent public transportation. I did a 2 day Great Ocean Rd tour (stayed overnight somewhere along the way) through that I really enjoyed. Small group, the guide/owner picked us up from our hotels and drove us to various points along the way with loads of info and plenty of time for photos. There are day tours (though his company or any number of others) but they sounded rushed to me. If you really only want to do a day trip, find one that leaves early and gets back late, and just know that you’ll be exhausted by the end of it. I don’t think it’s worth renting a car and driving yourself anyway because then whoever is driving doesn’t get much chance to actually see anything. It probably works for a longer road trip when you can go slower, but for a day or two, better to take a tour and have someone else worry about the driving and logistics.

          I also did a day trip to the Blue Mountains through a tour company, though I arranged it at the hostel I was staying at and I don’t remember the name of the company. You can Google some companies if you want to book ahead, but Australia is prepared for tourists and if you try to set it up as soon as you get to Sydney and you’re flexible about the exact day, you should be fine.

          I think you have plenty to do without squeezing in Adelaide or Canberra. I haven’t been to either, but from my experience traveling in Australia, you don’t want to go too fast or try to see too many places. You really do lose a lot of time each time you change locations. And though I’ve heard good things about both places, they don’t seem to wow people the way Melbourne, Sydney and the reef do. If you do end up going to Uluru, I’d recommend putting it between Melbourne and Cairns to minimize travel time.

          Let me know if I can help with anything else!

          1. Marco


            Thanks again for replying, really grateful and wish I had time to plan this earlier (tend to do last minute things)

            Just booked our flights, coming into Melbourne on a Sunday and flying back 2 weeks later.

            For Ayers rock still kind of on the list the flights are not very cheap, return from Melbourne is cheaper than one way to CNS.

            For Cairns, I have read that Port Douglas is the best place to stay.

            thanks again


          2. Author
            Ali Garland

            Sounds great Marco! Yes, the flights to Ayers Rock do tend to be pricey. And staying out there is expensive too. One company owns all the accommodations, from the luxury resort down to the campgrounds, so even the cheap options aren’t as cheap as you’d think for what it is. That said, it is an amazing sight, so it’s a tough call. I haven’t been to Port Douglas, but I have heard really wonderful things, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Have a great trip!

  12. Carol

    We are going to Sydney on Nov 9 (arrive Nov 11), to pick up our daughter after her semester abroad at U of Sydney. We will leave from sydney on Nov 25. We plan to stay 4 days in Sydney, and she has pretty much picked out the sites for there. The question is what are our ‘must sees’ for the other days. My husband would like to spend 6-7 days in New Zealand (not sure north or south island..but this isn’t the place for that question ;), so that leaves us 3-4 days for one more stop in australia. we are looking at flying to the great barrier reef. We were thinking of Cairns but my daughter just heard about Whitsunday. Any thoughts? we would probably fly in from Sydney. we want to see the scenery and culture of Australia, but will not go diving and at most one time scuba.

    Would you recommend Whitsunday or Cairns, and with that, which area to look for a hotel in? Or would you suggest a different area of Australia?

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Carol! Sounds like a great trip! I went to Cairns, but I’ve heard SUCH good things about the Whitsunday Islands. I think that might be the better choice. Cairns was nice, but it’s really just a jumping off point for boat trips to the reef. I feel like the Whitsundays would be a better place to stay and really enjoy, and it’s supposed to be gorgeous. I also really loved the Great Ocean Road, outside of Melbourne.

      My thoughts on New Zealand – See where you can get a direct flight to, and go from there. If you can get a direct flight from Australia to Queenstown, maybe do a Milford Sound cruise. (I did an overnight one and LOVED it.) Then maybe you could go up to see the glaciers. Or fly to Auckland and split your time between there and Rotorua. Just a thought!

      Have a great trip, and let me know if you have any other questions!

  13. Pritha Chakrabarty

    Hey Ali,

    This is such a lovely and informative post. I’ll be visiting Australia in March next year and have 16 full days at hand. I’ll start from Melbourne and plan to cover Sydney, Gold Coast, Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and hopefully Tasmania, if possible. Is this at all feasible or too ambitious a project? Can you suggest necessary alterations?

    Thanks so much! πŸ™‚

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      I really think that’s way too much for 16 days. Keep in mind just how much time you’ll lose every time you go from one location to the next. You lose a half to a full day in transit. Australia is a BIG country. My suggestion is to decide on 3, 4 places tops, that are really important to you, and cut the rest. Let me know if you have more questions!

  14. emilie

    Dear Ali, I really enjoyed article so much that I decided right after reading it to go Australia and I booked some flights yesterday. May I kindly ask you can you give me some tips re tours in the different areas? we are going to Sydney on the 27 of Dec (arriving in the morning) and stay in Sydney until the evening of the 30th of Dec. 15 then we will head for Cairns for 4 days. On the 4th early morning we go to Yulara and stay there for 2 days before heading to Melbourne and having 2,5 days there, where we want to go on the Great Ocean Road for one day and see Melbourne on the two others. What tour would you recommend at the Uluru and what would you recommend in Cairns?? I am travelling with my 12 year old son so it should be lots of fun for him too.. thank you so much in advance for your kind assistance!!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Emilie! I didn’t do too many tours while I was in Australia, but I highly recommend this one for a Great Ocean Road tour from Melbourne: I took a two day tour with them and loved it. Lots of great info and we saw a lot of different places along the way. The tour I took in Cairns was more aimed at 20-something backpackers, so I’m not sure it would be a good fit for a 12 year old. And I didn’t take a tour in Uluru. Start with the tourism boards for those regions and see what tours appeal to you. Try,,, Also, check out the book Your Australia Itinerary, for which you can find more info here: And if you’ve already booked hotels, get in touch with them. Often they know which tour companies are good to work with in their area and they can help set you up.

  15. Priyanka Agarwal

    This post is really helpful, very simple and straight advice. That’s what new traveler require mostly. I am planning a month long to australia in November from India. One of my friend stays in Melbourne so would fly IN & OUT from there but want to make maximum out from this 1st trip. I am more of a backpacker, who really wants to see the country through road & do as many number of locals tours.
    Would you please advise 1 or 2 places more for me.


    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      A month in Australia sounds great! I think it really depends on your interests. If you really enjoy the beach, you could spend the whole time going up and down the east coast and probably not get bored – Brisbane and lots of other nearby towns are a good starting point (read more here: If you go to Cairns, look into a company called Uncle Brian’s. I did a rain forest tour with them that was a lot of fun. I was almost 30 years old at the time and one of the oldest people on the tour, so keep that in mind. I don’t know how old you are, but if you consider yourself a backpacker, you’d probably enjoy the tour. (I took that waterfall picture in this post while on that tour.) You could consider going west from Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road towards Adelaide. There are tons of tours that go that way and stop along the way. You could explore the Outback on a tour between Darwin and Uluru.

      If you don’t plan on flying within Australia, or at least not too much, it might be worthwhile for you to research some of these places to decide where you might want to go, but wait until you get to Australia to talk to the tour companies and book things. They are sooooo used to travelers, so I think you’d get a better idea of what your options are for day tours and longer tours. Plus it gives you some flexibility to decide on a whim if you want to leave somewhere earlier or stay somewhere longer.

      I hope this helps, but let me know if you have any other questions!

      1. Priyanka Agarwal

        Thnks Ali..

        Was very helpful. Will definitely follow your advise and wait for most of the bookings till i get there. Since i would anyways be staying at my friends’s place initially so would have ample time to do the bookings.

  16. Rod


    We are planning a two week vacation in August 2016. Your posts have been incredibly helpful and hoping you can help. The places we really want to see in order of priority are Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, Kangaroo Island and Uluru. I know that may be one too many possible locations in 2 weeks and we really can’t extend our stay. Do you have any advice on what order and length of time to spend in each area?


    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Rod! I always recommend that people travel slow so they don’t get too exhausted to enjoy where they are. BUT I completely understand you want to see and do as much as possible with your limited vacation time. I don’t think you have too many locations on your list, as long as you’re willing to fly from one to the next. Sydney is probably the easiest to fly into, so you could start there. If you’re not too picky about exactly where along the Great Barrier Reef, consider going to Cairns. It’s not the most exciting town, but it’s one of the closest spots to the reef itself, which makes it easy to get on a boat and see the reef, whether you want to go scuba diving, snorkeling, or do some other kind of boat tour. There are other places along the reef that are prettier, but they don’t have such good flight connections. You can fly nonstop from Sydney to Cairns and from Cairns to Uluru (AYQ). Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there are nonstop flights from Uluru to Adelaide, so your flight will most likely connect through Melbourne or Sydney. From Adelaide, you have to get to the port and take a ferry to Kangaroo Island. I’ve never been there, so I don’t have much advice for things to do, but with limited time, a tour might be helpful. This one looks good, but there are certainly others:

      As far as how much time to spend in each place, it really depends on what kinds of things you enjoy doing. From your list, it seems like nature is a little more important to you than city time. But you also want to allow for some jet lag time when you first arrive. Maybe you could spend 3 days in Sydnay, 3 days in Cairns (or wherever you decide) for the Great Barrier Reef, 2 days at Uluru, and 3 days for Adelaide/Kangaroo Island. You’ll need a day to get from Uluru to Adelaide because it looks like it takes roughly 6 hours or so for the flights, and when you add in the time to get to the airport and all that, you’re really losing the whole day. That puts you at 12 days, and your remaining 2 days will partly be for travel time, and maybe add them to whichever place interests you more. Or give yourself an extra day back in Sydney before your flight home. Just make sure you’re looking at how much time you’ll *really* have in each location when booking flights.

      I hope this helps! Have a great trip!

      1. Rod

        Ali, I can’t thank you enough for your advice and help. You quick response will save me hours of research. Thank you!!!

  17. Neha

    Hi Ali, I am travelling to Australia for 15 days. I am planning for 5 days Sydney (including Blue Mountains), 2 days Uluru, 3 days Cairns, 3 days Melbourne (including 1 day for Great Ocean Road). I would appreciate your suggestions. Thanks!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Neha! That actually doesn’t sound so bad. It depends on what your interests are, if you have specific things you want to do in Sydney that make you want so much more time there vs in Melbourne. I honestly loved my 2 day Great Ocean Road tour because there’s a lot to see and it felt like a lot to squeeze into one day. But one day is better than none! In Uluru, try to do the sunset, sunrise, or even both. It’s really gorgeous! In Cairns, look into Uncle Brian’s rain forest tour. I had so much fun on that tour, though it was mostly a 20something crowd, so keep that in mind if that kind of thing is important to you.

      Make sure you’re accounting for travel time from one location to the next. You’ll lose a few hours or even most of your day each time you change locations, plus the hours you lose because of the time zone change between Uluru and your other destinations. So just make sure you’re really getting the amount of time you want in each place. Remember that it’s not just the 2 hour (or however long) flight, it’s getting to the airport an hour or so ahead of time, getting off the plane, getting luggage, and getting to and from the airports. So a 2 hour flight really takes closer to 5 hours.

      Feel free to email me if you have any other questions, and enjoy your trip!

  18. Jenny Llewellyn

    Hi, I’ve read a lot of the questions and answers regarding a trip to Oz and they are very informative. I’m planning a trip with my husband and two boys (aged 8 & 10) at Christmas for 2 weeks. My husband has family in Melbourne so we are planning on flying into Melbourne from Delhi (hoping for a direct flight as already got to fly from Jaipur to Delhi) spend maybe 2 days, 3 nights in Melbourne, hopefully visit the Blue mountains, then drive to Sydney for New Year’s Eve. Spend 2-3 days in Sydney then I was hoping to fly up to Cairns and do some reef snorkelling and checking out the beautiful beeches.

    Three questions I have are…..
    1. Is it risky going to Cairns and trying to do reef/beech stuff in December? I’ve discovered it’s the beginning of the wet season then.
    2. should we meander along the north coast instead of flying all the way from Sydney to see some more of the coastline beauty spots, then maybe fly from Brisbane
    3. Alternatively should we meander along the east coast north of Sydney and forget trying to do the reef at that time of year?

    Any advice appreciated as I can’t book flights until I’ve sorted the itinerary and it’s proving difficult not knowing whether to keep the reef in the agenda.

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Jenny! You mentioned Melbourne and the Blue Mountains…the Blue Mountains are near Sydney, not Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road is near Melbourne, and I *highly* recommend it.

      Also, Melbourne to Sydney is a pretty long drive. With only two weeks, it might be better to fly instead of driving so you don’t lose an entire day.

      I don’t think it’s risky to go to the Reef in December. Rainy season doesn’t mean nonstop rain. I was there in March, which is towards the end of rainy season, and it was fine. Really humid, but fine. Check out this link for a little more info about the seasons. It sounds like it’s mostly afternoon rain or thunderstorms. That might mean going to the beach earlier in the day, but it’s the tropics, so it’s warm all year round.

      I think there are plenty of worthwhile places to see along the east coast: Brisbane and Gold Coast just to name a few. That said, with only 2 weeks, you don’t have a lot of time for meandering given the distances. I could see spending 3 days in Melbourne, a day or two at the Great Ocean Road, 3 days in Sydney, 3 days in Cairns, and a couple days in Brisbane, but probably best if you’re flying from one city to the next.

      If you’re really concerned about whether or not it’s a good time of year to see the Reef, I’d recommend contacting some tour companies or snorkeling companies and asking them what the conditions are like in December.

      I hope this helps, and enjoy your trip!

  19. deirdre harbison

    Hello, I am trying to organise a mixed trip. our daughter is working in Perth. We plan to fly from europe to Perth arriving on Tue or Wed. Our daughter starts her two weeks holidays on the Friday. She must be back two weeks from the Sunday. My Husband will have approx 3 weeks holidays from our departure date in Ireland so he would be returning from Australia the Mon/Tues after the end of our daughters holiday. We currently hope to visit the Reef, the Rainforest area, Sydney and, if time allows, Melbourne. Could you advise us on approx numbers of days we would need in each area ? My husband will fly home from Sydney or Melbourne depending on where we are at that time. I will be staying on for a further two/three weeks in Perth with our daughter. Thank you in advance for any advice you might be able to give me. I am anxious to get flights booked but cannot fix an intinerary in my head !

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Hi Deirdre! Two weeks sounds like a good amount of time. A lot of it depends on the types of activities you enjoy, but I think you could easily spread those two weeks out between Sydney, Melbourne, and someplace on the reef. You could do an even split: 4 days in Sydney, 4 days in Melbourne, 4 days up north in the rainforest area, using that as a jumping off point for the reef. There are plenty of towns along the east coast that serve as a base for trips out to the reef. I stayed in Cairns, which isn’t the prettiest, but it’s one of the more popular ones because the reef is closest to the shore. And from there, you’d have easy access to some rainforest tours. Or you could choose someplace like the Whitsunday Islands to see the reef, and go see the rainforest separately. In that case, maybe 3 days on the islands, 2 days at the rainforest, and then split the remaining days between Sydney and Melbourne. When you’re in Melbourne, I highly recommend going out to see the Great Ocean Road. I took a 2 day tour, but there are 1 day tours if you don’t want an overnight. It was my favorite part of Australia, so so gorgeous! Also, when planning your transport from one city to the next, I’d recommend booking flights either early in the morning or in the evening, that way you aren’t losing too much of your day to transportation. I hope this helps, and have a great time in Australia!

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