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Exploring Australia: 2, 3 or 4 Weeks, the Best of the Land Down Under
As such a vast country with a wealth of things to see and do, it can be difficult to plan an itinerary that will allow you to experience many of Australia’s highlights. A guided tour is generally the best way to get the most out of a trip to the Land Down Under, which is why we’ve put together these top options based on various timeframes to choose from that makes the most sense for you, including two-, three- and four-week options.
Begin in Melbourne, the ‘cultural capital’ and the second largest city in Australia, located along Port Phillip Bay. Take a guided walking tour of the highlights and then enjoying exploring on your own. One of the world’s top foodie destinations, delve into the scene that includes everything from cheap and tasty street fare to fine dining on just about every type of cuisine from around the world. There are countless shopping venues, world-class museums, art galleries and theatres to enjoy as well. You might want to make time for a day trip to Phillip Island to watch the famous penguins waddle their way to nesting sites.
Fly into Alice Springs where you’ll be able to visit the Flying Doctor Service to find out how it helps people traveling through the Outback followed by the School of the Air which provides education to children living in this remote area. In the evening head to the Earth Sanctuary Nature Centre for one of its home-cooked BBQ dinners that can be enjoyed while listening to interesting talks on astronomy, ecology and the local culture.
Ayers/Uluru Rock and The Olgas
Head to Ayers Rock Resort, enjoying the scenery that includes the James and West McDonnell mountain ranges along the way. Once there, take advantage of the wealth of facilities and then prepare to visit Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru Rock, one of Australia’s most photographed wonders, at sunset. You’ll be able to take in the dramatic changing colours over the massive red monolith while sipping sparkling wine and enjoying canapes. Then, marvel at the “rock” once again at sunrise before touring the caves at the base and exploring the visitor centre. Next, travel to The Olgas for a walk through Walpa Gorge, capping it all off with a sunset, sparkling wine and a snack.
Before flying to Cairns, take part in a dot painting workshop with local Aboriginal artists and learn about the Anangu culture, bringing home your own completed piece as a unique souvenir.
Choose your adventure today in the pretty city of Cairns. Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures offers close encounters with the native wildlife, or you might embark on a scenic rail journey through the rainforest in Kuranda. Another option is to visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park to learn about the ancient culture through a dance performance, fire-making demonstrations, theatre and more.
An exciting experience awaits the following day: a catamaran cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll have the opportunity to snorkel among the colourful fish and vibrant coral or explore it via a semi-submersible vessel and then learn more about your surroundings while enjoying a tropical buffet on board.
Flying to Sydney in the afternoon, enjoy an evening at your leisure, perhaps dinner followed by a stroll around the iconic harbour. In the morning join a full day of sightseeing that includes the city’s mot popular highlights followed by a visit to world-famous Bondi Beach. A lunch cruise will bring you around the harbour for a different perspective of the capital. You might want to save the evening for a performance at the famed Sydney Opera House.
Take another day to enjoy some of the top attractions in the city and surrounding area, perhaps a trip to the verdant Blue Mountains renowned for its steep gorges that are often enveloped in a blue haze due to the eucalyptus oil evaporating from the trees. Marvel at the Three Sisters rock formations and cuddle up to a koala at Featherdale Wildlife Park. In Sydney, the adventurous may want to enjoy a special grand finale - a thrilling climb on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Begin your three-week trip with a trip from the capital city to Hunter Valley, the oldest commercial wine-producing region in the country, dating back to the 1860s. Enjoy an exclusive wine tasting and lunch at a local winery before heading north to Port Macquarie.
The Gold Coast
Continue north toward the Gold Coast, one of the top beach holiday destinations in Australia, stopping at Cape Byron Lighthouse where you’ll be mesmerized by the view from the easternmost point in the country. Byron Bay makes an ideal stop for lunch with its beautiful beaches and laid-back bohemian ambiance. Save the evening for sampling the fare in one of the restaurants or cafes in the Gold Coast area, perhaps visiting the Hinterland first to experience the striking beauty of the rainforest via the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.
Make your way toward Noosa, stopping in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland for a city tour before visiting the Australia Zoo and its wildlife hospital, a destination made famous by the late Crocodile Hunter himself, Steven Irwin, and his family. You’ll get to see a wide range of animals before going for a swim at the beach and embarking on a boat excursion through the everglades, ending the day by dining with an ocean view.
Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island
Journey on to Rainbow Beach for a four-wheel drive tour of some of the best beaches in all of Australia. Then hop on the ferry or barge to Fraser Island to take a stroll through the ancient rainforest before visiting Lake McKenzie, jumping in to be immersed in the surreal, brilliant blue clear waters, stepping across the perfectly soft bottom, made up of powdery white silica sands. Overnight in Hervey Bay, often called the jewel in Queensland’s crown.
Lanmorn Station and Rockhampton
Travel toward Rockhampton with a stop at Lanmorn Station. At this fully operational cattle station, you’ll sip afternoon tea in the 1873 homestead which hosts its own pet kangaroo. Historic Rockhampton on the Fitzroy River will be your home for the night.
Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island
Make your way to Airlie Beach this morning for a guided tour through a miniature sugar mill. You’ll learn about the process of sugar cane production, tasting included, along with a light lunch. Airlie Beach is your departure point - take the ferry Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Islands, the perfect spot for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll be able to cruise to Whitehaven Beach, often named among or at the top of lists of the world’s most stunning stretches of pristine sands. The afternoon on Hamilton will be yours to enjoy at your own pace, relaxing while gazing out at the breath-taking scenery or getting active by kayaking, snorkelling or a rainforest walk.
Mission Beach, The Great Barrier Reef and Cairns
Returning to the mainland, enjoy lunch in Townsville, walking it off with a walk on The Strand with its gorgeous views overlooking Magnetic Island before overnighting in oceanfront accommodation in Mission Beach. The morning will bring you to the rainforest village Kuranda with stops along the way to enjoy a magnificent waterfall and the Curtain Fig Tree. Ride the cableway for a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest over Barron Gorge National Park.
An extraordinary experience awaits from Cairns: A close encounter with the Great Barrier Reef. Cruise out onto the water in a high-speed catamaran while learning about it through a reef education presentation, and then view the colourfish and coral from an underwater observatory. Jump in to snorkel among the incredible world below the water’s surface and then fill your appetite with a tropical buffet lunch before returning to Cairns.
Uluru and The Olgas
Fly to Uluru, with the looming monolith one of the most famous symbols of Australia and its red rock country. Gather around it with some sparkling wine and canapes to experience one of the world’s most glorious sunsets with the colours of the sky transforming its appearance underneath the changing light. Morning brings the chance to marvel at it during the sunrise before touring the base, learning about the flora and fauna in the area as well as the history of the rock itself.
Afterwards, visit the Mutitjulu Waterhole where they say if you listen carefully you can hear the sounds of the beginning of time. Then, check out Aboriginal art in the Tjuta Cultural Centre just before watching the sunset among the fiery-hued dome-shaped rocks known as the Kata Tjuta.
Kings Canyon and Alice Springs
Travel to Kings Canyon enjoying sights along the way like Kings Street Station before walking around the spectacular canyon to enjoy the views of Watarrka National Park. In the morning, venture to Alice Springs, one of the most famous outback towns in Australia and a hub of the country’s pioneer history. Get a glimpse of its past at the historic Telegraph Station and take in the view of the endless desert landscape from Anzac Hill.
Before leaving you’ll have the opportunity to visit Alice Springs Desert Park with an expert guide to learn about local Aboriginal culture, visit the Royal Doctor Service and the Nocturnal House. A delicious BBQ feast and entertainment awaits in the evening at the Earth Sanctuary World Nature Centre.
Tenant Creek, Katherine Gorge and Kakadu National Park
Journey on to Tenant Creek, stopping to see the School of Air to learn how kids are educated in this remote area of tiny villages and isolated cattle stations across the Northern Territory and beyond. Wander around the unique Devils Marbles, massive granite boulders dotted across the valley, and visit a historic gold mining town as you continue north toward Katherine. Take a refreshing dip in Mataranka’s crystal-clear thermal springs pool with its sandy bottom to cap off your day, and in the morning, embark on a cruise through Katherine Gorge, watching for the Aboriginal art and abundant wildlife along the way. Another cruise in Kakadu National Park brings the opportunity to see freshwater crocodiles and a variety of birdlife.
The final destination of this incredible three-week journey brings you on a guided walking tour, climbing just over 800 feet to Nadab Look at the top of Ubirr a little over 800 feet to Nadab Lookout to see Aboriginal rock art along with jaw-dropping scenic views. Enjoy time to explore the tropical city of Darwin independently, a vibrant multicultural destination with its Waterfront precinct in the heart of the city featuring a swimming lagoon and wave pool surrounded by laid-back cafes, bars, seafood eateries and shops. Enjoy dinner at the Mindel Beach Sunset Market as you watch the sun go down over the Timor Sea.
On your last full day, head to Litchfield National Park to view Wangi Falls and then jump into the tranquil crystal-clear pool for a swim before enjoying a sunset cruise in Darwin Harbour.
Kick off a four-week tour of a lifetime in Australia’s capital with a half-day of sightseeing, taking in iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House, and then enjoying a relaxing evening on a dinner cruise through Sydney Harbour.
The Gold Coast
Fly to the Gold Coast, one of the country’s most popular beach destinations, spending a couple of days enjoying its many delights like Cape Byron and its picturesque lighthouse. The headland juts out into the Pacific providing unsurpassed views of turquoise Byron Bay and pristine white sand beaches. Don’t miss strolling the two-mile stretch of Surfers Paradise Beach – it truly lives up to its name - before its time to head out.
Travel north toward Noosa, making a stop at one of the region’s most renowned attractions, the Australia Zoo, made famous for the late Steve Irwin, A.K.A. ‘Crocodile Hunter.’ Enjoy all sorts of animal encounters with native Australian species, including opportunities to feed kangaroos, before dining by the sea and overnighting in the beautiful resort town of Noosa.
From Hervey Bay, hop on a cruise to Fraser Island, the largest sand island on the planet, located at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. Discover its highlights and hidden gems on a half-day tour. Afterward, you’ll have time on your own to explore the island’s 75 miles of beach, aptly named Seventy Five Mile Beach, as well as beautiful lakes, including Lake McKenzie which sits high in the dunes. There are miles and miles of trails to walk, leading through ancient forests and along the multi-coloured sand cliffs. Watch for wildlife like dingoes on land and migrating whales offshore along the way.
Rockhampton and Hamilton Island
Catch the ferry back to Hervey Bay and make your way to one of Australia’s oldest cities, Rockhampton, which dates back to 1853. It’s a fun place to stroll, lined with historic architecture. From here travel to Airlie Beach where you’ll journey by ferry to Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Islands, a quintessential tropical paradise. Lounge on some of the world’s most stunning white beaches and perhaps hop into the crystal-clear azure sea for a swim.
Mission Beach, The Great Barrier Reef and Cairns
Head back to the mainland by ferry, traveling to Townsville before arriving to Mission Beach where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Wet Tropics Rainforest. Enjoy the night at beachfront, complete with a secluded rainforest swimming area. Two nights in Cairns is next on the agenda, starting with a visit to Millaa Millaa Falls, magnificent cascades that are surrounded by lush rainforest, and one of the largest trees in Tropical North Queensland, the Curtain Fig Tree. From the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, you’ll take in an incredible bird’s-eye view over the canopy of trees.
In the morning hop on a high-speed catamaran for a Reef Magic Cruise to take advantage of exclusive access to a spectacular coral reef and a remarkable array of diverse marine life. The evening brings a fascinating cultural experience which includes an Aboriginal Dinner and performance.
Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon
Hop on a flight to Alice Springs, and from there, head to Uluru, traveling over the West MacDonnell Ranges. Stop for a visit to a camel farm that includes an optional ride on one of the humpbacked animals. Once at Uluru, the iconic fiery monolith that’s one of Australia’s most famous symbols, you’ll take a tour of the base of the rock and watch an amazing sunset over red rock country while sipping wine. Morning brings a fabulous sunrise over Uluru before a visit to the rock domes of Kata Tjuta. Walk to picturesque Walpa Gorge before traveling to Kings Canyon, forged over hundreds of millions of years through layers of sandstone and hard shale that have resulted in the towering domes and plateaus, spilling to an oasis with natural rock pools surrounded by vibrant orange cliffs and all sorts of native flora. You’ll be able to take two guided walks here before returning to Alice Springs for your next flight to Melbourne.
Melbourne, Daylesford and The Grampians
Once in Melbourne, look forward to delving into the city’s famous food scene for dinner, continuing your explorations of the wide array of gastronomic delights tomorrow. Take a guided tour to check out the street art, shops and more, before making your way to the spa town of Daylesford where you’ll relax in the soothing warm waters and dine at an award-winning restaurant. In the morning, enjoy a stroll through the enchanting Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens and then venture just north to Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm to savour fresh-baked scones drizzled with lavender honey paired with morning tea. An exclusive guided tour of Creswick Woollen Mills is on order next followed by a visit to the Museum of Australian Democracy. End the day in the scenic Southern Grampians, surrounded by wildlife, wildflowers and sandstone mountains.
The morning brings you to Hall’s Gap and the Brambuk Cultural Centre where you’ll watch a welcome to country ceremony, learn how to throw a boomerang (taking instruction from the local experts) and gather local bush tucker, all surrounded by gorgeous Grampians views. Afterwards, travel to the coast of Warrnambool where you’ll enjoy dinner and a show.
Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell and Lorne
Today brings one of the country’s most stunningly scenic drives. You’ll travel along the coast enjoying endless views of golden beaches and rock formations sculpted by the waves and the wind, like London Bridge, the Arch and the Twelve Apostles. Stop to dine on lunch with ocean views in Port Campbell where you can even opt for a sightseeing flight to take in the jaw-dropping scenery from above before spending the night in the seaside town of Lorne.
In the morning, journey to Torquay which marks the end of the Great Ocean Road, to learn about the country’s surf culture in its surfing capital – it’s home to some of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches. Enjoy lunch and wine tasting at a highly-acclaimed vineyard then hop on a ferry to the Green Olive Farm in Queenscliff for a fun and tasty farm experience. You’ll return to Melbourne for your next flight out tomorrow, visiting the Melbourne Cricket Ground first.
A short flight from Melbourne will bring you to Launceston in northern Tasmania. After settling in, enjoy a scenic drive along the Tamar River to Beaconsfield, an old gold mining town, to take a tour of the mine and heritage centre. Back in Launceston, explore the Design Centre of Tasmania which holds the country’s only collection of contemporary wood design.
Freycinet National Park
Venturing to the island’s east coast, you’ll pass picturesque vineyards in a bucolic scene, stopping at a lavender estate to take a tour and even try some of the unique lavender-inspired cuisine. Afterward, meet Tasmanian devils and other creatures at East Coast Natureworld, and then travel into Freycinet National Park. Located on the wild and rugged Freycinet Peninsula that juts out into the sea, it’s surrounded by unspoiled white sand beaches and cerulean-coloured bays, with the pink granite peaks of the Hazards Range serving as the backdrop. Explore it with a naturalist guide before traveling to the town of Bicheno where you can opt for an excursion to see the little fairy penguins.
Hobart and Port Arthur Historic Site
Make your way to Hobart today, with stops in Tasmania’s historic hub in Campbelltown and Ross. You’ll cross the long, more than 15.5-mile Richmond Bridge, gazing out at breath-taking coastal scenery before arriving into the capital of Tasmania for a city tour, delving into its fascinating history. In the morning, head to prison – a former convict prison, that is. Port Arthur was one of Australia’s 11 penal colony sites, which housed offenders for two decades from 1833 to 1853. It sits on Eaglehawk Neck, a narrow band of land that was fiercely guarded and believed to be inescapable. Today it’s preserved as an open-air museum which you’ll be able to explore on a guided tour while hearing all sorts of stories, ghostly and gruesome. Afterwards, embark on a cruise around the Isle of Dead where you’ll learn more about the convicts who were there before returning to Hobart.
A city tour of Hobart is also on the itinerary, including Salamanca Place, Constitution Dock and the harbour. The famous Salamanca Market is a waterfront bazaar at Salamanca Place, and the top outdoor market in the country. It hosts over 300 stalls selling fresh produce and a variety of other foods, fine Tasmanian arts and crafts, crystals, vintage bric-a-brac and more. You’ll have time in the afternoon to take in the city at your leisure.
Mount Field, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair and Franklin-Gordon Rivers National Parks
Journey to Mount Field National Park to marvel at its crown jewel, three-tiered Russell Falls and then continue on to Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. Enjoy the tranquillity of this remote wilderness area with its awe-inspiring scenery from the shores of Lake St. Clair followed by a relaxing evening with dinner in the town of Strahan.
In the morning, embark on a cruise through Macquarie Harbour which will bring you into Franklin-Gordon Rivers National Park. Here you’ll visit a convict settlement on Sarah Island to learn about the area’s history before heading to Cradle Mountain. You’ll have another opportunity to explore more of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park before visiting Waldheim Chalet and Dove Lake, spending your evening in Smithton.
Great Lakes Plateau and the Cataract Gorge
Traveling east along the northern coast, you’ll make a stop at the House of Anvers Museum of Chocolate for a tour and samples, and then continue on to the Great Lakes Plateau, home to Australia’s largest freshwater lake popular with anglers who come from across the country to test their skills and luck. Spend your final night of the tour back whence you began, Launceston. The good news is it’s not over just yet, tomorrow brings a cruise along Tamar River and a visit to Woolmers Estate before returning to the airport, the official end of your amazing tour.