We always knew that Australia was going to be a family and fun trip because we have a lot of extended family, mostly cousins settled in different cities. Hence, we planned accordingly and spent some time with them. Also, a must to-do was to dive in the Great Barrier Reef. And it took us a while to figure out where to go for that. More on it later. Here is our brief itinerary:
Day 1 -> Arrive in Sydney. Sightseeing. New Year fireworks at midnight
Day 2 -> Fly to Melbourne. Drive around
Day 3 -> Sightseeing Melbourne. Philip island.
Day 4 -> Drive to 12 Apostles.
Day 5 -> Fly to Cairns.
Day 6 -> Snorkel/dive in Great Barrier Reef
Day 7 -> Sightseeing Cairns
Day 8 -> Fly to Sydney
Day 9 -> Sightseeing Sydney
Day 10 -> Drive Great Ocean Road
Day 11 -> Fly out
When to go:Well, Australian summers are our winters, so this is a good place to celebrate Christmas and New Year in summers if you'd like. Only catch is that if you are interested in Great Barrier reef diving and/or snorkelling, this will be jellyfish season. We used stinger suit provided to us by the company that took us for diving and it worked just fine. So, this may be something to look out for.
Flying in and out:We were getting good deals on tickets to Sydney, so we picked that as our fly in/out city. Other cities, Melbourne and Cairns are very far from each other and you would have to take domestic flights between cities anyway, so just fly in and out of any that works out. Though keep in mind that since our flights included a stop over at Auckland, we needed a New Zealand visa on our segment from Sydney to San Francisco. But since we didn't have that, and we had no clue that we needed a transit visa even if we didn't plan to get out of the airport, we had to rebook our return flights, else we wouldn't have been allowed to board.
Domestic flights:We mostly took JetStar and Qantas as those times worked best for us. Most of the airlines are good and have similar rates and luggage restrictions. Note that the domestic airlines do weigh your carry-on luggage as well and you need to make sure that your number of items and the weight are within their specified limits.
New Year's Eve and half a day:
|New Year fireworks
|Downtown all lit up!
"The Rocks" area which has old quaint shops and some nice little restaurants. Generally a good area to wander about. From here, you could also explore the
A day in Sydney:
|View from Mrs. McGuire's chair
Next we took a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. Walked to the Manly beach. Its like a cute little promenade by the beach. Walked along the beach. Some of the beaches in Australia have really good waves if you are into surfing.
After spending some time at the Manly beach, we decided to take the ferry back and walk to Mrs. McGuire's chair as we wanted to take sunset pictures here. After that we walked back to the nearest train station and headed back home. Our day had a lot of walking, but the views and the vibe were worth it.
Grand Ocean Road to Wollongong and Kiama:
We were excited to visit the Bondi Beach. Such a huge beach and so crowded! The beachy shops are across the road from the beach. Can't believe there is a such a lively beach next to such a big city. A lot of surfers at this beach, a lot of volleyball and such a warm sandy beach. We were headed to Paramatta next to meet our extended family for dinner. Australia does have some nice restaurants, I have to admit. We ate really good Italian food at the Mama's and Papa's Italian restaurant.
Some pointers for Sydney:
- We had Mexican food at Mejico. I really liked their food, but it was a bit expensive restaurant.
- Commuting via buses and trains is super convenient. use google maps to route.
- You could also climb the Sydney bridge in Sydney. You have to make reservation in advance. It sounded like fun, but I wasn't up for the vertigo challenge.
- We didn't plan to visit the Sydney Cricket Ground, but we should have, as we heard later than Indian team was practising in nets the day we were near SCG.
|Outside Melbourne station
A day in Melbourne:
|Waiting for penguins.
Drive to Twelve Apostles:
designated pathway to walk. A further south, there is a pretty beach and you can take he stairway all the way down to the beach as well. On our way back we decided to take the shorter route instead of the longer scenic one. Once we got home, after dinner, we wanted to go checkout the Crown Casino in downtown. The casino was nice, but nothing compared to casinos in Vegas. We spent sometime playing poker and roulette but were so tired by now that decided to head back and get some sleep before flying out Cairns the next day.
CAIRNS (Great Barrier Reef):
|Welcome to Cairns
|Along the coast
|Ready to find Nemo!
The evening after our snorkeling trip we spent walking around the esplanade. Went to a Indian brothers for dinner and then had coffee later at one of the cute little cafes.
A day in Cairns:We had the entire day to ourselves and we wanted to just chill and take it easy. My favorite holiday breakfast is pancakes, so we found a breakfast place, Helga's pancakes which has excellent reviews. A tiny little diner a few blocks from our hotel and had good breakfast options. Pancakes weren't anything out of the world, but pancakes are pancakes.
Next up was visit to a Koala! The reef Casino has a Mini Zoo on its top floor and you get a chance to take picture and pet a Koala. So we headed straight to the Reef Casino. After our pictures, we grabbed lunch at Flinder's Grill in the Casino and watched the cricket match. It is so much to travel in cricket loving nations, because you can watch matches playing their sports bars, restaurants, etc.
Next up was short run along the coast. They have a well paved path for joggers and walkers. Once we returned, it was almost evening and the city was getting lively with all the hustle bustle and pubs and shoppers. We had found Spicy Bites really good, so we decided to have dinner here once more.
Other things to do in Cairns:
- SkyRail Rainforest Cableway: This is located about an hour or so outside Cairns. You can take a train to go here or drive here. We hadn't rented a car and weren't interested in visiting a rainforest, so we skipped it.
- Kuranda Scenic Railway: To get to the rainforest you take the Kuranda railway which is supposed to be an attraction in itself.
- Palm Cove: One of the more popular beaches. Since Cairna is not really located by the beach, you need to get out of the town to access a beach and this was one of the more popular ones.
OTHER POINTERS FOR AUSTRALIA
- Uluru Rock: Its a popular touristy thing to do in Australia, but it is far from any of the main cities and we would need a few days to fly in and out and visit the Ayers Rock.
- Brisbane/ Gold Coast: This is popular for beaches and amusement parks. We weren't interested in either and decided to keep this for our next visit to Australia
- Blue Moutain/Three sisters: It is a popular day trip from Sydney, but most of friends and family discouraged us saying there is nothing much to do/see and its not even blue. haha! Three sisters is a rock formation in the blue mountain park.
- Transit Visa: Check for transit visa regulations if you are flying through New Zealand. It looks like you need a transit visa even if you don't plan to get out of the airport. And the rule is applicable only when you are flying out of Australia. We had to rebook our return flights because of this.
- Opal card: Can get at any grocery or general store and is used for using public transport in Sydney. Makes life a lot easy if you take public transport.
- No id check at the airport: Surprisingly, there was no id check at the airports.
- Food courts at the airport: Have plenty of options and good ones. In general, food in Australia is so good, and the food courts at the airport also surpass expectations.
- Weather: It was so hot in Melbourne one day that they couldn't turn on the airplane engines and that delayed our flight! But it got chilly in the night. So prepare to face multiple weathers in the same day.