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Best areas to stay in my Australia tour

Hi all-
my family and I (5 adults) are going to Australia Dec-Jan for about 18 nights and have an itinerary of the below. My big question now is - what areas to stay in?

The plan is:
Melbourne 3 nights
GOR driving to and from Mel 2 nights, 3 days
Sydney 3-4 nights (be here NYE)
Whitsunday Islands 2 nights - (Really excited about the beaches but it’s another $400-500 plane ticket -is it worth it?)
Cairns 4 nights
Ayers Rock 2 nights (being so far out of the way we may skip- is it worth it?)
Flying out of Brisbane January 10th ($800 cheaper ticket)

Any recommendations on the best area to stay in each stop?

We are still deciding exactly what we want to do but for sure:
In Melbourne we want to explore the city and go to Phillips island, Brighton beach, maybe the wine region
We also would like to hold koalas- anyone know where we can do that?
We will also be in a Melbourne for Christmas. any recommendations on somewhere for Christmas dinner?

Sydney we will check out the touristy harbor stuff, Bondi Beach + cliff walk and probably the blue Mountains

Cairns we may stay in port Douglas but are interested in Kuranda scenic railway, Daintree Rainforest, cape Tribulation, Hartley's Crodcodile adventures- since in a previous post we were told we can hold koalas here:), and maybe another reef trip.

Really just looking for the best areas to stay close to what we are interested in or at least close to easy transportation and any recommendations of things to see and do that are a must!

Thanks travel forum!

Posted by
302 posts

I don't know if you posted on the Trip Advisor Australia Forum. There are tons of links and a group of regular responders. I planned my own 3 week trip almost exclusively from advice and reviews on that site. Your time frame is about right, but if you mean NYE 2018 you will want to quickly get that booked. You will also get advice to choose one or the other for your beach holiday, unless you skip Uluru. Uluru was the point of my own trip, travel is SO subjective you must decide for your group. Since meeting a koala up close is clearly important, check TA because there are strict laws and only several options. I went to Harvey's, it was fantastic for the crocodiles, the koala was a paid photo opp in an enclosre. Again, check TA, I think they offer a breakfast package, too?

Posted by
3961 posts

We enjoyed several days in Sydney. We took a tour of the Blue Mountains, and a tour of Featherdale Wildlife Park. We took public transportation to the beaches. We rented a car and did a wine tour of the Hunter Valley.

We spent a week based in Port Douglas and took private tours of Kuranda, amazing cable car of Daintree Forest, Daintree River excursion, Cape Tribulation, etc. We drove back to Cairns for our flight home.

We also visited Adelaide and did a self guided tour of the Borossa Valley wines. We especially enjoyed a guided tour of Kangaroo Island. We spent two nights on the island that gave us enough time to see the Australian Sea Lions, nocturnal tour to see Little Penquin colonies, and a multitude of other rare birds. We took a ferry there, but we understand there are flights from Adelaide as well as Melbourne since 2017.

We didn't feel we had enough time for Ayers Rock. We extended our trip to New Zealand. If we were to revisit Australia we would probably add Melbourne and Tasmania.

Enjoy your journey!

Posted by
16874 posts

We visited both Sydney and Melbourne in January 2015. We arrived in Sydney New Year's Day, having missed NYE entirely due to the flight timing (we departed LAX on Dec. 30 at 10 pm).

Be aware that Sydney is VERY popular for New Years as it is the first big city to great the new year. Hotel prices are double or more. We found an affordable room at the Park8, walkable from the airport train, but quite far from the Harbour. We were quite happy there but I see some recent negative reviews, somI hesitate to recommend it.

I have also stayed on Darling Harbour and liked that area a lot.

We were in Melbourne for the Austrailan Open and absolutely loved that city. We got a great rate at the Langham and it was perfect: location, ambiance, everything.

Posted by
703 posts

first off, do a search on this forum ( tab at the top) for australia, as this question has been asked before.
the advice above is good so far. australia is huge, so plan your trip and investigate domestic flights via jetstar or virgin etc.

at that time of year you are 'possibly' leaving it too late to book ( for a beach type holiday), as dec /jan are school holidays ( 6 weeks generally in NSW from mid dec and all of jan)
so you will be competing with locals who may have booked accomodation many months ( read 12 months) in advance, at their favourite spot on the beach. however in the cities it should be a different story. sydney NYE would be as mentioned by others above.
also realize at that time of year it is nothing for the temp to be over 40 C on the coast some days ( more likely jan) so any inland ( eg: ayers rock) or far north destination will be HOT.
the days will be longer, with day light savings, but don't try and plan too much. there is plenty of day trips in and around sydney.
australia is almost one big beach , literally. some are just a bit nicer than others. for example there are pure white sand beaches south of sydney NSW and up north in QLD. a lot of it is tourism advertising. and it depends on whether you want to go to all the 'usual' spots or seek out a less touristy spot ( where the locals would go)- same around the world.
don't think that swimming is better the further north you go.
you can't hold a koala in NSW, investigate other options, or be content to just be close to them.( see video)

watch this youtube video about sydney ( its one of the best I have found so far)
hope this helps

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for the great info!
We just decided to skip out on Whitsunday- flights are pricey $500+ and spend extra time in Sydney and another night in Brisbane.
Just posted in travel advisor as well!
Watching the video now.