Image credit: Tourism Australia
Can you flit over to Australia for a fortnight? Yes, says David Whitley – so long as you’re selective
Some clients may have the luxury of unlimited time and budget to take a six-week odyssey around Australia.
But many won’t, and as Brits increasingly envisage more than one trip Down Under in a lifetime, a fortnight-long holiday can work fine – with the caveat that everyone involved realises that Australia’s a huge place, and you can’t tackle it all at once.
Making sure an itinerary works is where you come in. It’s possible to put together some brilliant two-week trips tailored to a traveller’s tastes that will pack a lot in, but offer quality, as well as quantity. We’ve suggested six of the best for clients with different interests.
The classic first-timer’s triangle combines Sydney, Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns, with Qantas flights handily connecting the three.
Sydney must-dos include seeing the harbour by taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, and spending a day on the coastal walk between Bondi and Coogee Beach, stopping for the occasional swim along the way.
Special experiences that can be tagged on include climbing to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb, which Attraction World sells for £132. Also available are tours of the Sydney Opera House for £27 and day trips to the spectacular eucalypt-filled valleys of the Blue Mountains for £119.
Uluru may seem a long detour to see a big red rock, but it is mesmerising – especially on the six-mile walk around its base. The £98 Sounds of Silence Dinner offered by Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, which includes sunset viewing, stargazing sessions and an open-air dinner on a remote dune, is a memorable add-on.
From Cairns, Do Something Different sells day trips to the reef for £140 and helicopter trips over the planet’s largest living organism for £207
Culture & Heritage
Combining Sydney and Melbourne, and then going a little left-field with Hobart in Tasmania, will give clients a window into Australia’s heritage, from Aboriginal traditions and convict history right up to modern-day culture.
Kick off again in Sydney, where a walk from the Spit Bridge to Manly takes in Aboriginal rock carvings, as well as exceptional harbour views. The Rocks is the most historic area of the city, and Rocks Walking Tours delves into Sydney’s convict-era heritage.
The Hyde Park Barracks Museum in the city centre is the best of the options explaining what day-to-day life in early Sydney was like.
For contemporary culture, Melbourne has the best collection of festivals, street art, live-music venues and cultural centres. Many of the best galleries and museums are clustered around the architecturally striking Federation Square.
The Immigration Museum is gripping, telling the story of the waves of immigrants who have made Melbourne what it is today, and the Aboriginal Heritage Walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens offers a great insight into indigenous history and uses for plants.
From there, move on to newly hip Hobart in Tasmania, where the Museum of Old and New Art is attracting global attention with its daring installations. Nearby is Port Arthur, the most evocative (and beautiful) of Australia’s convict-era sites. Anzcro sells a day tour to the remote former prison, including lunch, for £106.
Food & Drink
Image credit: Tourism Australia
The reputation of Australia’s gourmet scene is growing in the UK, with chefs including Skye Gyngell and Bill Granger tempting our tastebuds with Antipodean fare.
Have foodies fly first into Perth, and allocate some time to the Fremantle area, where coffee-obsessed cafes, quality breweries and craft-beer pubs proliferate.
Two Feet And A Heartbeat runs several tours that explore Perth’s booming bar and restaurant scene. These include a £75 ‘progressive dinner’ with each course served at a different restaurant, and a crawl around the city centre’s most intimate bars (£25).
The Margaret River region to the south is Western Australia’s gourmet epicentre, though. Travel 2 sells two-day trips from Perth offering activities such as chocolate-tasting, gastronomic sampling from local producers, cycling around the vineyards and plenty of wine-guzzling. The trips start at £429.
Afterwards, recommend that customers fly over to Adelaide and head out to one of the many wine regions surrounding the city.
The Barossa Valley is the most famous and best set up for tourism, but the Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale also have excellent cellar doors to mooch around. Austravel sells a day tour combining tastings in the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills for £78.
To finish off, choose either Sydney or Melbourne for one of Australia’s top blow-out dining experiences. Quay and Tetsuya’s in Sydney, plus Vue De Monde and Attica in Melbourne, are regarded as among the world’s best restaurants. But be aware that bookings need to be made well in advance.
Image credit: Tourism Australia
Sun and unlimited fun make Australia appealing for families, and Brisbane is a fabulous entry point for a trip. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, just outside the city centre, offers the ever-popular opportunity to cuddle a koala.
Austravel sells a half-day excursion that combines a river cruise with a visit to the sanctuary for £40. A day trip to Moreton Island, 35 miles from the city, is also worthwhile. 1st Class Holidays sells an excursion that includes hand-feeding wild dolphins at the Tangalooma Island Resort and sandboarding down enormous sand dunes for £112.
About an hour to the south, the Gold Coast is Australia’s most popular resort strip, and it’s where the big theme parks congregate. Opt for Dreamworld if the kids are into the big thrill rides, while the Wet ’n’ Wild waterpark has plenty of giant slides and pools for cooling down on a hot day.
Between May and October, it’s the dry season in Oz’s tropical north, making a quick hop up to Hamilton Island a brilliant option. The most developed of the Whitsunday Islands, it offers a solid mix of accommodation options, plus plenty of activities.
These range from an 18-hole golf course and jetski tours to snorkelling trips on the reef and art classes.
Emirates flights into Adelaide make the city a viable (albeit often overlooked) entry point, particularly as it is also the main hub for trips to wildlife-packed Kangaroo Island. Wallabies, echidnas, seals and pretty much every other Aussie animal you care to think of can be found there.
Anzcro offers a four-day tour, including two days on Kangaroo Island and one in the Barossa Valley wine region, from £776.
From Adelaide, visitors should take a few days to drive to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road. It’s renowned for its coastal scenery – the Twelve Apostles rock formation, in particular, are a postcard staple – but there’s also excellent wildlife viewing to be found along the way.
The Otway Ranges are prime koala- spotting territory, while the Tower Hill Reserve, near Warrnambool, is teeming with kangaroos and emus. Warrnambool is also prime whale-watching territory – and the migrating southern right whales can be seen from a viewing platform at Logan’s Beach.
Getting closer to Melbourne, laid-back towns such as Apollo Bay combine surf beaches and forest hiking trails to gorgeous waterfalls.
From Melbourne, the classic wildlife-lover’s option is an evening trip to Phillip Island, where scores of ultra-cute fairy penguins waddle in from the sea. Do Something Different sells trips to enjoy the nightly spectacle for £72.
Image credit: Tourism Queensland
Adrenaline-seekers should kick off in Cairns, which is Australia’s thrill capital and offers numerous ways to scare yourself silly. Do Something Different sells sunrise hot-air ballooning flights for £106 and white-water rafting adventures down the foaming Tully River for £87.
The AJ Hackett bungee site will dunk thrill-seekers in the water after jumping from 160 feet for £88, while Skydive Mission
Beach runs tandem skydives from 14,000 feet, which land on the sprawling sands of the town. Prices start at £167.Cairns is also the gateway to Australia’s wild tropical rainforests.
G Adventures sells a three-day Northern Aboriginal Experience north of the Daintree River into remote Cape York, including art and spearfishing lessons with local indigenous people, from £487.
Darwin in the Northern Territory offers a completely different take on tropical Australia. The Kakadu and Litchfield national parks are full of rugged outback scenery, Aboriginal rock art and sweaty hikes up phenomenal waterfall lookouts.
Intrepid Travel offers a five-day Top End Explorer trip out of Darwin from £517. The price includes visits to Litchfield and Kakadu, as well as a croc-spotting boat trip on the Mary River and the opportunity to canoe between the steep canyon walls of Katherine Gorge.
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