Australia: 10 of the best escorted tours

Australia: 10 of the best escorted tours

Image credit: Tourism Australia

Simplify clients’ Australian travels with a guided tour

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The freedom of the open road is all very well, but you can have too much of a good thing. Driving distances in Australia are greater than most Brits anticipate – it’s 600 miles simply to get from Sydney to Melbourne, yet many see the cities on a map and regard them as virtual neighbours.

Cairns and Brisbane may be in the same state, but they’re more than 1,000 miles apart. Spending a large chunk of their holiday behind the wheel may well not be suited to many clients.

There are plenty of comprehensive escorted tours taking in the highlights of Australia, so whether your clients have a fortnight or a month, if they want the whole thing done for them, it’s possible.

But you may have customers who are somewhere in between. They don’t want to spend their whole time on an organised tour, but neither do they want to do it all themselves.

Luckily, there are lots of shorter tour options you can weave into a larger independent itinerary, whether it’s to get the benefit of an expert guide, to introduce a ship or railway trip into the mix, or simply to give the designated driver a rest. Here are 10 to consider.

1. All-action Queensland

It’s a myth that escorted tours are for old people. And if you want to be certain that your younger clients are with like-minded travellers, you can book them on a tour that’s specifically for the youth market.

G Adventures’ 12-day Queensland Sand, Sailing and Dreamtime is for 18 to 39-year-olds who are more interested in exciting adventures and keeping the budget low than staying in swanky hotels.

This trip travels up Australia’s east coast between Brisbane and Cairns, staying in simple but clean hotels and hostels.

The focus is on experiences – camping by the beach on Fraser Island and exploring by jeep, on foot and by canoe, visiting a cattle station and sleeping in a swag, and sailing a yacht through the Whitsunday Islands with stops for snorkelling and beach walks.

The trip also finds time for a night out at Airlie Beach, and a day in Cairns to explore the Great Barrier Reef or go skydiving, bungee jumping or white-water rafting.

After that it heads north to the rainforest where travellers spend three days with Aborigines going spearfishing, swimming in water holes, and learning about rock art and survival skills.

Book it: From £1,759 including accommodation, some meals, transport and most activities.

2. Cruising The Kimberley

If clients are looking for some of the world’s remaining great wildernesses, Australia is their oyster.

The Kimberley in north Western Australia is larger than 75% of the world’s countries, barely populated, and stuck between coastline and impenetrable desert.

Which is where exploration cruising comes in, taking guests to areas other forms of transport struggle to reach – especially with any level of comfort.

Cox & Kings offers not just comfort but luxury on an eight-day cruise from Broome to Kununurra on small ship True North, built to reach the upper reaches of the region’s river systems.

Kimberley Cruise - Image credit: Tourism Australia
Image credit: Tourism Australia

The ship accommodates just 36 guests plus specialist guides and naturalists to illuminate this barren but beautiful red-rock landscape and the wildlife that inhabits it.

The ship has six tenders and its own helicopter to showcase the region to guests. Activities include barramundi fishing, hiking and visits to rock-art sites and waterfalls.

Book it: From £6,495 for eight days’ full-board including soft drinks and most activities.

3. Melbourne’s glorious food

Australians have high standards when it comes to food and wine, and Melbourne is the epicentre of its culinary culture.

It’s easy to see why – the city has more than 3,500 restaurants, fuelled by the produce grown in the surrounding region, plus there are the fine wines of the Yarra Valley.

These are best explored with someone else at the wheel, and this is where Trafalgar’s four-day Melbourne’s Food and Wine Discovery tour comes in.

The tour spends an afternoon visiting wine estates, as well as time in Melbourne where guests can sample fine fare in the historic Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, cruising the city streets while enjoying a seasonal menu with paired wines.

Other activities include sightseeing in Melbourne, a drive through the Dandenong Ranges and a journey on the Puffing Billy Steam Train.

Book it: From £458 including accommodation, transport and sightseeing.

4. Tasmanian travels

The island off the south coast of Australia used to be famous on the international stage for its indigenous Tasmanian Devils and not much else.

However, the last few years have seen a resurgence as increasing numbers of travellers wake up to its charms, from stunning countryside and a flourishing art scene to its wide range of artisan food producers.

Getting beneath the skin of a destination doesn’t have to be done independently – escorted touring itineraries can pack oodles of experiences into a short time, and this is the aim of the 10-day Grand Tasman tour from Travelmarvel by APT.

It’s peppered with ‘Like a Local’ activities, from a tasting tour of a cheese factory in Launceston to a guided tour of a lavender estate and Port Arthur, Australia’s most notorious convict prison. Other highlights include a guided walk in the Freycinet National Park and cruises on Macquarie Harbour and the Tamar River.

Book it: From £1,995 including accommodation, all breakfasts and five other meals, transport, guiding and sightseeing.

5. Going, going, Ghan

A long-distance drive through Australia’s outback isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. Distances are vast and conditions challenging, but that doesn’t mean clients have to fly – they can let the train take the strain.

One of Australia’s most famous is The Ghan, which runs up the country’s spine from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north.

The four-day Darwin to Adelaide journey allows enough off-train time for lots of sightseeing. Excursions include a cruise on the Katherine River, an Aboriginal cultural experience, a day in Alice Springs with an outdoor Bush Barbecue, and a tour of the mining capital of the world, Coober Pedy, where half of the residents live underground.

Ghan - Image credit: Great Southern Rail/Tourism Australia
Image credit: Great Southern Rail/Tourism Australia

Backpackers could hack it in Red Service with a reclining seat (this isn’t available on all Ghan journeys), but other travellers will in all likelihood prefer Gold or Platinum, which include private cabins with berths, and all dining, drinks and excursions too.

Book it: Gold Cabin twin-share prices start at £1,169.

6. Southwest wonders

Perth is four hours closer to the UK than Sydney, making it a sensible gateway, and a fast-growing economy means it’s popular with the VFR market.

Those who have descended on sons or daughters could head off afterwards on an escorted tour to see the region – perhaps AAT King’s South Western Escape, bookable through Travel 2.

The nine-day itinerary starts off inland at the gold-rush ghost towns and historic mining centre Kalgoorlie before circling back along the south and west coasts of the country, visiting the wild coastal scenery of Cape Le Grand National Park, taking a walk40 metres above ground on the canopy walkway at the Valley of the Giants and tasting vintages in the Margaret River wine region.

Book it: From £2,049 including accommodation, some meals, transport, guiding, sightseeing and airport transfers.

7. Roaming the Reef

Even the most independent traveller may relinquish their desire to explore alone when it comes to Australia’s most famous natural wonder.

The Great Barrier Reef can be accessed on day trips but, to see it at its best, heading to more remote areas is necessary.

Keen divers may want a scuba-focused trip, but for others, a short cruise gives clients a great all-round experience, with time to snorkel and land activities too.

Scuba Lesson - Image credit: Tourism Australia
Image credit: Tourism Australia

1st Class Holidays features a four-night cruise on Coral Princess, a catamaran designed for cruising the reef. Activities include joining a marine biologist for snorkelling or glass-bottom boat trips and bushwalks on islands, plus there’s the chance to join an instructor for an introductory scuba dive.

Book it: A four-night Lizard Island cruise starts at £1,279 including all meals and unlimited soft drinks, sightseeing and activities except scuba dives.

8. Wildlife and wild land

Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s more manageable-length drives, but if one of your clients is behind the wheel, they have to watch the road instead of enjoying the views of the Twelve Apostles and London Arch – two of the signature rock formations along the way.

An escorted tour that takes in the route means everyone can ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the scenery. Intrepid Travel offers a four-day itinerary culminating with this drive.

The Adelaide to Melbourne Explorer including Kangaroo Island starts with a trip to the wildlife wonderland island to spot dolphins, seals, sea lions, koalas, wallabies and possums, plus activities such as sand-boarding, kayaking or hiking.

Then it’s into the Grampians National Park for a short hike before hitting the Ocean Road.

Book it: From £450 including two nights’ hostel accommodation, minibus transport and some meals.

9. Hard centre

Australia’s Red Centre is on many a traveller’s bucket list, and there’s no way to experience it more intensely than by camping – the stars will never seem the same in the UK again. However, few will want to strike out on their own, which is where escorted camping trips come in.

Do Something Different offers a three-day Uluru Camping Safari from Alice Springs that includes walking around Uluru at sunrise, visiting the 36 domes of the Kata Tjuta rock formation, walking with an Aboriginal guide and exploring Kings Canyon.

Uluru Camping - Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism-Australia
Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia

Stays are in permanent campsites where tents contain beds and there are shared toilets and shower facilities, and all meals are provided.

Book it: From £331 per adult and £298 per child between eight and 12. The tour is not suitable for children under eight.

10. Wine times

There is one region where no one wants to be the designated driver – in Australia’s most famous wine country, Hunter Valley. So encourage your clients to book an escorted tour, even if it’s only a day option.

Most visitors with time in Sydney will want to head out and sample the heady semillons and shiraz that have made the area famous.

Anzcro features a one-day luxury small group tour. The Hunter Valley Wine and Wilderness day tour departs Sydney at 7am and returns at 6pm, filling the time in between with visits to three wineries, one for lunch, and Hermitage Cellars, which stocks a range of wines from 12 boutique wineries.

There’s even time for cheese and chocolate tasting too.

Book it: From £171.

Aussie specialist relaunch

Tourism Australia’s award-winning Aussie Specialist Programme has relaunched with a new digital platform, including an updated website that features interactive training modules, tour suggestions, factsheets, latest industry news updates, destination FAQs and an interactive map.


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