Next year I am going to Australia, probably driving from Melbourne to Darwin and a side trip to Cairns/Port Douglas.
I have a couple of questions:
1. As a daytrip from Alice Springs, which one is nicer: West MacDonell Ranges or East MacDonell Ranges?
2. Probably want to stay in or near Port Douglas. What about the options to go to the Great Barrier Reef from here: which part, which tour etc?
I have studied abroad in Melbourne and toured most of the country. I mostly flew everywhere but one place that you cannot miss is Frasier Island. It is my favorite place in the whole country, not to be missed. Also while in melbourne take a short trip down the great ocean road. Also the public transport in and around melbourne is very good and easy to use. Just be careful to check the times of the last trains ect.. Usually ends around midnight. Hopoe this helps.
I stayed in Port Douglas for a week while traveling in Australia. I loved it there! Best place to stay for the reef I thought. there are a ton of tours that leave daily to the reef and they all go to the same spots so just pick whatever one you can book a spot on. Most of the hostels and hotels have all the information on the tours so you will have no problem finding one. The main street in Pt Douglas has great restaurants, shops and bars. You can also get out to the rainforests from here too and they were fun!
It doesn't matter where you are in North Qld, there are plenty of trips out to the reef. Port Douglas is nice, the reef is accessable and the rainforest (Mossman Gorge and Daintree)and close by - and certainly worth a trip.
If you go south of Cairns, Mission Beach is one of my favorite spots in Nth Qld and is worth considering. Nice beaches, easy access to Dunk Island.
Just remember, with reef trips the reef is around an hour trip out from most ports. There are plenty of compaines doing trips out to the reef all along the coast.
I must say, I'm always amused that international travellers love Fraser Island so much. It could be that I spent too many holidays there as a kid but it never really grabbed me. That said, I've not heard an international traveller say anything against it so you might want to consider it. Although, it is much closer to Brisbane than Cairns/Port Douglas.
I will only stay between Cairns and Cape Tribulation, so probably Fraser Island is way of the track for me.
Actually, like Caro_stern said, to visit all those islands and coast does not really sound great to me.
Actually the reason that I will spend about 5 days or so in Queensland is the rainforest and reef experience. The rest of the trip will be Melbourne, southern coast, outback and kakadu, for some diversity.
I would be very bored visiting Australia and only doing the Sydney to Cairns part. Maybe it's fun when you're 18 or so.
But no experience from anyone who has been near Alice visiting the Macdonell ranges?