Hopefully you can help me…..
The missus and I are going to Oz for a month to do the East Coast run. We will probably fly into Sydney in March 2009 and out of Brisbane in April. We’ve not been to Oz before and we want to see Sydney, Brisbane, Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef and we’re intending to travel up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns.
We were considering driving or getting the bus between the hubs of Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns but would probably prefer flying between them and then possibly hiring a car or doing excursions. We’re a bit confused about how to get around and the time constraint that we have – would flying between them be a better idea or would we miss too much by doing this?
What would you recommend we should do and see? e.g. Byron Bay, Noosa etc.
How long do you reckon we should stay in Sydney – we want to see the Blue Mountains for maybe 1 day - is 5 nights enough time? What else is a must do in Sydney?
What are the places you reckon we must not miss? We’re swimming (drowning) in guides etc and any advice you could give would be brilliant.
Good cross posting on here and lonely planet
We’re a bit confused about how to get around and the time constraint that we have – would flying between them be a better idea or would we miss too much by doing this?
You haven't actually said what your time constraint is - you've said the months you're arriving and leaving, but not when in those months - i.e. total time could anywhere be between 2 days and 61 days!!
No worries mojorob - we're in Oz for 1 month and planning to spend the first 6 nights in Sydney.
Must do's in Sydney -- the travel guide here is pretty good - and I think 5 days is plenty of time. I don't remember it mentioning the Northern Beaches of Sydney - which are worth a trek out to, if you have the stamina and time for the Sydney bus system.
The train takes you out to the Blue Mountains, it's pretty cheap and a good day trip from Sydney. There's quite a nice atmosphere out there and some nice cafes. It is quite hilly, so get used to scaling roads to get to places. The "three sisters" is the main point of interest in the blue mountains, and it's fun working your way through lots of Japanese tourists to get a photo.
As for your trip up the east coast - I would recommend hiring a car in Sydney and driving to Brisbane. It's a very easy drive (one road the whole way) and there are lots of cool things to check out on the way. I would think that you could drive the trip leisurely in 4 days or so.
If you're not aware of Australia's obsession with creating large scale objects everywhere, you'll get used to them on this trip. Coffs Harbour has the 'big banana' where you can go and eat chocolate covered bananas and admire a bit of history on the place. There are some nice spots to stay at and it's a good 5/6 hour drive from Sydney.
Second place that I'd stop for a night (or two) would be Byron - which I love! It's relaxing, has quite a hippy feel to it and has a great beach. There are some good places to stay there or alternatively Lennox Head is around the corner (about 25 mins away) has much cheaper accommodation (especially during peak season).
As for Brisbane, I'd suggest you could drop your car off there and fly to the Whitsundays & Cairns. Check out Webjet (or Jetstar/Virgin) for cheap deals on flights north - there's not as much to see along the road & it is quite a tedious drive. From there you can hire cars if you needed them & do day trips out to the reef.
Let me know if you have any other questions
My wife and I drove from Sydney to Cairns from the 7th may to the 1st June last year which is about the time you plan to do it in. We found the trip not too rushed driving our own 4x4 and managed to spend a 5 days on Fraser Island and 5 days in the Whitsundays. I think the problem with flying between destinations is you will miss things, for example if you fly Brisbane-Whitsundays you'll miss Fraser Island. Our Itinerary was roughly Blue Mountains, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Brisbane (2 nights), Rainbow Beach, Fraser Island (5 nights), Rainbow Beach, Mackay(2 nights), Airlie Beach + Whitsundays (5 nights), Bowen, Townsville, Mission Beach, Cairns + Great Barrier Reef (3 nights).
I believe there are some bus tours that follow the approximate route, or as mentioned you can fly between major destinations and hire cars when needed. The highlights of our trip were Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and Cairns. We're from the Blue Mountains so of course it's a highlight too
Among the excellent stuff already posted, here's a couple of other Sydney ideas.
Pick a good weather day, pack yourself some snacks and a wind jacket and head to Circular Quay ferry station.
Buy an all day explorer ticket. It costs about AU$20 and you can ride the ferry all day,
getting on and off as many times as you like. Places worth checking out from the Ferry:
Manly, get off have a walk around the Corso and check out the beach.
Taronga Zoo: get out and have a walk around the foreshore and beyond - I think a visit to the Zoo will require at least a full day.
Luna Park: get off the Ferry and go into the park (through the Big Teeth) and buy just a single ride on the Ferris Wheel.
Cost you about $7 and only does about 2 or 3 revolutions - and while up the top you get some good views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and the harbour in general. Its pretty impressive by day and night.
Darling Harbour and beyond - the ferry will take you to lots of places - its all yours to pick and choose.
There are also a number of excellent walks along the Harbour Foreshore.
Throw this into Google "Sydney Harbour Foreshore walks" and you'll get a decent rundown.
All of the little coastal towns along the route are worth a visit - but as much as they are beautiful, you will probably tire of them after about 2 or 3.
On the way up the coast between Sydney and the Central Coast is the Australian Reptile Park (Somersby). This is a good half to full day out and will familiarise you with some of the critters you might not want to stumble on in your travels.
Central Coast (Avoca, Terrigal, The Entrance, Soldiers Beach), Newcastle(not such a quaint little town), Foster, Tuncurry, Port Macquarie (take the car ferry across to Point Plomer & on to Crescent Head), Nambucca, Coffs Harbour, Iluka, Yamba, Ballina.
March/April is likely to be a good chance for some decent rain as you head north. Nothing to stop you but be ready -it may not be all bluebird days.
All of the Whitsunday Islands have their pluses and minuses - we went to Lindeman Island and it was excellent.
Not the most pristine of snorkelling compared to some of the other places you will find but great fun and plenty of other things to do. I'd be wary of locking yourself into any island stay for more than 4 days.
My suggestion would be to use Syd, Bris and Cairns as your main flying points and then as you had already thought, do a combo of day trips + car hire. Definitely don't try and drive that - it's a huge distance!
So when you're in Bris, drive to Byron (you can't miss this surfie town! It rocks!). Stay say 2 nights so you can have some time to explore the hinterland around the Gold Coast and Byron, there are some really beautiful places around there.
From Bris, you can also drive up to Noosa - it's well worth a visit and if you do end up going, you've gotta do this Stand Up Surfing . Totally random, totally only-in-Australia and it made our stop in Noosa an absolute crack up!
From Bris you can also fly up to Mackay/Airlie Beach to get to the Whitsundays. There are heaps of trips you can do from there - even jump on one of the sailing boats and do a 3 or 5 day trip. An awesome experience and I reckon a must!
Hope this is of some help - enjoy your travels - wish I was doing it all again myself!