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Traveling Australia in Two Weeks: An Experiential Guide and Itinerary


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Interested in traveling to Australia, but only have two weeks or a limited amount of time? Overwhelmed by the choices and size of the country and don't know where to start in creating an Australia two week itinerary? Don't worry, we've been there. And that's why we created this Experiential Guide to help you plan your trip and create your own itinerary.

Australia Vacation, Kata Tjuta Walk at Uluru
Kata Tjuta: a wee taste of the Outback.

Australia offers the perfect storm for those who tend towards the fear of missing out (FOMO). It’s a huge country. It’s far away for many of us (that’s also part of its draw). And it fills a bucket list all its own of iconic experiences and destinations: the Outback, Aboriginal culture, cities, beaches, coral reefs, and wineries, just to mention a few.
Overwhelmed by all this, I’d imagined I would need several months or more to grasp the continent. I deferred my visit, resisting invitations for years until the time was right.

Basically, I psyched myself out.

I eventually realized that in saving my grand Australia trip for “someday” when all the stars aligned perfectly, I might end up deferring it forever. (This excuse may sound a familiar put-off for other life projects of broad scope.)

So I took a step back and reconciled that while I might not be able to experience everything Australia had to offer in a shorter visit, I could certainly experience a lot, and do so deeply.

Our recent travels in Australia confirmed it's possible to experience a lot of Australia in just two weeks or a limited amount of time. But where to start in creating an itinerary for traveling in Australia for two weeks?

That’s where this experiential guide comes in.

Here on the experiential highlights from our first two weeks in Australia when we were on Explore Australia, a National Geographic Journeys tour with G Adventures. Even in this seemingly limited amount of time, we experienced depth and breadth, moving from the iconic to the uncovered.

So if you've been considering taking this G Adventures tour in Australia, here's what you can expect and look forward to on your trip. In addition, you'll have an experienced G Adventures tour leader (CEO) with you who is a fount of information on everything Australia – from unique wildlife and nature to Aboriginal culture and history – to help you better understand this diverse country.

This allowed us to dig deep into Australia’s natural history, burrowed beneath the surface of its complex relationship with Aboriginal culture, dove the Great Barrier Reef, sampled the vast expanse of the Outback, and took in Melbourne and Sydney, the country’s two largest cities.

Australia Vacation, 12 Apostles Along Great Ocean Road
A few of the remaining 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road.

24 Experiences: Two Weeks in Australia

How to use this experiential travel guide to Australia

The following experiences are in chronological order over the course of two weeks on our Explore Australia, beginning in Sydney and ending in Melbourne. If you suffer from Australia FOMO as I did, I hope this set of select experiences can help satisfy your Down Under travel sweet tooth and assist you in putting together your own Australia trip…even if you don't think you have much time. Trust me, you'll be able to experience more than you think. Disclosure: This tour was sponsored and provided to us in conjunction with our partnership with G Adventures as Wanderers.

Sydney / New South Wales

1. Walk (or Run) the Botanical Gardens, Sydney Harbor and the Sydney Opera House.

Although buildings aren’t often at the top of my experiential list, the Sydney Opera house was. Based on a recommendation from a friend, we took a stroll through the Botanical Gardens to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and then around the harbor walk to land at the Opera House. Check it out from a distance, but also get up close to admire the detail, including the texture of its tiles. This route allows you to appreciate a few of the central Sydney neighborhoods like Kings Cross and Woolloomooloo, and the greenery and contours of downtown Sydney along the way.

Australia Vacation, Sydney Bay
Looking out over the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the Botanical Gardens.

Note: If you are a runner, this circuit makes for a worthwhile morning jog, particularly if you suffer from jet lag and need to kick start the day.

Bonus: Rewards thyself afterwards with a heap or two of gelato at Gelato Messina in nearby Darlinghurst (Address: 241 Victoria Road). Hint: pistachio on top, dark chocolate underneath!

2. Bush walk Syndey on the Manly to Spit Bridge hike.

Interested in getting away from the city for some beach and hiking action? Take the public ferry to Manly (bonus: great views of Sydney Harbor and the CBD from the water). Enjoy a look or walk along Manly Beach, then begin your walk of the 10km trail around the east side of Manly Beach to Spit Bridge. This urban walking path and hiking trail is excellent and features a bit of bush walk mixed with wood plank boardwalk, topped with plenty of gorgeous coastal and harbor views along the way.

Australia Vacation, Manly Walk Near Sydney
Views from the bush walk along the Manly to Spit bridge trail.

Bonus: If a secluded cove and beach to yourself is what you’re after then you’ll have your pick of several along the way.

Australia Vacation, Sydney Beaches
Always nice to find a beach to yourself (almost).

3. Savor the Bondi to Coogee walk and take a dip at Bronte Beach along the way.

For a beautiful, easy walk outside of downtown Sydney that has it all, the Bondi to Coogee walk is it. In a morning (or an afternoon), you can catch the surf (or watch others throwing themselves into the waves) at Bondi Beach, then set off along the coastal walk to Coogee. The path is a blend of natural and urban, quintessential Sydney.

Australia Vacation, Bondi Beach
Surf's up, Bondi Beach.

There’s also a protected spot at Bronte Beach that’s perfect for a refreshing mid-hike swim.

Australia Beaches, Bronte Beach near Sydney
Just around the corner, Bronte Beach. Perfect for a dip and cool off.

Find a hotel in Sydney.

Queensland

4. Walk through the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest in the world.

I was surprised to find out that the oldest living rainforest in the world — at 135 million years old — is in Australia. (To put this into perspective, the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is only 10 million years old). During our walk through the Daintree Rainforest we learned from a local Kuku Yalanji guide how her ancestors lived from and took care of this land for over 4,000 years. This inter-generational sharing of knowledge included information on sustenance-providing plants and animals, as well as those which could poison slowly or kill instantly. Quite literally, these were matters of life and death.

Australia Vacation, Daintree Rainforest Walk
Mossman Gorge at Daintree Rainforest.

Bonus: Try and find a cassowary. Sadly, this large prehistoric-looking bird with a center toe claw so sharp it can supposedly cut a human in half proved elusive and we found none lurking around the rainforest.

5. Get amongst it…underwater. Dive or snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.

Dan had done a live aboard advanced diving certification at the Great Barrier Reef during his first visit many years ago; I’d dreamed of diving there ever since. When you approach the reef in a boat it’s impossible to fully grasp its size (2,300 km long, thus the largest living organism on earth). Snorkel or scuba dive the reef and a whole other world emerges, one filled with various forms and shapes, brushed with the surreal colors of coral and fish.

Australia Vacation, Scuba Diving Great Barrier Reef
A view from above as Dan and I scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef. Photo credit: Renee Lyon.
Australia Vacation, Scuba Diving Along Great Barrier Reef
Above water, post dive. Great Barrier Reef.

Note: If you wish to visit some of the more remote areas of the Great Barrier Reef, begin your trip from Port Douglas rather than from Cairns. We went with Calypso Snorkel and Dive on a boat that was outfitted for both scuba divers and snorkelers. We were impressed by the quality of the boat, its on-board facilities, and the staff who were safety conscious and knowledgeable about marine biology and Australian life in general. We had a fabulous day. Even if you are not dive certified, we still recommend a snorkeling trip as others on our boat reported, unsurprisingly, that visibility and diversity of marine life were incredible.

Find a hotel in Port Douglas.

6. Learn about Australia’s most venomous animals at James Cooke University research aquarium.

Although it’s kind of funny when friends send you articles before your trip noting all the deadly creatures in Australia, it’s also a bit disconcerting. Just about every creature — snake, spider, jellyfish, snail (yes, even snails are dangerous!!) – that crosses your path could be poisonous and kill you. For a humorous take on this, listen to this tune.

That is where spending the afternoon with Dr. Jamie Seymour, a world-renowned toxinologist, helped put things into perspective. He taught us firsthand about the mechanics, physiology and biochemistry behind how Australia’s deadly animals create and release venom. In a 45-minute presentation, he planted enough seeds of fascination that our planned one-hour visit lasted over three hours.

Australia Vacation, Venomous Animals
Dr. Jamie Seymour explains the mechanics of the venomous spines of a stone fish.

As in life, once you begin to understand how these creatures work, you may find some of your fear displaced by respect.

Australia Vacation, Venomous Sea Animals
Look closely…and find a cone snail swallowing whole a stunned fish it injected with venom.

Note: This is not an experience that is open to the general public. You can access it by taking the same tour we did — Explore Australia, a National Geographic Journeys tour with G Adventures. Alternatively, you can check out Professor Jamie Seymour’s entertaining and educational YouTube channel.

7. Engage in an open discussion about Aboriginal history and culture at Cafe Chloe.

Aboriginal history and culture is a crucial component to comprehending Australia’s history and present day. A new G Adventures for Good / Planeterra Foundation cooperation in the town of Tully, called Cafe Chloe, provides an opportunity for an open and honest discussion about Aboriginal culture, history and socioeconomic challenges.

Australia Vacation, Aboriginal Social Enterprise in Tully, Queensland
Our Jirrbal hosts and teachers at Cafe Chloe.

This isn’t a traditional “Aboriginal cultural experience” whereby an Aboriginal man dresses up, puts on some body paint and demonstrates how to throw a spear or boomerang. Instead, you’ll find yourself sitting around the table with a Jirrbal elder and other community members to learn about and discuss the diversity and reality of Aboriginal communities on the Australian continent since the arrival of Europeans in the 1700s.

From history we moved into learning about Aboriginal culture and the importance of story to pass on wisdom and lessons from one generation to the next. We took our hand at Aboriginal-style painting, inspired by a Jirrbal creation story.

Australia Vacation, Aboriginal Art Workshop
Impressive first go at this style of painting.

This background helps one understand the challenges that Aboriginal people face in Australia and how their nature and land-based traditional way of life was turned completely upside-down. It also puts into greater perspective the importance and necessity of projects like Café Chloe that emphasize pride, cultural exchange and job training for Aboriginal youth.

8. Eat a kangaroo pie. Or two.

They are actually quite good, too. Our favorite was from Mocka's Pies in Port Douglas.

Australia Vacation, Kangaroo Pie
A visual prompt in case you forget what's inside.

Better yet, nosh on your kangaroo pie with this view, a slice of the Queensland coast.

Australia Vacation, Queensland Coast
Rex Lookout at Wangetti Beach, en route from Port Douglas to Cairns.

Northern Territory

9. Appreciate the shape of Australia up in the air over Lake Amadeus.

To cover the sorts of distance between New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and Victoria, a few flights are necessary. And here's why you should always try to get a window seat.

Australia Vacation, Salt Lakes Northern Territory
Mother Nature's design: Lake Amadeus and the salt lakes, Northern Territory.

On our flight from Cairns to Uluru, we flew over ever-deepening red rust Outback. After a stretch of beautiful mountains, a few strange patches of iridescent liquid appeared, including Lake Amadeus.

10. Enjoy a champagne sunset toast and watch the sun go down over Uluru.

Champagne. Sunset. Crazy light over Uluru and its surrounding desert brush. Yes, to all of these.

Australia Vacation, Champagne Sunset at Uluru
As the storm rolls over the Outback, enjoy a glass of champagne.

The traditional Uluru sunset that we so often see in photos is one where the giant rock outcropping of Uluru glows red against a clear sky in the day’s final light. Our sunset was instead filled with dazzling clouds and a storm that rolled across the horizon. Don’t feel bad for us. The light was spectacular if not surreal as the clouds moved quickly and dramatically across the landscape. It was our own real life time-lapse video, complete with rush of air, and the fading aroma of a warm desert afternoon.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Australia Vacation, Uluru Sunset View
A storm over Uluru.

Note: The sunset viewing area parking lot can get crowded. Make a wee effort, and a few hundred meters away you’ll have heaps of space to yourself to enjoy your champagne.

11. Follow the Anangu creation stories around the base of Uluru (Ayers Rock).

At the root of my dreaming about Australia: the National Geographic Documentaries about Uluru and Aboriginal culture that I’d watched as a kid. My expectations for this portion of the trip were dangerously high. Fortunately, Uluru delivered not only in terms of its physical appearance (even more impressive in real life), but also in its energy and the psychological hold it draws from the telling of the Aboriginal Anangu creation stories.

Australia Vacation, Kuniya Walk at Uluru
Understanding the meaning of the markings and boulders around Uluru, as told through the Kuniya story.

As we set off on walks around the base of Uluru, our guide shared a handful of Anangu stories that on the surface were about lizards, snakes and other animals of the Outback. She then noted the physical marks on the rocks around us, which were interpreted as equivalent physical manifestations of these stories. Finally, she explained how Aboriginal people used these stories to teach survival in the harsh environment. From generation to generation, elders taught youth where to find water, how to hunt, which plants and animals were dangerous, and the delicate balance required between nature and humans for both to exist in harmony.

In this way, Uluru was alive, a sort of teacher.

Australia Vacation, Mala Walk in Uluru
Even in the desert one can find water if you know where to look. Mala walk, Uluru.

Note: Even if you travel independently to Uluru I recommend signing up for one of the walking tours (e.g., the rangers run free Mala walk tours each morning). It’s a worthwhile experience to walk Uluru as someone tells stories and gives background to what locals hold sacred and symbolic.

You also must invest in a fly net when you first arrive. Don't worry about looking silly in it. Although the flies don't bite, they are aggressive and possess an uncanny ability to find the innermost reaches of one's ears, nose and mouth.

12. Trek Walpa Gorge at Kata Tjuta.

Before my visit to Uluru, I’d barely heard of its lesser-known neighbor Kata Tjuta, another sacred Anangu site. Instead of monolithic, Kata Tjuta looks a convergence of multiple rock formations. As Uluru does, they dominate the visual space of the open landscape around. Creation stories also exist for Kata Tjuta, but since they are considered sacred for Anangu ceremonies they are not told to visitors.

Instead, we just enjoyed the landscape and hike through the Walpa Gorge.

Australia Vacation, Kata Tjuta Walk
The stillness and quiet of the Outback at Kata Tjuta.

Note: If you'd like to learn more about the geology and history of how Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed, visit the museum at the Wintjiri Gallery near the town square.

Find a place to stay in Uluru.

13. Sample the Outback vastness and roadhouse culture between Uluru and Alice Springs.

With our minds full of imagery, physical and abstract, we set off on a five-hour journey to cross a swatch of the desert Outback from Uluru to the city of Alice Springs. This was our on-the-ground taste, albeit limited, of Australia’s vastness — a feature that some travelers ingest in weeks or even months of driving across the Northern Territory. After spending all that time criss-crossing Australia up in the air, a road trip like this is required to begin to understand this country’s vastness.

Australia Vacation, Outback Roads
Outback roads, long and straight.

Imagine this barren landscape for thousands upon thousands of kilometers with only a few roadhouses in-between. Imagine it, too, for the Aboriginal people who once were the only ones who lived here and learned how to survive in this harsh environment.

14. Buy Aboriginal paintings that contribute to the Salvation Army community center in Alice Springs.

As we learned about Aboriginal culture we understood that most paintings were not only art to admire, but visual stories designed to pass on lessons. We were interested in buying Aboriginal art, but we wanted to do so in a way that was connected to the local community and where we knew that our money would benefit the artists directly. That is where the Waterhole Gallery at the Salvation Army in Alice Springs comes in. (Located at 88 Hartley Street, right across from the Royal Flying Doctors Museum.)

Australia Vacation, Aboriginal Paintings
One of the Aboriginal paintings we purchased at the Salvation Army art gallery.

It’s easy to miss the gallery, as it's marked only by a small sign outside. Additionally, it can feel a bit intimidating since the grounds also serve as a sort of soup kitchen and community center for disadvantaged Aboriginal people. If you continue you will find a small art gallery in the back with some beautiful paintings of all sizes and colors. Each painting is accompanied by a hand-written story on the back side of its canvas. You can also request a printed biography of the artist. Not only are the paintings high quality, but we also found it more satisfying to buy here than in a traditional gallery because of the direct, personal connection to the community.

15. Be inspired by creative learning at the School of the Air, Alice Springs.

Imagine having 125 students (K-9th grade) spread out over 1.3 million square kilometers. What do you do? You engineer a classroom and school over the airwaves. It may sound odd to visit a school during one’s travels, but the will and infrastructure required for studio-taught lessons over satellite internet connections is remarkable. It makes you appreciate how Australia doesn’t let a few thousand kilometers get in the way, even for school. For more information, check out School of the Air.

Find a hotel in Alice Springs.

16. Ogle the crazy colors of Lake Eyre.

In this case, we were simply lucky with our timing. Lake Eyre in northern South Australia fills with water only every few decades. But when it does, it becomes the largest lake in Australia. Seabirds from thousands of kilometers away somehow sense this (scientists still don't know how) and fly there to breed and nest. While we didn’t have a close up look at this seabird dating frenzy, we were able to see the pink lake while flying from Alice Springs to Melbourne. Our pilot was so excited he woke everyone up to look out the window. Here’s why.

Australia Vacation, Lake Eyre from Above
Lake Eyre fills only a couple times a century. The pink hue, from algae.

Melbourne

17. Get lost in Melbourne’s laneways, immerse yourself in its street art.

When arriving in a new city, one's options to explore and comprehend it can be overwhelming. Rather than a random walk around Melbourne, we opted for a self-guided street art walking tour of the city. We spread the walk, along with some exploration of neighborhoods further afield, over a couple of days. This provided us with a general route through the city, anchored by street murals and fabulous alleys that serve as the playground of graffiti artists. As we sought out the next stop on the map (whose art was often replaced by something new), we were got pleasantly lost and distracted by other sites and cafes along the way.

Australia Vacation, Melbourne Street Art
Rutledge Lane, a canvas for graffiti artists in Melbourne.

18. Rent a bicycle and ride along the coast to the Brighton Beach Changing Huts.

Rent a bicycle in the city and ride the coastal bike path towards St. Kilda. Continue on to the Brighton Beach changing huts bathing boxes.

Australia Vacation, Brighton Beach Bathing Huts near Melbourne
Brighton Beach Bathing Huts. A colorful reward at the end of the bike ride.

Be sure to stop along the way in Port Melbourne for fish and chips. Treat yourself to coffee, ice cream and a long stretch of easy-going coastal views.

19. Drink strong flat whites, eat brekkie, and enjoy Melbourne's market and food scene.

Melbourne takes its coffee seriously. Walk down any commercial street — in the center or outer neighborhoods — and you'll be flush with coffee choice. If strong coffees are your thing, then you'll feel at home here as a double shot of espresso is standard in a flat white (and most other drinks). Coffee art is formidable, too.

Australia Vacation, Melbourne Coffee Scene
Strong, rich coffee. Just like we like it.

Another serious Melbourne institution: brekkie (otherwise known as breakfast to the rest of us). Walk through the CBD on a weekend morning in summertime and alleys overflow with cafes, restaurants and brunch joints offering every manner of Eggs Benedict, and the Australian brekkie favorite, smashed avocado on toast. It's enough to drive you to eat breakfast all day long.

Australia Vacation, Melbourne Brunch
Centre Place, otherwise known as Brekkie Lane, on a Sunday morning.

Recommended Melbourne Eating, Dining and Noshing Spots:

Proud Mary Cafe, Collinwood: Get here early as it fills up quickly for lunch. If you're craving something savory try the fish tacos with a delicious slaw and toppings. For a sweet tooth, you can't go wrong with the ricotta hotcakes. So incredibly rich, you will have grave difficulty moving from your seat.
Victoria Night Market on Wednesdays (November-March): During the summer months Victoria Market turns into a street food night market with hundreds of food stalls, live music, beer on tap, jugs of cold sangria and much, much more. If your time in Melbourne coincides, check it out.

Find a hotel in Melbourne.

Great Ocean Road and Victoria

20. Breathe deeply at Point Addis, the start of the Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road has become a popular destination within Australia for good reason. It just lives up to its name.

Australia Vacation, Great Ocean Road Start
Pure ocean breeze in all directions. Point Addis Marine National Park.

21. Don’t wake the koalas at Kennett River.

Park your car at the cafe at Kennett River and walk over toward the trees off to the left side. Look closely in the branches as you might find a koala or two sleeping in the trees. Due to the poor caloric and nutritional value of their eucalyptus-leaf diet they need to sleep up to 20 hours a day to properly digest their food and conserve energy. Resist the urge to touch them (as we saw some other tourists do) and let them sleep — and digest — in peace.

Australia Vacation, Koalas
Sleepy koala in the tree. Don't disturb.

22. Walk barefoot along the beach at Gibson Steps.

Even if you ache to get to the 12 Apostles, allow some time to stop off at Gibson Steps just before. Take the walkway down to the beach and enjoy a view of the sandstone cliffs from below. “Romantic” doesn’t even begin to capture the feeling and atmosphere here.

Australia Vacation - Great Ocean Road, Gibson Steps
The beach aglow in late afternoon light at Gibson Steps.

23. Calculate how many of the 12 Apostles remain standing.

The 12 Apostles, the pinnacles standing at the western end of the Great Ocean Road, are among Australia’s most recognized landmarks. Regardless of how many photos of the 12 Apostles circulate, you’ll find yourself unable to take enough. As a capstone to a beautiful road trip, they still surprise, impress and dazzle visually. You’ll also notice The Apostles a few short of 12 (eight at the time of writing) due to erosion.

Australia Vacation, 12 Apostles
Looking out over a few of the remaining 12 Apostles.

24. Appreciate how far you’ve come, within Australia…and around the world.

Australia Vacation, 12 Apostles at Sunset
A photo op on Australia's southern edge, Great Ocean Road.

Australia Small Group Tours

G Adventures Australia Tours

Here is a selection of G Adventures small group tours in Australia that cover the same -- or many of the same -- experiences as described in this Experiential Guide.

Recommended reading for Australia

In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson: If you want to read one book that will provide you with a historical, geographical, cultural, and sociological overview of Australia before visiting, this is the book. Bryson manages to weave these elements in naturally into the humorous narrative of his road trips and adventures throughout the country, from Queensland to Western Australia. Really well written and provides a lot of context for visitors to better understand Australia.

The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin: I found this book fascinating and it really helped me begin to get my head around the role and importance of Aboriginal “songlines” and stories. This book isn't always the easiest read since Chatwin intersperses long-winding notes about other nomadic cultures he has researched. Stick with it, though, and you'll find yourself appreciating the Aboriginal worldview and culture more than you otherwise might.


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Disclosure: Our National Geographic Journeys Explore Australia tour was provided to us by G Adventures in cooperation with the Wanderers in Residence program. Check out this article for all the different G Adventures tours we've taken and recommend.

As always, the thoughts contained herein — the what, the why, and the how — are entirely our own.

About Audrey Scott
Audrey Scott is a writer, storyteller, speaker and tourism development consultant. She aims to help turn people's fears into curiosity and connection. She harbors an obsession for artichokes and can bake a devastating pan of brownies. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about her on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

30 thoughts on “Traveling Australia in Two Weeks: An Experiential Guide and Itinerary”

  1. As always fantastic photos paired with super stories and such a great amount of detail! It’s a dream of mine to get to Oz. hoping at some point to meet with Aboriginal storytellers and learn.
    thanks again for sharing your experiences and your hearts!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kristin, for your kind words! Oz is certainly far away, but I do think that in our minds we make it even farther away that it really is. I can definitely see you becoming fascinated by the Aboriginal songlines and stories. Consider buying the book The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin as that explains how the Songlines work to guide people across the lands and the book really helped me understand how the wisdom of the ancestors is passed on through these stories or songs. Such a different way of the brain working and taking in information than what my western brain is used to. Just fascinating!!

      Reply
      • here’s the thing – it’s not that far away. I live in Denver and $1200 and 18 hours of my time will put me in Sydney. And 18 hours home. That gives me 10-12 days if I’m on a vacation diet like most Americans. Sleep on the plane and leap into the adventure after the plane lands at 7am.

        And, FWIW it’s only 4 fewer hours to Copenhagen from here. Less time on airplanes and more in airports, but still. If you can embrace airplane time & airports pretty much anywhere in the world is available in 36 hours of cheap flights.

        I’m really interested in the aboriginal experiences you discuss. When I was last in Australia, xmas 2014, I had some hotel time and watched some shows on the aboriginal channel. It is frakking disgusting how they are treated by the dominant culture. Talking about it to white Australians they would ultimately admit that how Australia treats its aboriginal culture is appalling. But they say there is nothing they can do. And then continue ranting and posting FB articles on how appallingly Australia treats refugees. They’re not wrong, but they’ve just given up on the aboriginal population.

        Reply
        • Rob, when you look at the flight options and cost, you realize that Australia isn’t as far away as it may seem. But, that’s why I said I had psyched myself out thinking it was so far away.

          The history and present day situation of Aboriginal people and their treatment/status/rights is incredibly sad and complicated, to say the least. Yes, we did see racism and discrimination…and were told by others that this is sadly the norm in many places. When we were talking with Dr. Ernie Grant, a Jirrbal elder, at Cafe Chloe he shared the story of how just the week before a European-Australian had uttered a racial slur at an Aboriginal young woman at the train station platform. A tourist heard it and not only confronted the person about that not being appropriate, but actually reported him to the police. So, as Dr. Grant explains it may be thanks to visiting international travelers that European Australians begin to change their views and treatment of Aboriginal people. For him, this is how he sees international tourism helping to change perceptions at home. With projects like Cafe Chloe, Dr. Grant explained that the job opportunities from the cafe not only help keep youth from being “another stereotype of an Aboriginal person on welfare,” but also provides a source of pride in being Aboriginal and an equal.

          Reply
          • Indeed it is amazingly easy. And for any of your American readers .. United is in the middle of a price war with Delta right now.

            Atlanta – Melbourne return for roughly $500. Similarly a lot of other Delta hubs. I’m already heading to Western Australia for 3 weeks in October but I’m trying to find a way to justify another trip for 40% of the normal cost.

            As for the tourist and the local, remonstrating with the local over his/her slur is fine. Reporting to the police? Insanity. Nearly as insane as the BLM morons in this country.

    • Kristin:

      Australia is an awesome place. I see that you’re in NYC. $1200 and 22 hours and you could be in Sydney. The world is a very small place when it comes to travel.

      I can only say “go for it”. Australia is a great place. Culturally it feels halfway between the USA and Canada, and so is pretty comfortable for us North Americans. Driving on the wrong side of the road takes a few days to become accustomed to, but that’s minor.

      Seriously – just decide to go. You won’t regret it .

      Reply
  2. Your introduction to this article reminded me of how most non-European visitors to Europe view the continent. I personally know a few folks from North America and Asia who think that Europe is far, so they end up postponing a visit for ages, or they think that since it’s far they would probably just visit the continent once, so they end up doing a whirlwind checklist tour of the major cities, flying everywhere (i.e. London today, Paris tomorrow, Milan the day after).

    Most of us don’t have 6 weeks to spare, but if you only have 2, then why just concentrate on a smaller area and travel less and explore more? Australia is on my bucket list, yes it is far, and I don’t have 6 weeks, so I am inclined to take a small subset of the country (Tasmania is on the shortlist) and exploring it in the short time frame I have, thoroughly.

    Reply
    • Jeruen, your comment about feeling overwhelmed by visiting Europe for the first time certainly resonates. In fact, I had that example in my first draft of this piece but took it out. It was reflecting on the advice that I give to people on Europe that made me realize I was being kind of silly about Australia.

      I focused here on trying to get a good grasp of Australia in two weeks as even though I know “better” to try and do it all in one visit, I still wanted to feel like I had a chance to experience quite a few “quintessential” Australian experiences on one visit. I know I should know better, but that’s how I felt. So in the time that we extended in Australia after this trip we focused on non-traditional or more unusual destinations – Western Australia and Tasmania. We LOVED both of those areas as they were different and less explored. But, I’m still glad that I had a chance to experience some of the more traditional Australian places/experiences first to put those areas into perspective and make me appreciate them even more.

      But, if you are interested in a small subset of the country that is a bit different, Tasmania is a good choice. We spent our last week there and had a really wonderful time there alternating between trekking, wine tasting, easting oysters and seafood, and enjoying the landscape. If we had to do that part of our trip over again I probably would have rented a campervan for Tasmania as we found accommodation kind of limited (the supply hasn’t kept up with increased tourist demand) and there are some beautiful national parks there that have good campsites/campervan parks.

      Reply
      • Tasmania is awesome. I was there a couple of years ago, hiking the Overland Track, watching Tasmanian Devils be devilish, feeding kangaroos and bush wallabies, loving MONA in Hobart and talking talking talking to the lovely Australians I met.

        Next trip in October to Perth to hike some of the Bibbulmun track with a friend I met in Tasmania and his son, and experience more of that wonderful country.

        I lived in Sweden for 4 years and Germany for 6 months. I have visited every country in western Europe (albeit over the last 30+ years) and am heading to the Czech Republic for the first time in August.

        All I can say is one should just *GO*. Life is short, and there isn’t enough time to see everything. A realization that made me sad on the plane home from Croatia 5 years ago.

        But you can try.. 🙂

        Reply
  3. Thanks for this fascinating overview of Australia. I’ve been looking at the G-Adventures tour of Australia and New Zealand as a special event for an upcoming milestone birthday and appreciate you sharing your experience with this company! I’ve been to Australia a few times for work and can’t wait to explore it as a free to roam traveler. The Botanical Gardens, Sydney Harbor, Opera House walk is one of my favorite things to do as well as a run across the Sydney Harbor bridge. The Manly ferry is also an inexpensive way to tour the harbor and you get to explore Manly as a bonus. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Beth, glad you enjoyed this overview! We traveled with G Adventures in New Zealand a few years ago and really loved that trip as well. Our guide (CEO) was also excellent and the natural beauty of New Zealand is hard to beat. I can definitely see booking one of G’s Australia-New Zealand trips for a special birthday treat.

      Sydney has so much to offer in terms of outdoor areas with all of its parks, paths and nearby beaches. I can see how people never want to move from there 🙂

      And, happy reading! I found myself literally laughing out loud a few times at Bryson’s book. He’s able to combine humor together with more serious and complex topics. I began reading The Songlines towards the end of our trip, and I wish I had read it before going as I probably would have asked more questions at our Aboriginal cultural exchange experiences.

      Reply
  4. Forgot to mention a thank you for the recommended reading. I love the process of planning my travel almost as much as doing it, I’ll add these to my must read list.

    Reply
  5. Wow looks like you all saw all the main bits!! and im glad you liked my article about deadly animals 😛 I actually used to live around the corner from Brighton beach.. I miss Melbourne!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the article on deadly animals in Australia! That was sent to me on Whatsapp just before we boarded the plane to Sydney 🙂

      I can definitely see why you miss Melbourne. It was our favorite Australian city during our visit as we really liked its laid back feel, great access to the coast and nature, and it’s hard to beat all that brekkie, dumplings and strong coffee.

      Reply
  6. I loved reading your post on my wonderful country and many of your photos were similar to ones I’ve captured as I have ventured around. Still much more to see. So glad you included the indigenous experiences as well.

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  7. This is a great guide for the first time traveller to Australia that wants a real Aussie cultural experience. However I feel the beaches of the Gold Coast and the ruggedness of North West Australia should be experienced. However I realise that 2 weeks would possibly not give enough time to see these areas.

    Reply
  8. Thanks for this wonderful inspirational blog post. I plan to visit Australia in one of my upcoming travels, I think I will expect some more travel time than two weeks since some of the locations you describe look like places to spend a couple of days in line to me. Cheers Christian

    Reply
  9. I made peace with my fear of missing out by realizing that it’s simply not possible to see and do everything in this world, or even in a specific region during your whole life. Having said that, what an in-depth guide to this essential country on the world travel scene … great job!

    Reply
    • I feel that the more that I see of the world the more I realize this – that it’s not possible to do and see it all. And, that’s actually OK – it’s good to know there will always be more to explore and see!

      Reply
  10. Great itinerary for travels in Australia. The country certainly looks like it has the perfect mix of activities for those who love the cities and nature. Also, it’s a good idea to remind people not to touch the koalas.

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  11. I love your guides! I’ve been to Australia, but you really made me consider another trip 😉 And your photos are amazing! Cheers!

    Reply
  12. Wow, sounds like an amazing tour you did with G Adventures! It’s almost unbelievable what you guys covered in just 2 weeks. We did most of these things (and a ton of others) on our own, driving around in Australia in a rental campervan. We needed almost two weeks to get from Port Augusta to Tenant Creek, covering the highlights of the Outback. And the drive through the Outback is quite the adventure on its own as well! 🙂

    One of our favourite parts of our 3 month road trip through Australia was definitely diving the Great Barrier Reef! Oh, how we love the underwater world! And Kata Tjuta (and of course Uluru) was absolutely amazing as well. Your blogpost took me right back to Australia. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Birthe, it was quite a tour that we did with G Adventures, especially as there was such diversity of experiences in that relatively short time period. Even with our limited drive in the Outback, I can imagine your adventures driving through there 🙂

      If you love the underwater world, check out Exmouth in Western Australia during your next visit. It wasn’t dive season during our visit, but we did go snorkeling at Cape Range National Park and it was truly incredible. So I can only imagine that diving would be even better 🙂

      Reply
    • We always try to provide our readers with experiences or information that we would have liked to have known about before our trip. And often, that means creating a rather thorough guide. It may take longer than some other posts, but it’s worth it 😉

      Reply
  13. It always amazes me how travel bloggers come to my native Victoria and yet miss the best region… The Mornington Peninsula!

    You have some of the world’s best wine (specifically pinot noir and chardonnay), beautiful scenery and hidden private beaches, as well as lots of vineyard activities, hot springs and adventure parks (where you can go tree surfing!!!)

    Just take a look at some of the coastline (oh and you can surf):
    The pillars (5 years ago only locals knew this spot) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQOZ9F81N0g
    Blairgowrie jumping rock (locals still only know this spot) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1L1Rr82wok

    Reply
    • It’s always hard to fit everything in when there is so much to see, do and eat/drink in a relatively short period. There were other travel bloggers who visited Mornington Peninsula earlier in the year, so stay tuned for some of their stories. Now we have another place to look forward to when we return. Pinot Noir is one of our favorite varietals…

      Thanks for the advice!

      Reply
  14. As a Melburnian, I was interested to read your article on it and the surrounding areas. You did capture the spirit of the place although it is impossible to cover everything in such a short visit. The Mornington Peninsula is an integral part of Melbourne, far more so than the Great Ocean Road area, as much of it is within the greater metropolitan area. Maybe next time? My blog reviews a couple of the wineries down there.

    Just a couple of observations – the Brighton changing huts you mention are locally referred to as bathing boxes. And please do not call koalas “bears”. They are marsupials and no relation to bears at all.
    Looking forward to reading your other articles and seeing all your photos. Liz

    Reply
    • Liz, thanks for your comment. It’s always great to get a local perspective and glad that we were able to capture a bit of the spirit in a relatively short time. Mornington Peninsula has been recommended by quite a few people and we’ll certainly visit next time.

      Thanks also for the other corrections — I’ve fixed them in the article.

      Reply

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