For many travelers, Australia and New Zealand are dream destinations. Filled with endless beauty, culture, and adventure, it is no surprise that Australia and New Zealand are featured so prominently in travel documentaries, magazines, and television shows. They have been destinations on my bucket list for quite some time and I am beyond thrilled to be able to be checking them off this year.
In my last article on our Australia and New Zealand trip planning process, I discussed how I researched the best time to take our trip and which locations should be on the top of our list to visit. Using this information, I was able to create a rough itinerary for our trip. Since that time, we have booked our airfare from the United States to Australia, as well as all of the airfare that we will need to go from one location to the next during our trip.
In Part 2 of my Australia and New Zealand planning, I am going to focus on the Australian portion of our trip. Using the rough itinerary that I created in Part 1 of my planning process, I am going to start filling in the activities and tours for each day we are in Australia, along with how we will be getting around while we are in the country. My hope is that this information will be helpful to you as you plan your trip to Australia in the future.
|Australia and New Zealand Travel Planning Part 1|
Flying to Australia
We are going to be flying to Australia on a Saturday and because of the time difference, we won’t be arriving in Syndey until the following Monday morning. We chose to fly Delta Airlines because I had enough frequent flyer miles to get one free ticket in the Premium Select class and booked early enough to purchase the second ticket at a reasonable fare. It helps that I fly frequently and also had a $500 Delta Airline Voucher to use as well. All-in-all, we paid roughly $1,500 for two Premium Select fare tickets from Milwaukee to Sydney Australia, which is an amazing deal.
We will be flying from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, which is a major Delta Airlines hub, and then on to Los Angeles where we will connect to our flight to Sydney. Having repeatedly learned my lesson on layovers in the past, I have booked at least 3 to 4-hour layovers in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles. This may seem like a long layover, but it really isn’t so bad when you have access to the Delta Skyclub. Just another reason why I absolutely love my Delta Reserve Amex card. Besides, if we do have a flight delay, those longer layovers could really come in handy.
Days 1 thru 3 – Sydney
Our first stop in Australia will be the beautiful city of Sydney. We arrive in the early morning on Monday and will be spending roughly three full days in Sydney. There is a lot that we want to do in Sydney and to give you a sense of what we will be doing I have included a rough itinerary for you to review below.
Day 1 – Arrive and Get Acquainted with Sydney
On our first day in Syndey, we will probably be quite jet-lagged so we will spend most of the day just sight-seeing and getting acquainted with the city. This would be a great day to check out the following locations and attractions:
- Bondi Beach
- Manly Beach
- The Sydney Opera House
- The Royal Botanical Gardens
- The Surry Hills Suburb for food
Day 2 – Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
Hopefully, we have our legs under us more for our second full day in Sydney as it would be a great day to try and tackle the infamous Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. We would book our tour thru Viator as I love the security of knowing that the tours that they offer have been fully vetted. The tour I am looking at costs $122.14 USD per person and has gotten really great reviews.
|Sydney Bridge Climb|
We will also spend the remaining part of our day exploring other parts of Sydney that we are excited about. Most notably, we would like to see the following places and attractions:
- The Newtown Suburb – For food, the beer gardens, and shopping
- The Featherdale Wildlife Park
- Pylon Lookout
- Observatory Hill and Mrs. Macquaries Point viewpoints
Day 3 – Blue Mountains Tour
On our final full day in Sydney, we are going to be taking a tour of the nearby Blue Mountains, which was recommended to us by quite a few people. Again, we will be booking a tour thru Viator that is highly rated and has great reviews.
|All-Inclusive Blue Mountains Day Trip and River Cruise|
After our tour of the Blue Mountains, we will lay low for the rest of the day and get ready for our flight to Cairns the following morning.
Getting from Sydney to Cairns
On Thursday afternoon we will be taking a flight from Sydney to our second destination in Australia, which is the coastal city of Cairns. It is a roughly 3-hour flight and should put us in Cairns by early evening on Thursday.
Days 4 thru 6 – Cairns
Cairns is one of the stops in Australia that we are the most excited about. Seeing the Great Barrier Reef has been on my bucket list for quite some time. In addition to seeing the Great Barrier Reef, there are other things that we would like to see and do in Cairns. To give you an idea of what we have planned, I have included an itinerary below.
Day 1 – Arrive and Get Acquainted with Cairns
Since we will be arriving in the early evening on Thursday, our first day in Cairns will be spent mostly exploring the city and getting acquainted with it. The next few days will be busy with booked tours, so having this day to relax and enjoy the city will be nice.
Day 2 – Great Barrier Reef Tour
Our second day in Cairns is going to be a big one as we are going to be booking a tour of the Great Barrier Reef. As I mentioned before, this has been a life-long dream of mine, so I am very excited about being able to snorkel and dive at the reef.
|Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns|
This tour will take up most of the day so we won’t have much time before or after to further explore the city. However, it will be great to get back to Cairns that night and get a fresh seafood dinner in the city.
Day 3 – Rainforest Cableway
On our last full day in Cairns, we will be taking a tour that explores the Daintree Rainforest. This is another one of the tours that were highly recommended by quite a few people that we talked to. Again, I found a great tour in Viator.com that was highly rated and had really great reviews.
|Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation and Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary Day Tour|
There will be plenty of time for sight-seeing and shopping on this tour, which is great because both are things that we really enjoy. After getting back from the tour, we will mostly take it easy that night because we have to catch a flight to Melbourne in the morning.
Getting from Cairns to Melbourne
That Sunday, we will take our last flight within Australia as we travel from Cairns to the city of Melbourne. Again, we are looking at a roughly 3-hour flight, but on the positive side, it is another direct flight. I looked for and was able to find, direct flights for all of our flights within our trip, which is a huge convenience. Not only do we not have to worry about making connections, but we also don’t have to worry about our bags transferring planes.
Days 7 thru 9 – Melbourne
Many people consider Melbourne to be the cultural capital of Australia, so we are really excited about our visit to the city. Not only do we plan on doing a lot of sight-seeing around the city to soak up all of the cultural experiences, but we have some amazing sight-seeing adventures lined up as well. To give you an idea of what we have planned, I have included an itinerary below.
Day 1 – Arrive and Get Acquainted with Melbourne
We arrive in Melbourne from Cairns in the early afternoon on Sunday and we will be spending much of the first day doing some sight-seeing around the city. There is so much to do and see that we will want to make good use of our time. I have included a list below of some of the things we would like to see and do on the first day in Melbourne.
- Federation Square
- Flinder Street Station
- Check out the vibrant street art
- Campbell Arcade
- Degraves Street Cafes
Day 2 – Great Ocean Road Tour
Our second full day in Melbourne is going to be an exciting one as we are planning on taking a tour of the Great Ocean Road. We thought about renting a car, but we really don’t want to have a car in Melbourne all three days and we don’t want to have to worry about picking one up and dropping it off while we visit. So instead, we have decided to use Viator.com to book a highly rated tour of the Great Ocean Road.
|Great Ocean Road Small-Group Ecotour from Melbourne|
This tour will take all day so there won’t be much time for anything else on this day. However, we will get to tour the most beautiful parts of this scenic road trip and do some sight-seeing and shopping along the way, which is nice. I cannot wait to take pictures on this tour!
Day 3 – Sight See around Melbourne
On our final day in Melbourne, we are going to kind of play it by ear. We have the option of taking a tour to Phillip Island to see the penguins, or we can spend the day doing some more sight-seeing around Melbourne. This is our final day in Australia, so we want to make sure we keep our options open. The next day we take a flight from Melbourne to Christchurch, New Zealand to begin our New Zealand adventure.
Speaking of New Zealand, in the next installment of my Australia and New Zealand trip planning series, I will outline our agenda while we are in New Zealand. I will take about all of the stops that we will be making, what we plan to see and which tours we are booking, and how we will get around while we are there.
Melbourne best coffee, see you have DeGraves on your list. If you get a chance catch the 96 Tram to St Kilda, by the bay.
Thank you so much for the tips!! 👍
Looks like a really fun trip. Sydney and the blue mountains are both wonderful, I haven’t seen anywhere else that side of the world yet though. Excited to see what you think.
Word of warning though, the jetlag was a killer for me. I left England Saturday and arrived Monday too and Monday afternoon/evening was a complete write off haha.
Thanks for the tips Jason! I am kinda concerned about the jetlag too. I have a feeling our Monday will be a write off ad well.
Great post with beautiful pictures, as always. Looking forward to your firsthand accounts.
Thank you! 😀
Cairns is gorgeous! There’s often great (free) exhibitions on at the museum, if that floats your boat, and of course Daintree and Cape Trip are beautiful!
When you do the Great Ocean Road, try and get to the 12 apostles for sunset too, it’s the most amazing sight 🙂
Thank you for the amazing tips!! I am writing this all down 😀👍