Australia Itinerary: The Perfect Two Weeks

by Brooke on October 18, 2010

by Brooke | October 18th, 2010  

itineraryAustralia is a massive place with a number of interesting nooks and crannies across the entire country. Because of this, I had to think hard when trying to plan out the perfect itinerary for two weeks in Australia. No, you definitely can’t see it all in 14 days, but if you plan it right, you can get to a number of big stops and attractions, which is perfect for the first-time Australia traveler.

Please keep in mind that this is just an idea to help travelers who are not too familiar with the country get a feel for all that is here, and hopefully give them better ideas of what to see more of on future holidays. Two weeks is not a long time to cover such an expanse of land that is Australia, but the unfortunate reality here is that many North Americans are lucky to have this amount of leave for one trip. Also, when it comes to itineraries, everyone is different. I welcome your comments and discussion as they will only help individuals mold this itinerary into something of their own.

My perfect two-week Australia itinerary suggestion:

  • Sydney – 3 days (day-trip to Hunter Valley)
  • Melbourne – 4 days (day-trips to Phillip Island & the Great Ocean Road)
  • Cairns – 4 days (day-trips to Great Barrier Reef, Kuranda & Port Douglas)
  • Sydney – 2 days (day-trip to Blue Mountains)

The most popular airport to fly into and out of is definitely the Sydney International Airport, so we start and stop in Sydney for this itinerary. Once here, there are a number of budget airlines that can quickly get you across the long distances required to travel in order to see more than just one major city.

Not enough for you? Scroll to the bottom to see a more exciting alternative.

3 Days in Sydney

bridge and ferrySydney is one multi-cultural city with overseas influences seen in different corners and suburbs. You can dine and shop your time away, or partake in the many attractions across the city. For the beach lovers, there’s Bondi, Coogee and Manly beaches to relax on. For the thrill-seekers, there’s the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. And, for the vacationers, I recommend a Sydney Harbour Cruise to unwind.

Depending on when you get into Sydney, the first day is always a good time to be out in the sun since it helps your body adjust to the time change. Check out a beach, or head to the Taronga Zoo, for the afternoon.

For more ideas, see this 2 day Sydney itinerary ideas post.

The third day in Sydney opens yourself up to some of the day-trip options nearby. I recommend a day tour to the Hunter Valley where you can indulge in some great Australian wines. If that isn’t your thing, there is always the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves to delight both adults and children.

For more ideas, have a look at these day-trip options from Sydney.

Accommodation options: Sydney hotels and Sydney hostels

4 Days in Melbourne

melbourneMelbourne has a cafe and small bar kind of culture that is interesting and unique for tourists to explore. Four days is not a lot of time here, but it should give you a taste for this artsy city. You can read about the options for getting from Sydney to Melbourne, but for time’s sake, I suggest a flight. The tram setup in Melbourne can provide you with a free city tour, or you can explore some of the art museums or gardens that also won’t cost you a dime. As for major attractions, there’s always the Melbourne Zoo to delight people of all ages.

I suggest spending two days exploring the city of Melbourne, and two days taking day-trips to nearby attractions, such as Phillip Island and the Great Ocean Road.

For more ideas, check out this 2 day Melbourne itinerary and these day-trips from Melbourne.

Accommodation options: Melbourne hotels and hostels

4 Days in Cairns

captain cook highway viewMy 4 day suggestion for Cairns pretty much uses this beach town as a hub for getting to all the great stops that are within a day’s worth of travel from there. Cairns is the most bustling Queensland city that can get you to the Great Barrier Reef and to the tropical rainforest towns of Kuranda to the west and Port Douglas to the north. There is pretty much sunshine and heat year-round, except for in the summer months when there is heat with tropical humidity and rains to worry about. Still, Cairns is an iconic stop in Australia that should not be missed, and cheap flight shouldn’t be hard to find.

The first day in Cairns should be used to soak up the sunshine, head to the beach and nail down plans for the rest of your stay. On your second day, head to the Reef Fleet Terminal to catch a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef where you can snorkel or scuba dive. On the third day, use this time to jump over to Kuranda for a quiet day in the rainforest. The last day can be used to relax some more in Cairns or make another day-trip to Port Douglas, or all the way up to Cape Tribulation if you are looking for a full day of travel and excitement.

Accommodation options: Party hostels in Cairns and hotels

2 Days in Sydney

You can catch a cheap flight to Sydney from Cairns to spend your final two days in Sydney city enjoying one of the activities you didn’t get to on your first few days in the country, as well as one of the day-trip options. One great idea is to see a show at the beautiful Sydney Opera House. I can’t imagine a more perfect way to finish a spectacular holiday than in the presence of this iconic landmark that touches the Sydney Harbour. The Opera Bar provides visitors outdoor seating in view of the Harbour Bridge, but if it’s a meal you’re after then delicious restaurants line Circular Quay nearby.

Accommodation options: Sydney hotels and Sydney hostels

 

A More Exciting Alternative

The trip above is something that I would consider a great two weeks in Australia for those wanting to have more time to relax. If you’re of the mindset that you’ve just flown halfway across the world and therefore need to see as much as possible in the two weeks, then this is the itinerary for you:

  • Sydney – 3 days (day-trip to Hunter Valley)
  • Melbourne – 2 days
  • Cairns – 4 days (day-trips to Great Barrier Reef, Kuranda & Port Douglas)
  • Travel to Hervey Bay – 1 day
  • Fraser Island – 2 days
  • Sydney – 1 day

With this itinerary, we would cut out 2 days from Melbourne and 1 day from Sydney. Instead, you will insert 1 travel day and 2 days in Fraser Island after your visit to Cairns.

Travel to Hervey Bay

You’ll want to get to Brisbane to use it as a hub for getting to Fraser Island. Budget flights from Cairns to Brisbane are going to be much more frequent than flights to Hervey Bay on the Fraser coast, and a flight is definitely the only way to go in this case to cover such a long distance. Once in Brisbane, you’ll want to catch a 5 hour bus ride to Hervey Bay, where you will be picked up and dropped off from your Fraser tour.

Accommodation options: Hostels and hotels

2 Days on Fraser Island

fraser islandWith only two days to spend on Fraser, your best plan of attack is to book a tour that will handle all the arrangements for you. Touring Fraser Island is a must-do in my opinion since it is such a spectacular and irregular place as compared to the rest of the country. There are plenty of tours that exit from Hervey Bay.

After the tour, you will be returned to your starting point of Hervey Bay, where you can catch a cheap flight to Sydney on your final day. I recommend spending your final night down by the Sydney Opera House before flying home the following day.

If you have a few more days to spare, and the stamina, have a look at my 16 day Cairns to Sydney road trip for some more ideas.

Photo credit: Feature & Melbourne.

{ 5 comments }

Jade October 20, 2010 at 1:45 am
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I like your suggestions. We did Australia in 2 weeks (but had been to Sydney before- so only spent two days there) and because so, added 2 full days and nights on Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island has easily become one of my favorite places in the world, and would highly suggest the trip there. It’s definitely less costly and less crowded in the Winter months (by thousands) so maybe only a trip there when it’s the off season. I think (like most places) it might lose some of it’s magic if there were tons of people around.

Having said that- we didn’t make it to Fraser Island, Hervey Bay or The Blue Mountains (and well, the entire west coast!!), so I’m looking forward to returning for another two weeks to conquer more. There’s always next time, right?!

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Anna October 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm
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Nice picks – two weeks is always hard in such a big country.

I reckon if you wanted to get a really good overview of the Australia at a reasonable pace you could do this:

Sydney – 4 days (include day at Blue mountains and time in Surry Hills/Darlinghurst/Newtown to make up for skipping Melbourne)
Uluru – 3 days (include tour out to Kings Canyon)
Cairns – 4 days (incl day trip to Cape Trib, day snorkelling, Port Douglas etc)

You’d probably need the left over days for flight connections but if you were super keen you could add either Melbourne or Adelaide to this.
As an Aussie, I’d say Western Australia and Tasmania would also be great additions but for a first timer then I’d recommend the above :)

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Brooke October 20, 2010 at 11:17 pm
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Cheers for the comment, Jade :) You’ll definitely have to make it back – Australia has too much to offer!

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Dori October 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm
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Thanks for this interesting article, Brooke. I’ve never been to Australia so it’s nice to have an article like yours as an introduction. We would like to travel in December 2011 when we have two weeks off from school and work. I will be travelling with my two sons (ages 6 and 16) and my husband. If you have any specific recommendations for travelling with kids, I would love to hear them. Thank you.

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Vanessa October 26, 2011 at 2:45 am
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Australia is very kid-friendly! You might want to consider a stop at a theme park on the Gold Coast, as a treat for the kids, if that’s their kind of thing.

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