Australia a a huge country. It is as big as the US but with the population of New York city. You would need at least a month to see the different territories and let's face it, most people can't take off that kind of time. So here is the perfect 2-week itinerary with a little bit of everything, not rushed where you will come home rested!
Sydney is a good place to start. Being the capital city of New South Wales, flights to Sydney tends to be reasonable. Round trip flights will be about $800, sometimes as low as $600, with at least one stop. While the journey is long, it is well worth it and you will feel the warmth of the Australian people starting on the Qantas plane. For this particular itinerary, avoid the summer months December to February. If you are going for the surf, then I encourage it. Autumn is also great time to visit but to me Springs was perfect (October/November)
While in Sydney, you will want to see the Opera House, maybe catch a show. Make sure you have 2 full days after your arrival to get used to the time difference. You may be excited when you arrive but the time difference will catch up to you. A total of 4 to 5 days in Sydney will allow you to overcome any jet lag, to see the main sites, and explore some less popular but just as incredible gems. Manly Island is a nice alternative to Bondi Beach. Other spots in Sydney to visit- The Royal Botanical Garden, The Blue Mountains, Calmlessly Farm, Wildlife in the Wild tour, Fortune of War Pub.
Next up is the Outback. While in Sydney you will be in a bustling city, vibrant nightlife and great international cuisine, Alice Springs a/k/a the Red Center will offer you a completely different perspective. At this point you have already seen the beach in Sydney, wildlife (in the wild and and in a working farm) and some of the best known tourist spots in Australia.
Alice Springs has a small downtown area, and I mean basically a shopping center. The culture is palpable. While the weather in Sydney was nice and chilly, Alice Springs was the desert and compared to Vegas weather during the summer time. There you will be surrounded by the Aboriginals. They speak loudly and aggressively. But do not fear, they are not a threat and might be yelling near you but not at you. I met a wonderful homeless man who sat at the bar next to me. We talked for quite some time and a short while later there were other locals and travelers sitting with us. This single experience went hand in hand with what I had already observed in Sydney- there's no judgement. The dishwasher is a marine biologist; the server, a college professor. People come to Australia for the quality of life. An undeniable quality of life.
After one day in Alice Springs, my Outback tour started. I was picked up early in the am and was psyched to see the milky way, that was my dream. The tour consisted of 21 people plus the guide. Dave C from the Wayoutback Safari Tours was remarkable and the tour, though draining, was a priceless experience.
Outback Day 2- 32 Celsius, almost 90 Fahrenheit and that was not the hottest. No breeze. It was rough. After getting slightly lost at the first campsite when I was coming back from the showers, which was terrifying, the second campsite had an incredible outdoor shower. Lather up with a view. The water came from underground naturally hot. There's enough water underneath the red center for the next 400 years!
For dinner our guide made Kangaroo bolognese where the secret ingredient was chocolate! That night we wanted to sleep in our swags under the stars (a more sturdy type of sleeping bag shell). Well, the rain didn't collaborate. But at 4 am, our usual wake up time, I looked up and there it was; the Milky Way. I could not capture it with a photo and no, it didn't look like the photos you see on Google. The stars aren't as clustered but you do see the glowing band. It made me cry.
Earlier that day we had visited Uluru- a must see. So many stories and nooks. An Aboriginal woman came with us on the tour and told us the stories. Climbing Uluru is no longer allowed as of November 2018 because there has been over 35 deaths.
On the last day we hiked Kings Canyon. The highlight here is the Garden of Eden. The hike was exquisite with many photo opportunities.
So those were my 5 days in Alice Springs/ Outback. If camping is not for you, take day tours from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kings Canyon, but they are both a must see. If you can plan for the sunset over the Uluru, it's well worth it!
My second to last stop in Australia was Cairns and Port Douglas for the last 5 days of my two week trip. This is where I left my heart. After being in the busy city life in Sydney, then enduring the Outback's heat, I was ready to end my vacation relaxed and refreshed.
Cairns captured me at the first moment. It is in the heart of the Tropical North, with only about 150,000 people but has a city feel, while clean, safe,polite and gorgeous!
I met locals at a bar downtown the first night after strolling the Esplanade and coming face to face with this gorgeous lagoon (The Esplanade Lagoon)
Completely free and open to the public, this is a great alternative to swimming in the small sections of the ocean that are barricaded off to keep the crocodiles out.
For dining, you absolutely must check Prawn Stars, a restaurant on a boat featuring nothing but seafood, known to the locals as the best around! Hotels won't tell you about this place, it's a local gem!!
My last stop before heading back to Sydney for my flight home was Port Douglas. A tiny little town where I spent the most relaxing 3.5 days, 2 of which I ventured to the Great Barrier Reef. Both the Outer Reef and the Lower Isles are worth a visit. I explore both in depth on my upcoming blurb (coming soon).
But Port Douglas has so much to offer. The food is delicious and healthy, the nightlife is fun and exciting and the people are warm.
Things you want to see in Port Douglas include:
- The Toad Race, Iron Bar
- The Sunset at Anzac Park (last photo)
- The 4-mile beach (be careful of Crocs and only swim within flags!)
- Cape Tribulation Daintree (to see crocs)