5 days in Australia: Sydney + Great Barrier Reef

Old Feb 17, 19, 1:20 pm
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5 days in Australia: Sydney + Great Barrier Reef

Hi

I am going to be in Australia for 5 days late April. I'm flying in to Sydney from the US, arriving 8:30 AM, then flying out 5 days later. I was hoping to cover Sydney and make a quick trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

I know there isn't enough time to see either Sydney or the Great Barrier Reef fully in that time, and indeed I've been advised to do just one of those more fully, but I would still like to come up with a reasonable itinerary. I'm thinking 2 nights in Cairns, 3 in Sydney.

1) Would it be reasonable to fly out the same day I arrive to Cairns ? I'm going to be flying biz class to Sydney, so I shouldn't be totally wasted, but I'll still have had a long flight. I understand from other threads that there are no arrival lounges in Sydney. If I do fly to Cairns, it wouldn't be biz class. I gather I have to change terminals, so I assume I should leave around 2-3 hrs connection time.

2) I do have around 75-80 minutes transit in Auckland on the way into Sydney -- would it be possible to get a shower in the biz class ANZ lounge in that time ? My experience has been that long International flights do sometimes arrive a little early, so I may have a little more time than that.

3) 2 nights in Cairns would give me 1 full day and 2 partials there. Is it reasonable to get a boat ride, and maybe a plane ride in that time?

4) In Sydney, I was thinking of spending 1.5 days in the city and 1 day making a trip to the Blue Mountains. Is a hotel in the CBD good for covering Sydney ? I would especially like to take a Sydney harbor night cruise.

All suggestions, comments welcome. Thanks !
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Old Feb 17, 19, 3:30 pm
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I live in Cairns so I will reply to #3 . Yes, you can go out to the reef in a day. It will be a full day so don't plan anything else. Try Tusa or Divers Den. I assume you plan to snorkel as you don't have time to recover from a dive.
Instead of a plane ride, take a helicopter tour on one of your partial days. Both GBR Cairns Reef Packages - GBR Helicopters and Nautilus offer that. GBR's advantage is a helipad in the CBD. If you stay at one of the CBD hotels, GBR is more convenient.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 1:33 pm
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Thanks, Karen

Some more questions about Sydney, I have 1 free night award in an Intercontinental Hotel. I see there are 2 Intercontinentals in Sydney

1) Intercontinental Sydney near the Harbour. it seems like this hotel is better located for walking around the harbour area, has better views and is in a historic building.
2) Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay. This hotel seems more modern, and more isolated -- if one just wants to relax.

Are my assessments correct ?

I also see there is a Park Hyatt Sydney in the Rocks, ultra luxury and very expensive. I don't have a free night at Hyatt , and I see the hotel rate is US $750+. I can get a room for 30K Hyatt points , I am reluctant to spend 30K points on a standard luxury hotel. But if the hotel really is a one-of-a-kind luxury property, then I'd be willing to use that many points. Is the Park Hyatt really that good a hotel (the obvious caveat is that luxury is in the eye of the beholder) ?

Thanks
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Old Feb 18, 19, 3:54 pm
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I've stayed at both IC properties in Sydney and your assessment is pretty much spot on. The views from the Harbour IC can be quite good. The Double Bay IC is a nicer property and there is plenty to do around the hotel in terms of eat/drink/shop... but it is a little isolated from the major tourist attractions (both a positive and a negative).

I have not stayed at the Park Hyatt but it does get good reviews.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 7:26 pm
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Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
Some more questions about Sydney, I have 1 free night award in an Intercontinental Hotel. I see there are 2 Intercontinentals in Sydney

1) Intercontinental Sydney near the Harbour. it seems like this hotel is better located for walking around the harbour area, has better views and is in a historic building.
2) Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay. This hotel seems more modern, and more isolated -- if one just wants to relax.
Some hotel master threads linked here ---->Oz Fest 16 Post 4

Are you on the Air NZ fare?----->[PREM FARE GONE] ORD-SYD NZ $1500 RT biz
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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:29 pm
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Originally Posted by CPMaverick View Post
I've stayed at both IC properties in Sydney and your assessment is pretty much spot on. The views from the Harbour IC can be quite good. The Double Bay IC is a nicer property and there is plenty to do around the hotel in terms of eat/drink/shop... but it is a little isolated from the major tourist attractions (both a positive and a negative).
I've not stayed at the DB IC, but I've been told it has really small rooms. I did have lunch there at Sake a couple of weeks ago and it was very nice. (and I'm not a big Sake fan). My personal opinion is that there are much nicer parts to Sydney than Double Bay. Far too many spivs down there for my liking.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 9:38 pm
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Do the centrally located IC. The PH is not worth the price and hype IMO. It has some good views and I very much like the location, but I wouldn't consider it to be a really special hotel.
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Old Feb 19, 19, 6:33 pm
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Originally Posted by bensyd View Post
I've not stayed at the DB IC, but I've been told it has really small rooms. I did have lunch there at Sake a couple of weeks ago and it was very nice. (and I'm not a big Sake fan). My personal opinion is that there are much nicer parts to Sydney than Double Bay. Far too many spivs down there for my liking.
I don't recall the room being small. I was an AMB at the time so probably got an upgrade.

I only stayed one night because I needed to go to the Chinese embassy which isn't far away. But I can see what you mean by the neighborhood.
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Old Feb 19, 19, 6:53 pm
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Sydney is a loooong way from Cairns. It's like arriving in Maine and just doing "a quick trip" to Florida. You're in the air for 3 hours so it's effectively a 5-6 hour trip each way. Do you need to fly in and out of Sydney? Could you fly straight to Cairns, or maybe do USA-AKL-CNS-SYD-USA?

Although it is a lot better than it used to be SYD is still a shocking airport for transfers. With an 0830 arrival I wouldn't book anything earlier than 1130. You are correct that SYD has no arrival lounges, but you can use domestic departure lounges on a domestic ticket if you have status.
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Last edited by secondsoprano; Feb 19, 19 at 6:53 pm Reason: typo
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Old Feb 19, 19, 6:57 pm
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Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
Some hotel master threads linked here ---->

Are you on the Air NZ fare?----->
Thanks, that post with hotel master threads is very helpful. For 2 paid nights, I am thinking of the Hilton Sydney, Sheraton or Westin in the CBD. Or possibly the Intercontinental near the Harbour again. All of those hotels seem to be well located, allowing walks to and around the Harbour area and parks. And I gather those areas are safe and reasonably lively.

On the whole (knock on wood), prices don't seem that high (except the Hyatt Regency !) compared to major US or European cities

Last edited by Prancer; Feb 22, 19 at 10:29 am
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Old Feb 19, 19, 8:55 pm
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Originally Posted by secondsoprano View Post
Sydney is a loooong way from Cairns. It's like arriving in Maine and just doing "a quick trip" to Florida. You're in the air for 3 hours so it's effectively a 5-6 hour trip each way. Do you need to fly in and out of Sydney? Could you fly straight to Cairns, or maybe do USA-AKL-CNS-SYD-USA?

Although it is a lot better than it used to be SYD is still a shocking airport for transfers. With an 0830 arrival I wouldn't book anything earlier than 1130. You are correct that SYD has no arrival lounges, but you can use domestic departure lounges on a domestic ticket if you have status.
AKL-SYD-CNS---> Great Circle Mapper

Au domestic airlines are Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar & Tiger
Do not consider TT for 1 second
JQ only you are desperate. Check the ticket t&c's including carry-on & checked baggage.
QF or VA can get you to Cairns

Additional information associated with flights
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Old Feb 19, 19, 11:24 pm
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Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
Au domestic airlines are Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar & Tiger
Do not consider TT for 1 second
JQ only you are desperate. Check the ticket t&c's including carry-on & checked baggage.
QF or VA can get you to Cairns
Thanks. I'm a little disappointed to see how expensive flights are. $300+ RT for Qantas or VA (and even for TT and JQ > $250, with some baggage). I realize it's a long distance, but that's a fair amount of overhead for a short trip.

Am wondering if I should drop the idea of going to Cairns and instead make a day trip to Canberra and a sort of day trip to Melbourne (which would be hectic)
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Old Feb 19, 19, 11:47 pm
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Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
Thanks, that post with hotel master threads is very helpful. For 2 paid nights, I am thinking of the Hilton Sydney, Sheraton or Westin in the CBD. Or possibly the Intercontinental near the Harbour again. All of those hotels seem to be well located, allowing walks to and around the Harbour area and parks. And I gather those areas are safe and reasonably lively.

On the whole (knock on wood), prices don't seem that high (except the Hyatt Regency !) compared to major US or European cities

I am on the Air NZ fare, yes.
I don't like the old CBD is Sydney, although I have stayed in the Hilton. My impression is that after employees leave at the end of the business day, you mostly see drunks on the street. Try to stay closer to the water, or in the Rocks (which has drunks too, but at least there's stuff to do).
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:07 am
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Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
Thanks. I'm a little disappointed to see how expensive flights are. $300+ RT for Qantas or VA (and even for TT and JQ > $250, with some baggage). I realize it's a long distance, but that's a fair amount of overhead for a short trip.

Am wondering if I should drop the idea of going to Cairns and instead make a day trip to Canberra and a sort of day trip to Melbourne (which would be hectic)
I live in Canberra. Itís ok, thereís lots of museums etc many of them free. But itís not a world class tourist attraction by any stretch

ETA: itís a 3 hour drive or a fairly expensive 1 hour flight from Sydney to Canberra.
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Last edited by nancypants; Feb 20, 19 at 12:12 am
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Old Feb 20, 19, 2:38 am
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Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
Thanks. I'm a little disappointed to see how expensive flights are. $300+ RT for Qantas or VA (and even for TT and JQ > $250, with some baggage). I realize it's a long distance, but that's a fair amount of overhead for a short trip.
It is a ~3:00hr flight. $50 per hour is not that unusual. Including time to/from airport, check-in, security will take half a day to get there. If you leave mid-morning the best part of a day will be needed.

Originally Posted by nancypants View Post
I live in Canberra. Itís ok, thereís lots of museums etc many of them free. But itís not a world class tourist attraction by any stretch

ETA: itís a 3 hour drive or a fairly expensive 1 hour flight from Sydney to Canberra.
Or a slowish train and see some of the country side. With time to/from airports, check in etc train takes more time (4:45hr), but not a lot more point to point.
https://transportnsw.info/regional
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