Itinerary advice - 2 weeks in Australia

Old Dec 7, 19, 9:29 pm
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Itinerary advice - 2 weeks in Australia

My wife and I are spending two weeks in Australia in January and I'm looking for a bit of advice, mainly to make sure I'm on the right track. Our flights and hotels have been booked for a while, but we have pretty good flexibility on our day-to-day plans. All tours booked are refundable, so I can change things up. With that said, it's our first time in Australia so we're hoping to see as much as possible as we're not sure how soon we'll be back. Here's what we've got so far as a tentative itinerary:

Sydney (staying at Marriott Sydney Harbour at Circular Quay)
  • Day 1:
    • Arrive SYD in morning
    • Afternoon: Free walking tour
    • Evening: Show at Sydney Opera House
  • Day 2
    • Afternoon: Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach Walk
    • Swim/relax at Bondi Icebergs Club
    • Evening: The Rocks free walking tour
  • Day 3
    • Hunter Valley Wine and Cheese Tasting Tour
  • Day 4
    • Blue Mountains Tour
  • Day 5
    • ATP Cup tennis tournament in the evening; have free tickets to the morning session but could do something else
Hayman Island
  • Days 6-9
    • Spending four nights here; have an all-day GBR scuba diving trip and a helicopter tour to Whitehaven Beach planned.
Melbourne (staying at Sheraton Melbourne)
  • Day 10
    • Arrive afternoon
    • "Culture Capital" free walking tour
  • Day 11
    • Yarra Valley sunrise hot air balloon ride and all-day wine tour
  • Day 12
    • "City Sights" free walking tour
    • Cricket match at Melbourne Cricket Ground
  • Day 13
    • Great Ocean Road sunset tour
  • Day 14
    • Australian Open all day
  • Depart on Day 15
For those Australian natives or frequent visitors, any glaring omissions that you'd recommend? Also, any bars/restaurants in particular that we need to check out? Several of our evenings will be open in Sydney and Melbourne...tried to keep us busy, while also giving us some time to explore in the moment. Thanks in advance!

Last edited by rdh0924; Dec 8, 19 at 9:30 pm
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Old Dec 7, 19, 9:58 pm
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Been to Australia before?
You have activities planned for every day. Often the complete day or more:- early morning start (Yarra) or late finish (Great Ocean Rd) or a long day (Hunter & Blue Mountain).
Have you booked for the Aust Open?
When you get home you will need some days to rest/recuperate !
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Last edited by Mwenenzi; Dec 7, 19 at 10:09 pm
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Old Dec 7, 19, 10:36 pm
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Correct. But as noted, all of our tours are refundable until about the day before...so willing to change things around if I'm really missing something. Kinda just hoping I'm not totally overlooking something.

We did book for the Aussie Open right when tickets became available to public. It'll be early round matches so plan to roam outer courts.
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Old Dec 7, 19, 11:47 pm
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Originally Posted by rdh0924 View Post

Sydney (staying at Marriott Sydney Harbour at Circular Quay)
  • Day 1:
    • Arrive SYD in morning
    • Afternoon: Free walking tour
    • Evening: Show at Sydney Opera House
  • Day 2
    • Afternoon: Cougee Beach to Bondi Beach Walk
    • Swim/relax at Bondi Icebergs Club
    • Evening: The Rocks free walking tour
  • Day 3
    • Hunter Valley Wine and Cheese Tasting Tour
  • Day 4
    • Blue Mountains Tour
  • Day 5
    • ATP Cup tennis tournament in the evening; have free tickets to the morning session but could do something else

Days 3 and 4 will be long days. You are doing two walking tours, where is the one on day 1? If it's the area around Circular Quay then it's going to be fairly similar to a Rocks walking tour. It seems almost criminal to come all that way and not at least take a ferry ride on the harbour. While Bondi gets a lot of attention it is really a pretty ugly beach and there are far better spots to spend an afternoon (Coogee, Bronte, Manly). My personal pick would be to head to the Watson's Bay Hotel and have a beer/something to eat after your walk then catch the ferry back to CQ, or check out some of the harbour beaches around there like Camp Cove and Nielsen Park. The tennis is a fair way from central Sydney and there is not much else going on at Homebush. It's about an hour to get there from the CBD, if you are going for the morning session, then expecting to come back in the afternoon before going back it's going to be a long time on trains.

For bars and restaurants, there are HEAPS of suggestions in the Sydney eating thread. If you give us a bit more info on what you're looking for we can probably point you in the right direction.

That time of year is holiday time in Australia so expect the CBD to be pretty quiet. I'd say venturing out to Surry Hills/Paddington/Newtown will have more life.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 12:37 am
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Originally Posted by bensyd View Post


Days 3 and 4 will be long days. You are doing two walking tours, where is the one on day 1? If it's the area around Circular Quay then it's going to be fairly similar to a Rocks walking tour. It seems almost criminal to come all that way and not at least take a ferry ride on the harbour. While Bondi gets a lot of attention it is really a pretty ugly beach and there are far better spots to spend an afternoon (Coogee, Bronte, Manly). My personal pick would be to head to the Watson's Bay Hotel and have a beer/something to eat after your walk then catch the ferry back to CQ, or check out some of the harbour beaches around there like Camp Cove and Nielsen Park. The tennis is a fair way from central Sydney and there is not much else going on at Homebush. It's about an hour to get there from the CBD, if you are going for the morning session, then expecting to come back in the afternoon before going back it's going to be a long time on trains.

For bars and restaurants, there are HEAPS of suggestions in the Sydney eating thread. If you give us a bit more info on what you're looking for we can probably point you in the right direction.

That time of year is holiday time in Australia so expect the CBD to be pretty quiet. I'd say venturing out to Surry Hills/Paddington/Newtown will have more life.
Thanks, Ben. I just discovered both the Sydney and Melbourne eating threads and found a bunch of good recommendations.

We're definitely not tied to either of the walking tours in either Sydney or Melbourne...but since it's our first time, I find it can be a good way to get the lay of the land. The city sights tour (2.5 hours) starts at Town Hall Square. Think that's a bit more traditional. The Rocks tour (1.5 hours) starts at Cadman's Cottage and appears to cover a different side of Sydney's history like "murders and mysteries, historic pubs and breweries, Australia's largest bank robbery," etc.

The Blue Mountains tour we're booked on returns to the CBD by way of ferry across the harbour (I think). If not, I'll find a way to weave that into our five days in Sydney.

Good to know regarding the Cougee-to-Bondi Beach walk. Is it worth going to Iceberg's Bondi Icebergs Club for the pool at all or is that overblown? Looks cool from the pictures, but that's all I'm going off of.

Days 3 and 4 will be long, for sure. Might just need to skip the morning tennis session to relax. We have great seats in the evening because we expected Federer to be there. But he recently dropped out. Still will be fun...huge tennis fans so we'll looking forward to that.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 5:46 am
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Originally Posted by rdh0924 View Post

We're definitely not tied to either of the walking tours in either Sydney or Melbourne...but since it's our first time, I find it can be a good way to get the lay of the land. The city sights tour (2.5 hours) starts at Town Hall Square. Think that's a bit more traditional. The Rocks tour (1.5 hours) starts at Cadman's Cottage and appears to cover a different side of Sydney's history like "murders and mysteries, historic pubs and breweries, Australia's largest bank robbery," etc.
If it was me I'd pick one or the other. We're talking about a pretty small area and four hours of guided tours could get a bit monotonous.

Originally Posted by rdh0924 View Post
The Blue Mountains tour we're booked on returns to the CBD by way of ferry across the harbour (I think). If not, I'll find a way to weave that into our five days in Sydney.
I think if your tour guide tries to give you a boat ride across the harbour on the way back from the Blue Mountains your tour guide is well and truly lost!

The slow ferry to Manly is the most popular ferry for tourists to hop on to see the harbour. It takes about 50 minutes one way and there is kiosk/bar serving booze and snacks. The fast ferry can get you back to the CBD in 20 minutes.

Originally Posted by rdh0924 View Post
Good to know regarding the Cougee-to-Bondi Beach walk. Is it worth going to Iceberg's Bondi Icebergs Club for the pool at all or is that overblown? Looks cool from the pictures, but that's all I'm going off of.
The pool is nice for a swim. I mean if you're there you may as well have a beer or two, but consider going up to Watson's Bay or even starting arse first at Bondi and finishing at Coogee. It's kind of funny that Bondi has this reputation with a lot of visitors but most locals don't really see what the fuss is about. I guess coming from Minneapolis in January, any beach with sunshine will look pretty damn good.

Originally Posted by rdh0924 View Post
Days 3 and 4 will be long, for sure. Might just need to skip the morning tennis session to relax. We have great seats in the evening because we expected Federer to be there. But he recently dropped out. Still will be fun...huge tennis fans so we'll looking forward to that.
Nice.That should be good.

The Oz Open is great fun. The nice thing about Melbourne is that the major event facilities are all located adjacent to the CBD.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 6:10 am
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You are flying a long way to go a big city. go to Cairns (cans.) Maybe if you have a big budget stay in Port Douglas. Plan on visiting the Daintree and if you are a swimmer a great barrier reef tour. In cairns go to Rusty's Market, certainly the best produce market I've ever visited. A combination of a tradition Farmers Market and a produce store. The over hyped Night Market can be easily be missed!

Check with your bank card issuer and if you do not have one ask for a ' contactless card.' This can be used on Sydney public transit and is charge the same as an Opal card.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 9:10 am
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Originally Posted by rdh0924 View Post
Thanks, Ben. I just discovered both the Sydney and Melbourne eating threads and found a bunch of good recommendations.

We're definitely not tied to either of the walking tours in either Sydney or Melbourne...but since it's our first time, I find it can be a good way to get the lay of the land. The city sights tour (2.5 hours) starts at Town Hall Square. Think that's a bit more traditional. The Rocks tour (1.5 hours) starts at Cadman's Cottage and appears to cover a different side of Sydney's history like "murders and mysteries, historic pubs and breweries, Australia's largest bank robbery," etc.

The Blue Mountains tour we're booked on returns to the CBD by way of ferry across the harbour (I think). If not, I'll find a way to weave that into our five days in Sydney.

Good to know regarding the Cougee-to-Bondi Beach walk. Is it worth going to Iceberg's Bondi Icebergs Club for the pool at all or is that overblown? Looks cool from the pictures, but that's all I'm going off of.

Days 3 and 4 will be long, for sure. Might just need to skip the morning tennis session to relax. We have great seats in the evening because we expected Federer to be there. But he recently dropped out. Still will be fun...huge tennis fans so we'll looking forward to that.
When i took the blue mountains tour, on the way back, tour included a stop at Olympic Park in the afternoon and they did put us on a ferry that travelled east and docked at King Street Wharf where tour ended.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 9:44 am
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Originally Posted by bensyd View Post
If it was me I'd pick one or the other. We're talking about a pretty small area and four hours of guided tours could get a bit monotonous.



I think if your tour guide tries to give you a boat ride across the harbour on the way back from the Blue Mountains your tour guide is well and truly lost!

The slow ferry to Manly is the most popular ferry for tourists to hop on to see the harbour. It takes about 50 minutes one way and there is kiosk/bar serving booze and snacks. The fast ferry can get you back to the CBD in 20 minutes.



The pool is nice for a swim. I mean if you're there you may as well have a beer or two, but consider going up to Watson's Bay or even starting arse first at Bondi and finishing at Coogee. It's kind of funny that Bondi has this reputation with a lot of visitors but most locals don't really see what the fuss is about. I guess coming from Minneapolis in January, any beach with sunshine will look pretty damn good.



Nice.That should be good.

The Oz Open is great fun. The nice thing about Melbourne is that the major event facilities are all located adjacent to the CBD.
OK, cool. Will probably skip the second walking tour in both Sydney and Melbourne to clear up some time. I studied abroad in college 10 years and then have done a lot of 3-4 day trips since then, but this will be first 2-week long adventure so I'm probably a little overambitious.

As for the ferry, you're right haha. Just checked the itinerary and it says, "Your trip to Sydney is not complete without a Ferry on the Parramatta River to Sydney Harbour Circular Quay." Either way, glad that's included.

Looking into Watson's Bay...looks awesome. Only reason I had originally decided to end at Bondi was because it'll be a Thursday and I read the pool is closed Thursdays but usually opens in the afternoon during the summer. With that said, by not doing the second walking tour, we can spend moseying around. Though we're coming from Minneapolis, we spent 2.5 years living on the Central Coast in California, so we're probably a bit pickier with beaches. That said, we're just thrilled to get out of shoveling snow for two weeks!

Really appreciate your insight on this! Super helpful.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 9:47 am
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Originally Posted by electriclarry View Post
You are flying a long way to go a big city. go to Cairns (cans.) Maybe if you have a big budget stay in Port Douglas. Plan on visiting the Daintree and if you are a swimmer a great barrier reef tour. In cairns go to Rusty's Market, certainly the best produce market I've ever visited. A combination of a tradition Farmers Market and a produce store. The over hyped Night Market can be easily be missed!

Check with your bank card issuer and if you do not have one ask for a ' contactless card.' This can be used on Sydney public transit and is charge the same as an Opal card.
So, we're flying into Hamilton Island and then will have a boat transfer from there to Hayman Island. I didn't include much info on those days because we're basically "stuck" there for four nights. (Good place to be "stuck," I hope!) Basically selected Hayman because this whole trip is on points and miles - even the tours so far - and it was the best IHG hotel in the area. Wish we had more time in that area to explore Cairns, Port Douglas, etc., but it'll have to wait for the next Australia trip!

Thanks for the recommendation on the contactless card. I was looking into Opal cards, etc., last night and this will save the hassle of buying one.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 9:50 am
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Originally Posted by Bradhattan View Post
When i took the blue mountains tour, on the way back, tour included a stop at Olympic Park in the afternoon and they did put us on a ferry that travelled east and docked at King Street Wharf where tour ended.
Awesome. Checked this morning and ours indeed includes a ferry return. Did you like seeing the Blue Mountains via tour or did you wish you would've tried to rent a car and see it on your own? We were torn but the tour option seemed like the better way for us with limited amount of time there.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 11:39 am
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I've done multiple Oz trips in the last 12 months and did many of your stops. In Sydney, I've heard the Rocks tour is good - didn't do any walking tours myself. I research upfront and prefer to do things on my own. I'm thinking if you skip one of the Sydney tours, I'd make it the general one. The Rocks is interesting and I actually wished I'd gotten over there for a tour rather than a DIY.

Coogee - Bondi (note spelling of Coogee) I enjoyed the walk and swim at Icebergs. I am a swimmer - did a number of laps, circle left not right, just like the driving! Being from Chicago, my swim experiences are Lake Michigan or pool. I did enjoy the pool right on the beach with waves lapping over. Lunch was OK, quite crowded, but beautiful views.

I did Blue Mountains DIY. Early AM, taxi to trailheads (could have walked, I was saving time) at Three Sisters where I had a planned hiking route. There were few tourists on my day so I decided to do the touristy Scenic World after a multi-hour hike. Not really my thing and wouldn't repeat, but now I know I didn't miss a must-do. My sense when looking at group tours was that there was little time for my personal interests, but the tours may offer all you want. Just giving you another option - DIY was very easy from Sydney.

Even if you and wife are not shoppers, stop by Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. Covered Victorian era indoor arcade type shopping with unusual shops, restaurants, tea places - don't miss the clock. In Melbourne, be sure to explore the lanes and arcades. Not like US retail areas.

Some good museums in both Sydney and Melbourne, but maybe not your interests.

I noticed you haven't mentioned zoos or animal sanctuaries which is often an interest from US travelers. Sydney Zoo is located across the harbor from the Opera House. Beautiful, quick ferry ride over, good collection of Australian animals and great vies of the Opera House. Outside Melbourne, Healesville Sanctuary is a terrific exhibition of Aussie animals. They run a Zooshuttle from Melbourne CBD. The nightly Penguin Parade at Philip Island is another very popular, unique experience. Multiple day tour options from Melbourne. Melbourne Zoo in Melbourne proper was not as good as Sydney Zoo for the Aussie animal collection.

Great Ocean Road tour - have you checked how long a drive that is from Melbourne? If you've driven the California Coast, GOR is not any better. I know many people think they must include GOR, but it is a long way to drive just to see some coastal views. (my opinion!)
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Old Dec 8, 19, 11:58 am
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Agree with many comments. I typically take a ferry to Manly from Circular Quay at some point because it's a really good way to see the harbour. Would not drive Sydney to Melbourne. Just drive to Wollongong from Sydney (couple hours) and stop at the overlook off the highway - beautiful view; there's a cafe you can get a coffee at there.

Easy to get around Sydney on public transport if you want as well, except down to Bondi - I haven't gone in years (I go to Cronulla instead, it feels more aussie to me and I have family in that area) - I think it was a train and a bus to get into Bondi.

I didn't like Melbourne as much as Sydney (I will likely get yelled at here); it seems like people are a one or the other kind of person so you'll find out which you are soon.

See you in customs (I'm headed there in January as well)
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Old Dec 8, 19, 12:02 pm
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No yelling - but I preferred Melbourne to Sydney. I also understand that people generally have a preference seemingly based on subliminal affinities! Both cities were great for visiting.

I don't remember the number of the bus now, but there was an easy public route to Coogee Beach and an equally easy return bus from Bondi. Info was easily available. I also used Uber in Sydney and, of course, taxis were readily available.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 1:07 pm
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