Australia is vast in size and offerings, but with 12 days to spend, you have some great options to maximize your time Down Under. First-timers to Australia might focus on the classic sights of Sydney and the red rock landscape of Uluru. Nature-loving travelers can choose trips where you'll dive into the Great Barrier Reef and get up close and personal with kangaroos and koalas. Or, combine some of Australia's highlights with a few days in New Zealand's adventure hub, Queenstown.

Itinerary #1: Classic Australia: Melbourne, Uluru & Sydney

This 12-day highlights itinerary takes you from the happening cities of Melbourne and Sydney to the iconic Red Centre rock formation of Uluru. Along the way, you'll have plenty of guided tours and experiences to help you get the most out of Australia's unique culture and natural scenery.

Sydney's Bondi Beach
Day 1 Arrive in Melbourne, Optional Activities Melbourne
Day 2 Best of Melbourne by Bike, Afternoon Food Tour Melbourne
Day 3 Great Ocean Road Day Trip Melbourne
Day 4 Phillip Island Tour & Penguin Parade Melbourne
Day 5 Melbourne to Uluru Uluru
Day 6 Sunrise Tour of Uluru, Kata Tjuta Hike & Field of Light Dinner Uluru
Day 7 Uluru to Sydney, Optional Activities, Speakeasy Pub Crawl Sydney
Day 8 The Rocks Walking Tour, Sydney Harbour Cruise & Manly Beaches Sydney
Day 9 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 10 First Nations Cultural Experience, Opera House Tour, Night Bridge Climb Sydney
Day 11 Free Day in Sydney Sydney
Day 12 Depart Sydney  

Begin your adventure in Melbourne, where you'll have four days to explore the city's vibrant cultural scene. See the city's top sights on a bike tour, and spend an afternoon sampling local food and wine on a culinary walking tour. Take a daylong road trip to admire the stunning coastal scenery of the Great Ocean Road, and head to nearby Philip Island to witness the (adorable) nightly ritual of penguins marching across the beach. After Melbourne, it's off to Uluru to enjoy a sunrise tour of the famed red monolith and have an unforgettable "bush tucker" dinner followed by stargazing with a First Nations guide.

You'll head to the waterfront city of Sydney for the second half of the trip. In an action-packed five days, you'll visit major landmarks on guided tours, including the Opera House. Embark on a nighttime climb to the top of Sydney's famed Harbour Bridge, and get into the local nightlife on a pub crawl. While in Sydney, you'll also relax on an afternoon harbor cruise and visit the beach suburb of Manly for some laid-back sand and surf vibes. Then, you'll day-trip to the rugged cliffs and eucalyptus forests of the Blue Mountains, stopping at the Sydney Zoo en route. Enjoy a final free day in Sydney before saying "cheers, mate" to Australia. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Highlights of Australia: Sydney, Uluru & the Great Barrier Reef 

Active travelers can check out this 12-day journey showcasing the best of Sydney along with Australia's most celebrated natural attractions. Start things off in Sydney with tours of the Opera House and Bondi Beach, then hop a plane into the outback to see the Red Centre's famed monolith, Uluru. Finish off the trip in Cairns, where you'll immerse yourself in outdoor and wildlife experiences, including a snorkel cruise to the Great Barrier Reef and a rainforest tour in Daintree National Park.

View of Sydney Harbour from the rocks known as Mrs Macquarie's Chair
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Optional Activities Sydney
Day 2 Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach & Taronga Zoo Tour Sydney
Day 3 Urban First Nations Cultural Tour, Afternoon City Tour Sydney
Day 4 Fly to Uluru, Sacred Sites & Sunset Viewing Uluru
Day 5 Sunrise Tour of Uluru & Kata Tjuta Hike, Camel Tour, Field of Light Dinner Uluru
Day 6 Kings Canyon Rim Walk Uluru
Day 7 Fly to Cairns, Cairns Aquarium Cairns
Day 8 Free Day in Cairns Cairns
Day 9 Outer Barrier Reef Cruise Cairns
Day 10 First Nations Fishing & Daintree National Park Cairns
Day 11 Full-Day Kuranda Rainforest Tour Cairns
Day 12 Depart Australia  

Your trip starts in Sydney, where you'll spend several days exploring the city's main sights and its stunning waterfront. On a guided visit, you'll get an insider's look at the iconic Opera House and have a chance to hit the golden sands—and maybe even surf—at Bondi Beach. Learn about Australia's First Nations culture with a First Nations guide, and see Sydney's top historic landmarks and neighborhoods on a walking tour. You'll then fly to the Red Centre and spend three nights at Uluru. Experience all angles of the iconic sandstone monolith with a sunrise hike, a camel ride, and dinner overlooking Uluru's spectacular LED art installation.

For the second half of your Aussie trip, it's on to Cairns in northern Queensland, your base for an action-packed itinerary of outdoor adventures and wildlife encounters. Visit the sharks and rays at Cairns Aquarium, and take a day cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, where you can snorkel amid sea turtles and other tropical marine life. Try your hand at First Nations fishing techniques at Cooya Beach, and walk amid the ancient rainforests of Daintree National Park. On your last day, visit the rainforest hill town of Kuranda, where you can cuddle with koalas at a wildlife center, and then ride back to Cairns on a cableway over the jungle canopy. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Sydney, Great Barrier Reef, Adelaide & Kangaroo Island

This 12-day outdoor-focused adventure offers an exciting mix of Australia's best wildlife tours and incredible natural wonders. Start by exploring the highlights of Sydney, and then take a day trip to the rugged mountains and vast gorges of the Blue Mountains. From Sydney, fly to Port Douglas to snorkel the outer limits of the Great Barrier Reef and embark on rainforest hikes before heading south to spend time with kangaroos and enjoy Adelaide's celebrated gastronomy.

G'day from Kangaroo Island
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Optional Activities Sydney
Day 2 Sydney Guided Bike Tour Sydney
Day 3 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 4 Sydney to Port Douglas, Optional Activities Port Douglas
Day 5 Outer Barrier Reef Cruise Port Douglas
Day 6 Free Day in Port Douglas Port Douglas
Day 7 Full-Day Daintree Adventure & River Snorkeling Port Douglas
Day 8 Port Douglas to Adelaide, Optional Activities Adelaide
Day 9 Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, Ultimate Tour (Day 1) Kangaroo Island
Day 10 Ultimate Kangaroo Island Tour (Day 2), Transfer to Adelaide Adelaide
Day 11 Adelaide Central Market Food Tour Adelaide
Day 12 Depart Australia  

Your journey begins in Sydney, where you'll have time to explore the highlights on your own and with a guided bike tour, taking in iconic spots such as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House as well as more off-the-beaten-path locales. You'll also embark on a day trip to the dramatic cliffs and forested valleys of the Blue Mountains. From Sydney, head to northeast Queensland and the resort town of Port Douglas, your base for three days of outdoor activities, including a Great Barrier Reef cruise, a rainforest hike in Daintree National Park, and snorkeling in the Mossman River, where you might be lucky enough to swim with platypus. 

Next, hop on a plane south to Adelaide, renowned for its food, wine, and arts scenes. You'll have free time to walk around Adelaide's historic, verdant neighborhoods and stop at whichever buzzy restaurants and bars strike your fancy. Depart Adelaide for a two-day trip to Kangaroo Island, home to nature preserves where you'll encounter kangaroos, koalas, and sea lions and visit striking geologic formations such as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. Return to Adelaide and enjoy a half-day tour of the city's Central Market, where you'll have guided tastings of local gourmet products before bidding farewell. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Explore Australia & New Zealand: Sydney, Palm Cove & Queenstown

Sample a bit of both Australia and New Zealand on this 12-day itinerary ideal for active travelers. First, see Sydney and its nearby Blue Mountains, then fly to Palm Cove on Queensland's tropical coast for a Great Barrier Reef dive trip, rainforest hikes in Daintree National Park, and drift snorkeling in idyllic Mossman Gorge. Finish up the journey in New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown, where you'll go wine tasting, take an overnight cruise on Milford Sound, and enjoy some of the region's best high-adrenaline outdoor activities.

Rainforest swimming and snorkeling in Mossman Gorge
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney Sydney
Day 2 Free Morning to Explore & Sydney Harbour Discovery Lunch Cruise Sydney
Day 3 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 4 Transfer to Palm Cove Palm Cove
Day 5 Full-Day Outer Reef & Intro Dive Palm Cove
Day 6 Full-Day Mossman Gorge Adventure with River Drift Snorkeling Palm Cove
Day 7 Fly to Queenstown, New Zealand's Adventure Capital Queenstown
Day 8 Boutique Wine Tour, Walter Peak Farm & Gourmet Barbecue Dinner Queenstown
Days 9-10 Milford Sound Overnight Cruise Queenstown
Day 11 Jet Boat & 4WD Adventure in Queenstown Queenstown
Day 12 Depart Queenstown   

Start your journey in vibrant Sydney, where you'll have a few days to see the city's top sights on your own and with organized excursions, including a tour of the Opera House, plus a Sydney Harbour cruise with snorkeling at Shark Island (despite the name, this is a lovely spot with calm, safe waters). You'll also enjoy a day trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains, renowned for their stunning cliffs and eucalyptus-covered valleys. From Sydney, fly north to the resort town of Palm Cove on Queensland's tropical coast, your base for the next three days. While in Palm Cove, take a day to dive the Great Barrier Reef, and go river snorkeling in the rainforest surrounds of Mossman Gorge.

Next, hop a plane to Queenstown, New Zealand's undisputed capital of all things adrenaline- and adventure-related. During your four-day stay in Queenstown, you'll have a mix of free time and immersive tours, such as a full-day wine-tasting excursion complete with a lake cruise and barbecue dinner. You'll also embark on an overnight cruise on Milford Sound, keeping an eye out for dolphins and penguins as you gaze in awe at the gorgeous scenery of this famed glacial valley. On your last day, hold on tight as you board a high-thrill jet boat ride and go for a rugged 4WD adventure amid old gold mines and locations used in the "The Lord of the Rings" movies. Learn more

More Great 12-Day Australia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Australia? Check out these other 12-day Australia itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of 12 Days in Australia - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 12 Days in Australia - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas