Combine vibrant cities and remote nature on this well-rounded 17-day trip through Australia. Tour the sights in Sydney before flying north to Port Douglas to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Head to Brisbane for an immersive introduction to Indigenous culture and a guided tour of its famous zoo, then escape to the outback's quiet to witness Uluru's wonders. Wind down in the cultural capital of Melbourne, with a day trip to nearby Phillip Island to see its famous "penguin parade."


  • Get to know Sydney's city center, beaches, and harbor
  • Relax in Port Douglas and snorkel along the Great Barrier Reef
  • Explore Brisbane and the Australian Zoo, made famous by Steve Irwin
  • Ride camels through the outback and watch the sun rise over Uluru
  • See the penguins parade on the beaches of Phillip Island 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Taste of Sydney Tour Sydney
Day 2 Aboriginal Culture Tour, Sydney Harbour Lunch Cruise, Twilight Bridge Climb  Sydney
Day 3 Sydney City Tour, Visit Bondi Beach & Taronga Zoo Sydney
Day 4 Full-Day Wildlife, Waterfalls & Wine Tour Sydney
Day 5 Fly to Port Douglas, Free Afternoon Port Douglas
Day 6 Full-Day Barrier Reef & Coral Cays Boat Tour Port Douglas
Day 7 Full-Day Mossman Gorge Adventure Port Douglas
Day 8 Optional Activities in Port Douglas Port Douglas
Day 9 Fly to Brisbane, Spirits of the Red Sand Aboriginal Dinner  Brisbane
Day 10 Australia Zoo Guided Tour Brisbane
Day 11 Brisbane City Sights, Explore the South Bank Brisbane
Day 12 Fly to Uluru, Sounds of Silence Dinner Uluru
Day 13 Sunrise Kata Tjuta Tour, Sunset Camel Ride Uluru
Day 14 Fly to Melbourne, Explore the Laneways & Arcades Melbourne
Day 15 Full-Day Phillip Island Tour Melbourne
Day 16 Koalas & Kangaroos in the Wild  Melbourne
Day 17 Depart Melbourne  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney, Taste of Sydney Tour

Welcome to Sydney
Twilight over Sydney's iconic harbor skyline

Welcome to Australia! Upon arrival in Sydney, a driver will collect you from the airport and take you to your hotel. Often mistaken as Australia's capital (that would be Canberra), this city feels like the country's central metropolis. This is due to its famous sights, historic neighborhoods, world-class culinary and nightlife scenes, prime waterfront location, and pristine beaches. You'll have the morning to freshen up before heading out for an afternoon tour.

With today's "A Taste of Sydney" tour, you'll explore one of the city's oldest colonial areas, The Rocks, and the buzziest new waterfront precinct, Barangaroo. The food, history, and gorgeous scenery of these iconic spots will enchant you. Walk along Barangaroo Reserve and take in the incredible views of Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Darling Harbour. The tour finishes at Circular Quay, where you can quickly return to your hotel.

Day 2: Aboriginal Culture Tour, Sydney Harbour Lunch Cruise, Twilight Bridge Climb

Learn about Aboriginal history in Sydney's Botanic Garden
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for extraordinary views

Learn about the world's oldest living civilization on a tour of Sydney's Aboriginal culture and history. Start at the Royal Botanic Garden, a green oasis in the city, where you'll meet your guide, who will perform a traditional "welcome to country" ceremony. Walk through the park as your guide reveals the compelling history of the city's people and provides insight into the native flora, with a particular focus on Indigenous bush food. Then pass Sydney's beautiful eastern beaches on the way to an authentic Aboriginal art gallery, where you'll see works from some remote Indigenous communities. 

Later, take a lunch cruise with a sensational seafood buffet and spectacular Sydney Harbour views. You'll glide by the harbor's significant attractions, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, Luna Park, Fort Denison, and the luxury homes that line the harbor foreshore. This cruise offers GPS-based location commentary that gives you a keen insight into Sydney Harbour and its attractions.

Adventure awaits in the late afternoon, as you prepare to "skywalk" across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Strap on your safety gear and harness to embark on a journey led by an expert climb leader, taking you 439 feet (134 m) above sea level. It's a steady and easy incline to the top of the bridge via a network of catwalks and ladders. During the climb, marvel at the incredible 360-degree views. From this vantage point, you'll see the Opera House to the east and the Blue Mountains to the west. Enjoy the sunset over the harbor and descend amid Sydney's skyscrapers lit up at night.

Day 3: Sydney City Tour, Visit Bondi Beach & Taronga Zoo

Full day Sydney City Sights including Bondi Beach and Taronga Zoo
See friendly giraffes at Taronga Zoo with Sydney's skyline in full view

In the morning, join the Sydney City Sights Tour, which includes the famous Bondi Beach, to experience some of the many highlights that this beautiful harbor city has to offer. Your driver and guide will provide expert commentary as you travel past Sydney's suburbs, each with its own unique streetscape and intriguing history.

Then it's on to the Taronga Zoo, a nonprofit organization supporting wildlife conservation. Taronga cares for 4,000 animals from over 350 species, many of which are threatened. Your ticket payment goes toward work for wildlife and conservation here and worldwide. You'll be taken on a 1.5-hour walking tour with a zoo guide, including some behind-the-scenes access and exclusive photo opportunities, and access to Australian native animals.

Day 4: Full-Day Wildlife, Waterfalls & Wine Tour

Full Day Wildlife, Waterfalls and Wine
Enjoy spectacular coastal views along Sea Cliff Bridge

Meet your driver and guide for a trip that explores the coast and highlands south of Sydney. You'll wind through Australia's oldest national park and take in spectacular coastal scenery along the Grand Pacific Drive. Travel through forests and farmland of the picturesque Southern Highlands and meet koalas and kangaroos along the way as you traverse the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge. There will be time to enjoy lunch at a seaside café, perhaps take a dip in the ocean, and wander through the eucalyptus forest to view a tumbling waterfall. Later, sample some of the wines for which the region is famous before heading back to Sydney in the afternoon.

Day 5: Fly to Port Douglas, Free Afternoon

Four Mile Beach, in Port Douglas
Relax on Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas

A driver will meet you in the hotel lobby and take you to the airport for your three-hour flight to Cairns, on Australia's northeast coast. Upon arrival, look out for your driver, who will take you to your hotel in Port Douglas. Located just north of Cairns in northeastern Queensland, this resort town on the Coral Sea is a base for excursions to Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef. It's also an excellent destination for those who want a tropical escape in a relaxed environment. 

You're free to explore today, so spend it browsing Port Douglas' charming boutiques, dining in its exquisite al fresco restaurants, and taking excursions to the postcard coral cays (islets) of the nearby Barrier Reef. Also, a visit to Four Mile Beach is essential. Here, you can laze on the golden sands of this palm-fringed crescent beach without a care in the world. Port Douglas is also a popular base to explore the Wet Tropics national parks, Daintree Rainforest, and the scenic coastal headland Cape Tribulation.

Day 6: Full-Day Barrier Reef & Coral Cays Boat Tour

Discover the Great Barrier Reef
Spend the day discovering the Great Barrier Reef

Today's Great Barrier Reef adventure begins with a transfer from your hotel to the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, where you'll board your vessel. Sit back and relax as you set sail to the coral cays off Mackay or Undine Reefs. Enjoy a scenic sailing experience, following the coastline and views of the Daintree Mountains. Once at the protected sites of the coral cays, you can snorkel over the pristine coral reef with the help of a marine biologist offering insight into the underwater flora and fauna you spot. A glass bottom boat coral viewing tour is also on offer for those who would prefer to stay onboard.

Throughout the day you're likely to witness abundant marine life, including once-in-a-lifetime encounters with turtles and a fantastic display of giant clam gardens, colorful corals, and a wide variety of fish. Soak up the sun and swim in the clear turquoise waters at your leisure. A tropical buffet lunch will be served on board, and in the evening, you'll be transferred back to your hotel.

Day 7: Full-Day Mossman Gorge Adventure

Mossman Gorge
Explore the rainforests of the Mossman Gorge on today's immersive experience

Immerse yourself in a memorable rainforest experience on today's full-day excursion. After being collected from your accommodation, you'll transfer to Mossman Gorge to meet with the Kuku Yalanji people, the traditional owners of this region who live in complete harmony with their environment. You'll be welcomed with a Kuku Yalanji smoking ceremony, said to cleanse evil spirits, and have traditional rainforest body paint applied.

Next, you'll explore the Daintree National Park during a 1.5-hour interpretive walk, giving you a deeper understanding of this breathtaking rainforest. After lunch, travel to the Mossman River for a one-of-a-kind river snorkeling tour. Drift through crystal-clear waters as you search for turtles, water dragons, and the famous platypus before returning to Port Douglas in the afternoon.

Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 8: Optional Activities in Port Douglas

Take a day trip to Cape Tribulation
Take a day trip to Cape Tribulation, known for its world-class beaches
Today is yours to explore all Port Douglas has to offer. Perhaps travel to nearby coastal villages and palm-fringed beaches like Trinity and Clifton. Or opt for a 4WD tour of Daintree and explore the oldest rainforest ecosystem on Earth. Continue to other natural wonders like the stunning Cape Tribulation coastal headland. To see aquatic animals, head to the nearby city of Cairns and visit its aquarium, home to various species of sharks, rays, sea turtles, eels, and many others.

Day 9: Fly to Brisbane, Spirits of the Red Sand Aboriginal Dinner 

Brisbane Skyline
Admire Brisbane's skyline at dusk

Your driver will take you to the airport this morning for the two-hour flight south down the coast to Brisbane. Upon arrival, a driver will take you to your hotel. This modern, diverse sub-tropical metropolis has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with theaters, museums, and international cuisine. You can visit parks, river walks, and other outdoor areas, including South Bank Parklands or Queen Street Mall. Explore on your own or arrange a city tour to experience some of the top sites. Don't forget to climb Mount Coot-Tha—an excellent spot for panoramic views of the city and Moreton Bay.

This evening, experience "Spirits of the Red Sand," an interactive live theater performance celebrating the country's Indigenous history and culture. Be transported back to 19th-century Australia and witness history come alive as two cultures clash for the first time. Australia's #1 Indigenous performing troupe delivers this riveting docudrama through song and dance, telling the captivating story of over 60,000 years of history. During the performance, you'll enjoy a three-course Australian meal with kangaroo and emu dishes. Afterward, you'll chat with the performers during a meet and greet.

Day 10: Australia Zoo Guided Tour 

Baby Koala at Australia Zoo
Be on the lookout for baby koalas at Australia Zoo

Visit the Australia Zoo, made famous by Steve and Terri Irwin, a living legacy of Steve and his wildlife conservation efforts. Home to over 1,200 native and exotic species of wildlife and Australia's unique fauna, there will be plenty to learn from your tour guide during this visit. If time allows, you can also visit more of Brisbane, the surrounding lush rainforest, the charming Montville Village, white sandy beaches, or stunning lookouts. 

Day 11: Brisbane City Sights, Explore the South Bank

Brisbane River
Follow the Brisbane River on today's exploration of the city

Visit Brisbane's city center and learn about its history. Cruise through the city to the beautiful Southbank Parklands, with its human-made beach and cultural precinct. Here, you'll disembark and explore the many attractions, including the State Art Gallery, Museum, and Cultural Centre. When the tour is finished, you are free to explore independently. From Southbank, head to Streets Beach and take a dip in the sparkling lagoon waters. If you're into culture, visit the Queensland Art Gallery or the Gallery of Modern Art. Stay on after dusk for a Ferris wheel ride on the Wheel of Brisbane. 

Next, you'll have the option to take a self-guided tour to explore the lesser-known sides of Brisbane and get a sense of the local lifestyle. Grab a coffee at Industry Beans in Newstead and set off on a scenic walk, following the curve of the Brisbane River to find yourself in the leafy suburb of New Farm Park, a favorite local spot for a picnic. Grab a gourmet spread from New Farm Deli and choose a shady spot under one of the vibrant purple jacaranda trees.

If you're feeling thirsty, wander a little farther to the Brisbane Powerhouse and visit Mary Mae's. This well-stocked bar has Brisbane microbrews on tap with uninterrupted river views enticing you to sit and stay awhile. For more stunning vistas, catch the CityCat Ferry to Kangaroo Point

Day 12: Fly to Uluru, Sounds of Silence Dinner

Sounds of Silence Dinner
Watch night fall over Uluru with the Sounds of Silence dinner experience

You're off to the heart of Australia today as you catch a 3.5-hour flight deep into the Australian outback to Uluru (Ayers Rock). This massive sandstone monolith is perhaps the most famous natural landmark in the country. After the transfer to your hotel, you'll have time to settle in before heading out this evening. Tonight's experience is more than just a dinner. It's a spiritual discovery of the desert plains of the region, which are home to some of Australia's most sacred Indigenous sites.

Enjoy dinner under the star-studded, outback sky on a remote dune, where you'll enjoy views of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Uluru monolith. As the sun fades behind the dunes, your experience begins with a glass of sparkling wine. While enjoying the quiet of the outback desert, you will feast on gourmet "bush food" that features native ingredients. After dinner, gather around the fire for stargazing as an Aboriginal Australian host discusses the significance of these constellations. When the evening winds down, you'll return to your Ayers Rock resort.

Day 13: Sunrise Kata Tjuta Tour, Sunset Camel Ride

Touring the Outback
Watch the sunset over the outback on a camel ride

Wake up at dawn for a trip to one of the Northern Territory's natural highlights, Kata Tjuta. Also known as the Olgas, this collection of sandstone rock domes is sacred to Aboriginal Australians. The tour starts with a transfer from your hotel to the entrance of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. From there, it's a 25-mile (40-km) drive through the scenic desert landscapes to the incredible rock formation. Once you arrive, walk to the best vantage point to see the 36 domes of Kata Tjuta, watching them glow in the morning light as the sun rises.

After this mesmerizing experience, you'll go to the western side of Kata Tjuta, where you'll enjoy a gourmet picnic breakfast. Next, you'll visit Walpa Gorge, another natural highlight of the area. Named for the wind (walpa) that whistles between the domes that shape the gorge, it's a refuge for plants and animals of the desert. Take a stroll along a natural creek and through deep gullies between these mighty cliff faces and learn how the geology of the environment has evolved over millions of years.

Later, travel through the arid Red Centre desert plains on the back of a camel. In the afternoon, transfer to the Camel Farm to meet the camels and receive riding instructions. Then, climb onboard and head off on a journey across the spectacular desert landscape. Led by a skilled cameleer, learn about the region's rich history and unique flora. At dusk, stop at a dune offering magnificent views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Watch the colors of the monoliths change as the sun sets, then enjoy an outback dinner before returning to your accommodations.

Day 14: Fly to Melbourne, Explore the Laneways & Arcades

Melbourne's riverfront
Enjoy Melbourne's lively riverfront and thriving culinary scene

A private shuttle will take you to the airport this morning to catch a three-hour flight south to Melbourne, where a private driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. Spend an exciting day exploring this eclectic metropolis and the capital of Victoria at your own pace. The most efficient way to experience Melbourne's many cultural offerings is to hop on the City Circle, a free tram that runs throughout the central districts and along the waterfront. Visit highlight attractions like the neo-Gothic St Paul's Cathedral, the neoclassical Parliament House, and the 19th-century Royal Exhibition Building

You could also spend this afternoon discovering the city's historic arcades and laneways on a guided tour. See the bustling Queen Victoria Market, lush Fitzroy Gardens, and Albert Park, home to the Australian Grand Prix. Stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens, and see the Royal Exhibition Buildings, Parliament House, and Federation Square. Visit the Shrine of Remembrance and see the Southbank waterfront precinct. 

Day 15: Full-Day Phillip Island Tour

Phillip Island
Follow the boardwalks through Phillip Island and head to Summerland Beach to see penguins

Today, you'll tour Phillip Island, located 90 minutes south of Melbourne. Make a stop en route at Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park to see endangered wildlife like kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and an array of colorful birds and reptiles. Phillip Island is home to the world's largest colony of little penguins, weighing just over 2 pounds (1 kg). Optional activities include visiting Woolamai Beach to see surfers riding the waves. Or head to the western corner of the island for magnificent views of the Bass Strait and the Nobbies, a rocky headland home to the largest colony of fur seals in Australia.

At dusk, you'll reach the Penguin Plus Viewing Platform to witness the natural phenomena of the "Penguin Parade" on floodlit Summerland Beach. It's an incredible sight as thousands of little penguins shuffle back from the sea to their burrows, greeting their partners and neighbors as they arrive. As you observe this spectacle, you'll learn much more from a ranger guide. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Melbourne and return to your hotel.

Day 16: Koalas & Kangaroos in the Wild

Be on the lookout for kangaroos in Serendip Wetlands National Park

Celebrate your penultimate day in Australia with some of its most iconic wildlife, starting with a visit to You Yangs Park, home to a healthy population of wild koalas. Your wildlife guide will introduce you to each koala as an individual with a history, social life, and family. You'll learn all about these threatened mammals and have some photographic opportunities as you walk through the lands of the Wathaurong tribe.

Leaving the You Yangs, you'll travel to Serendip Wetlands National Park. Often your entrance is heralded by the screeching sounds of cockatoos or the chattering of honeyeaters. Walk through the gum trees and across grasslands in search of wild mobs of eastern grey kangaroos. Look out for curious emus and take a short walk to the billabong (waterhole), home to large populations of waterbirds. Return to Melbourne in the afternoon, where you can head out for a final dinner among the city's thriving restaurant scene.

Day 17: Depart Melbourne

Goodbye Melbourne!

Your grand holiday in Australia concludes today. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Australia Itineraries 

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Australia? Check out these other Australia itineraries, explore different ways to spend 17 days in Australia, or discover the best time to visit Australia.


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Map of Australia Cities & Nature: Sydney, Port Douglas, Brisbane, Uluru & Melbourne - 17 Days
Map of Australia Cities & Nature: Sydney, Port Douglas, Brisbane, Uluru & Melbourne - 17 Days