Cover the highlights on this 10-day tour that perfectly combines urban exploration with outdoor excursions starting in the cultural capital of Melbourne—a great jumping-off point to explore nearby Phillip Island and the Great Ocean Road. Venture into the "Red Center" to visit the iconic Ayers Rock before flying out to tropical Cairns to cuddle with a koala and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. End your stay with a Sydney city tour and a day trip to Blue Mountains National Park.

Highlights

  • Watch penguins parade in from the Indian Ocean on Phillip Island
  • Travel along the Great Ocean Road and stop at prime seaside lookouts
  • Marvel at Uluru's changing colors as the sun sets over the desert landscape
  • Discover the underwater wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef from Green Island
  • Visit the picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Region of the Blue Mountains

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Melbourne Melbourne
Day 2 Day Tour of Phillip Island & Penguin Parade Melbourne
Day 3 Day Trip Along the Great Ocean Road Melbourne
Day 4 Fly to Uluru, Tour Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Uluru
Day 5 Explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Fly to Cairns Cairns
Day 6 Day Trip to Green Island Cairns
Day 7 Day Trip from Cairns to Kuranda  Cairns
Day 8 Fly to Sydney Sydney
Day 9 Day Trip to Blue Mountains National Park Sydney
Day 10 Depart Sydney  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Melbourne

Australia - Melbourne - Flinders Railway Station
Flinders Railway Station

Welcome to Melbourne! Arrive in the Melbourne airport, then proceed to the designated shuttle area for your transfer to your accommodation. You'll be met by a tour representative who will go through the upcoming itinerary and answer any questions you may have.

The rest of the day is at your leisure. Relax after your international flight or explore the town. If you do a bit of sightseeing, bookmark Flinders Railway StationFederation SquareQueen Victoria Markets, and the Royal Botanical Gardens, to start. Since Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia, expect funky street art and bohemian coffee shops tucked in many corners of the town. 

Day 2: Day Tour of Phillip Island & Penguin Parade

Phillip Island Penguin Parade
Watch Phillip Island's nightly "Penguin Parade"

You'll have the morning to explore Melbourne at your own pace before readying yourself for an afternoon of endearing native wildlife. You'll transfer to Phillip Island just south of Melbourne (about 2 hours). Venture a visit to the Koala Reserve to spot koalas in their natural habitat as well as get up close with one. Continue into Phillip Island Nature Park, on the southwestern point of the island where you'll likely spot kangaroos and wallabies and if you have a keen eye, koalas, and wombats.

Upon reaching the Penguin Parade's visitor's information center, you can learn all there is to know about the Little Penguins before making your way to a prime viewing location. There are self-guided viewing options to choose between, as well as ranger-guided experiences.

Day 3: Day Trip Along the Great Ocean Road

Australia - Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles

Spend the day driving the famed Great Ocean Road. Admire Victoria's dramatic southern coastline and stop in several seaside towns along the rugged Shipwreck Coast. During the journey, pass through surf beaches, whale lookouts, lush rainforests, and scenic mountain ranges.

There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way. Drive to Port Campbell National Park, the site of The Twelve Apostles, which features a grouping of limestone stacks formed over the centuries by the pounding surf. Just a few minutes west of here is Loch Ard, a gorge so scenic and primeval that it has served as the setting for numerous movies and TV shows, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Then, head back to Melbourne, taking in the stunning panoramic vistas on your return. The evening is yours to enjoy on your own.

Day 4: Fly to Uluru

Uluru Sunset
Catch a sunset over the massive Ayers Rock in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

This morning you'll transfer to the Melbourne domestic airport to board your nearly three-hour flight to Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) in the "Red Center" of Australia's Northern Territory. Meet your driver and transfer to your hotel.

After taking some time to settle in, you'll join your guide for an afternoon tour to discover the Uluru region as you drive through the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and around the base of the Uluru monolith itself. Continue on foot to make the Kuniya Walk, and with your guide, trek to the Mutitjulu Waterhole. Immerse yourself in the ancient traditions of the indigenous Anangu culture with a visit to the Cultural Center, an Aboriginal art workshop.

Next, travel to the Uluru sunset viewing area and sit with a glass of sparkling wine, watching the changing colors over the landscape as the sun makes its westerly journey.

Day 5: Explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Fly to Cairns

Australia - Cairns - Palm Cove
Stroll under shady palms in Palm Cove, Cairns

Wake up in the Australian outback and enjoy your morning in the Red Center. Travel to the sunrise viewing area, near Uluru, to watch the first rays of sun creep across the desert plains—an impressive spectacle. Enjoy a warming cup of tea or coffee as the morning sun slowly changes the color of Uluru. From here, you'll head out to explore more of the national park and discover the 36 red-rock domes known as "The Olgas" (Kata Tjuta). You'll also get to trek through Walpa Gorge, following a trail through the natural creek bed between two of the tallest domes.

When it's time, you'll transfer to the airport for your onward flight to Cairns (2.5 hours). Check into your hotel and spend the rest of the day at your own pace, exploring Cairns, the gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and where the rainforest meets the ocean. 

Day 6: Day Trip to Green Island

Green Island
Cairns' Green Island

Start your day aboard a modern catamaran for a half-day excursion to Green Island. Green Island, a protected marine national park, is home to a beautiful coral cay that makes up a piece of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The island boasts unique rainforests, surrounded by blazing-white sandy beaches and magnificent coral reefs and abundant marine life. Choose to snorkel, stay dry, and view the spectacular underwater reefs in a semi-submarine or glass-bottom boat, or laze on the inviting beach.

This evening, enjoy the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park with a night fire dinner. The night fire is Tjapukai’s signature evening activity, where you will meet with the indigenous rainforest people who paint your face—a link to their traditional way of life. Follow the Tjapukai warriors to a corroboree celebrating Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and join the Rainbow Serpent circle to learn traditional-language songs before the ceremonial fire is lit with a fireball shooting toward the stars.

Day 7: Day Trip from Cairns to Kuranda 

Australia - Kuranda Koala World - Koala
Cuddle with a Koala at Kuranda's Koala Gardens

Today you'll head to the Skyrail Rainforest cableway station to board a six-person cabin for a 1.5 hour trip over the UNESCO-protected, oldest continually surviving rainforest canopy. Take in the all-encompassing views over Barron Gorge National Park until you reach the town of Kuranda. Spend some time browsing through local markets, relaxing in a café, or check out any of Kuranda's popular wildlife-related attractions, including Birdworld, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, and the Kuranda Koala Gardens.

Return to Cairns in the late afternoon via the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a historical line that connects Cairns to Kuranda. Lauded as one of the world's great train journeys, enjoy a different perspective of the Barron Gorge park as your ride past steep mountain walls and cascading rainforest water and through hand-carved tunnels.

Day 8: Fly to Sydney, City Sights Tour

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

Catch your three-hour flight from Cairns to Sydney, where you'll transfer to your accommodation to drop off your things and then set out for a tour of the city. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, you'll begin in the historic neighborhood known as The Rocks—a perfect setting to learn of the area's early convict past. Take in the iconic views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge before making your way to the shopping heart of the city and the heritage-listed late-nineteenth-century Queen Victoria Building ("QVB"). 

Next, you'll venture to famed Bondi Beach to stroll the beachfront promenade. With a drink in hand, enjoy the views of bronzed Aussie lifeguards and then find your way to Dover Heights for some of the best panoramic vistas. You'll make your way back to downtown Sydney, stopping to check out Double Bay, Kings Cross, and Mrs. Macquarie's Point for one stunning viewpoint over the harbor.

Day 9: Day Trip to Blue Mountains National Park

Australia - The Katoomba Scenic Skyway in the Blue Mountains National Park
The Katoomba Scenic Skyway in the Blue Mountains National Park

Today is reserved for an exclusive day trip to the nearby UNESCO-protected Blue Mountains National Park, one of seven national parks that make up the Greater Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Area. This wonderland of sandstone outcrops, deep ravines, and blue eucalyptus forests boasts stunning views at every turn.

On the way to Blue Mountains, you'll stop first to visit Featherdale Wildlife Park for the world's most extensive collection of Australian native birds and mammals—over 1,700—in a lush bushland environment. Walk through the Koala Sanctuary for plenty of photo opportunities with these furry favorites. Capture an all-important 'roo selfie in one of the kangaroo walk-in enclosures as well as have fun hand-feeding kangaroos, wallabies, and the small, equally adorable pademelons

Carry on to the park and view the famous Three Sisters, a trio of rocky pinnacles, from a perfect vantage point, Echo Point. Next, visit the popular Scenic World. Ride the Scenic Railway, Cableway, and Skyway—great ways to experience the steep valleys, cliff tops, and canyons from different perspectives. Disembark the Scenic Railway at the bottom station to access the Scenic Walkway and stroll through 1.5 miles of the rainforest.

Cap off the day's outing with a leisurely cruise down the Parramatta River into Sydney Harbour, a perfect alternative to getting stuck in Sydney rush-hour traffic.

Day 10: Depart Sydney

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

It's time to say goodbye to Australia. At the designated time, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your departure flight home. 

Map

Map of Australia Highlights: Melbourne, Uluru, Cairns, & Sydney - 10 Days
Map of Australia Highlights: Melbourne, Uluru, Cairns, & Sydney - 10 Days