Leave no stone unturned on this epic 12-day adventure that covers the best of southern, northern, and southeastern Australia. You'll journey from the up-and-coming city of Melbourne and travel along the Great Ocean Road, followed by a trip to the mystical rock formations dotting the arid deserts of the Red Centre. End the trip in Sydney, where you'll explore this handsome metropolis on city tours, boat tours, and beach excursions—you'll even take a day trip to the rugged Blue Mountains.


  • Tour Melbourne by bike and take a road trip down the Great Ocean Road
  • Visit Phillip Island and witness the evening Penguin Parade
  • Travel to Uluru for tours and viewings of Australia's iconic red monolith
  • Hit the highlights of Sydney, from the Opera House to Bondi Beach
  • Take a day trip to the gorges and rugged peaks of the Blue Mountains

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
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 Fly to Uluru Uluru
Day 6 Sunrise Tour of Uluru, Kata Tjuta Hike & Field of Light Dinner Uluru
Day 7 Fly 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 Self-Guided Tour of Sydney's Neighborhoods & Beaches Sydney
Day 12 Depart Sydney  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Melbourne, Optional Activities

The adventure begins in Melbourne

Welcome to Australia! Upon arrival in Melbourne, your personal driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel in the city. Then, you can head out and explore. This city of over five million people is a melting pot of diversity and a paradise for lovers of fine food and wine. It's a gateway to unspoiled national parks, stunning coastlines, and golden beaches. In Melbourne, hidden enclaves and back alley laneways are home to the most exciting nightlife, trendiest boutiques, and liveliest bars in the city.

The most efficient way to see Melbourne is on the City Circle, a zero-fare (re: free!) tram that runs throughout the central districts. Visit highlight attractions like the neo-Gothic St Paul's Cathedral, the neoclassical Parliament House, and the 19th-century Royal Exhibition Building. For great views, head over to the Shrine of Remembrance, a stately war memorial adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens. This 89-acre (36 ha) botanical garden contains more than 8,500 species of plants from around the world.

Day 2: Best of Melbourne by Bike, Afternoon Food Tour

Best of Melbourne by Bike
See the city on a bicycle

This morning, you'll embark on a 4.5-hour bicycle tour of Melbourne. Examples of the locales you'll visit include the Yarra River, Flinders St Station (Australia's oldest train station, which dates to 1909), the National Gallery of Victoria, and Queen Victoria Market—the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. You can also visit Melbourne's famous laneways and historic shopping arcades. These labyrinthine alleyways and street malls are full of charming boutiques, intimate cafés, colorful street art, and trendy restaurants.

After the bike tour, take a three-hour guided walk to enjoy Melbourne's eclectic food scene. Throughout this group tour, you'll stop at back alley restaurants and cafés in the CBD (Central Business District). Marvel at street art and browse funky boutiques as you sample local Aussie favorites (like meat pies and Vegemite), drink Melbourne's famous specialty coffee, and enjoy a lunch of shared dumplings. Finish the experience with a drink in a laneway bar the locals love. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel on your own.

Day 3: Great Ocean Road Day Trip

12 Apostles
The Twelve Apostles off the Great Ocean Road

Wake up early and embark on a full-day road trip along one of the most scenic coastal routes in the world: the Great Ocean Road. This stretch of highway runs 150 miles (240 km) down Victoria's southwest coast, passing national parks, limestone rock formations, seaside bluffs, coastal mountain ranges, and incredible beaches. Throughout the excursion, you'll have ample time to stop and enjoy the highlights.

During the drive, keep an eye toward the coast, as you're likely to spot whales and dolphins; on the inland side, you might even see echidnas and bandicoots. Stop for lunch at Apollo Bay, a tranquil seaside town in the rolling coastal hills. You can also stretch your legs on a forest hike through the mountains of the famous Otway Ranges. After visiting the romantic cove at Loch Ard Gorge, cap the adventure at the Twelve Apostles, a group of incredible limestone rock formations rising up out of the sea. Afterward, you'll return to Melbourne.

Day 4: Phillip Island Tour & Penguin Parade

Philip Island - Penguin Parade at Sunset
The Penguin Parade at Phillip Island

This full-day tour will take you to Phillip Island, located a mere 90 minutes south of Melbourne, to witness the famous evening ritual of the Penguin Parade. On the way to this popular tourist destination, you'll stop at Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park. Here, you'll see endangered wildlife species like kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas, plus an array of colorful birds and reptiles.

Continue to Phillip Island, which is home to the largest colony of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) in the world. Upon arrival, you'll have time for optional activities like viewing colonies of fur seals at the Nobbys Headland. At dusk, you'll see the Penguin Parade from a boardwalk at floodlit Summerland Beach. It's an incredible sight as thousands of penguins waddle back from the sea to their burrows, greeting their partners and neighbors as they arrive. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Melbourne and your hotel.

Day 5: Fly to Uluru

Sunset over Uluru
Sunset over Uluru
In the morning, your driver will transfer you to the airport, where you'll catch a three-hour flight north to Uluru. This is the spiritual heart of Australia's Red Centre desert plains. Here, you'll find Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, whose two major features are the sandstone Kata Tjuta and Uluru rock formations. Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) is the country's most recognized natural wonder and is home to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara tribes, the traditional landowners of the area. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel.

Day 6: Sunrise Tour of Uluru, Kata Tjuta Hike & Field of Light Dinner

The Field of Light art installation at Uluru
Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

It's an early start today. The excursion begins before the first light with a transfer to Talinguru Nyakunytaku, the Uluru (Ayers Rock) viewing area. Here, you'll marvel at the incredible sight of the morning sun as it ignites Uluru a fiery, bright red color. Afterward, drive 28 miles (45 km) to the 36 domes of Kata Tjuta and Walpa Gorge, another area sacred to the Aboriginal people. Once here, embark on a one-hour hike through the gorge, which follows a natural creek between two of the tallest domes.

After some free time in the afternoon, you'll head back out to the desert in the evening for an unforgettable dining experience. This alfresco dinner takes place at a prime vantage point in the desert, looking out to the Uluru monolith. As darkness falls, the ground will come alive with over 50,000 glass spheres mounted on flower-like stems, which light up in various colors. These LEDs are connected by optical fiber cables and create the effect of tendrils of light spreading root-like across an area of 527,431 sq feet (49,000 sq m).

Amid this incredible art installation, you and your fellow guests will enjoy a three-course menu infused with Indigenous "bush tucker" flavors. After the meal, do some stargazing as you listen to your host reveal the significance these constellations have to the First Nations people. Your host will also provide insight into the origin of the art installation, after which you'll head out for a stroll along its glimmering pathways. Once the experience is over, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 7: Fly to Sydney, Optional Activities, Speakeasy Pub Crawl

Welcome to Sydney
Welcome to Sydney

At the appropriate time, your driver will transfer you to the airport for the three-hour flight to Sydney, the capital of New South Wales.  After checking in to your hotel, you can head out for a stroll along Sydney Harbour. You can also go to Circular Quay for great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Maybe lose yourself in the cobblestone laneways of historic The Rocks or browse the markets, boutiques, and cafés of upscale Paddington, whose terrace houses date to the Victorian era. And when the sun goes down, book a table at one of Sydney's five-star restaurants.

Then, it will be time for a good old-fashioned pub crawl. Sydney outlawed bar-hopping in 2014, but in the wake of that ordinance, a new type of bar emerged: the speakeasy. These watering holes became havens where small groups could gather and settle in for the night with a few pints. Tonight, you'll embark on a walking tour of the city's hottest speakeasies, which are hidden in alleyways, behind pizza parlors, and even Chinese dumpling restaurants. Led by an expert guide, this tour is a fun and convivial way to enjoy the most exciting new trend in Sydney's hospitality scene. 

Day 8: The Rocks Walking Tour, Sydney Harbour Cruise & Manly Beaches

Heritage buildings in The Rocks
Heritage buildings in The Rocks

Head out in the morning on a 1.5-hour guided walking tour of The Rocks. This enclave was the birthplace of the European colonization of Australia in 1788, and many historic landmarks remain. These include the Gothic Garrison Church, Cadmans Cottage (a heritage house dating to 1816), and various 19th-century pubs. The tour follows the waterfront of Sydney Cove, then veers a bit off the tourist trail to other landmarks like the Escher-like stone stairways at Foundation Park and Nurses Walk, which is lined with art galleries and restaurants.

In the afternoon, enjoy the majesty of Sydney from the deck of a boat on a three-hour harbor cruise. You'll embark from the marina and relax at your table as you pass the famous city sights. After a delicious buffet lunch and drinks, you'll stop at Shark Island for a swim (don't let the name spook you; the calm waters here are perfectly safe). Be sure to visit the island's foreshore, where there are romantic grottoes.

Later in the day, head to Sydney's northern suburb of Manly, which is famous for its beaches, like Shelley Beach and Manly Beach. Whether you want to relax and sunbathe all day, hit the waves on a surfboard, go snorkeling, or take a bike ride along the waterfront, there's something for everyone. To make the day extra special, grab some takeaway fish and chips and have a picnic on the beach as you watch the surfers carve the waves. At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 9: Day Trip to the Blue Mountains

Cable car over the Blue Mountains
Cable car over the Blue Mountains

About a two-hour drive inland from the urban jungle of Sydney are the dramatic Blue Mountains, a region known for rugged cliffs, eucalyptus forests, and cascading waterfalls. In the morning, you'll leave on a full-day tour, first stopping on the outskirts of the city for a visit to the Sydney Zoo. Here, you can get close to native Australian wildlife like dingoes, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and echidnas. Don't forget to visit the reptile habitat, which is home to a wide variety of venomous snakes and lizards.

After the zoo, you'll transfer to the Blue Mountains by tour bus. Upon arrival, have lunch and browse the quaint shops in the mountain town of Leura. Next, travel to Echo Point, a lookout featuring prime views of the famous Three Sisters rock formations. You'll also stop at Scenic World, a tourist attraction offering mountain train rides, and the Skyway. This cable car rises over the steep valleys and canyons, affording a bird's-eye view of the Three Sisters below. After some time for nature hikes, you'll return to Sydney by bus in the late afternoon.

Day 10: First Nations Cultural Experience, Opera House Tour, Night Bridge Climb

Learn about Aboriginal history in Sydney's Botanic Garden
Learn about First Nations history in Sydney's Botanic Garden

Today, you'll learn about the world's oldest living civilization on a half-day First Nations culture and history tour led by a member of the Bundjalung nation. It begins at Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden, where you'll meet your First Nations guide. After performing a traditional "Welcome to Country" ceremony, you'll embark on a walking tour as your guide reveals the compelling history of the people and plants associated with these gardens. After the park, continue to a First Nations art gallery. Here, you'll see works from some of the most remote First Nations communities in the country.

After the tour, head to the most famous building in the country: the Sydney Opera House. Construction on this masterpiece of 20th-century architecture (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) began in 1959 and took over 20 years to complete. Today, it's a multi-venue performing arts center that presents more than 2,000 shows to over 1.5 million audience members each year. On an hour-long guided tour, you'll go inside to learn all about the building's history and design, plus visit the main public spaces.

Later, you'll not only visit another of Sydney's landmarks, but you'll also climb up it. This guided hike up the famous Harbour Bridge begins with a safety demonstration. Then, your expert Climb Leader will take you up a network of catwalks and ladders that ascend to 439 feet (134 m) above sea level. From this vantage point, you can see east to the Opera House and out west to the Blue Mountains. At the top, enjoy the sunset over the harbor, then descend amid the bright lights of Sydney's skyscrapers.

Day 11: Self-Guided Tour of Sydney's Neighborhoods & Beaches

Head to the golden sands at Bondi Beach

You'll have today free to enjoy Sydney at your own pace. You might want to head to the trendy Surrey Hills neighborhood for a leisurely breakfast at one of the many diverse restaurants. In the afternoon, make a beeline for the beach. Head to Bondi and watch the surfers, or perhaps even take a lesson. If you don't want to venture far from the city center, try Whiting Beach, which is located in the harbor. Here, you can embark on walking trails to the coast and enjoy views of the Bradleys Head Lighthouse.

You can also explore Centennial Park, which is Sydney's version of Central Park. Or see some of the 28,000 plants from around the world at the Royal Botanic Garden. If you're in the city on a Saturday, browse clothing and jewelry at the outdoor Paddington Markets. In the evening, head to the Darlinghurst neighborhood to grab dinner and drinks. Afterward, walk to Mrs Macquarie's Chair, a rocky sandstone outcropping, for one final, epic view of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour. 

Day 12: Depart Sydney

Goodbye, Sydney
At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you to the airport, where you'll catch your flight home or onward to the next adventure. Safe travels!

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Map of Classic Australia: Melbourne, Uluru & Sydney - 12 Days
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