This 11-day highlights tour combines the best of Australia's beaches, cities, and national parks. Experience laid-back luxury at Palm Cove, meander through Melbourne's quirky back streets, and sample fine dining in Sydney before concluding with a hike in the Blue Mountains. Along the way, you'll trek the world's oldest rainforest, spear fish with a Kubirri Warra brother, cruise the Outer Barrier Reef and meet kangaroos, koalas, and penguins in their natural habitat.


  • Ride the cable car over the world's oldest rainforest
  • Spend a day cruising the Outer Barrier Reef
  • Explore the quirky back streets of Melbourne, Australia's cultural capital 
  • Tour the iconic Sydney Opera House
  • Hike the Blue Mountains and gaze at the shifting colors of the Three Sisters 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cairns & Transfer to Palm Cove Palm Cove
Day 2 Kuranda: Cable Car Over the Rainforest Palm Cove
Day 3 First Nations Fishing & Daintree Rainforest Palm Cove
Day 4 Outer Barrier Reef Cruise Palm Cove
Day 5 Transfer to Melbourne, Free Day to Explore Melbourne
Day 6 Morning Walking Tour through Melbourne Melbourne
Day 7 Phillip Island & Penguin Parade Melbourne
Day 8 Transfer to Sydney, Free Day to Explore Sydney
Day 9 Sydney Opera House Tour, Fine Dining Dinner Cruise Sydney
Day 10 Hiking in the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 11 Depart Sydney  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cairns & Transfer to Palm Cove

Palm Cove
The palm tree-fronted beach at Palm Cove

Welcome to Australia! Upon arrival at Cairns Airport, you'll be met by your driver and transferred to your hotel in Palm Cove. Based on the tropical coast of far northern Queensland, this resort is known for its luxurious but laid-back vibe. The small town, located 17 miles (27 km) north of Cairns, is nestled between the Daintree Rainforest and the sparkling waters of the Coral Sea. Among the centuries-old melaleuca tree-fronted esplanades, you can do as little or as much as you like.

Unwind from your flight with a luxury treatment at one of the many spas before choosing whether to dine on freshly caught seafood at a beachfront restaurant or indulge in takeaway fish and chips eaten alfresco under a pine tree. Tear yourself away from the mesmerizing views of the coral coast to explore the various boutique shops and cafés, or take a walk along the jetty and watch locals fish for their catch of the day.

Day 2: Kuranda: Cable Car Over the Rainforest

Magnetic Island - Koala
Koala hugging a tree at the Kuranda Koala Gardens

Today you'll be transported from your hotel to Cairns, where you'll board the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway and make your way 15 miles (25 km) inland to the picturesque mountain village of Kuranda. Admire the breathtaking views across the cane fields, waterfalls, and the Barron Gorge as you rise from sea level to 1,073 feet (327 m) to reach this unique rainforest village. Kuranda is known for its colorful Heritage Markets, which offer an array of locally made clothing and jewelry, wood carvings, ceramics, gemstones, and First Nations art.

After sampling some of the freshest local produce, including fruits, macadamias, and coffee, head to the Kuranda Koala Gardens to cuddle a koala, then spend time at Birdworld or the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, where over 1,500 of these beautiful tropical creatures flutter freely. Return to Cairns via a 90-minute trip on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to glide over the rainforest canopy and see the only place on earth where two World Heritage Sites meet. Descend to the forest floor afterward to discover the CSIRO Rainforest Interpretive Center and guided boardwalk tours.

Day 3: First Nations Fishing & Daintree Rainforest

 Daintree Dreaming Tour with Aboriginal Fishing
First Nations fishing on Cooya Beach with a Kubirri Warra brother 

Wake up early to spend the morning with one of the Kubirri Warra brothers on Cooya Beach. Your driver will take you 31 miles (50 km) north of Palm Cove to the calm waters at this beautiful spot, known as the traditional fishing ground of the Kuku Yalanji people. Walk through mangroves and mudflats as you learn how to throw a spear and experience the traditional fishing techniques of mud crabbing and spearfishing.

After lunch, it's a 10-minute drive inland to visit Mossman Gorge, where you'll take part in a traditional "smoking" ceremony to protect you while visiting Kuku Yalanji country. Wander into the 180 million-year-old rainforest of the UNESCO-listed Daintree National Park, described by Sir David Attenborough as "the most extraordinary place on earth." View spectacular waterfalls and mountain ranges on a guided walk, and learn about the rich flora, fauna, and ecosystem of the world's most beautiful rainforest as you immerse yourself in the cultures and stories of Indigenous Australians.

Day 4: Outer Barrier Reef Cruise

Scuba Diver viewing Coral at the Great Barrier Reef
A school colorful of sweet lips fish at the Great Barrier Reef 

Get ready for a day exploring the Outer Barrier Reef! You will sail to the Agincourt ribbon reefs, situated at the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Widely regarded as some of the best quality dive sites, this small chain of ribbon reefs runs parallel to the Continental Shelf. Here the clear outer reef water provides the best possible visibility for you to snorkel among the beautiful marine life and stunning coral. Head back aboard your catamaran for a spot of lunch and learn more about the reef's spectacular diversity from expert marine biologists.

Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
In the afternoon, climb aboard a scenic helicopter flight that gives a spectacular birds' eye view of an area half the size of Texas, or take a tour on a glass-bottomed semi-submersible boat before making your way to the sundeck and relaxing with a cool drink.

Day 5: Transfer to Melbourne, Free Day to Explore

Melbourne's street art and cobbled laneways

Enjoy your last breakfast in Palm Cove before your driver transports you to Cairns airport for your flight to Melbourne. After settling in, get your bearings as you head out for a walk to immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Australia's cultural capital. Explore the cobbled laneways as you discover the funky street art, bohemian shops, and eclectic mix of heritage architecture and cutting-edge design.

Meander through the city's famed arcades and beautiful back streets before checking out an exhibition at one of the many contemporary art galleries. As evening falls, take the free tram and dine at one of Melbourne's world-class eateries before seeking live music at one of the many pubs and clubs.

Day 6: Morning Walking Tour through Melbourne

Melbourne City Skyline
Melbourne's city skyline

Today's tour takes you on a leisurely morning stroll through Melbourne's colorful and vibrant back streets. Coffee is a big deal here, and the city has a global reputation for its many excellent coffee shops. With over 2,000 to choose from, your guide will introduce you to dozens of the city's best and quirkiest cafés, local designers, and independent boutiques. Discover why Melbourne has some of the best coffee and baristas in the world while sampling handmade artisanal chocolates at a local tasting.

Spend the rest of the day relaxing or exploring the sporting capital of Australia. From tennis to Formula 1 Grand Prix and cricket, Melbourne is a city obsessed with sport! Book a tour of the world-famous Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG), where you can explore one of the world's most iconic stadiums and walk in the footsteps of Australia's sporting legends.

Day 7: Phillip Island & Penguin Parade

Phillip Island
Penguins at Phillip Island

Enjoy an early brunch before you set off for your guided tour to discover Melbourne's award-winning Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park. Here you can explore the bushland to encounter Australia's best-loved animals, including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and wombats, as well as an array of colorful birds and reptiles.

It's then on to Phillip Island, where you can visit Woolamai Beach to see surfers riding the waves before traveling to the western corner for magnificent views of the Bass Strait and the Nobbies, home to the largest colony of fur seals in Australia. The highlight of the day is watching the natural phenomena of the "Penguin Parade" on floodlit Summerland Beach. Meander along to the viewing platform where the little penguins come ashore, decked out in their tuxedos as they hurry off to find their burrows. Afterward, a transfer takes you back to your Melbourne hotel in time to catch dinner.

Day 8: Transfer to Sydney, Free Day to Explore

Welcome to Sydney!
Sydney's iconic bridge and harbor at dusk

Today you'll head to the airport and fly 443 miles (713 km) northeast to Sydney. The capital of New South Wales, this once penal colony for British convicts is now Australia's most sophisticated city and home to some of the country's best-known landmarks. After a transfer to your hotel, the rest of the day is yours to soak up Sydney's iconic harbor, outdoor lifestyle, and natural beauty.

Cruise under the Sydney Harbour Bridge or wave at the Opera House as you ride a ferry across the harbor to Manly, one of the city's famed beaches. Spend the afternoon learning to surf at Bondi Beach before losing yourself in the cobblestone cul-de-sacs of The Rocks or the markets, boutiques, cafés, and pubs of Paddington. After a well-deserved rest back at your hotel, it's time to dine on the huge variety of multicultural cuisine on offer before taking on Sydney's legendary nightlife.

Day 9: Sydney Opera House Tour, Fine Dining Dinner Cruise

Opera House Tours
Go backstage at the Sydney Opera House

After a leisurely breakfast, it's time to see inside the world's most recognizable sails. On today's backstage tour of the Sydney Opera House, you'll learn how this stunning piece of architecture came into existence against impossible odds to become one of the busiest performing arts centers in the world. Prepare yourself for an emotional journey as you are guided through the dramatic twists and turns of this iconic building's history and engrossing story, enough to rival any opera plot.

Sydney has an enviable reputation as a world-class dining destination, and tonight you'll dine on the prestigious MV Sydney 2000 cruise ship. At 206 feet (63 m) long and with three decks offering stunning panoramic views across Sydney, this luxury vessel will gently cruise the harbor as you relax after a busy day's sightseeing. Slip into your window seat and enjoy live entertainment and a gourmet fine dining experience. Then make your way to the spacious outdoor leisure decks to admire the unforgettable sight of the Opera House and harbor lit up against the Sydney night skyline.

Day 10: Hiking in the Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters , Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

Ten times older than the Grand Canyon, the Blue Mountains form a UNESCO World Heritage Area where you can discover secluded lookouts, waterfalls, and iconic views. Today you'll encounter kangaroos, emus, wombats, and koalas at a working farm before hiking across stunning valleys and ridges as you visit the outlooks of the Jamison Valley. Experience the majesty of the changing colors of the Three Sisters as the sun moves throughout the day.

As you reach Govett's Leap, one of the most famous lookouts in Australia, marvel at the 591-foot (180 m) drop of the waterfall here and the sweeping view across Australia's Grand Canyon, the Grose Valley. Your final stop is 3,280 feet (1,000 m) above sea level at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. Explore the hundreds of different plant species from across the world and discover the many birds, lizards, possums, and insects that call the park home.

Day 11: Depart Sydney

Panoramic view of Sydney Harbor Bay and Downtown Skyline
Panoramic view of Sydney Harbour and the city skyline

Your journey through Australia draws to a close today as you transfer to the airport to catch your departing flight. 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 11 days in Australia, or discover the best time to visit Australia.


Map of Discover Australia's Highlights:  Palm Cove, Melbourne &  Sydney - 11 Days
Map of Discover Australia's Highlights: Palm Cove, Melbourne & Sydney - 11 Days