If you've got limited time to tackle the vast Australian continent, this may be the itinerary for you. You'll start in cosmopolitan Sydney under the eaves of the famous Opera House, then fly out to the Red Centre to experience the dramatic rock formations of Uluru. Top it off with a visit to Cairns to explore the natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, with plenty of free days in between to add your own twist.

Highlights

  • Stroll the busy streets of Sydney
  • Catch some rays on Bondi Beach
  • Watch the sun rise and set over Uluru
  • Snorkel over the Great Barrier Reef

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney Sydney
Day 2 Explore Sydney Sydney
Day 3 Free Day in Sydney Sydney
Day 4 Fly to Uluru, Tour the Olgas & Uluru Uluru
Day 5 Explore the Australian Outback Uluru
Day 6 Fly to Cairns Cairns
Day 7 Full Day Great Barrier Reef Excursion Cairns
Day 8 Free Day in Cairns Cairns
Day 9 Depart Cairns  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney

Sunset over Sydney Harbour

Welcome to Australia! Upon arrival, your driver will be waiting at the airport to transfer you to your hotel in Sydney. Settle in and spend the rest of your day wandering about the city to get your bearings.

Visit the iconic Sydney Harbour and enjoy a drink at a waterfront bar with a view. If you're feeling adventurous, take a surf lesson at famous Bondi Beach, or, for a calmer pastime, go swimming in the tranquil waters of Coogee. Travel to historic neighborhoods and lose yourself in the cobblestone laneways of The Rocks, or browse the markets, boutiques, cafés, and pubs of upscale Paddington, whose unique terrace houses date to the Victorian era. 

Day 2: Explore Sydney

End today on the sands of Bondi Beach

Start today with a tour of the city sights. You'll begin in the characterful neighborhood known as The Rocks, where the city's past comes to life among its colonial architecture and historical landmarks. Continue to Mrs. Macquaries Chair for spectacular views over the harbor, and stop in at the Royal Botanic Gardens next door to discover the most revered and important plants to First Nations Australians.

Continue past the bustling Kings Cross area to make your way to the swanky harborside suburbs of Double Bay and Watsons Bay, wrapping up the tour on the sands of the world-famous Bondi Beach—where you can stick around for the rest of the afternoon for some sun and sand. 

Day 3: Free Day in Sydney

Climb the Harbour Bridge for dizzying views over Sydney

Take a full day to explore Sydney at your leisure. Climb up to the top of the Harbour Bridge on a tethered bridge climb, spend an afternoon sampling wine in the Hunter Valley, or ferry out to Manly Beach to bask in the sun. Discover more of the city from the best vantage point with a harbor cruise, or see inside the world's most iconic sails on a backstage tour of the famous Sydney Opera House. If you feel like venturing further afield, head into the nearby Blue Mountains for a day of hiking and wildlife spotting among a landscape of eucalyptus forests and rugged rock formations.

Day 4: Fly to Uluru, Tour the Olgas & Uluru

Uluru sunset
A colorful Uluru sunset

Catch a flight out to Alice Springs, the gateway to Uluru (Ayers Rock). The spiritual heart of Australia's Red Centre desert plains, this large sandstone rock formation is located in the southern part of the Northern Territory. This region is also home to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara tribes, the area's traditional landowners.

Once you've arrived at your lodging and settled in, you'll take a tour of Kata Tjuṯa (the Olgas) and the towering formation of Uluru itself. At this spectacular World Heritage Site, you'll discover natural springs, waterholes, rock caves, and ancient paintings. After a day of exploration, sip a glass of Champagne as you watch a brilliant sunset illuminate the natural wonder with shifting colors.

Day 5: Explore Australia's Outback

Head deeper into the Outback around Uluru

Rise early this morning to watch the day's first rays of sunlight creep across the desert plains. If you feel like an adventure, join a full-day excursion to Mount Conner, located 62 miles (100 km) east of Uluru and situated on a vast cattle station. Along with the cattle, the station is home to the perfect natural habitat for red kangaroos and a vast array of native birds and reptiles.

Spot wildlife, discover an ancient inland salt lake, and learn about the European history of the region. End the day with a glass of wine and a brilliant sunset over Mount Conner before enjoying a hearty outback dinner and returning to your hotel for the evening.

Day 6: Fly to Cairns

Cairns Esplanade & Lagoon
Cairns' Esplanade & Lagoon

After a final morning in the desert, you'll head back to the airport to catch an onward flight to Cairns. Located in the far north of Queensland, this tropical paradise sits on the shores of Trinity Bay and is the gateway to some of Australia's most extraordinary natural wonders. Sitting just offshore is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's most popular diving sites. To the north lies another treasure, the ancient rainforests of Daintree National Park.

After settling in, a perfect afternoon activity is a visit to the Cairns Aquarium. Dedicated exclusively to the marine animals of Australia's tropical north, the aquarium is home to over 16,000 aquatic species, including sharks, sea turtles, rays, eels, and many others. Also at the aquarium are fascinating reef exhibits, animal presentations, live diver feeds, and touch-tank shows. It's an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the underwater world's most fascinating, elusive, and deadly creatures.

Day 7: Full-Day Great Barrier Reef Excursion

The Great Barrier Reef from above

Today you'll board a high-speed catamaran for a full-day cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. One of Australia's most remarkable natural gifts, the world's largest coral reef contains abundant marine life, with over 3,000 individual reef systems, coral cays, and hundreds of picturesque tropical islands dotted throughout. Snorkel or scuba dive among sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and colorful clown fish, exploring the breathtaking underwater world at your own pace. 

Day 8: Free Day in Cairns

Daintree National Park
Head deep into the ancient Daintree National Park by 4WD

Spend today discovering tropical Cairns at your leisure. Take a trip up to the rainforest village of Kuranda and ride the Skyrail Gondola over the tops of the lush canopy, or board the Kuranda Scenic Railway for a scenic journey on a historic 1891 train. Snake along hillside tracks built by the early settlers and take in breathtaking views of waterfalls, the cane fields of Cairns, and the Barron Gorge as you rise from sea level to 1,072 feet (327 m). 

Hang around Kuranda to browse the colorful arts and crafts of its heritage markets, or head into the rainforest on foot with an experienced guide. Nearby, you'll find the Koala and Wildlife Park, where you can cuddle a koala and hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies. For a more exhilarating outing, join a 4WD adventure into the wilds of Daintree National Park, home to the world's oldest rainforest ecosystem.

Day 9: Depart Cairns

Wave farewell to the fish
Wave farewell to Cairns

Your Australian adventure draws to a close today. Take the morning to unwind (or indulge in some beach time), then transfer to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Highlights of Australia: Sydney, Uluru & Cairns - 9 Days
Map of Highlights of Australia: Sydney, Uluru & Cairns - 9 Days