In 13 days, this action-packed itinerary introduces you to Australia's eastern coast highlights using three cities as jumping-off points. Climb the Harbour Bridge and cycle through the waterfront neighborhoods of Sydney before flying north to Port Douglas, where the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the ancient rainforests of Daintree await. Turn south to end in Brisbane, touring the famous Australia Zoo and adventuring through the waterfalls of Springbrook National Park.


  • Hike to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at twilight
  • Snorkel through one of the seven wonders of the world at the Great Barrier Reef
  • See Steve Irwin's legacy come to life at the Australia Zoo
  • Cool off in the waterfalls of the Springbrook Rainforest
  • Cycle through Brisbane's vast botanical gardens

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney Sydney
Day 2 Sydney Guided Bike Tour & Opera House Tour Sydney
Day 3 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 4 Hike the Sydney Harbour Bridge Sydney
Day 5 Fly From Sydney to Port Douglas Port Douglas
Day 6 Full-Day Barrier Reef Boat Tour Port Douglas
Day 7 Full-Day Mossman Gorge Adventure with River Drift Snorkeling Port Douglas
Day 8 Free Day in Port Douglas Port Douglas
Day 9 Fly From Port Douglas to Brisbane Brisbane
Day 10 Full-Day Australia Zoo Tour Brisbane
Day 11 Full-Day Springbrook Rainforest & Waterfall Tour Brisbane
Day 12 Brisbane Morning Bicycle Tour Brisbane
Day 13 Depart Australia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney

Welcome to Sydney
Sydney Harbour at twilight

Get ready to enjoy Sydney, a city that ticks all the boxes of any great global metropolis: prime harborfront location, iconic landmarks, copious beaches, and great shopping, nightlife, and culinary scenes. Upon arrival at the airport, a private driver will transfer you to your hotel. If you aren't too tired after the flight, you can venture out and explore this city of over five million people on your own. 

To start, head to the waterfront and soak up the lively atmosphere of Darling Harbour. You can also walk across Harbour Bridge for great views of the Sydney Opera House. Nearby are the cobblestone laneways of The Rocks, Sydney's oldest neighborhood. Sunseekers needn't feel left out, either, as there are over 100 beaches in Sydney. Head to famous Bondi Beach for a surf lesson, or enjoy the calmer waters of Coogee. As the sun sets, hop on a harbor cruise for an evening of stunning views and fascinating stories that bring the history and culture of the city alive. 

Day 2: Sydney Guided Bike Tour & Opera House Tour

Guided Bike Tour
See Sydney by bike on today's tour

Today's cycling tour takes you to Sydney's iconic sights and is led by a local guide who will provide expert commentary on the landmarks you visit. Highlights include Harbour Bridge, the Royal Botanic Garden, the Anzac War Memorial, Chinatown, Parliament House, the Queen Victoria Building, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and over 30 more attractions. An extra treat is that halfway through the tour, you'll make a pit stop at a local pub for a quick pint.

After the city 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.  

Day 3: Day Trip to the Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters rock formations, in the Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters rock formations in the Blue Mountains

This morning you'll head west of Sydney to the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site known for staggering cliffs, secluded lookouts, cascading waterfalls, and eucalyptus forest. It's an outdoor enthusiast's paradise, where you'll encounter kangaroos, emus, wombats, and koalas at a working farm. Hike across stunning valleys and ridges as you approach Jamison Valley Lookout

Reach Govetts Leap, one of Australia's most famous lookouts, and marvel at the sweeping view across Grose Valley. Your final stop is 3,280 feet (1,000 m) above sea level at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. See hundreds of different plant species worldwide and discover the many birds, lizards, possums, and insects that call the park home. At the end of the day, you'll head back to Sydney to explore the city on your own.

Day 4: Hike the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Hike the Harbor Bridge
Hike the Harbour Bridge at sunset

This morning is free for you to explore Sydney at your own pace. Head to the trendy Surrey Hills neighborhood for a leisurely breakfast at one of the many diverse restaurants, or make a beeline for the beach. Take a stroll through 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 afternoon, 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 5: Fly From Sydney to Port Douglas

Four Mile Beach, in Port Douglas
Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas

Bid Sydney farewell this morning as your driver transfers you to the airport to board your flight to Port Douglas. On arrival, a driver will collect you to drop you at your hotel. Located just north of Cairns, in northeastern Queensland, Port Douglas is a resort town on the Coral Sea and a popular base for excursions to Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef. It's also a great destination in its own right; perfect for travelers who want a tropical escape in a relaxed environment. 

You can spend the day browsing Port Douglas' charming boutiques, dining in its exquisite alfresco restaurants, or 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 from which to explore the Wet Tropics national parks, Daintree Rainforest, and the scenic coastal headland Cape Tribulation.
Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Full-Day Barrier Reef Boat Tour

Explore the Great Barrier Reef in style
Great Barrier Reef coral lagoon next to Green Island

Your grand Barrier Reef adventure starts with an early departure from the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina in Port Douglas. Kick back and relax on the deck of a beautiful yacht as it sets sail to the outer reef, where you'll find the pristine white sands of Mackay Coral Cay and the epic snorkeling spots of Undine Reef.

Getting there is half the fun, as this sailing trip follows the stunning coastline and features views of the Daintree Mountains' soaring peaks. Once at the protected sites, you'll hit the water and explore the coral reef system on a guided snorkeling tour led by a qualified marine biologist. You can also enjoy a coral-viewing tour on a glass-bottom boat. It passes premium reef sites that showcase abundant marine life living among the beautiful corals. These include tropical fish, turtles, and even giant clam gardens.

Day 7: Full-Day Mossman Gorge Adventure with River Drift Snorkeling

Mossman Gorge
The lush jungles around Mossman Gorge

This morning you embark on a full-day tour that will take you just north of Port Douglas to Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu), a traditional fishing ground of the Kuku Yalanji people. Here, you'll join one of the Kubirri Warra brothers on their beach for a walk among the mudflats and mangroves. Following this is an introduction to the traditional fishing techniques of these First Nations Australians, after which you'll join them to try and catch your own tucker (food).

Then, travel inland to nearby Mossman Gorge, the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park. After a traditional First Nations welcoming ceremony, you'll enter the rainforests of Daintree, which are the oldest in the world. Enjoy an easy hike across boardwalks and bridges that offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls. As you go, your guide will point out the various flora and fauna you pass. Afterward, you'll return to Port Douglas and your hotel.

Day 8: Free Day in Port Douglas

Port Douglas - Marina
The Port Douglas Marina
Spend a relaxing day exploring all that 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 more of the oldest rainforest ecosystem on earth. Continue to other natural wonders like the stunning Cape Tribulation coastal headland. To see aquatic animals, travel to the nearby city of Cairns and visit its Aquarium, which is home to various species of sharks, rays, sea turtles, eels, and many others.

Day 9: Fly From Port Douglas to Brisbane

Brisbane Skyline
Brisbane's skyline at night

Today you'll be transferred to the airport to board your flight south to Brisbane, Queensland's capital. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel and take some time to relax before you discover the city. This modern and diverse sub-tropical metropolis has a friendly and relaxed environment with theaters, museums, and international cuisine.

Explore on your own or arrange a city tour to see some of the top sites. Visit parks, river walks, and many other outdoor areas, including South Bank Parklands or Queen Street Mall shopping precinct, and don't forget to climb Mount Coot-Tha—an excellent spot for panoramic views of the city and Moreton Bay.

Day 10: Full-Day Australia Zoo Tour

A baby koala at the Australia Zoo

Visit the Australia Zoo today, made famous by Steve and Terri Irwin; it is now a living legacy of Steve and his wildlife conservation efforts. Home to over 1,200 native and exotic wildlife species, the zoo also houses a wildlife hospital that reduces and rehabilitates Australia's native fauna. There will be plenty to learn from your tour guide during your visit, and hands-on animal interactions include the chance to feed kangaroos and cuddle a koala. If time allows, you can also visit nearby lush rainforests, the charming Montville village, white sandy beaches, or stunning lookout points. 

Day 11: Full-Day Springbrook Rainforest & Waterfall Tour

UNESCO Springbrook Rainforest and Waterfall Tour - Full Day
Hike to waterfalls and rock formations in Springbrook National Park

Wake up early this morning to journey out of the city and into the heart of the UNESCO-listed Gondwana Rainforest in Australia's "Green Cauldron." Set on a high plateau, atop the remains of an ancient 23 million-year-old volcano, Springbrook National Park lies 62 miles (100 km) south of Brisbane and covers 16,617 acres (6,725 ha). On today's full-day tour, you'll explore this area of important ecological significance and outstanding natural beauty as you travel through lush valleys, hike behind cascading waterfalls to panoramic views, and spot a wide range of rare wildlife.

After lunch, drive through the magical Numinbah Valley to discover the famous Natural Bridge—an amazing rock formation where water tumbles through the open roof of a basalt cave formed over millions of years. When your adventure draws to a close in the afternoon, a transfer takes you back to Brisbane, where the rest of the evening is free. 

Day 12: Brisbane Morning Bicycle Tour

Brisbane Bicycle half day tour (Morning)
See Brisbane by bicycle

See more of Brisbane this morning from a different perspective on a guided half-day bicycle tour through the city's main sights. Setting out from South Bank Parklands, you'll pedal to the historic Kangaroo Point before continuing over the iconic Story Bridge to the charming suburb of New Farm.

Ride down tree-lined streets and into New Farm Park, a gorgeous green space with riverside picnic spots, cycling paths, and playgrounds. Then pedal through the City Botanic Gardens, which boast outdoor sculptures along with an impressive collection of native and exotic plants. Your tour finishes at the Brisbane Wheel, where you'll make your own way back to your accommodation and spend your last evening in Brisbane however you please.

Day 13: Depart Australia

Depart Australia
A popular picnic spot next to Brisbane River

Enjoy your final morning in Brisbane at your leisure. When the time comes, a driver will collect you from your hotel and drop you at the airport for 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 more ways to spend 13 days in Australia, or discover the best time to visit Australia.


Map of Highlights of Sydney, Port Douglas & Brisbane - 13 Days
Map of Highlights of Sydney, Port Douglas & Brisbane - 13 Days