To really experience the best of Australia requires at least a couple of weeks, which is fine because, on this Aussie adventure, you'll get those 14 days—plus one for good measure. During that time, you'll sample the cuisine and see the sights in Melbourne and Sydney, plus take day trips to hike rugged mountains and visit penguin colonies. Then jet off to the northern outback for tours in and around iconic Uluru (Ayers Rock), followed by a trip to the Great Barrier Reef and some time exploring ancient rainforests.


  • Go on a foodie tour of Melbourne and travel down the Great Ocean Road
  • Travel to the outback to see the sun rise (and set) over the red rock of Uluru
  • Spend a day snorkeling and diving at the Great Barrier Reef
  • See the highlights of Sydney on foot, bicycle, and boat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Melbourne, Optional Activities & Sporting Tour  Melbourne
Day 2 Philip Island & Penguin Parade Excursion Melbourne
Day 3 First Nations Heritage, Evening Food Walk Melbourne
Day 4 Great Ocean Road Trip Melbourne
Day 5 Fly to Uluru, Kata Tjuta Tour & Sunset Over Uluru Uluru
Day 6 Sunrise Over Uluru & Sightseeing, Sounds of Silence Dinner Uluru
Day 7 Fly to Cairns & Aquarium Visit Cairns
Day 8 Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour Cairns
Day 9 Free Day Cairns
Day 10 Daintree Adventure & River Snorkeling Cairns
Day 11 Fly to Sydney, Harbour Cruise Sydney
Day 12 Sydney by Bicycle, Opera House Tour Sydney
Day 13 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 14 Free Day, Twilight Bridge Climb Sydney
Day 15 Depart Australia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Melbourne, Optional Activities & Sporting Tour 

Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Welcome to Melbourne, the capital of the Australian state of Victoria! Upon arrival, your driver will transfer you to your hotel. Get settled in, then 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. In Melbourne, hidden enclaves and back-alley laneways hold the keys to the most exciting nightlife, trendiest boutiques, and liveliest bars in the city.

Lovers of all things athletic are spoiled for choice in Melbourne, as this is the sporting capital of Australia. At the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct, you'll find venues hosting everything from football and Formula 1 to tennis and cricket. Also, here is the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG), the biggest cricket stadium in the world. If you like, book a private tour of the venue—who knows, you might even spot some of the nation's top cricketers during a training session.

Day 2: Philip Island & Penguin Parade Excursion

Then nightly Penguin Parade at Phillip Island
Then nightly Penguin Parade at Phillip Island

This full-day tour takes you to Phillip Island, located 90 minutes south of Melbourne, where you'll witness the evening ritual of the Penguin Parade. On the way there, stop at Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park to see endangered wildlife like kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. Then, continue to Phillip Island, home to the world's largest colony of little penguins (Eudyptula minor). Embark on optional activities like a visit to the Nobbies, a rocky headland that's home to the largest colony of fur seals in Australia.

At dusk, you'll head to a viewing platform on floodlit Summerland Beach to watch the Penguin Parade. It's an incredible sight as thousands of little penguins waddle back from the sea to their burrows, greeting their partners and neighbors as they arrive. For a bonus, you'll head to the visitor center and an underground viewing window. Here, you can actually watch as the penguins leave the water and emerge on the beach. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Melbourne and return to your hotel.

Day 3: First Nations Heritage, Evening Food Walk

Federation Square, Melbourne
To get to the heart of Melbourne, it's best to start with a deep dive into the city's First Nations culture. A great option is to visit the Koorie Heritage Center. A First Nations-owned and managed organization, the Koorie Trust offers an immersive experience. Start at Federation Square, Melbourne's premier culture and arts venue, where you'll view the Trust's collection of artworks and artifacts. Then, meet with a local guide for a cultural walk along the Birrarung (Yarra) River to witness art installations and historical sites that date back thousands of years.

Later, you'll discover for yourself why Melbourne is a prime foodie destination on the global map. On this 3.5-hour walking and tasting tour, visit three restaurants and enjoy tantalizing bites spanning their menus, all paired with curated wine tastings. You'll also get to speak with passionate owners and staff who will share insider tips on the best food and drink pairings. Rest assured that each venue offers unique and distinct cuisine, with a history, design, and attitude as diverse as Melbourne itself. 

Day 4: Great Ocean Road Trip

12 Apostles
Take the road trip of a lifetime along 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. You'll have ample time to stop and enjoy the highlights throughout the excursion. 

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 out of the sea. Afterward, you'll return to Melbourne.

Day 5: Fly to Uluru, Kata Tjuta Tour & Sunset Over Uluru

Sunset over Uluru 

At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the Melbourne Airport and take a three-hour flight north to iconic Uluru (Ayers Rock). This part of Australia's Red Centre desert plains is famous for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara First Nations tribes as well as the Kata Tjuta and Uluru rock formations. At this World Heritage Site, there are many natural springs, waterholes, rock caves, and ancient paintings to discover. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel.

After getting settled, a driver/guide will pick you up for a ride to the mystical 36 domes of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). Eventually, you'll arrive at the base of Walpa Gorge and embark on a one-hour hiking trail. It follows a natural creek between two of the tallest domes and leads to an oasis home to rare plant species and shrubs. Later, at dusk, you'll travel to a viewing area and watch the sunset over Uluru with a glass of wine. It's an incredible sight as the monolith turns from bright red and gold to various shades of pink and purple as the sun sets over the horizon. 

Day 6: Sunrise Over Uluru & Sightseeing, Sounds of Silence Dinner

The Mutitjulu Waterhole

Today is an early start as you travel to a viewing area to see the sunrise over Uluru (Ayers Rock). Later, take a drive around the base of Uluru, which has a circumference of about 6 miles (10 km) and towers 1,142 feet (348 m) overhead. Then, a guide will lead you on a walk to the Mutitjulu Waterhole, a freshwater spring sacred to the Anangu people. You'll then see ancient rock paintings and stop at the visitor's center, where you can purchase some locally-made First Nations art.

Later, when the sun goes down, get ready for a very special dinner experience. Enjoy this alfresco meal atop a dune overlooking the fabled Uluru monolith. As the sun sets, the meal kicks off with sparkling wine and delectable canapés, followed by a feast of gourmet "bush food" featuring native ingredients. Afterward, gather around the fire for some stargazing with commentary from your indigenous host that reveals the significance these constellations have to First Nations Australians. 

Day 7: Fly to Cairns & Aquarium Visit

The Great Barrier Reef, offshore of Cairns
The Great Barrier Reef, offshore of Cairns
Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport for the 2.5-hour flight to Cairns, a gem of a city on the northern Queensland coast. When you arrive, a driver will be waiting to transport you to the hotel. You're in for a treat, as Cairns is the gateway to some of Australia's most famous natural attractions. 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 UNESCO treasure, the ancient rainforests of Daintree National Park.

After settling in, you'll visit the Cairns Aquarium, dedicated exclusively to the marine animals of the tropical Queensland region. There are over 16,000 aquatic species here, 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 8: Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour

Full-Day Marine World Outer Great Barrier Reef
Full-Day Marine World Outer Great Barrier Reef

In the morning, head to the Cairns marina and check in at the Reef Fleet Terminal. Here, you'll board a high-speed vessel and embark on an eight-hour tour to the outer reef platform at Marine World. On the way, enjoy the scenery as you sip on complimentary tea or coffee.

Once you arrive at Marine World, the fun begins. This reef platform sits in a sheltered lagoon and offers plenty of aquatic activities for all skill levels. Snorkel in the crystalline waters and marvel at the underwater kingdom of marine life from a semi-submersible reef viewer or glass-bottom boat. Optional activities include scuba diving (no experience necessary) and a guided snorkel safari with an expert marine biologist. 

Day 9: Free Day

Visit nearby Cape Tribulation
Take a full day to explore this tropical paradise on your own. Perhaps head just outside the city to tranquil seaside villages and palm-fringed beaches like Trinity and Clifton. Or opt for a 4WD tour of Daintree National Park, during which you'll get to explore the oldest rainforest ecosystem on earth. Continue to other natural wonders like the stunning Cape Tribulation coastal headland. Along the way, keep an eye out for exotic animals like kangaroos and cassowaries. 

Day 10: Daintree Adventure & River Snorkeling

Mossman Gorge
The lush jungles of Mossman Gorge

In the morning, travel to nearby Mossman Gorge, the gateway to Daintree National Park, to embark on a rainforest adventure combining swimming, snorkeling, and jungle hikes. Upon arrival, you'll be welcomed with a traditional "smoking" ceremony conducted by the Kuku Yalanji First Nations people designed to protect you while visiting their ancestral lands. They'll even apply rainforest body paint.

After the ceremony, you'll enter Daintree on a 1.5-hour guided rainforest walk. Along the way, you'll learn much about the flora and fauna of the world's oldest rainforest ecosystem. After a break for lunch, travel to the Mossman River for a wild snorkeling excursion in which you're carried along by the current of the water. In this river, you can search for freshwater turtles, water dragons (colorful lizards), and the elusive platypus. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel in Port Douglas.

Day 11: Fly to Sydney, Harbour Cruise

Welcome to Sydney
Welcome to Sydney 

At the appropriate time, transfer to the airport and catch a three-hour flight south to Sydney. Often mistaken as Australia's capital (that would be Canberra), this city feels like the country's central metropolis. This is due to its iconic sights, historic neighborhoods, world-class culinary and nightlife scenes, prime waterfront location, and an array of pristine beaches (well over 100). Upon arrival at the airport, you'll transfer to your hotel.

Later, you'll get the perfect introduction to Sydney on a 1.5-hour cruise around its famous harbor. You'll find many of the city's most famous sights at this waterfront, like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. You'll see these landmarks and more when you board a cruise vessel and set off on the water. Besides the urban skyline, you'll also pass national parks, golden beaches, and secluded bays. Relax on deck and marvel at these stunning views with a refreshing drink in hand (provided by the onboard bar). 

Day 12: Sydney by Bicycle, Opera House Tour

Get ready for a ride
Get ready for a ride 

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 the Opera House, 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 13: Day Trip to the Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters rock formations, in the Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters rock formations in 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. Lace-up your hiking boots for a full-day, small-group excursion to see the best of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. After transferring here, you'll visit a working farm and meet local wildlife like kangaroos, emus, wombats, and koalas. Then, hike across valleys and sandstone ridges to viewpoints of the towering Three Sisters rock formations.

As you reach Govett's Leap, one of the country's most famous lookouts, marvel at the sweeping vistas across Grose Valley, Australia's answer to the Grand Canyon. Your final stop is 3,280 feet (1,000 m) above sea level at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. Here, you'll see hundreds of international plant species and the exotic critters that call this sanctuary home, including various birds, reptiles, and insects.

Day 14: Free Day, Twilight Bridge Climb

Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden
Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden

Today is yours to discover Sydney on your own schedule and at your own pace. Perhaps start at the waterfront and soak up the lively atmosphere of Darling Harbour. You can also wander around Circular Quay for great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Maybe take a stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden, home to over 28,000 plants from around the world. Or relax at a waterfront café before doing some shopping in the city center. It's totally up to you.

In the late 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 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 15: Depart Australia

Until next time! 
Alas, your grand holiday in Australia concludes today. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Melbourne, Uluru, Cairns & Sydney - 15 Days
Map of Melbourne, Uluru, Cairns & Sydney - 15 Days