Spend 11 days enjoying some of the best of urban Australia as well as outback excursions you'll not soon forget. It begins in the global metropolis of Sydney, where you'll experience its city sights and postcard beaches on walking tours. Then fly to the Northern Territory for spiritual expeditions into the red deserts at Uluru before finishing the trip on the Great Barrier Reef and in the ancient rainforests of Daintree.

Highlights

  • Tour the highlights of Sydney, including the Opera House and Bondi Beach
  • Visit iconic Uluru (Ayers Rock) and learn about First Nations culture
  • Spend time in tropical Port Douglas and learn how to fish like a local
  • Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and ride a gondola over the Daintree rainforests

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Optional Activities Sydney
Day 2 Morning City Tour of Sydney & Opera House Tour Sydney
Day 3 Free Day in Sydney Sydney
Day 4 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 5 Sydney to Uluru, Sounds of Silence Dinner Uluru
Day 6 Sunrise Kata Tjuta Tour Uluru
Day 7 Uluru to Port Douglas, Optional Activities Port Douglas
Day 8 Barrier Reef & Coral Cays Boat Tour Port Douglas
Day 9 Kuranda Village & Cablecar Forest Adventure Port Douglas
Day 10 First Nations Fishing & Daintree Rainforest Tour Port Douglas
Day 11 Port Douglas to Cairns, Depart Australia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney, Optional Activities

Welcome to Sydney!
Welcome to Sydney!

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 personal 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. Afterward, dine on fresh seafood or eclectic international fare before taking on Sydney's legendary nightlife.

Day 2: Morning City Tour of Sydney & Opera House Tour

Sydney's opera house is a global icon

After breakfast, you'll embark on a four-hour guided walking tour that delivers Sydney's highlights alongside lesser-visited gems. Visit the city's main shopping district to browse designer shops and shopping malls like the 19th-century Queen Victoria Building. Then, stroll through Sydney's trendy LGBTQ hub of Oxford Street to the historic neighborhood of Paddington, known for its unique terrace houses dating to the Victorian era. Eventually, you'll arrive at the coast and enjoy walks around the coastal suburbs and star beaches like Bondi.

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: Free Day in Sydney

You can see koalas at the Taronga Zoo

Today is yours to enjoy Sydney at your own pace. One popular pastime is a leisurely ferry ride around the harbor. Or you can visit Taronga Zoo to see tigers, gorillas, and (of course) koalas. For a nature walk, take a stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden. This 74-acre (30 ha) urban green space is Australia's oldest botanic garden (it opened in 1816) and is home to 27,000 plants from around the world. Afterward, maybe splurge on a multi-course dinner at one of Sydney's five-star restaurants overlooking the water.

Or, spend the day at the coast and laze on the beach. Venture beyond Bondi to discover hidden gems like the lagoon oasis of Wattamolla Beach. You can also head outside the city for a bushwalk (hike) in a nature reserve to learn a bit about First Nations history. No matter what you decide, there's no shortage of activities to keep you busy in this city.

Day 4: Day Trip to the Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters , Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters rock formation 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 as well as the exotic critters that call this sanctuary home, including various birds, reptiles, and insects.

Day 5: Sydney to Uluru, Sounds of Silence Dinner

Enjoy dinner in the Outback, with views of Ayers Rock

In the morning, a car will take you to the Sydney Airport, where you'll catch a 3.5-hour flight deep into the Australian Outback and Uluru (Ayers Rock). This massive sandstone monolith is perhaps the most famous natural landmark in the country. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel, where you can relax for the remainder of the afternoon. When the sun goes down, get ready for a special dinner experience. Sounds of Silence is more than just a dinner; it's a spiritual discovery of the Outback desert.

Your meal is served on a dune with views looking out to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the fabled Uluru monolith. As the sun sets, the experience kicks off with sparkling wine and delectable canapés, followed by a feast of gourmet "bush food" featuring native ingredients. After dinner, gather around the fire for some stargazing with commentary from your First Nations host that reveals the significance these constellations have to the First Nations people. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 6: Sunrise Kata Tjuta Tour

Go hiking through Walpa Gorge

Wake up before dawn for a trip to one of the Northern Territory's natural highlights: Kata Tjuta. Also known as the Olgas, this collection of otherworldly sandstone rock domes is not only beautiful, but it's also a sacred site to the First Nations people. The five-hour tour starts with a transfer from your hotel to the entrance of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. From there, it's a 25-mile (40-km) drive through the scenic desert landscapes to the incredible rock formation.

You'll arrive at sunrise and watch as the morning sun gilds the 36 domes that comprise Kata Tjuta, causing them to glow. Afterward, enjoy a gourmet picnic breakfast. Then you're off to Walpa Gorge, another natural highlight and refuge for plants and animals of the desert. Take a stroll along a natural creek and through deep gullies between the mighty cliff faces. As you go, your guide will explain how the area's geology has evolved over millions of years. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 7: Uluru to Port Douglas, Optional Activities

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

In the morning, you'll transfer from your hotel in Uluru to the airport, where you'll catch a 2.5-hour flight to Cairns on Australia's northeast coast. Upon arrival, a private car will transfer you to the coastal town of Port Douglas. Located just north of Cairns, Port Douglas is a resort town on the Coral Sea and a base for excursions to Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef. It's also perfect for travelers who want a tropical escape in a relaxed environment.

After checking in to your hotel, you can spend the day browsing Port Douglas' boutiques, dining in its exquisite al fresco restaurants, and taking excursions to coral cays (islets) along the nearby Barrier Reef. A visit to Four Mile Beach is essential, as 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 to explore the Wet Tropics national parks, Daintree Rainforest, and the scenic coastal headland Cape Tribulation.

Day 8: Barrier Reef & Coral Cays Boat Tour

Discover the Great Barrier Reef

Your full-day Great 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 you sail to the white sands of Mackay Coral Cay and epic snorkeling spots at 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 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. Pass premium reef sites that showcase abundant marine life living among the beautiful corals. These include tropical fish, turtles, and even giant clam gardens. The tour includes a buffet lunch, morning and afternoon teas & coffees, and first-class service from the helpful, friendly crew.

Day 9: Kuranda Village & Cablecar Forest Adventure

Ride a cable car over the rainforest

Transfer to Cairns this morning, where you'll catch a ride on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. The train snakes along hillside tracks built by the early settlers and offers 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). Your destination is the village of Kuranda, located about 15 miles (25 km) inland.

Upon arrival, explore the rainforest village of Kuranda and its heritage markets, which are known for their colorful and distinctive arts and crafts. Then, head to Kuranda Koala Gardens to cuddle with one of these furry friends. Afterward, return to Cairns via a 90-minute trip on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Snap plenty of photos as you glide over the canopy of one of the world's oldest rainforest ecosystems. 

Day 10: First Nations Fishing & Daintree Rainforest Tour

Mossman Gorge
After breakfast, 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 11: Port Douglas to Cairns, Depart Australia

Farewell, Australia
In the morning, you'll transfer one hour south from Port Douglas to Cairns by private transport. Then you're off to the airport to catch your flight home. Until next time!

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Map

Map of Sydney, Uluru & Port Douglas - 11 Days
Map of Sydney, Uluru & Port Douglas - 11 Days
Liz
Written by Liz Neal, updated Sep 20, 2022