This 15-day itinerary celebrates Australia's most famous city, its mystical outback deserts, and the unspoiled beauty of its tropical northeast. It begins in Sydney, where you'll tour the highlights by foot and bicycle, plus take a trip to the rugged Blue Mountains. After immersing yourself in the First Nations culture of the northern red deserts, finish the journey in tropical Queensland, where you'll enjoy island living, sail to the Great Barrier Reef, and trek in ancient rainforests.


  • See Sydney by bicycle and go hiking in the nearby Blue Mountains
  • Watch the sunrise over Uluru rock and visit sacred First Nations sites
  • Jet off to the Whitsundays Islands for days lazing on white-sand beaches
  • Venture into the rainforests at Daintree and go snorkeling in rivers

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Optional Activities  Sydney
Day 2 Sydney by Bicycle, Opera House Tour Sydney
Day 3 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 4 Free Day in Sydney Sydney
Day 5 Fly to Uluru, Afternoon Kata Tjuta Tour Uluru
Day 6 Sunrise Over Uluru & Segway Tour, Sounds of Silence Dinner Uluru
Day 7 Fly to Hamilton Island Hamilton Island
Day 8 Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling Tour Hamilton Island
Days 9-10 Free Days on Hamilton Island Hamilton Island
Day 11 Fly to Cairns, Cairns Aquarium Cairns
Day 12 Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour Cairns
Day 13 Free Day in Cairns Cairns
Day 14 Daintree Adventure & River Snorkeling Cairns
Day 15 Depart Australia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney, Optional Activities

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 iconic 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: Sydney by Bicycle, Opera House Tour

Get ready for a ride
Take a ride around Sydney

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 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

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 4: Free Day in Sydney

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, 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 5: Sydney to Uluru, Afternoon Kata Tjuta Tour

Hike Walpa Gorge in the outback
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 Melbourne Airport and take a 3.5-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. This World Heritage Site has many natural springs, waterholes, and ancient rock art 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, you can take an optional trip to a viewing area and watch the sunset over Uluru. It's an incredible sight as the monolith turns from bright red and gold to various shades of pink and purple as the sun sinks below the horizon. 

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

The best views in the outback 

This five-hour tour begins before dawn with a transfer from your hotel to a viewing area looking out to Uluru. Here, you'll watch the first rays of light appear over the arid desert plains of the Red Centre as you enjoy a light breakfast. Even if you aren't a morning person, the incredible sight of the morning sun igniting Uluru into a fiery bright red is worth the early wake-up call.

Later, you'll meet a tour guide and hop on a Segway motorized transporter for a guided, two-hour tour around the base of Uluru. During the excursion, you'll be able to stop for photos and hear stories about Anangu First Nations culture, plus learn about the area's flora, fauna, and geology. Afterward, your guide will lead you on a 30-minute hike to the Mutitjulu Waterhole, a freshwater spring and sacred Aboriginal site. You'll also visit nearby caves to see Aboriginal rock art. 

Later, when the sun goes down, get ready for a very special dinner experience. Enjoy this alfresco meal atop a sand 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 Hamilton Island

Whitehaven Beach, in the Whitsundays 
In the morning, your driver will transfer you to the airport for your connecting flight from Uluru to Hamilton Island. Part of the Whitsundays Islands, Hamilton is located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef and is one of Australia's most spectacular holiday destinations. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel and can then experience the best of this tropical paradise, from lazing on soft white-sand beaches to marveling at the kaleidoscope of coral and marine life on snorkeling tours. Hamilton Island is also a hub for trips to the world-famous Whitehaven Beach.

Day 8: Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling Tour

Swim with sea turtles
Scuba with sea turtles 

This full-day tour leaves in the morning from Hamilton island and takes you to some of the best dive sites in the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Specifically, you'll spend 3.5 hours at two locations within Bait Reef. This is a diver's paradise due to its 131-foot (40 m) reef wall, the abundance of colorful coral gardens, and underwater caves.

Your vessel will moor in secluded areas to allow for a more intimate experience. You'll be able to dive off the stern of the boat and explore the Great Barrier Reef's underwater kingdom unimpeded by large crowds. As you dive/snorkel around the area, marvel at the diverse array of marine life, which includes manta rays, sea turtles, and plenty of exotic fish. 

Day 9-10: Free Days on Hamilton Island

Catseye Beach
Catseye Beach

The next two days are yours to enjoy Hamilton Island however you like. This may be the largest inhabited island in the Whitsundays, but the population is still only around 1,000 people, so tranquility and relaxation are never far off. If you like, grab a beach towel and a book and laze on one of its many picture-postcard beaches. You certainly don't want to miss the shimmering turquoise waters at palm-fringed Catseye Beach or the swirly white sands at famous Whitehaven.

For a more active day, there are plenty of hiking trails around the island, offering stunning coastal views. Maybe embark on a fishing charter or play a round at a championship golf course. Families can skip the 18 holes in favor of mini-golf or a few laps at the go-kart track. If you want to get out on the water, enjoy aquatic activities like a stand-up paddle-board (SUP) session or a ride on a jet ski. Be sure to sample the fresh seafood at Hamilton Island's eateries, which range from award-winning restaurants to laid-back cafés.

Day 11: Fly to Cairns, Cairns Aquarium

The Great Barrier Reef, offshore of Cairns
The Great Barrier Reef, offshore of Cairns

At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport for the flight further north to Cairns, a gem of a city on the 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. Like Hamilton Island, Cairns is a popular embarkation point to the Great Barrier Reef, while just to the north of the city lies another UNESCO treasure in 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 12: Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour

Snorkel the outer 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 13: Free Day in Cairns

You can visit 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 14: Daintree Adventure & River Snorkeling

Mossman Gorge
Lush jungles around Mossman Gorge

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 15: Depart Australia

Sunset in the Whitsundays
Unfortunately, today marks the end of your grand Australian holiday. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up from the hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!

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