This packed three-week adventure delivers the best of Australia. Discover the nation's culture capital of Melbourne on food tours and wildlife excursions before heading down the famed Great Ocean Road to the romantic fishing villages and rugged outback of South Australia. Then, fly north and explore the Great Barrier Reef before finishing the trip in Sydney with tours of its famous sights and hiking trips to nearby mountains.


  • Experience Melbourne's First Nations and culinary heritage on city tours
  • Enjoy the scenery on a self-drive trip down the Great Ocean Road
  • Go wildlife-spotting on Kangaroo Island and see the outback in Wilpena Pound
  • Fly to Queensland for rainforest tours and trips to the Great Barrier Reef
  • Discover the highlights of Sydney and take a hike in the nearby Blue Mountains

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Melbourne, Afternoon Food Tour Melbourne
Day 2 Free Day in Melbourne, First Nations Heritage Melbourne
Day 3 Phillip Island Tour & Penguin Parade Melbourne
Day 4 Drive From Melbourne to Port Fairy, Optional Activities Port Fairy
Day 5 Drive From Port Fairy to Robe, Optional Activities Robe
Day 6 Drive From Robe to Adelaide, Optional Activities Adelaide
Day 7 Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, Kangaroo Island Tour (Day 1) Kangaroo Island
Day 8 Kangaroo Island Tour (Day 2) Adelaide
Day 9 Adelaide Food Tour & Oval Stadium Adelaide
Days 10 Drive From Adelaide to Wilpena Pound Wilpena Pound
Days 11 & 12 Free Days in Wilpena Pound Wilpena Pound
Day 13 Drive From Wilpena Pound to Adelaide, Transfer to Port Douglas  Port Douglas
Day 14 Barrier Reef & Coral Cays Boat Tour Port Douglas
Day 15 Free Day in Port Douglas Port Douglas
Day 16 Aboriginal Culture & Rainforest Tour Port Douglas
Day 17 Port Douglas to Sydney, Optional Activities Sydney
Day 18 City Tour of Sydney & Opera House Sydney
Day 19 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 20 Free Day in Sydney Sydney
Day 21 Depart Sydney  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1:  Arrive in Melbourne, Afternoon Food Tour

Melbourne's riverfront
Melbourne's riverfront

Welcome to Australia! Upon arrival in Melbourne, your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. Then you can 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. It's a gateway to unspoiled national parks, stunning coast, and golden beaches. In Melbourne, hidden enclaves and back-alley laneways are home to the city's most exciting nightlife, trendiest boutiques, and liveliest bars.

After check-in, you'll embark on a three-hour guided walk to enjoy Melbourne's eclectic food scene. Throughout this group tour, you'll stop at back-alley restaurants and cafés in the CBD (Central Business District). Marvel at street art and browse funky boutiques as you sample local Aussie favorites like meat pies and Vegemite, drink Melbourne's famous specialty coffee, and enjoy a lunch of shared dumplings. Finish the experience with a drink in a laneway bar the locals love. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel on your own.

Day 2: Free Day in Melbourne, First Nations Heritage

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. An Aboriginal-owned and managed organization, the Koorie Trust offers an immersive, urban-Aboriginal 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 you can meet with a local guide for a cultural walk along the Birrarung (Yarra) River to witness art installations and significant historical sites that date back thousands of years.

Day 3: Phillip Island Tour & Penguin Parade

The Penguin Parade at Phillip Island
The Penguin Parade at Phillip Island

This full-day tour will take you to Phillip Island, located a mere 90 minutes south of Melbourne, to witness the famous evening ritual of the Penguin Parade. On the way to this popular tourist destination, you'll stop at Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park. Here, you'll see endangered wildlife species like kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas, plus an array of colorful birds and reptiles.

Continue to Phillip Island, home to the world's largest colony of little penguins (Eudyptula minor). Upon arrival, you'll have time for optional activities like visiting colonies of fur seals at the Nobbies headland. At dusk, you'll see the Penguin Parade from a boardwalk at floodlit Summerland Beach. It's an incredible sight as thousands of penguins waddle back from the sea to their burrows, greeting their partners and neighbors as they arrive. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Melbourne and your hotel.

Day 4: Drive From Melbourne to Port Fairy, Optional Activities

The Twelve Apostles, on the Great Ocean Road
The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road 

In the morning, you'll pick up your rental car and embark on a self-drive road trip southwest toward the idyllic seaside town of Port Fairy. The first leg of the trip runs from Melbourne to the surf town of Torquay, where you can stop and stroll the golden sands of nearby Bell's Beach. When you're ready, continue the drive down Australia's famous Great Ocean Road, which runs 150 miles (243 km) and is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world.

Follow the Great Ocean Road past the stunning coastal mountains of Great Otway National Park. Continue south along sea cliffs offering incredible views over the untamed coast until you reach the Twelve Apostles. These towering limestone rock pillars jut out from the choppy seas and have been shaped by wind and weather erosion over millions of years. Three minutes west is another dramatic landmark: Loch Ard Gorge. This lovely inlet was named after the ship "Loch Ard," which tragically ran aground in 1878.  

Travel on to Warrnambool, a historic city that was the capital of western Victoria's ports back in the 19th century. Afterward, continue to your final destination of Port Fairy. This charming fishing village is known for its pine-tree-lined streets, 19th-century cottages, and old stone churches. When you arrive, you'll check in to your accommodation. Then you can stretch your legs with a walk through the botanic gardens or on the beach, where you can spot humpback and blue whales just offshore from May through September. 

Day 5: Drive From Port Fairy to Robe, Optional Activities

The Umpherston Sinkhole
The Umpherston Sinkhole

Leave Port Fairy this morning and drive northwest to Mount Gambier, a town known for its volcanic landscapes and crater lakes. The most famous is the 236-foot (72-m) deep Blue Lake, which is filled with water that changes color to cobalt blue during summer. Feel free to stop and stretch your legs on one of the many walking trails around the lake. Another geological wonder is Umpherston Sinkhole, a sunken limestone garden in the middle of town. Once an underground cave, a giant crater was formed when the chamber's roof collapsed many years ago.

From Mount Gambier, you'll travel to the town of Millicent. There's a museum here that you can visit and learn about First Nations culture in the region. Just outside town is the Mount Muirhead Lookout, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding pine plantations, flatlands, and the Mount Burr Range. Finally, you'll continue to Robe. This fishing village sits on the shores of Guichen Bay and is famous for its historic buildings, wide beaches, inland lakes, and incredible seafood. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and will have the rest of the day free. For dinner, try the town's specialty: southern rock lobster.

Day 6: Drive From Robe to Adelaide, Optional Activities

Piccadilly Valley
Vineyards in the Piccadilly Valley

Wake up early and leave Robe, heading north to the coastal town of Kingston SE. You won't miss it because standing guard at the northern exit of the town is Larry, a giant fiberglass lobster. As you continue north, you'll drive alongside the vast lagoons of Coorong National Park, a haven for waterbirds and home to local First Nations communities. Eventually, you'll reach the town of Murray Bridge. If you'd like to stop for a stroll, you can follow the Discovery Trail, a 1.5-hour hike that loops around the central business district, bridges, riverfront, and wharf precinct.

Upon leaving Murray Bridge, travel a few miles west to Hahndorf, Australia's oldest surviving German settlement. The Germanic culture endures here and is most evident in the town's shops, bakeries, pubs, restaurants, and cafés. The last leg of the drive will take you northwest through Adelaide Hills. Here, you can stop for a walk in the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, which offers magnificent views over the rolling green hills and vineyards of the Piccadilly Valley.

Continue to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia and gateway to some of the nation's best wine country. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel, then you can head out and explore. This former British colonial hub was named after 19th-century Queen Adelaide and is renowned for its compact size and accessibility. It's laid out in a grid pattern in a lovely locale on the River Torrens and is surrounded by green parklands. This progressive city is only one square mile yet boasts many distinctive attractions, not least of which is its world-class restaurant scene.

Day 7: Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, Kangaroo Island Tour (Day 1)

Kangaroo Island
A curious resident of Kangaroo Island 

In the morning, you'll transfer to the airport in Adelaide for the 35-minute flight south to Kangaroo Island. Upon arrival in the town of Penneshaw, your tour operator will meet you at the airport. From there, you'll board a bus and enjoy the first day of tours around this highlight locale. A third of Kangaroo Island's total area is comprised of protected wildlife reserves, so expect to see plenty of animals in the wild. Denizens of the island include wallabies, koalas, and of course, plenty of kangaroos.

After a hike with your tour guide, break for lunch at a private bush camp. Here, you'll enjoy a meal of fresh fish straight from the ocean paired with some great South Australia wines. Afterward, head over to Seal Bay Conservation Park for a beach walk at a breeding colony of wild sea lions. Watch pups playing in the surf and see old bulls who bear the scars of past territorial disputes. It's an excellent opportunity to witness the animals in their natural environment and learn about their history, breeding habits, and biology. In the late afternoon, you'll transfer to your accommodation for the night and enjoy dinner with the group.

Day 8: Kangaroo Island Tour (Day 2)

Remarkable Rocks
The Remarkable Rocks

Today, you'll travel to the northwest end of the island for more wildlife spotting in the company of Kangaroo Island Land for WIldlife. This conservation organization exists to protect and save endangered animals on the island, like the Kangaroo Island dunnart, a small marsupial. After participating in a wildlife survey, you'll break for a picnic lunch in the bush. Afterward, travel to Flinders Chase National Park on the island's rugged west coast. Here, you can marvel at the unique granite boulders of Remarkable Rocks. There's also Admirals Arch, a coastal grotto home to a colony of long-nosed fur seals.

At the end of the day, the company will drop you at the airport or cruise terminal. Depending on the itinerary, you'll either take a 35-minute flight or a 45-minute ferry ride back to Adelaide. Upon arrival, a driver will be waiting to transport you to your hotel.

Day 9: Adelaide Food Tour & Oval Stadium

Adelaide Central Market
Adelaide's Central Market

Foodies rejoice because today you'll go on a tour led by a local food expert to Adelaide Central Market. This icon of South Australia was established in 1869 and is home to over 80 vendors selling everything from organic produce and quality meats to fresh seafood and premium coffees. Beyond that, there are bakeries, artisanal cheesemakers, sweet shops, and more all under one roof. The tour includes tasting a wide selection of some of the finest artisanal treats in South Australia. 

Later in the afternoon, you'll embark on a journey into Adelaide's illustrious sporting history with a visit to the Oval Stadium. Go behind the scenes of this iconic sporting arena, which since 1872 has hosted cricket, Aussie rules football, rugby, soccer, and tennis matches. During the experience, you'll learn why the Oval is not only the centerpiece of Adelaide's historic city center but how it became one of the great sporting venues in the world.

Day 10: Drive From Adelaide to Wilpena Pound

The rugged landscape of Wilpena Pound
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Get back on the road this morning and drive about five hours north from Adelaide into the outback and Wilpena Pound. Located in the heart of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park at the edge of the desert, this natural amphitheater of mountains is one of the most stunning landscapes in the country. Over the years, its high peaks, deep gorges, and gum-tree-dotted plains have been immortalized in the works of photographers and landscape artists. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your accommodation and will have the rest of the day free.

Days 11 & 12: Free Days in Wilpena Pound

The gum trees of Wilpena Pound 

The next two days are yours to enjoy some optional activities in this ruggedly beautiful region of the Australian outback. Hop on a plane for a scenic flight over Wilpena Pound, where you can appreciate the 800-million-year-old peaks of the Flinders Ranges from above. Maybe take a drive to some stunning viewpoints and landscapes like Bunyeroo Gorge, Stokes Hill Lookout, Rawnsley Bluff, and Razorback Lookout. Or, if you prefer, you can spend your time relaxing by the pool in your comfy accommodations.

Day 13: Drive From Wilpena Pound to Adelaide, Transfer to Port Douglas 

Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas
Wake up early for the drive back to Adelaide and the airport, where you'll drop off your rental car and board a three-hour flight north to Cairns. Upon arrival, another driver will meet you for the one-hour drive up the coast to Port Douglas, where your hotel is located. Located just north of Cairns in northeastern Queensland, this resort town on the Coral Sea is a 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. 

Day 14: Barrier Reef & Coral Cays Boat Tour

Discover the Great Barrier Reef
Discover the Great Barrier Reef

Your grand Barrier Reef adventure starts with an early departure from the marina in Port Douglas. Kick back and relax on the deck of a beautiful yacht as it sets sail to the outer reef, including the pristine white sands of Mackay Coral Cay and 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 by a qualified marine biologist.

You can also take a coral-viewing tour on a glass-bottom boat. It passes reef sites showcasing abundant marine life among the beautiful corals, including tropical fish, turtles, and giant clam gardens.

Day 15: Free Day in Port Douglas

Take a day trip to Cape Tribulation
Take a day trip to Cape Tribulation
Today is yours to spend a relaxing day in and around Port Douglas. Perhaps travel to nearby coastal villages and palm-fringed beaches like Trinity and Clifton. Or opt for a 4WD tour of Daintree and explore 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 16: First Nations Culture & Rainforest Tour

Explore the coastal rainforests
Explore the coastal rainforests 

In the morning, a driver will pick you up from your hotel for a full-day First Nations cultural tour in the rainforest. It's an exciting opportunity to learn about how the Kuku Yalanji people have been the traditional inhabitants and caretakers of the ancient rainforests and beaches of the Queensland coast for thousands of years.

It begins with a guided walk through the rainforests and along the coast as your guide imparts wisdom about how the First Nations Australians have lived in harmony with these ecosystems. The guide will point out native plants that the Kuku Yalanji not only use as "bush tucker" (food) but also to make medicine. You'll even collect fresh shellfish on the beach and have a go at spear-throwing. Capping the adventure is a visit to a freshwater stream to take a dip and cool off. At the end of the tour, you'll transfer back to your hotel in Port Douglas.

Day 17: Port Douglas to Sydney, Optional Activities

Spend time at Bondi Beach, in Sydney

At the appropriate time, your driver will transfer you from your hotel to the Cairns airport for the three-hour flight south to Sydney. Upon arrival, another driver will pick you up and take you to your hotel. Then you can head out and enjoy this great global metropolis home to five million people.

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 swim in the calmer waters of Coogee. Afterward, dine on fresh seafood or eclectic international fare before taking on Sydney's legendary nightlife.

Day 18: City Tour of Sydney & Opera House

Visit Sydney's most iconic landmark 

After breakfast, you'll embark on a four-hour guided walking tour of Sydney's highlights. Visit the 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 distinctive 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 19: 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 as well as the exotic critters that call this sanctuary home, including various birds, reptiles, and insects. You'll return to your hotel in Sydney.

Day 20: Free Day in Sydney

See koalas at Sydney's 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 21: Depart Sydney

Sunset over Sydney Harbour
Unfortunately, today, your Australian adventure comes to an end. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up from the hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight home. Until next time!

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Written by Liz Neal, updated Sep 19, 2022