Best of Australia: Food, Nature & Culture - 17 Days (2023)


  • Climb the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge
  • Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef and visit the ancient Daintree Rainforest
  • Venture into the Red Centre and admire the sunset and stargaze at Uluru
  • Explore city sights in Melbourne and Adelaide
  • Spend a night on wild Kangaroo Island
Day 1Arrive in Sydney, Climb the Harbor BridgeSydney
Day 2Panoramic Sydney Sights & Sydney Opera House TourSydney
Day 3Full-Day Blue Mountains TourSydney
Day 4Fly to Cairns, Dinner CruiseCairns
Day 5Full-Day Great Barrier Reef ExperienceCairns
Day 6Day Trip to Kuranda Village, Hartley's Crocodile FarmCairns
Day 7Rainforest Adventure & Nocturnal Wildlife TourCairns
Day 8Fly to Uluru, Sounds of Silence DinnerUluru
Day 9Uluru Sunrise & Field of Light Installation, Kata Tjuta TourUluru
Day 10Fly to Melbourne, Melbourne Dinner, Tales & Cocktails TourMelbourne
Day 11Full-day Phillip Island TourMelbourne
Day 12Full-Day Great Ocean Road TripMelbourne
Day 13Fly to Adelaide, Evening Wine, Dine & Discover by FootAdelaide
Day 14Fly or Cruise to Kangaroo IslandKangaroo Island
Day 15Kangaroo Island Experience, Return to AdelaideAdelaide
Day 16Guided Eco Kayak Tour, Adelaide Central Market Tour, Australian Wine MasterclassAdelaide
Day 17Depart Adelaide

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney, Climb the Harbor Bridge

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Welcome to Australia! Your first stop is sunny Sydney, where your driver will meet you at the airport for a private transfer to your hotel. Frequently mistaken as Australia's capital (that would be Canberra), this metropolis feels like the heart of Australia thanks to its iconic sights, historic neighborhoods, world-class culinary scene, prime waterfront location, and pristine beaches. Start with a visit to Sydney's iconic harbor and soak up the city over a drink at a waterfront bar, like the Opera Bar, to get your bearings.

Later this afternoon, strap on a harness and climb Sydney's famous coat hanger—the Sydney Harbor Bridge. BridgeClimb Sydney offers a three-hour tour where guests can climb 439 feet (134 m) above sea level. The adrenaline-pumping journey provides stunning 360-degree city views, including the iconic Sydney Opera House and the beautiful Blue Mountains. This is the perfect introduction to your 17-day tour of Australia's great highlights. After the climb, spend the rest of the evening exploring or return to your hotel.

Day 2: Panoramic Sydney Sights & Sydney Opera House Tour

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Wake ready to explore Sydney. Hear fascinating stories of early convict history in the Rocks area, and see breathtaking views of the famous Opera House and Harbor Bridge. Those who want to shop can at the Queen Victoria Building and the trendy Oxford Street district. Head east for a stunning coastal walk around Tamarama and Bronte, and enjoy a refreshing drink at the famous Bondi Beach while admiring the views. Snap a panoramic photo at Dover Heights before returning to the city via Double Bay, Kings Cross, and Mrs Macquarie's Point.

This afternoon tour peeks beneath the sails of the 20th-century architectural masterpiece, the famous Sydney Opera House. With its sleek vaulted shells, this expressionist marvel is a testament to human imagination and was the brainchild of Danish architect Jørn Utzon. Today you'll step inside this global icon, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and performing arts venue to see its inner workings. Learn about the history of the Opera House and its design elements as your guide takes you on a memorable journey.

Day 3: Full-Day Blue Mountains Tour

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Wave goodbye to the big city with this full-day adventure to the stunning Blue Mountains. Your day begins with a visit to Calmsley Hill, a working farm home to emus, kangaroos, koalas, and wombats. Enjoy a leisurely morning tea and wander the beautiful surroundings. The journey continues to one of the stunning Jamison Valley lookouts, where you can take in breathtaking vistas. Next, visit the remote Eaglehawk Lookout, where you can witness the Three Sisters in all their glory. Watch as the sunlight brings out magnificent colors that change throughout the day.

Pause for a delicious two-course lunch at Blackheath. Take in stunning views from a selection of lookouts. Witness the majestic Govetts Leap and its breathtaking waterfall. Stop to enjoy a beverage at the delightful Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, where you'll enjoy sweeping views across to Sydney. Then, travel down the scenic Bells Line of Road back to the city and to your hotel.

Day 4: Fly to Cairns, Dinner Cruise

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Today you'll board a flight for Cairns, a tropical paradise and the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and ancient Daintree Rainforest. Over the next few days, you'll experience some of Australia's most remarkable natural wonders and attractions. Check into your hotel and refresh ahead of a special dinner cruise.

End your first day in paradise aboard a catamaran. Enjoy an evening of calm water cruising on Trinity Inlet, taking in the sights and sounds of this tropical port city and its surrounds as day turns to night. Grab a drink and soak up views from the exterior decks, watching the sun slink away and stars light up. Then sit down to a delicious three-course set menu dinner featuring some of the region's best produce.

Day 5: Full-Day Great Barrier Reef Experience

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Today you'll dive into one of the world's great natural wonders. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's most extensive coral reef system and is home to an incredible diversity of marine life, including over 1,500 species of fish, 30 species of whales and dolphins, and six species of sea turtles. Made up of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, the Great Barrier Reef spans over 1,430 miles (2,300 km). Today you'll board a boat destined for the outer reef. Here the all-weather Marine World platform awaits as your base to explore the reef.

Dive off the platform and snorkel among colorful fish, sea turtles, and even sharks. Join a semi-submersible reef viewer or glass-bottom boat tour. Take a helicopter ride over the reef to soak up the grand scale from the sky. Or stay dry and view the reef from the platform's underwater observatory. The Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an essential ecosystem for the world's oceans, providing vital habitat and protection for marine life.

Day 6: Day Trip to Kuranda Village, Hartley's Crocodile Farm

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This morning ride the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway up to the mountain village of Kuranda, located about 15 miles (25 km) inland. The train snakes along historic hillside tracks and offers breathtaking views of waterfalls, cane fields, and the Barron Gorge as you rise from sea level to 1,072 feet (327 m). Explore the rainforest village and its colorful markets. Visit Kuranda Koala Gardens to cuddle a koala and spend time at Birdworldor the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. Return via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and glide over the canopy of one of the world's oldest rainforest ecosystems.

Back at sea level, your next adventure takes you a 40-minute drive north of Cairns to Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. This is one of the best places to see crocodiles and local wildlife in Tropical North Queensland. Take a boat cruise on Hartley's Lagoon to see crocodiles in the Melaleuca wetland, then wander timber boardwalks to meet beautiful tropical birds, reptiles, insects, and other native fauna. And if the timing is in your favor, check out the educational (and entertaining) wildlife presentations with cassowaries, crocodiles, snakes, quolls, and koalas.

Day 7: Rainforest Adventure & Nocturnal Wildlife Tour

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Explore the stunning Atherton Tablelands, a biodiverse region with a variety of habitats, including tropical rainforests and volcanic crater lakes. Sit down for an afternoon tea at the renowned Lake Barrine. Then, you may spot unique wildlife such as the Boyds forest dragon, musky-rat kangaroo, and a range of rainforest birds, butterflies, and flying foxes. At dusk, you'll head to a viewing area by the river to search for the elusive and shy platypus, one of the world's most unique mammals.

After dinner at a local restaurant, embark on a spotlighting adventure in the UNESCO World Heritage Daintree Rainforest. You might even encounter the rare Lumholtzs tree-kangaroo, northern leaf-tailed gecko, ringtail possums, gliders, frogs,and owls. Many of these native animals are only found in this region of Australia.

Day 8: Fly to Uluru, Sounds of Silence Dinner

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A visit to Uluru is a life-changing experience. The spiritual heart of Australia's Red Centredesert plains, Uluru (formerly referred to as Ayers Rock), is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory. Today you'll catch a flight from Cairns to Uluru, home to the country's most recognized natural wonder and home to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara tribes, the area's traditional landowners. This spectacular World Heritage Site has many natural springs, waterholes, rock caves, and ancient paintings to discover.

This evening experience the Sounds of Silence dinner sitting on a remote dune beneath the star-studded outback sky with breathtaking views of Uluru monolith. Watch the sun fade behind the dunes while enjoying a glass of sparkling wine and canapés. Then savor mouthwatering "bush food" made with native ingredients while enjoying the quiet of the desert. After dinner, gather around the fire to stargaze and learn about the significance of the constellations to the Aboriginal people. Cap off the evening with a drink before returning to your hotel.

Day 9: Uluru Sunrise & Field of Light Installation, Kata Tjuta Tour

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Arriving this morning in complete darkness, in the calm quiet of predawn, you'll witness the 50,000 globes of light sparkle in the desert. Internationally renowned artist Bruce Monroe created the Field of Light installation specially for this space. Make your way up the hill to the viewing platform, where you'll enjoy a hot beverage as the sun starts to creep up and light floods across Uluru and the Kata Tjuta in the distance.

This afternoon you'll transfer out to the mystical 36 domes of Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas. Enjoy scenic views of these unique rock formations while your guide details the history of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Arrive at the base of Walpa Gorge, another part of Kata Tjuta that is sacred to the Aboriginal people. Embark on a one-hour hike through the gorge, following a natural creek between two of the tallest domes. Then at dusk, you'll travel to the Uluru sunset viewing area, also known as the "sunset strip" to relax with a glass of wine as you marvel at the changing colors of the rock.

Day 10: Fly to Melbourne, Melbourne Dinner, Tales & Cocktails Tour

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Catch a flight from Uluru to Melbourne, one of Australia's greatest cities—ranked as one of the world's most livable. Melbourne is famous for its vibrant energy, restaurants, café filled laneways, cool bars, fashion boutiques, galleries, and parks. Modern, cutting-edge designs add to the fascinating mix of heritage architecture and ensure the skyline is constantly changing.

This evening's tour takes you into the heart of Melbourne's elegant and lively nightlife. It starkly contrasts the city's dark past, shaped by curious characters on both sides of the law. Begin with a dinner that reflects Melbourne's fantastic culinary scene, and learn about the city's history from a local guide. Next are some of the best spots in town, many of which are deliberately hard to find, and you can enjoy this firsthand insight into all that Melbourne has to offer.

Day 11: Full-day Phillip Island Tour

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Phillip Island is famous for its nightly Penguin Parade. This full-day tour takes you from the city center to this small island off the southern coast of Australia to witness the evening ritual. On the way, stop at the Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park to meet endangered species, kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas, plus an array of colorful birds and reptiles. Continue to Phillip Island to meet the famous little penguins.

Depending on the time of year, once you reach the island, you might visit Woolamai Beach to see surfers riding the waves. Then visit the western corner of the island for magnificent views of Bass Strait and the Nobbies, home to Australia's largest colony of fur seals. Finally, witness the natural phenomena of the Penguin Parade on floodlit Summerland Beach. From the special Penguin Plus viewing platform, you can admire the little penguins coming ashore, decked out in their tuxedos as they hurry off to find their burrows.

Day 12: Full-Day Great Ocean Road Trip

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Wake up early and embark on another epic day trip—this time, you're traveling 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. This is a full-day, 11-hour trip where you'll have ample time to stop and enjoy the highlights.

Keep an eye toward the coast throughout the drive, 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 set among the rolling coastal hills. You can also stretch your legs on a forest hike through the mountains of the famous Otway Ranges. You'll also visit the romantic cove at Loch Ard Gorge, then cap the adventure at the most incredible natural landmarks on the route: the Twelve Apostles, a group of ancient limestone rock formations rising out of the sea.

Day 13: Fly to Adelaide, Evening Wine, Dine & Discover by Foot

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Today you'll catch a flight to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia! This former British colonial hub was named after 19th-century Queen Adelaide. A small, progressive city, Adelaide is only a square mile yet boasts many distinctive attractions and is famous for its many festivals, fine food, and wine.

Get a taste of the latter this evening on a culinary walking tour. Start at one of the city's lesser-known local wine bars for an introduction to the region's best wines over snacks. Wander Adelaide's back streets, admiring the architecture, street art, and atmosphere on the way to the next location: a hidden bar to discover local spirits and creative cocktails. Hear about local laws and legends, the saints, sinners, innovators, and creators who have shaped this unique Australian city. Finish up with a local digestive and some delicious fresh cheese or a few sweet treats at a local institution.

Day 14: Fly or Cruise to Kangaroo Island

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Head back to the airport for a 40-minute flight to Kangaroo Island and meet your guide for a quick overnight adventure. Embark on a bush walk together and learn about the Australian landscape as well as the animals that reside there. Seek out small wallabies, a kangaroo found only on Kangaroo Island, and see a variety of other birds, plants, and animals.

Break for lunch at a private bush camp and enjoy a delicious meal with local fish, fresh salads, and fine South Australian wines. At Seal Bay Conservation Park, venture off on a private tour to see Australian sea lions on a wide sandy beach. Watch pups nurse or play in the surf, see old bulls, and learn about their unique breeding biology. In the late afternoon, arrive at your accommodation to check in, relax, and enjoy dinner on-site.

Day 15: Kangaroo Island Experience, Return to Adelaide

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Wake up on Kangaroo Island and enjoy a second day immersed in nature. Venture northwest to an important private wildlife refuge with Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife. Learn about native wildlife surveys that target tiny endangered mammals. Break for a picnic lunch in the bush featuring marinated poached chicken, fresh salads, cheeses, and excellent South Australian wine.

After lunch, travel into Flinders Chase National Park and explore the massive shapes of Remarkable Rocks, a natural sculpture perched impossibly on top of a dome of granite emerging from the ocean. Evidence of the power of the Southern Ocean swell continues at Admirals Arch—a coastal grotto home to a large colony of long-nosed fur seals. At the end of the trip, your guide will drop you back at the airport or cruise terminal for your return to Adelaide.

Day 16: Guided Eco Kayak Tour, Adelaide Central Market Tour, Australian Wine Masterclass

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Paddle through a 10,000-year-old mangrove forest amid hundreds of migrating and native dolphin species on this morning's adventure. Your last full day in Australia will be one to remember with this special experience! During the half-day kayak tour, you'll encounter plenty of marine life and shipwreck sighting opportunities. The mangrove forest makes the ultimate feeding grounds for dolphins due to the abundance of seagrass, salt marsh, and tidal flats and creeks.

After your morning paddle, venture to the Adelaide Central Market for an interactive culinary tour. Taste delicious snacks and produce grown here in South Australia, guided by a local food expert. Later, take a guided tour of the National Wine Centre. Uncover the diversity of Australia's 65 wine regions and meet wonderful characters. Learn how to blend your own award-winning wine with the virtual blending simulator. After the tour, continue your education with a Masterclass of Australian wines. Taste premium examples of Australian wines led by a local sommelier.

Day 17: Depart Adelaide

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It's your final morning in Australia. Pack your bags and wait for your driver to collect you from the hotel at the appropriate time for your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Australia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Australia? Check out these otherAustralia itineraries or discover the best time to visit Australia.

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