In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!
Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.
U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/australia.html
Tourism Site: http://www.australia.com/en-us
How to Prioritize?!
I have to say, due to its size and the amazing amount of things to do, Australia has been very challenging to research. Basically, Australia is one big national park the size of the United States! Right now we are planning to spend 6 weeks total in Australia, so hopefully that will give us enough time to see the major things on our list, while still having time to relax and breathe in the fresh air. As a comparison, here is an image showing the size of Australia as compared to the United States.
As was the case in New Zealand, friends are going to play a big role in our ability to spend more time in Australia, despite the high costs. What I love about this is they are going to be, and already have been, great resources for information on “must sees”, “don’t bother” and “here is how you save money on…”. Plus, they are just awesome people who we are going to have a blast just hanging out with.
We definitely know we are going to spend a week or two with our friends in Currimundi, which is just outside Brisbane in southern Queensland (Sunshine Coast region). Our tentative plan is to fly into Brisbane when we leave Vanuatu; that way we can start in Australia staying with people we know. As we continue our journey in Australia we have potential to stay at a friend’s family member’s place in Bulli, which is a coastal town just south of Sydney. We were originally thinking of skipping Sydney to allow more time in other places, but if we are able to stay in Bulli that will definitely change things. Both of these locations will be great home bases for exploring Queensland and New South Wales.
When not staying with friends, we plan to stay in at least one hostel, probably in Adelaide, which is in South Australia. One site I see used often for finding discount accommodations is https://www.booking.com. We also plan to do the camper van rental vehicle return/relocation again (mentioned in our New Zealand post), but this time try to get a Mini Camper which is basically a car that has a tent on the roof. How cool is that!
Australia is known for having countless campsites, some being free and others not. One way to find these sites is by purchasing an app through http://www.campsaustraliawide.com/shop/camps-app, which requires us to have WiFi to access the active features, but you can pre-download maps of the areas you plan to visit so you don’t get stuck if WiFi isn’t available while you are on the road (which it sounds is often the case in Australia).
DID SOMEONE SAY BARBIE?
Something I have a feeling we are going to use a lot, not just when camping it, are all the free BBQs around Australia. According to our friend in Currimundi, they are everywhere. Our current apartment does not have an outdoor space for a grill, so I am BBQ deprived and can’t wait to get my fill! Hopefully this will help keep food cost lower by limiting eating out.
Another cool accommodation type we want to try in Australia is house/pet sitting through https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/us. One backpacker couple that we have been following used this for most of their time in Australia and they say they saved over $20,000 by house/pet sitting versus staying in hotels. If this works well, I have a feeling we will be using this a lot during our RTW trip. Sure to save money, but just as important, to spend time with sweet furry animals, which we miss greatly since we are not allowed to have any in our current apartment.
Due to the size of Australia, at times it will be more convenient and time saving to fly versus drive. For example, if we do decide to skip over Sydney, the plan is to fly from Brisbane to Melbourne to get to the start of the Great Ocean Road, then again from Adelaide to Exmouth to get to the Ningaloo Reef. To book these flights the following websites will come in handy: https://book.jetstar.com, https://tigerair.com.au, along with the typical ones like Expedia, Cheap Flights, Kayak, etc.
$$ MONEY SAVING – CAR RENTAL
There may be times when we are staying with friends or pet/house sitting that we will need to rent a car if public transport isn’t available. A recent post I watched had some great information about getting the best car rental rate.Tips mentioned included look at multiple websites, use small local rental companies, book as close as possible to the time needed for last minute deals, and keep the rental period 7 days or under even if you are going to need it for longer and have to return the car then immediately re-rent.
Here’s where I needed to look at things from the 30,000 foot view perspective. There are just way too many places to go, activities to do, and things to see to know exactly what will be on our agenda. I want to do it all! But, of course, that can’t happen. For example, I don’t think we are going to go to Northern Territory to the Red Centre to see Uluru, http://www.australia.com/en/places/red-centre.html, because of the added flight costs and time constraints. In order to get some idea of our timeline and expenses, I did have to determine what some of our must sees and do’s are, and figure out where in Australia we were going to start and end.
Of course, the Great Barrier Reef, http://www.australia.com/en/places/great-barrier-reef.html, was one of the first things we thought of. The trick is how to experience the reef on a budget and not have to travel far to get to it. Instead of flying to Cairns, which is the typical place to go see the reef from, we may drive from Currimundi (our first stop in Australia) to the town of 1770 (yes, this is the actual name of the town) which is about a 5 hour drive, and take a day snorkeling trip to the reef off the island of Lady Musgrave. There are numerous excursion/snorkeling/diving companies to use such as http://www.lmcruises.com.au.
I am actually more excited to go see the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, http://www.australia.com/en/places/ningaloo.html. I have found countless posts about Ningaloo Reef and how it is just as good as, if not better than, the Great Barrier Reef. Plus you can swim right to the reef from the beach! No boat required! Unfortunately we won’t be there when the whale sharks are around, but it still should be fantastic snorkeling.
There are several famous drives along Australia’s beautiful coastline, one of which is a must see for us – the Great Ocean Road. Starting in Torquay, Victoria (near Melbourne) and ending in Allansford, Victoria (near Warmambool), this drive is approximately 151 miles and often completed over 4-5 days. Travelers spend time stopping along the way to take in sites such as the 12 Apostles, Bells Beach, various Aboriginal heritage sites, Cape Otway Lighthouse, various hikes, and more – http://www.australia.com/en/places/great-ocean-road.html. This is when we hope to try out the Mini-Camper.
A trip to Australia wouldn’t be complete without some wine sampling of course! After completing the Great Ocean Road, our plan is to continue driving to Adelaide to spend several days exploring this area, including the nearby Barossa Valley wine region. I was psyched to come across a company that does wine cellar bike tours – http://www.barossabikehire.com/group-tours. The other wine region we are interested in is the Hunter Valley region, http://www.australia.com/en/places/nsw/hunter-valley.html, which is located just outside of Sydney. Whether we go here will depend on if we end up skipping over Sydney or not.
So, in a nutshell, Australia is going to be full of adventure, involve multiple modes of transportation, and most likely leave us wishing for more time to explore. It will be interesting to see if we stick to this agenda or will something different catch our eye and completely veer us off course.
Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!