The Sydney, Rock, Reef combination is a classic Australian itinerary, offering a fantastic mixture of city, outback and coastal experiences in some of the most stunning parts of Australia.
Sydney - Alice Springs - Uluru - Cairns
Begin the day with a stroll along the cliff-hugging Bondi-Bronte walk. This superb coastal walk stretches four kilometres (2 miles) along the ocean, encompassing Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte beaches. A round trip should take around one and half hours. If it’s a sunny day, finish with a dip or a surfing lesson at Bondi Beach or simply settle in for a leisurely breakfast at one of the area’s many cafés.
Bondi also has a cluster of boutiques featuring emerging designers and high-end fashion - most are along Gould and Curlewis Streets and Campbell Parade.
As the sun sets, make the most of the views and head to Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, perched above the iconic oceanfront swimming pool and the crashing waves of south Bondi. More dining options can be found in the inner city suburb of Surry Hills, particularly along Crown Street, a fashionable foodie haven sandwiched with on-trend eateries.
Wake early to climb the Harbour Bridge for truly wondrous views across the harbour. The fully supervised dawn express climb of Sydney’s much-loved bridge takes around two and half hours. Afterwards, spend some time exploring Sydney’s historic quarter The Rocks, strolling among the cobblestoned streets and sandstone heritage buildings. Along with high-end luxury brands, you can stock up on souvenirs, Aboriginal artefacts or magnificent opals and South Sea pearls. Art lovers should leave some time to explore the Museum of Contemporary Art.
From The Rocks, stroll to the ferry terminal at Circular Quay and take a short ride to Taronga Zoo. With sensational views overlooking Sydney Harbour, it has a vast array of animals including koalas and kangaroos with wild bird shows held at regular intervals. Alternatively, Manly is only a 30-minute ferry ride away. With a long, sandy surf beach and lively harbour front, it’s a wonderful spot to experience quintessential laidback Sydney beach culture. Take a relaxing walk along the promenade, have a surfing lesson, hire a bike ride or a kayak to explore the national park and secluded coves along the headland.
After returning to Circular Quay, head to the Sydney Opera House for a ballet or a symphony or head to Walsh Bay at the west end of the bridge. This waterfront stretch is Sydney’s cultural centre with the Sydney Theatre Company, the Sydney Dance Company and Bangarra Dance Theatre, along with a handful of stylish waterfront eateries to wine and dine post-show.
Just over an hour’s drive from Sydney are the Blue Mountains with an abundance of breath-taking scenery, picturesque walking tracks and picnicking hotspots.
The surrounding towns of Blackheath, Lithgow, Oberon and Mount Victoria are worth a visit in their own right, brimming with restaurants, antique shops and old-fashioned charm. Near the town of Oberon are the Jenolan Caves, Australia’s most impressive network of limestone caves.
If you’re keen to visit the iconic Three Sisters, jump in your car and make the quick trip to Katoomba, another town bordering the mountains. Here you’ll find the unusual and impressive rock formation with an equally interesting Aboriginal dream-time story behind the name. Katoomba is also home to Scenic World, featuring a skyway, cableway and walkway over the rainforest canopy and ancient ravines. With a glass bottom skyway suspended 886 feet (270 metres) above ancient ravines, this is an unparalleled way to view the mountain range in all its blue-hued glory.
Drive back to Sydney for the night.
Fly from Sydney to the heart of the outback, Alice Springs, and spend the afternoon exploring this vibrant outback town that is famous for its colourful characters and relaxed atmosphere.
With its flat terrain and compact size, Alice Springs is perfect for walkers. Head off to the historical Telegraph Station, dating back to 1872, and follow the walking trail from the city. Closer to town are the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens with more than 250 plant species, plus native animals such as the black-footed rock wallaby and western bowerbirds.
Visit reputable galleries selling artwork from the Central and Western Desert peoples including “dot paintings” synonymous with the Red Centre. Muk Muk Fine Art and Papunya Tula Artists are a short walk from the city centre while Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation is located 180 miles (290 kilometres) northwest of Alice Springs. For an overview of the local art scene, visit the Araluen Arts Centre, which features travelling exhibitions, craft displays and live performances.
Alice Springs is a great place to join a tour or hire a car to explore the treasures of the Red Centre. Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park is located four to five hours drive south-west of Alice Springs and encompasses both Uluru and the 36 domes of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).
Uluru is Australia’s most recognisable natural icon, standing 1141 feet (348 metres) high. Enrich your experience by learning about the ancient culture and history of the land from the traditional custodians of Uluru, the Anangu. Take part in an authentic Maruku Arts Dot Painting Workshop or choose from one of the many free daily Aboriginal activities at Ayers Rock Resort, including garden walks and bush yarns at the Circle of Sand.
Spend your first night in the Red Centre in style, with the once in a lifetime Tali Wiru dinner experience. An unforgettable evening of fine dining under the stars, this open-air restaurant operates between April and October and has magnificent views of Uluru and the distant domes of Kata Tjuṯa.
Start your day in the heart of the Red Centre by watching the desert come to life at dawn. Join a guided Desert Awakenings tour to witness the changing colours of Uluru and Kata Tjuta at sunrise over a hearty breakfast on top of a secluded sand dune. Once the sun comes up your guide will take you to the base of Uluru, where you’ll stop at significant spots including the Mutitjulu waterhole, ancient rock paintings and the Cultural Centre.
While its famous neighbour Uluṟu may get most of the attention, the nearby Kata Tjuṯa is just as intriguing. Head around 31 miles (50 kilometres) west of Uluṟu by road and take a walk through the 36 domes of this sacred site. Enjoy an easy one hour stroll on the Walpa Gorge Walk, passing rare plants and marvelling at the height of the dome walls along the way. If you’re feeling more energetic, tackle the four hour Valley of the Winds Walk right into the heart of this magnificent landscape, some parts are challenging but the effort is worth it for the breathtaking views.
Head to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, built on traditional land in a beautiful rainforest setting 15 minutes out of Cairns. Be immersed in traditional Tjapukai culture with authentic music, dance and storytelling. You can also take The Bama Way experience – learn to throw a spear, hunt and gather bush tucker in the mangroves and shallows at beautiful Kooya Beach.
Today it’s time to see the Great Barrier Reef. Stretching 1429 miles (2300 kilometres), the Great Barrier Reef includes some 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and about 150 inshore mangrove islands.
Start your exploration of the largest reef system in the world at the Cairns and Tropical North Visitor Information Centre; here you can pick from a selection of day cruises and Great Barrier Reef experiences. For example, choose from the Quicksilver Cruises range of activities including scuba lessons, snorkelling with the sea turtles, scenic helicopter flights over the reef and more. The trip to the outer reef takes about two hours.
Head north just under two and half hours from Cairns to explore the Daintree World Heritage Wilderness Area.
Older than the Amazon, the Daintree rainforest is a living museum of flora and fauna dating back at least 135 million years and the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia. It is also home to a number of rare and endangered species, including the Southern Cassowary and Bennett's tree-kangaroo. Even more appealing to visitors is its exceptional coastal scenery where tropical rainforest extends to white sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs.
See the rainforest from horseback at Wonga Beach. Explore a trail in the rainforest and canter along the water’s edge. Cruise the Daintree River to spot crocodiles, snakes and an array of birds and insects along its banks. Join the birds at the top of the rainforest with a walk along the Aerial Walkway to the Canopy Tower at the Daintree Discovery Centre.
Beyond the trees, the Daintree also offers beautiful beaches with shallow, warm, tropical seas. You’ll find them clustered in the north near Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the only place in the world where two World Heritage sites meet.
From Cairns, fly just over two hours to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland.
Get your pulse racing by climbing to the top of the Story Bridge, built in 1940 and towering 262 feet (80 metres) above the river. The fully guided climbing tour is a thrilling experience allowing plenty of awe-inspiring views over the river and city skyline, and the chance to learn the colourful history of the Story Bridge's construction.
Next head to South Bank, a recreational precinct that sits alongside the Brisbane River. Here you can explore the Epicurious Garden full of edible plants, jump on board the Wheel of Brisbane for 360 degree panoramic views of South Bank and beyond or alternatively head to the nearby Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Australia’s largest gallery of modern and contemporary art. The galleries are architectural wonders themselves, boasting a diversity of Australian and international art as well as two galleries devoted to contemporary Indigenous work.
Dine tonight at one of Brisbane’s most awarded and forward thinking restaurants, Esquire. The Scandinavian-styled dining space boasts views of the Brisbane River and features an innovative menu created by chefs Ryan Squires and Ben Devlin.
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