Australia Tours & Vacations
Custom Australia Tours
When it comes to superlatives, Australia simply has no equals. On this ancient and spectacular continent, you can dive among the dazzling marine life of the world’s largest coral reef, explore its oldest living rainforests and most sacred rock formations, marvel at some of its rarest and most extraordinary animals, and engage with the descendants of its longest surviving culture. Australia isn’t a place to lose yourself: it’s a place to find yourself – amid some of the most breathtaking landscapes on Earth.
Australia really is like nowhere else on Earth. A giant island afloat in the Great Southern Ocean, cut off from the rest of the world for millennia, this most ancient of continents has long hidden its startling physical beauty and remarkable native wildlife from the rest of the world. Inhabited by Aboriginal people who have coexisted with the land for more than 40,000 years, it was into this pristine wilderness that the British first arrived in 1788. With its proximity to the Asian trading routes, and its isolated geography, Australia was the perfect penal colony for Britain’s overcrowded shores. For the next 100 years, this beguiling land remained the haunt of convicts, explorers and spirited free settlers, who together with growing bands of intrepid gold-miners, pearlers, farmers and traders, forged an Australian spirit that is characterized by independence, irreverence, and a good dose of humor.
Despite its transformation from wild hinterland into a sophisticated and glamorous nation, the land and the spirit of Australia still have the power to captivate you like nowhere else. With a population of only 23 million and a landmass almost the size of America, this is a vast, untamed land where you can always find room to get off the beaten track and chance upon the unexpected – as well as being peppered for choice in sensational cities like Sydney and Melbourne.
Sip your favorite cocktail as you cruise around Sydney Harbour on a luxury yacht, unfurl your swag by a crackling campfire in the Outback, join a gourmet walking tour in Tasmania, savor end-of-the-world views from an award-winning eco-lodge, or explore legendary World Heritage Sites such as Kakadu National Park, the Ningaloo Coast and Lord Howe Island. Journeying through Australia could last a lifetime, but there are a few locations that we’d recommend as absolute highlights:
- Dive or snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest structure on Earth made by living organisms, and one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Grab your mask and flippers and plunge into the turquoise waters of the world’s largest coral reef system, or just go island-hopping around the 900 plus islands with some of the lushest rainforest and purest white sand in the world.
- Visit the remarkable island-state of Tasmania, almost half of which is designated as World Heritage wilderness. Explore the historic villages and byways which reverberate with Tasmania’s penal past, kayak around the pink granite cliffs of the Freycinet Peninsula, discover sparkling glacial lakes, and climb the stunning sub-alpine peaks of Cradle Mountain.
- We’re not the only ones to have an enduring love affair with Sydney; it topped Forbes Magazine’s List of Most Reliable Cities in 2013, which rated Sydney’s beauty and safety as top notch. Sydney makes the perfect place for the start or end of your Australian adventure. Spend a few days in this glorious harborside city, exploring the hidden bays and inlets of Sydney Harbour on a luxury yacht, strolling around the historic sandstone terraces of Paddington and Woollahra, taking a private surf lesson on Bondi Beach, or walking through the many breathtaking harborside national parks at the heart of this lovely city.
- Raise your glasses in the superb wine-growing regions of Margaret River, in Western Australia, and the legendary Barossa Valley in South Australia. Outstanding destinations in themselves, Margaret River is famous for its beautiful beaches, distinctive artistic ventures and organic food. When visiting Barossa, spend a night strolling down the sandstone avenues of Adelaide, one of Australia’s first ‘free settler towns’, and visit Kangaroo Island, an enclave of dramatic coastlines and sea lion-ruled beaches. Kangaroo Island not only features outstanding wildlife sanctuaries, but these South Australians are serious about their five-star accommodation and superb locally-produced cuisine.
- Explore one of the world’s largest – and arguably its most sacred – ancient monolith, Uluru (Ayers Rock), and traverse the gorges and valleys of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) in Australia’s ‘Red Centre’. This landscape of startling beauty will transport you to another world as you cross remote canyons in a customized 4WD vehicle, swim in luminous waterholes, discover evocative Aboriginal rock art, and sleep in a swag or a luxury tent under the vast southern night sky.
An ancient island-continent, suspended in the world’s southern oceans and surrounded by Asia and the Pacific Islands, Australia is a land of utterly unique experiences.
- For an incomparably breathtaking and humbling experience, few things can match swimming with the 18 meter-long whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef. Join these gentle giants – the world’s largest species of fish – for their annual gathering off the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia between mid-March and mid-July. The whale sharks are drawn by the large aggregation of plankton that follows a mass annual spawning of coral – which also attracts humpback whales and a wealth of sea turtles.
- Shift your 4WD vehicle into overdrive as you cruise along the gazetted sand highway of Seventy-Five-Mile beach on Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. Located a short ferry ride off the east coast of Queensland, you’ll discover a vast sand island covered in majestic rainforest, with more than 40 rare and brilliantly colored ‘perched’ dune lakes – half the world’s supply. Staying in a beachfront villa, or joining a luxury camping expedition, traverse the island along the beach highway, swim in the aqua waters of Lake McKenzie, roll down the sand dunes into the emerald green Lake Wabby, or float on a tire tube down crystal-clear Eli Creek.
- Australians really love their sport, and summertime is when many of the national sporting spectacles heat up. On the first Tuesday in November, stylish and ultra-fashionable Melbourne hosts one of the world’s great horse races, the Melbourne Cup, followed by the Australian Open Tennis in January, and the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in March. Boxing Day each December sees Sydney’s foreshore crowded with spectators sending off the sleek, high-tech vessels on the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which pits some of the world’s best sailors against the notoriously wild winds of Tasmania’s Bass Strait. And every four years, the Australian summer rings to cries of “Howzat!” as Australia welcomes the English cricket team for the fiercely contested Ashes series, played biannually since 1882.
- Explore the otherworldly splendor of the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest living tropical rainforest, opposite the Great Barrier Reef in Far North Queensland. You’ll feel as though you’ve entered a giant’s kingdom as you walk beneath the soaring green canopy, around ancient and gnarled tree trunks so large they provide the perfect shelter for tree-living kangaroos, bandicoots and giant prehistoric birds. Discover the stunning diversity of this hidden world, as you cruise along the Daintree River, cool off in crystal-clear forest creeks, and make your way up to spectacular Cape Tribulation – the only place in the world where two World Heritage Sites meet.
- Spend an evening cradling and feeding orphaned baby kangaroos at The Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs, where your host is a six-foot-seven Australian man named Brolga, whose absolute passion in life is to care for these unique creatures.
- Marvel at the beauty of World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, a dazzling drop in the Pacific Ocean featuring mountains that soar straight out of the ocean bed and picture-perfect lagoons. A two-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane, this is one of Australia’s hidden gems. With only a handful of cars on the island, you’ll make your way around by bicycle or on foot, feeding the giant kingfish at Ned’s Beach as they swim around your ankles, borrowing snorkeling equipment or boogie boards (using the time-honored ‘honesty box’), and returning home from dinner by torchlight – making way for the astounding number of mutton birds you’ll encounter on your path. This extraordinary island is Australia’s premier bird watching destination, with 14 species of seabirds breeding here in their hundreds of thousands.
- Latch yourself onto the exposed spine of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, and climb to the summit for an amazing perspective over this stunning city. Gaze down upon the white sails of the Sydney Opera House as it takes center stage in the harbor. For more unique views, at ground level, camp overnight at Cockatoo Island in the center of Sydney, where fully decked out ‘glamping’ tents are available. Part historical, part industrial, follow the well-marked tracks around this inner-city island, which take you from sandstone convict settlements to the giant berths that were once home to Australia’s WWII battle fleet.
- Discover the remarkable wildlife and the living cultural landscape of Kakadu in the Northern Territory: at nearly 20,000km², the largest national park in Australia, and one of the largest in the world’s tropics. A spectacular region laced with soaring escarpments, thundering waterfalls and freshwater wetlands, Kakadu is the ancestral home of the Bininj/Mungguy people, whose hunting and gathering traditions have echoes in the park’s extensive rock art ‘galleries’, dating back tens of thousands of years.
Being an island of such immense size, visitors can travel in Australia all year round, and find largely temperate weather somewhere on the continent. The seasons generally fall in these months:
- Summer - December, January and February
- Autumn (Fall) - March, April and May
- Winter - June, July and August
- Spring - September, October and November
As a rule of thumb, it’s preferable to visit the desert regions of Central Australia (Alice Springs, Uluru, Kata Tjuta), the Northern Territory (Darwin, Kakadu) and North West Australia in the cooler months of April to October. Tropical North Queensland (the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, the Whitsunday Islands) is hot all year round, although skies are usually clearer in the cooler months.
The southern cities of Sydney, Canberra (the national capital), Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth definitely experience a cool winter, although Sydney and Perth tend to have milder winters, characterized by brisk sunny days with blue skies. Tasmania, tucked at the bottom of Australia, can get very cold in the winter, but the sheer magnificence of the wilderness (and the plentiful log fires) more than compensate for this detail.
If you want to experience the real delights of a southern Australian summer (Sydney, Kangaroo Island, Tasmania, Margaret River), then head to Australia between October and April – but remember that it will be hotter in the desert and the northern tropical regions.
Australia has a great range of accommodation to suit all preferences. With so many wilderness and World Heritage-listed sites on offer, there is a wide range of luxury eco-lodges nestled within the country’s National Parks, often with day spas attached. All the major cities and many beach and mountain destinations also have a fine choice of luxury hotels, from stylish boutique hotels to leading international chains.
Bed and Breakfast accommodation is also very popular in Australia, from the heritage to the ultra-modern, hosted by open and friendly Australians who love welcoming overseas travelers. For a unique experience in many wilderness locations – including Outback Australia, Fraser Island or Maria Island in Tasmania – we recommend luxury camping to get ‘up close and personal’ with the natural wonders of this captivating continent. Visitors can join guided walking trips and stay at luxury tented camps or eco-lodges en route, which is always a highlight of any Australian adventure. For those drawn to the ocean, take advantage of the country’s stunning coastline and climb aboard a yacht for a nautical adventure around the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands, the wild Northern Territory coast, or Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula. Whatever your preference, Zicasso will be able to customize the perfect accommodation for you.
Visa and Passport Requirements
Getting a visa for Australia is a straightforward process. An Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) provides authorization to travel to Australia for tourism, and is electronically linked to your passport. Americans, as well as many other nationalities, can apply for an ETA online for AUD$20 at the Australian Government website. Your visa will allow you to stay in Australia for a maximum of three months.
Travelling in this relaxed and friendly country is usually a complete delight. To begin with, Australians speak English – albeit with a long, flat ‘R’ – enabling you to engage with the locals in an open and authentic way.
Australia’s most populous city, Sydney, topped Forbes Magazine’s List of Most Reliable Cities in 2013, based on categories including safety, government services, food and entertainment. Australian restaurants generally have very high standards of cleanliness, and it is safe to drink water from the taps. While a large proportion of Australians live in cities on the east coast, the more sparse populations of the countryside and coastal regions are also known for their safety and friendliness, with the roadside ‘honesty box’ still alive and well in rural Australia. Crime rates are very low, but like anywhere in the world, travelers need to make sensible decisions such as putting valuables in their hotel safes and walking in well-lit areas late at night.
Australia offers a dual system of public and private health insurance, and has excellent medical facilities. Like any holiday, you should ensure that you have suitable medical insurance before you travel. For visitors who sustain an injury in a remote location, the Royal Flying Doctor Service is an outstanding not-for-profit service that can fly you to a well-equipped hospital from virtually anywhere. Established in 1928 to provide a ‘mantle of safety’ for pioneers living in remote areas, the ‘Flying Doctors’ are a much-loved Australian institution that school children begin raising money for at their first school fair.
Most popular beaches are patrolled by volunteer lifesavers, and when on these beaches you should always swim between the red and yellow flags. Although Australia is renowned for its dangerous snakes, spiders and marine life, it’s good to remember that incidents of harm are low, and taking sensible precautions and following your guide’s instructions will do much to minimize any unwanted encounters with the local wildlife.
Australia is one of the safest places in the world with regard to infectious and waterborne diseases. Specific immunization shots are not required, although travelers should be up to date with their routine vaccinations. Insect repellents and measures to prevent mosquito bites are strongly advised for tropical regions of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and North Queensland, where there are periodic outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever. The other ‘must’ for all travelers to Australia is a high-factor sunscreen.
As an island free from many diseases that are endemic worldwide, you may notice that Australian Customs and Border Protection agents can be unusually vigilant about mud on shoes or carved wooden articles, in their efforts to keep foreign weeds and seeds out. For the same reason, travelers are forbidden from bringing any food, vegetables or fruit into the country.
The official currency is the Australian Dollar, which is usually worth a little less than the US dollar, although rates do fluctuate over time. Australia is well-equipped with banks, currency exchange facilities and ATM machines, many of which are linked to the global Cirrus or PLUS networks. In most places, an ATM or credit card is all that you’ll need.
When dining out, many cafes and restaurants offer ‘BYO’ (‘bring your own’), allowing you to take your favorite wine or beer to dinner – although you are usually charged a small corkage fee. Australian restaurants all charge a mandatory 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST), which goes straight to the government, and tipping, although most welcome, is by no means widespread or expected. Australia does not have a culture of tipping across the board, possibly due to the strong union movements which have always demanded a high minimum wage across all sectors of the workforce. However, for exceptional and friendly service, a tip will always be received most gratefully.
Regarding dress codes, Australians tend to be very casual. As long as you feel relaxed, they’ll be happy.
Zicasso provides an array of meticulously planned Australian adventures where we make all the plans so that you can completely enjoy your dream vacation! All trips can be customized to suit specific tastes and requirements, or can be completely tailor-made around particular destinations and special interests.
For these start-to-finish Customized Australia tours, let us know what your interests are by filling out a Trip Request, and then we will match you with two or three specialist agents who will work with you to provide you with the best vacation of your life.