Australian Coast Tour: Discovering The Great Barrier Reef, Sydney & Melbourne

A 10 day trip to Australia 
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Australia brings daydreams of glistening beaches and bouncing kangaroos, but once you are there, you will find a wealth of beauty on the land and in the sea. During your 10-day trip to Melbourne, Cairns, and Sydney you will marvel at the rainbow hues that ascend from the ocean. Witness seals as they bask on rugged rocks near an island rich with koalas and penguins. Linger in European-style cafes and relax in an abundance of sunlight as it spreads over turquoise waters. Delight in the chic style, relaxed ambiance, urban culture, and captivating wilderness for an exciting and unforgettable journey. 

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, Phillip Island, Great Barrier Reef, Daintree

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Melbourne – Arrive in Australia’s Cultural Capital for an Introductory Tour

Melbourne is a city of style and art, international cuisine and historical architecture built during Australia’s gold rush. The city is a direct reflection of the people’s dedication to culture, with abundant, eye-catching street art and endless personality emanating from the rooftop bars, street-side cafes, and elegant restaurants. Your flight will land at Melbourne Airport where your private transfer will greet you upon arrival. As you travel to your accommodation, you will see the Yarra River that winds through the heart of the city beneath the reflective glass bobbles of the Melbourne Star as it rotates along the nearly 400-foot tall Ferris wheel.

Your luxurious hotel stands at the center of the contemporary city with a tradition of luxury and comfort. After you settle in, you will board a vintage tramcar and step back in time to enjoy the refinement of the Colonial restaurant as you traverse the trolley tracks of the city. The bright interior of the tram represents class and elegance within the aromas of the seasonal cuisine. You can sip a classic cocktail and toast your arrival in Melbourne as you watch the brownstone structures, Victorian mansions, and colorful streets pass outside your tramcar window.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, dinner

Day 2: Melbourne – Visit the Wildlife of Victoria with a Full Day on Phillip Island

In the morning, the sunlight washes over the nearly 100 acres of greenery that cover the Royal Botanic Gardens. This lush oasis in the south bank of the Yarra River was established in the mid 19th century, and you will notice the distinct difference in the small details that differentiate the urban expanse from home, including the uniqueness of the bird-life. Bell miners perch on the green vines and nearly blend in with the leaves, but their narrow yellow bill and edging red eyes give them away in the midst of their surroundings.

After breakfast, your private transfer will escort you out of the heart of Melbourne and over the waters of the Tasmanian Sea to reach the shores of Phillip Island. You will meet the wildlife of Australia in an area of 40 square miles, populated with nature conservancies for penguins, koalas, and kangaroos. The turquoise water will splash against the rocks that border the shoreline and the grassy hills have short blades that fluctuate between the auburn and emerald hues. The refreshing breeze carries the scent of the seaside over the wood-plank walkways that traverse the shores.

Seals laze in the sunlight at Seal Rocks, the largest fur seal colony in the country. You will then make your way to the famous Penguin Parade to watch the little penguins huddle along the white sand beach. The penguin grows to a height of 17 inches tall and glows with glossy blue plumage in the light. The sea lulls onto the sand as the penguins make their way from the waterline to their nests burrowed into the soft soil in the dells beside the walkways.  

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Melbourne – Relish a Day in Melbourne at your Leisure to Explore

In the morning, the sunlight will pour through the glass mosaic ceiling in the National Gallery of Victoria. The museum features more than 68,000 works of art divided between two locations, and museum goers often lay on their backs in the Great Hall to enjoy the shifting colors of the ceiling that make people feel as though they have stepped into a kaleidoscope. After breakfast and some time in the museum, the day is yours to enjoy Melbourne at your whim and pleasure. Wander along the labyrinthine lanes, alleys, and arcades for which the city is famous at Collins Street or Flinders, or sip afternoon tea to sample the life of 19th-century gentry or wander the streets of New Brunswick with a cultural attaché to the city’s Street Art.

If you would enjoy an active excursion, meet your guide and venture out onto the Great Ocean Road, a more than 110-mile stretch of coastal highway that connects Melbourne to South Australia. Kangaroo bounces alongside the roadway near Great Otway National Park. Surfers head to Torquay to catch the unprecedented waves, carve the barrels, so you could stop to observe them and visit the Surf World Museum. The Great Ocean Road embodies Australia’s stunning, rugged scenery that blends wildlife and history. The dramatic limestone rock sculptures soar out of the turquoise surf. The Twelve Apostles is a series of karsts layered with colors cast in the stone. The water and the wind have shaped the rock formations over time by eroding the cliffs and statuesque pillars, some of which reach a height of more than 160 feet tall. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Cairns – Transfer to Cairns to Delight in the Remaining Day at Leisure

The trolleys return to the street in the morning, cruising along Flinders Street to the Docklands. The 19th-century façade of St. Paul’s Cathedral hovers above the tree-lined street as clocks adorn the entrance to the city’s first train station, erected in the 1850s with a neoclassical façade. After breakfast, your private transfer will meet you in your hotel lobby and escort you to the Melbourne Airport for your flight northeast to Cairns. Upon landing, your private transfer will lead you to your hotel on the waterfront, allowing you the perfect introduction to the friendly seaside city. Shop windows provide beautiful displays set alongside the esplanade, and you will enjoy wandering these streets.

Art galleries glint with pristine images as sailboats are docked in the marina and wade in the calm waters with masts drifting back and forth like the palm trees swaying in the cool breeze. To the east lies the vast Pacific Ocean, and bordering Cairns to the west stands the verdant tropical jungle that blankets the Great Dividing Range. The seaside wading pool embodies the relaxed atmosphere of town with a great view of the ocean, and artistic sculptures of local fish rise above the pools that decorate the skyline alongside the promenade. Outside of the city, the soft, golden sand of Mission Beach provides locals with more than eight miles of pristine beach to soak in the sun and dip their toes into the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, domestic flight, breakfast

Day 5: Cairns – Find the Colors and Life of the Great Barrier Reef on a Full Day Tour

In the morning, cheerful cafes open their doors to the community and the streets fill with the aroma of fruity pancakes and hollandaise. The promenade slowly wakes with as the sunlight spreads across Australia’s eastern horizon. After an early breakfast, you will venture to the marina to board a first-class boat, weighing anchor to reach the Great Barrier Reef. The reef covers more than 1,200 miles of space along the Queensland coastline and offers unique views and spectacular colors found inside the subaquatic world. You will then take a smaller boat to the hot, white sand of Upolu Cay, where transparent turquoise water surrounds the shores of the coral formation.

More than 400 species of corals and 1,500 types of fish layer the reef with an abundance of life. The water is warm on your skin, leaving remnants of salt after it washes over your body. Soft coral waves sweep against the reef like leaves moving in the wind, whipping back and forth with the current. What you thought was a rock might actually be a massive clam, opening its mouth to reveal a purple interior. Butterflyfish circle the edges of the reef and radiate amazing patterns of yellow, orange, and red hues. Their dorsal fins and tail fins flutter as they swim past you. You will continue to a two more locations to dive into the water and enjoy the rich underwater world, searching for clownfish glowing sea anemones and sea turtles using their fins like wings to glide through the sea.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Cairns – Discover Remarkable Daintree on a Four-Wheel-Drive Excursion

In the morning, the scent of fresh pastries will blend with the aroma of savory bacon emanating from the display case of a nearby cafe. The sweet and salty aromas perfectly combine with the scent of the seaside that lingers outside the doors of the café. After breakfast, you will travel north to the gates of Daintree National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that includes nearly 140,000 acres of landscape that have remained unchanged for hundreds of millions of years. Board a riverboat to cruise down the smooth and reflective waters of the Daintree River, a body of water 62-miles long, before you board your four-wheel drive vehicle.

Fan palms add to the canopy height and giant strangler figs wrap their roots around the trees before overtaking the original space. Crocodiles linger on the riverbanks and bask in the sunlight as barramundi swims beneath the water that attracts fishers from around the country.  The electric-blue wings of the Ulysses butterfly contrast the endless emerald sheen of the trees, and you will keep a lookout for the renowned, but reclusive, platypus sometimes found along the riverbanks.

Your guide will point out the musky rat kangaroos and explain the significant details of the kangaroo, while in the distance, you will spot a prehistoric looking bird. You will keep quiet so not to scare the bird away, so your guide will whisper that the bird is called a Cassowary that can grow taller than six feet. The bird resembles a colorful ostrich with an electric-blue neck and indigo shade around the eyes, along with a boney helmet atop its head and large feathered body.  

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Sydney – Fly from Cairns to Sydney for a Relaxing Exploration of the City

The Pacific splashes against the rocky shoreline beneath Cairn’s esplanade. Outside of the city, the waters of the Crystal Cascades filter into translucent pools surrounded by emerald rainforest. The wetlands have a boardwalk that winds over the muddy surface of the waters and offers insight into the ecosystem that edges the sea. After breakfast, your private transfer will escort you to the Cairns Airport for your flight south to Sydney, the oldest, and the most famous, of all of the Australian cities.

Before landing, you will see the graceful rooftop of the Opera House, which was designed to resemble sails endlessly catching the wind. After arriving at the airport, your private transfer will escort you to your hotel located in Darling Harbour with a stunning view of the well-known port. Sydney is a city of beaches and socializing, and the central neighborhood of Paddington overflows with boutique shops and bookstores, cosmopolitan restaurants and popular pubs.

The remainder of the day is yours to wander Sydney at your leisure to enjoy the mixture of open space, seaside grandeur and laid back ambiance. The Rocks were the first European settlement on the continent and have maintained Cadman’s Cottage, an early 19th-century home that remains the oldest house in the city. Narrow streets wind between the preserved facades of former warehouses and dock stations. The cobblestone streets open into a shopping district full of market stalls, restaurants, and boutiques. The scent of macaroons emanates from a bakery near a beer hall lively with laughter, easily drawing you in.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, domestic flight, breakfast

Day 8: Sydney – Enjoy a Panoramic Cruise of Sydney and a Day at Leisure

The sunlight glints off of the white sail-like rooftop of the Sydney Opera House. Sailboats take to the harbor and glide along the edges of the city beneath the arching steel frame of Harbor Bridge. At breakfast, you will enjoy flavorful tea, a tradition leftover from the country’s British ties and the herbaceous aroma emanates from the warm, comforting mug. After your meal, you will venture next to Darling Harbor to board your luxurious boat ready to depart for a half-day along the water. The sea breeze will brush against your cheeks as the boat moves away from the dock.

The Royal Botanic Gardens brims over with green trees and hedges, containing sporadic bursts of color from the roses, orchids, and palm groves. Mist rises in the air as the hull of the boat splits the water. The captain points to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, an exposed sandstone boulder cut into a bench in the early 19th century. The former governor’s wife would sit on the rock and watch the ships arrive from around the globe. Locals and visitors alike stretch out in the sunlight along the golden sands of Manly Beach as the skyline shapes the water’s edge to the north with the southern shoreline filled with the sights of blankets and sunbathers. The turquoise water laps at the sand with cyclists enjoying the clear, pristine day on the tree-line path that borders the beach. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Sydney – Traverse the Stunning Landscape of Blue Mountains National Park

In the morning, the boats venture out from the harbor once again to decorate the horizon with the colorful sails streaking against the hills that frame the sea. Today you will leave the seaside to tour the captivating landscape of the Blue Mountains National Park. The eucalyptus trees emanate subtle vapors that tint the air blue from a distance. The hills roll into mountains, and cliffs fall into valleys, each covered in a dense canopy and decorated with significant sandstone promontories that reach upwards of 3,600 feet above sea level. Aboriginal artwork decorates the caves and trails that crisscross the undulating hillsides for views of opulent waterfalls.

Your guide will lead you to the Jenolan Caves, an underground limestone network carved and shaped over 400 million years ago. The stone walls are cool and smooth on your skin as you run your fingers across the textured surface. Stalactites and stalagmites create a unique effect of naturally carved sculptures and dripping stone in nine remarkable galleries as the ceiling resembles thin lacework intertwined with dangling beads. The Imperial Cave opens to marine fossils embedded in the natural cavern’s walls and a series of stalagmites that glint in the light like a miniature city. You can take the spiral staircase down to the bank of the Jenolan Underground River where the trickling water echoes against the stone and shimmers a reflective teal hue.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Sydney – Depart for Home

On a sunny morning, the locals venture to Bondi Beach to catch the waves amidst the pristine sand rich with surf culture, relaxed ambiance, and space to lay your towel. Cafes in Surrey Hills set their tables out on the sidewalk like a chic Parisian café, each filled with young professionals enjoying breakfast or brunch at their own speed. After breakfast and one last morning spent on the beach, your private transfer will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and escort you to Sydney Airport for your flight home. As your plane ascends, you will once more see the sails of Sydney Opera House, this time fading into the distance. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer 


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.