Splendors of Sydney & The Great Barrier Reef Tour

A 10 day trip to Australia 
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Let the iconic images of the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House wash over your eyes as you savor your perfect journey in the Land Down Under. Dig your toes into the powder-white sand of the secluded islands that are surrounded by coral reefs. Relish the thunderous hum of the didgeridoo and enjoy the panorama of a veil-like waterfall careening over sandstone cliffs. Your custom tailored tour will immerse you in the natural splendor of Australia’s east coast, from the discovery of the Aboriginal culture to the lingering flavors of the Hunter Valley wines and the beaches of New South Wales to the tropical rainforest of northern Queensland. 

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Sydney, Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, Port Stephens Bay, Wooroonooran National Park, Great Barrier Reef 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Sydney – Arrive in Sydney and Enjoy an Introductory Afternoon Tour

Sydney is a dazzling city surrounded by a mixture of shimmering turquoise waters and emerald trees. The cosmopolitan ambiance emanates from the bohemian neighborhoods filled with distinct museums, celebrated restaurants, and the fascinating architecture of George Street, the oldest street in all of Australia. Your flight will land at Sydney Airport where you will meet your private transfer at baggage claim. Settle into your hotel located near Darling Harbour as elegant rooms open up to views of gracefully moored boats and the iconic sail-like rooftop of the Sydney Opera House.

Step into the lobby to meet your guide for a half-day introductory tour of the city. The breeze will carry the scent of the sea through the streets of the harbor and beneath the high rises of the Central Business District before disappearing behind the seductive scents of the international cuisine. At Bondi Beach, you will have a perfect panorama of what you believed Sydney would look like as the turquoise water splashes against the gold sand with locals and visitors from around the world basking in the sunlight.

Located six miles away from the city center and famous for its beautiful surf, pristine shoreline, and its location as the home of the reality television show Bondi Rescue, you will love wandering the paths and walkways.  Fish and chip shops open their doors along the promenade beside surfside boutiques and in the spring, local artists decorate the Coogee Walk and celebrate the beach culture of the city.

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

Day 2: Sydney – Venture to the Blue Mountains for a Full Day of Exploration

In the morning, sailboats set out into the sea to decorate the harbor with their billowing sails. Australian magpies soar over the Central Business District in search of food, and Australasian figbirds chirp melodically in the trees of the Centennial Parklands. Boutique shops fill the arcades in the Queen Victoria Building beneath the stained glass windows and magnificent central dome that adorns the structure. After an early morning walk and breakfast, your guide will meet you in the lobby and escort you to the Blue Mountain National Park, which encompasses more than 660,000 acres of protected landscape, including unspoiled rugged gorges, waterfalls, and eucalyptus forests that cast a unique blue sheen in the morning light.

The herbaceous scent of the eucalyptus trees surrounds you as more than 80 miles of trails follow the heritage tracks of the Aborigine communities, leading to preserved paintings and hidden caves. You will first visit the Three Sisters, a collection of three sandstone karsts that jut outward from the mountainside at nearly 3,000 feet above the Jamison Valley floor. The layers of color cast by the soil and carved by the elements over thousands of years create a dramatic, yet elegant, with rolling verdant hills and rugged plateaus that frame the distinctive karsts. Continue to Govetts Leap Lookout for a view of the plunging Gorse Valley to see the main ridge of sandstone cliffs and the sparkling beads of water that pour over Bridal Veil Falls.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Sydney – Visit the Rocks and Discover the Seaside City at your Leisure

Sydney is the oldest city in Australia and maintains a deep connection with its roots. At breakfast, you can sip a refreshingly sweet, white tea and sample a collection of pastries made fresh that morning. Your guide will meet you in the lobby after your meal and escort you to the nearby neighborhood known as The Rocks. Historical warehouse facades continue to line the roadway as palm trees rustle in the sweeping breeze. The streets open to a view of the Harbor Bridge, which connects the northern beaches to Sydney’s city center.

Cobblestone streets retain their original character from when they were first laid. Legend states that the Aborigines first spotted the incoming European ships from along these boulders of the sea, but it was also the first place on which the First Fleet of convicts sent from England settled. Cadman’s Cottage was erected in the early 19th century and retains the title as the oldest surviving structure in the city. The brick façade of A.S.N Warehouses adds an Old World architectural charm amidst surrounding contemporary structures.

Your guide will point out the cut stone that supports the elevated Argyle Street crafted by the first convicts deported from Europe. A sculpture in the marketplace has silhouette cutouts of a family meant to embody Europeans’ first impression when setting foot on Australian soil. The scent of macaroons and locally crafted beer blends along the cobbled walkway that winds through the outdoor mall. Laughter spills out of the restaurants and blends with the sound of the sea as it splashes on the shore at the edge of the Rocks to combine historical and contemporary life in the city.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Sydney – Discover Superb Cuisine and Wines while Touring Hunter Valley

In the morning, the emerald hues of the Royal Botanic Garden sparkle beneath the spreading sunlight with hints of red and white from the scattered rose petals. Cafes in the Glebe district set tables out along the street to create a European ambiance amidst the youthful atmosphere. Your guide will whisk you away to Hunter Valley early in the morning to discover the oldest wine region in Australia. Narrow lanes criss-cross the verdant landscape to create a rural mood as mountains with foothills draped in emerald vines border the valley floor. The oldest vines in Australia date back to the 1860s and are connected to some of the best-known varietals in the Australian wine industry.

Folly winery opened in the 1960s and produces upwards of 4,500 cases of Chardonnay. The rich soil of the valley helps to yield grapes of consistent quality. You will tour the grounds to touch the waxy grape leaves between your fingers and enjoy the earthy aromas that drift upwards from the soil. The cellar is much cooler than the sun-drenched vineyard, holding oak barrels stacked atop one another until ready for bottling. The wine soaks up extra flavor from the wood, subtly absorbing char, oak, or various qualities hidden in the barrel’s natural oil. In the tasting room, your guide will pour you a sample of the Cabernet Sauvignon, which contains the aromas of cherry, plum, and tobacco as you sip.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Sydney – Wander along the Beachfront towns around Port Stephens Bay

The morning light will glint off of the golden spire of the Sydney Tower. The structure stands more than 1,000 feet above the city streets and offers a unique opportunity for visitors to walk along the glass panels that encircle the top tier for a panoramic view of the city. After breakfast, you will meet your private driver and venture north to Port Stephens Bay to relish the relaxed beach culture of the seaside towns.  The Bay stretches for 70 miles and features charming towns that border the beachfront promenade. The capital of the region is Nelson Bay, a tiny town celebrated for its connection to dolphins and whales.

The turquoise water splashes against the white sand beaches off the edge of the promenade. Two volcanic headlands enclose the Bay, and it is the perfect place for you to board a boat and set out into the sea for a whale-watching tour. The boat weighs anchor in the marina and takes you along the serene ripples of the Pacific Ocean as green trees frame the white sand beaches. Sea mist rises upwards from the boat’s wake and no sooner than when the captain tells you to keep your eyes out, a dolphin will spring from the water before popping back into the ocean. A pod plays in the small waves cast by the boat, leaping in the current to gain speed.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Cairns – Transfer to Cairns and Enjoy the Day at your Leisure

In the morning, the sunlight spreads over the elegant sails of the Sydney Opera House rooftop. The quintessential image of Sydney shines against the water surrounding the brick esplanade on three sides. Benches along the walkway provide a perfect spot for people to sit and enjoy the view of sailboats and yachts that weigh anchor, as well as those sailing out to sea. The Chinatown Gate connotes the border of the historical neighborhood founded in the 1860s on the outskirts of the original city’s border. The area once housed merchants and fishers during the gold rush, and now include well-known restaurants that serve cuisine from countries throughout Asia.

After breakfast, your private transfer will meet you at the hotel and escort you to Sydney Airport for your flight to Cairns, located in northeast Queensland. Upon landing, you will be able to view the visible divide between the rainforest to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. Upon landing, your private transfer will escort you to a luxurious hotel that offers views to the marina. The herbaceous scent of the bordering trees blends with the briny quality of the seaside air as flying foxes dangle from tree branches and nibble on mangos. Locals partake in the free fitness classes performed on alongside the esplanade as instructors set out their yoga mats and offer a pristine view of the water as the class breathes deeply.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, breakfast

Day 7: Cairns – Traverse the Jungle Landscape in Wooroonooran National Park

The saltwater pool on the Esplanade encompasses 51,600 square feet set beneath sculptures of fish angling in the air. Small fountains trickle into the wading pool where locals relax in the tropical heat. After breakfast, you will set out on a tropical excursion into the rainforest, leaving the view of the Pacific’s turquoise water behind the horizon. Wooroonooran National Park is located a half-hour away from Cairns and contains Mt. Bartle Frere, the highest mountain in Queensland at the height of 5,320 feet above sea level. You will step out onto the trail that will lead you through the underbrush of the rainforest.

The sunlight pierces through the emerald treetops as the paved trail winds for nearly 2,000 feet until you will reach a mossy creek bed. The water is cool on your fingers while the moss is slick and wet, clinging to smoothed boulders. The trail will lead you along the teal-watered river and follow the sounds of whitewater. The river has smoothed a large boulder over time, turning what was once a small waterfall into a natural waterslide that connects the upper tier of the river with the lower body. Strong vines dangle from the tree canopy and locals grip the vines tight and swing from the bank into the water, splashing down amidst the gentle current and flowing waterfalls.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Cairns – Swim amidst the Stunning Subaquatic Life of the Great Barrier Reef

A gentle breeze will accompany the sunrise along the northeastern coast of Queensland. The rainforest trees will rustle as lorikeet twitter in the canopy. At breakfast, you will sip a refreshing cup of white tea amidst the aromas of tropical fruits harvested from the region, including rambutan and mangos. Venture next to the marina to board a 32-foot long catamaran to reach Michaelmas Cay, a low-lying island on the fringe of the Great Barrier Reef.

The refreshing sea breeze will remind you of your time in Port Stephens Bay as you watched the dolphins, and you will reach the island to find a unique blend of white sand beaches encircling lush vegetation. The independent reef bodies pepper the water that leads to the island of more than five acres. A mixture of broken coral, shells, and calcareous algae have formed the island with migratory birds bringing seeds from the mainland during nesting or roosting. The water is a warm 80 degrees when you jump it.

The salt will cling to your skin and leave dusty traces of where the ocean has tapped you. The current moves you back and forth as you drift along the surface gazing at the stunning hues of the reef. Brain coral, named for its resemblance to the human brain, ascends out of the ocean floor as sea fans wave in the soft movement of the water with sheer elegance. A large Humphead Maori Wrasse, known by its size of more than six feet long and blue-green scales, nibbles at the mounds of coral.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Cairns – Relish the Splendor In and Around Cairns

In the morning, the sunlight washes over the window displays of the numerous art galleries that line the streets of Cairns. Each gallery depicts a remarkable aspect of the world in and around Cairns, from the sunlight that pierces the Great Barrier Reef to the iridescent butterfly wings that flutter around the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary. After breakfast, the day is yours to enjoy the splendors of Queensland. Relax by the wading lagoon at the Esplanade or venture into the rainforest town of Kuranda on a scenic gondola ride. In the afternoon, you will make your way to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park to partake in the stories of the Aborigine and Torres Strait Islanders, showcasing more than 40,000 years of culture in the 25-acre park.

The tropical rainforest surrounds the park and opens to a field in which locals dressed in traditional garments teach visitors to toss a boomerang properly. The Tjapukai paint their face with elements taken from the forest to better connect them to their land. The songs they sing cast a captivating melody around the ceremonial fire at the heart of the theater. You will participate in the ritual of making fire as you hold the tap sticks before a spear made of fire sails across the sky. Warriors burst forth from the river on a canoe, each carrying a flame torch that lights the way to the trees. When the stories begin, you will find a space by the fire pit to gather the legends of Dreamtime.   

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Cairns – Depart for Home

In the morning, volleyball players stake their claim on the sandy courts around the Esplanade as sailboats and catamarans leave the marina to reach the Great Barrier Reef. At breakfast, the aromas of jackfruit and lychee fill the dining room, accompanying the herbaceous scent of brewing black tea. The summit of Mt. Lumley Hill rises over above the edge of the city along the northern coast as bar-tailed godwit dig their slender, long beaks into the muddy shoreline at low tide in search of resting shellfish. The birds perch on thin branches and twitter, hidden in the trees. After enjoying it all, your private transfer will meet you at the hotel lobby to escort you to Cairns Airport for your flight home. As the plane ascends, you will look out your window for a final view of the distinctive east coast where the rainforest meets the sea.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer 

Price

Starting Price 

$2,495
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.