Sydney, Great Barrier Reef and Outback Vacation

A 15 day trip to Australia 
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From exploring the spectacular sights and the hidden bays of sparkling Sydney, to discovering the valleys and gorges of the wildly beautiful “Outback” and stargazing beside crackling campfires, to plunging into the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef and experiencing the magic of the ancient Daintree Rainforest, this trip takes you on an in-depth journey to three of our favorite Australian destinations. Spending four days in each location, this is the vacation where you’ll be able to take the time to explore, relax and be indulged in this unforgettable continent.

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Sunset camel ride with Pyndan Camel Tracks, White Gums Valley.
Australia Great Barrier Reef two snorkelers
australia sydney harbor bridge and luna park
aeria view of cairns marina with mountains in north queensland
looking upwards at sydney tower on a beautiful day
aerial view of george street sydney looking towards the bridge
skyscrapers behind sydney botanical gardens on a beautiful sunny day
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Sydney, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1 – Depart US for Sydney

Get into the Aussie spirit from the moment you step onboard your Qantas flight from LAX to Sydney, Australia, with flights usually departing in the evening.  

What’s included: Qantas return flight from LAX to Sydney.

Day 2 – In Transit

This day is ‘lost’ as you cross the international dateline.  But you will regain it at the end of your trip!

What’s included:  Qantas return flight from LAX to Sydney

Day 3 – Welcome to Sparkling Sydney!

Welcome to one of the world’s most beautiful cities.  Sydney has it all; gorgeous beaches, national parks dotted throughout the city, stylish shopping, a cosmopolitan culture and a vibrant nightlife, all framed by spectacular Sydney Harbour.  

After arriving at Sydney Airport and transferring to your luxury hotel, stretch your legs as you take in some of Sydney’s most iconic sights.  Consider joining one of the many walking tours on offer; a wonderful way to throw light on your meanderings as you piece together the stars of this captivating city.  Or for those who enjoy a fun workout, UDU provides running tours of Sydney, a refreshing and invigorating way to see some of Sydney’s highlights on the run.  If you prefer to get your bearings at your own pace, take the short walk to Circular Quay, Sydney’s central wharf, and discover the Opera House and the adjacent harborside Royal Botanic Gardens to your East, or ‘The Rocks’ to your west, the location of Sydney’s first European settlement, established in 1788.  A lovely pocket of Sydney in which to roam, weekends in The Rocks are filled with markets and music, and you’ll find historic pubs like the gentrified Lord Nelson on most corners, featuring stylish pub fare.  

What’s included:  private transfer to your hotel; luxury accommodation.  (Four and three star accommodation is also available for the duration of your vacation.  See Pricing for more information)

Day 4 – Cruise around Sydney Harbour 

Sydney’s real showstopper is its’ glorious harbor, which meanders through the city, creating charming inlets and bays all begging to be explored.  An easy way to explore this harbor is to join a luxury yacht cruise, which will show you to all the highlights and include a gourmet lunch to boot.  Alternatively, you can travel at your own pace around the harbor on the charming and easy-to-use public ferries, all of which depart from Circular Quay.  Ferries are used as the main means of transport by those Sydney-siders fortunate enough to be able to afford a home on the harbor’s sparkling foreshores.  You’ll still get first class views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, as well as meeting some of the locals in one of the world’s friendliest cities.  

For a short ferry trip, we recommend taking a picnic to the spectacular Cremorne Point.  You can also take a ferry to Taronga Zoo, and walk the short circuit through the harbor foreshore national park around magnificent Bradley’s Head, past the historic cannons that once defended Sydney.  Don’t forget to pack your ‘swimmers’ if you take a longer ferry ride to Watson’s Bay, where you can indulge in fresh seafood at Doyles, walk along the harbor cliffs at ‘The Gap’, continue up to North Head where the harbor meets the Pacific Ocean, and then end in a refreshing dip at Camp Cove.  Alternatively, all of these trips can be made by private water taxi, where you can glide around the harbor at your own pace.  With such a magnificent harbor to explore, the choice is all yours.

What’s included:  luxury accommodation in Sydney 

Day 5 – Sydney Harbour Bridge, Coastal Walks and the Hip Inner City

Another day at your leisure in Sydney, and for those so inclined, Sydney has some great retail therapy on offer.  For all the big department stores and high end fashion houses, head to George and Pitt Streets, and make your way towards the stunning sandstone edifice of The Queen Victoria Building.   For upmarket, quirky and one-of-a-kind boutiques, take a short taxi ride to sophisticated and edgy Paddington and Woollahra, and begin your browsing on Oxford Street and the charming terrace-lined streets that lie behind.  For a softer and more alternative vibe, browse in the unique boutiques along Darling Street, Balmain, and indulge in the freshest organic produce in this hip inner-city suburb.  You can wander all the way down Darling Street past gentrified sandstone workers’ cottages, and return to the city by a quick and refreshing ferry ride.  

Other must-do activities in Sydney include a visit to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the clifftop coastal walk south from Bondi beach.  Walking along the pedestrian walkway and climbing the Pylon Lookout on the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a fantastic way to appreciate the staggering size and beauty of the harbor.  For those who want an added thrill, join your pre-booked ‘Bridge Climb’, where you latch onto the bridge’s exposed spine and climb to the very summit for an unforgettable experience.  Alternatively, enjoy a splash at Bondi Beach, and then walk south along the wind-mottled sandstone cliffs for a leisurely hour to the charming and fashionable Bronte Beach.  Sydney is a coastal city where almost all of the harbor and coastal foreshore is public land with well-marked walking tracks, so for the energetic, you can just keep exploring!

What’s included: luxury accommodation in Sydney

Day 6 – Explore the Spectacular Blue Mountains

For your last leisure day in Sydney, why not join a small group eco-tour of the Blue Mountains, the spectacular mountains to the west of Sydney.  Your day will include a stop at a Wildlife Park, where you will be able to feed and pat kangaroos and koalas, as well as allowing plenty of time for walking in the awe-inspiring mountains.   Dotted with heritage villages, the mountains are renowned for their antiques and arts and crafts.  Hold onto your hat as the ride on the world’s steepest incline railway as it transports you down through a cliff side tunnel to the ancient rainforest on the Jamison Valley floor.  After experiencing a beautiful bushwalk, return to the mountain top by cablecar.  At the end of this enthralling day, your guide will return you to your accommodation for your last night in Sydney.   

What’s included: Luxury accommodation in Sydney

Day 7 – Alice Springs – welcome to Australia’s ‘Red Centre’!

After breakfast you will be taken to Sydney Airport by private transfer for your flight to the center of Australia – Alice Springs.  Beginning its’ modern history as a Telegraph Station on the line between Adelaide and Darwin, Alice Springs is your jumping point for a myriad of unique, outback activities.  To get a sense of the vast open spaces, canyons and mountain ranges that make up Australia’s desert core, visit the School of the Air for a fascinating look at the way children whose families live thousands of miles from the cities are educated.  A unique service originally offered by radio, and now by satellite and the internet, watch teachers deliver live lessons to students on cattle stations and homesteads, who are spread out in an area larger than Europe!  Because of the same vast spaces, the Royal Flying Doctor Service was established in 1928 to provide first class medical treatment to people in remote Australia.  Visit the ‘Flying Doctors’ for a fascinating look at the history of this amazing service which still exists today.  

An absolute highlight of your stay in Alice Springs will be an evening visit to The Kangaroo Sanctuary, a true sanctuary where orphaned baby kangaroos are cared for by ‘Brolga’, a six foot seven Australian man whose passion in life is to care for these animals.  Only small groups are admitted for these personalized visits, so book in advance for this magical evening where you will cuddle and feed the joeys, and meet a group of Aboriginal women who will share parts of their local culture with you.    

Alternatively, visit the Alice Springs Desert Park and witness the outstanding Birds of Prey show and explore the fascinating nocturnal exhibit.  Or consider a sunset camel ride with Pyndan Camel Tracks, where you will ride though the beautiful White Gums Valley, and enjoy platters of gourmet bush food as you experience the peace and serenity of Outback Australia.  

What’s included: private transfer from your hotel to Sydney Airport, flight from Sydney to Alice Springs, luxury accommodation in Alice Springs

Day 8 – Overnight Luxury Outback Safari and Gourmet Tucker under the Stars

Today you will begin a thrilling overnight outback safari, where you will explore remote canyons, swim in fresh waterholes, and discover Aboriginal Rock Art in the MacDonnell Ranges and beyond.  Travelling in well equipped vehicles, you will head off the beaten track and into some of Australia’s most spectacular outback regions.  After an enthralling day, relax by the crackling campfire as the sun sets over the magnificent Western MacDonnell Ranges.  Sample an unforgettable bushtucker dinner using bush herbs  and spices, and then settle into your luxury swag or tent as you gaze at the brilliant stars in the night sky.  

What’s included:  guided outback safari, well-equipped safari vehicles, lunch, dinner, luxury camping equipment 

Day 9 – Experiencing the awe-inspiring Uluru (Ayers Rock)

This morning you will wake to the sound of breakfast sizzling in your Outback camp.   After enjoying your hot billy-tea, your camp will be packed up and you will continue your outback explorations, making your way towards the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park where you will arrive after lunch.  Previously known as ‘Ayers Rock’ and ‘The Olgas’, Uluru and Kata Tjuta, respectively, are now referred to by their Aboriginal names.  After checking in to your well-appointed hotel, consider a helicopter tour over Uluru and Kata Tjuta for a great perspective on these ancient monoliths and the adjacent countryside dotted with rock formations and canyons.  Consider a guided bike tour around the base of Uluru, with fascinating commentary on the myriad of unusual species that make this desert their home.   Or take the two and a half hour walk around this staggeringly enormous and beautiful red rock, which despite having been seen on postcard images, always leaves visitors awe struck.  

As evening approaches, join a sunset tour of Uluru, and marvel as the rock changes color under the setting sun, or join The Sounds of Silence Dinner, which begins with a Camel ride, follows with superb food, free flowing wine, and Aboriginal dancing and didgeridoo playing, and ends with guided stargazing.  

What’s included:  guided outback safari, breakfast, lunch, well-appointed accommodation at Uluru

Day 10 – Exploring the Valleys and Gorges of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Unlike Uluru, which is one solid rock, neighboring Kata Tjuta is a series of large and rounded rock formations with gorges and valleys in between.  A traditional Anangu men’s site, this land is sacred under traditional law.  Start the day with the spectacular Valley of the Winds walk.  This two hour walk will take you up through the valley amidst Kata Tjuta’s magical domes, culminating in spectacular views of a unique and ancient ‘lost world’ landscape.  Alternatively, walk the seven kilometer full circuit with more chances to encounter native wildlife such as kangaroos, gigantic monitor lizards and barn owls.  

For those eager for another perspective on Uluru, join the free, ranger-led Mala Walk, which leaves the Mala carpark at 8am each morning for a fascinating and insightful stroll around part of the base of Uluru.  

What’s included:  well-appointed accommodation

Day 11 – Cairns – Welcome to Tropical North Queensland!

Today you will be transferred to the Alice Springs Airport for your north-western flight to Cairns, your base for your explorations in Tropical North Queensland.  On arrival in Cairns you will be taken by private transfer to your luxury accommodation.  After the arid beauty of the desert, delight in the contrast of the lush tropics as you wander down the Esplanade Boardwalk to Trinity Bay, passing market stalls or taking a dip in the vast saltwater lagoon.  You’ll experience that unmistakable tropical feeling as you sample a sensational home-made gelato from the family-run Devine Gelatos, and stroll under the colored lanterns swaying in the breeze.

Enjoy a sunset or dinner cruise as your learn about Cairn’s fascinating maritime history, cruise around Trinity Bay,  and explore the adjacent estuaries spotting crocodiles, birds and fruit bats as they fly home to nest.  

What’s included:  private transfer to Alice Springs Airport, flight from Alice Springs to Cairns, private transfer to your Cairns hotel, luxury accommodation in Cairns

Day 12 – Day cruise on the Great Barrier Reef

Today is at your leisure in the tropics, and we recommend that you dive into your first adventure by taking a day cruise on the World-Heritage-Listed Great Barrier Reef.  Be it island-hopping amongst the white sand beaches, snorkeling, diving, or simply enjoying the salt air and sea, a day on the Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest and most impressive coral reef system - is sure to be a highlight of your Australian adventure.  Hop onboard a luxury yacht with a small passenger limit, and you’ll have plenty of space to stretch out and find your own bit of sun as you skim towards the outer reef.  Plunge into the turquoise waters and be amazed by the vibrancy of the coral and the sheer variety of marine life in this underwater wonderland.  

What’s included:  luxury accommodation in Cairns

Day 13 – Entering the Grandeur of the Daintree Rainforest

Another highlight of your Australian adventure is sure to be a day trip to the oldest living rainforest on earth; the World-Heritage-Listed Daintree Rainforest, a 135-million-year-old prehistoric rainforest that creeps all the way down to the tropical beach and the reef beyond, containing a staggering array of primitive plants and animals found nowhere else on earth.  There are many adventure styles to choose from, be it relaxed or more adventurous.  Step aboard your personal river craft, and cruise down the Daintree River on the lookout for crocodiles, swamp wallabies and the mighty cassowary bird.  Transfer to a luxury 4WD vehicle and make your way through the rainforest to spectacular Cape Tribulation, and splash in a crystal-clear rainforest creek under the ancient canopy.  Or join Back Country Bliss Adventures for an exciting array of options including river drift snorkeling, rafting, mountain biking or horseback riding.

What’s included:  luxury accommodation in Cairns

Day 14 – Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail

For your final day in Tropical North Queensland, you’ll be tempted to return for another visit to The Great Barrier Reef, perhaps island hopping around some of the 900 islands which make up the Reef System, or exploring another aspect of the Daintree Rainforest.  Alternatively, a wonderful half or full day trip can be enjoyed by visiting the quaint village of Kuranda in the Atherton Tablelands, inland from Cairns.   Soar above the magnificent Kauri Pines in the Skyrail gondola, explore the rainforest midway, and return down the mountain via the Kuranda Scenic Railway.  

What’s included:  luxury accommodation in Cairns

Day 15 – Return to the US

After breakfast today you will be transferred to Cairns Airport by private transfer for your flight to Sydney, and then onto LAX.  Due to the time difference, you will return to the US on the same day that you depart Australia, arriving a few hours before your departure time.  

What’s included:  private transfer to Cairns Airport, flight from Cairns to Sydney, flight from Sydney to LAX

Related Information: This 14 day itinerary covers the top three popular destinations in Australia, while providing ample time for travelers to explore each location on their leisure. Travelers will spend 4 nights each in Sydney, the jewel in Australia's crown the Outback regions of Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. Alice Springs is famous for its luxury lodging and casino style resorts. There are many accommodation selections you can choose from in the area. And finally Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. With some extra time purposely included into the trip, you will have time to take leisurely walks downtown so you may want to consider things to do near the places your visit before you go.

Price

Starting Price 

$3,745
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.