Jan-14 update: Having now done this trip, I’ve blogged about my actual itinerary here.
Answer: With difficulty!
Having now planned my itinerary for New Zealand, the sole country I will be spending the most amount of time in during my extended solo travel trip, I sat down over the weekend to tackle her neighbour, Australia.
I went about it in the complete opposite way to how I planned New Zealand. Instead of giving myself free reign over the amount of time I wanted to spend in the country, I limited myself to a maximum of two and a half weeks in Australia. Considering the relative sizes of the two countries, this is counter-intuitive, but I do have my reasons.
- Australia is not a cheap country to visit (relatively speaking). Neither is New Zealand. Having to choose between the two, I chose to spend more of my time (and money) in NZ, mainly because…
- I have never visited NZ before and it has also been a major dream destination for me. Australia, on the other hand, is a country I have visited on and off since I was a child.
- Australia, being the huge country that it is, takes a lot of time (and money!) to travel across. I therefore felt that the right way to go about it was to put a hard stop on the time, and then see what I could see and experience within that time. The rest of it I’d have to leave for a future visit.
Now on the flip side, having only 2.5 weeks to play with and having a long list of sights to see made it difficult to choose what would and would not make the final cut. It involved me doing a lot of research into the best time/price option to take when travelling between cities and towns (plane vs. bus?), looking into potential organised tours to check out how many days I would likely be spending in any one particular place and also trying my hardest to squeeze The Ghan into my plans.
I need to be upfront here and say that doing meticulous plans was not really what I wanted to be doing for this trip. One of my main goals for my extended period of travel was to be more spontaneous and to let things go a little more during my travels. In this case however, some detailed planning did have to be done. I’ve got a limited amount of time and I don’t want to waste a lot of it by travelling inefficiently or miss out on seeing something amazing because I’d run out of time.
There were numerous tough decisions to be made, but here’s what I’m thinking…
The Australia Itinerary
- Melbourne (2 full days): taking it easy after my long haul flight from London, recovering from jet lag whilst absorbing the coffee culture and taking slow leisurely walks through the various parks and markets
- Hervey Bay (arrival + 2 days): exploring Fraser Island
- Airlie Beach (arrival + 2 days): sailing the Whitsundays
- Port Douglas [via Cairns?] (arrival + 3 days): SCUBA diving the Great Barrier Reef, hiking trip to Daintree
- Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta (arrival + 2 days): self explanatory. Whether I do this via Alice Springs is still TBD
- [Adelaide]: this would just be a drive-by city if I somehow manage to catch the once a week Ghan train from Alice Springs to Adelaide
- Sydney (arrival + 3 days): hanging with my brother and chilling by the gorgeous waterfront! I visited Sydney less than 2 years ago and did all the main tourist attractions then, so this visit will be all about the relaxation. 😉
The above plan is pretty packed. It relies on me catching all the right planes and buses, as well as getting on the tours I want. Whether that’ll work out in real, who knows, but it does mean I’m probably going to have to forgo the following:
- Tasmania and its wee Tasmanian Devils
- Learning to surf on the Gold Coast
- Spending more days diving at the Great Barrier Reef
- Exploring the outback
Ah well, one does need excuses to come back for another visit after all!
- Sign up for the newsletters of the regional airlines like Jetstar and Virgin Australia to be kept up to date of their latest offers. It can be significantly faster and cheaper to fly from town to town, rather than driving or taking the train.
- If you don’t have issues with sleeping on buses, look into getting an overnight bus to save time and money (no need for accommodation!)
- Look out for packages that can save you money – whether it’s using your bus pass to get discounted accommodation, or buying a couple of tours together for a cheaper total price.
- Lonely Planet Australia guide
- Nomadic Matt’s Australia guide
- GQtrippin Australia posts
- Greyhound Australia buses
- Jetstar airlines
- Virgin Australia
How you ever backpacked through Australia? Have you got any value-for-money tips? Are there any particular tours around Fraser Island, the Whitsundays or Alice Springs that you would recommend?