Australia Custom Tour

The walk at night is pure magic. A mist is settling in as I listen to a chorus of voices – the insistent buzzing, a random owl’s screech, water drops hitting fat leaves and the sound of my own feet stepping over a tangle of roots. I give a small yelp as I stumble over something my flashlight failed to warn me about. This forest has a tale to tell as old as the Earth itself, and still makes a home for the descendants of primitive plants. Thick vines twist like rope as they climb trees. Large ferns brush against my pant leg as I pass. A bright round eye is captured by my guide’s flashlight. A Boyd’s forest dragon, he tells me, as it disappears around the back of the tree trunk. I love the idea that there are still dragons in the world.

Country Information

Australia

Australia is roughly equivalent to the U.S. in size, with many variations in climate. Summer, the rainy season in the tropical north, lasts December to February. November to March is hottest. Spring and autumn are mild and the best time for bush walks. Winter, June to August, is mild with snow in southern mountains and balmy temperatures in the north. In general, April to September temperatures are between 18°C/66 °F and 31°C/88°F. September and October are warm but not extremely hot.

 

Eastern Standard Time GMT +10 NSW, ACT, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania

Central Time GMT +9.5 Northern Territory and South Australia

Western Time GMT +8 Western Australia

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About Australia

 

Adelaide: The area around Adelaide was inhabited by the indigenous Kaurna Aboriginal Nation. Kaurna culture and language was almost destroyed within a few decades after the arrival of Europeans. Luckily, early missionaries and others kept extensive documentation that has made it possible for a modern revival of the culture and the language. South Australia was pronounced a British colony in 1836. Adelaide does not share the convict settlement history of other Australian cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart. It began as a planned colony of free immigrants, promising civil liberties and freedom from religious persecution, based upon the ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Adelaide boasts elegant tree-lined streets, pretty parks and churches, and a central market. Adelaide is a city with cultural, artistic, gastronomic and sporting interests. National Wine Centre offers information and tasting of wines from some of the more than 60 wine regions across Australia.

 

Bouddi Peninsula: Bouddi is a coastal southeastern suburb on the Central Coast region of New South Wales. Bouddi is the aboriginal word for the heart. The area locally refers to the Bouddi Peninsula and the associated suburbs of Killcare, Killcare Heights, Hardys Bay, Pretty Beach, Wagstaffe and Macmasters Beach, all of which fringe the wonderful Bouddi National Park that includes Maitland Bay. The park features great walks and cycling trails, as well as opportunities for swimming, fishing and whale watching in spectacularly diverse landscapes of beaches, cliffs, rainforest and heathland. Bouddi National Park includes one of Australia’s first marine protected areas. Rock carvings in the area depict animals from the sea – dolphin, fish and whale – that reach back 8,000 years. The park contains one of the last temperate rainforests on the Central Coast.

 

Brisbane: Brisbane, Queensland’s capital, offers a warm welcome throughout the year. Glass-fronted skyscrapers mingle with sandstone heritage landmarks. The Brisbane River snakes its way under the picturesque Story Bridge, past subtropical parklands, walkways, cycleways and riverside eateries. The colorful urban villages of New Farm, Fortitude Valley, Milton and Paddington showcase some of Brisbane’s coolest cafes and hottest designer boutiques. Brisbane has more than 27 km/17 mi. of bicycle pathways, mostly surrounding the Brisbane River and city center, and extending to the west of the city. One of the oldest cities in Australia, Brisbane was founded upon the ancient homelands of the indigenous Turrbal and Jagera peoples. Popular recreation areas in Brisbane include the South Bank Parklands, Roma Street Parkland, the City Botanic Gardens, Brisbane Forest Park and Portside Wharf. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary opened in 1927 and is the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary. It began with two koalas called Jack and Jill. The sanctuary gained some notice internationally during World War II when Americans, including Douglas MacArthur’s wife, visited the park to view the native Australian animals. The suburb of Mount Coot-tha is home to a popular state forest, and the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, which houses the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and the “Tsuki-yama-chisen” Japanese Garden.

 

Cairns, Port Douglas & Daintree Rainforest: Cairns is a coastal city with an easy, relaxed personality on the east coast of Far North Queensland. It has lively cafes, busy markets and plenty of excellent beaches. The city is the fifth most populous in Queensland and ranks 14th overall in Australia. In 1770, James Cook mapped the area, naming it Trinity Bay. The site was primarily mangrove swamps and sand ridges. Cairns was founded nearly a century later to serve miners heading for the Hodgkinson River goldfield, until an easier route was discovered. It later developed into a railhead and important port for exporting sugar cane, gold and other metals, minerals and agricultural products from surrounding areas. Today, Cairns is a popular destination due to its tropical climate and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Port Douglas township was established in 1877 after the discovery of gold at Hodgkinson River. In addition to the reef system, Port Douglas is adjacent another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Daintree Rainforest. Daintree is the oldest rainforest on the world. Daintree National Park is part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland. The lush rainforest cloaks the steep mountain sides. This vast wilderness supports a high concentration of plant and animal species found nowhere else. Daintree Rainforest contains 30% of the frog, reptile and marsupial species in Australia, and 65% of Australia’s bat and butterfly species. About 18% of bird species and more than 12,000 species of insects in the country can be found in the area. Within this refuge are plants that have changed very little over the millennia, with primitive characteristics that reach back 110 million years. One species, commonly known as idiot fruit, is among the rarest and most primitive flowering plants in the world. Of the 19 primitive flowering plant families on Earth, 12 are found here. Activities to explore the forest include hikes to Wujal Wujal Falls, zipline and platform adventures, nighttime walks and 4×4 vehicle trails along the stunning coast, creeks and beaches. The Daintree Rainforest is part of the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal community, who have lived in this area for thousands of years. Their songs and legends reflect the deep spiritual connection to the land. This is a culturally significant place to the Kuku Yalanji, who are just one of 18 rainforest aboriginal tribal groups located in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.

 

Darwin, Kakadu National Park & Arnhem Land: On the edge of the Timor Sea, Darwin is the capital and largest city of the Northern Territory, but the smallest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities. It serves as the Top End’s regional center and its proximity to Southeast Asia has long made it a link between Australia and Asia’s Indonesia and East Timor. The city sits on a low bluff overlooking the harbor. The Darwin region, like the rest of the Top End, has a tropical climate with a wet and a dry season. It experiences heavy monsoonal downpours and spectacular lightning shows. The dry season is clear and breezy. The greater Darwin area is the ancestral home of the Larrakia people. In 1839, HMS Beagle sailed into Charles Darwin harbor during its survey of the area. A few years later, John Clements Wickham named the region “Port Darwin” in honor of Darwin. The city has been rebuilt four times following devastation caused by cyclones and by Japanese air raids during World War II. Kakadu National Park offers travelers the luxury of place. This extraordinary wilderness region is home to one of the largest crocodile populations in the world, and the annual migration of over 100,000 magpie geese. The park edges up to the coastal floodplains and savanna woodland on the Mary River. Aboriginal people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. The park is renowned for its aboriginal cultural sites with more than 5,000 recorded sites spanning thousands of years. On the UNESCO World Heritage List, the park is nearly half the size of Switzerland and encompasses a variety of landscapes from impressive rugged escarpments, to lush rainforest, to floodplains. The park supports more than 280 bird species, some 60 species of mammals,117 reptile and 10,000 insect species. Airboats, river cruises and 4×4 vehicle safaris present a variety of ways to explore these ecosystems. Arnhem Land is one of five regions of the Northern Territory and sits in the northeastern corner about 500 km/310 mi. from the territorial capital of Darwin. It has been occupied by indigenous people for tens of thousands of years, and the Yolngu people are the traditional owners of the land. The community of Gunbalanya in Western Arnhem Land is notable for bark painting. The traditional communities also create temporary sand sculptures as part of their sacred rituals. In Arnhem Land, the oldest-known stone axe, which scholars believe to be 35,500 years old, was discovered. At least since the 18th century, Muslim traders from Makassar (Indonesia) visited Arnhem Land each year to trade, harvest, and process sea cucumbers.

Fraser Island: Fraser Island is a UNESCO Heritage Listed Site along the southeastern coast of Queensland, about 250 km/160 mi. north of Brisbane. Frazer and several satellite islands are in the Great Sandy Strait. The island is thought to be the largest sand island in the world and Australia’s sixth largest island. It is composed of rainforests, eucalyptus woodland, mangrove forests, wallum and peat swamps, sand dunes and coastal heaths. The sand has been piling up for some 750,000 years on volcanic bedrock that serves as a natural catchment for the sediment. Unlike most sand dunes, plant life is abundant here due to a naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi present in the sand, which release nutrients in a form that can be absorbed by the plants. The island is protected in the Great Sandy National Park. The island has been inhabited by humans some 5,000 years. Explorer James Cook sailed past the island in May 1770. Matthew Flinders landed near the most northern point of the island in 1802. The island became known as Fraser due to the stories of a shipwreck survivor named Eliza Fraser. It is home to a diverse range of birds, reptiles and amphibians, including the occasional saltwater crocodile. Swamp wallabies, echidnas, ringtail and brushtail possums, sugar gliders, squirrel gliders, bandicoots, flying foxes and dingoes are among the animals found here. Cooloola National Park, aka Great Sandy National Park, encompasses beautiful beaches, glistening lakes and Noosa River. Indian Head, a distinctive rocky cliff, serves as a great lookout to spot stingrays, dolphins, sea turtles and seasonal whales. The Cathedrals is a long stretch of amazing cliffs of varied colored sands. Freshwater Lake McKenzie is recognized for stunning turquoise blue water with a beach of fine white sand. Hikes, 4×4 vehicle drives, swimming and whale watching are among the options available.

Great Barrier Reef: In the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, with some 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for more than 2,300 km/1,400 mi. over an area of approximately 344,400 sq. km/133,000 sq. mi. It is one of the main features that can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This UNESCO World Heritage Site supports a wide diversity of life. The reef has long been known to and used by the Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander people, and is an important aspect of their cultures and spirituality. The reef is alive with 39 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, including the dwarf minke whale, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and the humpback whale. Large populations of dugongs are present and the reef supports more than 1,500 fish species, including the clownfish, red bass, red-throat emperor, and several species of snapper and coral trout. Six species of sea turtles breed in the reef: green, leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead, flatback and Olive Ridley. Saltwater crocodiles live in mangrove and salt marshes on the coast. Some 125 species of shark, stingray, skates or chimaera live in these waters. Close to 5,000 species of mollusk, 49 species of pipefish and nine species of seahorse have been recorded. Across the globe, travelers come to snorkel, scuba dive, swim, whale watch and boat the Great Barrier Reef. But the reef system is in danger due to large coral bleaching events that have killed several sections of the coral. Scientists and others are seeking to find ways to save the vital and necessary reef system.

Jervis Bay & Lord Howe Island: Jervis Bay is known for having the whitest sand in the world. It is also known for all manner of water sports from fishing, to kayaking, to scuba diving. Jervis Bay is also known for whale watching. Most whales sighted in the bay are humpbacks, which migrate along Australia’s east coast from June to November. Southern right whales are also showing a slow but steady increase as they re-colonize former habitats, after extensive hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries almost wiped them out. Other species sighted are false killer whales, orcas, minke whales and, on one occasion, a blue whale. Significant areas of the Jervis Bay are part of Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay National Park and the Jervis Bay Marine Park. Some 158 sq. km/61 sq. mi. of the land on both sides of the bay are important bird areas. Lord Howe Island is a crescent-shaped volcanic remnant in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. The Lord Howe Island Group encompasses 28 islands and islets, and are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Global Natural Significance. The first reported sighting of Lord Howe Island was in 1788, when Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, commander of the Armed Tender HMS Supply, was en route from Botany Bay to establish a penal settlement on Norfolk Island. On the return journey, Ball sent a party ashore on Lord Howe Island to claim it as a British possession, which later became a provisioning port for the whaling industry. When whaling declined, the 1880s saw the beginning of the worldwide export of the endemic kentia palms, which remains a key component of the island’s economy. Most of Lord Howe is virtually untouched forest, with plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. About 70% of the island is under protection by “Permanent Park Preserve.” The surrounding waters are also a protected region designated the Lord Howe Island Marine Park.

Kangaroo Island: Australia’s third-largest island, after Tasmania and Melville, it sits southwest of Adelaide. Aboriginal Australians originally inhabited the region but disappeared when Kangaroo Island separated from mainland Australia around 10,000 years ago, due to rising sea levels after the last glacial period. Known as Karta (“Island of the Dead”) by the mainland aboriginal tribes, the existence of stone tools and shell middens show that they lived on Kangaroo Island as far back as 16,000 years ago. It was subsequently settled intermittently by sealers and whalers in the early 19th century, and from 1836 on a permanent basis during the establishment of the colony of South Australia. Since then the island’s economy has been principally agriculture, with a southern rock lobster fishery and tourism growing in importance. The island has several nature reserves to protect the remnants of its natural vegetation and native animals, with the largest and best-known being Flinders Chase National Park at the western end. The island is 150 km/93 mi. long and between 57 and 90 km/35 and 56 mi. wide. Kingscote is the largest town and administrative center. Opportunities encompass epicurean adventures, visits to local artists, off-the-beaten-track encounters with amazing wildlife, trekking expeditions, kayaking, mountain biking, marine zodiac adventures, stargazing and night tours.

Kimberley: Pink diamonds, aboriginal art sites, ancient Boab trees, remote coastlines compete for attention on the Kimberley. Landscapes also encompass rugged mountains, gorges and outback desert. Kimberley is the northernmost of the nine regions of Western Australia and was one of the earliest settled areas in the country. People, likely “Macassans,” from the Indonesia arrived about 41,000 years ago. William Dampier was the first British explorer credited with landing on the Kimberley shore in 1688, but Portuguese, Dutch and French came here in the 17th and 18th centuries. Europeans were attracted by the grasslands and drove cattle onto the vast plains in the mid-19th century, while the gold rush of 1886 brought an influx of Europeans and Chinese. Pearl fishing became a major industry in the late 19th century, attracting Japanese and Malay divers. While the multicultural mix grew, the indigenous peoples were pushed out of their traditional areas. Indigenous Australians are the traditional owners, makers and custodians of the rock art in the Kimberley, one of the world’s richest rock art regions. It has been described as Australia’s most important indigenous heritage and cultural asset. West Kimberley was added to the UNESCO National Heritage List. The carved rocks present a unique glimpse into the rituals and practices of the people and how they reacted to an evolving environment. Kimberley rock art is one of the largest figurative bodies of art to survive anywhere on the planet. Gold was discovered in 1881, and the first five Europeans to arrive set up the Murray Squatting Company, becoming the first men to shear sheep in the southern Kimberley in 1883. The primary industries are mining, tourism, agriculture and aquaculture, pearling and indigenous art. The Kimberley region has a host of national parks including Purnululu, Hidden Valley, Mitchell River, Tunnel Creek, Windjana Gorge, Drysdale River and Prince Regent. The northern fringe has drowned river valleys, islands that were pre-Ice Age highlands and coral reefs. Kimberley also experiences some of the highest tides in the world. The region offers adventures from trekking and rock art explorations to river boating and fishing.

Melbourne: Melbourne is the state capital of Victoria and the second most populous city in Australia and Oceania. The metropolis is located on the large natural bay of Port Phillip and expands into the hinterlands towards mountain ranges, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. Humans had occupied the area for an estimated 31,000 to 40,000 years. At the time of European settlement, it was inhabited by less than 2,000 hunter-gatherers from three indigenous regional tribes: the Wurundjeri, the Boonwurrung and the Wathaurong. The area served as an important meeting place for the clans of the Kulin Nation alliance, and a vital source of food and water. The first European settlement in Victoria was begun in October 1803, but did not last. Not until 32 years later was second and successful attempt made by free settlers from the British Crown colony of Van Diemen’s Land. During the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, it was transformed into one of the world’s largest and wealthiest cities. In more recent times, Melbourne hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Melbourne rates highly in education, entertainment, health care, research and development, tourism and sport. It is also a leading financial center in the Asia-Pacific region. Referred to as Australia’s “cultural capital,” it is the birthplace of Australian impressionism, Australian rules football, the Australian film and television industries, and Australian contemporary dance. It is recognized as a UNESCO City of Literature and a major center for street art, music and theater. It is home to many of Australia’s largest and oldest cultural institutions such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the National Gallery of Victoria, the State Library of Victoria and the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Royal Exhibition Building.

Scenic Rim: The Scenic Rim, about an hour’s drive from Brisbane, is an Australian World Heritage Listed Site. In an ancient volcanic caldera, it incorporates six national parks. In 1994, sections of the Main Range, Lamington, Springbrook and Mt Barney were included in the Central Eastern Rainforest, Queensland’s first national park in 1908. The area is comprised of the lush rainforests of Spicers Peak with its giant ferns and inspiring 1,000-year-old Hoop Pines, mountain ranges, waterfalls and ancient landforms. The area is popular for its walking tracks, cycling trails and natural rock pools. A guided walk takes in sheer cliff faces and awesome views over the Scenic Rim and Fassifern Valley. The flora and fauna includes koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and a wide range of colorful, vocal birdlife. One of Australia’s two species of lyrebird inhabits the region’s rainforest and wet eucalypt forests. This natural wonderland can be experienced in the air, on the water or above the land in a hot air balloon. But the list of adventures goes on… water sports, wine tastings, mountain biking, bushwalking, country pubs, art galleries, history… all tied together by the landscape dotted with towns and villages.

Sydney: The area’s first inhabitants were indigenous Australians beginning more than 30,000 years ago. The Garigal people were established in this region. Nearby in protected Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, more than 800 aboriginal sites have been found involving rock engravings, cave drawings, paintings and stencils, axe grinding grooves and middens. In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook navigated up the east coast on the HMS Endeavour. Some 18 years later, the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay with its convict passengers, founding Sydney as a penal colony – the first European settlement in Australia. Looking at cosmopolitan Sydney today, who could image such a questionable beginning. The city fans out from the sparkling harbor that showcases its most famous icon, the Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a sophisticated city with high fashion districts, world-class dining, theaters and more. The Rocks District was established soon after colony. It became the commercial center of the new trade port in the 1800s but turned into a dockside slum. The Rocks now is renowned for having the oldest streets in Sydney dotted with beautifully restored 19th century buildings. Curious alleyways, boutique shops, aboriginal art galleries, and museums such as the Rocks Discovery Museum, Cadman’s Cottage and the Susannah Place Museum add to the district’s charm. The Rocks has markets days on Saturdays and Sundays and a Foodies Market on Fridays. Sydney’s other sites include Sydney Tower and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The University of Sydney was Australia’s first university, founded in 1850. The city is also home to the oldest library in Australia, State Library of New South Wales, opened in 1826. Notable natural charms include Sydney Harbour, the Royal National Park and the Royal Botanic Garden. The Blue Mountains to the west is a popular area for hiking and skiing. For the bold, there is the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Catwalks, hatchways and steel girders suspended above the traffic culminate at the summit, 134 meters/440 feet above the water with 360-degree panoramas of Sydney and the bay.

Tasmania: Unspoiled landscapes and nature adventures are the hallmarks of Tasmania, Australia’s smallest state. This dramatic island boasts some of the country’s most achingly scenic stretches of coastline and distinctive, forested mountain ranges. Once part of mainland Australia, Tasmania was inhabited about 40,000 years ago. The aboriginal people in Tasmania were divided into nine major nations or ethnic groups. At the time of the British colonization in 1803, the indigenous population was estimated at between 3,000 and 10,000. They used fire-stick farming, the practice of using fire to burn vegetation to facilitate hunting and to change the composition of plant and animal species in an area. They hunted game including kangaroo and wallabies, caught seals, mutton-birds, shellfish and fish, and lived as nine separate nations on the island. Tasmania has stunning national parks including Freycinet National Park, Cradle Mountain National Park and Maria Island National Park, which sits off the east coast of Tasmania. Its wine region is located at a more southernly latitude than the rest of Australia’s wine regions. With a cooler climate, vineyards produce distinctly different wines from the rest of the country, primarily Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, with some smaller plantings of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon. Nature hikes, multi-day treks, winery visits, historic towns, scenic flights, self-drive adventures and so much more make this island an outstanding choice for discovery.

Western Australia, Perth & Ningaloo Reef: Clean and green, superbly situated, Perth embraces both banks of the dramatic Swan River estuary. This is a city of friendly charm and lovely views. The area encompasses Fremantle, a historic seaside town of convict history, modern ocean-racing yachts, terraced houses, museums and galleries set between the Indian Ocean and the Swan River. Dramatic Pinnacle Desert has strange limestone pillars rising out of the sand. Margaret River region has some 60 wineries. Stretching 280 km/174 mi. along Western Australia’s harsh and arid coast, Ningaloo Reef is an extraordinary yet largely unknown jewel in Australia’s natural heritage. It is accessed directly from the beach. Ningaloo Reef claims some 200 species of hard corals and 50 species of soft corals with over 520 types of fish. The reef is also known for manta rays, humpback whales, dugongs and turtles.

Wine Regions: Australian wines are produced in every state with more than 60 designated wine regions. Some of the first vine cuttings brought to the new penal colony came from South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope in 1788. Most wines are produced in the southern, cooler parts of the country, with vineyards in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc are the major wines produced. Margaret River wine region offers a smorgasbord of great foods, world-class wineries, boutique breweries and colorful arts and crafts galleries. The area produces some of the finest Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons. The Barossa Valley is a region of villages, vineyards and farms dotting a patchwork landscape. Festivals, celebrations, markets and music thrive here, including a week-long Barossa Valley Vintage Festival. The Barossa Valley is primarily known for its red wine, in particular Shiraz. Large proportions of Barossa Shiraz are used in Penfolds Grange, Australia’s most famous wine. The Clare Valley in South Australia is about 100 km/62 mi. north of Adelaide. This notable wine region makes Chardonnay, Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Grenache as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Mt Cotton, just a short drive from Brisbane, is the site of Sirromet, a family owned winery, Sirromet’s state-of-the-art facilities produce wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc Many of these wine regions not only offer excellent wine tastings and cellar visits but also festivals and outdoor activities such as hiking and biking.

Whitsundays & Hamilton Island: The Whitsunday Islands is a collection of 74 idyllic and mostly uninhabited islands closest to the Queensland coast that coexist with the reef system. The reef, in fact, serves to protect the islands from huge ocean swells, ensuring some of the safest sailing and cruising waters in the world. The Whitsundays stretch out some 900 km/559 mi. north of Brisbane, with Hamilton as the largest of its islands. The island group is centered on Whitsunday Island, while the group’s commercial center is Hamilton Island, which is also the largest of its islands. Its location offers easy access to the Great Barrier Reef, with excellent opportunities for diving, fishing and whale watching (July-September). Luxury cruises can be privately chartered. Catamarans, sea kayaks, paddle skis, windsurfers and diving equipment are available. The traditional owners of the area are the Ngaro people and the Gia people of the Juru Clan. A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as fishing and tourism. Other environmental pressures on the reef and its ecosystem include runoff, climate change accompanied by mass coral bleaching, and cyclic population outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish. The Whitsunday islands are one of the most popular yachting destinations in the Southern Hemisphere.

Best Time to Go

Australia is roughly equivalent to the US in size with many variations in climate. Summer, the rainy season in the tropical north, lasts December to February.

November to March is hottest. Spring and autumn are mild and the best time for bush walks. Winter, June to August, is mild with snow in southern mountains and balmy temperatures in the north.

In general, April to September temperatures are between 18° C/66° F and 31° C/88° F. September and October are warm but not extremely hot.

Suggested Itinerary 

 

 Day 1: Brisbane, Australia

One of the oldest cities in Australia, Brisbane is a busy city of contemporary skyscrapers, subtropical parklands, riverside eateries, cafes and designer boutiques; all complimented by more than 27 km/17 mi. of bicycle pathways.

Day 2: Brisbane

A few of the ways to explore the city include by boat on the Brisbane River, on a bike along the many bike paths, on foodie or museum excursions, history walks and more.

Day 3: Brisbane / Cairns / Daintree Rainforest

Daintree’s tropical rainforest ecosystem is one of the most complex on the planet with a plant diversity and structural complexity unrivaled on the Australian continent.

Day 4: Daintree Rainforest

This vast wilderness serves up a high concentration of plant and animal species found nowhere else on the planet. The Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people are the traditional owners.

Day 5: Daintree Rainforest / Cairns – Great Barrier Reef

A private, custom-built vessel cruises the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system, with some 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, with time for swimming, snorkeling, diving or fishing.

Day 6: Cairns / Darwin / Kakadu National Park

Airboats are the best way to explore the coastal floodplains and savanna woodland on the Mary River on the edge of Kakadu National Park.

Days 7/8: Kakadu National Park

Rock art galleries in ancient Arnhem Land reveal stories of Aboriginal people and their culture. River cruises, wildlife watching in the wetlands and 4x4 vehicles safaris explore this distinctive ecosystem.

Day 9: Kakadu National Park / Darwin / Adelaide

Adelaide boasts elegant tree-lined streets, pretty parks and churches, and a central market. Adelaide is a city of cultural, artistic, gastronomic and sporting interests, and is home to the National Wine Centre.

Day 10: Adelaide / Kangaroo Island

The island has several nature reserves to protect the remnants of its native vegetation and animals, with the largest and best-known area being Flinders Chase National Park.

Days 11/12: Kangaroo Island

Opportunities encompass epicurean adventures, visits with local artists, amazing wildlife, trekking, kayaking and night tours are just the beginning of the adventure.

Day 13: Kangaroo Island / Melbourne

Melbourne is Australia's cultural capital and birthplace of Australian impressionism, Australian rules football and a major center for street art, music and theater.

Day 14: Melbourne

Walking tours explore Melbourne’s history and highlights including its eccentric alleys and lanes, parks and landmarks such as Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Day 15: Melbourne / Sydney / Bouddi Peninsula

The peninsula hosts diverse landscapes of beaches, cliffs, rainforest and heathland. Rock carvings in the area reach back 8,000 years.

Day 16: Bouddi Peninsula

Bouddi National Park includes Maitland Bay, and features great walks and cycling trails, as well as swimming, fishing and whale watching.

Day 17: Bouddi Peninsula / Sydney

One of the great adventures in the city is the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, which culminates 134 m/440 ft. above the water with 360-degree panoramas of Sydney, the harbor and environs.

Day 18: Sydney

Sydney’s many personalities include the historic Rocks District, which features charming alleyways, historic buildings, boutique shops, aboriginal art galleries and museums.

Day 19: Sydney / Depart

 

Custom Options

 

Fraser Island (4 days)

This stunning island is thought to be the largest sand island in the world, and it offers pristine beaches, colorful cliffs and glistening lakes. Hikes, 4x4 vehicle drives, swimming and whale watching offer extraordinary opportunities the superb island.

  

Jervis Bay & Lord Howe Island (3 days)

Crystal waters teem with marine life and rare coral as well as seasonally migrating whales. Jervis has been officially noted for having the whitest sand in the world.

 

Kimberly Region (5-14 days)

The Kimberley is recognized for its pink diamonds, aboriginal art sites, ancient Boab trees, and remote rugged coastlines. The ancient art found here is one of the world’s richest rock art regions, and an important indigenous heritage and cultural asset.

 

Scenic Rim (3 days)

This natural wonderland can be experienced in the air, on the water or above the landscape with hot air ballooning.

 

Tasmania (5-8 days)

Ancient rainforest, alpine heathlands, icy streams, primal pines, glacial lakes and affable towns combine to make this island intriguing.

 

Western Australia, Perth & Ningaloo Reef (5-7 days)

Historic seaside towns and the dramatic Pinnacle Desert’s limestone pillars blend with opportunities for a thrilling swim with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish.

 

Whitsundays (4 days)

The Whitsundays boast pristine reefs and untouched islands and attract boaters from around the globe to sail here. Yacht charters, sailing, scuba diving and kayaking in these spectacular waters make for a journey you won’t forget.

 

Wine Regions (3-5 days)

Australian wines are produced in every state, and with more than 60 designated wine regions. For the connoisseur or the occasional taster, a plethora of wine discoveries await.

$500-$1200 per person per day. Land only, double occupancy.

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