See Australia’s Most Iconic Sights on a Reef, Rock and Bridge Trip
In a country as vast as Australia, it can be overwhelming trying to decide where your time would be best spent. While there’s a lot to be said for getting off the beaten track and onto the country roads, most of us don’t want to leave this enticing country without seeing Australia’s most iconic sights. You’ve swooned over the photos again and again, and now it’s time to see them for real. A reef, rock and bridge trip will take you to three of Australia’s biggest icons: the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Your adventure will begin in tropical north Queensland, where the rainforest meets the reef. Great Barrier Reef trips typically leave from either Cairns or Port Douglas, and both are worth visiting. It has been suggested that you could spend a lifetime here and never get bored of the hot weather, relaxed atmosphere and friendly people, but as that’s not always possible, it’s definitely worth setting aside at least 4 days to explore the area. You will most likely arrive in Cairns first, and if you’re heading further north to Port Douglas then you’re in for a treat; the one hour drive is one of the most scenic you’ll ever see, with the rainforest to your left and the ocean to your right as you tear up the wide open road. This is the part where you realise you’re in paradise. The best time to visit is during Australia’s winter, or Queensland’s ‘dry season’, from May to October, as it is generally dry and sunny with highs of between 25-30 degrees. The summer months, or ‘wet season’ see heavy rainfall, hot weather, and high humidity.
While many people journey to Port Douglas to see the Great Barrier Reef, there’s so much more to it than that. Spend a day exploring the Daintree rainforest, trying to spot a cassowary, and head all the way to Cape Tribulation where you’ll emerge from the trees to find yourself on a gorgeous beach. Take a stroll along the beautiful Mossman Gorge, and enjoy a river cruise where you can spy on crocodiles in their natural habitat. Cuddle koalas at the wildlife habitat, followed by a sunset cruise with champagne and canapés. Make a splash in one of the many refreshing creeks and stunning waterfalls, and marvel at the beauty of the area as you look up at mountains, rainforest, and clear blue skies. Be careful though – avoid saltwater creeks and pay attention to any warning signs as crocodiles do inhabit the area. Swimming in freshwater at a higher altitude is the best way to avoid them, as crocs don’t swim uphill.
One thing you may observe about Far North Queensland is that it’s one of few places where our stereotypes of Australia come to life: there are snakes, huge spiders, and crocodiles, and the people are extremely friendly and laidback, wearing shorts, thongs and a gorgeous tan wherever they go. You can just as easily stay in an upmarket hotel or apartment, a fun hostel, or a fully equipped campsite – the area has something for everybody. Dine at award-winning restaurants, tasty cheap eateries, and everything in between. Fall in love with the relaxed vibe of the area, and the friendly locals who are always happy to help you out.
When it comes to visiting the reef itself, there are plenty of companies offering full or half day trips, including diving or snorkelling, and inner or outer reef locations. It’s not ‘one size fits all’ so do your research to find the perfect trip for you. Wade through the water over brightly coloured corals, crossing paths with various exotic fish. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles, reef sharks, and other exciting marine life.
Saying goodbye to Far North Queensland can be a sad time, but you have the ‘rock’ section of your trip to look forward to next. As the plane approaches Uluru, you’ll see passengers watching in awe as they catch their first glimpse of the famous Ayers Rock. Two days is plenty here if used wisely. It’s advisable to focus your time on the sunrises and sunsets and spend the daytimes relaxing by the pool, riding camels at the local camel farm, or taking a walking, cycling, motorbike or camel tour of Ayers rock.
It’s an early start for the sunrise, but it’s so worth it. Many tours offer sunrise viewings where you can watch the outback slowly come to life as the sky fills with light and colour. Enjoy some hot coffee and tasty breakfast, followed by a tour of Uluru or Kata Tjuta, during which you may learn about the origins of the rock, the native people of Australia, and why the rock is sacred to them. Hot tip: look for trips that take you to the quieter viewing spots for the sunrise, so that you’re not fighting with 100 other tourists for the best view.
Sunset tours again take you to a viewing area, where you can splash out and enjoy champagne and canapés as you struggle struggled to decide whether to look to the breathtaking rock or turn our back on it and watch the stunning sunset fill the sky with pink and orange hues. You can also opt to enjoy a highly recommended dinner under the stars after sunset for a truly mind-blowing, luxurious experience, where the feel of an exclusive five-star, fine-dining restaurant is fantastically recreated in the middle of the outback. You will enjoy fabulous food and service, followed by stargazing guided by an astronomer.
Of course, when people visit Sydney they want to see the opera house and the harbour bridge, but there’s so much more to it than that – it’s basically the ultimate big city, with excellent eateries, rooftop cocktail bars, fascinating museums, high-end shops, gorgeous beaches, and so much more. You could spend years here and still not do everything, but at least five days is recommended.
Daytimes in Sydney can be spent enjoying the famous landmarks, with bridge climbs, opera house tours, and the Tower Eye elevating you to the highest point in the city for breathtaking views. You can also visit the many beaches. Bondi is the most famous, and is well worth a visit but can get extremely crowded in summer. There’s also the well-known Manley beach, and plenty of others if you know where to look. If you do take the ferry to Manley, be sure to check out the fantastic views of the opera house and harbour bridge from the ferry. Visit the zoo for another perfect sighting of the famous landmarks from the giraffe enclosure, as well as a brilliant wildlife experience. Sydney is also home to an array of museums to tantalise your inner nerd, and enough shops to make you drop.
Evenings can be spent eating dinner right on the waterfront at a wide range of tempting restaurants offering something delicious for everyone, whatever your taste buds are craving. Follow dinner with drinks at breweries, rooftop cocktail bars, or one of many drinking holes in the city. See how many you can tick off!
Not only will you see three of Australia’s most iconic sights: the reef, the rock, and the bridge, but you will also see so many sides to this vast and beautiful country. From the beach to the rainforest, to the outback, and bustling city life, this trip has so much to offer, and in this immense country, there’s still so much more to see.