Destinations: Melbourne, Sydney, Uluru, and Cairns.
Length of trip: 17 days
Start of Trip: Mid-January 2016
Group total: 2 persons
N.B – Please note that while I’m not a backpacker, I do try and save money whenever I can so the accommodation will not be luxury.
Safety tip: If you decide to drive in Australia, please be aware of animals crossing the roads. We were warned that it can be dangerous if you accidentally hit kangaroos or wallabies in the dark. Please be cautious.
TripHobo link: TripHobo Plan
N.B – This part of our trip was a little easier as I had a friend who lived in Melbourne and transported us to see things.
Accommodation: Hotel Claremont Guesthouse
Pros: Close to train line, decent price, free breakfast
Cons: Small rooms, outdated decor, ants in the bathroom
This accommodation was absolutely fine for our needs. We had a room with bunk beds and used a shared bathroom. There were many bathrooms available to use so it was never a trek to find an available one. There were some ants in some of the bathrooms but even for someone squeamish like me, it wasn’t an issue. The free breakfast was good and the dining room was a good size. The bedroom was slightly small but the beds were comfortable and it wasn’t too hot.
Great Ocean Road – A beautiful landscape to drive through along the ocean. If you drive far enough you will come upon The Twelve Apostles. These are rock formations out in the ocean but make for some stunning photography.
Philip Island Penguin Parade – This is a little distance from Melbourne (about 90 minutes) but Philip Island is home to Fairy Penguins. It is a nature park and you do pay to see them. At dusk, you can watch the penguins dart out of the water to get back to their nests. There are hundreds of penguins, so don’t leave your seat too early to go and see them in their nests. You can get very close to the penguins (you are behind a glass fence) but please do not take any photos. It is very confusing for the penguins and the flash can be harmful. We loved this experience. On Philip Island, there are other nature activities such as walking through marshland.
We stayed at The Island Accommodation to save a late drive back to Melbourne. This is a youth hostel with large shared bathrooms and shared accommodation. We had some issues checking into this hostel. We arrived late, which we had been assured would have been fine, but our keys were not there and the emergency phone number had actually been left in the office. Had we not had our Australian friend with us, we would have been stuck. However, make sure you check up to date reviews before deciding against this place.
Accommodation: Outback Pioneer Hotel
Pros: The cheapest accommodation available, different choices for food, not far from a supermarket
Cons: I think there was only one bathroom block so you had to travel through the compound, still pricey
Main attractions: Uluru and Kata Tjuta
At Uluru there is a lack of accommodation choices. This was the cheapest option for us. We stayed in a shared room of 4 beds. On the first night we were offered to upgrade rooms for a ‘discounted’ rate so that we would have more privacy. The upgrade price was still quite expensive so we decided against it. I’m glad we did because during our stay we never actually shared the room with anyone.
Important notes: Make sure you buy a fly net and you have a lot of water.
Definitely buy a fly net. You will not feel comfortable doing anything without one. We traveled all the way to a view point and then drove all the way back to buy one because the flies were driving us crazy. During the summer, it is very hot and dehydration is dangerous.
Although there are many choices of tours for Uluru and Kata Tjuta, we decided to hire a car so that we could do it at our own pace. There are ranger guides available for free, so we joined one and found it really educational and enjoyable.
Make sure you visit the Uluru Educational Centre. You can hire bikes from there to ride around Uluru, grab some snacks or lunch, and buy some genuine aboriginal art. We were able to watch the artists at work and reserve some art. Although it wasn’t cheap, the artists get all of the profits and it was one of a kind.
Unfortunately for us, the weather was not on our side so we were unable to see the rock glow red or see the starry sky. It was disappointing but still a good trip.
Accommodation: Hotel CBD
Pros: Decent price, central location, comfortable bed, good bathroom
Cons: We had a room with no window
We paid for a shuttle bus at the airport to take us to the hotel. It seemed like a popular airport shuttle company. It was a disaster, the driver was really not attentive. So make sure you look up companies beforehand.
Sydney Opera House – We booked ourselves on a tour of the opera house.
Manly Beach – You can take the ferry over to Manly Island. The queue can be quite long in the summer but the ferry takes a lot of people at one time. There were a lot of choices for food there. The beach was big but very busy. We decided to walk around to Shelley Beach which was smaller but slightly quieter. We decided to have a little swim here and the water was lovely.
Featherdale Wildlife Park + Blue Mountains – We wanted to see the Blue Mountains so we booked a tour and these locations were together. The wildlife park was great and we were able to feed kangaroos and have a photo next to a koala. We only had about an hour or so and we wished that we had had more time. We enjoyed the Blue Mountains and the sights were beautiful. We went on the cable car up to the top to enjoy the views. You can also walk along some trails through the forests.
Notes: It is very hot and humid in Cairns. Make sure you are prepared with sun screen and water.
Accommodation: Caravella Backpackers
Pros: We got upgraded (woop!), short walk to restaurants and not too far to boat terminals, opposite the waterfront, really helpful staff
Cons: The AC was no where near strong enough#
Great Barrier Reef – A member of staff at Caravella helped explain the difference between many of the different companies that go to the Great Barrier Reef. We decided on SilverSwift and had a fantastic day. Everything you could need was included: food, stinger suits, pool noodles (if you’re not confident with swimming), prescription goggles, snorkel gear, etc. They were really helpful and did everything they could do to make sure you were safe and comfortable. They even had a marine biologist on board who gave a snorkel tour. I was very nervous and going into the open sea but they put my mind at ease.
Cairns Tropical Zoo (closed) – I could go on for pages about how wonderful Cairns Tropical Zoo was. However, it closed in early 2016. However, Cairns Koala Gardens is still open and offers an experience to hold a koala.
There is a Scenic Railway in Cairns that goes past the rainforest, however we ended up not doing it so that we could spend a whole day at the zoo. I know that there are tours or packages that combine the Skyrail, Railway and the Koala Gardens.
Well, I hope that maybe this provides some inspiration. We obviously did more than these things so if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try and help any way that I can.