Let’s get this straight – one week is not under any circumstances enough to allocate to a country as large and as varied and, frankly, as far away from the rest of the world as Australia. It’s the world’s largest island, the sixth biggest country, and nearly as big as the United States.
Not only could you not cover the entire country in a week, but you’d be hard pressed to cover even its most famous sights in that amount of time.
If you insist, however, here is the one-week itinerary that will allow you to explore some of Australia’s best. Buckle in tight; it’s sure to be one helluva ride.
Days 1-3: The Harbour City
Sydney is absolutely the best place to start, and not only because it’s the landing spot of many international flights.
You could easily while away an entire week in the Harbour City – and should if you plan on going beyond its major sights – but for just three nights, take your pick from all the delights on offer in Australia’s biggest urban centre.
Shop your heart out in Castlereagh Street, soak up the atmosphere at Circular Quay and Darling Harbour and pig out on authentic Asian cuisine in Chinatown.
Head to the historic Rocks region for a relaxed night out and, if you’re happy to fork out the big bucks, enjoy the Harbour Bridge Climb for views you’ll never forget. And since, let’s face it, you kind of, sort of, really just want to see a koala up close, head to Taronga Zoo, where you can marvel at a wide array of wildlife and stunning harbour views alike.
Sydney’s convenient proximity to beaches (Manly, Coogee and Bondi, to name a few) and national parks make for an easy escape if you get all ‘citied out’.
The World Heritage listed Blue Mountains are within an hour’s drive and present countless ways to spend an ideal day trip, from bushwalks to birdwatching to abseiling to simply relaxing and admiring the scenery.
Days 4-6: Where the Reef Meets the Rainforest
Bid Sydney adieu on Day Four for your early morning flight up north… to Cairns!
The capital of Queensland’s Tropical Far North, Cairns is a laidback, friendly city with a humid climate and lively outdoor Esplanade area.
Its greatest asset, however, is its location. Cairns straddles the eastern edges of the Daintree Rainforest and, on its coastal side, a popular day trip route to the Great Barrier Reef. Its closeness to the pretty – and less touristy – Atherton Tablelands can’t hurt, either.
The Daintree Rainforest is one of the world’s oldest. It’s blessed with not only verdant scenery, but also a rich indigenous culture dating back millennia. The Mossman Gorge Centre is a great place to learn more.
Surely the Great Barrier Reef – another unique World Heritage Site unlike anywhere else in the world – needs no introduction. Spend a day (at least) snorkeling, diving and soaking up the views in awe. And watch out for whales!
Days 7-8: The Red Centre
After kicking back by the coast for two nights, prepare for things to get even hotter: you’re heading into the outback, straight to Australia’s Red Centre, aboard an early morning flight to Ayers Rock (though, please, call it Uluru).
It’s not the most sensible decision, budget or route-wise, to fly so many hundreds of kilometers out of the way for just two nights… But as soon as you witness Uluru at sunrise, we guarantee you’ll agree it’s worth it.
Do a trek around the base to fully appreciate its almost unbelievable size. And don’t forget to head out to the equally unforgettable Olgas (or Kata Tjuta), a series of huge and bizarre rock formations that many claim is even better than big-name Uluru.
Be warned, it’s crazy-hot, even in the winter months. A summer visit nearly unbearable – and it’s frequented by hordes of flies as well as tourists. However, heat, flies and an exorbitant expense, won’t make it any less worthwhile.
For your next trip
To be fair, every corner of Australia could have rightly demanded a spot on this itinerary: Melbourne, the food and culture capital; Tasmania’s beautiful scenery and historic hideaways; South Australia’s little-known delights from the jaw-dropping Flinders Ranges to the Adelaide Hills. Not to mention the vast, sun-blessed paradise that is Western Australia…
Have you toured Australia?
What was your favorite place?
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phone credit: Kazuhisa Togo