A faraway country that fascinates adventurous spirits and explorers for its mix of cultures and amazing landscapes. The natural wonders and those created by humans merge in a mosaic of thousands of hues. From the lights of cosmopolitan cities to the blazing desert areas of the Australian Outback to the colourful abysses of the ocean, Australia is a treasure chest. I suggest 15 days as the minimum time required for a trip to Australia. Take into consideration the time you need to get to Australia (practically one day if you come from Europe) and also the (long) distances among the places you want to visit.
If you are already picturing yourself travelling on the road in the Downunder, here is an example of a comprehensive 15 days itinerary in Australia that allows you to discover the various facets of this charming country.
1st – 4th day – flight to Sydney
I recommend starting the 15 days itinerary in Australia from Sydney because is the best place to get in touch with the Australian modern soul. Arriving with the plane, if you are lucky enough to have a window seat, you will see the spectacular skyline of the city that embraces the bay with its deep blue waters and numerous inlets, islets and iconic silhouettes. You will be able to see the Opera House with its shimmering white profile and the graceful Harbour Bridge.
Try to overcome the jet lag spending the first two days discovering the city. Sydney is huge, so it might be difficult to decide what to see. However, I recommend you not to miss the historic district of The Rocks, a maze of narrow streets and ancient stone buildings that sit in the shade of the Harbour Bridge. Close you can visit the Opera House and the Royal Botanic Garden. Ferries to Manly and tourist cruises depart from the piers of Circular Quay in between. With the ferry, you can also reach Darling Harbour in a short time: here you’ll find museums and family-friendly attractions. Depending on the season of the year and your interests, you can enjoy a day on the beach or outdoor activities. During summer, visit the beaches of Bondi or Manly, but if you love trekking you can choose one of the many coastal walks or get to the Blue Mountains by train. In this place imbued with fascinating Aboriginal legends, the landscape of blue eucalyptus forests and rock formations resembles an astonishing painting.
5th day – Sydney / Melbourne
From Sydney, you can easily reach Melbourne by plane.
Melbourne is a lively and multicultural city with a strong European character and many interesting places to visit. Start from the CBD with its Victorian buildings and shop galleries, then go towards the Queen Victoria Market, where you will find a great array of delicious food. Then take a walk in one of the city’s parks or along the Yarra River. If you travel in summer, you can spend the afternoon enjoying the famous beach of St. Kilda just about 20 minutes by tram from the centre. The city free tourist tram is a great option for a tour around the city.
6th day – Great Ocean Road
If you love on-the-road adventures, I recommend you spend at least a day on a tour along the astonishing Great Ocean Road. You can rent a car or book one of the many bus tours available. Along this scenic route, you will find hidden beaches, national parks, ports, historic surfing villages, and spectacular cliffs. The most popular stops are the Twelve Apostles, the ancient lighthouse of Cape Otway, and the lush rainforest of the Otway Ranges Park.
Day 7 – Melbourne / Adelaide
I recommend spending the morning enjoying the last walk in Melbourne and the afternoon flying to Adelaide (around 1-hour flight). Adelaide is a totally different city from Melbourne and Sydney, not just for its smaller dimension. Here you can immerse yourself in a typically Australian relaxed atmosphere, but with a bubbly and friendly vibe. Adelaide is the “city of churches and gardens“, well-known for its excellent wines and delicious food scene. South Australia is a countryside paradise, a rolling expanse of vineyards, orchards, and fields, whose products fill the stalls of Adelaide’s Central Market, the city’s gastronomic temple.
Day 8 – Day tour to Kangaroo Island
If you want to see wild kangaroos, sea lions, and koalas, I suggest you take a tour to Kangaroo Island, an island located about 15 km off the coast of South Australia. The island’s territory is mostly made of national parks and reserves, with several beaches and breathtaking little bays. A hidden gem is the “Little Sahara”, an area of sand dunes where you can try sandboard. From Adelaide, you can reach Kangaroo Island by coach and ferry with a journey of about 3 hours. The island is perfect for those who love pristine nature. Except for a few villages and some farms, the rest of the island is a wonderful mix of bush, coasts, and open fields. You will be able to observe the animals in their natural habitat, preferably guided by a local ranger. Take into account that most roads are unpaved, so it is essential to have a suitable vehicle. At the end of the tour, return to Adelaide.
Day 9 – Adelaide / Alice Springs
From Adelaide, take the plane to Alice Springs, an urban oasis set in the “red heart” of Australia. The flight takes about two hours and once landed I suggest you enjoy the rest of the day by exploring this charming town. If you have time, visit the Desert Park, a botanical garden that collects the endemic flora and fauna. Alice Springs is an excellent starting point if you want to learn more about aboriginal culture and exploring wonders like Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), both located within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
10th – 11th day – Watarrka National Park and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Spending 2 days in Alice Springs I recommend booking a guided tour to discover the magic Australian outback. Usually, the tours include the two most visited national parks in the Northern Territory: the Watarrka National Park and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The Watarrka National Park is about 240 km south-west from Alice Springs and is home to the deepest and most fascinating canyon in Central Australia, which can be reached through one of the two walking paths. Generally, the tours proceed to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where you can observe the Kata Tjuta monoliths, an aboriginal sacred place. Even here there are 2 different walking paths. One of the experiences that I recommend the most is to watch the sunset at the Uluru: in this special moment the monolith changes slightly its shades and convert to a more vivid red, like the desert that surrounds it. A unique show not to be missed.
12th day – Alice Springs / Cairns
From Alice Springs, fly to the tropical town of Cairns, on the east coast of Queensland. The journey takes about two hours and you will find yourself in a world completely different from the one you left behind. Surrounded by lush rainforests, postcard-perfect beaches and elegant towns, Cairns is the perfect base to explore the natural wonders of northern Queensland and spend the last days of your 15 days itinerary. You can relax at the beach, shopping and enjoy many activities and tours. The small centre of Cairns has a tropical lazy atmosphere, but with a lively waterfront, the Esplanade. Here you find a public swimming pool and a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, a flea market, and shops where to buy Aboriginal souvenirs. If you have time, I recommend you to take the scenic steam train to the town of Kuranda. Kuranda is renowned for its creative atmosphere and a beautiful artisan market.
13th -15th day – Cairns and surroundings
In the last two days, you can treat yourself with a lot of activities. If you love to dive or snorkeling, don’t miss the chance to discover the Great Barrier Reef, the main attraction of Queensland. All the tours include the rental of snorkeling/dive gear and some provide dive lessons for beginners.
If you love shopping, visit Port Douglas, renowned for its luxury resorts, golf courses, shopping centres, and isolated tropical beaches surrounded by idyllic landscapes.
Another very popular tour includes the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation. The Daintree National Park houses the most ancient Australian rainforest where walkways let visitors get a closer look at this wonderful natural treasure. You may also spot some wild animals, including the famous cassowary. The heart of the park is crossed by the Daintree River, where you can take a boat tour to see some crocodiles. The park also includes Cape Tribulation, a strip of coast that represents, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in Australia. Here you can see the forest “rolling down” to the coast and embrace the sea.
This is my suggested 15 days itinerary for a trip to Australia, which is your favourite itinerary for 2 weeks in Down Under? Which places you think should be included? Comment below! Cheers :-)