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  1. #1
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    New question here. Planning trip to Australia...

    My daughter is studying at University of New South Wales next semester. My wife and I are planning a visit in May from the US. We're going to have 14 days and are struggling with planning the trip. Obviously, we'd like to spend some time in Sydney. Planning the rest of the trip becomes a problem, because of the lack of time. We'd like to do as much as possible of the following, but know that it's probably too much given the amount of time.

    1) A day of mountain biking in Australia (looking for fun, flowy singletrack and scenery)
    2) See some of the Outback
    3) Great Barrier Reef
    4) Get to see some of New Zealand
    5) Possibly do a day of mountain biking in New Zealand

    We need suggestions on an itinerary. Things to see. Things not to see. Number of days to allocate. Etc.

    Also, we'll obviously need to rent mountain bikes and gear wherever we're able to squeeze in riding. Suggestions on places?

    Finally, how's the craft beer industry doing down under? Need suggestions on breweries to visit....especially for good IPA's!

    Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

  2. #2
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    You've said it yourself but 14 days is nowhere near enough time to do all the things you have outlined. Either forgot about New Zealand, or cross off one of the Barrier Reef or Outback from that list. Even then it will be tight. Presumably you will want at least three or four days in Sydney with your daughter, and one of those will be a writeoff as you'll be knackered from the flight. A day or two to see the Sydney sights (Opera House, Bridge, Manly Ferry etc). Add in a trip to the Blue Mountains for good scenery and MTBing and your time there is done.

    For the outback quickest and easiest option would be to fly to Alice Springs and do a trip to Uluru. You could fly to Uluru directly but there's plenty to see around Alice Springs and it would give you more of a sense of the outback if you were to do it that way. However if you do fly to Alice Springs the drive between there and Uluru is six hours each way, so two days are written off doing this.

    For the Barrier Reef the quickest access is either from Townsville or Cairns. It's worth keeping in mind that a year ago the reef suffered a mass bleaching event, so stick down the southern end where there was less damage. Magnetic Island off Townsville is a good place for a quick visit and you can snorkel from shore. One day for travelling up, two days to hang out and a day travelling back to Sydney.

    It doesn't leave much time for N.Z., but if you were keen I'd fly directly to Wellington. Great city, you can hop across to the South Island on the ferry easily, there's awesome mountain biking from the suburbs, and their craft beer scene is cranking. With regards to the craft beer thing in Aus. I'm no Sydney local so not sure of their smaller breweries, but there's plenty going on in the craft scene in Australia. Just make sure you budget plenty as craft beer is bloody expensive in Aus (actually everything is, warn your daughter!), expect to pay $8 U.S. a pint or more. Vale, Stone and Wood, Mountain Goat, and Moo Brew are some of the larger craft breweries I rate.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    It has basically been said, however 14 days is very little. Consider whether you can extend it, it's worth it, esp if including NZ.

    Your daughter will be in Sydney a lot, I expect you'll visit her again, so don't spend too much time in Sydney. Maybe save the Sydney sight seeing for another visit? Disclaimer: Sydney has some pretty sights however on the whole I don't really like it.

    I think you need to knock one of NZ, GBR or the Outback off the list. Interestingly both Cairns (right near the Reef) and NZ have good riding (and both should be easy enough to find bike rental), however in each location consider the time of the year - Cairns in May will be warm ("just right" IMO), NZ will be cold. Both Cairns and the surrounding areas and NZ offer great (albeit completely different) scenery.

    Townsville/Magnetic Is was mentioned however IMO I wouldn't bother with trying to snorkel off the island, it'll be nothing like the reef. You can do dives from Townsville however the time to get out to the reef is much greater. Interestingly Townsville also has decent mountain biking trails, however they're dry/dusty/rocky and I wouldn't call them flowy, and other than one particular trail (well a ~25km figure 8) along the coast they're not too scenic. I think you'll prefer the Reef and Riding of Cairns, and I'm not sure you'll find worthy bike rental in Townsville anyway.

    My suggestion:
    - A few days in Sydney
    - Cairns for the Reef + Riding (a few days)
    - NZ for scenery/general visiting and more riding (the remainder of your trip)

    Every decent size city will have some craft beers to get stuck into, but yes Australian incomes are generally quite high so the price of alcohol matches.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by phreeky View Post
    My suggestion:
    - A few days in Sydney
    - Cairns for the Reef + Riding (a few days)
    - NZ for scenery/general visiting and more riding (the remainder of your trip)

    Every decent size city will have some craft beers to get stuck into, but yes Australian incomes are generally quite high so the price of alcohol matches.
    This... in addition to that, Townsville and the Whitsundays were hit by a cyclone recently. Recovery may still be underway at some places by May. So, for the Great Barrier, Cairns is the place and you can kill the MTB. They have a chairlift too and a WC level DH track.

    I'd take out the Outback for another visit too. Alice Springs and Uluru, as mentioned, are far away from each other. There are good MTB trails in Alice Springs, though.

    Relatively close to Sydney (4hrs by train or coach) is Canberra and close to Canberra is Thredbo. Another top destination for MTB in Australia. Canberra has interesting Museums but the War Memorial is not to be missed.

    But I'd save my MTB for New Zealand. Hit Rotorua or Queenstown and you'll be in MTB paradise. A bit of everything, a tad cheaper than Australia too but everything is very expensive here.

    I liked Melbourne a lot but that would veer you off a tad too much.

    Australia is HUGE. Even by American standards. The South East is packed with people and cities, but the rest is very far apart and expensive to travel to.

    NZ is affectionately called "across the ditch" but that ditch is a 3hrs flight.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warp View Post
    This... in addition to that, Townsville and the Whitsundays were hit by a cyclone recently.
    FYI Townsville wasn't "hit". In fact Townsville wouldn't have received more than 10mm of rain or had a tree branch broken.

  6. #6
    "El Whatever"
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    Quote Originally Posted by phreeky View Post
    FYI Townsville wasn't "hit". In fact Townsville wouldn't have received more than 10mm of rain or had a tree branch broken.
    My bad. Good to know.
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