Prepare for sublime sunshine, sleek cities, dreamy surf spots, famous icons and fun-loving Aussie culture on this Topdeck adventure. Our east coast adventure together starts early as we wave Sydney goodbye, crossing the famous Harbour Bridge in search of surf, sun and sand. Detouring off the main roads, we venture into the famous Australian wine region of the Hunter Valley. Our time in wine country begins with the feeling of grapes between bare toes (seasonal). You guessed it - jump in an oak barrel and experience the age-old tradition of pressing by foot! Afterwards, it’s on to the Hunter Wine Theatre where we learn all about the grape’s fascinating journey from vine to bottle before enjoying an intimate, structured wine tasting. The Hunter Valley’s local produce is mouth-watering and you’ll have plenty of time to sample it as we enjoy a break for lunch. You might even decide to sit down for a bite to eat at the Blue Tongue Brewery cafe before departing this stunning setting. Bidding farewell to the Hunter Valley we continue north to our base for the night, an idyllic surf camp in beautiful Crescent Head. Here you’ll experience first-hand why surfing is one of Australia’s most popular past times. Then as the sun sets, let your hair down and enjoy the live music before resting up for tomorrow’s surf lesson.
Day 2:Byron Bay
Wake up bright and early today and enjoy breakfast with your new buddies, it’s just what you’ll need to catch those early morning waves. With qualified instructors to watch over your every move in this morning’s included surf lesson, you are sure to be up and on your feet in no time! What better way to celebrate becoming a surfer than with a hearty BBQ lunch back at the lodge. Surfed out and with full bellies, we leave this remote paradise behind in search of another surfing icon– Byron Bay. Firstly passing through Coffs Harbour, we continue north past the Northern Rivers towns of Grafton and Ballina before reaching our home for the next two nights - Australia’s most easterly (and most laid-back) point. Renowned for its surf beaches, rainforests and eclectic lifestyle, Byron oozes a relaxed vibe that will instantly have you hooked. This spot oozes charm, small town soul and surfing beaches galore.
Day 3:Byron Bay
A whole day to explore the hippy-vibed Byron? Yes please! Beautiful Byron - if this town was a food, it’d be certified organic! From lush hinterland and sparkling beaches to the deliberate exclusion of fast food outlets, it really is a natural wonder. Whether you decide to start early and make a full day of it or choose to relax, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with the lifestyle. It’s a melting pot of surf culture, alternative philosophies, hedonistic indulgence, and the good life. Today is all yours to do with as you please and the activities are endless. Why not try skydiving for spectacular views, go scuba diving at Julian Rocks, jump in a sea kayak for a paddle and hopefully spot a dolphin, show off your new surf skills with another lesson or just chill out with a coffee on the beach! If you’re in the mood for an adventure, make sure you walk up to the lighthouse at Cape Byron for the best easterly views in Oz. Here it’s not uncommon to spot dolphins or whales cruising past so have your camera ready. Tonight is your chance to let your taste buds run wild. Head to that cosy restaurant you spotted today in town, or check with your Trip Leader for suggestions on Byron’s best eats.
Day 4:Gold Coast
An early start this morning as our short journey takes us inland via Murwillumbah and Springbrook National Park where we enter the sunshine state, Queensland. We will make a stop at the stunning"Natural Arch" an unusual geographical feature created over millions of years by water tumbling through the roof of a basalt cave. We then travel through the Numinbah Valley and Nerang, to the Gold Coast's entertainment hub and our home for the night, Surfers Paradise. With its great climate, famous surf beaches, extreme adventure activities* and well known Theme Parks*, this region is one of Australia's most popular holiday destinations and this afternoon it's yours to explore. The restaurants and nightlife here are pumping every night of the week and your champion Topdeck crew will take you on a short walk to Cavill and Orchid Avenues tonight where we'll enjoy some of the Gold Coast's hot spots!
Day 5:Fraser Island
Today we experience the Queensland capital of Brisbane in style with an included river cruise on the boutique M V Neptune. It’s the best way to get a feel for the city’s relaxed vibe whilst taking in the captivating views of the cityscape from the river. After wandering around the river city, it’s time to love-and-leave Brisbane as we head north on the Bruce Highway bound for Fraser Island. Crossing the Great Sandy Straight on the ferry, you may be lucky enough to catch the sunset before we arrive to a hearty dinner waiting for us at the infamous Dingo Bar. Be sure to fill up as we have an awesome day of exploring planned for tomorrow! Perfectly located at Kingfisher Bay, our Wilderness Lodge accommodation is set in a eucalypt forest, on the western side of the island.
Day 6:Fraser Island
Fraser Island - Great Sandy National Park is World Heritage Listed and the world’s largest sand island. It was home to the Badtjala Aboriginal people for some 5000 years and was known as"K’gari". This special place supports an extraordinarily diverse rainforest, wildflower heath, mangroves, birds and a now small population of dingoes. The island has dunes that reach 240 metres in height and about 40 dune lakes - unbelievably, half the total number of dune lakes in the world. The very best way to explore this vast national park is with an expert local guide on our included 4-wheel drive trip. As we travel along Seventy-Five Mile Beach get your camera finger ready for the iconic Pinnacles Coloured Sands and Maheno Shipwreck, learn about the rich logging history amongst the ancient rainforest at Central Station, and float your troubles away at the picturesque Eli Creek. You’ll even have an opportunity to try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding on the crystal clear waters of Lake McKenzie! The more you learn about Fraser Island, the more you’ll understand how truly a remarkable place it is. At the end of the day, you might like to join your crew for a bite to eat poolside at the always popular Sand Bar*.
Day 7:Kroombit Park
Today it’s time to venture from the beach to the bush as we head into Central Queensland for some real Outback hospitality. You’ll be welcomed by the local Sandilands family and into the tranquil bush lifestyle on their 10,000 acre cattle station. Think dusty plains, kangaroos, wide-open spaces - this is the Australia many dream of. In fact, this afternoon we even catch a glimpse of Kroombit Park’s famous"Goat Rodeo"! Feel free to take a swim in the pool before enjoying Kroombit's renowned camp oven cuisine, followed by steaming billy tea and an evening around the campfire. Before heading to your purpose built bush cabin for a well deserved rest, we dare you to don your Akubra and test your skills on the station’s Mechanical Bull!
Day 8:Emu Park
Greeted this morning with a campfire breakfast cook up (including the delicious'Cowboy Caviar'), you will be refreshed and ready to take on the day ahead. Horse riding, quad bike riding or trap shooting are just some of the activities you might want to try this morning before we say goodbye to the Sandilands’. From Kroombit Park, we cross into the tropics at the beef capital of Queensland - Rockhampton, or'Rocky' to the locals - before arriving at Emu Park. This casual coastal town is the perfect place to sit back and‘chillax’. Take a walk along the unspoilt beach, dip in the resort pool or join your crew for a game of beach cricket - one of Australia’s favourite sports! Tonight you’ll enjoy some local hospitality as we sit down together to enjoy a delicious combination of local beef and seafood.
Day 9:The Whitsundays
Who’s up for sailing the Whitsundays? Today we’ll do just that as we make our way to Airlie Beach. This buzzing party town is your gateway to the beautiful Whitsunday Passage and the 74 nearby tropical islands, and by far the best way to experience the islands is onboard our own private yacht! This will be our home for the night and the experienced sailing crew will provide us with a feast of freshly prepared meals along the way. You’ll be able to learn the basics of sailing by lending a hand with hoisting and trimming the sails and there is plenty of time for swimming and snorkelling the reefs at your leisure too. By night we’ll stargaze at the Milky Way without a worry in the world - it’s a tough life, but someone has to do it! If there’s a heaven on earth, this is it.
Day 10:Long Island
Wake up to pure paradise in one of the many sheltered coves that make up the Whitsundays. Today we’ll set sail for golden sandy beaches, snorkel over coral reefs and soak up the sun. A visit to the famous blinding white sands of Whitehaven Beach and Blue Pearl Bay will also be an option if the weather behaves - fingers crossed! If you’re a budding captain, you can even help set the sails and have a turn at the helm whilst further exploring the islands. Later this afternoon set course for land where we’ll spend the next two nights at the stunning Long Island Resort.
Day 11:Long Island
Today's itinerary: a free day to explore the island's unspoilt beaches and azure waters. Live the Island life and relax over an indulgent buffet breakfast as the day unfolds on this little slice of paradise. You will soon discover the many sides to Long Island, it's all yours to explore at your own pace. Be submersed in the endless array of activities this idyllic resort has on offer. You have access to hectares of unspoilt National Park featuring over 20 kilometres of walking trails and many secluded beaches to explore. You might choose to get the blood pumping with a Zumba class or if you're feeling adventurous, enjoy the numerous water sports on offer. Even challenge your trip leader to a game of mini golf or tennis, but be warned - they can get quite competitive! Of course, if a slower pace is more your thing you can always relax in a hammock in the shade of the coconut palms, feed the fish from the jetty, take a leisurely paddle in a kayak or simply watch the sunset by the pool bar, cocktail in hand.
You probably won't want to leave the Whitsundays but that's only until you realise colourful Cairns is our next destination. You'll notice a change of scenery on our travels today as we continue our way up the coast to the far north tropic region. We'll pass palm tree lined streets this afternoon as we make our way into Cairns, nestled between the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range. After checking in to our centrally located hotel we'll head out to enjoy a meal together - you're spoilt for dining choices here. After dinner the revelry is up to you - head to the famous Night Markets or soak up the local nightlife at one of the many bars and clubs!
Known as the adventure capital of Australia, today's the perfect opportunity to go wild with optional activities and day trips, from white water rafting on the Tully River to a full day tour of the World Heritage listed Daintree region. Why not get up close and personal with a cuddly Koala or even zip line over a Saltwater Crocodile! There's also horse riding, quad biking, bungy jumping, tandem skydiving, hot air ballooning - you name it, Cairns has it! A very popular option and a Topdeck favourite is of course a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef with our friends at Passions of Paradise. This is certainly an incredible, almost unbelievable day - one that we guarantee you'll remember forever. Setting sail for the outer reef onboard this multi award winning catamaran; we'll stop at two unique locations - Michaelmans Cay and the exclusive Paradise Reef. All snorkeling equipment is included and if you're keen to dive, optional introductory and certified scuba diving is available too. Michaelmans Cay National Park is a world-famous bird sanctuary featuring a beautiful sandy beach that provides the rare opportunity to snorkel and dive straight off the edge in calm, protected waters. Sea turtles are abundant here and you're likely to see giant trevally, small black tip reef sharks and bat fish among many other species. Paradise Reef is an exclusive mooring just for Passions of Paradise so there are no crowds as you snorkel the hard coral reef with depths of up to 25 metres. There's also a tasty buffet lunch included on this day trip, freshly prepared by our onboard chef and including prawns and fresh tropical fruit.
Your East Coast sector begins now as you meet up with some new travel mates all bound for Sydney! Renowned for its relaxed vibe and tropical climate, our home for the next two nights is the stylish city of Cairns. Enjoy the oceanfront energy of the Cairns Esplanade and perhaps even take a swim in the lagoon, or simply wander the many cafes, bars and shops this afternoon with your new travel companions. To celebrate the beginning of our amazing east coast trip together, we have arranged a group welcome dinner at one of Topdeck’s favourite Cairns restaurants.
Enjoy another free day in the tropical paradise of Cairns. With so much to do here - we promise you won't be bored!
Day 16:Alice Springs
This morning you will fly from the tropical surrounds of Cairns to the outback climate of Alice Springs (flight not included, Topdeck recommend Qanatas flight QF1949). After you have checked in for your overnight accommodation you have the rest of the day to explore this unique town.
Your Red Centre component begins with a visit to an outback camel farm before arriving at Yulara (the gateway resort to Uluru) for lunch. This afternoon you will marvel at the natural wonder that is Uluru (Ayres Rock) as we enjoy an informative walk around a section of its base. You will then get an insight to the local Aboriginal culture from your guide before watching in awe as the desert sunset, as if by magic, changes the colour of Uluru right before your eyes. With a glass of bubbles in hand and new mates to chat with– this is sure to make the best cover photo ever! After such a jam-packed first day on our NT travels it is time for a filling feast and maybe even a‘coldie’ at the local bar.
It's an early start today as we make our way back to the natural wonder and famous Australian Icon that is Ayres Rock to witness a magical Uluru sunrise - we challenge you to find a more stunning way to start the day! The morning allows time for a full base walk of the rock or perhaps the view from a Harley Ride or Scenic Flight is more your style. After we break for lunch back in the village, there's an opportunity to wander through the local Aboriginal Art markets. You may even choose to try your hand at a dot painting class to create that perfect take home souvenir. This afternoon take in a performance from the Cultural Dance group for an authentic insight into this important part of Aboriginal culture. Grab a bite to eat from a choice of menus on offer in the Resort. Out here in the Red Centre is the perfect place for a little star gazing! Once the night sky is upon us you can venture not too far from your room to experience the glory on offer peeping into the far outer layers of the Southern night sky. Crank your neck back and check out what is all on display right above your head, finding some famous star formations and you may even spot some of the nearby planets; some are visible with the naked eye.
Day 19:Kings Canyon
After a hearty breakfast, we spend a few hours back in the National Park this time bound for Kata-Tjuta (The Olgas). Here we explore the magnificent and very different features of this ancient geological formation on a hike through the“Valley of the Winds”. Take some time out with lunch before we make our journey across the dessert plains and into the Watarrka National Park, the home of the mighty Kings Canyon. Afterwards, an evening dinner under the stars and around the campfire with some special treats is the perfect way to end the day. Bed down tonight in a great Aussie Swag and drift off to sleep, and perhaps even spot a shooting star or that favourite constellation you found last night! Rest up, for the morning hike into the magic Kings Canyon is certainly worth the effort.
Day 20:Alice Springs
We start today by exploring the spectacular landscape that is Kings Canyon– this will certainly be a highlight of your central Australia adventure. The Rim Walk skirts the edge of the canyon, allowing you to peer over into the sandstone gorge below. Also we come across age-old cycads, a mini version of the Bungle Bungles of eroded dome shapes and an oasis as we reach the Garden of Eden, which has the all important shade, a permanent waterhole. Up some more stairs and across to the south edge, views taking in the breathtaking North Walls and the many sandstone colours are on offer. You will soon discover exactly why Kings Canyon is a favourite among Topdeck guides! We call back in to the Kings Creek Station for a lunch with a chance to grab some lunch (maybe even try a Camel Burger) before tracking our afternoon drive, returning to the central Australian metropolis of Alice Springs.
Day 21:Alice Springs
We slow down the pace today, it's your chance to regroup before we continue our adventure North through to the Top End. Enjoy the tranquil setting of this remote city, affectionately known as"Alice". There is heaps to check out, from the Royal Flying Doctor Museum to the Desert Park Gardens or perhaps you'd prefer to get up close and cuddly with the residents at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre - maybe catch up on emails, laze by the pool, or indulge in a spot of shopping for that special souvenir - it's entirely up to you! Refreshed from your free day, why not take the opportunity to meet the locals over a drink this evening at one of the infamous Alice bars?
Day 22:Alice Springs
Leaving Alice behind, we pass over the Tropic of Capricorn before arriving at the Barrow Creek Pub, home to a telegraph station, where you can catch a glimpse of what outback telecommunication used to be like - how did they live without Facebook! Some crazy outback places out here and we will stop off at a classic Aussie Roadhouse for a bite to eat before an afternoon stroll in a fascinating location. Precariously balanced on their rocky perch the Rainbow Serpent's eggs fossilised and became what Aborigines now call Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles), a site sacred to its traditional owners. These rocks of volcanic origin have eroded over thousands of years to the form the shapes they are today, some of the boulders are up to 7 meters in diameters. From here we are onto our welcoming hotel at Tennant Creek, where yet another great meal awaits.
No visit towards the Top End would be complete without a stop at the famed Daly Waters Pub, one of Australia’s best known Pubs. The classic construction of corrugated iron dates from 1934 and began as a service to Qantas customers on the nearby runway and terminal loved by travellers from around the globe. What a perfect place for that brilliant Pub lunch*– maybe even a swim in the pub’s pool. Mataranka lies in the heart of the Never-Never and you’ll feel a million miles from anywhere as you soak in the steamy thermal springs. As the day draws to a close, we reach our Oasis Hotel in the town of Katherine, home base for the next 2 nights.
Paddling on a river is without doubt one of the best environmentally low-impact activities, and it is so quiet and unobtrusive that you can often see wildlife that would otherwise flee. Katherine Gorge is well known as a superb canoeing spot, and that is exactly what we have lined up for you this morning. With its dramatic cliffs plunging down to the pandanus-lined Katherine River, the gorge is all yours to explore. Paddling not your game - then you may wish to upgrade to a 3 gorge cruise (seasonal) to venture even further. Pick up some lunch in town as we head to one of the NT's best picnic spots and swimming places, the magic Edith Falls. Take a short walk around the falls for some secret spots then follow up with a swim in the fresh sweet waters, a great place to clear out the red dirt from the Centre and gain our swimming legs ready for the Top End.
Our morning drive takes us into the World Heritage area of Kakadu National Park. A perfect place for a swim is Gunlom Falls– the world’s most picturesque natural infinity pools. We have a steep walk to the top of the waterfall, but it is all very well worth it, with sweeping views of the southern end of Kakadu you will enjoy a relaxing dip in the crystal clear waters. We will set up a picnic lunch to refuel us ready for our afternoon journey which takes us through the heart of Kakadu. Our afternoon drive allows us to check out the interesting info and facts on the local area as we visit the Bowali Visitor Centre or even a chance for a scenic flight* over the Escarpment which borders Kakadu and Arnhemland. From here we check into our accommodation and with its very tropical setting, our evening BBQ really highlights the way people live up here in the tropics. **Wet season itineraries Nov– May : will vary on this day with an exclusion of Gunlom Falls, replaced with other Kakadu sites (written in for Day 10) which are accessible in the Tropical wet season.
Aboriginal Rock Art sites are high on the list for today, as our Kakadu National Park exploring continues. This morning we venture to Nourlangie Rock, where you are sure to recognize some of the most famous Australian Indigenous art works. Then we head north to the border of the National Park and Arnhemland for our East Alligator River cruise. We actually are privileged to step into Arnhem Land for a look into the Aboriginal lifestyles and have the opportunity to practice our spear throwing. All the while keeping our eyes peeled on the water to see how many crocs we can spot. With our local Indigenous guide hosting our trip we delve into the culture, local mythology, the river's abundant food chain, and learn traditional uses for many of the plants and animals. Topdeck have gained special permission from the local custodians allowing us to disembark on the Arnhem Land side of the river for a walk into Arnhem Land. Enjoy the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in ancient Aboriginal culture during a display of traditional hunting and gathering techniques before heading downstream, this cruise will certainly ensure an intimate and personalised cultural experience.
Discover ancient Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr before you climb to the top of a rocky lookout for beautiful views over the Nardab floodplain, enjoying the sunset with the camera's working overtime! You'll be asleep in no time once we arrive back at our lodge.
**During the wet season - November through May - the itinerary will vary on this day with most of today's content visited on the day prior. Today the trip will journey out of Kakadu National Park towards Litchfield where we stay at Batchelor Motel (shared facilities) in Litchfield .
Our final day of adventuring the spectacular Northern Territory takes us to check out the waterfalls of Litchfield National Park with the option of a refreshing swim. Enjoy lunch before heading to the spectacular city of Darwin. We hope you have enjoyed the past 27 Days travelling with Topdeck and we look forward to seeing you on one of our great trips again soon.
If you are looking to travel further afield Down Under, Topdeck also have trips on offer throughout South Australia& Victoria, and then even across the Tasman in New Zealand!
**Wet season itineraries from November to May will vary on this day beginning from Batchelor Motel and spending more time in Litchfield National Park before venturing back into Darwin.