Help me plan 5 weeks in Australia.
We've got plane tickets (but nothing else) booked for a 5 week trip (Sept 27-Nov 2), arriving and departing from Sydney. The first half of the trip (~20 days) will be my gf and myself; we're in our early 30s and hope to split our time between outdoor/nature/wilderness type activities, and hanging out in urban areas. Our current tentative itinerary looks like this:
Sept 27-30: Sydney (recover from the flight)
Oct 1-Oct 6: Cairns/Port Douglas (lots of scuba/snorkelling, rainforest, beaches, etc)
Oct 7-8: Uluru/Ayers Rock/The Olgas
Oct 9-14: Melbourne
Oct 15-17: Sydney
at that point, my gf leaves and my mom & sister (late 20s) join me. Things are a lot more tentative at that point:
Oct 18-20: Sydney
Oct 21-29: ??? Tasmania? Melbourne? Adelaide? New Zealand?
Oct 30-Nov 2: Sydney (fly out the morning of Nov 2)
Some notes on the above "plan":
- All dates and places are flexible, except for those involving arriving/leaving the country.
- I've been told Melbourne is probably less interesting to visitors than Sydney, but I do have some acquaintances there which will hopefully make it much more social.
- Based on what I've heard, inter-city travel is best done by air -- driving seems like it consume a lot more time than we'd be comfortable with on a trip of this length (we're already expecting to do some driving around major areas, e.g. the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, the Great Ocean Road out of Melbourne, etc).
- Mom & sis are OK with minimizing the need for me to travel back to places I've already been, as it seems like there are plenty of other places to go. We are open to separating for a few days (ie, they may go to Ayers Rock without me), but in general would prefer to remain together.
While I welcome any advice that's relevant to the trip, some specific recommendations I'm looking for are:
- Places to stay (neighbourhoods, lodgings) and eat. We're all foodies and would rather spend on food and experiences rather than an impressive hotel room, but private bath and AC are probably minimum requirements.
- Day hikes/bushwalks around major metro areas. We are probably not going to bring camping gear unless it's _really_ worth it, since that's a lot to travel with when it's not a big part of the trip.
- Tips on domestic inter-city travel (good/bad airlines, rail, car rentals, facilities, etc)
- Cool things to see/do that probably aren't found in guidebooks (I've got a handful and will doubtless be consulting them frequently).
- Diving related recommendations, focusing on the area around Cairns, but not ruling out other parts of the GBR. My gf & I are both PADI OW-certified, but very much novice divers; considering a live-aboard for a few days, but are a bit concerned it will be too intense/take up too much of that segment of the trip.
- Help with fleshing out the Oct 21-29 period.