Validate my itinerary! Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland
May 1, 2016 7:02 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are flying from the US into Melbourne on the first of July and leaving two weeks later. The arrival and departure flights are booked, and now we're looking to lock down our travel schedule within Australia and between Australia and New Zealand. How ambitious is this itinerary?

What we know: We want to spend time in Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland. We're ok with flying between cities and are planning to rent cars in Melbourne and Auckland so that we can visit nearby destinations as well.

Current plan: 5 days in Melbourne, 2-3 days in Sydney, 5 days in and around Auckland (and then fly back to Melbourne for departure).

Key things we are hoping to do: Encounter animals we don't have at home, drink wines, find queer and/or lesbian establishments, see awesome nature, learn about the history and cultures of these places.

Our questions:
1. How ambitious is it to try to see these three different cities in fourteen days, as well as taking day trips from Melbourne and Auckland?
2. Given the interests outlined above, should we be reconsidering the balance of time spent in each place? Specifically, will we regret only spending 2-3 days in Sydney?

We've read a whole host of previous questions, and have been furiously dog-earing our Lonely Planet guide, but are always open to further activity recommendations (especially queer/lesbian recs!). However, what we're looking for here is validation on the feasibility of this schedule, before we go purchasing more flights and booking Airbnbs.
posted by treefort to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Mod note: Deleted the previously links - easier for people to look at the tags if they just want to see all previous Australia travel questions, and bare links tend to break mobile screens.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:27 PM on May 1, 2016

Best answer: Not too ambitious at all, sounds perfect or even generous. I don't think you'll miss out on anything much by being in Sydney for a shorter period, but you might want to do a bit more research on the places you want to go while you're there. IMHO Melbourne is a much more rewarding place to wander about and discover, and you'll never be short of food options, whereas good places in Sydney are harder to find unless you know what you're looking for. There is not much good or cheap food in the Rocks area, for instance, which is the touristy/historical part of the city, so you if you're heading there maybe plan to be somewhere else for lunch (ferry to Manly, train to Newtown, bus/walk to Surry Hills). This goes double if you have dietary restrictions and want to eat/drink well.

Don't miss the Coromandel if you're doing Auckland surrounds. For undergroundy queer/lesbian events while you're in Sydney, keep an eye on events at the Red Rattler, Heaps Gay and Unicorns.
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 7:39 PM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you need to budget in the Blue Mountains and a bush walk there- that would be a full day of your Sydney allocation. Melbourne's thing is culture, Sydney's is natural beauty. Weigh your allocations according to your greater interest. I'm more interested in natural beauty these days, but when I was younger would have wanted art bands coffee and booze in Melbourne.
posted by taff at 7:42 PM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you probably want at least 3 nights in Sydney:

Day 1: Fly into Sydney, wander the city, see the bridge and the opera house, evening out on the town.
Day 2: Day trip to blue mountains, hike a bit, eat scones, train back, crash in bed.
Day 3: Trip to the beach (Coogee womens' baths) and a hike along the cliff walk. Evening out on the town.
Day 4: Fly out.

I also have a pretty low tolerance for plane missing risk, especially expensive flights, so I would probably fly back to Melbourne a day earlier, or fly to Auckland or Sydney immediately and do Melbourne last (especially if you fly into Melbourne at six in the morning, as you won't be able to check into your hotel and have a much needed shower and power nap until 2pm). Something to consider.
posted by kjs4 at 8:48 PM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree with kjs4's itinerary except I would try and squeeze in a return ferry ride to Manly. I find everyone loves it. Maybe you could do that on day 1 in the afternoon and have dinner over that way.
posted by kitten magic at 9:10 PM on May 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with Taff that the Blue Mountains would be nice to add from Sydney. I think you want at least 3 days in Sydney and 4 wouldn't even hurt. I would personally stick to only 1 day in Auckland itself, and spend the rest of your time allocation there in the Coromandel, and/or Northland (Bay of Islands, esp). Maybe even a day trip to Rotorua if you can handle a long day of driving.
posted by lollusc at 9:56 PM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 5 days in Melbourne is a good run - you won't see everything but you'll get some great stuff, even if you only do the big touristy things like the penguins or the Great Ocean Road (Sydney? Natural beauty? pfah!)

For my part, because I'm deeply embedded in the arts and culture sector, I know there's loads to see in any given week - the National Gallery of Victoria's two locations, at Federation Square (NGVa, for Australian art) and St Kilda Road (NGVi, for international art), the Museum of Contemporary Art at Heide, and ACCA in Southbank are all free and great. Throw a brick and you'll find exciting theatre, dance and contemporary performance at fortyfivedownstaire, La Mama, Theatreworks, Red Stitch, Dancehouse, Arts House and other places (hit me up closer to your trip and I'll have a better handle on what's on and what's good). There's also a great queer bookshop on Johnson St in Fitzroy which will have the low-down on that whole scene. They have spoken word and other gigs there, too. There's a vibrant spoken word scene, in fact, and loads of stuff happening. Melbourne is a hub of international street art, too, and these guys do great tours of not just the famous/iconic locations but also hidden spots.

I'm sure I'll think of something else...
posted by prismatic7 at 11:38 PM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a result of not doing my research well, I spent a lot of time in Auckland when I was in NZ. By all accounts, Wellington is the cultural capital and much more interesting.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:52 PM on May 1, 2016

Best answer: Chiming in to say, in the nicest possible way, spend less time in Auckland.
More time in Sydney.
Even more time in Melbourne.

Have a great time! I know you will.
posted by stellathon at 1:32 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're interested in native animals, the Healesville Sanctuary 1h North of Melbourne CBD is your destination. There is a Platypus show, a bird show with native raptors and parrots, besides several bird enclosures, and the usual suspects: koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, dingos, you name it. There is a beautiful picnic spot nearby, on Beaver Creek (beats me why the name, but there you are).

Drive there in the early morning, have a late picnic lunch, and you can be back in Melbourne in time to see the Penguins if you want to do a twofer.
posted by kandinski at 3:41 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: If you're interested in native animals, the Healesville Sanctuary 1h North of Melbourne CBD is your destination.
Deinately, and come back via William Ricketts Sanctuary.
posted by Thella at 4:52 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: I would skip Auckland — it's nice, but the really beautiful parts of NZ are further out, and a short trip won't be very satisfying. I went for a long weekend when my dad was visiting us in Melbourne (from Canada) and I honestly wish we'd just spent an extra few days in Sydney and seen the Blue Mountains, or gone to Uluru (oh please please go to Uluru if you have a chance).

Around Melbourne you should go down to Philip Island for the penguins, drive down the Great Ocean Road as far as time will allow, maybe drive around the Yarra Valley for an afternoon trip. Melbourne is all about food and coffee and good booze, and you'll find great spots in pretty much any neighbourhood. Public transit here is great (yes! It is!) so you don't need to stay in the CBD ($$$) to get a good feel for the city. I'd look at staying in Fitzroy, Brunswick, Northcote, especially if you're looking for queer-friendly spots.
posted by third word on a random page at 7:07 PM on May 2, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you very much for this advice! We are looking forward to a very well-calibrated vacation.
posted by treefort at 9:22 PM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: If you head to Healesville Sanctuary it's worth having lunch at the White Rabbit brewery in Healesville & stopping off at Tarrawarra museum of art nearby also, one of the finest private collections of Australian modern art on display to public!

Also highly recommend a visit to the mornington peninsular hot springs 1.5hr drive down from Melbourne & visit to Arthur's seat lookout & red hill wineries (foxys hangout is pretty rad).
I think the Australian gallery in Sydney has a show on Frida Kahlo June-August!
The National gallery of Victoria (Melbourne) also does awesome Friday eve music gigs with local musicians curated by local musicians & they often have food trucks setup in the garden, Pimms bar etc, it's fantastic & worthbooking tickets to.
Abbottsford convent in collingwood (Melbourne) is also well worth a day visit, it has a great bar in the cloisters courtyard, animal farm & farm cafe & "lentil as anything" cafe with all you can eat, pay by donation, supporting disadvantaged groups etc.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:46 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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