Written by Kat Mackintosh
Oz is the land of colour: where the outdoors aren’t just Great, they’re Truly Tremendous, and the colours are vivid and primary. Australia’s outdoors are way too big to see in a year, and most people have only got a time budget of two weeks – with some time in Sydney, and maybe Perth or Melbourneat either end – but the big colour destinations of the Red of the Rock - Uluru, the Blue Great Barrier Reef and the Green of the Daintree are worth flying round the world for and not to be missed if you make it to Sydney.
This recommended trip taking in all three colourful natural wonders will take you on a photo perfect, sunkissed ten days at minimum, any less and you'll be missing out on something. Some operators say they can do it in less time, but what's another day when you've already travelled around the world to get here... Australia is criss-crossed by flight paths so you can start this trip from any major city.
The national anthem says this is a land of sweeping plains, which is a fair assessment of the view you get of the landscape flying into Alice Springs. You could drive, but only if you've got a spare week. You could get the train, the grand old Ghan to be more precise, but only if you're coming from Adelaide or Darwin, and then you can get to the Alice in two days. But most people are going to get their first view of the rock from above. Walk around it, and admire it from a distance, camp in its shadow, just don't miss a sunset: when the rock lights up so brightly, you'd think it had been spray painted with florescent orange paint. To really see the thing from all angles consider rounding off your red rock experience with a balloon flight over it.
Add to these plans a wander round town and some walking in the desert around 'The Alice' and you should easily fill three or four days.
From Alice Springs the quickest way into Queensland is again by plane to either Brisbane, Cairns or Townsville. Townsville is closest to the rainforest, and can be used as a centre to visit both the reef and the forest; Port Douglas, with its small, colourful market town and wealth inspired marina, is also in prime position for seeing both and has some of the nicest hotels in the region.
If you can afford it you can stay in the rainforest, at the Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa or actually in the canopy, in tree house accommodation.
People come to the Daintree to see an ancient and verdant environment, to wander paths beneath a wonderful tangle of canopy and to hear, and then see, some truly unique animal and plant life. If you have more time there are plenty of ways to get a bit deeper into the forest: by rafting Tully River, taking a day trip or longer if you like white water jungle adventures; alternatively, get more immersed in the rainforest's history by joining an indigenous guide or biologist on a botanical tour. You can also venture into the forest's less travelled areas on foot and stay out overnight under the stars – the Daintree reaches to the beach, and there's nothing like sleeping on sand under the stars listening to the night time sounds of the rainforest.
Many people add a trip to legendary hippy town Kuranda to their Daintree itinerary. You get there on an old steam train though the forest, and the town is known for herbal remedies, a big market and its native birds.
Including a day in Kuranda, most people would want to spend at least four days in the Daintree, but they can be broken up and included with time on the:
The Reef is one of Australia's best known natural wonders – and this is a country blessed with more than its fair share of natural wonders. Divers come from all over the world to explore some of the colourful dive sites, known for big fish (some are celebrities) and abundant gardens of coral. But you don't have to be a diver to actually get out on to the reef, snorkelling gives you just as easy access, especially if you take a boat out to some of the reef's atolls - Lizard Island is one of the best. Magnetic Island is one of a few atolls you can stay on – the range of accommodation on the reef's islands is limited, and tends to involve either camping or staying in a luxury resort, nothing in between – so it might be better to look into spending a couple of days exploring the reef by boat. In which case trips to famous Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef are worth considering.
Despite the reef's world heritage status there are fishing friendly pockets if you're that way inclined. But a lot of people come to the reef and spend all morning under that water and every afternoon on the beach.
If you have time at the end of your colourful adventure it's worth considering seeing a bit more of the country on your way back to Sydney or Melbourne by heading south on the Great South Pacific Express
A good place to start planning your tour is with Oxexposure, one of World Reviewer's Australian travel specialists.
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