How to maximise your days when you've got limited time in this oversized country...
Australia is a long way from just about everywhere. So it's understandable that most visitors try to squeeze in as much of the country as possible. A quick look at a map, however, will reveal that distances are vast and you'll be hard-pressed to fit it all in.
With close to two decades of experience pruning the expectations of visiting friends and relatives, author Dominick Reyntiens offers five tips on travelling around Australia when your time is at a premium.
Surfers Paradise (Shutterstock)
I'm not denigrating Aussie cities – they are fantastic places with style and great Aussie character. But they are cities and, as well you know, you can find cities all over the world. So whether you pick Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, allow three days max, including your jet-lag recovery time.
For Sydney; Circular Quay, a ferry ride to Rose bay and lunch. Do of course walk the botanical gardens; okay, see Bondi if you must, but then outta there! Melbourne, give that two days and Brisbane, one day.
Map of east coast of Australia (Shutterstock)
Sydney to Byron is a solid 10-hour drive and Cairns another 20 hours. There is little of any note en-route. What about the Hunter Valley? Yes, but your time is a premium, Hunter Valley will slow you down, and it’s a good three days on your tight schedule.
It is much better to do the big jumps by plane and hire cars where you land. A flight from Sydney to Byron is little over an hour and not expensive. Melbourne to Byron is 3 hours and not expensive either. But, you want to drive and experience the big wide countryside of Australia, I hear you cry. Okay, chill, that comes in tip 3.
Girraween National Park (Shutterstock)
Would you like to go home and tell your smug 'already visited Oz' friends that you went to the most awesome place to which no foreign tourists go? Bald Rock and Girraween National Park are on the Great Dividing Range, inland five hours from Byron and three hours from Brisbane.
This is granite boulder country with rocks the size of houses lying around like crashed spaceships. Others, equally large, lie precariously balanced across each other; as if nature were trying to prove a point to the builders of Stonehenge.
The Bald Rock itself, is the biggest rock in Australia other than Uluru. It is stunning walking country and total digital camera heaven, especially in the winter months, around the rocks, through the woods and among the festoons of wild orchids.
Camping is available, but there is also plenty of farm-stay and B&B. There are also wineries and good country restaurants, it is a unique place to spend at least three days; feast and exercise what could be better.
Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef (Shutterstock)
Again, I am not denigrating dive courses; this is a time thing. You want to see the Great Barrier Reef in all its glory; you think that involves an aqualung and that means a dive course. Please bear with me. Often a beginners course is three days of training for the standard 30-meter dive including all the safety routines. Fact, after thirty meters there is no reef!
The reef is a shallow phenomenon and you will have an equally stunning experience with just snorkel and flippers, so save your precious time for swimming.
Surfing in Australia (Shutterstock)
Sounds obvious, but you have know idea how many people spend the last three days of their trip high tailing it back to where the began to catch their plane, wasting yet more precious holiday in a car and motel.
Remember Australia planned is the most awesome three week or four week holiday. Australia for three weeks, unplanned and winging it; Well, its like sitting down to eat at the best restaurant, when you have to catch a train in 25 minutes, why would you do it?
Main image: Eastern Grey Kangaroo on the beach near Mackay (Shutterstock.com)