Australia is such a beautiful but vast continent where you can see incredible things. The distances are huge to drive so choosing the right itinerary is important to have an enjoyable time. In this short Australia itinerary 2 weeks is what you have and you must be well organised to see all important places.
We have travelled around Australia and spent a lot of time in the outback and national parks. Based on this experience we hope this knowledge can be helpful to organise your dream holiday in Australia.
In this itinerary, you find two major Australian cities, Uluru, Cairns attractions and the Great Barrier Reef. We recommend arriving/departure from Melbourne or Sydney as from these cities you get many flight options to suit your calendar.
Day 0 – Arrive to Melbourne
If you arrive from the USA or Europe consider a big-time difference that can affect your sleep. You can be very tired before your body adjusts to a new time zone. We use melatonin pills to minimize jet lag after the flight.
We recommend being in Melbourne in the morning so you have the full day and night to get rest and prepare for your 2 weeks in Australia itinerary.
For such a short time book your accommodation in the city centre so you don’t need a car to find most of the places. Remember – you can always take Uber in Australia to move between tourist locations.
Day 1 – Discover Melbourne
|Day 1 Highlights||Time|
One day in Melbourne is not much so we listed the best attractions with an approximate visit time so you can plan your full day. Choose from the selection below.
Start a day with the best coffee in the world
Everybody knows that in Australia you can get the best coffee in the world. Don’t waste your time and start your day with a caffeine kick before heading to Melbourne attractions.
Visit Federation Square – 1 hour
Federation Square is home to many world-class events and is the cultural hub in Melbourne where everybody meets. It is located in the heart of Melbourne opposite the historic Flinders Station and Swanston Street.
Admire Melbourne Street Art – 1 hour
Discover many renowned art scenes painted in the city’s laneways. The art is changing often to every time to visit Melbourne you see something new.
Melbourne Skydeck – 1 hour
It takes only 38 seconds to be on the roof of Melbourne in the Melbourne Skydeck. It is the third tallest building in Australia where you can admire stunning views of Melbourne.
Queen Victoria Markets – 2 hours
Queen Victoria Markets are the historic landmark of Melbourne. It is a vibrant and busy place with more than 600 small businesses where you can buy everything from fruits and vegetables, local and imported foods to clothing and souvenirs.
Old Melbourne Gaol – 2 hours
Old Melbourne Gaol is a former jail and current museum on Russell Street. The three-storey building displays information about the prisoners and staff of the past. One of the famous things to see is the death masks of the executed criminals.
At one time, the museum had Ned Kelly’s skull on display but it was stolen in 1978.
Crown Casino – 3 hours
Crown Casino is not only for gamblers. It is a huge complex full of hotels, restaurants, entertainment and of course casino. It is one of the most iconic places worth visiting or having dinner at their alfresco restaurants.
Take a River Cruise – 2 hours
Why not book yourself for a morning or sunset tour. You can admire Melbourne from Yarra River while you eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is one of the best ways to see Melbourne city without too much walking.
Royal Botanic Gardens and Art Gallery – 1 to 3 hours
Located in walking distance to Federation Square the Botanic Gardens and Art Gallery are two you would not like to miss.
Day 2 – Great Ocean Road – 12 hours
|Day 2 Highlights||Time|
|Great Ocean Road drive||Start early from Melbourne|
|Stop and enjoy the scenery||All-day|
What can you expect driving the Great Ocean Road? It is a famous road that goes along the Southern Ocean coast where you can admire seaside cliffs, empty beaches and soaring bluffs that are next to brilliant green countryside.
Your destination is the Twelve Apostles – the standalone, 10 to 20 million old limestone rocks hammered on the beach and swept by waves every minute.
Stand on Teddy’s lookout and see the craggy cliffs that tower above the ocean.
The Twelve Apostles are located 220 km from Melbourne, so make sure to start the trip early in the morning (6 am). Plan it yourself by hiring a car or if you want to be stressed free book the trip with one of the Great Ocean Road tour providers.
Day 3 – Phillip Island – 8 hours
|Day 3 Highlights||Time|
|Penguin Parade in Philip Island||Start early from Melbourne|
What is so magnificent about Phillip Island? If you did not have a chance to see penguins in your life, Phillip Island is your opportunity. Located 140 km from the heart of Melbourne, the island can be accessed by a long bridge with stunning views to Western Port Bay and the Bass Strait.
Once you arrive wait for the sunset and go for the penguin parade watch tour. The penguins return to their burrows on every sunset and can be spotted in big numbers.
When you return to Melbourne, pay a visit to Crown Casino or spend the evening on a boat cruise on the Yarra River.
Day 4 – Alice Springs – the capital of the Red Centre
|Day 4 Highlights||Time|
|Take an early flight from Melbourne to Alice Springs||Early Morning|
|Alice Springs sightseeing||Rest of the day|
After three busy days in Melbourne, there is no time to waste – you are going to the Red Centre. Take an early flight to Alice Springs so you have the rest of your day for sightseeing.
Alice Spring is the capital of the Red Centre and offers a lot by itself. If you have time, visit some of the places we listed below and you won’t regret it.
Anzac Hill – 1 hour
It is the most visited Alice Springs landmark as it is an ideal spot to see the town from the top. The lookout offers panoramic views of Alice Springs, but also you can see the Western and Easter MacDowell ranges on the horizon.
Alice Springs Reptile Centre – 2 hours
Located in the centre it is a place where you can learn about all Northern Territory reptiles including saltwater crocodiles, goannas, thorny devils, frill-necked lizards or any other. Kids love it as they can touch the animals.
The Ghan – see if you are lucky
If you are lucky you may see the iconic Ghan. The Ghan train is one of the greatest rail journeys that you can take from Adelaide to Darwin. The train stops on the way and if you feel adventurous you can go on some off-train adventure through the Australian outback.
Alice Springs Desert Park – 4 hours
The Desert Park is home to a variety of Australian native animals including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas, snakes and birds. Enjoy the Free Flying Bird Show – one of the best bird shows we have seen in Australia.
Telegraph Station – 1 hour
Telegraph Station Historical Reserve is the birthplace of Alice Springs township. The site has many well-preserved buildings with on-site displays where you can learn more about the life of the first settlement in Alice Springs.
The place was established in 1871 to relay messages between Adelaide and Darwin.
Western and Easter MacDowells
We listed the Western and Eastern MacDowells ranges here as a sneak peek of what you can do the next time you visit Australia for a longer period of time.
It is possible to attend some of the walks within one day but to fully admire the place you need more time. The key highlights are the Standley Chasm, Redbank Gorge, Ormiston Gorge or Serpentine Gorge.
If you feel adventurous you can go for a 220 km long Larapinta Trail hike through the West MacDonnell Ranges – something to plan for the future.
Day 5 – Uluru and Field of Light
|Day 5 Highlights||Time|
|Alice Springs to Uluru||4.5 hours drive, arrive at noon|
|Walk around Uluru||Rest of the day|
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock is the large sandstone formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory. It is a sacred rock to Aboriginal people with springs, waterholes, rock caves, and art-rock. It is a UNESCO listed World Heritage site.
Make sure to go for an 11 km walk around Uluru to fully admire this ancient rock.
In the evening, book your spot for the Field of Light and enjoy a spectacular exhibition of the 50000 glass spheres that come to light along with the darkness.
Stay in the famous Ayers Rock Resort and the next day you are ready to visit Kata Tjuta.
Day 6 – Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon
|Day 6 Highlights||Time|
|Kata Tjuta||Start early – 7 am, leave Kata Tjuta at 9 am|
|Kings Canyon||Start not later than 2 pm, the walk takes 3 to 4 hours|
|Drive to Alice Springs||Arrive in the evening and catch an early flight to Cairns.|
If you hired a car, you should be able to complete both Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon but you have to start very early in the morning. Alternatively, you can focus only on one attraction.
Kata Tjuta or Olgas is a group of large, domed rock formations located only 56 km from Uluru. The best time to visit Kata Tjuta is at sunrise or sunset when the rock colours turn red. There are a few walks around the place, but note that some of them are closed if the air temperature is greater than 36 degrees.
Kings Canyon is located 350 km from Kata Tjuta and you should be able to finish your drive within 4 hours.
This 6 km walk is spectacular. To this day we think it was one of the best walks we did in Australia. It starts from a steep incline over 500 steps, but later on, it goes mostly on the top of the gorge with some boardwalks or bridges. The hike can be completed within 3 to 4 hours. Make sure you bring enough water with you.
Once you finish the walk, it will be late afternoon, so drive back 330 km to Alice Springs as tomorrow morning you are catching a flight to Cairns.
Day 7 – Cairns attractions
|Day 7 Highlights||Time|
|Flight from Alice Springs to Cairns – book in advance to secure only 1 stopover||depart Alice Springs 5 am – be in Cairns in afternoon/evening|
|Sydney sightseeing||afternoon and evening|
Note that you may not find direct flights from Alice Springs to Cairns so try to book it early to not waste too much time for stopovers.
Firstly in Cairns, it is a time to take a breather. Have you noticed that today is your first week in Australia?
The day before was a very busy one, so when you arrive in Cairns, take your time. Check in to your hotel, have a swim in the pool and later in the day visit the Cairns Lagoon. Grab a seafood dinner in one of the nearby restaurants. There is plenty to choose from.
Grab a good sleep after, as you won’t be bored the next three days. Cairns as the area offers so many attractions that you could plan 2 weeks here. We recommended the most iconic ones.
Day 8 – Kuranda Scenic Railway and Sky Rail
|Day 8 Highlights||Time|
|Kuranda Scenic Railway||Morning|
Today, you will be soaked in the oldest living tropical rainforest.
Your destination is Kuranda – a picturesque mountain village that offers a lot by itself like Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld Kuranda or Kuranda Koala Gardens.
There are many ways to get there but the best one is to book a place on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The train takes you from Cairns for a 25 km journey through the rainforest. On the way, you can hop in and out to see the spectacular view of Barron Falls.
Spend enough time in Kuranda. Visit the local markets where you can buy local souvenirs. When you are ready to come back hop in on the Sky Rail and enjoy the spectacular views of Cairns.
Day 9 – Daintree Rainforst and Cape Tribulation
|Day 9 Highlights||Time|
|Daintree Discovery Centre||Morning|
|Cape Tribulation||Early afternoon|
|Diner in Port Douglas||Evening|
Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation are a must when visiting Cairns.
Your destination is Daintree Discovery Centre. To get there, you have to pass the Daintree River on a car ferry, but this is another attraction to your list.
Northern Australia rivers and estuaries are infested with saltwater crocodiles, so never swim or stay close to the bank.
Daintree Rainforest is where you learn about the World Heritage tropical rainforest, its flora and fauna. If you go for one of the walks in the centre or around Cape Tribulation there is a good chance you can spot an ancient bird – cassowary.
On the way out, grab a good coffee or a snack in the on-site cafe. Drive further north 25 km to see the beautiful Cape Tribulation beach. Right there, you can go for a few boardwalks in the rainforest and later rest in the small cafe located at the entrance to the beach.
On the way back, eat dinner in Port Douglas. Book yourself a plate in Salsa or Rattle & Hum restaurant (our favourites),
Day 10 – Great Barrier Reef
|Day 10 Highlights||Time|
|Tour to Great Barrier Reef and snorkelling||all-day|
Your visit to Australia could not be without your chance to see the biggest coral reef in the world and try snorkelling. There are many options you can choose from including full-day tours or private reef charters.
It takes only 40 minutes to one and a half hours to reach the reef as the boats are super fast.
Day 11 – Sydney Harbour and Sydney Opera
|Day 11 Highlights||Time|
|Flight from Cairns to Sydney – 3 hour|
|depart Cairns 7 am – be in Sydney at noon|
|Sydney sightseeing||afternoon and evening|
After your exciting tour to the Great Barrier Reef, grab an early flight from Cairns to Sydney as more attractions are coming on our list.
You should be in Sydney before lunchtime, so after you check in to your hotel, pack your daily backpack and start sightseeing in this modern and beautiful city.
Book your hotel at the Rocks to have a walking distance to Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera.
There are many ways to enjoy Sydney. If you stay on the Rocks, first walk your way to the Harbour Bridge and enjoy the sweeping views of Sydney Harbour. You can actually book yourself for a climbing tour as well.
Then, head to the famous Circular Way where you can find many shops, gardens, museums and restaurants. Don’t rush – this place deserve a moment. It is a perfect place to stay for lunch or dinner.
In the late afternoon, go to the iconic Sydney Opera and after visit the Royal Botanic Garden. It will be plenty for the day.
Day 12 – Sightseeing cruise and Sydney Tower Eye
|Day 12 Highlights||Time|
|Sydney sightseeing cruise||Morning to early afternoon|
|SkyFeast in Sydney Tower Eye||Late afternoon|
The next day, start by hopping on the sightseeing cruise in Sydney Harbour. This is one of the best ways to explore Sydney. The cruise will take you through some most scenic places in Sydney. On the way, learn all the interesting facts about the places you go by.
Going around and seeing all the places would take you the whole day, but make sure to reward yourself with a SkyFeast on the Sydney Tower Eye. You have to book ahead but there is something you remember for life.
Day 13 – Trip to Blue Mountain
|Day 13 Highlights||Time|
|Blue Mountain trip||all-day|
Today it is time to see the famous Blue Mountain. You can hire a car or campervan or book yourself for a daily tour. The things to see are native Australian animals at Feahterdale Wildlife Park, Three Sisters at Echo Park and Scenic World.
Day 14 – Wildlife Sydney Zoo or Aquarium
|Day 14 Highlights||Time|
|Wildlife Sydney Zoo||Morning|
The time goes fast. Your last day in Australia will be around animals. After all, you desire a bit of break after two weeks of flying, driving, walking and snorkelling.
Wildlife Sydney Zoo and Sydney Aquarium are located close to each other, so you won’t waste time walking around.
Sydney Aquarium is where you learn about the magical underwater world: sharks, rays or even dugongs. Make sure to prebook it so you won’t miss out.
Australia Itinerary 2 weeks – Summary
Fourteen days is a short time span to see everything in Australia. It is a huge country with big driving distances. There are many more places to visit like Kimberley, Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay in Western Australia, Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks in Northern Territory, South Australia and all east coast attractions in New South Wales and Queensland.
But if you are short of time, two weeks is enough to see the most iconic places in Australia to bear in your mind forever.