Australia, the promised land for backpackers.
I was always dreaming of travelling in Australia too. Maybe the appeal is the combination of tropical weather, western culture and stories of other travelers. What stopped me many times was the idea that Australia is something you need loads of time for. That is true in some sense, but it is possible to explore certain elements in two weeks.
This Australia two week itinerary will be focused more towards people interested in Australian diverse nature and wildlife.
If I only had two weeks in Australia, what would I recommend?
That depends on the spesific interests. This itinerary is focused to a person that wants a peace of the diverse Australia with its varieties of nature; great barrier reef, rainforest and outback.
My suggestion of two week Australia itinerary is as it follows:
Cairns- Alice springs- Airlie beach, Whitsunday islands – Hervey Bay, Fraser island
Spend the first week in Cairns and in red center, Alice springs. Second weeks consist of trips to Whitsunday islands and Fraser island.
Please note that this itinerary includes many flights because of time limits. Australia is a huge country and seeing its diversity requires you to fly the longest distances.
Australia two week itinerary week 1:
Spend three days exploring great barrier reef and Daintree rainforest in Cairns and another three days in red center. One day is used for travelling. Book your Fraser island and Whitsundays trips from Cairns to save time.
Cairns is a good place to start or finish your journey because of its location. I decided to put Cairns first, because it is nice to start from somewhere that will give you the whole Aussie experience.
It’s a smaller backpacker focused town with rainforest access and snorkeling and diving possibilities at the great barrier reef.
Cairns is also a great access point to rainforest. It is possible to make one day trip to rainforest, or optionally stay there overnight for the full experience. Rainforest is the only place in the world to see a rare bird called Cassowary. Crocodiles are also present, and if you take a tour they tell interesting stories on how crocodiles can prey and study the people living in rainforest for months before attaking, learning your habits and so on. It is extremely interesting.
Whether you should start or finish in Cairns depends on the time of the year you are arriving to Australia. In the Australian winter time, it is a good idea to start from Cairns and work your way down as spring slowly arrives, because it might be too cold down from Byron Bay. On the other hand, if you start in Australian summer either way is fine.
Also it is a good idea to research jellyfish seasons and when the waters are safe to swim in around Cairns and try to time your trip when it is.
How to get there
If you decide to start from Cairns and head slowly down, chances are that you first fly to Melbourne/Sydney and have to fly up to Cairns. Flying is the best most reasonable option, because the distances are so huge.
There are also direct flights to Cairns so it is a good idea to check if its cheaper from your country to fly straight to Cairns instead of having two different flights.
Where to stay
If you are on a budget, almost only reasonably priced options are hostels or hotels with shared bathrooms. Do check also Air bnb if there are good options, especially if you are travelling in a group of 3-4 people. Also, hostels have dorm rooms with 3-4 beds so you could fill out one dorm room yourselves and have private room.
Cairns city itself is really small, so in my opinion location doesn’t really matter.
Also, if you are looking into hostels, there is one thing you should pay attention to:
I had one nasty experience with them in Paris. Woke up and was covered in them. Not pleasant. I panicked and threw away all clothes that was outside of my backpack because I didn’t wan’t them with me as a souvenir back to Finland.
Bedbugs leave nasty rash on your skin and lay eggs to your bags so you’ll spread them at the same time as you move forward.
Check the reviews and if there are a million comments warning about bed bugs, so I wouldn’t risk it. It is a good idea to always look for the comments about bed bugs and not choose ones that has a lot of warnings about them.
One comment won’t necessarily mean anything in Australian hostels, the owners often take care of it properly. But if there are multiple comments, maybe don’t choose that one.
I only choose hostels with ratings of 80% of above. Then I scroll trough the comments to see what people are actually saying and warnings about bed bugs.
A good hostel in Cairns is The Northern Greenhouse, I stayed there when I was in Cairns. The beds are ok comfy and each room has its own fridge, witch I really liked. The common area wi-fi wasn’t working in the rooms if I remember correctly, and you had to go get a new wi-fi password every day you use it. One night is about 25 AUD per night in shared rooms.
If you want your own private room, for example travelling with a partner, cheapest prices vary around 64 AUD for one room (Caravella backpackers offer this price for private room). Many hostels offer private rooms, which is nice in case you want to cook your own food.
There are some cheap hotels also, for example Cairns Queens Court looks nice and affordable with around 89 AUD for cheapest room per night. The price is with shared bathroom.
Cairns central YHA offers private rooms around 83 AUD per night. YHA’s are often very liked and recommended chains of hostels. They are usually well-kept and clean. These hostels have constant level of quality troughout its establishments.
So expect to pay around 25-45 AUD per person for one night.
What to do
Visiting Daintree rainforest
Staying overnight in the rainforest
Getting padi open water diving certificate
Visiting botanical gardens
Cairns city center public pool
Visiting local pubs and bars
Visiting Fitzroy island, remember to take snorkeling gear with you there
Great tropical road drive?
Alice springs is often referred as Red Center of Australia. Most famous sight in there is Uluru rock. When thinking about those guide book pictures of Australia with flaming red dessert, those are form that rock most often. When Australian Vogue took pictures of Nicole Kidman, it was in front of this magnificent rock. Must be on a list of the most famous rocks if that exists 😉
Alice Springs could be described as center of traditional Australian culture. Think about aboriginals, kangaroos and dingoes, didgeridoos and cave paintings. The first things that come to mind when thinking about Australia without knowing too much about it.
How to get there
From Cairns, most reasonable way of getting there is flying. If you only have two weeks, compare flying in 2,5 h versus driving about 27 hours.
The problem is that the flights might be really expensive. There and return might be around 600 AUD. Cheapest there and return tickets I found were 450 AUD. Virgin Australia flies direct flights on this route. So it is best to check prices well before going there and checking them for a while to see if there is any fluctuation and deside if this is worth visiting.
Where to stay
What I would do now if I was going there, would be something called Glamping. Is is glamorous camping in the outback. That would be unique memorable experience. This website has some options, prices start from around 140 AUD/per night
If that is too expensive for your liking, there are other options also. Plenty of budget options can be found from Alice Springs city itseld, varyng around 60- the sky is your limit AUD per night.
Hostels in Alice Springs start around 25 AUD per night in shared dorms.
What to do
See Uluru during sunrise/sunset
Visit Desert wildlife park
Trek to the rim of Kings Canyon
Visit national parks around Alice springs, here’s an article about them
Take arranged tour around nature parks to get incite
Australia two week itinerary week 2:
Australia two week itinerary week 2 is going to be a little more tight-scheduled that first week.
Spend two nights and three days exploring Whitsundays and leave as soon as you arrive back to Airlie beach city at day three towards Hervey bay. You’ll probably arrive in the next morning and again spend two nights and three days at Fraser island. Then again after you arrive from Fraser, make arrangements to go to city where your flights leave from. This part of the Australia two week itinerary is tight, but doable. I wouldn’t skip either of these trips, but if you feel that it is too much, do shorter trips.
Airlie beach is an entry point to most beautiful beaches and corals that anyone can even imagine at Whitsunday islands. Spend a couple of days sailing around the islands of Whitsundays while also snorkeling or diving.
How to get there
Trip from Cairns to Airlie beach is really long. By bus, it takes around 8 hours to get there. So it might be a good idea to have some place in between, for example Townsville if you have a little over two weeks.
Where to stay
Main attraction at Airlie Beach is Whitsunday islands, so you won’t be needing accommodation for a long time. Many hostels let you to leave your luggage there for the time being you are sailing Whitsundays.
What to do
Main attraction in Airlie beach is Whitsundays. The city itself is small and there is not a lot of things to do in there really.
Choosing right boat is critical. Many of the tour companies say something along the lines of “You have to book it right now or it will be filled out, now is busy season because of xxx”
and I found this to be BS.
I bought my Whitsundays trip already from Cairns, but then in Airlie Beach I noticed that the same boat was way cheaper there. It is a common sales tactic to create a sense of urgency. So take your time and compare different prices! It is crucial.
Also, think about what qualities you want from the ship. Do you want to dive? Some of them include one free dive.
How much of a party person are you? Some of the ships market themselves as being party ships and not mentioning much else.
Personally I would avoid that kind of ship like cancer. All the Whitsundays boat trips have parties on them, but there is more relaxed vibe. I personally don’t want to spend 500 AUD to just party and have a horrible hangover when I’m visiting one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Those two are main points alongside price. What other attributes you desire? These all increase the cost, so depending on your desired budget. Such as hot tubs, slides, sup boards, canoes… Those can be fun, but they add to the price.
Again, in the city of Hervey Bay, there’s nothing much. The main reason for visiting Hervey bay is Fraser island. It is absolutely gorgeous largest sand island in the world. The water is so crystal clear in lake Mckenzie that one would think it is not even possible. The island is also a habitat of large number of dingoes that can be spotted. Tall rainforest trees actually grow on the sand dunes.
How to get there.
Again, getting to Hervey Bay from Airlie Beach is simple, there is a direct bus route there. And the trip will be really long again, about 10 hours. It is common to take the night bus so any time won’t be wasted.
Where to stay
The main activity people come to Hervey Bay is one thing: Fraser Island. So probably, your accommodation is tied to your Fraser island trip or plans. Either you purchase it from one of the hostels, or do your own independent trip there with people.
In hostels you can meet up with people to try to arrange independent Fraser island tour because most of the people are going there anyway. Also, you could ask beforehand in Facebook groups to find travel companions to arrange self-tour there.
What to do
When choosing witch company to go with, there are a few main qualities you have to choose:
- Do you want to drive yourself of be in a car with someone else driving
- Or do you want to go with bus (popular especially with families and older people)
Other factor you need to decide is:
- Do you want to sleep in tent
- Do you want to sleep inside
All trips offer different combinations of these settings. One thing you should also pay attention to is whether it includes food or not. I was in a tour that didn’t and we were divided into groups where we purchased the food together.
Check out also Whale watching tours during the season.
- Purchase all your trips beforehand or from Cairns to save time
- It is easy to save some money to live in hostels and cook for yourself
- You don’t necessarily have to stay in dorm rooms when staying in hostels, there are private rooms
- Fraser island and Whitsundays trips cost somewhere around 300-500 AUD
- Bus ticket can also be purchased beforehand online, Greyhound is most common choice
- Buses are comfortable with air conditioning and large seats
- Also look into renting a car if buses are not your thing
- Everything is expensive in Australia so prepare a large enough budget; I would recommend about 2000 AUD for two weeks (!!) plus flights from your home country (Frasier 400 + Whitsundays 400 + flights to red center 400 + accommodation 400 + food 10 AUD a day=140, bus ticket about 345…)
- After Hervey bay, take a bus to Brisbane if you purchased the Greyhound buss that allows you to travel form Cairns to Brisbane and fly home from there if possible