Boardies & Boomerangs
This two-week itinerary winds its way up the country’s east coast reaching a swan song in the Northern Territories. Learn to surf at Bondi, follow cascades and rock pools in the Blue Mountains, sail the azure waters of the Whitsunday Islands, find real bush solitude on Hinchinbrook Island and hear the haunting songs of humpback whales at Mission Beach. Take the round-about route into Port Douglas, swinging inland through the Atherton Tablelands where Queensland is at its greenest. Dip into Millaa Millaa Falls, explore the dazzling array of colourful fish on the Great Barrier Reef and follow in the footsteps of the dinosaurs hiking in the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree. Finally head to the Top End, visit cascading waterfalls at Litchfield National Park or take a bushwalk with an Aboriginal guide in Kakadu. Along the way spot cassowaries, platypus, kookaburras and echidnas.
This is an unforgettable trip, encompassing over 3000 km and some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Time to pack your bag?
- Flights: International flights from UK to Sydney, returning from Darwin. Internal flights from Sydney to Proserpine and Cairns to Darwin.
- Transport: Car hire from airport pick-up to airport drop-off
- Accommodation: 14 nights in characterful hotels or apartments with an optional swag!
- Meals: Breakfasts where stated
- Trip Pack: Key family-friendly information about the country you are visiting with recommended activity links, places to eat and fun facts.
- The best of Sydney – beaches, parks, museums, clifftop walks and ferry rides
- Bushwalking in the Blue Mountains
- Offshore delights in the Whitsundays – silica white beaches and turquoise seas
- Lazy island life on Magnetic Island
- Mesmerising waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands
- Rainforests, reef & indigenous life in Far North Queensland
- Rock art, billabongs, bushwalking, gorges and waterfalls in the Northern Territories
- Enjoy wildlife encounters and many optional activities
- When can we go? All year round
- What type of tour is it? Self-drive & Optional Guided Excursions
- Who is it suitable for? For active families that enjoy beautiful beaches, water sports, island life, thunderous waterfalls, fascinating wildlife, great food & outback camping
- What is the minimum age? We would recommend a minimum age of 5 years due to the active nature of the trip. Please check the recommended activities as the minimum ages will differ.
We publish ‘guideline prices’ for both the high and low season to give a reasonable estimate of what you might expect to pay per person based on a family of four (two adults, two children). To get an accurate price based on your estimated departure date and party size please contact us directly.
Guide Price: Jan to Dec - £2,981pp
Arrive in Australia after your epic flight from the UK. Glossy waterside Sydney, which tumbles towards the Pacific in a series of characterful bays, suburbs and green spaces, is a place hopelessly in love with the great outdoors. This will be your home for the next three nights. Spend the first day enjoying the buzz of your new surroundings. Perhaps take a trip to the top of the Sydney Tower to get a bird eye view of the city then visit the Darling Quarter, a hip and lively area filled with restaurants, shops, and a myriad of other entertainment, including the Monkey Baa Theatre Company and Luminous, the largest interactive light exhibition in the world.
Fun Facts: The Sydney Tower was the tallest structure when it opened in 1981, and still is the second tallest freestanding structure in all of Australia at 1,001 feet. The Sydney Tower Stair Challenge happens each year if you ever fancied running up 1,504 steps
Optional Activities: Entertainment in Darling Harbour including theatre shows & light displays
Here is our suggestion for the perfect Sydney family day; take an early morning stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens (keeping an eye out for the fruit bats), visit the historic Rocks area and its eclectic market stalls, head to Circular Quay and take a ferry across to Manly, walk the Corso and hit the ocean promenade for lunch at The Pantry before taking a stroll around to pretty Shelly Beach. Afterwards, head back into the city, visit the excellent Australian Museum for a feast of natural history and anthropology before catching a bus to Bondi Beach. Have an hour’s surf lesson or swim in the Iceburgs pool before walking the gentle coastal path of tawny, weathered sandstone to Bronte. Indulge in some fresh seafood for dinner and if you have any energy left, head back into the city for a journey to the top of the colossal steel through arch bridge that has become a symbol of Australia – the Harbour Bridge. A pretty epic day all round!
Fun Facts: When the Harbour Bridge was inaugurated on 19 March 1932, the ceremonial ribbon cutting was supposed to be done by NSW Premier the Hon. John T. Lang. However, Capt. Francis de Groot of the New Guard paramilitary group beat him to it. Capt. de Groot cut the ribbon with his sword! (He was subsequently arrested, the ribbon tied back together, and the ceremonial cutting proceeded without further hitches).
Optional Activities: Australian Museum, learning to surf on Bondi Beach, Harbour Bridge Climb
Today we would recommend an hour’s drive out of the city to the eucalyptus forests of the Blue Mountains. On the way stop at the excellent Featherdale Wildlife Park for a hands-on native wildlife experience – yes, you can cuddle a koala or even have breakfast with one!
Carry on to Katoomba and enjoy some excellent bush walks. For families we would recommend the Charles Darwin walk following Jamison Creek's rock pools and cascades or the Prince Henry Cliff Walk for all the highlights of the Blue Mountains - Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, Echo Point, Honeymoon Point, Leura Cascades and Gordon Falls. Keep an eye out for the exquisite mimicking Lyre birds, and the cacophonous chiming bell birds. For slightly more adventurous souls you can ride the Katoomba Scenic Railway, a funicular that chugs down a former mining track at an exhilaratingly steep 52-degree angle or hire bikes and cycle the Catalina Park Raceway, a disused car racing track and the ultimate cycling circuit for kids.
Fun Facts: The Blue Mountains were named because of the blue colour they adopt when viewed from the distance. The blue tinge is caused by the dispersion of oils released by the eucalyptus trees. When these interact with light, dust and water vapour, it creates the famous blue hue.
Optional Activities: Featherdale Wildlife Park, Katoomba Scenic Railway, Mountain Biking
Transfer to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport for your flight up to Prosperine in Queensland. Pick up your car from the airport and transfer to Airlie Beach, your home for the next two nights and the departure point for the unparalleled Whitsunday Islands. Despite the addition of the sophisticated Port of Airlie marina, the heart of Airlie still beats to the rhythm of amateur sailors, taking to the turquoise seas and rainforest isles with bleary-eyed wonder. If you’ve ever had a nautical itch now is the time to scratch it.
Spend the rest of the day acclimatising to tropical Queensland. You could take the kids for a splash in the oceanfront Airlie Beach Lagoon or if you’ve had your fill of the big ocean blue, head for the greens of Conway National Park for some bushwalking. Short walks suitable for little legs include the 1.2km Circuit Track and the 2km return walk from Shute Harbour to Coral Beach, offering breath-taking views over the Molle Islands. Alternatively go croc-spotting on the calm waters of the Proserpine River whilst enjoying a Billy tea and damper (traditional refreshment for stockmen) or venture through the rainforest to swim at Cedar Creek Falls. The kids can spot lizards, birds, fish and turtles along the way.
The following day we would recommend a sailing trip out to The Whitsundays, an archipelago of 74 pristine green emeralds ringed by caster-sugar white sand dotting the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Among the most memorable sights in the Whitsundays is Whitehaven Beach, the quintessential Australian beach which borders a green jungle interior with silica white sand that curves alongside azure seawater. Take the short hike to the famed Hill Inlet lookout, revealing a panorama of swirling aqua seas against an intricate pattern of shifting white sands. Just one look will have you frantically filling out your permanent residency application! Back at sea level you can swim, snorkel and search for green turtles, dolphins and Manta rays. Between June and September you may be lucky enough to spot Humpback whales frolicking around the islands.
Fun Facts: In 2009, Tourism Queensland launched a campaign soliciting applications for what they billed as “the Best Job in the World” – caretaker of the Whitsunday Islands for six months. Benefits included accommodation in a multimillion-dollar mansion and an extravagant salary. Within two days of opening the competition, the website crashed under the weight of applications.
Optional Activities: Airlie Beach Lagoon, crocodile river cruise, Whitsundays boat or sailing tour
Today you have a 3.5 hour drive up the coast to Townsville. Along the way we would suggest stopping at Bowen, taking a selfie at the Big Mango (Australia has a nationwide BIG theme going on) and visiting pretty Horseshoe Bay.
After arriving in Townsville take the 20-minute ferry ride across to the verdant Magnetic Island. The island is 52 km² of relaxed tropical lifestyle, secluded beaches (23 in total), stunning walking trails, gum trees full of dozing koalas and surrounding bright turquoise seas. In land you will find granite boulders, hoop pines and eucalyptus. This will be your base for the next two nights. The island’s main hub, Horseshoe Bay, with its palm trees and gentle lapping waves, is a great spot to swim or just sip a drink while watching the sun disappear into the sea.
There are lots of activities to keep your family busy; a fun way to zip around the island is in one of the Mokes which can be hired, hike the Forts Walk which includes World War II forts and spectacular views, explore beautiful bays on a tranquil guided sea kayak tour or an exhilarating jet-ski tour, go horse-riding along the beach or play golf at the Country Club in Picnic Bay. If you are visiting during the summer months (December to February) you can see sea turtles nesting on the beaches. Magnetic Island has many excellent dive sites, including the shipwreck of the SS Yongala, one of the top five wreck dives in the world. You can also follow one of the fascinating Snorkel Trails at Nelly Bay and Geoffrey Bay.
There are also sporting events to keep you entertained, such as the annual Magnetic Island Swim, an eight kilometre open water swim from the island to Townsville. Every month Magnetic Island also hosts the Full Moon Down party where the young and young at heart, gather to dance on a beach until sunrise.
Fun Facts: Although Captain Cook never landed on Magnetic Island while sailing past on June 7th, 1770, it was the famous incident, recorded in his journal, where the ship's magnetic compass ‘would not travis well when near it’ that gave the island its name. He named it 'Magnetical Island or Headland' (he wasn't even sure which one it was).
Optional Activities: Hiring a moke/topless car, guided sea kayaking, horse riding, wreck scuba diving, snorkelling
You have an early morning start for your transfer back to the mainland. Today you have the option of taking a meandering drive up to Mission Beach perhaps calling at the Tyto Wetlands to spot 230 bird species or Wallaman Falls, Australia’s highest waterfall with a sheer drop of 305 metres or you can take an optional tour to Hinchinbrook Island, part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Hinchinbrook Island is famous for its hikes especially the Thorsborne Trail a “must-do walk before you die”. It is hard to overstate the beauty of this place, granite mountains rise dramatically from the shore and wildlife take refuge in the dense foliage. There is lush tropical vegetation, sheltered sandy coves and spaghetti tangles of mangrove. Dugongs swim in the waters around the island and there are brilliantly coloured butterflies at every turn. This is a place for solitude and journeys of discovery. We recommend taking a tour to Zoe Bay through the Hinchinbrook Channel where there are hiking trails from the beach and waterfalls and freshwater pools for taking a cooling dip.
On your return to the mainland make the short drive (55 mins) up to Mission Beach for your overnight stop.
Fun Facts: The area is called the Cassowary Coast and you’ve guessed it is a good place to spot a cassowary; a solitary, elusive, flightless big bird that roams the rainforest. During May to November, cassowaries put their solitary lives aside to come together to find a mate. Once the lady cassowary has found a mate and laid her eggs, she is quite literally out of there and daddy day care begins for the next 10 months.
Optional Activities: Hinchinbrook Island boat tour
You have the morning free to enjoy all the delights that Mission Beach has to offer. Go swimming and snorkelling or take a recommended chocolate plantation tour. Alternatively you could embark on a white water rafting trip on Australia most famous rafting river, the mighty Tully. Expect a mixture of sedate rafting and white knuckle adventure through World Heritage Rainforest with a hot drink thrown in for good measure.
In the afternoon it is time to drive the beautifully scenic Waterfalls Circuit in the Atherton Tablelands. You could spend a blissful few days visiting each of the 15 waterfalls on this route but for families we would recommend Millaa Millaa Falls (an incredibly photogenic, 18-metre waterfall with a secluded swimming hole that you may find yourselves sharing with platypuses) and Ellinjaa Falls (for tree ferns and lava columns). Other recommended stopping points include the Mandala Dairy Centre with its fabulous café and the Coffee Works in Mareeba.
End your day in Port Douglas which will be your base for the next three nights.
Fun Facts: The oldest animal up this way is not the Cassowary or Crocodile, it’s about 400-million years older and looks like a cross between a worm and a crab. Any ideas yet? It is of course the velvet worm, measuring 10cm (at best) with more than 500 million years to its species’ name.
Optional Activities: Chocolate plantation tour, white water rafting
Welcome to far North Queensland where tropical forests, mirror lakes, waterfalls, secluded swimming holes and outcrops pepper an area of mountain ranges and farmland. You can spend your time here relaxing by the pool or on Four Mile Beach but we would recommend getting out and exploring the magnificent surrounding scenery.
We would highly recommend visiting Daintree National Park, the only place on Earth where two World Heritage listed places, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, quite literally collide. See the jumping crocs on the Daintree River, follow a canopy boardwalk trail where giant blue quandong trees soar above you and strangler figs wrap themselves around impressive-girthed trees. Spot crocodiles in the creeks and cassowaries stalking the undergrowth. Zip line above the canopy if you are feeling adventurous. Take a short hike to the Cape Tribulation Lookout and wallow in the pristine splendour. Escape the crowds on a 4WD adventure up the Bloomfield Track taking a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Bloomfield Falls. On your way back call at the Daintree Ice Cream Company which makes desserts using exotic local fruits such as the black sapote and jackfruit.
One of the best ways to experience the Daintree is to join the Daintree Dreaming Tour, where you get to spend a day with a local Aboriginal family, members of the Kubirri Warri Clan. They’ll take you for nature walks in the forest, teach you about traditional hunting and gathering techniques and show you how to hunt for bush tucker food such as crabs, fish and mussels (usually with spears!).
We also highly recommend a boat trip out to The Great Barrier Reef. Witness a kaleidoscopic of marine life, from angelfish and anemones to giant clams and green turtles. You can choose to scuba dive, snorkel or view the corals from a glass-bottom boat. An on-board marine biologist will help you identify what you’re seeing. We guarantee this will be one of the highlights of your trip!
Port Douglas itself is a hip, laid-back, funky little resort town. Wander around the marina, enjoy cane toad racing or the Moonlight Cinema in the evening and the local craft markets during the day.
Fun Facts: The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on Earth and is visible from outer space! It is in fact the is size of 70 million football fields and is home to 6 species of turtles, 215 species of birds, 17 species of sea snakes and more than 1,500 species of fish!
Optional Activities: Daintree guided tour, boat tour to Great Barrier Reef, Aboriginal guided tour, zip lining
On Day 12 take a short flight from Cairns to Darwin in the Northern Territories. This will be your base for the final three nights of your trip. At the Top End you have the option of using Darwin as your base and taking a couple of day trips to Litchfield National Park and Katherine Gorge/Nitmiluk National Park or going on a 2 day camping trip to the awe-inspiring Kakadu National Park (April to September only at additional cost).
It is an easy drive on sealed roads to Litchfield National Park where you can swim in crystal-clear pools, see thunderous waterfalls and get up close to thousands of tall termite mounds in the tarzan-like landscapes. Picnic next to roosting fruit bats at Wangi Falls and see panoramic views at Tolmer Falls. You could also take an optional wildlife cruise on the Reynolds River, part of a working cattle station. The Katherine Gorge forms the backbone of Nitmiluk National Park and is a series of 13 deep sandstone gorges carved out by the Katherine River. It is a hauntingly beautiful place and we would highly recommend a river cruise to appreciate the sheer beauty.
Alternatively if you have ever had the urge to camp in your swag in the Australian outback then a guided overnight trip to Kakadu National Park would put a big, fat tick in that box! This national park is packed with a huge variety of ecosystems from savannah to mangroves to mudflats. You can cruise on billabongs teeming with wildlife, study 25,000-year-old rock paintings, swim in pools at the foot of tumbling waterfalls and hike through ancient sandstone escarpments. This is where Australia runs wild; roos bounce through the bushland, dingoes patrol the rocky outcrops, dugongs wallow off the coast and crocs patrol the rivers. In terms of sheer spectacles you don’t get much more ‘Australian’ than this. Kakadu National Park is also one of the best places to encounter indigenous culture through managed intercultural exchanges.
This time spent in the Northern Territories will be a fitting end to this unforgettable trip.
Fun Facts: Kakadu National Park contains some of the oldest rock art on the planet - dating back over 20,000 years! Aboriginal communities have also been living in Kakadu for over 50,000 years.
Optional Activities: Katherine River cruise, Kakadu guided camping trip
Head to Darwin Airport for your long flight back to the UK; the end of your fair dinkum Australian adventure.
Wandering Tribe has travelled to all of the destinations that we feature and we like nothing better than talking about them. If you would like further information about these tours or a tailor-made quote then please contact us on 07392 742333. Alternatively you can fill in the contact form and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.