Earlier this year the Northern Territory of Australia, in conjunction with the amazing National Geographic travel writer Andrew Evans, hosted a contest asking people to name the reason why the Northern Territory is the place they would most like to visit in Australia. Entries were accepted via Twitter and in February they announced the winner – me.
I was of course thrilled to have won and I can’t believe that next week we leave to begin our exploration. Since Australia is freakishly far away, we decided to extend the trip and will also explore Sydney and Melbourne in addition to the Northern Territory.
I will be sharing the experiences with everyone through Twitter, Facebook and of course LandLopers.com as access to wi-fi allows. While we’re in the Northern Territory, I’ll be using the hash tag #ExploreNT so please keep an eye out for it and follow along as we climb into that camper van and experience the best the Red Centre has to offer.
Here is the itinerary for my exploration of the land Down Under. It’s a good mix of adventure and urban escapes, all of which will provide amazing experiences that I can’t wait to share with you all. As always, I hope you’ll follow along as I explore everything that makes Australia a fantastic vacation destination.
Day 1 – Sydney
We arrive early in the day but won’t waste any time resting. In the morning we’ll explore Sydney on foot visiting the historic Rocks area, the Foreshore Walk and the Museum of Sydney. Then in the afternoon it’s time to see Sydney from the water when we board the Captain Cook cruise of the bay featuring the famous Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Day 2 – Sydney
Our second day begins with an iconic Sydney activity, the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. I’m looking forward to this experience not just for the amazing views, but to face my fear of heights. If climbing a 440 foot bridge doesn’t get rid of my fear, nothing will. I’ll either do really well, or roll up into a ball on the walk itself. I’m hoping for the former. If we survive the bridge climb, we’ll finish our Sydney experience with a visit to the Aquarium and a ghost tour of The Rocks in the evening.
Day 3 – Alice Springs and the Outback
This is when the real adventure starts. When we arrive in Alice Springs we will pick up our Britz campervan and begin five days of driving and exploration. After spending some time in and around Alice, we’ll make the 130 kilometer drive to Glen Helen, the first stop in the Outback.
Day 4 – Kings Canyon
Assuming nothing incredibly poisonous bites us in our sleep while camping in Glen Helen, we’ll continue our driving adventure to Kings Canyon, one of the great natural treasures of Australia. While I’m sure camping will be fine, we’re hotel people and I’m really looking forward to our stay at the Kings Canyon Resort. While in the area, we’ll explore the area on camel and then on foot as we complete the Kings Canyon rim walk the following morning.
Day 5 – Uluru
While I’m sure King’s Canyon and Glen Helen will be nice, the real star of the Red Centre is of course Uluru or Ayer’s Rock. It’s a long drive from Kings Canyon and I’m hoping to find some quirky rest stops along the way. We’ll be there in time to enjoy a sunset dinner in sight of the great rock itself before bedding down at the Desert Gardens Hotel, part of the Ayers Rock Resort.
Day 6 – Uluru
This day is all about Uluru, from watching the sun rise over the massive rock to a helicopter ride and a Anangu Tour led by the true caretakers of Uluru. By the end of the day, we will have seen Ayers Rock in every possible light and in every possible way. Uluru is a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature Competition and I can’t wait to see for myself why it is almost certainly worthy of this praise.
Day 7 – Uluru – Melbourne
This will be one of the longest days of the trip. We’ll start early, driving the 445 kilometers from Uluru to Alice Springs before boarding an afternoon flight to Melbourne. On the way to Alice, we’re going to stop by Jim Cotterill’s place to meet Dinky, his famous Dingo. Later that day we will check in to the gorgeous InterContinental Melbourne before setting out for a legendary Melbourne meal.
Day 8 – Melbourne
The eighth day will be entirely focused on Melbourne. We start things off with a city tour, exploring some of the hidden laneways and arcades of the metropolis before setting off to explore on our own. Parliament House, Flinders Street Station, Princes Bridge and Federation Square are all on our list.
Day 9 – Healesville Sanctuary and Phillip Island
While there’s plenty to do in Melbourne, there’s still a lot to explore in Victoria itself. Since we’re huge animals lovers, this will be our animal experience day. We’ll start with a visit to Healesville Sanctuary, just an hour’s drive from Melbourne. While at the Sanctuary we’ll tour the animal exhibits, see the amazing work they’re doing at the Wildlife Hospital and even get to participate in an animal experience and pet a kangaroo. I can’t wait. In the afternoon we will drive south to Phillip Island, a popular day trip from Melbourne. On Phillip we will experience the Churchill Island Heritage Farm, the Koala Conservation Centre and the famous Penguin Parade. Every night, the island’s penguin population returns to shore at dusk, giving onlookers a great show as they parade home.
Day 10 – Melbourne
Our last full day in Australia will be spent touring Melbourne and getting to know the city a little better. The State Library, Old Melbourne Gaol, National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre, Royal Botanic Gardens and the MCG and National Sports Museum are all on our agenda. That evening we will change out of our dusty clothes and enjoy a quiet dinner at one of Melbourne’s many fine restaurants.
Day 11 – Washington DC
Sadly we leave for Sydney in the morning before catching an afternoon flight to LAX and eventually home to Washington, DC.
I hope you’ll follow along as I visit Australia and please let me know if there’s anything you want to know about or think I should do!