14 days in Great Barrier Reef, Sydney & Brisbane Itinerary

14 days in Great Barrier Reef, Sydney & Brisbane Itinerary

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Route & dates

14 days in Great Barrier Reef, Sydney & Brisbane Itinerary

Start: Newark
Fly:  33​h
1
Cooktown
— 1 day
Drive:  2​h 30​min
2
Mossman
— 1 night
Drive:  1​h 45​min
3
Cairns
— 2 nights
Fly:  3​h 15​min
4
Townsville
— 1 night
ferry:  30​min
5
Magnetic Island
— 1 night
ferry + Drive:  4​h 30​min
6
Airlie Beach
— 1 night
ferry:  1​h 15​min
7
Whitsunday Island
— 1 night
Fly:  4​h 15​min
8
Sydney
— 1 night
Fly:  3​h 45​min
9
Brisbane
— 2 nights
Fly:  23​h
End: Newark

1
day
Cooktown

Cooktown ©
Cooktown is a small town and locality in the Shire of Cook, Queensland, Australia. Kick off your visit on the 23rd (Sun): take in the dramatic scenery at Trevethan Falls, identify plant and animal life at Great Northern Tours, then enjoy the sand and surf at Finch Bay, then visit a coastal fixture at Grassy Hill, and finally admire all the interesting features of Cooktown War Memorial.

To find reviews, maps, ratings, and tourist information, use the Cooktown trip itinerary site .

Newark, USA to Cooktown is an approximately 33-hour flight. The time zone difference when traveling from Newark to Cooktown is 15 hours. Finish your sightseeing early on the 23rd (Sun) so you can travel to Mossman.

Things to do in Cooktown

Parks Wildlife Historic Sites
Find places to stay Dec 23 — 24:
Highlights from your plan
Finch Bay ©
Finch Bay
Grassy Hill ©
Grassy Hill
Great Northern Tours ©
Great Northern Tours

1
night
Mossman

Mossman ©
Mossman is a town and a locality in Far North Queensland, Australia, on the Mossman River. Start off your visit on the 24th (Mon): take in the exciting artwork at Janbal Gallery, then kick back and relax at Wonga Beach, and then identify plant and animal life at Mossman Gorge.

For more things to do, traveler tips, photos, and other tourist information, read our Mossman journey planner.

You can drive from Cooktown to Mossman in 3.5 hours. In December, daily temperatures in Mossman can reach 88°F, while at night they dip to 73°F. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 24th (Mon) to allow time to travel to Cairns.

Things to do in Mossman

Parks Outdoors Beaches

Side Trips

Mossman Gorge, Wonga Beach
Find places to stay Dec 23 — 24:
Highlights from your plan
Mossman Gorge ©
Mossman Gorge
Janbal Gallery ©
Janbal Gallery

2
nights
Cairns

Cairns ©
A neat, cosmopolitan city of shaded plazas and laid-back neighborhoods, Cairns serves as a popular base for exploration of the surrounding region and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as a center for watersport activities like surfing or waterskiing.
Start off your visit on the 25th (Tue): brush up on your military savvy at The Australian Armour & Artillery Museum, then take a memorable tour with Tours, then kick back and relax at Palm Cove Beach, and finally pause for some serene contemplation at St Monica's Cathedral. Keep things going the next day: see some colorful creatures with a scuba or snorkeling tour.

To see other places to visit, photos, more things to do, and more tourist information, go to the Cairns day trip tool .

Traveling by car from Mossman to Cairns takes 1.5 hours. In December, daily temperatures in Cairns can reach 88°F, while at night they dip to 73°F. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 26th (Wed) early enough to travel to Townsville.

Things to do in Cairns

Outdoors Adventure Tours

Side Trips

Palm Cove, The Australian Armour & Artillery Museum
Find places to stay Dec 24 — 26:
Highlights from your plan
Palm Cove Beach ©
Palm Cove Beach
Scuba & Snorkeling
Kayaking & Canoeing

1
night
Townsville

Townsville ©
Tucked snugly beneath a steep, craggy mount--known as Castle Hill--the vibrant city of Townsville is as picturesque as its backdrop.
On the 27th (Thu), steep yourself in history at National Trust Heritage Centre, then discover the deep blue sea with a scuba or snorkeling tour, and then stroll through The Strand.

To see where to stay, more things to do, photos, and more tourist information, go to the Townsville vacation maker site .

Traveling by flight from Cairns to Townsville takes 3.5 hours. Alternatively, you can drive; or take a bus. In December in Townsville, expect temperatures between 89°F during the day and 76°F at night. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 27th (Thu) early enough to ride a ferry to Magnetic Island.

Things to do in Townsville

Outdoors Adventure Wildlife
Find places to stay Dec 26 — 27:
Highlights from your plan
The Strand ©
The Strand
Scuba & Snorkeling
National Trust Heritage Centre ©
National Trust Heritage Centre

1
night
Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island ©
Start off your visit on the 28th (Fri): tour the water at your own pace with Big Mama Sailing, hunt for treasures at Horseshoe Bay Markets, then get engrossed in the history at Magnetic Island Museum, then kick back and relax at Geoffrey Bay, and finally step off the mainland to explore Magnetic Island Forts Walk.

To find reviews, maps, more things to do, and other tourist information, refer to the Magnetic Island day trip planning app .

Magnetic Island is just a short distance from Townsville. In December in Magnetic Island, expect temperatures between 89°F during the day and 76°F at night. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 28th (Fri) early enough to travel to Airlie Beach.

Things to do in Magnetic Island

Outdoors Adventure Parks
Find places to stay Dec 27 — 28:
Highlights from your plan
Geoffrey Bay ©
Geoffrey Bay
Horseshoe Bay Markets ©
Horseshoe Bay Markets

1
night
Airlie Beach

Very much a town with an emphasis on the tropical lifestyle, Airlie Beach offers exotic surroundings with palm trees and charming, sandy beaches.
Start off your visit on the 29th (Sat): look for all kinds of wild species at Wildlife Areas.

To find ratings, traveler tips, and tourist information, refer to the Airlie Beach day trip planning website .

Do a combination of ferry and car from Magnetic Island to Airlie Beach in 4.5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of ferry and bus; or do a combination of ferry, train, and bus. In December, plan for daily highs up to 85°F, and evening lows to 75°F. Finish your sightseeing early on the 29th (Sat) so you can ride a ferry to Whitsunday Island.

Things to do in Airlie Beach

Adventure Outdoors Wildlife
Find places to stay Dec 28 — 29:
Highlights from your plan
Scuba & Snorkeling

1
night
Whitsunday Island

Whitsunday Island ©
Kick off your visit on the 30th (Sun): kick back and relax at Whitehaven Beach and then step off the mainland to explore Whitsunday Islands National Park.

For photos, traveler tips, other places to visit, and tourist information, go to the Whitsunday Island online sightseeing planner .

You can ride a ferry from Airlie Beach to Whitsunday Island in 1.5 hours. Traveling from Airlie Beach in December, plan for little chillier nights in Whitsunday Island, with lows around 69°F. Finish your sightseeing early on the 30th (Sun) so you can travel to Sydney.

Things to do in Whitsunday Island

Parks Nature Outdoors
Find places to stay Dec 29 — 30:
Highlights from your plan
Whitehaven Beach ©
Whitehaven Beach

1
night
Sydney

Sydney ©
Lent iconic status as a result of its famous bridge and opera house, Sydney has a down-to-earth charm that enhances its spectacular setting and functional efficiency.
Kick off your visit on the 31st (Mon): take a stroll through The Rocks, get up close to creatures of the deep with a dolphin and whale watching tour, and then kick back and relax at Bondi Beach. Here are some ideas for day two: explore the striking landscape of Bouddi National Park.

To find more things to do, where to stay, traveler tips, and tourist information, read Sydney online day trip planner .

You can fly from Whitsunday Island to Sydney in 4.5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of bus and flight; or take a train. Traveling from Whitsunday Island in December, you will find days in Sydney are little chillier (81°F), and nights are about the same (65°F). Cap off your sightseeing on the 1st (Tue) early enough to travel to Brisbane.

Things to do in Sydney

Outdoors Wildlife Parks

Side Trip

Bouddi National Park
Find places to stay Dec 30 — Jan 1:
Highlights from your plan
Bondi Beach ©
Bondi Beach
Bouddi National Park ©
Bouddi National Park
The Rocks ©
The Rocks

2
nights
Brisbane

Brisbane ©
Queensland’s biggest town and state capital, Brisbane has an attractive, manicured image based around its riverside aesthetic as well as the contrast between its high-rise center and extensive urban greenery.
Start off your visit on the 2nd (Wed): enjoy the sand and surf at Moffat Beach, contemplate in the serene atmosphere at Catholic Old St. Stephen's Church (chapel), then contemplate in the serene atmosphere at St. John's Anglican Cathedral, and finally kick back and relax at Dicky Beach. Get ready for a full day of sightseeing on the 3rd (Thu): contemplate the long history of Boggo Road Gaol and then look for all kinds of wild species at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

For more things to do, photos, where to stay, and tourist information, refer to the Brisbane route tool .

Traveling by flight from Sydney to Brisbane takes 4 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of flight and bus; or drive. In January, plan for daily highs up to 84°F, and evening lows to 71°F. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 3rd (Thu) so you can travel back home.

Things to do in Brisbane

Parks Outdoors Beaches

Side Trip

Caloundra
Find places to stay Jan 1 — 3:
Highlights from your plan
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary ©
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Boggo Road Gaol ©
Boggo Road Gaol

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