Author Topic: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?  (Read 3178 times)

Trifele

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We are planning to spend a month in Australia in November/December of next year.  This will be our first time, and we could use some advice.   

About us -- Family of 4, two teenage kids.  When we travel we like to pick one or two nice spots and stay there, doing day trips or just relaxing.  This style of travel makes it really important to pick a good "home base."  We usually rent a cottage or apartment as our home base and pretty much live like locals.  Sometimes we camp.

#1 consideration -- we would like to stay somewhere close to some beautiful trails (we run). Ideally we could run right from our rental. 
#2 consideration -- we love the beach and snorkeling.  Would love to have a nice beach within easy day-trip distance. 

Anywhere where we could combine #1 and #2 would be a big winner. 

We don't care much about city attractions, restaurants, etc.  As long as we have a grocery store not too far away we are good.  So far Cairns and Mayborough are floating to the top of our list as likely home base areas.  Any other good spots you think we should consider?   Maybe some really small towns that are under the radar?   Thanks!


 
« Last Edit: April 06, 2017, 12:23:34 PM by Trifele »

JoJo

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I've been twice, for a month each, but each time was very much on the move so take this advice for what it's worth:

I don't recall nice beaches around Cairns.  They have the GBR snorkeling around there but it's by pontoon boat and the place I went was overrated/bad, bleached coral.  You also have to watch out for box (deadly) jellyfish - some areas are not swim-able at certain points of year. 

I really liked the Whitsundays and Fraser island but they are too expensive for more than a few days. 

Tasmania has some decent hiking but I would probably be bored at more than a week there, and it's really too cold to swim.

wenchsenior

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We are hardcore into wildlife and esp birds, and spent two weeks in Cairns as part of a month long trip.  If you want to take trips to the GBR you can do that, but it takes a charter boat trip and isn't cheap. The town itself is very walkable, and there are some good trails in the hills around the city, though I'm not sure how good they would be for running.  The access to the uplands/tablelands is also easy via road or train. Beaches/swimming is tougher, though, because the bay is muddy, shallow, and has crocs.  It's fantastic for birding, though!

Trifele

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Thank you both.  Very helpful!   I've been finding that the usual tourism websites are NOT helpful, because we are looking for something different than the usual . . . So it's great to hear first hand experiences.  And we are birders too, incidentally, so really appreciate your input Wenchsenior.

11ducks

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Cairns could be super hot in December, and you may be restricted from swimming because of stingers? 


I'm a Sunshine Coast (qld) local- you may want to consider doing this area- some of the most beautiful beaches, plus the glasshouse mountains are close by for hiking/climbing? If you stay in a smaller, less touristy area like Caloundra or Buderim, you can be within 20mins of the coastline (all gorgeous beaches)  and the mountains? Plus Aus Zoo, day trips to wine/waterfall areas, 90mins to the Gold Coast (more flashy/theme parks, but some awesome hinterland trails, including the Great Walk (week-long hiking trails through National parks/Mountains).

alsoknownasDean

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November - December in FNQ, I guess it'll be cheaper (it's wet season then).

As a bit of a left-field suggestion, what about the Coorong region of South Australia? I believe it's known for it's bird life.

Tasmania is an option, but probably a bit cold. Victorian weather is a bit erratic in spring (it can be 90F one day and 60F the next here in Melbourne then) :)

One thing to keep in mind is that Australian school holidays starts from mid December, and peak holiday season here is from Christmas until late January. Might be worth keeping that in mind to keep the costs down a bit. Any major tourist centres would have schoolies in November, avoid that too :)

It's a big country.

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« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 06:12:02 AM by alsoknownasDean »

Nudelkopf

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Another suggestion is Fraser Island - you said you don't mind camping? I had a friend who lived there full-time as a kid, and her stories are amazing - but I'm not sure what the grocery situation is like. Lots of beaches (obviously) & a mix of short walks & a 'Great Walk' (see link: https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/great-walks-fraser-island/). Probably a bit brutal in summer though.

Or the Blue Mountains in New South Wales - so nice, much cooler than Queensland, and a 2-ish hour drive to the coast?

jade

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How lovely! I lived in Oz for a year and it was wonderful. I remember the same things others have said about Cairns. One place I loved and that sounds like it would fit your requirements (fab beaches, imagine running trails would be good but not sure) is Byron bay... But it is probably not the cheapest place.

Good luck.

Trifele

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Thank you all!  Great, great suggestions.  Will definitely check out all the other locations suggested, plus look further south in general.  Funny you mention Fraser Island, Nudelkopf --that's one reason we zeroed in on Mayborough.  On the map Mayborough is very green -- three big state forests on either side of it, but not too far from the coast and Fraser Island for day trips.

We've had good luck with vacations to far flung places in the past where we start by finding a "green" town on the map close to the coast and then try to get a rental within walking distance of the forest.  Our other tried-and-true vacation planning technique is to check out the websites for the local trail running clubs, and see what their favorite trails are. 

And thanks AlsoknownasDean for the heads up about the school holidays.  Maybe we'll try to shift our plans a bit and try to come earlier or later. 

JoJo

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Fraser island is great.  you can't swim in the ocean but there are inland lakes you can swim in.  I don't think there is tropical coral anywhere around there.

dreamer8887

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2017, 08:48:00 AM »
Aussie here, I have a dear family friend who lives in Buderim and is trying to find someone to house-swap with in the US. It's probably a long-shot in terms of your locations being mutually agreeable, but PM me if you're interested. Buderim is on the sunshine coast, a lovely part of Australia in my opinion!

Trifele

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2017, 06:04:47 PM »
Hey Dreamer887 -- Buderim looks great!  It's a long shot but sure I'll PM you.   
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 06:20:23 PM by Trifele »

Bee21

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2017, 12:38:02 AM »
Can you do september October? The sun and the heat in nov dec is unbearable, I wouldn't visit Australia at this time of the year. You have no idea how bad it is, you take out the rubbish and get sunburnt, plus will have to change your clothes, it is that hot and humid. Everything is more expensive that time because of the school holidays.

Australia is massive and half empty. You can drive for days without seeing people.

Fraser island is beautiful but expensive. You will need a decent 4wd and you won't be able to run because of the dingoes. Check out Great keppel island, that's quite nice and not that busy and you can snorkel there safely. Byron Bay is hippie paradise, quite a cool place.

The sunshine coast they recommended  is nice though not cheap. Good swimming, but not much snorkelling. For decent snorkelling, you might need to go to the whitsundays (not in november December though, that's jellyfish season).You might want to check out the gold coast hinterland, that is lush rainforest with lovely walking tracks, within driving distance to the beach (no snorkelling and quite pricey).

But you don't want to walk here in the summer. 😀  that's a winter activity in my books.

If you have an itinerary or a more definite idea of what you want to do and where you want to go, we can give specific advice. Right now, all I can say is reconsider the timing.

Sandia

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2017, 01:38:21 AM »
November/December is a magical time, weather-wise, in Perth. It is warm but not blistering, no humidity, and the Freo Doctor (ocean wind) comes every afternoon to cool things down. I don't know where Bee21 lives, but that's the weather in Perth in January/February, not November/December.

In general, the Eastern States are way overrated, crowded, and expensive; if you want to stay in region with plenty of outdoor activities, I strongly suggest looking at somewhere in WA. Southwestern WA nothing BUT national forest. Find a place near some curvy bits of the Bibblemun track, or a winery, or the beach - or hell, all three at once! Bremer Bay has lots of snorkeling/diving in the cold bit of the ocean.

If you want snorkeling in warm ocean, go stay somewhere on the Ningaloo Reef, where you can WALK from your hotel straight into the water and straight onto a reef filled with fish and coral. Hidden gem of the world.

Trifele

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2017, 04:47:40 AM »
Thanks Bee21 -- we will try to rethink the timing.   Will be a bit complicated, since our stop in Australia will be coming at the tail end of a visit to Europe . . . but maybe we can shift things around. As far as what we want to do -- we want to run and enjoy nature.  And maybe go to the beach if there's one nearby.  It's really that simple.  :)  We've traveled a fair bit overland in the US and Canada and I do understand the size of Australia.  That's why with a month to spend we are not even going to try to "see Australia."  We'd much rather land in a nice place and get to know it a little, maybe do day trips.   Will definitely check out Keppel Island and Byron Bay.  And thanks for the heads up about the heat and humidity.  Weather is important and online data only tells you so much. 

You mentioned cost, Bee21, and while of course we don't want to spend money to spend money, we have a very healthy budget for the trip, and cost is not our first concern.  It's strange though -- because we go against the grain of what most tourists want, and we are not fussy about housing, our trips usually end up being cheap even when we're in classic "tourist destinations".     

Wow Sandia -- thank you.  You totally nailed it and have gifted me with some happy research hours.  I had not even thought about Western Australia.  Follow up question if you know -- what's your biting insect situation in November/December, say around Bremer Bay/Fitzgerald River forest?   Or on the western coast?  Thanks!   

deborah

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2017, 05:06:47 AM »
Ningaloo reef in November/December? You've got to be joking! I love the place, and Cape Range National Park nearby, but that's the wrong time of year.

Last year I went to the Gondwanaland World Heritage Area - there are 16 National parks in this grouping, with Mount Warning being the centre of the area, being the caldera of the original volcano (one of the biggest shield volcanoes). The original volcano went from beyond the coast (there is the Giants Causeway at Fingel Head, as well as a number of other rock formations) to well inland. You can stay at the beach if you want to. If it's hot you can head into the mountainous areas, or you can just meander along the beach. Murwillumbah is the major town in the area, but it's about 30 mins from the coast. The different National Parks showcase different types of subtropical rainforest, and there are quite a diversity of tracks. and landscapes. Numbin (Australia's hippie town) is part of the area. This area is just south of the Gold Coast, so it probably isn't as crowded as the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast which are a bit further north.

If you don't like heat, go to the Mt Hotham, Bright or Falls Creek and wander around the high country. Only problem is that you won't see the coast if you do. Or you could join a million (slight exaggeration) Victorians at Wilsons Promontory National Park, which has excellent walking tracks and lots of beaches. Many tracks are for several days, so you could avoid the masses who are all at Tidal River. Or you could go to the Prom before the school holidays, and go to the high country once school breaks. If you go from Wilsons Prom to Mt Hotham via the coastal road (go as far as Mallacoota, it's nice) and then the Great Alpine Road, you'll see some interesting scenery.

Of course, there are some walking tracks along the Great Ocean Road, so you could go to the West of Melbourne rather than the East, and visit the Otways and the Grampians as well.

There are also a lot of National Parks and walking tracks around the Sydney area. The Blue Mountains is another World Heritage area to the west of Sydney, and the suburban train line goes to where one of the National Parks starts. Ku Ring Gai National Park is to the North of Sydney, while Royal National Park is to the south. Both of these are coastal, and if you were early enough you could see some Whales (May to November). All three parks have lots of tracks.

There are loads of good places to go in other parts of the country, but it is getting hot at that time of the year, so I wouldn't really recommend any of them except, perhaps Kangaroo Island - which has loads of beaches, National Parks, and walking tracks.

mrcheese

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2017, 11:26:04 PM »
another vote for north-eastern NSW here. Not Byron Bay, but anywhere else around that region, plenty of small national parks and big state forests and very very nice beaches.

JLR

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #17 on: April 10, 2017, 12:08:25 AM »
You might like to consider the south coast of NSW. It ties in Deborah's suggestion of the Australian high country (climb Mt Kosciusko from many access points, such as Thredbo, Perisher or Charlotte Pass. About 2.5hrs drive from the coast), but also combines the beach. At that time of year the south coast of NSW is very pleasant for swimming, bushwalking etc. There are a number of different National Parks, from coastal walks to rainforests, etc. For South Coast National Parks look here:
http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/regions/south-coast

Friends love to camp on the coast at Bittangabee. Merimbula is very nice (we like the caravan park overlooking the ocean) and Narooma is gorgeous. For further inland, Jindabyne is nice and a good base for the alpine areas. The lake there is very beautiful. You would be extremely unlikely to find snow in the alpine areas in December, apart from some small patches in the shadows. The walking is beautiful, with plenty of wildflowers and little streams. See here for some info on the National Park there. Island Bend is popular for camping within the park:
http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/kosciuszko-national-park

Anatidae V

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2017, 02:26:48 AM »
With what you've described, that's definitely a good holiday in the South West region of WA, but I make no guarantees on the mosquito, fly and tick populations. We don't have fancy mountains, but we do have gorgeous undulating sand dunes, beaches and a few good hikes along places like the Bibbulmun Track. October/November would be better than November/December if you can manage it, many more wildflowers out as it's spring.

Places around Albany, Margaret River and Dunsborough are good. Your idea of a holiday is what people who live here traditionally do at Easter :)

Trifele

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2017, 03:23:46 AM »
Thank you all for the great suggestions!  I'll continue my researches on WA, and will definitely check out the southern portion of NSW.  So many great options. 

Fresh Bread

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2017, 03:38:50 AM »
I second everyone that says avoid the height of summer and school holiday times. The cost of accommodation can double! Also, avoid February/March on the east coast - they are the rainy months and it is miserable if you are planning to be outside most of the time. The east coast is at it's best in Sept/ Oct and April/May. This weekend we had crisp mornings and cool nights but shorts weather in the day.

I just came back from Kangaroo Valley (NSW south coast, one hr-ish from the beach). My goodness, it's quite lovely! Small village with a Sunday farmers market and beautiful countryside. You can rent a canoe and chill on the river or about 20km or less from there is Moreton National Park and rainforest trails. However, I'm not sure how the snorkelling is around Kiama and other nearby coastal towns and access in and out is a bit slow and painful via winding country roads.

I'm going to be controversial and suggest Sydney, but specifically the northern beaches. Disclosure: I live there (but I'm not from here and I feel like I'm on holiday most of the time). Snorkelling at Shelley Beach, trail running on the Manly-Spit walk (views!!) or at Manly Dam or slightly further north at West Head/Pittwater http://www.bestsydneywalks.com/west-head-lookout/ (I swear you will not believe you are within the borders of Sydney). Plus being in Sydney (~20km from the CBD or an express 15min ferry ride) means you are central to see other sights e.g. the Blue Mountains, Royal National Park (stunning coastal trail). There are actually great cheap things to do in Sydney like take a public ferry round the harbour for a cheap cruise, fish and chips on the beach at Watson's Bay, climb up the Sydney Harbour bridge piers (cheaper than the Bridgewalk), free galleries, stunning scenery.

Otherwise, as others have said - northern NSW or the Sunshine Coast might be ideal. I don't much care for old hippies so I'm not a fan of Byron Bay, but there are many other options for a base.


Trifele

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Re: One month in Australia -- good location for slow travel/nature lovers?
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2017, 04:47:03 AM »
Thanks, Freshwater!  Will definitely check out your suggestions.  By the way, what is up with websites not even mentioning the south coast of NSW?  It looks beautiful!   I might have missed it if you good people hadn't pointed it out.   And thanks to Sandia and Anatidae for the info about WA.  WA looks like it would be a great fit for us.  We don't need fancy and we don't want touristy. 

I've decided one thing for sure.  So much for picking just one spot.  Damn, Australia, you have some really fine nature and scenery.  We will have to tour around a bit.  :)  It'll be ok -- the month before we come to Australia we will be in just one spot in a big city, so road tripping a little bit around the countryside will be fun.  Maybe we'll drive a loop from either Perth or Sydney, stopping in a few different places for a week or two each.  That way it's not too hectic, but we still see a few different areas.  We've done this type of thing before, and I think with a month to spend it should work out well.