- See the scenery of Australia, from lush rainforests to the arid outback
- Explore the world's largest island while hiking, kayaking, and cycling
- Visit the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, the outback, and Sydney
- Stay in charming hotels and spend two nights camping under the outback's stars
It's impossible to sum up Australia in a single image. Diversity is the heart and spirit of Australia: lush rainforests, arid deserts, sprawling cattle stations, rugged mountain ranges, crystal clear waters, incredible coral reefs, and lively cities.
Our Australia adventure captures the essence of the world's largest island. We begin in Queensland, where we hike and kayak our way through a tropical wonderland. In Daintree National Park, two diverse ecosystems converge. There we explore an amazing rainforest and snorkel among colorful fish and coral in one of the world's natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef.
In the arid Northern Territory, we witness the vibrant sunset colors on Uluru (Ayers Rock). Our outback journey then follows one of the best hiking tracks in Australia, the Larapinta Trail. We hike the trail among ancient mountain ranges, learn about Aboriginal culture, and camp underneath a star-filled sky. Our grand adventure concludes in vibrant Sydney, where we bike past the famous Opera House and tour the harbor.
So come on down under, "mates," and discover an unforgettable Australia.
- Day 1 - G'day mates! Welcome to Australia.
- Day 2 - Paddle out to Double Island and get a preview of tropical Queensland.
- Day 3 - Snorkel among colorful fish and coral of the Great Barrier Reef.
- Day 4 - Explore the lush rainforests of Daintree National Park today.
- Day 5 - Fly to Ayers Rock and witness the sunset glow of Uluru.
- Day 6 - Hike through Kata Tjuta and discover the mysteries of the Red Centre.
- Day 7 - Nothing says Australia quite like the outback and Kings Canyon.
- Day 8 - Hike on one of Australia's best trail systems - the Larapinta Trail.
- Day 9 - Slot gorges and impressive "billabongs" await us today.
- Day 10 - Visit Alice Springs School of the Air before heading to Sydney.
- Day 11 - Paddling trips and bike rides give us an up-close look at Sydney.
- Day 12 - Say farewell and depart for home.
Trip Itinerary and Details
Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.
Day 1 - G'day mates! Welcome to Australia.
Our trip begins today in Cairns, Australia. Arrive at the Cairns International Airport and transfer to Palm Cove, a beach community 17 miles north of the city of Cairns. The transfer from the airport will be based on the arrival times of the majority of the group. After checking in at our hotel, we spend the remainder of the day relaxing or exploring the village with its palm tree-lined walking paths and soft golden sand beach. We reconvene at 5:30PM to meet with our guide, have a group orientation and enjoy dinner together. Dinner included.
Day 2 - Paddle out to Double Island and get a preview of tropical Queensland.
The fun begins immediately as we head out for a full day of kayaking and snorkeling at Double Island. Double Island was named because of its two mountainous peaks at either end of the island. Less than a mile from the shores of Palm Cove, we paddle from the beach out to the island (approximately 30 minutes). As we get closer to the island, we notice the water becoming shallower and see the first signs of the surrounding reef. Here is where we have a great opportunity to look for the incredible bounty of marine life that lives in these waters. We'll beach our kayaks to experience our first Australian custom – morning tea. Later, we don our masks and snorkels and explore the reef. Depending on the tides and currents, we'll kayak to a private and secluded beach where we get our first view of the Daintree, the oldest rainforest in the world, and Cape Tribulation. After lunch, we'll paddle around to the northern side of the island and take in the beautiful panorama of the coastline and surrounding islands. As we circumnavigate Double Island, our guide will share the history of this unique destination. Later in the afternoon, we paddle back to shore and walk back to our hotel in Palm Cove. With several eateries to choose from within walking distance, dinner is on our own tonight. Breakfast and lunch included.
Kayaking: 4-5 hours; snorkeling:1-2 hours
Day 3 - Snorkel among colorful fish and coral of the Great Barrier Reef.
Imagine an animal so small that it is almost invisible to the naked eye, yet it forms colonies that are visible from space. This is coral, creator of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living organism on earth! A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is a highlight of many people's visit to Australia. Our voyage begins this morning as we rendezvous with our boat in Cairns and set a course for this renowned natural wonder. We motor out toward the world's largest coral reef system, stretching 1,400 miles along Australia's northeastern coast and containing the greatest density and diversity of life of any marine ecosystem: 1,800 known species of fish and 450 species of coral. We'll have several opportunities to snorkel in this incredible waterscape filled with kaleidoscopic colors and marine life of every imaginable shape and size. Snorkeling is available to all participants; Scuba diving is an optional extra for those who are certified. See the "Dive Fees" section for more details. Breakfast and lunch included.
Half day of various water activities including swimming, snorkeling and optional scuba.
Day 4 - Explore the lush rainforests of Daintree National Park today.
We depart early for a full day of hiking in the rainforest. Our first stop is Mossman Gorge. Located in the southern part of the Daintree National Park, our hike takes us through a very scenic section of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. In the gorge, we'll hike through luminous green rainforest and learn about how the local Kuku Yalanji people traditionally use the plants of the rainforest. Throughout the day, keep your eyes open for the brilliant blue Ulysses butterfly and birds such as the eastern yellow robin. After our morning tea break, we continue our journey into the heart of the Daintree National Park. This wonderful environment boasts some of the most rugged topography, fast flowing rivers, deep gorges and spectacular waterfalls in Australia, thereby lending itself to a rich diversity of plant and animal life. After lunch, we continue to explore the Daintree National Park with several hiking options. Later, we make our way to Cape Tribulation. No other place in the world can boast the combination of outlying coral reefs and rainforested coastline. We'll take in this bay of beauty where the reef truly meets the rainforest. At day's end, we return to our van and begin the drive back to our comfortable hotel in Palm Cove. Dinner is on our own. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: approx. 4-6 hours
Day 5 - Fly to Ayers Rock and witness the sunset glow of Uluru.
After an early breakfast, we'll check out of our lodging in Palm Cove and transfer to the airport for our morning flight to Australia's "Red Centre," in the Northern Territory. Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel within the Ayers Rock Resort complex. Here we're awed by distant views of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, a formidable red-sandstone monolith rising out of the flat desert. This iconic natural wonder is the centerpiece of Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park, a World Heritage Site and a must-see for all visitors to Australia. After settling into our accommodations, we enjoy a late lunch (a snack is provided on flight from Cairns). Afterward, we begin our introduction to the area at the Cultural Center. Here we learn about the park and gain an insight into the local Anangu, or Aboriginal, culture. The Anangu ask that visitors not climb Uluru, which is sacred to them. Therefore, we spend the rest of the afternoon walking around its base. We learn about Uluru's history and legends, and its significance to the local aboriginal people. As the sun begins to set, we sit and witness the rock's colors shifting from pink to blood red to mauve. Each time we turn around, we see a different hue. After sunset, we make our way back to our hotel. Dinner is on our own tonight. Breakfast and lunch included.
Walking: approx. 2-3 hours
Day 6 - Hike through Kata Tjuta and discover the mysteries of the Red Centre.
We begin our day early so we can experience the amazing outback sunrise at Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas. These steep, russet domes—36 total—were formed from more than 500 million years of erosion. Though less well known than Ayers Rock, the rounded domes are equally impressive and many people find them more captivating. Upon arrival before sunrise, we wait in suspense and watch for the soft early dawn colors to appear on the domes. It's a special time for many as we contemplate the magical mysteries of this unique landscape. After breakfast, we'll explore Kata Tjuta. The Valley of the Winds hike takes us through the park's main gorge, giving us excellent views of the domes. Our hike teaches us how time, weather and the earth's movement formed this stark landscape and ecology. After lunch, we say good-bye to Uluru and travel through spectacular desert scenery from Ayers Rock Resort to Kings Canyon. We'll pass through Curtin Springs and view Attila (Mount Conner), a large tabletop mountain that is easily confused with Uluru.
After turning off the Lasseter Highway onto a bush track, we find ourselves in the true outback. Nothing says Australia quite like the outback. The open spaces that seem to stretch on forever are full of stories—of the first inhabitants, early European exploration, and the eventual development of this unique country we admire today. Before dusk, we make our way to our campsite. Prepare to savor a delicious meal under the brilliant Outback stars tonight. Look out for wildlife along the way before arriving at our permanent camp at Glen Helen, nearby the stunning waterhole that the Traditional owners of this land believe is home to an ancient and powerful Rainbow Serpent. Look out for wildlife along the way before arriving at our permanent camp at Glen Helen, nearby the stunning waterhole that the Traditional owners of this land believe is home to an ancient and powerful Rainbow Serpent. Look out for wildlife along the way before arriving at our permanent camp at Glen Helen, nearby the stunning waterhole that the Traditional owners of this land believe is home to an ancient and powerful Rainbow Serpent. Look out for wildlife along the way before arriving at our permanent camp at Glen Helen, nearby the stunning waterhole that the Traditional owners of this land believe is home to an ancient and powerful Rainbow Serpent. All meals included.
Hiking: approx. 4-6 hours, driving time: 3 ½ hours
Day 7 - Nothing says Australia quite like the outback and Kings Canyon.
After breakfast, we'll spend the morning hiking in Kings Canyon. The 6 km (loop) Kings Canyon Rim Hike traces the top of the canyon. A steep climb at the beginning of the trail, which locals call "Heartbreak Hill" (or "Heart Attack Hill," due to its steepness), takes visitors up to the top, with spectacular views of the gorge below and of the surrounding landscape. About halfway through the hike, a detour descends to the Garden of Eden, a permanent waterhole surrounded by lush plant life. The last half of the trail passes through a large maze of weathered sandstone domes.From here, we travel the notorious Mereenie Loop Road as we venture to a region unknown by many but quickly acquiring a reputation as one of the leading hiking destinations in the world. Keep a look out for wildlife along the way before arriving at our lodging at Glen Helen Gorge. The landscape around Glen Helen is as spectacular as you will find anywhere with a towering sandstone wall greeting us upon arrival. All meals included.
Hiking: approx. 3-4 hours, driving time: approx. 2 ½ hours
Day 8 - Hike on one of Australia's best trail systems - the Larapinta Trail.
After a hearty breakfast, we explore Glen Helen Gorge and the surrounding area. We have views of Mount Sonder, which is one of the highest points in Central Australia, changing colors dramatically throughout the day. The permanent waterhole at Glen Helen Gorge is home to many species of animals, including a variety of water birds and fish. The traditional owners of the land believe that this stunning waterhole is home to an ancient and powerful Rainbow Serpent and consider it a sacred site.
This afternoon, we hike into Ormiston Pound and Gorge. Here is where we find a section of the Larapinta Trail.The Larapinta Trail extends over 223 kilometers along the backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges. This trail is divided into 12 sections and links in with other points of interests within the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. Our hike begins with a gentle uphill through scenic slopes before we drop into the enormous expanse of the Ormiston Pound. The rocky, granite terrain down in the center of the Pound is a great place to see the Spinifex Pigeon and the small Military Dragon. Wedge-tailed Eagles (Australia's largest flying bird) are often spotted flying high along the edges of the surrounding ranges. Our hike takes us through a diverse range of habitat from rocky, spinifex-covered hills to tree-lined creeks. We complete our circuit via the Gorge and the main waterhole. Get ready for a wet exit! Hoist your daypacks a little higher on your backs as we make our way across the waterhole. The water level varies based on the time of year, but is never more than waist high during Australia's winter. The crossing takes just a few short minutes before we're on the other side. We're refreshed and energized as we finish the last leg of our hike through beautiful white-barked ghost gum (a type of eucalypus) trees. This part of the trail leads us to a scenic lookout of the Gorge with excellent photo opportunities. We'll continue on our way to our new campsite tonight. All meals included.
Hiking: approx. 4-5 hours, driving time: approx. 1 hour.
Day 9 - Slot gorges and impressive "billabongs" await us today.
If you're an early riser, enjoy the spectacular colors on the landscape that only an outback sunrise can provide. After breakfast, we'll pack up our gear and make our way to Alice Springs. Today provides several hiking options on the Larapinta Trail. Our first highlight is Standley Chasm, a spectacular slot gorge that cuts through tough quartzite to form a picturesque natural alleyway. Surging flood waters over thousands of years are responsible for this scenic site, which is at its most impressive in the middle of a sunny day. Before reaching Alice Springs, we stop at Simpsons Gap, site of a prominent waterhole that is spiritually significant to the Arrarnta Aboriginal people. Depending on the time of day and if we're really lucky, we may see black-footed rock-wallabies along the short trail. Our day ends in Alice Springs, a true frontier town. Alice Springs, also known as "The Alice," was established in the late 1800s as a station for the Overland Telegraph Line. This telegraph line linked the south of the continent to the north and opened up the interior for settlement. We check-in at our hotel and welcome a hot shower before our group dinner this evening. All meals included.
Hiking: approx. 4-5 hours, driving time: approx. 2 hours.
Day 10 - Visit Alice Springs School of the Air before heading to Sydney.
We'll have a leisurely morning before our visit to the Alice Springs School of the Air. This unique school was started by Adelaide Miethke, a member of the Council of the Flying Doctor service. Ms. Miethke suggested using two-way radio to give educational talks to children in the outback. This set in motion an idea for a school unlike any other on Earth. The school offers a wide range of educational services and activities to isolated primary-age children. From the School of Air, we'll transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to Sydney. We'll enjoy a light snack before boarding since our flight service will include a meal. Once in Sydney, we'll transfer to our hotel, which is conveniently located near shops and restaurants. Despite Sydney's dubious beginnings as a penal colony, it has grown into a wealthy and prosperous city. Sydney's natural beauty and stunning beaches make this a must-see and a perfect place to finish our ultimate adventure. Dinner is on your own this evening.
Day 11 - Paddling trips and bike rides give us an up-close look at Sydney.
We start our day with a drive from our hotel to the beautiful suburb of Mosman located on the Lower North Shore of Sydney Harbor. From here we will hop into our kayaks for an amazing paddle in Middle Harbour. Our tour will pass by magnificent waterfront homes and stunning bays while we learn a little about the social and natural history of the area. We'll soak up the serenity while we enjoy a wholesome morning tea served at a nice and secluded spot. We make our way back to our launch site while working up an appetite for lunch. Today's lunch will be in the historic center of Sydney known as the Rocks District. The Rocks became established shortly after the colony's formation in 1788. Many of the buildings in this neighborhood were built with sandstone blocks quarried by convicts. Over the centuries, local residents and the government have taken measures to preserve the buildings in this area. If you look closely, you can see evidence of the hard labor that was placed upon Sydney's notorious citizens from long ago.
After lunch, our exploration of the city continues as we cycle our way through Sydney. We'll pass by the Royal Botanic Garden and Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, the Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour, Chinatown and Hyde Park before returning back to the Rocks District. During our urban cycle tour, we'll stop for amazing photo opportunities while we learn interesting facts and folklore about the city from our guide. Our tour finishes in time to change and refresh before our final celebration dinner. All meals included.
Kayaking: approx. 3 hours, depending on wind conditions, Cycling: approx. 3 hours.
Day 12 - Say farewell and depart for home.
Transfer to the Sydney airport for return flights home, or extend your stay in the "land down under." Breakfast included.
Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control.
All accommodations, all sea kayaking equipment, sleeping bags, tents, meals as noted in the daily itinerary, scheduled airport transfers, ground transportation, sightseeing arrangements as noted in the itinerary, entrance fees, permits, experienced local guide.
Airfare (international and two Australian domestic flights), 6 dinners, cost of medical immunizations, insurance of any kind, excess baggage charges, alcoholic beverages, optional tips to your guides and items of a personal nature.
Please check with us before purchasing your airline tickets to ensure your trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate.
Seasons in Australia are opposite from North America. Winter in Australia is during the months of June, July and August. In Tropical Queensland, normally the weather is mild and dry during this time of year. Average temperatures during winter are a low of 50° F and a high of 68° F. Water temperatures are around 65° F. In Central Australia, where the climate is semi-arid, daytime temperatures are warm (avg. 68° F) with surprisingly cold nights (avg. 37° F). In Sydney, a city with generally pleasant temperatures all year long, the average low is 49° F and average high is 62° F in winter.
For certified divers, a USD $100 fee per person, per dive (subject to change) payable in advance to REI Adventures includes all equipment for your dive along the Great Barrier Reef (number of dives is generally weather dependent).
This trip is rated Moderate . but is very active and offers the opportunity to participate in a variety of different outdoor activities. Participants should arrive in good physical condition and be able to swim. We strongly recommend a conditioning regimen beginning at least 3 months prior to departure that includes as many of the trip activities as possible. Hiking, jogging, paddling and swimming are all great ways to prepare for this adventure and will improve your cardiovascular fitness level. While snorkeling excursions are included in this itinerary, scuba diving is optional and is only available at an additional cost. The minimum age to participate on this trip is 14 years.
Scuba Divers, Please Note: The regulations, requirements and medical standards relating to diving in Australia are amongst the strictest in the world. For complete information and qualifications, please visit DiveMedicals Australia.
If you are traveling alone and specifically request single accommodations, you will be asked to pay the single supplement fee. There is no single supplement fee for those willing to share accommodations, and we will assign you a roommate of the same gender if possible. Please be advised that there are a limited number of single accommodations available.General Information
This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and pre-departure information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.
Australia Ultimate Adventure Gear List
The key to staying comfortable while on an active adventure trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. This gear list has been created to help you in choosing your equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, this will help you and the field staff.
- Kayaks and paddling gear
- Camping gear
- Valid passport
- Airline tickets
- Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) - electronic label-free tourist visa for Australia
- Duffel bag or soft-sided suitcase (wheels and retractable handle are fine) sturdy and large enough to hold clothing and gear
- Passport security pouch or belt
- Luggage tags and luggage locks
- A few lightweight, easily washable items for travel and to wear into towns
- Lightweight hiking boots or trail shoes, broken in
- Wetsuit booties or watershoes for kayaking/snorkeling
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Waterproof, breathable rain jacket (or poncho)
- Lightweight, easily washable items for travel/evening wear
- Midweight fleece or wool sweater
- Lightweight or midweight thermal underwear top and bottom, synthetic or wool
- Long-sleeve shirt
- Hiking shorts, quick-dry
- Hiking pants, quick-dry
- Hiking socks
- Liner socks
- Sun hat
- Wool or fleece hat
- Wool or fleece gloves
- Small personal dry bag for camera, change of clothes, etc.
- Two (2) one-quart size water bottles or hydration pack
- Baby wipes
- Sunglasses and retainer strap
- Sunblock and lip balm
- Insect repellent
- Personal first-aid kit
- Toiletry kit
- Hand sanitizer gel
- Watch with alarm or travel alarm
- Quick drying travel towel
- Headlamp/flashlight with extra batteries/bulb
- Camera, spare batteries and cards
- Pocket knife or pocket tool
- Reading and writing materials
- Laundry soap
- Ziploc bags for easy storage
- Favorite energy snacks and drink mixes
- Paddling gloves
- Snorkeling gear (mask, fins, snorkel) ; available on boat but avid snorkelers may prefer to bring their own custom gear.
- Trekking poles
Things to Consider
- Please remember to always pack essential items such as your passport, money, eyewear, hiking boots, a pair of shorts/shirt/fleece top/sandals and medications in your carry-on baggage, in case your luggage is delayed.
- Domestic Flights on Qantas: Only one piece of checked luggage is allowed for economy class ticket holders. The checked luggage cannot weigh more than 22kg (48.5lbs).
- Bring clothing that is light in weight and color, which ventilates and protects you from the sun. It is always good to have a lightweight, long-sleeved fleece or synthetic top, especially for the evenings.
- Cotton is wonderful in warm weather. However, once it becomes wet, it will drain your body heat. Bring wool or synthetics such as Capilene®, MTS® and Thermax®.
- Always test your layers before a trip. Your outer layer should fit easily over the inside ones without binding and bunching up.
- Make sure boots are broken-in. Bring moleskin for foot treatment. Thin liner socks worn under regular hiking socks may minimize the risk of blisters. The liner sock should be synthetic, not cotton. Test your sock combination before you go on the trip
- Stuff sacks are great for sorting gear. Use different sizes/colors to differentiate contents.
- Plastic bags are the key to keeping clothing and gear dry. Use Ziploc bags to keep wet clothes separate from dry clothes.
- If you wear prescription glasses, use a safety cord and bring an extra pair if possible. Contact lens wearers should also bring an extra set, or bring eyeglasses for a backup.
- Space for luggage is limited. Pack lightly, fitting all clothing into one suitcase. During the day, plan on carrying a small daypack with sunscreen, water bottle/hydration system and camera.
Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out www.rei.com/learn. The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.
Reviewed by 2 customers
Displaying reviews 1-2
- Group Camaraderie
Comments about REI Adventures Australia Ultimate Adventure:
Great trip! Unfortunately due to rough seas, we were unable to do one of the kayaking days, and seas were rough for snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. But that's the way it goes sometimes. The stunning outback was for me the highpoint. Loved Sydney, a very cosmopolitan, clean, vibrant city. The food was delicious!
- Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
- Active Adventures, All the Details Planned for Me, Destination, Good Value, I Liked the Itinerary, Travel with Like-minded Outdoor Enthusiasts
- Why did you choose this trip?:
- A must-see destination for any active-travel enthusiast. I liked the variety of activities and scope of places visited.
- What was the highlight of your trip?:
- Camping and hiking in the outback.
- Activity Level
- Group Camaraderie
- Visit Numerous National P
- Well Organized Itinerary
Comments about REI Adventures Australia Ultimate Adventure:
This ambitious itinerary for Australia is exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to see as many national parks as I could. If there was a Top End extension I would have done that. I will just have to go back. I wish there was more aboriginal exposure. For example at Daintree there is an indiginous education experience offerred.
- Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
- Active Adventures, All the Details Planned for Me, Commitment to Sustainability, Destination, Good Value, I Liked the Itinerary, Travel with Like-minded Outdoor Enthusiasts
- Why did you choose this trip?:
- Been waiting for REI to do Australia, heard was coming.
- What was the highlight of your trip?:
- Our group was fantastic to be travel with and seeing numerous national parks.