Dreamy 3 Week Australia Itinerary

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In 2018 I took my first solo trip and traveled all around the glorious country of Australia. Since then I’ve spent a total of four months residing in and exploring this special place down under. My travels there brought me some of the happiest times in my life, which is why I had to share this dreamy 3 week Australia itinerary!

From the Great Barrier Reef to the Sydney Opera House, and to some of the world’s best beaches, this itinerary has everything you need for a dream adventure. With so much to do in Australia, this itinerary focuses on the east coast and covers all of the bucket list destinations, including Melbourne, the Whitsunday Islands, and Byron Bay.

3 week australia itinerary

3 Week Australia Itinerary

Below is an overview of what this itinerary looks like, which takes you to many of Australia’s iconic destinations on the east coast of the country.

In order to experience the best of Australia’s east coast, this itinerary involves internal travel such as domestic flights, rental cars, and buses. I’d recommend booking through Skyscanner to find great rates on flights and Discover Cars for great rates on rental cars. Jetstar is a great airline to book through for cheaper flights, while Qantas is the premier airline of Australia.

Days 1-4: Sydney, New South Wales

Days 5-9: Melbourne & Great Ocean Road

Days 10-12: Cairns, Queensland & Great Barrier Reef

Days 12-14: Whitsunday Islands

Days 15-17: Brisbane & Gold Coast

Days 18-21: Byron Bay

Day 22: Fly home from Brisbane International Airport

Is 3 weeks long enough in Australia?

Australia is about as big as the US in size, so it would take a lot of time to explore the entire country. After spending four months there, I still have not seen it all! However, 3 weeks is enough time to see a lot of Australia and grasp its culture.

Western Australia

Best Times to Visit Australia & What You’ll Need

Visiting Australia is most popular during summer months, and for good reason. There’s tons of events going on throughout the country and the weather is ideal beach weather. I’d recommend going during February and March. I’ve found that majority of big events and festivals happen in February, which are so fun to attend. In March the weather is perfect and less crowded.

I’m also partial to going in January! New Years Eve in Sydney is unmatched, and January houses big events like Australia Day and the Australian Open in Melbourne.

You’ll need an ETA to visit Australia and can apply for one easily online. The turnaround time is typically less than 48 hours, but you can always do this further in advance to be safe.

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    Dreamy 3 Week Australia Itinerary

    Let’s get into the details, shall we? In this itinerary you’ll find the best things to do in each city, along with recommended hotels, and tours. I’ve also included recommended routes for getting from one city to the next.

    Days 1-4: Sydney, New South Wales

    Sydney

    Welcome to Sydney! As Australia’s largest and most popular city, Sydney is where you’ll likely be flying into. It’s of course an absolute must to explore while visiting the country.

    Getting to Sydney from the Airport

    The best ways of getting to the city are taking an Uber or taxi to your hotel, or you can take the Sydney Airport Link Train. The train takes about 20 minutes getting into the city center (CBD) and costs $17 AUD.

    Public transportation throughout Sydney and Australia’s major cities is great. I recommend getting an Opal Card, which is a free smart card ticket that you add value to and tap on/tap off.

    Best Things to Do in Sydney

    For your first day in Sydney, use this time to get settled and walk around the city. Head to the Sydney Opera House for that pinch me moment and marvel at this masterpiece, along with the Harbour Bridge! There’s a restaurant and bar out front that you can grab a bite at. The Royal Botanical Gardens are right next door that are lovely to walk through as well.

    For the rest of your time there, here are my recommendations:

    • Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge: This is one of those bucket list activities that everyone should do in their lifetime! Book your tour well in advance as this is one of most popular activities to do in Australia. You can also walk the bridge for free
    • Take a Harbour Cruise: Getting out on the water and sailing around the harbour with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge is chef’s kiss. You will not regret it!
    • Bondi Beach: If you love the beach, visiting the iconic Bondi Beach is a must. You’ll find lots of locals working on their fitness nearby and healthy cafes everywhere
    • Bondi Icebergs Pool: The world famous pool that’s attached to the ocean is Bondi Icebergs. Buy a ticket to enter and have a swim, get a tan, or grab a bite to eat. This is one of my all-time favorite places to go to
    Bondi Icebergs
    • Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk: One of the most beautiful walks you’ll do in your life is this is one. The trail runs parallel to the ocean and the views throughout are superb
    • Take the Ferry into Manly: Manly is a charming little beach town that’s just a short 20-minute ferry ride from Sydney. It’s a great way to experience Circular Quay and get out on the water. I’d recommend timing your return properly so you can catch sunset on your way back!
    • Explore Surry Hills neighborhood: One of Sydney’s most charming neighborhoods to get lost in for a morning or afternoon. Tons of great cafes and shops that you’ll love popping into
    • Art Gallery of New South Wales: Admission is free to this impressive art gallery that was founded in 1872. Grab a coffee at the lovely cafe across the street before you go
    • Hyde Park: This large and beautiful park is Australia’s oldest park. It’s right next to the Art Gallery and close to Surry Hills, making it perfect to check out for a leisurely stroll
    • Taronga Zoo: If you’re wanting to meet some of Australia’s wildlife, I recommend Taronga Zoo. It’s a short ferry ride from the CBD and features gorgeous views of the city. Buy your tickets online to save up to 20% on prices
    • The Blue Mountains: Visit some of Australia’s most well-known and beautiful mountains. I’d recommend taking an organized day trip for this itinerary, and consider coming back to spend more time here

    Best Accommodations in Sydney

    From hostels to budget and luxury hotels, here are the best places I’ve found in Sydney. I recommend staying in the CBD so that you’re close to everything!

    Days 5-9: Melbourne & Great Ocean Road

    Melbourne CBD

    On day 5 of your trip, it’s time to head to Melbourne! There are several ways of getting from Sydney to Melbourne, but I recommend catching an early morning flight to Melbourne which will take about 90 minutes.

    Melbourne is one of my favorite cities in the world where I’ve been fortunate to live for a bit. It’s filled with so many cool neighborhoods, graffiti art, and eclectic restaurants. Spend the first couple of days seeing the sights of the city, and on day 7 you should take a day trip along the Great Ocean Road. You can also consider renting a car to do this trip on your own and break it into a couple days. There’s so much beauty along this incredible coastal drive.

    Getting to Melbourne from the Airport

    You’ll fly into the Tullamarine Airport from Sydney and head into the city center (CBD). I’d recommend taking the Skybus or Uber. The Skybus is $22 one way (or $36 return) and departs every 10 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes to get into the city and is the cheapest option.

    Best Things to do in Melbourne

    Melbourne is home to an array of so many diverse offerings, including grand sporting events, art, and sublime coffee culture. Once you arrive into Melbourne, I recommend immediately grabbing a coffee (you are in the mecca of it!) and getting lost in one of the many cool neighborhoods.

    For the rest of your time there, here are my recommendations:

    • Tour the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG): Head to the world famous Melbourne Cricket Ground and see where the country’s major sporting events are held, like cricket and the AFL Grand Final
    • National Gallery of Victoria (NGV): One of Australia’s renowned galleries, with heaps of impressive art, exhibits, and experiences
    • Royal Botanical Gardens: Melbourne’s botanical gardens are my favorite in all of Australia. There are places throughout the gardens that feel like you’ve stepped into a painting
    3 week australia itinerary
    Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens
    • Fitzroy Neighborhood: One of Melbourne’s hippest neighborhoods that’s a must to explore. Grab brunch at Addict Food & Coffee and a drink at Naked for Satan Rooftop. The Fitzroy Gardens are also very lovely to walk through
    • Queen Victoria Market: One of the best open air markets with fresh food, local vendors, and live music. Highly recommend walking around here one evening!
    • Eat & Drink on the Yarra River: There’s tons of fantastic restaurants along the Yarra River. Be sure to stroll along here and take in the views. I recommend Arbory for food and Ponyfish Island for drinks
    • Explore DeGraves Street, Flinders Lane, and Laneways: Melbourne is known for its laneways that feature the best hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants, along with incredible graffiti art
    • Lune Croissanterie: If you’d like to try arguably the best croissants in the world, head to Lune (the Fitzroy location is best in my opinion!). I dream of this place more often that not
    • St. Kilda Neighborhood: Explore Melbourne’s ‘beachy’ neighborhood and the Luna Amusement Park. The beach isn’t great but it’s still a fun neighborhood to check out
    peninsula hot springs
    3 week australia itinerary

    Just outside of Melbourne are some amazing places! Some additional recommendations:

    • Peninsula Hot Springs: Quite possibly my favorite spa ever. Lots of hot springs surrounded by beautiful views of the Mornington Peninsula. No car? Take a tour to visit!
    • Mornington Peninsula: Gorgeous region filled with wineries, spas, and more fantastic activities. It’s like the Napa of the state of Victoria
    • See Penguins at Phillips Island: Believe it or not, you can find penguins right outside of Melbourne. There are tons of great day trips to check out that will take you there
    • Brighton Beach: Known for its colorful bright huts and Brighton Baths, this beach is about 30 minutes outside of the CBD
    • Torquay: My favorite beach just an hour outside of Melbourne. Perfect for a day trip, Torquay is a picturesque beach with great surfing, cafes, and few tourists

    Best Accommodations in Melbourne

    3 week australia itinerary

    Great Ocean Road

    Australia’s world-famous Great Ocean Road runs through Victoria’s stunning coastline and Otway National Park. It features dramatic landscapes like the iconic Twelve Apostles and so many beautiful beaches.

    You can either visit through an organized tour, which will take you to all the best spots, or do the drive on your own. I did the drive on my own and broke it up into two days.

    If you’re doing the drive on your own, I’d recommend renting a car through Discover Cars. I use them and always find the best rates and quality customer service.

    Here’s where you’ll want to stop along the way: Bells Beach, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Cape Otway, Otway National Forest, The Twelve Apostles, and Port Campbell National Park

    I’d recommend spending the night in Lorne if you’re breaking the drive up into two days. It’s the cutest town and perfect for spending some more time in. Browse hotels in Lorne here.

    Days 9-12: Cairns, Queensland & Great Barrier Reef

    Great Barrier Reef

    It’s time to head up north to go cross off that bucket list experience of the Great Barrier Reef! This is another one of those pinch me experiences. The Great Barrier Reef is incredible.

    You’ll fly into Cairns, Queensland from Melbourne, which takes about three hours. Settle into Cairns and explore the city. It’s a cute, touristy, and tropical town.

    Book a guided tour to the Great Barrier Reef and spend the day discovering the world’s most extensive coral reef ecosystem.

    More Activities in North Queensland

    While you’re in the tropical state of Queensland, it’s also very worth checking out its incredible rainforest destinations like Cape Tribulation, the Daintree Rainforest (UNESCO World Heritage Site), and Mossman Gorge.

    Book a guided tour to Cape Tribulation, Daintree Rainforest, and Mossman Gorge

    Best Accommodation in Cairns

    Accommodation in Cairns is very affordable. Below are some of the best I’ve found:

    Days 12-14: Whitsunday Islands

    Whitsunday Islands
    3 week australia itinerary
    3 week australia itinerary

    On day 12 it’s time to head to the incredible Whitsunday Islands. Known for stretches of white squeaky sand, the Whitsundays house 74 islands with teal waters and pristine beaches. The most popular of them all is Whitehaven Beach, which is an absolute must to discover.

    You can choose to take a single day or multiple day trip out to these islands, depending on how much you want to see. I did a two-night, three-day trip and it was so amazing.

    I’d recommend arriving to Airlie Beach and boarding your tour that same day if possible. Many tours depart in the afternoon.

    Getting to the Whitsunday Islands

    From Cairns you can drive or bus to Airlie Beach, which is a cute little beach town where most of the organized tours depart from. The drive takes 6.5 hours and by bus takes 10.5 hours.

    You can also fly from Cairns to the Whitsundays. I’d recommend flying into the Proserpine airport (PPP) and departing from there.

    Days 15-17: Brisbane & Gold Coast

    Brisbane
    Photo taken from rooftop at YHA Brisbane

    To kick off your third week in Australia, head to the country’s third largest city, Brisbane. You’ll fly here from Airlie Beach; there are nonstop and cheap flights that take about 90 minutes.

    During your time here you can choose to spend time in Brisbane and explore the city, and/or you can visit the Gold Coast, just an hour south. The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s most popular towns, known for the famous Surfer’s Paradise and great beaches.

    Best Things to Do in Brisbane

    • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: A sanctuary where you can hold koalas and pet kangaroos! Take a guided tour via Brisbane River cruise
    • Australia Zoo: About an hour north of Brisbane is Steve Irwin’s zoo, run by the Irwin family
    • Southbank Parklands: A pretty area to walk around that borders the river
    • Botanical Gardens: Australia champions botanical gardens. These are worth checking out!
    3 week australia itinerary
    3 week australia itinerary

    Because you’ll be heading south to Byron Bay next, you can decide whether you want to spend the night in Brisbane or Gold Coast. By car, Gold Coast is one hour south of Brisbane, and Byron is two hours south of Brisbane.

    Best Accommodation in Brisbane

    Days 18-21: Byron Bay

    Byron Bay

    For your final leg of the trip, it’s time to head to the beloved town of Byron Bay. This charming little town has gained notoriety for its wellness, arts, and coastal scenes. The beaches are beautiful, the waters are filled with dolphins, and the vibes are high.

    From Brisbane/Gold Coast, you can either drive or take a bus here.

    If you’re coming from the Gold Coast there’s a Byron Bay Express Shuttle that costs $40 one way/$70 return. It takes 50 minutes to get there. This is what I did and it was so simple!

    If you’re coming from Brisbane, there’s a Greyhound bus that takes 3.5 hours and costs between $30-$52 depending on the fare you purchase.

    Best Things to Do in Byron Bay

    • Kayak Alongside Dolphins: This is such a memorable activity, one of my favorites I’ve done! Dolphin sightings are guaranteed by this tour, it’s quite magical
    • Cape Byron Lighthouse: The lighthouse is one of the main attractions in Byron and very worth checking out! Visit on your own or take a guided tour, like this one that catches sunrise
    • Enjoy the Beautiful Beaches: There are several great beaches throughout Byron, including Main Beach, Belongil Beach, and Wategos Beach
    • Take a Surf Lesson: Byron is known for its great surf, making it the perfect place to take a lesson!
    • Enjoy live music at Main Beach: There’s constantly local events happening at main beach. Try to catch some live music at sunset!
    • Visit Bangalow: A charming neighboring town with cute boutiques and cafes

    Best Accommodation in Byron Bay

    • The Surf House ($): Great beach chic hostel with a rooftop bar
    • The Lord Byron ($$): A little oasis in the heart of Byron. I loved staying here!
    • Elements of Byron ($$$): Treat yourself to this stunning hotel featuring a spa, two swimming pools, fitness center, and private villas

    Day 22: Head Back to Brisbane and Fly Home

    Since Brisbane is only two hours from Byron Bay, it will be easiest to fly home from here. Brisbane has an international airport that offers tons of flights worldwide.

    FAQs: 3 Week Australia Itinerary

    Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding a 3 week Australia itinerary!

    How much money should I take to Australia for 3 weeks?

    How much money you plan to spend is all reliant on types of activities you do and the accommodation you book. Australia is not a cheap country; however, the exchange rate for USD to AUD is quite good as of December 2023. I’d plan to spend between $5,000-$7,000 USD.

    How many weeks do I need in Australia?

    Since in three weeks we’ve only covered the east coast, you need much more than three weeks to experience the whole country! There’s so much to see and do all throughout Australia, including places like Uluru, Western Australia, and Tasmania. I’d recommend spending six weeks in Australia to see majority of the country.

    Conclusion: 3 Week Australia Itinerary

    By now I hope you have a strong idea of how to spend 3 weeks in Australia. You of course do not have to follow this itinerary strictly! Feel free to make tweaks to what works best for you. This is simply an outline for ideas on how you can spend 3 weeks in the country and see many iconic destinations.

    Remember to book a lot of your tours and accommodation in advance, as things book up quick during high season. Be sure to pack a rain jacket as Sydney and Melbourne can rain a lot even during summer months. And bring your sunscreen, the sun is intense in Australia!

    Have the best time in one of my favorite country’s of all time. I know you’ll very much love it there.

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