If you’re looking for a travel destination that is both foreign and familiar, both easy and exotic, you need to look at Australia.
Australia, along with New Zealand, Tasmania and the other small islands that make up the Australian continent, is perennially popular with American groups. Its faraway location, stunning scenery and abundance of adventure activities make it feel like an exotic destination. But its English language and cultural heritage help even novice travelers to feel right at home.
Australia comprises a lot of territory and remote destinations separated by large distances, so expert advice is imperative for planning a proper trip. We asked three tour operators who specialize in Australia to give us their best insights on the continent.
Anderson Vacations: Darcie Guarderas, director of business development & operations
Classic Vacations: Yvette Brossaurd, product director for Australia
Kimberley and Outback Wilderness Adventures: Rob Tandy, general manager
What are your top-selling itineraries to Australia?
Guarderas: The most popular itineraries go to Sydney, then to Uluru [Ayers Rock] or Alice Springs, then up to Cairns. Then sometimes they’ll head into New Zealand. But we’re finding people now wanting to visit Adelaide in the south, and Kangaroo Island has become very popular. It’s considered the Galapagos of Australia.
People usually go for 12-14 days. That’s one misperception that people have, that you have to go for a month. That’s no true any more.
Brossaurd: Our top sellers are the reef, the rock and the city. Sydney, Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef are the most popular. Occasionally we’ll get people that want to do something different and go to Kangaroo Island or Tasmania.
It’s an average of 10-14 days, because that’s about all the vacation time that people get. Some people try to squeeze New Zealand in that amount of time too, but it really needs to be a separate trip.
Tandy: The 15-day Kimberly Complete itinerary, closely followed by our 11-day Kimberley Coast Cruise, are our two most popular programs. The Kimberly Complete includes two nights in Purnululu National Park; driving the length of the iconic Gibb River Road; two nights on the Mitchell Plateau; a helicopter flight over Mitchell Falls; two nights staying at Broome’s iconic Cable Beach Club Resort; a tour of the Home Valley Station; and a majestic Ord River cruise.
The Kimberley Coast Cruise includes visiting the world-famous Horizontal Falls, Montgomery Reef, Raft Point, Bigge Island and King George Falls. Both experiences explore the history of
Australia’s Aborigines and their timeless artwork.
What is the best time of year for travel to Australia?
Guarderas: Our spring and our fall are really popular. Australia is on the opposite season as us. Christmas is very busy there, because it’s their summer, so it’s very difficult to find space for groups.
Right now I have inquiries for groups for this winter, January through March, and we’re having significant difficulty getting space. It’s a destination where you have to book with a lot of lead time.
Brossaurd: Their high season is December through March, and that’s the best time of year to go to South Australia. For the Great Barrier Reef, though, that’s not really the best time, because it’s cyclone season for them. But some people do it anyway. We’re just starting to get bookings now for their summer season.
Tandy: It depends on what part of Australia you are looking to explore. For the most part you can visit all year round, the exception being the Kimberley and far north Queensland, where the dry season runs from May to September. During the “wet” from October to April, and the weather is inhospitable and the roads often impassable.