- Explore some of Australia’s most spectacular wildernesses, from rugged Tasman Island to the glacial lakes and misty forests of Cradle Mountain National Park.
- Get acquainted with Tasmania’s rare creatures—including the endemic Tasmanian devil—on a visit to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Discover the extraordinary marine life of the Great Barrier Reef from your base at Thala Beach Nature Reserve, a National Geographic Unique Lodge nestled amid ancient rainforest at the edge of the Coral Sea.
- Gain insights into the connection between spirituality, culture, and the natural world while hiking through the Daintree Rainforest with an Aboriginal guide.
With its whimsical wildlife, unusual geology, and one of the oldest cultures on the planet, Australia is nothing short of extraordinary. Immerse yourself in the wonders of down under, experiencing the vibrant urban cultures of Sydney and Melbourne and traveling to the wilds of Tasmania, where wombats, wallabies, and Tasmanian devils roam. Go snorkeling amid breathtaking corals and school of dazzling fish at the Great Barrier Reef, and discover the rich heritage of Aboriginal tribes who have called the continent home for thousands of years.
Arrive in Sydney and check in to our hotel. This evening, cruise the waters of Sydney Harbour and enjoy a welcome dinner on board, taking in views of the spectacular city skyline.
Begin the day with a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden, nestled in the heart of the city and home to cockatoos, flying foxes, and thousands of different plants. Learn about Sydney’s indigenous settlers from our Aboriginal guide and, depending on the season, forage for bush foods as we explore the garden’s lush pathways. Later, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Stroll through the theaters and concert halls where thousands of world-class performances take place each year, and hear about the drama that goes on behind the curtains. The afternoon is yours to enjoy at leisure.
Fly to the island of Tasmania and see the sights of Hobart, its vibrant capital. Stroll along the historic waterfront—once the hub of Australia’s whaling industry—and visit Battery Point, one of Hobart’s oldest and most charming suburbs. Tonight, zoologist and National Geographic grantee Dr. Stewart Nicol joins us for a private visit to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, a refuge and rehabilitation center. Get acquainted with a host of endemic Australian creatures during their feeding time, including Tasmanian devils, Forester kangaroos, and koalas; and hear about how the sanctuary reintroduces these animals into the wild.
Just off the southeastern coast of Tasmania lies Tasman Island, a geological wonderland of skyscraping vertical sea cliffs, rock archways, and deep caves. Watch for seabirds, seals, and dolphins as we glide past these spectacular coastal formations on a wilderness cruise. Back on dry land, join a private guide to wander the haunting ruins of Port Arthur, one of Australia’s historic prison colonies that together make up a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enjoy free time to explore eclectic Hobart this evening.
Travel north to Mount Field National Park, Tasmania’s oldest nature reserve. Stop at Russell Falls along the way, arriving at the enchanting cascade after a short walk through cool, fern-draped rainforest. Continue to a local sheep farm, where we’ll witness the island’s agricultural traditions, and enjoy a barbecue lunch and a sheep-shearing demonstration. This evening, settle into our lodge at the edge of Cradle Mountain–Lake St. Clair National Park.
Delve into a full-day exploration of this majestic park, harboring rainforests and alpine meadows, jagged mountains and glacial lakes. Embark on a bush walk on the shores of sapphire-hued Dove Lake, located beneath the towering peaks of Cradle Mountain, and learn about the region’s unusual flora and fauna. Search for elusive nocturnal animals on an evening excursion, spotting wombats, wallabies, and possums foraging in the treetops and grasses.
Transfer to Launceston for your flight to Melbourne, known as the cultural capital of Australia. Drive past famous landmarks such as the Queen Victoria Market, Arts Centre Melbourne, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground on a city tour; discover a kaleidoscope of plant species at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria; and pay your respects to fallen Australian soldiers at the Shrine of Remembrance. Then take to the streets for a walking tour of Melbourne’s narrow lanes and ornate shopping arcades, browsing boutique stores, quirky cafés, and colorful murals.
Set out on one of the most picturesque coastal drives in the world, passing sweeping golden beaches, dramatic cliffs, and charming seaside towns. Visit Torquay for a dose of surfing culture, and discover the stunning natural landmarks of Port Campbell National Park. Wander among the towering limestone stacks known as the Twelve Apostles, and hear the stories of shipwrecks along this rugged coast as you explore Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge, and the Grotto—magnificent rock formations sculpted through millions of years of erosion.
Fly to Cairns. En route to our lodge in Port Douglas, stop at James Cook University Cairns to meet marine biologist and National Geographic grantee Adam Barnett. Hear about Dr. Barnett’s latest research on sharks and other marine predators, and enjoy free time in Palm Cove village, known for its idyllic beaches and ancient Melalueca trees. Then settle into your bungalow at Thala Beach Nature Reserve, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World flanked by ancient rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef. Spend a relaxed evening at the lodge, taking a dip in the swimming pool, walking along the private beach, or unwinding at the spa.
Spend the day exploring the largest reef system on the planet. Head out on a motorized catamaran to the outer reef, and discover this incredible marine ecosystem and UNESCO World Heritage site in a variety of ways. Observe vibrant corals from a viewing platform; glide across aquamarine waters in a glass-bottom boat, keeping an eye out for some of the thousands of species that inhabit the reef; and go snorkeling amid sea turtles and schools of florescent fish.
Today, immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture on a visit to Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and the ancestral homeland of the Kuku Yalanji people. Trek through ancient ferns and emerald-colored vines with your Aboriginal guide, learning about hunting practices and medicinal customs that have been passed down over generations; and sample typical bush foods, like mussels and mud crabs. Cool off in a pristine stream before embarking on a guided Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge; then cap off your adventure with a private cruise on the Daintree River, where diverse wildlife collects at the convergence of saltwater and freshwater. Celebrate our journey down under at a farewell dinner tonight.
After breakfast, transfer to the Cairns airport to connect with your flight home.
- Inside Australia: Uluru Extension
Post-Trip, 4 Days
Immerse yourself deep in the heart of Australia’s remote outback, discovering its red desert landscapes and the ancient traditions of its Aboriginal inhabitants. Witness the sacred Uluru monolith, hike between the crevices of Kata Tjuta’s staggering domed-rock formations, and enjoy traditional outback fare under the stars.
Fly from Cairns to Australia’s Red Centre and settle into your lodge, poised at the gateway to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The park—a UNESCO World Heritage site—is home to the spectacular red monolith of Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock), held sacred by the area’s Aboriginal owners. Embark on a sunset tour of this impressive geological marvel before returning to the lodge for dinner al fresco.
Climb aboard 4x4 vehicles for a thrilling ride into the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands of Central Australia alongside our Aboriginal guide. Discover the magnificent rock art at Cave Hill, which tells the Aboriginal creation story of the Seven Sisters, a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation. Back at Uluru this evening, watch as the descending sun sets the red rock ablaze in a spectacular display of color and light. Cap off the day with dinner in the bush, enjoying traditional outback fare and a mesmerizing Aboriginal dance performance.
Rise early to catch a dazzling sunrise over Uluru; then make your way to Kata Tjuta, its neighboring natural wonder. Venture into Kata Tjuta’s interior crevices on a trek through the Walpa Gorge, which cuts through two of the site’s 36 domed-rock formations. This afternoon, transfer to the airport and fly to Sydney, where you’ll spend an evening at leisure.
Transfer to the Sydney airport and connect to your international flight home.