Come and Say G’Day to Australia

Endless Possibilities Down Under

Australia: The Basics

Australia is one of those places that people dream about for years, but for one reason or another, never get to see. I was fortunate to visit with my family for the first time in 2020 (just before the pandemic), and fell in love with this beautiful country. We all loved it so much we vowed we would come back.

When I was starting Travel Made Joyful, I knew I wanted to focus on a few countries that I really had a passion for, and Australia was at the top of the list. So, I pursued and attained my Aussie Specialist Certification, which led to the amazing opportunity to travel back in March 2023 as part of a US Travel Advisor Familiarization (FAM) trip.

I realized a few key points about Australia as I completed my training:

  1. Australia is HUGE. It fits over the entire USA and Europe, and flying across the country would take you five hours, the same as flying from LA to New York.
  2. There is such a variety of things to do in every region of Australia, and each is a veritable treasure trove of adventures. Whether you like food and wine, beaches, nature, animals, or history and culture, each region offers a multitude of unforgettable possibilities.

The first time we went to Australia, my family and I spent six days in Sydney, followed by five days in Port Douglas, which is in Far North Queensland. This trip, I was excited to see Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, and the Red Center (part of the Northern Territory)!

Who: I joined a group of ten other US Travel Advisors from all over the country, as well as representatives from Tourism Australia.

What: Southeastern Queensland (Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast) and the Northern Territory (Red Center). We visited a new city almost every day, but got to see a great sample of what each of these regions of Australia have to offer. I’ll share highlights below.

When: I was there for 10 days total, from March 15-26. While we landed in Brisbane on March 17th, we skipped March 16th, and got to “live” March 26th twice (some of the magic of traveling to Australia).

Where: We stayed in a variety of different accommodations, which gave me a great sense of the many options you have when visiting Australia. We tried everything from glamping tents in Noosa to the swanky (and newly renovated) Intercontinental Hotel Sydney on our last evening. The cities we spent time in were Brisbane, Noosa, Alice Springs, Uluru, and Sydney.

Why: I want to help people visit this amazing country, and beyond just the Great Barrier Reef (though it is spectacular). I thought learning more about different areas of the country could only help me plan better trips. I was eager to build more relationships and connections with people who are on the ground in Australia, as well as my fellow US advisors, so I can build a solid network and make friends all over the world.


What I’d Do Again

I loved Brisbane and Noosa, and would have loved to spend more time there. Brisbane has tons of great restaurants (Howard Smith Wharves, take all my money), a trail that runs on both sides of the river, and is growing a lot in anticipation of hosting the 2032 Summer Olympics! The large university there means there are lots of cultural opportunities as well, and the modern art museum (Queensland Gallery of Modern Art) was one of my highlights.

Noosa Heads was the perfect combination of a small, boutique city (it felt a lot like Door County here in Wisconsin) and access to some of the tropical, beachy, and natural parts of Australia. The walking trail through Noosa National Park would be an ideal place for a morning walk or run, and you’re at the perfect jumping off point for accessing the reef or places like Tangalooma Island. It was these two places that inspired me to start planning a small group trip to Australia (see my Final Thoughts for more!).

There were certain aspects of the Northern Territory I really loved as well. We got to see a few beautiful national parks, and one incredible luxury resort that is just getting going (Kings Creek Station). If you love the desert and outback landscape, and doing some challenging hiking, Kings Canyon and Watarraka National Park would be an awesome off-the-beaten-path destination.

Uluru itself was magical. I never thought it was somewhere I’d be interested in seeing, but the peace and quiet of the desert combined with the majesty of seeing this huge rock formation emerge out of nowhere had a profound effect on me. Its isolation in the desert also made for some stunning nighttime stargazing, and the dinner experience with seeing Field of Light art installation were high points for me. Our resort, the Ayers Rock Resort, was great – a great pool, spacious and beautiful rooms, and an awesome breakfast & dinner buffet with lots of options for those with dietary restrictions.

Of course, Sydney has a very special place in my heart, and I snuck in an early morning run around the Opera House and a stop at one of the many small coffee shops for a flat white! Ending our trip with a dinner cruise around the harbor was a beautiful way to end a trip.

What I’d Change

For this trip in general, I didn’t dictate the schedule or pace, so it’s hard to provide feedback on where I would spend more or less time. So, this feedback is more my recommendations based on what I experienced.

  • Alice Springs – I liked the nighttime desert walk we got to do with the echidnas and other native species at Alice Springs Desert Park. It would have been great to also go in the daytime, since they have a ton of other great offerings that we didn’t have time to see.
  • Tangalooma Island – we got to do a helicopter ride (which was awesome!), but I would have loved to stay here overnight or in the evening to try more of their activities, like hand-feeding the wild dolphins that live on the island, or snorkel their shipwrecks.
  • Watarraka National Park & Uluru – I wish I would have known about the multitudes of FLIES in advance! Thankfully, we invested in fly nets early on (which were surprisingly not distracting and easy to see through), but coming in with the expectation that they would be EVERYWHERE would have been nice to know.
  • Stargazing – I loved some parts of our Uluru Astro Tour, where we got to look up at the stars above Uluru and learn about how to spot different constellations, especially in the Southern Hemisphere! The drawback was that you get a picture as part of your visit, which is nice theory, but made for a really long time of just sitting and waiting. There were also opportunities to view certain planets and galaxies in a telescope, which is also great in theory, but I struggled to see clearly in the telescope (and I can imagine kids might as well).
  • Field of Light Dining – I LOVE the idea of doing an outdoor dinner along with Field of Light. However, if I did this again, I would recommend upgrading to the tasting menu (Tali Wiru) with wine pairings vs. the buffet dinner. Our server was great, but the food was just “fine.”

Tips for People Visiting Australia

  • Plan for all weather – while you might not need to plan for snow (unless you’re skiing – also possible in Aussie!), you’ll want to plan for heat, rain, sun, humidity, and dry weather. It also can get cool in the desert at night or in the morning, so packing is critical.
  • Yes, the flight is long. However, if you’ve traveled to Europe or Hawaii, it honestly doesn’t feel much different. There are two strategies here – consider breaking up the flight (maybe you fly to the West Coast of the US one day, and then tackle the flight to Australia the next). OR, you just go for it and get it all done in one long day. If possible, I do recommend searching for business class fares (you can do this with points or buy an economy ticket and upgrade), since you’ll be assured to get some solid rest and be able to stretch your legs.
  • Pick fewer places – you’re never going to see everything in one trip, and with the great distances between places in Australia, you’ll have a much better time if you pick a region (or two) and maximize your time there.
  • Try something new! The variety of things to do in Australia goes on and on, and we got to do some amazing things I’ve never done before (hot air balloon ride, helicopter ride, and more). Challenge yourself here to do something unique – and with the strength of the US dollar right now, it is quite affordable to add in these extra experiences.
  • Respect the culture and nature– it was evident in everything we did that Aussies love and appreciate their indigenous heritage and people, as well as the nature and species that make this country so unique. We learned about the Aboriginal traditions, and got to observe and interact with nature in so many ways. From seeing starry skies that I’ve never come close to witnessing to walking alongside kangaroos and echidnas, this is definitely the place for people who love nature.

Final Words

I wasn’t even back from this trip before I was planning the next one. AND, it got me thinking – I’d love to host some small group trips to Australia as well as South Africa.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

Trip #1: Australian Safari – geared towards families (but not necessarily a requirement), where we’d focus on animals and the outdoors – beaches, snorkeling the reef, whale watching (or even swimming with whales), visiting Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Australia Zoo – maybe three families max (or 12ish people) – August 2024?

Trip #2: Australian Food & Wine – geared towards those who love food and wine (of course!) but focuses on sustainable practices and farm-to-table (or ocean-to-table), combining some of the amazing cities but also smaller wine regions – estimate 10-12 people – 2024 or 2025

Would either of these be of interest to you? Reply to this post or email me at

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