A friend purchased a super cheap ticket to Sydney and is visiting Australia for the first time. They’re looking for a mix of city, beach, and active/adventure. Here’s what I recommended:
With 7 days I recommend sticking to the East Coast — Australia is about the size of the continental U.S. so flying from Sydney to, say, Cairns is kind of like flying from Charlotte to Boston.
Option 1: Sydney + Day Trips
This would be the easiest to coordinate and the least amount of hopping around, still with plenty to see, though it might not feel as exotic as the other options.
You could spend 1-2 days exploring the city, 1 day out at the eastern & southern beaches where there’s a great coastal walking trail connecting main beaches (Bondi, Coogee, etc.), 1 day taking a ferry across to Manly for the beach and zoo, 1 day trip to Hunter Valley for a “wobbly wine” bike trip (you bike vineyard to vineyard), day or overnight trip to the Blue Mountains/Katoomba for hiking and rappelling.
Option 2: Cairns + Sydney
This would be a good mix of beach and adventure (Great Barrier Reef and rainforest) and city, but more travel time and less time in Sydney.
Get in and fly up to Cairns which is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Spend 1-2 days out on the reef (day trips or you can do a scuba liveaboard for overnights), then 1 day in Daintree Rainforest where you’ll see crocs and other weird Aussie animals. Then fly down to Sydney and do the city/beach stuff in the above option.
Option 3: Whitsunday Islands + Sydney
Similar to option 2, except instead of Cairns you could base yourself in the Whitsunday Islands on the southern part of the reef (google image it, one of the most beautiful places ever), like on Hamilton Island. A bit more sailing/beach and less jungle adventure. Also would up your in-transit time though.
Option 4: Sydney + Melbourne
This would be a much more urban combo, but also one of my fave road trips in the world, the Great Ocean Road.
Melbourne is the artsier edgier Aussie city, like the Seattle to Sydney’s LA. You can spend a day or two exploring, and a day doing the Great Ocean Road drive along the coast to the Twelve Apostles.