Here is a preview of our itinerary (as planned, not as finally executed which, believe me you, was not too far off *pats self on the back*):
Day One: Land in Sydney, get picked up by friend who would give us a highlights tour of the city, so we could get a few scenic photos, after which he would drop us off at the airport for our evening flight to Cairns. Once in Cairns, we would take our rental car and drive to our first Airbnb accommodation that was conveniently located close to the Wharf.
Day Two: Early in the morning, we planned to drive in the car to the Wharf, find a parking spot, then head over to the Marina to get to our Cruise to the reefs. Once done with that adventure, we would drive to our second Airbnb accommodation that was outside of Cairns town and appeared to be in a remote location (which is why we didn’t reserve it for two days – even hindsight doesn’t help us figure out whether this was a good decision or not!).
Day Three: We would wake up late and at leisure, relax and just hang around, before leaving to Cairns to return our car then board the plane for Melbourne. At Melbourne, we would once again head towards the rental agency, get the car and drive to our third Airbnb of the trip in Torquay, at the origin of the Great Ocean Road.
Day Four: We planned to leave early in the morning (maybe not as early as Day Two and definitely not as late as Day Three) and get on the Great Ocean Road. Our farthest point planned was Port Campbell after which we would head back. However, though the distance is about 150 km (less than 100 miles), we had been uniformly warned on all websites that it would take much more than your regulation two hours or less! So, we didn’t have a clue how far we might get that day. Chances were we would not yet reach Port Campbell; on the other hand, there were good chances of our going all the way up to Port Campbell way before sunset then starting to head back towards Melbourne. Be that as it may, we decided not to take the chance of reserving our accommodation and then either not arriving in time (then struggling to drive on the “opposite side” at night) or overshooting it (then regretting the time lost by dragging ourselves back). So, we didn’t have any reservations for that night.
Day Five: Picking up wherever we left off, we would drive the remainder of the GOR up to Port Campbell, then take the inland (much faster) roads back to Melbourne. After spending the morning and early afternoon sightseeing Melbourne, we would drive to Phillip Island to watch the little penguins. After watching them, we would drive the rental car back to the airport to return it to the agency. This is how I figured the two days “plus three hours” of rental. I figured that we would be renting the car at about seven pm, and then – two days later – the penguins should be coming home by about the same time. Figure about a couple of hours plus some extra time, and we should be able to drop the car off by about ten pm or so. Once that was taken care of, we would get some transportation – either a shuttle or a cab – to Melbourne CBD and our ho(s)tel for the night, Urban Central Accommodation.
Day Six: In the morning, we planned to get up early, check our luggage into the luggage room at the hotel, then check out of the hotel. We would then spend the whole day sightseeing in the Melbourne CBD area (I really did not research this a whole lot) and maybe go to the top of the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, the Eureka Skydeck. Late in the afternoon, we would return to the hotel, relax for some time, pick up our luggage then head over to the train station for the train that would take us to Sydney.
Day Seven: Once we got to Sydney, my local friend would pick us up and then we would be going to visit the Blue Mountains with his family. That night, they would be hosting us at their home.
Day Eight: In the morning, our hosts would take us to the Intercontinental Double Bay where we would at least leave our luggage if we couldn’t check in. They would then drop us off at either end of the Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach cliff walk, which is one of the famous attractions of Sydney. Once we finished the walk, we would head over to Sydney CBD area where we would spend some time in the Circular Quay area before taking the Manly Ferry, which would give us great views of the Sydney CBD area, especially the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Later, we would spend some more time in the Sydney CBD before returning to the hotel.
Day Nine: As our flight out was in the morning, we wouldn’t really have much time to do anything except to get ready and hail a cab.