Coach travel: The wonders Down Under

From snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef to sunrise at Uluru, Jane Archer takes a coach tour to see all the delights Australia has to offer

Joey is clinging to my wrist with his forearms as he gently nibbles grain from my hand. Joey is a baby kangaroo and the cutest little fella I’ve encountered in Cleland, a wildlife park near Adelaide in Australia, a country that brings on experiences you can’t replicate anywhere else.

There’s sunrise or sunset over Uluru (Ayers Rock), snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, climbing over the top of a bridge (sounds dull, but how about when it is Sydney Harbour Bridge and you are 134m above the water on top of the arch with a bird’s eye view of the Sydney Opera House across the bay?).

You can journey past coastline, fishing villages, waterfalls and rainforest on the 400km Great Ocean Road, sip wines in vineyards (well, OK, you can do that in many other places but these are New World wines and much more hip) and venture into the outback. Cleland itself is more than just kangaroos. You can cuddle a koala, get close to emus and learn about ferocious dingoes.

But here’s the thing. Australia is huge – put it over a map of Europe and east to west it stretches from the west coast of Ireland to Moscow; north to south from Arctic Sweden to Turkey. Of course you can travel around alone but an organised tour is so much easier – especially for solo travellers, as they have a ready-made set of companions to buddy up with.

Better still, not only do lots of operators have Australia-wide tours but several are just for those holidaying alone so it’s much easier for solo travellers to make friends.

All tours visit Sydney, Melbourne, Uluru and Cairns, the jumping-off point for trips to the Great Barrier Reef, but clients with time and money to spare are well advised to choose a longer one and also tick off places such as Darwin, Perth and Adelaide, where other key attractions include the wilds of Kangaroo Island and the Barossa Valley vineyards.

Just You, the solo travel specialist, has a 30-day Amazing Australia tour from Perth to Melbourne next January that spends three nights in Adelaide, a couple of nights in Darwin and includes trips to see Aboriginal rock art, sheep shearing, crocodiles and even a camel farm.

Saga has two 29-night Ultimate Australia tours reserved for solo travellers. Departing April 26 and October 4, 2018, they visit Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs, Uluru, Cairns, Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, where an included tour visits Cleland Wildlife Park.

Both sound punishing schedules but they include three-night stays in several places so there is time to unpack, see the sights and relax before moving on. Travel is by air or coach.

Saga holiday creator Chris Parker said: “Australia is a fantastic choice for solo travellers. The length of the trip offers the opportunity to take advantage of the social atmosphere solo tours offer and meet new and like-minded travellers.” Prices start from £8,249 per person bed and breakfast, including flights and 16 excursions.

Cosmos and Titan have comprehensive tours of Australia, but not exclusively for solo travellers. Cosmos product and commercial executive Samantha Green said: “The social aspect and reassurance of travelling with a group, means single travellers can relax and enjoy seeing Australia’s cities and incredible sights.”

Cosmos’ top seller is the 15-day Highlights of Australia tour, which includes a champagne and canapés sunset at the iconic Uluru, catamaran over the Great Barrier Reef plus a cruise around Sydney harbour.

Contiki, which caters for 18-35 year olds, said 55 per cent of its clients are single and, of those, 67 per cent are female – an important consideration for women concerned about travelling alone. The company has loads of tours in Australia including one and two-week outback tours and coastal trips between Cairns and Sydney with quad share or double, twin or single rooms available. From £1,335 per person for a 14-night Outback Adventure from Darwin to Alice Springs next January excluding flights.

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