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Eastern Australia: From Top to Bottom - Birding Tour

Tour Overview:

This tour’s big drawcard is the dozens of new families for the first-time visitor, from birds-of-paradise and bowerbirds, to lyrebirds and cassowaries. The first days are about getting people accustomed to the new families, subfamilies and even the different habitat types. So many of the birds in Australia appear to have large ranges, but most species are very habitat specific; luckily the Tropical Birding guides here not only know where to go to find and identify all the species, they also understand some of the subtle differences that occur from year to year, such as rainfall and flowering changes that make some places dead one year and pumping the next.


We used to think that this trip was by far the best for seeing the birds and animals of Eastern Australia, but with some of the tweaking we have done over the many years we have run this tour, we are now sure that no other Australian tour even comes close to providing what this trip offers.The covers the humid tropical forests of northern Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef, the cool mountain forests around Lamington National Park in southern Queensland, and takes in the coast, mountains and arid interior of New South Wales, and then extends all the way down to the rugged coastlines of Tasmania, seeing almost all of the available endemics along the way.

NOTE: This is an intense paced birding tour, trying to see as much as possible in 20 days. If you want a shorter, slower paced Australia tour, run at a more relaxed pace, then please see this tour: Australia: The Introtour.

Upcoming Departures:


1 - 20 November ($11200*; single supplement: $1470)

This tour links up with these 2 tours: 

Australia's Top End and Western Australia and Cape York in the Dry

*Internal flights are not included. Please contact us for the current cost of internal flights


28 October - 16 November ($11990; single supplement: $1500)

This tour links up with these 3 tours: 

Australia's Top End and Western Australia and Cape York in the Dry

*Internal flights are not included. Please contact us for the current cost of internal flights

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Other Tour Details:

Length: 20 Days

Starting City: Cairns

Ending City: Hobart (Tasmania)

Pace: Intense

Physical Difficulty: Easy

Focus: Birding & Wildlife

Group size: 7 + 1 leader

Eastern Australia- From Top to Bottom - Birding Tour-01.jpg

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Cairns (Queensland)

After arrival in Cairns, the tour will begin with a meeting at 1pm so that we can head out birding around this small city. Some of the sites we may visit include Centenary Lakes, Cairns Cemetery, and The Esplanade. Targets will include Australian shorebirds along The Esplanade, such as Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, godwits, sand-plovers, gulls and terns. Cairns Cemetery can be a great spot for finding common Australian birds such as Willie-Wagtails, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Australasian Figbirds, Torresian Imperial-Pigeons, and White-breasted Woodswallows, as well as sleeping Bush Thick-knees. Centenary Lakes could yield some of our first tropical species such as Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Australian Brush-Turkey, Dusky Myzomela, Brown-backed and Yellow Honeyeaters, Metallic Starling, Green Oriole, and Black Butcherbird. The night will be spent in Cairns.

Day 2: The Great Barrier Reef (Queensland)

After breakfast we will head to the local docks, where we’ll board a ferry that will take us out to the Great Barrier Reef for much of the day. Our first stop will be the tiny, sandy islet of Michaelmas Cay, a haven for nesting seabirds. The dominant nesting species is the Brown Noddy, although we will keep a sharp eye out for the scarcer Black Noddy hiding among them. There are also numerous terns on the island, mostly Sooty and Great Crested Terns, which are also sometimes joined by other species like Lesser Crested, Black-naped, and the occasional Roseate too. We will keep an eye out for any frigatebirds marauding above, as both Lesser and Great Frigatebirds can occur on the island too, and we may even pick up a Brown or Red-footed Booby flying over. Later on the boat trip there will be chances for those who wish to, to go snorkeling, or take a glass-bottomed boat tour of the reef. In the afternoon, we’ll return to Cairns for some late afternoon birding, and a second night.

Day 3: Cairns Rainforest to Daintree (Queensland)
We will spend the morning birding the road to Lake Morris, which is bordered by lowland rainforest and leads up into hillier rainforest too. A massive list of birds awaits there, and we will be on the lookout for Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Wompoo and Superb Fruit-Doves, Spotted Catbird, Victoria’s Riflebird, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Cryptic, Macleay’s and Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters, Dusky Myzomela, Gray Whistler, and Barred Cuckooshrike, among others!

After much of the morning in this area, we will travel towards Daintree. There are multiple routes that can be taken to Daintree, although we are likely to divert inland first to pass through dry country that could yield Blue-faced Honeyeater, Red-backed Fairywren, Red-winged Parrot and a visit to a Great Bowerbird bower, as well as a visit to a local wetland where Black-necked Stork, Black Swan, Green Pygmy-Goose, and Whistling Kites are all regulars. We might also pick up a passing flock of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos in the area too. Although Cairns to Daintree is only a 90-minute drive, direct, we are likely to take our time and not arrive there until late afternoon. Time permitting, in the late afternoon, we might try for the scarce and difficult Lovely Fairywren near our hotel in Daintree.

Day 4: Daintree River Cruise to Mareeba (Queensland)

At dawn we will take a boat cruise along the Daintree River and some of its narrow tributaries seeking birds and other wildlife. We will scour the trees for Wompoo Fruit-Doves and minuscule Double-eyed Fig-Parrots, while this can often be the best place to find Green Orioles. The low riverside vegetation holds handsome Shining Flycatchers, and we will also keep a sharp eye out for kingfishers such as the regular Azure Kingfisher and the rare Little Kingfisher. Although massive, the remarkably inconspicuous Great-billed Heron can sometimes be found here too. Using a local guide we may also get the chance to find one of the most cryptic birds of the Daintree, the Papuan Frogmouth, which nests in the trees lining the riverbank. After two hours along the river we will return to Daintree for a late cooked breakfast on their veranda. After breakfast we may check a few nearby spots for anything we are missing, before getting on our way to Mareeba, up on the Atherton Tableland. We will probably stop along the way to bird a few wetlands, or depending on the weather, we may even head up Mt Lewis to bird some of the high-altitude rainforest. Whatever we decide, there will be plenty of new birds waiting for us, and our list will continue to build.

Days 5-6: Atherton Tablelands (Queensland)

We will spend these two days visiting a variety of sites on the Atherton Tableland; there will be a lot of birds to fit in, so expect some long days. We will visit locations including Maryfarms for Australian Bustards and other dry country birds, Mount Lewis or the Lake Barrine area for