Eastern Australia Birding Tour

17 Days from
$7,795 CAD | $6,250 USD
Australasia
Land Tour
Highlights

Highlights

  • Visit a diversity of habitats from mangroves to savannas to mature rainforest to discover amazing wildlife, extraordinary birds and unique mammals!
  • Great Barrier Reef cruise to a coral cay and bird sanctuary
  • Daintree River cruise and optional pelagic trip to view a plethora of seabirds
  • Spectacular Lamington NP in attempt to find Albert's Lyrebird
  • Atherton Tablelands for exceptional species including possible Southern Cassowary
  • A superb country of excellent infrastructure and hospitable people
Map

Map

Tour Overview

Australia is a naturalist’s dream come true! Australia harbors enormous diversity of habitats, including the world’s longest coral reef (the 1260-mile long Great Barrier Reef).

Our birding tour focuses on eastern Australia, during the dry season. From northeast, where we have a chance for cassowary, bowerbirds and platypus, to the southeast’s lyrebirds, fairy wrens, wallabies, albatrosses and penguins, our tour samples a good portion of Australia’s scenery, avifauna and other wildlife.

Endemism here in Australia is extraordinary; 5 non-passerine families and 15 passerine families are endemic to Australasia, plus diverse marsupials, pigeons (26 species), parrots (53 species) and seabirds (79 species).

A superb and exciting tour with mostly easy birding in comfortable surroundings – truly unforgettable!

Combine this tour with our Tropical Australia birding tour or Australia: Tasmania birding tour.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Cairns

Our Eastern Australia birding tour begins today. You can arrive anytime today.

We begin our tour by spending the day at local birding locations including the Cairns Esplanade and adjacent mangroves, Centenary Lakes and Botanic Gardens. The Esplanade is a hotspot for waders on their southerly migration. Likely species include Red-capped Plover, Terek & Common Sandpipers, Great Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler, Beach Stone Curlew, Eastern Curlew, Whimbrel, Masked Lapwing, Australian Pelican, Royal Spoonbill, Eastern Great, Intermediate, Little and Eastern Reef Egrets, Striated Heron, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Gull-billed Tern, Silver Gull, Torresian Kingfisher, Green Oriole, Rainbow Lorikeet, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Peaceful Dove, Mangrove Robin, and Yellow and Varied Honeyeaters.

Centenary Lakes and the adjacent Botanic Gardens provide habitat for rainforest, fresh water and salt water wetlands. Species expected include Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Australian Brush-turkey, Pacific Black Duck, Peaceful Dove, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Papuan Frogmouth, Australian Swiftlet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Black Butcherbird, Yellow-spotted and Brown Honeyeaters, Hornbill Friarbird, Varied Triller, Australasian Figbird, White-breasted Woodswallow, Spangled Drongo, Leaden Flycatcher, Magpie-lark, Metallic Starling and Olive-backed Sunbird. An after-dinner walk along the Esplanade provides a good opportunity to see Bush Stone Curlews. Overnight Cairns.

Today we take a Great Barrier Reef cruise from the Cairns wharf. We board our comfortable vessel, the Ocean Spirit, at 8.00am for a relaxing two-hour cruise out to Michaelmas Cay, a true coral cay and bird sanctuary located 40km north-east of Cairns, part of the 2000 km long Great Barrier Reef. Thousands of ground-nesting seabirds occur here: Sooty and Crested Terns, Brown Noddy, Silver Gull, Brown Booby and Greater Frigatebird, with chances of rarer terns and boobies. There will be opportunities for a refreshing dip or snorkel in these beautiful waters. Overnight Cairns.

Our destination today is the Daintree River, where we take a pleasant boat cruise through farmland and rainforest on the look-out for Great-billed Heron, several kingfishers including Little, White-rumped Swiftlet, Large-billed Gerygone, Spectacled Monarch, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Black-necked Stork and Green Oriole, and saltwater crocodile. We then go to the end of Stewart Creek Road to look for wading birds including spoonbills, Spectacled Monarch, and several fairy-wrens, honeyeaters and cuckoo-shrikes. Afterwards, we drive to the coast to our accommodation in Port Douglas or Julattan where we stay for two nights.

Port Douglas is a convenient location for birding with easy access to probably a greater range of habitats than any other location in Australia. Within an hour drive it is possible to visit mountain rainforest, wetlands, grassland, Eucalyptus woodlands and tropical savannah. In small patches of rainforest around Julatten are Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Emerald Dove, Noisy Pitta, Red-necked Crake, Buff-banded Rail, Black-faced Monarch, Red-browed Finch and an array of honeyeaters including Blue-faced, McLeay’s and Graceful Honeyeaters, along with many other species. The rainforest at Mount Lewis is home to most of the wet tropics endemics including Atherton Scrubwren, Fernwren, Mountain Thornbill, Bridled Honeyeater, Chowchilla and Tooth-billed Bowerbird. In the savanna, there are Australian Bustards, Red-winged Parrots, Tawny Frogmouth, Squatter Pigeon, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Pale-headed Rosella, Brown Treecreeper, and Great Bowerbird. Blue-faced Parrot Finch is high on most birders list for this area and time will be spent looking for this elusive species. Night in in Port Douglas or Julattan.

The Atherton Tableland is a region of beautiful scenery with lakes and waterfalls, green pastures, open woodlands and scattered wetlands nestled in national parks and state forests, as well as Queensland’s highest mountains rising to over 1600m. Birding can be superb including Sarus Crane, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Forest Kingfisher, Pied Monarch, Chowchilla, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Golden Bowerbird, Tooth-billed and Spotted Catbirds and Victoria’s Riflebird. On our drive, we visit wetlands for Green and Cotton Pygmy-Geese and Brolga, and woodlands for Squatter Pigeon, Apostlebird, Great Bowerbird, Black-throated Finch, and the distinctive local race of Brown Treecreeper. We stay near Yungaburra, a National Trust village that has a platypus viewing platform. Two nights in Lake Eacham.

We head back to Cairns, stopping at Davies Creek to look for Rufous Owl and White-browed Robin and Kuranda where we have a reasonable chance of seeing Southern Cassowary. Time and tide permitting, we will check the Esplanade and other locations for any species we might have missed on the first day and any new arrivals. Overnight Cairns.

We catch an early morning flight to Brisbane and drive to the Green Mountains in Lamington National Park. This park covers most of the spectacular Lamington Plateau, a geologically fascinating plateau with deep gorges and caves that drops into the caldera of an extinct volcano and is covered in temperate rainforest. A feature attraction is the amazing Albert’s Lyrebird, and we make a special attempt to find this incredible mimic. Other goodies include Logrunner, Green Catbird, Regent Bowerbird, Paradise Riflebird and Marbled Frogmouth among others. We stay two nights at O’Reilly’s Guesthouse.

We have a full day of birding in the area surrounding O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park.

We spend the day transferring to Brisbane airport for an afternoon flight to Sydney. On arrival, we transfer to Kiama for two nights.

Today we have an all-day optional pelagic trip out of Kiama to the edge of the continental shelf. Beyond the shelf, the ocean floor drops abruptly to depths of more than 4000 m. We could encounter a plethora of seabirds – shearwaters including Flesh-footed, Fluttering, Short-tailed & Wedge-tailed, Pomarine Jaeger, Great-winged & Solander Petrels, Shy & Wandering Albatrosses, and much more.

We visit coastal heathlands of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve for a chance at the critically endangered Eastern Bristlebird, as well as Powerful Owl, Superb Lyrebird, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Southern Emu-wren, Brush Wattlebird, Rockwarbler, Pilotbird and Ground Parrot. We then head inland to the Blue Mountains. Overnight in the Blue Mountains (near Blackheath or Katoomba).

The Blue Mountains feature some of most awe inspiring scenery in Eastern Australia, and some great birding too. From the tiny Spotted Pardalotes to the legendary Superb Lyrebird, and perhaps even the endangered Glossy Black-Cockatoo, our tour through the mountains will be breathtaking. We will also sample some of the local wetlands and lakes where in search of Blue-billed, Musk, and even Freckled Ducks. Australasian Shoveler, Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, and a host of other waterbirds can be expected as well. But it is the Capertee Valley, one of New South Wales’ premier birding locales, that will really impress. The isolated valley is a mixture of open eucalyptus woodland and open grasslands, which are home to an fantastic diversity of birds as well as wallabies, wallaroos, kangaroos, and Eastern Wombat. The potential bird list for Capertee Valley is long and includes Little Lorikeet, Turquoise Parrot, Plum-headed Finch, Diamond Firetail, Pallid Cuckoo, Olive-backed Oriole, several Woodswallows, and Red-capped Robin. There’s a chance for the charismatic Crested Tit-Shrike, the cooperatively-breeding White-winged Chough, and the iconic Zebra Finch. The critically endangered Regent Honeyeater also occurs in the valley, and if luck is really on our side we may just see one. Overnight in Wallerawang.

Today we spend time looking for species missed up to now, perhaps Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, Swamphen, Wandering and Plumed Whistling-Ducks, or Fuscous, White-plumed and White-naped Honeyeaters. Overnight Sydney.

Our Eastern Australia birding tour draws to a close and you will transfer to the airport for flights home or connections to our Tasmania tour.

Departures

What's Included

Tour Includes

  • All accommodations
  • All meals
  • Ground transportation
  • Three boat trips included - pelagic from Kaima, Great Barrier Reef trip from Cairns and a trip on the Daintree River.
  • One guide and vehicle with 4 - 8 participants, two guides and vehicles with 9 - 12 participants

Tour Does Not Include

  • Two internal flights additional (~AUD$300)
  • Travel to and from start/end location
  • Travel Insurance
  • Items of a personal nature

What to Expect

Our daily travel schedule varies on our Eastern Australia birding tour. Most days involve a full day of birding, usually with a picnic lunch in a prime birding spot. Driving distances vary from short to moderate, with long drives on a few days. We make frequent stops during each day’s travel. You can expect some early morning walks. This tour involves easy to moderate walking and hiking, with frequent short forays away from the van. Most days we return in late afternoon to our accommodation. After-dinner activities are optional.

Climate of these regions changes from seasonably warm to mild as we head further south. October is normally settled, with temperatures in Cairns averaging 75°F (24C) with a humidity of 54%, very pleasant for birding. In Cairns a light jacket is recommended for our trip to the reef in case onshore winds are cool. Most days are warm or hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are frequent with possible rain and high humidity in coastal areas. The sun can be intense, so sunscreen and a brimmed hat are advised. Wet weather protection is recommended with light waterproof pants and jacket ideal.

Our itinerary includes two internal flights, not included in the price of the tour, and one open ocean optional pelagic trip, which might be cool. The list of birds and other wildlife seen will be reviewed each evening, and plans for the next day discussed. Plans could change slightly if reports of vagrant or accidental species, within reasonable driving distance, are received. Spotting scopes will be useful on this trip, especially at coastal locations; the leader will have a scope for the group to share.

Featured Wildlife

Even though we cannot guarantee a sighting of the animals below, we feel quite confident that an encounter with the ones listed below is quite likely.

  • Albert’s Lyrebird
  • Regent Honeyeater
  • Victoria’s Riflebird
  • Satin Bowerbird
  • Regent Bowerbird
  • Spotted Catbird
  • Black-necked Stork
  • Wandering Albatross
  • Green Pygmy-Goose
  • Southern Cassowary
  • Koala
  • Platypus

Tour Reviews