Skip to navigation, or go to main content.

WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Australia: Queensland and New South Wales

Riflebirds, Reefs and Rainforests

Saturday 5 October to Friday 18 October 2024
with Gavin Bieber and Susan Myers as leaders
Thursday 2 October to Thursday 16 October 2025
with Gavin Bieber as leader
October 2026
with Gavin Bieber as leader

Price: $6,590* (10/2024)

View details

Reserve Now

We’ll finish with a pelagic trip out of Sydney Harbor, with Black-browed Albatross often approaching at close range.
Photo: Gavin BieberWe’ll finish with a pelagic trip out of Sydney Harbor, with Black-browed Albatross often approaching at close range. Photo: Gavin Bieber
  • We’ll finish with a pelagic trip out of Sydney Harbor, with Black-browed Albatross often approaching at close range.

    We’ll finish with a pelagic trip out of Sydney Harbor, with Black-browed Albatross often approaching at close range. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • Once down around Sydney we’ll seek out arguably the best vocal mimic on the planet; the Superb Lyrebird.

    Once down around Sydney we’ll seek out arguably the best vocal mimic on the planet; the Superb Lyrebird. Photo: David Fisher

  • Around our base in Lamington National Park, the spectacular Regent Bowerbirds can be quite confiding.

    Around our base in Lamington National Park, the spectacular Regent Bowerbirds can be quite confiding. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • Fruiting trees along the coast attract the brightly colored Wompoo Fruit-Doves.

    Fruiting trees along the coast attract the brightly colored Wompoo Fruit-Doves. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • In the coastal rainforests of NE Australia lurk the imposing Southern Cassowary.

    In the coastal rainforests of NE Australia lurk the imposing Southern Cassowary. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • Dry forests on the north and west sides of the Atherton Tablelands harbor hulking Australian Bustards.

    Dry forests on the north and west sides of the Atherton Tablelands harbor hulking Australian Bustards. Photo: David Fisher

  • The Atherton Tablelands above Cairns support pockets of rainforest with flashy endemics like this male Victoria’s Riflebird.

    The Atherton Tablelands above Cairns support pockets of rainforest with flashy endemics like this male Victoria’s Riflebird. Photo: David Fisher

Queensland is a vast state that stretches more than half the length of Australia’s east coast. It is fringed by the Great Barrier Reef and bordered to the south by coastal New South Wales. The tropical rainforests around Cairns and on the Atherton Tablelands harbor a wealth of birds and mammals, many of which are restricted to remnant rainforest patches, and our days will be fully occupied with encounters with wonderful creatures. Our recently expanded tour includes more time in southern Queensland, including a visit to the renowned O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse, where megapodes and bowerbirds come to the feeders and where kangaroos, pigeons, and parrots cover the lawn, as well as a trip to Lady Elliot Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef, where thousands of nesting seabirds join the incredibly diverse aquatic life that make this reef one of the natural wonders of the world. And finally, our three nights in Sydney will allow us to explore the best birding sites in the surrounding area and to take a pelagic trip rich in albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters.

In 2024 and 2026 this tour can be taken in conjunction with our Australia: Victoria and Tasmania tour. **In 2025 & 2027 this tour can be taken in conjunction with our Australia: Western Australia and Northern Territory tour.

Note that starting in 2025 this tour will be run starting in Syndey and ending in Cairns. The tour text will be updated after the 2024 tour.

Day 1: The tour begins midday in Cairns with the arrival of those coming in from the preceding tour. We’ll make a brief visit to the nearby Cairns esplanade if the tidal conditions warrant it, but in the afternoon we’ll head south to Etty Bay, where a family group of Southern Cassowaries often wanders around the picturesque beach in the late afternoons.  Finding these impressive birds always takes a bit of luck, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed!  We’ll then head back northwards and uphill, arriving at our base for the first two nights of the tour by early evening.  The ecolodge has excellent birding on the grounds, and after dinner there is always a good chance of spotting some of the resident mammals including Krefft’s Glider, Northern Barred Bandicoot and even the incredible Striped Possum.  Night Near Yungaburra.

Day 2: The remnant patches of rainforests that dot the Atherton Tablelands are rich in birds, many of which are virtually restricted to this tiny corner of the world. Our day will be broken into sections, providing all-day birding for those who wish or a chance to opt out occasionally to relax and perhaps explore the picturesque town of Yungaburra. Before breakfast we’ll visit one of the local patches of rainforest, itself a fully designated national park, where the fruiting trees around the parking lot attract a wealth of forest species that are likely to include bulky Spotted Catbirds, the elusive Double-eyed Fig Parrot, and highly localized Queensland endemics such as Gray-headed Robin and Bower’s Shrike-Thrush. After breakfast back in town we’ll visit a higher-elevation national park to search for species that don’t occur around Yungaburra, including Fernwren, Atherton Scrubwren, Bridled Honeyeater, and Mountain Thornbill. We’ll have a nice lunch in the idyllic town of Atherton and then spend the afternoon exploring the agricultural fields around the region, where numerous raptors and both Brolgas and Sarus Cranes are likely. We’ll look for Platypus at a shallow creek near Yungaburra and then have an early dinner which will allow us to go out on an extended nocturnal outing into the higher reaches of the tablelands, where we may encounter Lesser Sooty Owl or several beautiful species of possum, including Lemuroid, Green, and Herbert River. Night near Yungaburra.

Day 3: Our pre-breakfast excursion will be to a nearby local reservoir, and if there has been rain or heavy dew overnight, we’ll watch the shoulders of the road for Buff-banded Rail and Brown Quail. The jaunty song of White-throated Gerygone may reveal its presence in one of the well-wooded gardens, and Tawny Grassbird, Red-backed Fairy-Wren, and Golden-headed Cisticola should be singing in the rank vegetation along the water’s edge. With luck they may perch high enough for telescope views. We may bird a bit in the area after breakfast as well if we are still on the lookout for some of the species, but by the afternoon we’ll be driving north across the tablelands to reach the wetlands around Lake Mitchell, which should hold a good cross-section of the area’s waterbirds, including Green Pygmy-Geese, Australian Pelicans, some migrant waders, and possibly both Brolgas and Sarus Cranes. Around the lake we often spot Pale-headed Rosellas, Chestnut-rumped Munia, and Double-barred Finch. With luck we might encounter the distinctive local race of Brown Treecreeper on the trunks of the trees, and we should have an opportunity to look at some of the impressively large termite mounds that liberally dot the landscape. In the late afternoon we’ll drive north to Kingfisher Park, where we’ll spend two nights. We’ll arrive in time to do some local birding in the afternoon, including at the lodge’s feeders, which attract Blue-faced, Yellow-spotted, and Graceful Honeyeaters as well as delightful little Red-browed Finches. After an early dinner there will be an optional spotlighting trip. With luck we might find an owl or a frogmouth, and we are sure to see some nocturnal mammals. Night at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge.

Day 4: We’ll spend the morning birding the excellent grounds of the lodge and the slopes of nearby Mount Lewis. Several pairs of Noisy Pittas are typically on territory around the grounds, and a small creek attracts a wide array of birds during the heat of the day. We should encounter Spectacled and Black-faced Monarchs, the odd and perky Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Gray Whistler, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, and the improbably coiffed Topknot Pigeon as we walk around the well-forested paths. Up on Mount Lewis we’ll seek out Fernwren and Chowchilla, two skulky but very vocal species that are extremely range-restricted. We’ll also head a bit inland to the drier eucalypt forests north of Mount Malloy, which support populations of Red-winged Parrot, Apostlebird, and the imposing Australian Bustard, and we should see the impressive bower of Great Bowerbird, which are quite common in the area. An early evening vigil at the lodge’s water features may reveal, with a bit of luck, one of the resident Red-necked Crakes. Night at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge.  

Day 5: After a final early morning around Kingfisher Park, we will spend a bit of time visiting some local wetlands, where we might find White-browed or Spotless Crake, or perhaps even Cotton Pygmy-Goose.  The area around Julatten can be excellent for a few often harder to find species such as the well-named Lovely Fairywren, an early arriving Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher (with great luck), or perhaps “wintering” Blue-faced Parrotfinches.  The afternoon plan will be flexible, allowing for some time off to explore the grounds or to seek out any local species that we may still be missing.  Night at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge.

Day 6: We’ll start early with a pre-breakfast boat trip on the Daintree River, which is likely to be one of the highlights of the trip for some, especially avid photographers. Waterbirds are numerous and tame and should include Australasian Darter, Rufous Night-Heron, Papuan Frogmouth, Shining Flycatcher, and Azure Kingfisher. We’ll also be hoping to glimpse some of the scarcer birds, such as Great-billed Heron, Black Bittern, and Little Kingfisher. After we pack up, we’ll head back to Cairns, where we’ll explore the varied birds that call this tropical city home. A visit to the botanical gardens should reveal Rajah Shelducks swimming among the water hyacinths, Bush Thick-knees tucked under the shade, Rainbow Bee-eaters flycatching from exposed perches, Australian Swiftlets coursing overhead, and a variety of honeyeaters including Yellow and Brown-backed. Depending on tide conditions, we’ll also visit the world-famous Cairns Esplanade, where extensive mudflats host hordes of migrant waders, including Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Terek Sandpiper, Gray-tailed Tattler, Eastern Curlew, and Great Knot. The mangroves at the northern end of the esplanade hold Varied Honeyeater (our only site for the species), Mangrove Robin, and possibly Rufous Night-Herons on day-roosts. We’ll also visit a bustling colony of Metallic Starlings, which build large communal nests reminiscent of weaver colonies in Africa. Their blood-red eyes have to be seen to be believed. Night in Cairns.

Day 7: We’ll offer an optional bit of morning birding around Cairns to look for species that have eluded us, and then catch a mid-morning flight to Hervey Bay (via Brisbane). Once we have the buses we’ll make several stops along the coast and in freshwater marshes to look for migratory waders and some local specialties like Mangrove Honeyeater. Time permitting, we’ll stop at Inskip Point, where we hope to locate the impressive Beach Thick-Knee and perhaps a covey of Brown Quail or Black-breasted Button-Quail lurking in the shade of the coastal scrub. If we don’t have time for Inskip there are a host of excellent waterbird sites around the Great Sandy Straight much closer to our hotel with a good array of Palearctic waders such as Far Eastern Curlew, Terek and Marsh Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints as well as mangrove specialties such as Mangrove Gerygone, Mangrove Honeyeater and Torresian Kingfisher. We’ll arrive at our hotel in Maryborough in time for dinner. Night in Maryborough.

Day 8: Today will be a total contrast to the previous week, dominated as it was by rainforest birding (albeit fairly easy stuff with lots of showy birds). We’ll depart the small airstrip near Hervey Bay for the 40-minute flight out to Lady Elliot Island. This postcard-perfect coralline island sits near the southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, and although fully protected as part of the Great Barrier Reef Green Zone, it is serviced by a small airstrip and has excellent infrastructure for tourists. At 45 hectares in size, the island supports an amazingly rich variety of sea life, including resident Manta Rays and large numbers of nesting Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles. The island also has the highest diversity of breeding seabirds along the reef. Thousands of Black Noddies and Sooty Terns breed in the shrubs around the island periphery, and we’ll look among them for smaller numbers of Brown Noddies and Bridled Terns. Other breeding seabirds here include the stunningly beautiful Red-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Booby, Roseate, Black-naped, and Greater Crested Terns, and Great Frigatebird. The island further supports a nice array of waders, including both Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers, Pacific Golden-Plovers, and both Gray-tailed and Wandering Tattlers. Landbirding here is also excellent, with Buff-banded Rails and the local Capricornia subspecies of Silvereye common sights around the island. For those who wish, there will be opportunities to inspect the corals and fish from a guided glass-bottom boat cruise, go snorkeling or swimming in the azure-coloured waters from the beach—or even, for anyone already suitably qualified, go diving. Night in Maryborough.

Day 9: Depending upon our flight times we will spend a bit of time birding near Maryborough, with our actual locations depending upon which local species we may still be missing.  We’ll then catch a midmorning flight back to Brisbane. Once back in Brisbane we’ll certainly stop in a thick stand of coastal mangroves a bit south of the Brisbane River to search for Mangrove Honeyeater and Mangrove Gerygone. We’ll then drive inland to Lamington National Park, another area of montane rainforest with a delightful climate. We’ll pass through open farmland and eucalyptus woods broken occasionally by marshes and streams, and we should see Gray Butcherbird, Little Friarbird, and perhaps Glossy Black Cockatoo or Pretty-faced (Whiptail) Wallaby. By late afternoon we’ll enter the subtropical rainforest of the Lamington Plateau, a change of environment marked by flocks of Crimson Rosellas. We’ll arrive at O’Reilly’s Guesthouse in time for some late afternoon birding. If we’re lucky we may be able to watch a Satin Bowerbird decorating its bower or hand-feed the many semi-tame Regent Bowerbirds, Australian King Parrots, or Crimson Rosellas that decorate the lodge grounds. In the evening Red-necked Pademelons graze on the lawns, and during dinner Short-eared Brushtail Possums often come to the dining room feeders. Night at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse.

Day 10: O’Reilly’s Guesthouse is celebrated by birdwatchers worldwide for its amazing shows of multicolored tropical species, many of which are hand-tame and present fantastic photographic opportunities. Species that frequent the guesthouse feeders include bizarre Australian Brush-Turkeys, stunning Regent Bowerbirds (the guesthouse emblem)—the male being arguably the most beautiful Australian bird—more subtle but equally attractive Satin Bowerbirds, chunky Wonga Pigeons, cheeky Lewin’s Honeyeaters, and ragged flocks of Crimson Rosellas and Australian King Parrots. But the feeding frenzies around the guesthouse are by no means the only ornithological attractions at O’Reilly’s. Set in the heart of Lamington National Park, the guesthouse has lengthy trails that take off in various directions through superb montane rainforest containing a wealth of specialties that will be new for us. These include Paradise Riflebird (our second bird of paradise), curious Green Catbirds, entertaining Australian Logrunners, both Bassian and Russet-tailed Thrushes, remarkably confiding Eastern Whipbirds, three species of scrub-wren all so tame they will feed within feet of us, and many, many more. Perhaps the ultimate prize is Albert’s Lyrebird, a species with a tiny world range but also a very shy bird, usually heard singing but not always seen—and even then often just a large dark shape bounding away through the undergrowth. And after dinner we’ll make a serious attempt to find Marbled Frogmouth, a seldom-seen denizen of the high rainforest canopy. Night at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse.

Day 11: After an early morning at O’Reilly’s searching for any species still missing and enjoying the superb ambience of the location and its many very approachable birds, we’ll drive back down to the coast and then south toward Coolangatta. We’ll stop to look for species more typical of the drier lower slopes such as Red-browed Treecreeper, White-naped Honeyeater, Variegated Fairy-Wren, and Spotted Pardalote, and we’ll also visit a Bell Miner colony site, a treat for the aural senses, though the birds can be frustratingly difficult to locate because they remain largely motionless in the canopy. We should also have some time to check out the lovely cliffs along Duranbah Beach and the mouth of the Tweed River, where we might encounter colorful Eastern Water Dragons sunning themselves on the rocky headlands, Humpback Whales feeding close in to shore, nesting Ospreys and Silver Gulls, and perhaps a few surprises like a Striped Honeyeater or passing Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. A late afternoon flight to Sydney should allow us to get settled into our hotel near the airport with a bit of time before dinner. Night in Sydney.

Day 12: We’ve left today flexible so we can make use of up-to-date information provided by our local leader, but it is sure to include a search for Superb Lyrebird, one of the world’s most accomplished mimics. A trip out to the stunning coastal heathlands may well reveal New South Wales’s only endemic bird, Rockwarbler, as well as heathland specialties such as Southern Emu-wren, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. We’ll look as well for a wide cross-section of more southerly Australian species whose ranges we have only just entered, such as Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Little and Red Wattlebirds, and New Holland Honeyeater. A short seawatch on the handsome bluffs of Royal National Park should reveal numbers of Wedge-tailed and perhaps Fluttering Shearwaters, and with the right conditions may also provide our first views of Black-browed or Shy Albatrosses. In the late afternoon we should be able to track down a roosting Powerful Owl, perhaps the most impressive of the suite of Australian owls, near the park boundary. Night in Sydney.

Day 13: We’ll take a pelagic trip into deep water beyond the continental shelf. We’ll cruise out through Sydney Harbor and have a view of the famous bridge with a glimpse of the opera house below. During our day-long trip we should see many Southern Hemisphere seabirds that, depending on sea temperatures, may include Little Penguin, Australasian Gannet, Wandering, Shy, and Black-browed Albatrosses, Great-winged and other Pterodroma petrels, up to six species of shearwater, and several storm-petrels. We’ll feed the birds behind the boat and can usually draw in a selection of great seabirds to watch at arm’s length. Photographic opportunities are outstanding and binoculars are hardly needed. We won’t soon forget the fabulous experience of tossing bits of fish to Wandering Albatrosses bobbing about behind the boat. Cetaceans may also be a feature of the trip, and though none is guaranteed, in previous years we have seen Humpback and Sperm Whales, Orcas, and Common and Bottlenose Dolphins. With the vagaries of the Southern Ocean in play, it is worth mentioning that should conditions not allow us to go out to sea, we’ll spend this day to the south of Sydney around Barren Grounds Nature Reserve, where we could see heathland birds such as Southern Emu-wren, Eastern Bristlebird, Beautiful Firetail, Pilotbird, and with some extreme luck perhaps even Eastern Ground-Parrot or Gang-gang Cockatoo. Night in Sydney.

Day 14: On the last morning there will be a choice of either sightseeing in Sydney (on your own) or some final birding in Sydney Royal National Park, where we’ll look for any of the species missed on our previous visit or visit another section of the park where the brightly colored Eastern Rosella and well-marked Yellow-tufted Honeyeater reside. We may also elect to investigate some of the many city parks near the hotel, where we might encounter birds such as Red-rumped Parrot, Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-plumed Honeyeater, or Yellow Thornbill. The tour will end around noon with a drop-off at the hotel or the Sydney airport.

Updated: 24 October 2023


  • 2024 Tour Price : $6,590
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $850
  • 2025 Tour Price Not Yet Known
  • 2026 Tour Price Not Yet Known


Image of

Questions? Tour Manager: Matt Brooks. Call 1-866-547-9868 (US or Canada) or (01) 520-320-9868 or click here to email.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

** If participating in both 2024 or 2026 Australia tours, the flight between Melbourne and Cairns (which connects this tour to the Victoria & Tasmania tour) is not included in either price. If participating in both 2025 or 2027 Australia tours, the flight between Darwin and Cairns (which connects this tour to the Western Australia and Northern Territories tour) is not included in either price. This flight will be booked by the WINGS office and added to the invoice.

This tour is limited to 12 participants with two leaders.

Single rooms or rooms with en suite facilities may not be available in some places. See Tour Information for details.

Share on Facebook