Australia is a land of savage beauty, big adventure and even bigger horizons. There are good reasons why it finds itself touted as one of the ultimate travel getaways; it has personality in spades, landscapes to die for and more than its fair share of sunshine. And if beaches, rainforest and outback aren't your thing, then its major cities are outstanding destinations in their own right.
In many ways the country breeds extremes. The fiery atmosphere of an Aussie Rules match in Melbourne and the champagne glitz of Sydney Harbour belong to another planet entirely when compared to the quiet expanse of the Red Centre or the surf-bashed coastlines of the west.
Likewise, 40,000 years of Aboriginal culture sometimes seem an unnatural bedfellow for the famed “no worries mate” BBQ lifestyle of modern times. When taken as a whole, however, the sum of Australia's contrasts make it a destination that is as fascinating as it is diverse.
Knowing where to go is arguably the toughest part. There are well-travelled paths, with Sydney and the east coast being a perennially popular choice, although when you're faced with a country of this magnitude potential itineraries are numberless. The Great Barrier Reef? Uluru? The Great Ocean Road? Kakadu? Hobart? The Kimberley? When the tourist board controversially coined the slogan “So where the bloody hell are you?” it raised a fair point.
There are iconic Aussie clichés by the barrel-load (from cork hats, barbecues and koalas to crocodiles, cricketers and bush tucker) but the real beauty of the place lies in the stuff you're not expecting; the dusty open road that unfurls to reveal verdant hills; the cold beer at an outback pub that turns into an evening-long session; the stroll to the beach that throws up a street market, open-air concert and implausibly beautiful sunset.
A trip Down Under has long been synonymous with escape, exploration and adventure – an image that's unlikely to change anytime soon.
When To Go
In general, the best time to visit Australia is during their summer, which is between December and March (opposite to the northern hemisphere). Their long summer holidays which run from Christmas and into January does mean more crowds. In north Australia, the best months to visit are from May to October and in the center, visit between October to November and from March to May.
If you plan a long tour, stick to the southern coasts in summer and travel north for the winter.
– Never trek alone. The sun can bake you. The heat can dehydrate you. The nights can chill you. Pre-book all trips through a specialist tour operator and guide, as they will have all of the local knowledge.
– Be careful when approaching animals. Never try to get close for a picture. Even the smallest, cutest animals here could injure or even kill.
– Use a specialist tour operator that can get you there and back safely. A guide should be used for all adventure activities from trekking, rafting and biking. Their local knowledge will be invaluable.
– The land is huge, immense, powerful and full of craziness. Let loose, see all that you can, and give yourself plenty of time to see it all. Most likely, flying from city to city is one of the best ways to get across the country (Perth to Sydney, for example). Take all the time you can to see this unique place.
– Rafting on the Franklin River
– Rafting on the Barron River
– Exploring the islands and coasts
– Trekking the Tropical Hike
– Lamington National Park
– Mornington Peninsula
– Blue Mountains
– Whale watching at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
– Great Barrier Reef
– Kakadu National Park
– Willandra Lakes Region
– Lord Howe Island Group
– Tasmanian Wilderness
– Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
– Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
– Wet Tropics of Queensland
– Shark Bay, Western Australia
– Fraser Island
– Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh / Naracoorte)
– Heard and McDonald Islands
– Macquarie Island
– Greater Blue Mountains Area
– Purnululu National Park
– Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens
– Sydney Opera House
– Australian Convict Sites
– Ningaloo Coast