As the world’s sixth-largest country by total area, Australia is a vast and diverse landscape that offers a wide range of unique experiences for travelers. Spanning nearly 3 million square miles, this island continent is home to various natural wonders and vibrant multicultural cities.
Australia’s vast interior, known as the Outback, features the iconic red earth and rocky landscapes that the country is famous for. Here you’ll find majestic natural rock formations like Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta that are sacred to the Aboriginal peoples. The Outback is also home to unique wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, including kangaroos, koalas, platypuses, and dingoes.
Along the coasts, Australia boasts over 35,000 miles of pristine beaches and some of the world’s most famous surfing destinations, like Bondi Beach in Sydney. The Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast is the world’s largest coral reef system and a top attraction for snorkeling and scuba diving. Australia is known for its unique marsupials like the kangaroo and koala, as well as for monotremes like the platypus and echidna.
Australia’s major cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth offer a cosmopolitan urban experience with world-class culture, dining, and entertainment. Sydney highlights include the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Melbourne is known for its music and coffee culture. Throughout the cities, you’ll find a diverse, multicultural population with influences from Australia’s Aboriginal, British, and immigrant cultures.
But the best way to learn more about Australia is to live it, to experience what makes this great country tick in person. There are thousands of spectacular things to do, including:
- Swim with whale sharks
- Hike through King’s Canyon in the Northern Territory
- Explore the laneways and arcades of Melbourne
- Taste the succulent wines of the Barossa Valley
- Snorkel along the Great Barrier Reef
- Pay a visit to Tasmania for some amazing landscapes
- Cruise around Sydney Harbour
- Watch kangaroos in the wild on Kangaroo Island
- Marvel at the Bungle Bungles of Western Australia
- Take the Ghan or the Indian-Pacific train across the continent
- Trek through the jungles of Queensland
- Visit one of the many tropical islands off the coast of Australia
- Learn more about convict history in Sydney
- Spend a day at the beach in Adelaide
- Track down the remains of old ghost towns near Kalgoorlie
Australia’s Natural Wonders and Breathtaking Landscapes
Stretching over 1,400 miles along the northeast coast, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. Home to over 9,000 species of marine life, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a snorkeler and scuba diver’s paradise. Visitors can explore the vibrant coral formations and exotic fish species by boat, seaplane, or helicopter.
Deep in the Red Centre of Australia lies Uluru, a stunning sandstone rock formation sacred to the Anangu Aboriginal people. Soaring 1,100 feet into the sky, Uluru appears to change colors throughout the day from ochre red to burnt orange. Visitors can hike around the base, bike ride across the surrounding plain, or watch the rock glow at sunrise and sunset.
The ancient Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland is the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world, estimated to be over 135 million years old. An astounding diversity of rare plants, animals, and birds make this wet tropical forest a must-see for nature lovers and bird watchers.
Along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria lie the Twelve Apostles, iconic limestone rock formations jutting out of the ocean. Formed by erosion over millions of years, only eight apostles remain standing today. Visitors can take in dramatic views from cliffside lookouts or sail past the towering rock pillars by boat.
City Spotlight: Sydney
As Australia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Sydney offers visitors a vibrant urban experience with world-famous attractions.
Sydney’s iconic Opera House, shaped like billowing white sails, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to opera, theater, dance, and concerts. The soaring Sydney Harbour Bridge provides panoramic city views. For the adventurous, BridgeClimb allows you to scale the arch on a guided tour.
Overlooking the harbour is the Royal Botanic Garden, offering free walking trails through lush gardens and parks. Take a ferry from Circular Quay to admire the Opera House and bridge from the water. The nearby Rocks area is a hub of restaurants, bars, and weekend markets with local art, food, and live music.
The golden sands of Bondi Beach are perfect for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing against a backdrop of seaside cafes and restaurants. Nearby, the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk offers spectacular coastal scenery.
Vibrant inner-city neighborhoods like Darlinghurst and Surry Hills are filled with trendy shops, galleries, and a diverse food scene. Sydney’s calendar is packed with major events like the New Year’s Eve fireworks, the Sydney Festival of Arts and Culture, and the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.
City Spotlight: Melbourne
Known as Australia’s cultural capital, Melbourne is a cosmopolitan hub celebrated for its art, music, fashion, and coffee culture. With its European-inspired boulevards, vibrant street art, leafy gardens, and stylish locals, Melbourne offers a refined urban experience.
Federation Square is a focal point for arts and entertainment, with design museums, galleries, and restaurants housed in strikingly modern architecture. Nearby Flinders Street Station, the oldest railroad station in Australia, makes a great launching pad to explore the city.
Wander Melbourne’s famous laneways to discover street art, boutiques, and hole-in-the-wall bars and eateries. Notable lanes like Hosier and Degraves feature creative graffiti murals and hipster hangouts. Arcades like the ornate Block Place transport you back to 19th-century Melbourne.
The National Gallery of Victoria boasts an impressive collection spanning international and indigenous art. See Australia’s largest stained-glass ceiling at the State Library of Victoria. For shopping, the Melbourne Central complex houses top brands, while Chapel Street is lined with high-end boutiques.
Queen Victoria Market is a Melbourne institution spanning several city blocks. Browse for fresh produce, artisan goods, clothing, and souvenirs in the open-air sheds. Nearby Chinatown is enticed with bustling noodle houses and barbecue duck shops.
Coffee culture reigns supreme in Melbourne. People watch at a Parisian-style sidewalk café on Collins Street or head to Brunswick Street to sample beans from local roasters.
Adventure and Outdoor Activities
Famous for its surf culture, Australia boasts over 10,000 beaches providing world-class waves. Top surfing spots include Bells Beach, Bondi Beach, Byron Bay, and Margaret River, hosting competitions like the Rip Curl Pro event. Along the Gold Coast, learn to surf at popular breaks like Burleigh Heads.
Explore coral labyrinths teeming with tropical fish off locations like Cairns, Port Douglas, and the Whitsunday Islands. Charter boats access the reef’s most pristine sections.
Skydiving here allows you to plunge past coastal cliffs or take in views of the Outback, coral reefs, and cities from up high. Popular spots include Brisbane, Cairns, Port Douglas, and the Gold Coast. Those craving more adrenaline can try bungy jumping off a bridge in Cairns.
Australia has over 500 national parks perfect for hiking adventures from rainforests to deserts. Trek through the Blue Mountains near Sydney, seeing the iconic Three Sisters rock formations. The Larapinta Trail traverses the Red Centre from Alice Springs to Uluru. Walk the Overland Track through Tasmania for alpine vistas.
Mountain biking is popular throughout Australia. Ride trails in Canberra, the Gold Coast hinterland, or the Margaret River region. Cycle to waterfalls and sandstone plateaus in the Northern Territory’s Litchfield National Park. Multi-day cycle tours explore the landscapes down under.
Wildlife and Unique Fauna
The marsupial mammals are what Australia is best known for. Landmark species include the kangaroo, koala, wombat, wallaby, possum, and Tasmanian devil. See ‘roos bounding through the Outback or koalas snoozing in eucalyptus trees.
Australia is also home to two egg-laying mammals – the duck-billed platypus and the spiny anteater echidna. Spot a shy platypus along quiet riverbanks or echidnas waddling through bushland.
Cuddle a koala or feed a kangaroo at family-friendly wildlife parks like Lone Pine on the Gold Coast and Wild Life Sydney, where you can safely interact with native animals. Rottnest Island off Perth is home to quokkas, the world’s happiest and most adorable marsupials.
For birdwatching, head to Kakadu National Park to see nearly one-third of Australia’s bird species, like jabirus, brolgas, and rainbow lorikeets. Spot the flightless cassowary in the tropical rainforests of Queensland.
The Great Barrier Reef teems with over 1,600 species of exotic fish and sea turtles among the coral. Watch for dolphins, migrating whales, and giant whale sharks off the Western Australia coast.
Conservation efforts aim to protect endangered species like the Tasmanian devil through breeding programs at sanctuaries. Visitors can help by being respectful of habitats, sticking to marked trails and paths, and avoiding touching or feeding wildlife.
Indigenous Culture and Heritage
Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures date back over 50,000 years.
Across Australia, ancient rock art depicts traditional stories and serves as a record of indigenous life spanning millennia. Kakadu and Uluru contain galleries where you can see some of the oldest paintings. Aboriginal rock art also adorns caves and cliffsides throughout the Kimberley.
The indigenous Dreamtime represents the Aboriginal origins and creation beliefs, passed down orally in stories, art, music and dance. Watch traditional corroboree dance performances bringing Dreamtime stories to life.
Take a guided tour of Uluru and the surrounding Red Centre landscapes to better understand the deep spiritual significance of these sacred sites for the Anangu people. Visit local indigenous communities to experience traditions firsthand.
In the tropical northern city of Cairns, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park offers interactive bush tucker demos, didgeridoo playing, face painting, and stories by the fire under the stars.
Food and Wine Tourism
Several renowned wine regions produce coveted cool-climate varieties like Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling. South Australia’s Barossa Valley is one of the country’s premier wine destinations, home to storied estates like Penfolds and Henschke stretching back to the 19th century. Western Australia’s Margaret River combines idyllic vineyards with surf beaches. Other notable wine regions include the Hunter Valley, Clare Valley, and Yarra Valley. Many wineries offer tastings, tours, and fine dining overlooking the vines.
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Australia also boasts a thriving craft beer culture centered in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Sample Aussie craft brews on a “hoppy hour” pub crawl or visit breweries like Young Henrys in Newtown.
The contemporary dining scene in cities like Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane emphasizes fresh local ingredients with Asian and European influences.
Iconic Australian foods include the pavlova meringue dessert, meat pies, Tim Tam chocolate biscuits, and the Vegemite sandwich. Trendy brunch cafes serve up smashed avocado toast and flat white coffee
Festivals and Events
Australia celebrates an exciting calendar of festivals and events showcasing the country’s vibrant arts, culture, sports, and lifestyle.
In Melbourne, the Australian Open tennis tournament kicks off the Grand Slam season in January with top players competing at Melbourne Park. During the Spring Racing Carnival, the prestigious Melbourne Cup horse race known as “the race that stops the nation” takes over Flemington Racecourse.
Vivid Sydney lights up the Harbour city each May and June with mesmerizing light sculptures and projections on landmarks like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The festival also includes live music and innovative arts.
In the Barossa Valley, Australia’s premier wine region, the biennial Barossa Vintage Festival pays homage to winemaking traditions like grape stomping along with parades, picnics, and entertainment.
Each March at the WOMADelaide festival, Australia showcased diverse sounds of music with local and international artists spanning folk, jazz, rock, and world music genres.
In Darwin, the Beer Can Regatta celebrates the city’s quirky ingenuity each July as contestants race boats made entirely from beer cans and soft drink cans.
Sustainable and Responsible Tourism
As a premier global destination, Australia encourages sustainable and responsible tourism practices to preserve the country’s natural beauty and cultural heritage for future generations.
Eco-lodges like Bamurru Plains in the Northern Territory and Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat in Queensland offer back-to-nature escapes while championing sustainability through renewable energy, waste reduction, and environmental stewardship programs.
Responsible tour operators like Intrepid Travel promote initiatives like carbon offsetting, environmentally friendly transport, and meaningful community engagement. Many tours visit Aboriginal communities and support indigenous-owned businesses.
To protect sensitive ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef, visitors can choose certified high-standard operators who follow responsible practices like anchoring rules, waste management, and restricted activity zones.
National parks like Kakadu and Uluru employ Aboriginal rangers to conduct land management and facilitate cultural experiences. Funds support local communities and conservation efforts.
Non-profit groups like Ecotourism Australia set standards for eco-certification of tourism businesses that adhere to principles of environmental protection, benefitting local communities, and cultural respect.
As travelers, you can practice sustainability through actions like properly disposing of waste, sticking to designated trails, avoiding wildlife interactions, supporting local businesses, and learning about indigenous culture.
Tips for Traveling in Australia
Unless you are from New Zealand, you’ll need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority visa. Apply online prior to arrival to avoid delays.
Major cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth have international airports, making a good starting point. Domestic flights easily connect you around the country on Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar.
Consider renting a campervan to explore the Outback and surrounds at your own pace. Trains and long-haul coaches also provide transport between destinations.
Pack for diverse weather across different regions – swimwear for the tropics up north, layers for Australia’s southern cities, and warm jackets for Tasmania. Sturdy walking shoes are a must for hiking.
Did you Know? We eat 2 billion pounds of oysters every year
Australia’s peak travel seasons are during the summer months from December to February and during school holidays. Book well ahead for popular destinations like the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, and major cities.
Budget extra time when self-driving, as covering long distances between sites can take days. Plan multi-night stops at places like the Outback and Margaret River.
Swim only at patrolled beaches and never swim alone. Always apply sunscreen and wear a hat when outside to prevent sunburn. Watch out for wildlife on roads and trails.
For the best exchange rates, take out Australian dollars from ATMs here. Tipping is not expected but appreciated for great service.
Check if your mobile provider offers international roaming packages, or buy a local Australian SIM card upon arrival.
Allow extra time when visiting Aboriginal communities and attractions – show respect by asking permission before photographing or entering sacred sites.
Testimonials and Personal Experiences
“Hiking through the red rock landscapes of Kata Tjuta and watching the sun set over Uluru was the most magical experience of my life. Witnessing the dramatic play of colors across the desert sky as this sacred Aboriginal site glowed red truly felt spiritual.”Sarah M., UK
“My heart was pounding standing atop the Harbour Bridge, taking in views across Sydney Harbour to the Opera House and city skyline. No trip to Australia’s biggest city is complete without climbing the bridge for breathtaking panoramas.”Hideki T., Japan
“Diving the Great Barrier Reef was like entering a different planet, with neon coral forests and schools of technicolor fish swimming by. I’ll never forget floating weightlessly through the world’s largest living organism.”Sofia R., USA
“Getting up close and cuddling a koala at the Lone Pine Sanctuary was a surreal experience. Their fur is so soft! Hand-feeding kangaroos there and seeing platypuses swim was the closest I’ve been to Australia’s unique wildlife.”Akshay K., India
“The vibrant street art and hidden laneway bars of Melbourne really captured my heart. Talking to the artists painting colorful murals as cool music floated out from the cafes gave the city an edgy, creative vibe I adored.”Mei L., China
“Watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks above the Sydney Opera House was a moment I’ll treasure forever. Seeing the Harbour Bridge lit up with pyrotechnics alongside thousands of cheering locals gave me chills.”Ryan G., Canada