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Thousands of hours of sunshine await you in the Land Down Under! Australia is, at once, Earth’s smallest continent and one of its largest countries. Isolation makes Australia a long haul for many international visitors, but that hasn’t put a damper on its popularity. Why would it? Whether your tastes run to museums or rock climbing, scuba or shopping, beach-bumming or bar hopping, you are sure to find what you are looking for here. Divided into six states over almost three million square miles, you will be a long time exploring if you hope to uncover every secret Australia has to offer. Those content to break off a chunk and settle in, however, will be astounded by the richness and diversity of the culture they find. 

One quintessentially Australian experience is “the shout,” or treating your group to a round at the pub. The art of the shout is somewhat complex, but it’s a social interaction all are expected to understand! After all, Australians take their fun quite seriously. Aussies are sports-mad and love their rugby, football, cricket, and racing—the Australian Formula One is held every year to great attendance. Swimming in just about any body of water imaginable is a favorite pastime. Whether you dip into the surf, lakes, thermal pools, or rivers, or even grab a beer and lounge by the pool, you are indulging in a time-honored Aussie tradition! Locals love their barbeque, and you can expect to find at least a few pits in every park. All that grilled kangaroo washes down delightfully with vintages that are the pride of Australia’s wine-growing regions: shiraz and pinot noir are especially recommended. 

The quirks of Australian English are well-known, albeit evaporating in all but the remotest areas. Therefore, you need not worry too much about arcane slang. A friendly “g’day!” is really all you need in “‘Straya,” where the only things bigger than the Outback are the smiles you’ll encounter. 

Top Sights in Australia

Sydney

Beautiful Sydney is both the largest and most-visited city in Australia. The Sydney Opera House is an iconic symbol, with its distinctive white shelled roof, and truly a gorgeous sight by day or night. Take a walk across the Harbor Bridge to take photographs or simply revel in the sights. The historic Rocks is home to lovely colonial buildings, sandstone churches, and some of the oldest pubs in Sydney … definitely worth a visit. A wine tasting tour of the Hunter Valley region offers you the chance to swirl and sip some exquisite reds. Bike routes of the area are also well-traveled. Bondi Beach attracts millions of international guests a year, with Manly Beach right behind it in popularity. Bring a towel, your teeniest bikini, and prepare to see and be seen! If you’d rather surf than sunbathe, you have also come to the right place. Lessons are readily available for beginners, and all the equipment you need can be rented right on the beach. Or visit the nearby Blue Mountains National Park for a glimpse of the steep ridges and iconic rock formations of these breathtaking peaks.

Melbourne

Called the “cultural capital” of Australia, sophisticated Melbourne is known for being multicultural, cosmopolitan, and crazy for sports! It’s been said that Australian Rules football is less the favorite sport and more the official religion of Melbourne, although horse racing and cricket are beloved of the population as well. The City Center is best explored on foot, and is home to the Parliament House of Victoria, a colonial-era railway station, and the Old Melbourne Gaol. Hop a streetcar to Prahran for some high-end shopping, or to Brighton Beach to soak up the rays from one of the ubiquitous “bathing boxes.” Ultra-fashionable restaurants and boutiques clutter Chapel Street in South Yarra, making for a great night out on the town. The Melbourne Zoo and Royal Botanical Gardens are other popular attractions.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s greatest natural treasure, as one of seven wonders of the natural world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to one of the most mind-blowingly rich ecosystems on Earth, and it’s no exaggeration to say that you may never see anything so extraordinary as this “marine wonderland.” Almost three thousand individual reefs and some nine hundred islands make up this enormous area which stretches 2000km along Australia’s eastern coast. Snorkeling and diving are, obviously, the best ways to explore, but tons of boat excursions will take you all around the massive reef. Live-aboard boat trips allow you to stretch your vacation for stays ranging from one day to two weeks. At low tide, you can ever walk out on the reefs and explore by foot! The city of Cairns is one of the primary launch points for reef visitors, and there is much to do in town as well.

Perth

Come to Perth and get away from it all … literally. The most isolated capital city of over one million residents in the world, Western Australia’s Perth is like a world unto itself. The next closest metro area is over a thousand miles away, but no need to fret—you won’t soon exhaust the list of things to do here! Kings Park & Botanical Gardens is full of verdant loveliness and offers visitors the chance to learn a bit about Aboriginal history. Swing by the Perth Zoo to visit some fifteen hundred animals representing two hundred species, many of them native to Australia. The Perth Mint is home to the world’s largest collection of gold bars, the biggest gold nugget on Earth, and is one of the oldest operational mints around. Once you’ve gotten over your gold rush, explore the labyrinthine corridors of Freemantle Prison—a torchlight tour is offered for those who delight in spooky thrills! Young ones in your group will beg for a trip to Adventure World, Perth’s premium amusement park.

Canberra

The purpose-built Australian capital, Canberra was a planned city whose national monuments, museums, and galleries neatly nestle in the sweeping bush landscape. Indoors and outdoors are equally enjoyable in Canberra, and sure to satisfy visitors of all stripes. The city is divided by Lake Burley Griffin into the central shopping and commerce center, the northern “Civic,” and the southern parliamentary triangle and embassy area. In the latter, check out the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, and the National Botanical Gardens. The Canberra suburbs are home to the National Dinosaur Museum, the Canberra Reptile Sanctuary, and the miniature display village of Cockington Green. Once a year the Prime Minister’s official residence, The Lodge, is opened to the public. By all accounts this is not to be missed! Off the beaten path, hike out and explore the wild open of the bush.

Brisbane

Easygoing Brisbane is as warm in temperament as in climate. A South Pacific paradise known for laid-back, chill living, Brisbane invites you to pack your flip flops—or thongs as they call them in Oz—and settle in for some amazing noshes, lively nightlife, vibrant street shopping, and fantastic brews. You’ll not want to miss the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, haven for such typically Australian wildlife as kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, wombats … yes, and over one hundred sleepy, cuddly koalas. You can feed or cuddle one of these furry darlings, making for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. Hail a “green car,” or rickshaw, and be zipped across the city—it’s one of the newest and most convenient means of transportation. Mount Coot-tha is more hill than mountain, but still high enough to afford lovely panoramic views of the city. The Southbank Parklands also cater to those loving wide open spaces—biking and walking trails and lush gardens await you here! The Story Bridge Adventure Climb is one of only three bridge climbs in the world and runs every day from dawn to dusk.

Quick Facts

Capital: Canberra
Primary Airports: Sydney Airport (SYD), Brisbane Airport (BNE), Melbourne Airport (MEL), Perth Airport (PER)
Government: Parliamentary Democracy (Federal Constitutional Monarchy)
Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD$)
Population: 21,234,000 (2007 est.)
Language: English
Electricity: 230V/50Hz (Plug Type I)
Time Zone: UTC +8 to +10
Australia

Australia Travel Reviews


Javaman Travels in Australia

Javaman

Business has brought me several times to Australia. My favorite cities are Adelaide and Melbourne. The things I like most in both cities are the friendly people and great food.

My most memorable experience was when the Adelaide Casino opened. It was in a magnificent and beautiful old train station. En route to Adelaide, by air from Singapore, I picked up a small hand guide. "Jimmy the Greek's Break Even at Blackjack" promised a great evening if I was playing in an honest house. I had never played Blackjack before in my life..

Following the guide's advice, I played that evening for over six hours. The food was amazing and the drinks were free. I met a lot of friendly people. On returning to my hotel, there were 400 dollars more in my pocket than I had on arrival to the casino.

That weekend was the first Formula 1 race held in Australia. The sounds of the cars reverberated all over the city. I admit becoming excited to meet members of team Scuderia Ferrari at the beautiful Adelaide casino.

Everywhere I have been in Australia the food available was excellent, especially seafood. Having traveled worldwide, my taste for seafood is quite demanding. Throughout Australia, the shrimp, lobster and salmon take second place to no one.

It was during my first visit to Adelaide that the quality of Australian wines became known to me. To this day, I enjoy fine wines from the land of Oz anywhere that I can find them.

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Destinations Visited: Australia

Early Summer in Sydney

Lynne Irving

My husband and I traveled to Sydney to visit old friends in late November and stayed in a quaint neighborhood of Sydney called Darlinghurst, which was within walking distance of many of Sydney's main attractions. The Royal Botanic Gardens and the Australian Museum were within walking distance, as well as some of the tastiest food we have ever had at neighborhood restaurants located practically right outside our front door.

The Sydney Opera House is truly worth a day's stay. Whether you are inside touring the magnificent structure, attending an event or basking in the sun in the common area watching the constant flow of people, you will have a great time. To gain a scenic view of the harbor and Opera House, we boarded a ferry from Circular Quay that included a knowledgeable tour guide who discussed the area's history and pointed out geographic highlights along the way.

We loved our afternoon at Manly Beach. Truly a beach lover's paradise, it was just warm enough for us to swim in the South Pacific Ocean waters. We spent time in the Rocks, a historic area that includes the oldest streets and buildings in Sydney.

There are many restaurants located throughout Sydney, as well as multiple shopping destinations. We especially liked relaxing in the cafes located in the Royal Botanic Gardens after a long day of touring the city.

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Destinations Visited: Australia

Cruising Around Coastal Australia

Anonymous

I recently took a cruise up the western coast of Australia during their summer. I made it to Sydney, Newcastle, Cairns, Airlie Beach, and Brisbane. Cruising is a great way to see a lot of Australia in a short time! My top three places were Sydney, Cairns, and Brisbane.

Sydney is a great jumping-off point for any Australian travel, as it's the largest city in the country. I naturally visited the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Make sure to get an Opal card if you use public transportation in Sydney. This card gives you discounts on the easy-to-use trains and buses in the area.

Cairns is one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef, and I took advantage of it. I took a boat out to the Reef for an all-day SCUBA diving adventure. The strangest part about Cairns for me was the local wildlife. All around downtown, the trees shake with screeching bats that fly around the city all night.

I especially enjoyed Brisbane for the opportunities to see some of the famous Australian animals. I visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and was able to hold and pet koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and emus.

My trip to Australia was quick but filled with excitement. I didn't get to travel inland to the Outback or Uluru (Ayer's Rock), but since I only had a short amount of time, the big cities on the east coast offered me a great sample of the best of Australia.

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Destinations Visited: Australia

Staying the Summer in Manly New South Wales Australia

Karen

While Sydney often captures much of the attention for anyone traveling to Australia, it is Manly, located just across the bay, that has won our hearts. Still quite cosmopolitan in a laid-back way, it is also home to an absolutely stunning beach right across the street from our hotel of choice, the Manly Pacific. The second floor offers the largest balconies, but beware of some noise from nightlife crowds on the main floor. As my husband was there for a few weeks on business, I was able to explore the beach pathways and bike trails going north and south as well as an extended stretch along the promenade/hotel side that is also filled with condos, shops and restaurants. It is quite safe to stop in alone for coffee or lunch at almost any spot, and folks are always friendly. We truly enjoyed the Sea Life Sanctuary with its walk-through tubes and up-close views of marine creatures including sharks. Getting to the wharf side is just a short walk along the Corso, which is a wide pedestrian-only street filled with quaint shops, small restaurants and thoroughfare vendors. International cuisine and fine wines from the many Australian vineyards were all at our fingertips, along with more casual bars and a chance to enjoy shrimp as well as steak on the "barbie." Wharfside, there are many places to eat, drink, enjoy the view or hop on the renowned Manly Ferry. For a few dollars more, we also splurged occasionally and took the "fast ferry" into Sydney Harbour.

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Destinations Visited: Australia

Five Months in Australia

Anonymous

I traveled to Sydney, Australia for the second half of my junior year of college, and it was an amazing experience. I spent five months living in North Ryde, in New South Wales. North Ryde is one of Sydney's suburbs, about ten miles from the city center. We took the bus into the city often, and it took about 20-30 minutes. Sydney is beautiful, especially down at the harbor. My friends and I loved visiting the expansive Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, getting drinks at the Opera Bar, and, of course, going to see a show in the Sydney Opera House. There are multiple stages in the Opera House, so we saw a small marionette show in one of the side stages, while the larger one was used for bigger performances. We took a boat tour that left from the docks, which was a unique and exciting way to see the city from the water.

Naturally, we also went down to Manly Beach and Bondi Beach, both of which are easily accessible by bus. These are huge, sprawling beaches with a lot of surfers and places to rent both surfing and snorkeling equipment. There are also tons of small shops, restaurants and bars lining the open streets next to the beaches, along with art galleries and the like. It's a great, vacation-like atmosphere. One of the best places to eat in the whole city is Pancakes On The Rocks, where they top huge pancakes with all manner of things, from ice cream to pizza toppings.

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Destinations Visited: Australia

An American Living in Australia

Kim Kay

I lived in Australia for six years, which allowed me to elevate myself above tourist status and truly experience the best parts of this country down under (which bears the distinction of being the only one in the world that is also an island and a continent).

I traveled frequently to both Melbourne and Adelaide while living in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland. Brisbane boasts a river, which snakes its way through the city and provides a stunning backdrop for the city's fine dining spots. One such spot is The Boatshed at the Regatta Hotel, which serves a mouth-watering Wagyu sirloin dish.

Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and is informally known as the “city of churches and pubs” because of its range of churches and bustling bar scene. Indeed, “Tasting Australia”, Adelaide’s biannual wine and food festival held in October, is one of the best of these types of “foodie” festivals.

Melbourne, Victoria's capital city, is known as Australia’s cultural center because of its flourishing film and art scene. What’s more, the city has a rich literary scene: Check out The State Library of Victoria, one of Australia’s oldest cultural institutions. Also, a walk through Melbourne’s Central Business District allows visitors a visual feast of the area’s vibrant street art scene.

Of course, this represents a mere sampling of what Australia has to offer. Don’t even get me started on the beaches!

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Destinations Visited: Australia

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