The must-see destinations
One of the world’s great cities, Sydney is the ideal place to start your trip. As well as landmarks like the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach, it has a lively backpacker scene and eating, drinking and nightlife options to suit all budgets and tastes.
Cosmopolitan Melbourne is the country’s second biggest city. As well as being a foodie and cultural hub, it has the country’s premier sports ground, the MCG – watching an Aussie Rules, rugby or cricket match here is an unforgettable experience.
Queensland is home to some of Australia’s most famous attractions: the Great Barrier Reef, the scenic Whitsundays, the beach resorts of the Gold Coast, and Fraser Island, which is covered with giant sand dunes.
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No trip is complete without a visit to Uluru (Ayers Rock), which lies in the centre of the country, deep in the Outback. Regardless of how many photos you’ve seen of “The Rock”, nothing prepares you for experiencing it first hand.
It’s also well worth heading off the beaten track. For example, the temperate wilderness of Tasmania feels very different to the rest of the country, the tropical Northern Territory has some of the country’s best national parks, and South Australia offers great vineyards and beautiful coastline.
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world – at almost 7.7 square kilometres it is 31.5 times bigger than the UK – and getting around takes time.
Most people fly between states, and competition means fares are pretty good value. For shorter journeys – or tighter budgets – Greyhound buses connect all the main tourist destinations.
Australia is also a great place to drive, enabling you to explore at your own pace and get off the tourist trail. Campervans are particularly economical, as they double up as accommodation. Vehicles are easy to hire, but if you’re travelling for several months it is often cheaper to buy a secondhand vehicle and then sell it on again at the end of your trip.
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Where to stay
Hostels are great places to meet other backpackers, and most organise social activities – often for free – including barbecues and pub crawls. The YHA, which offers accommodation in everything from former prisons to historic mansions, is a good place to start.
Another option is a homestay, which provide the opportunity to meet locals and stay in a family environment.
Where to eat (and drink)
Many people feel self-conscious about eating out (or going for a drink) on their own, but it’s increasingly common, especially in the cities.
Most hostels have a café, restaurant or bar where you won’t stand out as a solo diner and are likely to meet fellow travellers. More and more restaurants have communal tables, and food markets – such as Mindil Beach Sunset Market in Darwin and Adelaide Central Market – are sociable places to eat, too.
It’s also easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger in an Aussie pub (which, confusingly, are often called “hotels”).