Given Australia’s vast scale, it makes more sense to focus on one, two or perhaps three regions, depending on your time frame. The following itineraries showcase both classic attractions and less well known gems, from the elegant attractions of the coastal cities to the mesmerizing desert interior.
1 Whitehaven Beach
This Whitsunday Island beach is comprised of 5km of pure white sand, making it a lure for pleasure boats. Camp at the southern end, snorkel and enjoy the glorious sunsets.
2 Fraser Island
Take your pick of seashore spots at Seventy-Five Mile Beach. Eli Creek is one of the most attractive options, or head for the Maheno shipwreck which peeks out of the sand. The Champagne Pools are natural indentations which make for a safe and serene swim.
At the swisher end of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Noosa is a high-end resort with an unspoilt beach and a National Park, where you might see koalas on your coastal walk.
4 Byron Bay
Backed by rainforest, Byron Bay features 30km of sandy strands. Keep your eyes peeled for passing dolphins and humpback whales, and enjoy the increasingly hip restaurant scene and nightlife once the sun has set.
5 Crescent Head
A New South Wales beach, and the site of an important native title claim. Aside from the beauty of its arc of blond sand, it’s rated as one of the country’s most egalitarian beaches with a mixed bunch of swimmers and surfers.
6 Bondi Beach
This 1.5km-long stretch of sand is the ultimate in Australian beach glamour, with buffed lifesavers, surfer dudes, big waves, passing rollerbladers and a great café scene.
7 Wineglass Bay
A Tasmanian icon, where pure white sand meets intensely turquoise waters, with pink and grey granite peaks rising above. Great for fishing, sea kayaking, sailing, or just a beautiful beach walk.
8 Turquoise Bay
The name says pretty much all you need to know about this beach near Exmouth. Be sure to take your snorkel to see shoals of bright fish weaving in and out of the coral.
1 Undara Lava Tubes
Vast subterranean pipes formed by an ancient volcano, which shelter microbats and brown tree snakes, known as “night tigers”, which hang from the trees.
2 The Kimberley
Western Australian frontier land, with a crocodile coast, wide rivers and deep isolated gorges. A unique sight here is the bulbous boab tree, whose nuts are carved by Aboriginal artists.
Epic and elemental, this massive rock is one of the country’s great natural sights. Aboriginal and ranger-led tours introduce you to some wonderful wildlife, including more than seventy reptile species.
4 Mungo National Park
Take a camping trip in a desert wilderness where Australia’s megafauna once roamed: you’ll see crowds of emus and kangaroos. The dome of stars in the night sky in this remote region is a sight in itself.
5 Cradle Mountain
Tasmanian wilderness cut through by iconic hiking trails. Look out for wombats, echidnas and platypus. In the same region, Lake St Clair is Australia’s deepest.
6 Blue Mountains
Endlessly receding mountain ranges, tinged blue by gum oil in the atmosphere. The region is home to the Wollemi pine, or dinosaur tree, which dates back sixty million years and until recently was thought only to exist in fossil form.
7 Lord Howe Island
A tiny island ringed by coral, with unique flora, rare flightless birds, umpteen seabirds and dazzling tropical fish. Snorkellers might catch sight of imposing but unthreatening Galapagos sharks.
You’ll find no end of top-end restaurants in Sydney, the most famous being Japanese/French Tetsuya’s, which offers a ten-course degustation.
At F.O.O.D Week in April you can learn about local food, browse markets, meet producers, listen to talks and take part in the justly popular FORAGE walk, a gentle stroll with chances to gather and devour local produce.
3 High Country Harvest Festival
A celebration of the state’s food, wine and beer, held in the “High Country” of the Victorian Alps and along the Murray River. The vineyards, fields, orchards and olive groves result in some wonderful produce, including hand-made butter and artisan cheeses.
From funky up-cycled coffee shops to upmarket rooftop restaurants and bountiful farmers’ markets, Melbourne is a city that takes food seriously. Just listen to your waiter effuse about the specials and you’ll see what we mean.
The temperate Tasmanian climate results in excellent fruit and veg, cool-climate wine and high quality beef, cheeses, beers and honey. The island’s oysters are also renowned.
6 Barossa Valley
You’ll find terrific regional wine across the country, but the Barossa region near Adelaide is the largest and best established region. Visit March–May for the harvest; the Barossa Vintage Festival is celebrated from Easter Monday in odd-numbered years.
7 The Kimberley
Catch your own mangrove jack or barramundi on a wilderness cruise and have it cooked up on board. You might also get a bite from a golden snapper, blue bone groper or red emperor.
An ocean city with a revitalised waterfront area. Fast growing and multicultural, it’s a wonderful place for food: the sunset markets provide Malay laksa, peanut satays and even bush tucker.
2 Kakadu National Park
This Aboriginal-managed region features weird and wonderful wildlife, including freshwater crocodiles, jabiru birds and dingoes. The indigenous rock art, including images in the X-ray style, is outstanding.
3 The Ghan
Cutting into the Red Centre, the legendary Ghan train takes its name from the nineteenth-century camel drivers who explored Australia. Red earth and inky blue skies provide a wonderful panorama.
4 Alice Springs
The modern desert town of Alice Springs makes an attractive stop off, where you can browse art galleries and find some welcome good-quality cafés and restaurants. It’s a great place to shop for Aboriginal art.
Perhaps Australia’s defining sight, this mighty monolith is also a keystone in the country’s cultural history. Once seen by visitors as simply a challenging lump of rock to climb, it is now recognised for its deep significance to the local Aboriginal population.
Elegant Adelaide is the end of this particular line, with attractions including bountiful botanic gardens, bluestone mansions and an Aboriginal cultural centre.
Broome is a bustling little place, first made wealthy by an 1880s pearl rush; remnants of the industry still pervade the town, and you can visit one of the world’s oldest cinemas.
If you fancy a bit of bushcamping, make a stop at the northern beaches here. You’ll find some lovely white-sand stretches and isolated creeks.
3 Ningaloo Reef Marine Park
Take to the waters to snorkel and dive amongst the corals, and five hundred species of fish.
4 Monkey Mia
You’re pretty much guaranteed to see dolphins here, which is the main draw, but there’s also a lovely beach, and plenty of resorts and attractions to explore in the enclosing Shark Bay.
The river and coastal gorges at Kalbarri comprise a spectacular national park which features excellent hiking trails.
6 Nambung National Park
As you wend your way south, don’t miss the extraordinary limestone pinnacles of this park: the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre fills you in on the geological detail.
Sunny Perth is an ideal place to top up on some nightlife after the great outdoors, and it also provides great surfing and sailing as well as a fine collection of galleries.
Australia’s “European” city, with a large Greek and Italian population, stand-out restaurants, arts festivals and ornate Victorian architecture. There’s a varied selection of live music venues and some excellent galleries.
Picturesque seaside Lorne is an ideal holiday resort, combining a laidback surfie vibe with some fine restaurants, delis and boutiques. Plunge into the chilly waters, then warm up on a hiking trail amongst the ferns and eucalypts.
3 Great Otway National Park
A triangle of national park designated an Important Bird Area for its populations of bristlebirds, fieldwrens and pink robins. The lush hills and gullies are hugely scenic, and don’t miss the historic Cape Otway Lighthouse.
4 Twelve Apostles
These ocean-set limestone pillars are an icon of the Great Ocean Road, rising up to 65 metres. Watch out for the fairy penguins crowding onto the shore at dusk.
5 Port Fairy
A lovely place to end your trip, this early whaling settlement has some of the oldest houses you’ll see in Australia, as well as enticing beaches. The sight of umpteen muttonbirds roosting here is unforgettable.
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