There are so many reasons to visit Australia that it can feel overwhelming to decide what to do. I have combed the country to highlight the best places and most authentic experiences in Australia for my app Australia’s Best Places.
Here is my must-do list.
1. Dive into the Great Barrier Reef
Go snorkeling or scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest reef system and the largest natural made structure on earth. Take day and overnight trips to the Outer Reef from locations all along the mainland or stay on exquisite tropical islands like Lizard, Hayman and Wilson.
2. See all the unique animals
Nowhere else in the world are there so many unusual and bizarre animals. Think of the whole marsupial family including koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, wombats, and other lesser known gems like bilbies, bandicoots and potoroos all of which have pouches for their babies.
Then there are the monotremes, or egg-laying mammals, like the platypus and echidna. On top of that there are Tasmanian devils, dingoes, and quolls.
Half of Australia’s remarkable 828 bird species are found nowhere else. They range from huge flightless emus, oddly bright cassowaries and penguin (yes they are other flightless birds) to kookaburras with their distinctive laugh, lyrebirds and a whole host of brightly colored parrots, cockatoos, rosellas, lorikeets and budgerigars.
There are also, of course, Australia’s renowned reptiles including crocodiles, turtles, lizards and snakes (21 of the world’s deadliest, but let’s not dwell on that).
As for marine animals we have whale sharks, humpback, southern right and orca whales, dolphins, dugongs and sharks, to name but a few.
3. Discover the world’s most beautiful beaches
Australia has hundreds of them from the pure white silica sands of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays section of the Great Barrier Reef to Hyam’s Beach in Jervis Bay renowned for its dolphins, whales and multitude of sea life.
Then there are Sydney’s famed Bondi Beach and Manly Beach, plus another 60 fabulous strands within the city’s limits.
And don’t forget all the beaches along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, including Bells Beach, famed as the spiritual heart of Australian surfing.
Of course, you can’t miss Wineglass Bay on Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula and Cable Beach in Broome where the red rocks of the Kimberley meet aquamarine waters.
The list goes on and on: Byron Bay’s famous Clarkes Beach, Rottnest Island’s 63 Beaches, Squeaky Beach at Wilson’s Promontory, Kangaroo Island’s many famous sandy stretches and Lucky Bay, near Esperance in Western Australia, where kangaroos come to drink from the freshwater springs.
4. Explore the Red Center
Get up close to Uluru, Australia’s iconic monolith in the Red Centre. Walk around its base and discover sacred waterholes, caves and dreaming stories. Go at sunset to marvel at its glowing red convoluted forms. And while you are there, check out Kata Kjuta’s nearby majestic rocks.
5. See the most diverse rock art on the planet
Check out some of Australia’s 100,000 Aboriginal rock art sites whose detail, freshness, range of colour and age make it unequaled worldwide.
There are ghost-like Wandjina figures and ancient elegant Gwion Gwion figures in the Kimberley; more than a million petroglyphs in Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula, while Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land, including UNESCO World-Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, holds one of the world’s greatest concentrations of rock art which is remarkable for its diversity.
6. Go for a hike
Australia sports some pretty remarkable long distance walks that rival the best in the world, such as Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain Overland Track.
What’s more you can do many of them in short sections. Think Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk, The Larapinta Trail in the Red Center outside of Alice Springs, and any of Queensland’s Great Walks say in the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast Hinterland or in the Whitsundays, which even combines boating with walking.
And you can throw in a touch of luxury too, with the fully accommodated and catered walks at the Bay of Fires or Maria Island in Tasmania and at Arkaba Station in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges.
7. Play on stunning golf courses
Now that Australian Adam Scott has won the US Masters, Australian golf courses are in the limelight and they don’t disappoint. Tasmania’s wild Barnbougle Dunes is Australia’s number 1 public course and the world’s number 7 public course (as well as being the 35th best course in the world). And now the brand new Great Golf Courses of Australia offers international visitors access to Australia’s finest private golf courses, including six world top 100 courses in fabulous locations across the country.
8. Indulge in urban sophistication
Australia’s cities are worldly yet easy going. You’ll discover terrific restaurants and bars, edgy galleries, great theater, dance and music, and quirky architecture, interesting neighborhoods and all-around dibs on the good life. Sydney lives out loud with its gorgeous harbour, great weather and outdoorsy lifestyle. Melbourne is both sports mad and Australia’s cultural, café and design hub with a hipster laneway culture that rewards adventurous souls.
9. Taste some of the finest wines in the world
For wine lovers, Australia offers the holy grail of wine touring with world-class cellar doors and winery restaurants dotted across 60 different wine regions around the country.
Australia’s most famous wine is Penfolds Grange, which UK Wine critic Hugh Johnson has called the only First Growth of the Southern Hemisphere.
South Australia has the greatest collection of wineries in regions like the Barossa, Clare, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra.
There are terrific wine regions close to all the major capital cities: Sydney has the Hunter Valley, Melbourne offers the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley, Perth features the Margaret River and Swan Valley while the federal capital has the Canberra district wineries. And, there are terrific boutique wine operations all over Tasmania. Even Queensland has wineries in the cool Southern Highlands.
Even better, you don’t have to make appointments or pay for tastings in most Aussie wineries.
10 Discover the island at the end of the earth
Tasmania is renowned for its spectacular wilderness and almost 37% of the island lies in reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites. These days, Tasmania is also attracting sophisticates with its stunning Museum of Old and New Art, great golf and a terrific food and wine scene.
11. Experience our luxury wilderness lodges and camps
There is the Kimberley in North Western Australia, renowned for thundering waterfalls, rock art, and wild expanses. There’s Northern Territory with its wide expanses, big fish, Aboriginal culture and enormous outback cattle stations. There are the remarkable rock formations in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and a whole host of wilderness across Tasmania…the list goes on and on.
Luckily you can explore these remote places with experienced guides from luxury lodges like the Great Southern Lodge on Kangaroo Island, Saffire Lodge on Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula, Wolgan Valley Resort in NSW, El Questro Homestead in the Kimberley and Arkaba Lodge in South Australia. There are also eco-friendly safari-style camps such as Sal Salis at Ningaloo Reef, Longitude 131 at Uluru, and Bamurru Plains north of Kakadu.
For more information on the best things to do in Australia, check out my app Australia’s Best Places on iTunes. Do please let me know of any gems you discover that you would like me to add!
Latest posts by Sue Gough Henly (see all)
- Photo Friday: Grand Canyon Vista from Shoshone Point - February 10, 2017
- Twelve Great Bordeaux Chateaux to visit: wine, food, art and more - February 2, 2017
- New York’s Greenwich Hotel offers Ultimate Downtown Chic - February 1, 2017