New Zealand, Australia and Fiji at a glance
Sydney, Ayers Rock and Cairns
Sydney and Cairns
Explorer with Fiji Stopover
Australia and Fiji Sampler
Travel to Australia
There is no place in the Southern Hemisphere as iconic as Australia. From kangaroos, koalas, and Tasmanian devils, to the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers rock, and the Outback, there are so many things distinctively Australian it has become hard to keep track. Not surprisingly then, visitors who travel to Australia have a hard time knowing where to get started—the island continent is as varied as it is large, with landscapes ranging from gorgeous beaches and coastlines, to snow-cloaked mountains and an arid, yet starkly beautiful interior.
Most of Australia’s major cities are along the coast, with nearly two thirds of its citizens residing in urban areas. You Australia vacation will most likely begin in Sydney, the nation’s oldest and largest city, offering a perfectly-coiffed assortment of iconic sights, boutiques, beaches, and bars. You can catch a show at the Sydney Opera House, swim at Bondi Beach, or climb the Harbour Bridge for spectacular views of the city. Following in populace is Melbourne, a sophisticated mesh of narrow arcades, posh nightlife, and Australian Rules football. The city plays host each year to major sporting events like the Australian Open and the Melbourne Cup.
Other major cities include sun burnt Brisbane, a subtropical town with a sense of laid back cool, and quiet Adelaide, an up-and-coming culinary hub. Canberra is the country’s epicenter of politics and national heritage, and Hobart is an off-the-beaten track island town quickly gaining recognition as a haven for the avant-garde.
If you travel to Australia’s west coast, you will visit Perth, an outdoorsy oasis of civilization amidst vast emptiness. The northern town of Darwin is a seasonal contradiction of bustle and vacancy, urbanity and remoteness, and wet and dry. Each of these cities may have their own local flavor, but you will never lack for good cafes, a homegrown sensibility for art and culture, or an energetic street scene.
The country’s interior, by contrast, is largely empty. Those with an insatiable yen for the unknown could spend weeks exploring this vast land, and would still have more to see. One of the best ways to travel Australia is by car. There are several legendary roads to choose from, including the drive from Norseman to Ceduna to see the Nullarbor Plain, the world’s largest piece of limestone spanning as wide as 683 miles; the Great Ocean Road, a spectacular 150 mile section of the Victorian Coast; and the Northern Territory drive from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock (now officially known by its aboriginal name, Uluru) and Kings Canyon, to name a few.
Even though distances can be vast, it is fairly easy to travel in Australia. There is an extensive airline system with service to many of the smaller towns and islands within the continent. Flying is the best way to cover large distances in a short time. Australia’s domestic airlines—Quantas, Jetstar, Virgin Blue, Rex and their subsidiaries – serve all state capital cities and regional centers.
More remote areas have limited airline flights but trains are available from Adelaide through the Outback to Darwin on the Ghan, or from Sydney across the country on the Indian Pacific to Perth. And if you want to make your Australia vacation even more adventurous, there are small ship expeditions through the remote North West from Broome to Darwin.
In all, Australia consists of six states, two major mainland territories, and other minor territories. The states are New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. The two major mainland territories are the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, or ACT. Known collectively as the Commonwealth of Australia, many immigrants have settled here over the years, turning the country into a richly multi-cultural society.
Thought to be the oldest civilization on earth, the Australian Aboriginal culture dates back over 50,000 years, yet Australia was one of the last countries to be discovered by the western world. Despite their simple nomadic existence, the Aboriginals are credited with unique advances like developing the aerodynamic boomerang, and the woomera, a type of spear thrower. When Australia was first discovered by Europeans, there were over 1 million Aborigines in 300 clans scattered all over Australia. Many traces of Aborigine heritage are still evident in modern Australian life, and today Aboriginal artwork and instruments like the didgeridoo, have become well-known symbols of the country.
Your Australia vacation will not be complete without some wine tasting. Celebrated for its cool climate varietals, Australia is the fourth largest exporter of wine globally. With over 60 designated wine regions, most major cities are only a day trip away from the cellars. The Hunter Valley and Yarra Valley regions are within short driving distances of Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, while the Barossa valley out of Adelaide is probably the most renowned wine area in the country. Vineyards can also be found in Tasmania, the Margaret River area south of Perth and on Kangaroo Island. With award-winning reds, whites, blends and sparkling wines produced country-wide, there is a bottle to compliment every meal and palate.
Other “must-sees” on your Australia vacation include the Blue Mountains, a stunning series of gorges and sandstone plateau, and Byron Bay, a chic seaside town with good surf and hippie roots, both in New South Wales. Additionally, The Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest in north Queensland is the only instance in the world of two UNESCO World Heritage sites standing directly adjacent to one another.
Home to thousands of species of fish, coral, and other marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system on the planet, and a diver’s or snorkeler’s paradise. The Great Barrier Reef is probably the best know Australian icon and without a doubt will be the highlight of your Australia vacation. Just two hours north of Cairns, the Daintree Rainforest contains almost a third of the country’s frog, reptile, and marsupial population, as well as several ancient plants, some of which are counted as the earliest on record. Daintree is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the continent, with foliage spreading as far down as the edge of the sea.
With world-class cities, exquisite beaches, warm people, and a seemingly endless amount of back road excursions, travel to Australia for the adventure of a lifetime.