Boasting some of the world’s deadliest creatures, Australia is the largest island in the world and a wonderful mix of cities, breathtaking flora and fauna, beautiful beaches, fantastic diving and amazing natural beauty. Too right mate! Surfing on Bondi Beach, watching the sun set over Ayers Rock, driving the magnificent Great Ocean Road and camping out for a few days on Fraser Island are just some of the amazing attractions on offer here. One of the best and awe-inspiring things about Australia is the sheer size of the place (it’s about the same size as Europe), and as a result, there’s much to explore. Whether you want the buzz of a big city or the isolation and tranquility of a naturally beautiful idyll, you can find it ‘Down Under’, fair dinkum.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Aboriginal art, camping on Fraser Island, sailing round the Whitsunday Islands, driving the spectacular Great Ocean Road, chilling in Sydney or Melbourne and then deciding which is best (very important to the locals), surfing a big wave and ending up head first in the sand, enjoying the fabulous multi-cultural cuisine, ‘barbies’ (BBQs), Aussie rules football, Vegemite.
What’s Not: Getting bitten by a dangerous bush beasts, sitting on a bus for 12 hours before finding your destination is a one bar town with nothing to do, getting mercilessly ribbed by the locals about anything and everything (especially if you’re English), ordering a beer in Melbourne and getting what looks like a thimble of the amber nectar, forgetting your sun-cream and turning salmon-pink in the heat, Vegemite. Breaking down in the outback.
When to Go
Due to the sheer size of the place, the climate varies greatly from north to south. Generally, the north is much more tropical and has very hot, humid and uncomfortable summers (November to March). The sea is also bulging with stinging jellyfish at this time of year, making diving and snorkeling less attractive pursuits. The best time to hit the north is undoubtedly autumn, winter and spring (April to October), when temperatures are much more bearable and you can submerge yourself in the water without fearing for your life. In the south, the summer is the best time to go, when there is bright sunshine every day and not much rain. Winter in the south can get quite chilly and it rains quite a lot, particularly in Melbourne.
Getting There & Away
Since Australia is an island surrounded by ocean, chances are you’re going to be arriving by air. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth all have major airports (of which Sydney is the largest by far), and flights arrive from all over the world. Once you’re in the country, traveling by car is a great if time-consuming and exhausting experience. Internal flights are inexpensive and efficient (and much quicker) and are the best way to get around if you’re in a hurry. Buses are pretty good and are very frequent so if you’re on a tighter budget, this is definitely the way. Unusual for such a developed country, the train network is pretty poor so avoid this if you can.
Health & Safety
Australia has its fair share of hazards. First off, if you head into the outback, you’re never going to be too far from something that might bite, nip or just plain eat you. As a result, always do your research and take appropriate precautions to protect against insects and the like in the area you’re going to. Insect repellent is usually a good airport purchase and try and get hold of a spider chart for those standing-in-the-corner-of-the-bathroom moments. Secondly, the sun is very strong here so follow government guidelines and always: slip, slop and slap (slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat). In terms of crime, stick to the normal rules of not chucking cash around or acting flash and you’ll be fine. Oh, and don’t say you like Kiwis (New Zealanders) or Poms (Brits) either.
Food & Hospitality
Australia is big on food, and the chefs here are fiercely and rightly proud of the country’s reputation for the skilful mixing of Western, Asian and local recipes. Sydney and Melbourne are choc-full of fantastic restaurants of all different styles and cuisines. Service is generally very good in Australian restaurants, so sit back and enjoy. ‘BYO’ is a common sign in restaurant windows and it means you can bring your own booze, so nip in to a drive-thru bottle shop on your way and stock up on the cheap. Unlike many other countries, vegetarians are well catered for here. Of course, no mention of Australian food would be complete without mentioning the beloved BBQ. Aussies like nothing more than getting a crate of tinnies, seafood and steaks and firing up a monster barbie.
Australia is the promised land for tourists and travelers, and you could conceivably spend the rest of your life here seeing the sights. If your visa expires before then however, you may have to settle for two to four weeks.
A few days in Sydney, Australia’s premier party town, home to the majestic harbor, seedy but enticing King’s Cross and Bondi, Manly and Coogee beaches.
Melbourne is the cultural and sporting capital. Go and watch Aussie rules football, cricket, tennis or Formula One and take in the varied sights and sounds of this very cosmopolitan city.
Hire a car, or better still, buy a campervan, and drive the Great Ocean Road all the way from Melbourne to Adelaide.
Spend a few days camping on Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world and home to a truck-load of wild dingos.
Sail round the Whitsunday Islands and float on an inspiring aquatic paradise.
Stand and stare in awe at the size and natural beauty of Ayers Rock.
Head to the Blue Mountains and trek around this oasis of tranquillity and calm.
Hit Cairns for quality scuba-diving and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.
Sydney: a stunning harbor, great beaches, loads of top eating and drinking opportunities and friendly locals make Sydney a must-see.
Melbourne: lap up the culture and ingratiate yourself with the locals by brushing up on your sports, arts and food knowledge, and enjoy this wonderfully hedonistic city.
Ayers Rock: deep in the heart ofTjuta National Park in the Northern Territory, Ayers Rock and the surrounding area is inspiring.
Great Ocean Road: as the name suggests, this road runs alongside the ocean between Melbourne and Adelaide and is an unforgettable trip.
Diving and snorkeling: the Great Barrier Reef offers some of the best spots to gawp at coral and bundles of fish in the world.
Driving: crank up the tunes and let the wind blow through your hair on the Great Ocean Road.
Trekking: experience the astonishing natural beauty of this beast of a country on any number of the superb bush walks.
Hanging out: stroll, shop, party or just hang loose in any of Australia’s interesting and vibrant cities.
Watching sports: in this sports-obsessed nation, you’ll have ample chance to enjoy any of the major professional sports in the flesh, particularly in Melbourne.
Festivals & Events
Australians love a good party so there are plenty of festivals to enjoy.
January: the 26th is Australia Day so expect lots of back-slapping, beer and flag-waving nationwide.
February: Sydney Mardi Gras is the city’s celebration of all things gay, fabulous and flamboyant. Great fun for everyone, of every persuasion.
April: the 25th is Anzac Day, when Australia’s most important national occasion marks the anniversary of Australian and New Zealand forces in action in WWI.
October: the Western Australia Pride festival in Perth is the west’s big celebration.
November: watch the nation come to a standstill for the Melbourne Cup Day.
December: the Sydney to Hobart boat race is an annual sporting spectacular and the start is great to watch from Sydney Harbor.