Traveling to Australia is a banquet for the senses. In size, it is approximately the same as the USA or the entire European continent. The world’s oldest continent, people have lived in Australia for 60,000 years. Going to the Red Centre, a mysterious place of ancient ceremony and extraordinary landscape, will take you into Aboriginal ways of harmony, art, and natural awareness.
The lush forests of Tasmania and the northern coral reefs are world-renowned. 22,000 miles of coastline invite you to get into the water and renew. 500 species of Eucalyptus trees create peaceful scents and scenes. The cities of Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth are cutting edge, Victorian, spicy, and beautiful. Of course, there is wildlife that’s not found anywhere else on earth—walk the beaches with a kangaroo.
Here is the beginning of a supreme bucket list for your Australia vacation:
Head to the Royal Botanic Gardens when in Melbourne. There is an after-dark lightscape that is out of this world. Adelaide, too, is a joy as they light the city’s streets, lanes, and architecture—look for artists! If you’re in Tasmania, enjoy a guided night adventure and listen to the Tasmanian Devils’ eerie screeches. A lighting-up-the-night experience is ideal for folks and families who want to get out at night without hitting up bars and restaurants.
The Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is Australia’s glitzy beach area. It extends 45 miles south of Brisbane, and it is famous for stunning beaches, great surf, amusement parks, nightlife, and a subtropical rainforest plus waterfalls. The culinary scene is bliss, and nightlife is rocking.
Rainbow Bay is terrific for swimmers and surfers. The waves are fine for beginners and there’s a calm area perfect for swimming. If you want to learn to surf, book a lesson here. Tallebudgera Creek runs to the ocean, and this area is good for swimming, fishing, and kayaking. Kirra Beach has crystalline waters for surfers, paddleboarders, swimmers, and relaxing—this is a favorite, low-key spot for locals. And Surfers Paradise Beach? It lives up to its name!
The Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast, to the north, is more elegant than the Gold Coast. There are beaches made for sunning and natural adventures. The Sunshine Coast stretches for 40 miles along the Queensland shore. Here, rainforests meet perfect white sand beaches and clear rivulets. Mind-blowing national parks and historic villages dot the Sunshine Coast. Savor fresh seafood, plus local breweries and wineries.
The Eumundi Markets is the largest outdoor market in Australia. Street performers, crafts, local artists, street food, and quirky characters make Eumundi Markets a must. While on the Sunshine Coast, from July through October, consider swimming with humpback whales just off the coast on their migratory paths.
The Glass House Mountains
Imagine exploring the Sunshine Coast countryside on the eleven peaks of Glass House Mountains. The entire area is a superb collection of paths, billabongs, and local foodie cafes. There are sweet villages, gardens, and nature reserves. Climb a low mountain for views that go on forever. The largest town here is Beerwah. Take the 30-minute Tibrogargan circuit for exceptional views of Moreton Island and Brisbane. Gorgeous.
Moreton Island is one of Australia’s secret spots. Just 35 miles from Brisbane, this is a paradise for adventurers looking for a unique experience. 95% of the center of the island is a national park, and the coastline has pristine beaches for sunning, swimming, and surfing. You can feed wild dolphins, blaze down a sand dune, or bliss-out in a blue lagoon. Consider snorkeling among shipwrecks, unusual fish, dolphins, wobbegongs, and dugongs.
One of the most amazing experiences on the Island is kayaking at night over the Tangalooma Shipwrecks. Transparent kayaks, with LED lights, show off coral, fish, sunken shipwrecks, rays, and turtles. Moreton Island, so close to Brisbane, may be one of your Australia travel highlights!
Grampians National Park, Victoria
These craggy mountains, waterfalls, and bluffs were formed 400 million years ago. The Grampians are sacred to the Aboriginal tribes, and 80% of Victoria’s rock art is here. Perhaps its most amazing feature is the wild variety of plants and animals. There are glorious wildflowers found only between these cliffs. Koala bears can be heard snorting after sundown, and the kangaroos are quite friendly. Trees and bushes are filled with the song of rainbow lorikeets and cockatoos.
Orchids and pink heath run riot in the spring. Unusual brown tree frogs fill rivers and creeks. Go to dazzling MacKenzie Falls. The Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre has multimedia displays and immersive experiences; it is partly run by local Aboriginal communities. The Grampians is an ideal place to get into the culture and the land.
The Australian Outback is the heart of Australia. The scenery is dramatic; deep gold plains, red earth, and purple mountains are crowned by brilliant blue skies. Towns are often just a few houses, a gas station, and a store. Camels were brought to the Outback in the 1870’s; it is now home to the only wild camels in the world. You can take a camel safari in the Outback, and you can go opal mining.
The Outback is ecologically rich with distinctive areas. There are subtropical savannas at the Top End. Water courses rise and fall in the Channel Country of western Queensland. Ten deserts in central and western Australia are contained in the Outback. The MacDonnell Ranges rise majestically above flat plains. In southwestern Australia, the Great Western Woodlands is 40,000,000 acres, larger than England and Wales combined.
The Great Barrier Reef
Coral reefs are some of the oldest forms of life on earth, dating back 500 million years. And the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, is the largest reef system in the world. It is 1,250 miles long with an area of 135,000 square miles. There are more than 200 islands bordering the reefs, although the best coral is found about 30 miles from the Australian shore.
Whether you have never snorkeled before, or if you’re a pro, this is the place to get into the water. There are more than 2,000 species of fish and various corals. It is home to sea urchins, sponges, sea slugs, 12 species of sea grasses and an extraordinary 500 types of algae. The reef also supports brilliant tropical birds. In short, the Great Barrier Reef is liquid heaven, and for many it is a must-experience.
The Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It is not one single building, it is a collection of theaters and halls that are linked beneath the roof structures, looking like huge, graceful sails. This innovative architectural adventure took 14 years to complete, and it’s one of the world’s busiest performing arts centers. It hosts around 2,000 performances each year for 1.4 million people. The outdoor space is a gem.
The foyer of the Joan Sutherland Theatre has a gorgeous mural by Aboriginal artist, Michael Tjakamarra Nelson. The inventive walkways offer a world of views. The Northern Foyers look out over the glorious harbor. The Concert Hall, largest of the venues, seats 2,690 and its high vaulted ceiling is made of white birch timber. The sound is incomparable.
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, is the oldest scientific institution in Australia. It is also one of the most important botanical institutions in the world, employing a large team of world-class scientists. The garden is 74 acres on the eastern edge of Sydney’s business district. Its location on the harbor, and views of the Sydney Opera House, are breathtaking. Started in 1816, it is open every day of the year, and it is free to enter. The garden is an exquisite example of a Victorian, subtropical landscape, and its design has evolved over time to illustrate Australia.
The layout is a perfect balance of statuary, fountains, bedding plants, plantations, dreamy views, paths, steps, and areas to sit. The community loves this garden, and you can feel it. It is part of Australia’s, and Sydney’s, identity. For generations residents have come here to love, celebrate, grieve, and gather. The Royal Botanic Gardens is more than a garden—it holds the memories of people and binds them.
Do your Australia travel dreams include a dive into Aboriginal culture with a local guide, vibrant cities, or sunning on a picture-perfect beach? Simply Let your Destination Expert know what you want!