Famous for its sandy beaches, sunshine and marsupials, Australia is a dream trip for many travelers worldwide. But visitors are often pleasantly surprised to find that the Lucky Country has much more to offer than they’d expected: from barren outback to lush rainforests, extraordinary flora and fauna, two of the world’s most exciting fossil sites, and world-class museums, galleries and restaurants, Australia really has something for everyone.
There’s so much to see and do that these 15 recommendations are really just the start of your Aussie adventure; don’t be surprised if on the flight home, you’re already planning your next visit!
Lets explore the best places to visit in Australia:
Perhaps Australia’s best-known tourist destination, Sydney is the gateway city for many tourists, as well as being the largest city in Australia.
A vibrant metropolis of over 4 million, Sydney is famous for its excellent cuisine, nightlife, shopping, and cultural attractions; and, of course, the Sydney Opera House! You’ll want to spend at least a few days here, but if you’re in a rush, some of the best inner-city attractions are the Powerhouse Museum, Manly, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Paddington Markets, Taronga Zoo, and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Or catch the hop-on, hop-off bus – with 34 designated stops, and insightful commentary, you’ll see some of Sydney’s most popular sites and have a great time!
The capital city of Australia is nestled neatly between New South Wales and Victoria, the two most populated states – as you may imagine, it was chosen as a compromise between the notoriously competitive Sydney and Melbourne.
Being the nation’s capital, the quality of the local museums and galleries are exceptional, so it’s a real treat for the arts and culture-minded; the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia are must-sees, with many international exhibits.
A tour of the beautiful Parliament House will give you a fascinating insight in Australia’s history and politics, and the Canberra Glassworks is as gorgeous as it is fascinating.
The National Dinosaur museum is a great place to bring the kids (or to get in touch with your inner child!). Once you’ve whetted your intellectual appetite, it’s time to enjoy the beautiful nature of the Canberra area – the city is even nicknamed the “bush capital”! Black Mountain, the National Botanic Gardens, and the Canberra Nature Park are particularly interesting.
Brisbane is particularly popular with Australian tourists, but also beloved by travelers from abroad.
It’s a charming city that criss-crosses the Brisbane River, and its boutique shopping, friendly atmosphere and delicious restaurants can’t be beat.
It’s quieter than Sydney and Melbourne, but not sleepy: there’s always plenty to see and do.
West End is a popular nightlife spot, with the Lychee Lounge’s famous craft cocktails, and South Bank is a beautiful sightseeing spot that boasts everything from an authentic Nepalese Pagoda to an artificial inner-city beach.
Try to visit during South Bank’s Collective Markets for some gorgeous handmade, artisanal objects by local creatives.
4. Byron Bay and Nimbin
These two towns, 70km from each other, are Australia’s alternative lifestyle hub; they were the centre of the Australian hippie movement, and you’ll still find hippie culture (and hippies, young and old!) here today.
Byron Bay has a gorgeous beach and lighthouse, but it’s also become much more commercialized than Nimbin (which is inland, so no beach, but the colorful streetscape and unique atmosphere more than make up for it). Despite being in New South Wales, they’re very close to the border with Queensland; at only 2 hours from Brisbane, they’re a really fun day trip.
5. Gold Coast
Just under 100km from Brisbane, this tourist mecca is glitzy, exciting and fun: it’s Australia’s answer to Las Vegas (and yes, there’s a casino!) This beach resort town is best known for Surfers Paradise (home of the famous bikini-clad meter maids, the futuristic Infinity attraction and an excellent Madam Tussauds), as well as its theme parks (Sea World, Dream World, Warner Bros Movie World and Wet’n’Wild), but if glitz, kitsch and rollercoasters aren’t your thing, then you’ll love the stunning, unspoiled rainforest vistas of Springbook & Lamington National Parks, and the very charming Mount Tamborine with its handicrafts, wines and cheeses.
6. Cairns and Port Douglas
Port Douglas is a quaint seaside village, and a great place to relax on the beach or take a stroll; Cairns is a buzzing tourist mecca that’s popular with backpackers from around the world.
They’re about an hour away from each other, and either is a great place to base yourself while enjoying the jewels in the crown of this area, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree Rainforest.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system, spanning 2,600km, and including 2,900 reefs and 900 islands.
As one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, it’s a fascinating spot for snorkelling or scuba diving: the corals come in a myriad of colors and shapes, and the waters are rich in beautiful marine life.
The Daintree Rainforest is home to some of the world’s oldest forests, and is known for its exceptional diversity of flora and fauna, and its beautiful walking trails.
Being quite heavily touristed, you can find all of the necessities or luxuries here, including several eco-spas to relax and unwind in after all of that bushwalking!
Once a sleepy backwater, Perth has completely revamped itself since the Western Australian mining boom, and is now a very fun site for tourists and locals alike.
At Elizabeth Quay, you can stroll along the Swan River while dolphin-spotting, or check out any of its excellent restaurants or bars at (Annalakshmi is particularly outstanding!); it’s also gorgeous at night, when the bridge is illuminated.
Matilda Bay Reserve and its iconic blue boathouse is walking distance from the Quay, as is the University of Western Australia campus with its gorgeous architecture – Winthrop Hall is particularly worth a look, and you may even see a bride and groom milling around as it’s a popular spot for wedding photos.
Perth’s coastline is considered some of Australia’s best; in total, WA’s coastline stretches for 12,000km, making it the longest stretch of coastline in Australia.
The West Coast sunsets are a must-see, and there’s plenty of nice spots for beachside fish and chips.
Mindarie Marina and Hillary’s Boat Harbour are a little difficult to access by public transport, but well worth it: the Marina has a gorgeous Mediterranean-style boardwalk, the Boat Harbour is home to Perth’s aquarium, and both sites have some fantastic restaurants.
Further south, Fremantle’s beautiful heritage buildings, buzzing markets, and vibrant bar and café culture make it a must on every Perth visitor’s itinerary; and if you’ve got time for a trip out of Perth, the nearby Rottnest Island is famous for a marsupial found nowhere else, known as the quokka –you may have heard of the quokka selfies phenomenon! It’s worth staying overnight on the island as they’re most active at night (and they’re particularly adorable at night-time in Spring, when the mothers are nursing their young).
8. Coral Bay
If you’re visiting Western Australia, Coral Bay is a must-see, if you’re up to the 11-hour drive from Perth or 13-hour drive from Broome to get there! On the upside, it’s an interesting journey if you’re traveling up from Perth: Geraldtown, Kalbarri, the UNESCO-listed Hamelin Pool, or the famous dolphins of Monkey Mia are all short and easy detours.
Ningaloo Reef is the highlight of Coral Bay; it’s Australia’s only fringing reef, and the coral starts right at the seashore.
The fish and coral are very easy to get to, even for the kids, and it’s a great spot for snorkelling or diving.
If you’re lucky, you might also spot Solo the Kangaroo (a roo who loves swimming (very unusual!) and has become quite a favorite with the townspeople) or some nesting turtles.
Whale-watching tours are also available.
9. Uluru/Ayer’s Rock
Uluru, also known as Ayer’s Rock, is a massive sandstone rock formation in the Northern Territory.
It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and highly sacred in the local indigenous culture (who do request that you do not climb it). The rock appears to change colors at different times of day, and it’s a spectacular backdrop for photographs of your Australian roadtrip.
The area surrounding the rock is also very interesting: walking tours led by the traditional inhabitants of the area, the Aṉangu, will leave you well-informed about local bush-tucker (indigenous cuisine), dreamtime stories, flora and fauna.
You can also see archaeological evidence of 10,000 years of human habitation in the area.
Uluru is part of the Uluṟu–Kata Tjuṯa National Park, and the flora found here is quite a comprehensive sample of that which is found in Central Australia.
There’s also a diverse range of native wildlife, so it’s a great chance to encounter marsupials and other Australian mammals in their natural habitat.
10. Kakadu National Park
Kakadu is another highlight of the Northern Territory.
Covering an area of almost 20,000 square kilometres, Australia’s largest national park is the size of Slovenia, or almost half the size of Switzerland.
Kakadu is another of Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, and for good reason: the views are spectacular, and the biodiversity is exceptional (with over 280 bird species and 10 thousand insect species, over 1700 plant species, and approximately 60 mammal species and 117 reptile species). Kakadu is also a fascinating experience for the budding archaeologist: the area has been inhabited by the local indigenous population for at least 40,000 years, with evidence of settlement such as over 5,000 ancient art sites.
More than 500 Aboriginal Australians live in the park, and they maintain much of their traditional cultures and customs; many are also the traditional owners of the land in which they live.
From cliffs and gorges to billabongs and waterfalls, there’s a diverse range of scenery to enjoy here, and the flora is particularly stunning.
You can also see many native mammals, from dugongs to dingos! As you might expect from the size of the park, there are countless tourist attractions, and it’s well worth spending a week here; KakaduTourism.com has a variety of suggested itineraries, and substantial information about the natural and cultural charms of the park.
Melbourne is a buzzing metropolis famed for its exceptional café culture – its coffee has been voted the best in the world, beating out Rome and Vienna – as well as its vibrant cultural scene, exciting nightlife, delicious dining options and boutique shopping.
Different neighbourhoods have their own culture, and it’s particularly worth visiting Fitzroy, Richmond Road and Chinatown for a taste of what makes Melbourne so special!
The Crown Casino complex is also a treat; far more than just a casino, the complex boasts an excellent range of up-market shopping options, 5-star dining, nightclubs and much more.
Docklands is also a great place for a coffee or a meal.
The state art gallery and museum are both excellent, and the Queen Victoria Markets is a bustling, exciting and delicious attraction.
You can also enjoy a stunning view of the city from the Eureka Skydeck, but perhaps the most fun to be had in Melbourne is just wandering through the many laneways and arcades in the city and experiencing its unique atmosphere.
12. Great Ocean Road
Starting at the cute township of Torquay (famous for its surf beaches, including the world-famous Bells Beach), this Australian Heritage-listed, 243km stretch of road boasts gorgeous coastal and mountain views, pristine white-sand beaches, a collection of small Australian towns that are fascinating in their own right, and the iconic Twelve Apostles (a series of limestone formations standing tall in the ocean). Stop in a few towns on your way, and make sure to take the time to explore the Great Otway National Park (if you’re a daredevil, maybe even try the zipline!)
13. Adelaide and the Barossa Valley
The city of Adelaide and the nearby Barossa Valley are popular tourist destinations; Adelaide is known for its funky atmosphere, beautiful scenery, excellent museums and galleries, and Rundle Mall (Australia’s first pedestrian mall). There’s plenty of examples of classic Australian architecture to enjoy, and more forest parks and walking trails than you can shake a stick at.
The Big Rocking Horse, just under an hour from the city centre, is an adorably quirky photo opportunity.
Once you’ve finished your Adelaide adventures, the Barossa Valley is an internationally renowned winery region, specializing in Shiraz grapes.
Winery tours and cellar-door tastings are widely available, and there’s plenty of exceptional restaurants to enjoy here, as well as farmer’s markets, artisanal goods, and many fascinating cultural and heritage sites.
The area was heavily settled by German-Australians, and boasts delicious gourmet meats, breads and pastries in the German style.
Hobart boasts stunning views of the gorgeous, lush wilderness that Tasmania is famous for; it’s also a great place to enjoy fresh produce, artisanal goods, or a few of the local brews.
Mount Wellington is a perfect vantage point, as well as an excellent site for bushwalking or bicycling, and the popular Salamanca Place is always buzzing with places to go and things to do: the Saturday morning Salamanca Markets are a must-see.
The waterfront is also perfect for a relaxing stroll, and there’s several excellent museums and galleries to enjoy.
15. Cradle Mountain
Cradle Mountain is Tasmania’s fifth-highest mountain, and its beauty makes it one of Tasmania’s most popular destinations.
The mountain rises around the crystal-clear blue waters of Dove Lake, and the (strenuous!) trail from Dove Lake carpark, around the mountain and back takes 6-7 hours: if you’re athletic, this hike is well worth it for the beautiful summit view.
The area is rich in flora and fauna, and also noteworthy for its diverse fungi.
Even if you’re not the mountain-hiking type, Cradle Mountain is iconic, beautiful and well worth a visit.