Australia was first settled as a penal colony in the late 1700 hundreds. To its early settlers, Australia would have seemed like another world with its harsh climate and exotic wildlife. In the last 300 years however it has thrived and become one of the most popular holiday destinations on the planet. Its weather is warm, its people are friendly and its cities are consistently rated as some of the world’s most liveable. All of this makes Australia the ideal summer getaway for those looking to escape the northern hemisphere’s cold winters.
Australia is full of the weird and wonderful, so it can be pretty hard to figure out what you should see when you’re down-under. Here are ten things you need to do while you’re in the great southern land.
10. Australian Capital Territory: Australian War Memorial
Located in Canberra, the Australian War Memorial is perfect for a day trip. The memorial contains the names of all Australian soldiers who have fought and died around the world. If you have any connection to the Australian military, you can inquire about war records while you’re at the memorial and look for family and friends who might be listed on honor roll that lines the walls of the court. Inside there are many interactive displays and artifacts from past conflicts. The memorial will probably take you the better part of the day to do properly since it is very extensive, but if you have time to spare, head down to Parliament House which is nearby.
9. Northern Territory: Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park is one of the wildest and beautiful areas of the Australian tropical north. Explore the landscape as it changes from alien rock formations to lush flood lands. There are several different walks you can take, depending on the difficulty you’re after and on the landscape, you wish to see. Alternatively, you can take a cruise and get a great view of the wetlands and rivers as well as the unique wildlife that abounds in Kakadu. Don’t forget to check out some of the beautiful waterfalls in this area too. Have a look at Twin Falls Gorge or take the Jim Jim Plunge walk.
8. Victoria: Melbourne
Melbourne is one of the most vibrant cities in Australia and you can’t afford to miss seeing the beautiful historic buildings around the CBD. Check out the Shrine of Remembrance with its underground Anzac museum before heading through the botanical gardens and the Old Melbourne Gaol. The Melbourne Aquarium is also a good place to visit, especially if you have kids with you.
For a lovely evening out, head to South Wharf for dinner at the Crown Casino. You can take a cruise down the Yarra River as well to see the night lights of Melbourne and stop for some of the world’s best coffee in one of the many cafes throughout the city.
7. New South Wales: Sydney
No trip to Australia would be complete without a trip to Sydney to see the Opera House and the Harbour. The best way to see Sydney’s iconic harbor is to take a cruise which will take you under the bridge and past the Opera House. If you go at night you’ll get the full glory of the night lights that ring the waterfront.
If you’re in Sydney between May and November, you will be in time to go whale watching. There are many different whale tours you can take, but any of them is worth a trip to see the whales in the bay.
6. New South Wales: The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is one of Australia’s most beautiful mountain ranges. It has several different walks and trails with varied difficulties to suit all types. There is no better way to see the Australian bush than to walk through the beautiful mountains, wrapped in their iconic blue haze, caused by the sun streaming through the eucalyptus oil produced by the gum trees. While you’re in the ranges you can stop by the Jenolan Caves, which are some of the most impressive limestone caves in the country. There are a number of different guided tours of the caves, from a simple day trip to a ghost tour.
5. Victoria: Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road runs along the coast of Victoria, bordered by stunning coastline on one side and beautiful rain-forests on the other. Touring the Great Ocean Road is a perfect road trip for those willing to drive on the left. You can stop off at the Twelve Apostles (even though there are only eight left) and explore the caves and archways carved out of the limestone. There are plenty of places to camp and miles of beautiful beach to relax on.
There’s also The Otway Fly along the Great Ocean Road, which is well worth a look. The Otway Fly is a rain-forest walk, set up in the canopy, and stretching over 2 kilometers (km) of beautiful rainforest. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can try their Zip Line Tour, which will send you whizzing through the trees on a gigantic flying fox.
4. Tasmania: Caving
Tasmania has some of the best caves in Australia and it would be a pity to miss the glorious Marakoopa and King Solomon’s caves at Mole Creek. You can take a guided tour through the caves to see the wonderful stalactite formations and the largest glow worms in the country.
If you aren’t really up for the underground experience, there is always the Trowunna Wildlife Park, which is also in Mole Creek. This is the perfect place to see the iconic Tassie Devil, as well as quolls and wombats. Or, if you’re interested in the convict history of Australia, the Port Arthur ghost tours would be right up your alley.
3. Western Australia: Kimberley Cruises
Take a cruise on the rivers in the Kimberley for a luxurious outback experience. You can see islands, reefs, gorges, and waterfalls from the comfort of your boat as you slide along the river or the coast.
If you time your trip right and come between June and November, you can also see the beautiful expanse of wildflowers that cover much of country Western Australia at this time. If you don’t want to head out into the country, King’s Park in Perth is a good place to check out the flowers before heading out to Rottnest Island for a day trip where you can explore the beautiful coastline and see the quokka, one of the cutest marsupials in Australia.
2. Northern Territory: Uluru/Ayer’s Rock
The trip out to the Northern Territory is an adventure in itself, and you simply can’t miss the single largest natural monolith in the world. The road out will give you a real outback experience as you fly along the long, straight road through the beginnings of the desert. You’ll get a great chance to see the Australian flora and fauna around the rock as you walk around the base, a distance of about 10km. If you can, get there for either the sunrise or sunset. Nothing can surpass the beauty of the red sandstone changing color at dawn and dusk.
1. Queensland: The Great Barrier Reef
The reef is just off the coast of northern Queensland and well worth seeing. You can swim with whales and snorkel with turtles through a unique underwater world. If you don’t feel like getting wet, you can go island hopping or take a cruise for the day. Once you’ve finished with the reef, Cairns is the perfect place to relax in a tropical paradise with plenty of resorts and hotels to choose from. Don’t forget to check out some of the many rainforest walks in Cairns and, if you’re looking for something a bit more fast-paced, try mountain biking through the forests instead!
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