If you have a bucket list, I’d wager there’s a good chance that visiting Australia is on it. If it’s not, you’ve probably been. There’s an allure to the Land Down Under that is hard to shake, probably because there’s absolutely no other place quite like it. Home to weird and wonderful wildlife, an incredible diversity of landscapes and some truly fun experiences, Australia is a destination that you need to visit at least once.
Before you madly book flights, there’s the natural question of where to start? Chances are you’re already familiar with some of the obvious candidates like Sydney, Melbourne, the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru. If you weren’t already, you are now. But beyond these heavy-hitters, you’ll find that Australia has a never-ending list of great destinations you shouldn’t miss. How about we start with the first few?
Australia’s southern island state, Tasmania tends to get a bit neglected by international tourists. Location is likely the main reason, but if visitors knew what they were missing, they’d rush to board the nearest ferry or flight. Sometimes described as Australia’s own little New Zealand, Tasmania is lush nature and grand landscapes incarnate.
I know it’s a bit of a cop-out to suggest the whole of Tasmania, but it’s just so hard to pick a single place across this great island. With 42% of this large island covered in protected areas, you have your pick of natural wonders - from epic mountains to countless waterfalls to primeval forests. The trails around Cradle Mountain National Park remain a hit thanks to the sheer diversity there, not to mention abundant wildlife, including cute wombat and Tasmanian devils. And all of that’s before we even get to Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart, and its gentle approach to city life.
For city travel in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne are unquestionably the big two. It’s just they’re not the only two and you need only look to Brisbane to realise that. More than an airport you fly to before going elsewhere in Queensland, Brisbane is a vibrant city with plenty of attractions that will keep you thoroughly entertained.
Case in point is Brisbane’s scenic riverfront that weaves its way through the city’s heart. Not only are there fantastic parks like the city’s Botanic Gardens and Powerhouse Park, but the wonderful concept that is Streets Beach, a manmade beach right off the Brisbane River.
Then there’s the Central Business District, a clever mix of quaint colonial buildings, grand architecture like that of the Brisbane City Hall and plenty of modern additions. Brisbane’s no slouch in the food department either, especially given the ever-popular Eat Street Markets. It all adds up to make Brisbane one heck of a city break.
Seeing the local wildlife is a big part of the Australian experience and while nature reserves and sanctuaries are nice, there’s nothing quite like seeing creatures in the wild. On that front, one of the cutest animal encounters you can have is watching the Penguin Parade that takes place every evening on Phillip Island just down the coast from Melbourne. While you quietly watch from a safe distance, wild little penguins make their daily waddle up the beach at sunset. You’d have to have a heart of stone to not love this.
This isn’t the only attraction to be found on Phillip Island though. Not only is there also a Koala Conservation Centre here bursting with wildlife, but you can take a boat cruise to go out and watch whales or visit the seals over at Seal Rock. Plus, if wildlife isn’t your thing, there’s still beaches and great coastal walks to enjoy.
When some people picture Australia, the first thing that springs to mind are long stretches of pure white sand beaches. To make that mental picture a reality, the Whitsunday Islands are where you want to go. This group of 74 tropical islands lies north of Brisbane on Queensland’s coast and could well be one of Australia’s most idyllic destinations. I mean it has a place called Daydream Island for heaven’s sake!
Jetting off from Airlie Beach on the mainland, the simplest choice of picturesque islands is the main one, Whitsunday Island. What you have in store for you here is clear blue water and swirls of soft white sand. On Whitehaven Beach you’ll find the purest sand in the world between your toes and spot some superb views up at Hill Inlet Lookout. At the Whitsundays, you can while away your time with activities like sailing, snorkeling and fishing or just some general fun in the sun. Plus, there’s something nearby called the Great Barrier Reef that you may want to check out.
Of Australia’s national parks, and there are many, none is quite a match for Kakadu National Park. Australia’s largest national park, Kakadu combines jaw-dropping natural scenery, ferocious wildlife and a great deal of indigenous Aboriginal heritage. With so many different types of things to do at Kakadu, you can easily tailor a visit to suit your interests.
Want to go in search of waterfalls? Then put Jim Jam Falls and Twin Falls on the agenda. Keen to see ancient rock art? Kakadu is home to Aboriginal rock paintings like those at Ubirr that date back thousands of years. Let’s not forget the dozens of different walks and hikes, or the chance to spot crocodiles from special platforms on board wetlands cruises. Along with various other ranger-guided activities, there really are countless possibilities in this immense national park.
Visiting Australia isn’t solely about visiting the big cities, and Byron Bay is the perfect example of a town with character. Even if its popularity with tourists and international movie stars grows daily, it still manages to retain its famously chilled-out atmosphere. Lying on the north coast of New South Wales, Byron Bay was once a haven for surfers and hippies who probably though they’d found paradise.
It still has a bit of that hippy streak in it, but now the town mostly caters to tourists and is a firm favourite with backpackers. Whether it’s to surf and lounge along its pristine beaches, attend one of Byron’s many music festivals or just walk the super scenic trail to the Cape Byron lighthouse, visitors are sure to find something here that speaks to them.
All content provided in this blog is supplied by David Johnson and is for informational purposes only. Barclays takes no position as to the views, and makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
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