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Things to do & best places to visit in Australia

Things to do & best places to visit in Australia

1 . Sydney

The Sydney Opera House with a sailboat in the foreground.

Follow the link to see the full sized
Sydney Opera House photo

While many Australian’s will scoff when they read this, believing Australia has many better attractions, the reason Sydney (the capital city of New South Wales) has made the list is because it is such an iconic feature of Australia.

For those of you have made a flight from potentially the other side of the world, if you come and don’t see Sydney, it is a bit like going to Germany and not drinking a beer, or to England and not seeing London, or America and not trying a hot dog.

There is plenty to see and do in Sydney apart from the well know attractions of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and Bondi/Manly beaches.

Sydney is host to the great Taronga Zoo, there are festivals on all year long, it is steeped in Australian pioneering history, and much more.

2 . Byron Bay

The main beach at Byron Bay.

Original image available here at flickr.com

Located in New South Wales, just south of the Queensland border, Byron Bay is popular with not just international tourists, but is also a favourite holiday destination of Australians. The lighthouse is amazing at sunset (and it is the most easterly part of mainland Australia). There are a range of music festivals over the year that attract international and local musicians alike.

Locals again may turn their nose up at this selection, but it is hard to argue that it is not a beautiful place. However, the price you pay for this is that it is tourist central, home to thousands of backpackers at any one time. Despite this fact, the kilometres of pristine beach, the weather, surfing, scuba diving, and other attractions will ensure that Byron Bay remains one of Australia’s top tourist destinations for years to come.

3 . The Great Ocean Road

Helicopter view of the Great Ocean Road

Follow the link to see the full sized high
quality Great Ocean Road photo

The Great Ocean Road, located in Victoria, is arguably one of the best scenic drives of the world. Its official length is 243 kms (approximately 150 miles), but it will take you a full day to enjoy it due to the narrow and windy traffic lanes (only one in each direction). It hugs the coast line with panoramic views of the ocean and cliffs, and it winds its way through cool climate rain forests.

There are many beaches that you can stop and swim at along the drive, and also numerous townships, hikes, and other attractions for you to partake in.

4 . Daintree Rainforest

 

Daintree Rainforest

Located in northern Queensland, approximately 110 kms north of Cairns (and don’t forget to stop at Port Douglas on your way, it is stunning), the rainforest is a nature wonderland. It is Australia’s largest rainforest, about 30% of Australia’s reptile, marsupial and frog species, 65% of the country’s bat and butterfly species, and 20% of Australia’s native bird species can be found within the Daintree. And let’s not forget it is also home to a prehistoric bird, the Cassowary!

With so many things to see and do, including: crocodile boat tours, visiting one of several animal sanctuaries, going on a mangrove adventure tour, hikes, local Indigenous tours/history, it is easy to see why it is such a popular destination for tourists and nature lovers alike.

 

5 . The Grampians National Park

The Grampians National Park

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high quality Grampians photo

Located in Victoria, 175 kms north of Warrnambool (the official end of the Great Ocean Road) is the Grampians National Park and the township of Halls Gap. The park is 1,672 km² in size and is host to amazing hikes, series of low-angled sandstone ridges, and is one of the richest Indigenous rock art sites in south-eastern Australia.

Its beauty and grandeur are well known to locals, and stuns all who come to visit. You can almost feel the magic of the Indigenous dream time legends in the land around you.

6 . The Great Barrier Reef

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Scuba diving with a BIG fish at the Great Barrier Reef

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quality Great Barrier Reef photo

Located in Queensland, this attraction, along with Uluru and the Sydney Opera House, is one of those attractions that is known by virtually everyone, and is synonymous with Australia. Stretching for approximately 2,300 kms, it is home to a vast wealth of rare, endangered, and unique animal and plant species.

It is hard to recommend one particular area of the reef to visit, but most people agree that the Whitsunday Islands are absolutely stunning, and I recommend taking a 2-3 day sailing trip/tour around the area. With snorkelling and scuba diving areas literally everywhere you are bound to experience wonders that will stay with you for the rest of your life!

 

7 . Uluru / Ayers Rock

The majestic Uluru (Ayers Rock) in full sunlight

Follow the link to see the full sized high quality
Uluru photo and Outback Australia photo gallery

Enough said. If you come to Australia you must see Uluru (in the Northern Territory). So many times I have heard people say something like, “I was not going to bother, you know, it is just a rock. But once I started to get closer, and it got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, it is hard to put into words the feeling that overcome me. You could feel the history, the magic, the splendour that is Uluru”.

So if you are thinking about not making the journey, rethink your plans and make it happen somehow. Something that I would recommend is taking a guided tour from Adelaide. These normally span 3 days minimum (and can go for 7+), but well worth it. You’ll get to see much more than just the rock that is Uluru!

8 . Fraser Island

Swimming in rock pools on Fraser Island

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quality Fraser Island photo

Located just off the coast near Hervey Bay in Queensland, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. With over 120 kilometres of pristine beaches it is easy to understand why thousands of people visit each month. The most popular way to get around the island is by hiring a 4WD for 2-3 days and explore where ever your fancy takes you.

With inland fresh water lakes, rainforests with rare flora and fauna, the Dingo, wrecks for snorkelling and scuba diving, gorgeous beaches, and much more, it is no wonder this paradise is such a sought after tourist destination. For more details please visit www.nprsr.qld.gov.au.

 

9 . Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Located approximately 200 kms south east of Darwin in theNorthern Territory, Kakadu national park covers nearly 20,000 km² (3.2 million acres), and includes the traditional lands of several Indigenous tribes. With over 5,000 rock painting sites, it is easy to see that this area was particularly sacred to the traditional landowners.

It is a natural wonder that holds both a World Heritage Area listing and as a UNESCO site (there are only two other sites in the world that hold both awards). With stunning gorgeous, rare and endangered animals and plants, the notorious salt water crocodile, and many other natural attractions, this park will leave you breathless and in awe of both its history, it is remoteness, and it is power.

10 . Freycinet National Park / Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay from the mountains

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Wineglass Bay photo and image gallery

Down in pristine Tasmania, sticking out into the sea on Tasmania’s mild east coast is the rugged and beautiful Freycinet Peninsula, home to Wineglass Bay. The peninsula is home to numerous other bays which provide beautiful secluded swimming beach, snorkelling and scuba areas, rock pools, and many other attractions.

With many hikes (one goes along the entire peninsula and takes 3 days), guided ranger activities, camping areas, an outdoor theatre, scenic drives, there are enough activities to keep you busy for many days.

Things to do in Australia

If you are wondering what to do in Australia here is my list of what I think are some of the most classic things to do. These are typically things that you can only do in Australia, so make sure you try as many as possible.

I hope you enjoy the list, don’t forget to share these activities online via my social media buttons if you like them!

1 . Try some good Australian wines

 

A bottle of wine on a table

Unknown to many international tourists, Australia is a producer of some excellent wines. And they often win medals and awards at international wine competitions.

In fact, in 2013, Australian wines won a total of 774 out of a total 5395 awards at the International Wine & Spirits Competion (www.iwsc.net). That’s a massive 14% of all the awards!

Australia produces some of the very best Shiraz wines of anywhere in the world. The hot conditions in South Australia and Western Australia, combined with a high level of minerals in the soil produce beautiful flavours that are totally unique to Australia.

If you prefer whites, the cooler climates of Victoria and Tasmania produce some lovely varieties, and you should try a nice Chardonnay, one of the most popular varieties in Australia.

You can get a good bottle of wine for around $20, and some of the cheaper varieties are also worth trying if you are not a complete wine snob.

Some of the most popular wines you’ll find in Australia:
Reds: Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir
Whites: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling

 

2 . Try some good Craft/Micro Beers

 

A selection of Australian beers

Australia has long had the reputation of a beer guzzling nation who drinks Fosters by the litre.

While perhaps that may have been true 15 or 20 years ago, Australia has in recent years undergone a food and drink revolution and the typical Australian now expects, and demands, higher quality products.

While the number of smaller breweries in countries typically known for the high quality beers (for example, Germany and Belgium) are on the decline, the number of microbreweries in Australia currently growing at an almost exponential rate.

There are too many beers to name them all here, you’ll just have to ask your local bottle shop attendant to recommend some. But to get you started here are a few popular ones:

Popular craft/micro beers:
Mountain Goat, Moo Brew Pilsner, 4 Pine ESB, Feral Hop Hog IPA, Murray’s Angry Man Pale Ale

Popular high quality mass produced beers:
Coopers Original Pale Ale, Cascade, James Boag’s Premium, James Squire varieties, Little Creatures Pale Ale

Average quality mass produced beers to try just to say that you have:
VB (Victorian Bitter), Melbourne Bitter, Carlton Draught, XXXX, Fosters, Hahn, Tooheys, Pure Blonde

Unfortunately none of the average quality mass produced beers beers listed just above are Australian owned any more, as they have been bought out by big multinational conglomerates. That’s globalisation for you. But if you want more details about Australian beer in general make sure you check this great website:www.beeradvocate.com.

 

3 . The Aussie BBQ

 

Meat on a BBQ

Who could come to Australia and not have a typically Australian BBQ?

There are barbecues literally everywhere. Many public parks and gardens have free barbecues (or 20 cents for 10 minutes of cooking time, which is close enough to free) dotted around, as do many beach side park areas, camping grounds, and virtually every house in Australia has a barbecue of some description.

The typical Australian BBQ involves a lot of meat, a lot of cold beer on ice inside and Esky (a portable insulated cooling box), a lot of white sandwich bread, a lot of tomato sauce (ketchup), and not a lot else. You may find the odd token salad. Then again you may not.

For those who enjoy more than just meat with their meal may be a little disappointed. But for those who love meat, you will be in paradise. You’ll find everything from sausages, hamburgers, lamb chops, steaks of various varieties, chicken wings, skewers, and/or a variety of fish and sea foods.

 

4 . Learn to throw a Boomerang

 

A boomerang

While you’re in Australia you should try throwing a boomerang!

The first time you throw one and it comes back is an amazing experience, there is nothing like throwing a piece of wood away from you only to have it come back!

What you’ll need is:

  1. A boomerang!
  2. A big empty space, you don’t want to hit someone with it by mistake. An empty sports oval is perfect.
  3. A lot of patience, it takes a while to get the hang of it.
  4. Courage if you want to try to catch it
    if you ever manage to get it to come back to you.

 

For more details on the actual technique involved in throwing a boomerang, I recommend these two online resources: www.boomerange.org/how and www.youtube.com/boomerangs

 

5 . Learn to play the Didgeridoo

 

Girl playing the Didgeridoo

Play one of the worlds most ancient musical instrument, the Didgeridoo.

The first record of people playing the Didgeridoo is from Aboriginal rock paintings dating back about 2,000 years. But it is thought that they have been playing it for much longer, perhaps as long as 40,000 years ago.

Playing the Didgeridoo is not easy. Like any musical instruments it takes hours of practice to get your first true tune, and years to become a master.

To be able to play it continually, you must first learn how to blow air out of your mouth while sucking it in through your nose at the same time. Try it now, I bet you can’t do it! Many people learn this skill by practising blowing bubbles in a glass using a straw.

However, if you get the chance I highly recommend giving it a try, you should be able to get some interesting sounds, even if you are not a bubble blowing master.

Just think, you may just be playing the worlds oldest musical instrument! Here is a great video, by David Hudson, www.youtube.com/didgeridoo

 

6 . Sleep out under the stars in a swag

 

Australian skyline at dusk, stars in the sky

Sleeping out under the Australian stars on a clear night is an amazing experience.

And in case you are wondering what a swag is, it is a something like a large canvas sleeping bad (which is waterproof) in which you can put a small camping mattress, some bedding and a pillow. It also has a small hood which can be done up to keep the insects out.

Once you get out into remote Australia, where there is no light pollution (from cities, street lights, etc) you wont believe what the sky looks like – it will take your breath away.

Due to the huge size of Australia and the small population, once you get just a short distance away from the cities, the night sky lights up. With virtually no air or light pollution out in country it is one of the clearest night sky’s you will find anywhere in the world.

And the good thing about sleeping in a swap (or camping) is that it also usually involves points 2 and 3 (BBQ and Beers) from above. I think it is a perfect combination!

Aboriginal Dream Time legend says the Rainbow Serpent is up in the sky, can you find it? And while you’re at it, can you find the Southern Cross star constellation, used to find true south (much like the North Star is in the northern hemisphere).

If you want some more information about camping in Australia or free camp sites make sure you have a look at this website, it has everything you need: www.exploreaustralia.net.au/camping.

 

7 . Swimming with Whale Sharks

 

Whaleshark swimming

Original image supplied from
www.whalesharkdive.com

Swimming with whale sharks is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

The best spot to do this is Ningaloo Reef on the Coral Coast, inWestern Australia, about 1,150 kms north of Perth. The best time to see whale sharks is between mid-March and the end of July.

Being a reef there is a lot more there than just whale sharks, but they are certainly a major attraction. For those who don’t know, whale sharks are in fact shark, but not the man eating kind you may be thinking of.

They are graceful creatures who can grow up to 14 m (46 ft) long. They only eat microscopic plankton by filtering them through their open mouths. You will not get eaten by these beautiful creatures.

For more information just visit www.whalesharkdive.com.

 

8 . Go on a Crocodile Cruise

 

A crocodile

Another large water based creature of Australia that interests a lot of people is the salt water crocodile.

Unlike the whale sharks, mentioned in the point above, these creatures are deadly and you can not go swimming with them. The only safe way you can view these creatures in their wild habitat is on a crocodile boat cruise.

This is a truly amazing experience which will also stay with you for life. You’ll be out on a smallish boat with crocodile up to 5 meters in length swimming past you.

If you get on a good tour the captain will dangle bits of meat over the edge, getting the crocodiles to jump up out of the water to get the meat.

Some of the best places to do a crocodile cruise are around Cairns (in Queensland) or around Darwin (in theNorthern Territory).

Make sure you take your camera and get some amazing shots of these amazing prehistoric animals!

If you are interested in finding out some more information about croc cruises, have a look at these two website. Near Darwin (Northern Territory): www.adelaiderivercruises.com.au, and in the Daintree Rainforest (Queensland, near Cairns): www.crocodileexpress.com

9 . Not getting killed by deadly animals

 

A tiger snake

I get a lot of questions about deadly animals, so I thought I would put this one: DON’T GET KILLED BY A DEADLY ANIMAL!

This should be pretty obviously, but one thing to do while in Australia is to make sure you don’t get killed by an animal. Unfortunately almost every year there is a tourist (or Australian) or two who fail in this. Here is a selection is some potentially deadly animals in Australia.

  • – 21 of the worlds top 25 most venomous snakes, including the top 11. All of which are deadly. More information can be found here: www.whatcanilearntoday.com
  • – 4 types of man eating sharks
  • – the deadly blue ringed octopus
  • – 2 types of jellyfish (Box jellyfish and Irukandji)
  • – Stingrays (remember Steve Irwin?)
  • – 2 types of spiders, the Sydney funnel web and the Redback
  • – The salt water crocodile
  • – Cone shells
    that’s right, there are pretty shells that can kill you
  • – The Stone Fish, known as the most venomous fish in the world

 

Okay, I should make it perfectly clear right here, right now, that it is not like these creatures are everywhere and that you’ll have a hard time just surviving a 3 week holiday in Australia. No one has died from a spider bite in Australia since the 1970’s. You have a much higher chance of being hit by a car than attacked by a shark. Jelly fish deaths are very rare.

BUT

please use a little common sense. If you see an animal in the wild, leave it alone! Don’t pick up the spiders and don’t try to catch a snake. Don’t go swimming in the tropics unless you know it is safe (crocodile do kill people who are stupid enough to go swimming near them on a regular basis).

Enjoy Australia!

 

10 . A cruise on Sydney Harbour

 

Sydney harbour at sunset

If you get the chance, I highly recommend going on a cruise on the Sydney Harbour.

There is something magical about this. It is hard to put a finger on it. But on a warm summers night, cruising around the harbour and sipping on a beer or wine, while talking to other guests, is pretty hard to beat.

You get to see the city and its waterfront in a completely new way, and it is unfortunate that more people don’t take up this experience.

Watching the sun set over the horizon and the city lights start to come on while gently rocking on a cruise boat is beautiful. Do it if you get the chance!

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