Australia is an incredible country, there is truly something for everyone. If you are a party animal you can head up the East Coast, if you prefer scenery then the West Coast is the way forward. Australia also has some excellent cities and my personal favourites include Melbourne, Perth and Sydney (although one place I would recommend avoiding is Canberra – it’s a random city in the middle of nowhere with not much to see or do). When visiting, if possible try to buy or hire a car, it can be expensive but this will allow you to see much more and it will give you the flexibility a country like Australia needs. Major cities aside here are my favourite Top 10 places to visit in Australia…
1. The Red Centre
The Red Centre is a made up of a trilogy of sites; Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Kings Canyon. When visiting the incredible Uluru you have two options; you can walk around it or up it. Many tourists tend to attempt the climb it but Aboriginals prefer people to avoid climbing it as Uluru is one of their spiritual monuments. During the walk around you will have the opportunity to see aboriginal drawings dating back 10,000 years, it‘s a fantastic but tiring walk. Whilst Uluru is incredible, I felt its’ neighbour Kata Tjuta was more impressive. Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) is 25km from Uluru, it has 36 sandstone domes and covers almost 22km². Here you can go on an 8km walk across the boulders; there is a wonderful feeling of peace as you walk around and there is often a gentle breeze which helps you take your time.
The final part of the trilogy is Kings Canyon which 300 metres high and overlooks Kings Creek. Like the other two it’s another incredible site and here there are two walks to choose from. The first is a 2km which takes you along the bottom of the gorge but if you have travelled all the way to Kings Canyon you might as well do the full walk so you can appreciate the total experience.
2. Great Barrier Reef
No trip to Australia would be complete without visiting the Great Barrier Reef. The famous reef can be found off the coast of Queensland and it’s the world’s largest coral reef spreading over 2,600 km with approximately 900 islands. The most famous area is the Whitsundays. If you know someone who has visited The East Coast it’s highly likely you have received a postcard with a picture of The Whitsundays. I would recommend visiting these islands on a boat tour, ideally for a few days so that you can take in the sights. You can also scuba dive or snorkel as well as enjoying incredible cuisine that is often served on the boats. There are many types of deals on offer, just head for the coastal town Airlie Beach and shop around for the best price. The Great Barrier Reef has all kinds of incredible fish including clownfish (remember Nemo), manta rays, red bass, red-throat emperor, snapper, tiger sharks and yellow-faced angelfishes, not forgetting the beautiful coloured coral. Just beware of the fire coral-it will hurt!
3. Fraser Island
Fraser Island is a fantastic location. It’s actually believed to be the largest sand island in the world and spreads across 1840 km². Sadly some people find themselves having to choose between Fraser Island and a trip out to Whitsundays but if possible try to do both – you won‘t be disappointed. Most tours start at Hervey Bay on the mainland here you can book a tour and then collect your four wheel drive vehicle, just make sure you do your food and alcohol shopping before getting the ferry to Fraser Island. Once on the Island you will have two or three days driving around on the sand, trying to avoid crashing while checking out various interesting spots. Don’t miss the famous clear Champagne Pool (which is great to lie in) or the Wreck of the Maheno which is a perfect photo opportunity. A good tip is to beware of the Dingos! They sometimes wander into the camp grounds at night looking for food but they don’t tend to approach people. Fraser island is a fun experience you’ll also get the chance to chose to where to camp each night.
4. Purnululu National Park
Purnululu National Park is located in Western Australia. Unfortunately, due to its location this part of the country is often bypassed, although this does mean it remains quite untouched. Western Australia was my favourite part of the country, it’s very beautiful and you’ll rarely see other travellers. When you visit Purnululu National Park, the Bungle Bungles is the place to head to. The Bungle Bungles are tiger-striped sandstone rocks which are an incredible sight. At the Bungle Bungles you can go for walks or alternatively view them by helicopter. I chose to go up in a helicopter, it wasn’t cheap but the views made it worthwhile.
5. Barossa Valley
Photo: Michael Dawes
In Barossa Valley I fell in love with wine, red wine in particular. Barossa Valley is Australia’s most famous wine region producing famous brands such as Penfolds, Orlando Wines, Wolf Blass and Yalumba. I recommend going on a tour around the Valley which will allow you to visit different wineries. If you can, try to avoid driving so you can enjoy the wineries without worrying about driving home. I went with Prime Mini Tours and had the pleasure of visiting five wineries and a stop where we enjoyed a three course dinner consisting of barramundi, crocodile and kangaroo.
6. Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third biggest Island, it’s only smaller than Tasmania and Melville Island. To get to the Island you need to get a ferry from Adelaide. A lot of people hold off visiting Kangaroo Island and opt to visit Philip Island. Each to their own but I personally think Kangaroo Island has more to offer. It’s home to some wonderful wildlife including albino wallabies (which I was lucky enough to see), sea lions and lots of little blue penguins which come onto the land at sunset for feeding. Another bonus is that Kangaroo island is less touristy. I would recommend using Daniel’s Tours, a tour run by one of the locals on the Island.
Broome is unlikely to find its way onto many lists, like Purnululu National Park it is located in Western Australia and often gets missed. Broome is the place to get your pearls, but realistically visitors go to Broome to relax and for Cable Beach. Cable Beach is Broome’s most famous beach and one of Australia‘s top ten beaches. Broome is possibly the most relaxing place I have ever been, time just seems to disappear here. I had planned to stay for a couple of days and ended up staying a week. I also recommended it to my sister to go for a week and she ended up staying two and half months. It really is a special place which is perfect for taking some time out. When here make sure you should visit the open air cinema which makes a good start to the night before hitting the bars.
8. Byron Bay
Byron Bay is a beachside town in New South Wales. After spending time in Sydney and Brisbane, Byron Bay provides a perfect escape from city life. Byron Bay is a is very relaxing location and the local community is full of artists which gives it a creative bohemian feel. The Bay is a good place to relax as well as picking up some lovely gifts for family and friends. Even if you’re near the beach it is always nice having a swimming pool, so I would recommend the YHA hostel for both cheap and clean accommodation which also has a good sized pool.
9. Kakadu National Park
Photo: Trevor Page
Kakadu National Park is in the Northern Territory and makes a special stop. The national park is very large, covering an area of 4,894,000 acres. You will find Alligator Rivers running through Kakadu. You can drive in yourself but for the alligator reason it’s best to take a tour! The tours will also allow you to meet local Aborignals who have opted to stay in their ancestral homes rather than moving to cities. I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon at Twin Falls, at the time I was there you had a 200m swim to reach it but I’ve heard that has all changed and there is now a walkway. Remember to avoid the wet season as large parts of the park are closed and the crocs come out to play!
10. Great Ocean Road
Photo: Rob Michalski
The Great Ocean Road stretches along the south-eastern coast of Australia between Torquay and Warrnambool and lasts for 243km. The journey is one to be savoured and there are various look-out points to view the amazing scenery. The views consists of different rocks jutting out of the ocean, the most renowned being the “Twelve Apostles.” It’s a highly photogenic place especially at sunset and sunrise. I would allow yourself a full day to take in the sights, again it’s highly recommended to drive yourself. There are various options for day trips but I think it’s better to stop where you want rather than have a guide dictate where you stop.