For many, Australia is known for it’s diverse wildlife, the Outback, and the ocean that surrounds it. While those alone would be enough to justify a trip down under, Australia is also one of the most modern, affluent, and cosmopolitan countries in the world. This guide can help you make sure you hit the most spectacular stops on your Aussie getaway.
Australia is divided into 6 states and 2 territories: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory.
Each region has something to offer, whether it’s national parks, a thriving metropolis, or something in between. Just remember, Australia is a big country so you might not be able to see everything in one go. Plan ahead and decide what you really want to do – and then do it!
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When to visit Australia
Since Australia is located in the southern hemisphere, summer runs from December to February. Regardless, the warm climate means much of the country is comfortable year round. While the southern part of Australia can be cool and rainy in the winter months, the tropical north and desert regions remain hot throughout the year. Also, Sydney – for example – is beautiful no matter what time of the year you visit.
Where to visit in Australia
First on many travelers lists for an Australian getaway is the largest city – Sydney. Located in New South Wales, the city features some of the country’s most famous landmarks. The Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour, a range of beautiful beaches like Bondi and Palm, and a Mediterranean climate all year round are just a few reasons why this coastal city is a can’t-miss destination. Sydney’s size and location also make it one of the most vibrant multicultural cities in the world.
Thought it may not possess the iconic landmarks of Sydney, Melbourne – located in Victoria – is every bit as essential of a stop. Considered to be the cultural, culinary, and sporting capital of Australia, this metropolis is a true global city. Whether its pub grub, the trendiest clothing stores, or open air markets – Melbourne is sure to have something for everyone.
Located in Queensland, this seaside city is truly a ‘Surfer’s Paradise’ – which happens to be the name of a suburb and beach of Gold Coast. Along with some of the best beaches in the known world, this coastal mecca features a vibrant nightlife and social scene with a subtropical backdrop. It’s arguably the can’t-miss destination for young, athletic, and energetic travelers.
Great Barrier Reef
Regardless of your age or interests, the world’s largest coral reef system – off the coast of Queensland – is a sight to behold. You have the option to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, sail, or fly over the more than 2 000 km the Great Barrier Reef covers. If that seems daunting, 25 minutes from the city of Townsville lies Magnetic Island – one of the world’s premier spots for snorkelling. If you’re an animal lover, Heron Island is home to turtles hatching between November and March.
Uluru (Ayers Rock)
This massive rock located in the Northern Territory is another one of Australia’s most iconic natural landmarks. Located in the Red Centre, Uluru is the desert of Australia in a snapshot. Of great importance to the indigenous peoples, Uluru is accessible by car, camel, or even hot air balloon. If you travel with a guide, you’ll become well versed in the history, culture, and importance of this Outback icon.
Great Ocean Road
If you’ve ever had the fortune to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in California, you can expect a similar experience here with an Australian twist. This 241 km stretch of road is located in Victoria between the cities of Torquay and Allansford. Built as a war memorial (the largest in the world), the Great Ocean Road showcases the coastal variety in southern Australia while providing easy access to many must-see landmarks and attractions – including the Twelve Apostles. These massive limestone formations rise out of the sea, creating an imposing backdrop to your voyage.
Much like Chile, Australia is also home to many winemakers – based in various regions throughout the country. Looking for something a little bit more relaxing after the bustle of urban life or adventure of the Outback? Wine tours can be found in places such as Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, and the Adelaide Hills. Even if you’re not a connoisseur, the serene settings of the many vineyards are reason enough to escape into the countryside for some exotic tastings.
Blue Mountains National Park
Only about 50 km from Sydney in New South Wales is the Blue Mountains National Park. More of a plateau than actual mountains, this park offers everything the outdoor adventurer could desire. From mountain biking to rock-climbing and everything in between, the Blue Mountains have it all – with spectacular views to boot. The Three Sisters – an iconic rock formation – tower over the Jamison Valley and are visited by over half a million people per year. The parks proximity to Sydney makes this a very doable side trip for the traveller on a tight itinerary.
How much does it cost to visit Australia?
The main financial impediment to Australian travel is the flight there. Flying into Sydney or Melbourne will generally cost at least $1 800 CAD but often more like $2 000. Be sure to shop around for deals, check out multiple airlines, and adjust your arrival/departure dates to get the best fare possible. Once you arrive down under, you can expect the average cost of a day’s entertainment to run about $220 (budgeting $120 for lodging and $40 for food). A thrifty traveler could likely get by on $75 a day while you could spend upwards of $750 a day if you enjoy the finer things in life.
Obviously the prices will fluctuate greatly depending on what activities and excursions you choose to partake in. If you can, try to cook your own meals as much as possible – restaurant prices can be very high. In addition, if you do plan on renting a car (a great way to take in as much of Australia as possible) it’s best done if you’re traveling in a group. Lastly, trips during off-season will likely save you a considerable amount of money. June to August is winter in Australia, so prices will likely be lower although the weather in the south might be a bit cool. September to November can be a great time to travel if you have the luxury. Not only is the weather mostly agreeable, but also the peak season rush hasn’t begun yet – so your trip will be more relaxed and cheaper than it would be in the middle of summer.
Health and Safety when you visit Australia
Australia is generally a safe and secure place to visit. The government is stable, infrastructure is well maintained, the crime rate is low, and healthcare is good. If you do plan on adventuring in the Outback or participating in some of the more ‘extreme’ activities (such as surfing or rock-climbing), common sense is your best friend. If you don’t think you’re ready to base jump off that 1 000m tall rock formation – better not. Before diving in one of the many popular spots, check with local operators to ensure safety. If you’re driving out into the remote parts of the Outback, make sure you’re well prepared before hand with an emergency plan. And last but not least, protect yourself from the hot Australian sun with appropriate protection. As long as you use your best judgement and do some research beforehand, there shouldn’t be anything standing in the way of a trip you’ll remember forever.
For the most up to date travel safety information, check out the official Canadian government travel advisory.
These were just some of the options you have on your Australian getaway – there’s tons more to see and do! If a particular place or activity should be on the list, let us know in the comments! For more information on Australia, check out our Country of the Week profile and Currency Spotlight.
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