Why you should visit Australia, where to go and a local’s advice on what to watch out for
WHY VISIT AUSTRALIA
You can never really understand how lucky you are to come from a place like Australia until you try to live overseas. While experiencing a full European winter with enforced curfews, I can’t help dreaming about an Australian summer and thinking about how blessed I am to come from such an amazing place. It’s going to be a long time before I can return home so while reminiscing on some of the incredible times I have had while growing up in Australia, I have decided to create a list of all of my favourite destinations, as well as my best advice for anyone fortunate enough to be planning a trip down under.
You’ve probably heard about some of the many qualities that make Australia such an amazing place to be and, while there are many, its best would have to be its people. A lot of outsiders have crazy ideas in their minds when it comes to Aussies, usually after meeting some young Australian holidaymakers in places like Europe or The States. We’re known to be rowdy, heavy drinkers, and lovers of a good fight. Although this is partially true, we are also known to be extremely caring and people.
Where I come from, in Southeast Queensland, it’s normal to say hello to, or at least smile at, anyone walking past you on the street. When I was growing up, we used to go to sleep with the doors unlocked and the windows open, without ever fearing human intruders. On many occasions, I was careless enough to lose items of value, only to later be tracked down by someone trying to return my belongings. There’s a strong culture of caring for one another. You will find that most Australians are more than happy to go out of their way to help someone they don’t know, regardless of whether or not they are getting something in return. This provides a certain sense of safety and security that can often be taken for granted, only before moving to a city like Barcelona. Australia is a warm place with cultures built upon humility, authenticity, and mateship, but that is not what brings millions upon millions of visitors every year from all corners of the earth.
Did you know that Australia’s beaches are so popular, one actually has its own international television show? Well, the beach is nice, but the only reason it’s so famous is that so many tourists nearly drown there each year and it’s one of the few places in Australia that you might actually get robbed. There are more than 10,000 stunning beaches along 30,000 kilometres of pristine Australian coastline so you can go your own way if you don’t want to follow the crowds. If you’re into snorkelling or diving, Australia has 60 marine parks with 3.3 million square kilometers of underwater playground which is free for all to enjoy. If you’ve ever wanted to meet a dolphin up close, or swim with turtles, or you simply just appreciate relaxing on a beautiful beach, Australia has you covered.
For land-based nature lovers, there are more picturesque landscapes and unique animals than you can fill your camera’s memory card with. Whether it be in a wildlife sanctuary, or in the wild itself, you do not have to travel far if you want to see some of the beautiful animals that will only call Australia home. If you want to head out into the wild, Australia has over 600 national parks which account for almost four per cent of the country’s total 7.6 million square kilometer area. For an unforgettable ‘true-blue’ Aussie experience, grab a tent and a case of VB and spend a few nights under the stars. Whether by car or by boat, the best weekends were always spent with a few mates camping on a remote island or beach. It’s a sense of freedom and adventure and man its good for the soul.
If you’re travelling with a group of friends and someone can get their driving license exchanged, it could be worth buying a vehicle to get around, as opposed to renting one. There are plenty of old Toyotas that you can buy, dirt cheap, and later sell for roughly the same price. It just depends on your budget and how long you are planning to stay.
Ready to start planning your post-Covid adventure? Scroll through my list of Australia’s best holiday destinations for some inspiration.
MUST SEE AUSTRALIAN DESTINATIONS
The Great Barrier Reef
Spanning over 2,300 kilometers, the Great Barrier Reef is not only the largest coral ecosystem on Earth but also one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders. The 344,000km2 tropical, underwater paradise is home to 900 islands which attract snorkelers, divers, and lovers of warm weather alike, from all over the world. For some of the greatest islands for underwater adventures see a list here.
The Sunshine Coast
While growing up in Brisbane, there was nothing we looked forward to more than holidays on the Sunshine Coast to welcome in the New Year. Noosa Heads and Eumundi are the two places you have to see when visiting this region and once you arrive, you won’t want to leave.
Eumundi is a cute, little, inland hippy town with weekend markets, and tropical vibes while Noosa is better known for its beaches, fancy restaurants, and national park which overlooks the town and far beyond.
A scenic drive from Noosa North Shore, on the Sunshine Coast, will bring you to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world and the only place on earth where tall rainforests grow on sand dunes. The 120km island is surrounded by shipwrecks and rough waves that break upon golden sands. If you head inland, you will find endless trails that you can explore on foot or with your able-bodied vehicle. Here you can find several freshwater lakes and lagoons and, while Fraser is best enjoyed camping under the stars, there are some luxury resorts and guided tours available for those who prefer glamping.
The Gold Coast
A holiday destination for travellers of all ages, from all over the world, the Gold Coast is nice, but definitely not for everyone. Well known for its nightlife, as well as the large and extravagant hotels overlooking the long beaches and the Pacific Ocean. The beachside national parks are popular for koala sightings but, a short drive inland will bring you to Springbrook National Park, if you are into giant waterfalls.
Some parts of the city, like Broadbeach and Burleigh Heads, are both fun and beautiful, with mixes of classy beaches, parklands and nightlife precincts. Other areas, like Miami, Surfers Paradise, and Southport are better known for the number of resident junkies and motorcycle gang members. Don’t fear though, they mind their business if you mind yours and, while some parts of the Gold Coast are hit and miss, the huge national parks and 57 kilometer stretch of golden sandy beaches are definitely worth seeing, at least once in a lifetime.
Local’s Tip: Every November More than 20,000 high school graduates flock to the Gold Coast to forget everything they learned over the last 13 years. It’s advisable to avoid anywhere near Surfers Paradise during this month.
Locals say Brisbane is more of a big country town than a city, and I would have to agree. The city itself is built around an iconic river which is commonly referred to as the Brown Snake.
You don’t have to stray far from The Snake to see all the beauty Brisbane has to offer and be sure to visit the Botanic Gardens both in the city and at the base of Mt. Coot-tha National Forest which has a summit overlooking greater Brisbane. If you do not see any koalas in the forest, head over to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where you can lie in the sun with a family of kangaroos, or even cuddle a koala. For more beautiful views of the city, get your comfiest shoes on and do the Story Bridge River Walk, being sure to pass the Kangaroo Point cliffs before cooling off at Streets Beach in South Bank.
Less than 20 kilometers from the center of Brisbane, you can find the Moreton Bay marine park. An aquatic playground spanning over 3.4km and home to both Moreton Island and South Stradbroke Island, two of Australia’s most beloved holiday destinations. Not only are both islands well equipped with resorts and holiday rental properties, but they are also both 4×4 paradises with plenty of adventure trails and outdoor campgrounds. If you want to see dolphins, turtles, kangaroos, and koalas in the wild, these are two places that are definitely worth checking out.
The Daintree rainforest is a national park in Far North Queensland, Australia, 1,757 km northwest of Brisbane and 100 km northwest of Cairns.
The large and diverse forest ecosystem is home to rare and endangered birds, such as the southern cassowary, as well as rare marsupials, such as the koala and tree kangaroo. It is also home to the notorious and the prehistoric, saltwater crocodile, and the famous Australian monotreme, known as the platypus.
Spanning over 1,200 square kilometers, Daintree National Park is part of the Kuku Yalanji country.
The Kuku Yalanji people have lived in this area for thousands of years, while their legends and songs continue to give special meaning to this landscape today.
A beach town in the tropical far north of Queensland. Port Douglas is known for its beach resorts as well as for being a base for visits to both the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park. Within the township, Port Douglas has several boutique shops and restaurants as well as the popular, Four Mile Beach.
Choose from 74 of the Whitsunday Islands which lie between the northeast coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the islands are uninhabited and characterised by dense rainforest, hiking trails and white sand beaches.
On the mainland lies the town of Airlie Beach, the region’s central hub with a population of 1,200 people. Known for its beaches, hostels, and groovy nightlife on the door of the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is one of the most popular Australian backpacking destinations.
When cruising around the Whitsunday’s do not go past Whitsunday Island and the iconic, Whitehaven Beach. Just next door, you can find Hamilton Island where you are spoilt for choice with luxurious resorts overlooking the clear blue waters.
NEW SOUTH WALES
After crossing the Queensland border, we come to the coastal town of Byron Bay in northern New South Wales. Byron is known for being full of bearded yogis, surfers, hipsters, and wealthy middle-aged women, as well as also being one of the backpacking capitals of Australia and now, the home of Hollywood heartthrob, Zac Efron.
The view from the lighthouse is beautiful and, from June to November, there is a high chance of seeing whales making their trip towards the breeding waters. The beaches are long and quiet, but I prefer swimming further north in the warmer waters, also where there are fewer sharks.
If you are into the hippy life, this is the place for you. Make a trip over to the nearby town of Nimbin, the weed capital of Australia, and visit some of the local horticulturalists, if that is your thing and, while none of it is legal, it seems to be somewhat accepted.
A popular destination for surfers and wine lovers. Newcastle is known for its National Rugby League team, beaches, whale watching, and its close proximity to the Hunter Valley wine region.
Australia’s largest and most densely populated city. There’s no shortage of things to see as Sydney is built around spectacular harbours with some large and iconic bridges. Take one of the many ferries through the city for a beautiful view of the harbour bridge from the water, or get off at one of the many historical stops along the Parramatta River.
Sydney is also home to Bondi Beach, one of the worlds most famous beaches and a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Well known for its upmarket real estate and producing one of Australia’s few quality pieces of television, Bondi Rescue.
Less than an hours drive from the city centre is the Blue Mountains National Park. Take a trip to one of the scenic lookouts and immerse yourself in nature.
Kosciusko National Park
Do you like mountain adventures, away from the heat? You’ll be spoilt at Kosciusko National Park, having to choose between snow sports, walking and mountain biking in snowy mountains or cave exploration. You can choose between camping or heritage accommodation, or even try your luck climbing Australia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kosciusko.
Melbourne, Victoria. Australia’s most multicultural city, full of Europeans, Sudanese child gangs, hipsters, and Australian Football fans. Also known as the best place to party in Australia, Melbourne is probably one of Australia’s most interesting cities.
There was a time, in the not too distant past, where Melbourne had a huge party scene. In licensed venues, people could party all weekend without seeing the sun. Drugs were a huge business and, after a few dealers started shooting each other, a war erupted which changed the city forever. Now, with the parties shut down and the gangland wars are pretty much done and dusted, people visit Melbourne to take photos in front of the famous street art, or spend the day at St. Kilda Beach.
The Great Ocean Road
A 243 kilometer stretch along the southern coastline of Victoria. See the stunning views of the Twelve Apostles, or head into Great Otway National Park’s tropical rainforest and waterfalls.
OTHER ICONIC PLACES TO VISIT
The Northern Territory
Also known as the Australian Outback, the Northern Territory is where you can find Darwin, Kakadu National Park and in the heart of Australia, Uluru, the largest rock in the world. Exploring the Kakadu wetlands before travelling down to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock is the pinnacle of Australian road trips but not for the inexperienced so, embark if you dare. What are your thoughts on the advertising from Tourism Northern Territory?
Tip: Like other parts of Northern Australia, Darwin and Kakadu experience a wet season during the warmer months, particularly during these times, watch out for crocodiles. The Northern Territory also has some of the countries longest and most treacherous roads. Make sure you have a plan before embarking on cross country travels and always carry plenty of water.
If the rest of Australia proves to just be too hot for you, there’s an island off the mainland known as Tasmania. Australia’s southernmost island is home to more than 850 public walking trails and has the perfect climate for land exploration.
Hobart is Tasmania’s capital city and the second oldest capital in Australia, after Sydney. Located at the entrance to the Derwent River, its well-preserved surrounding bushland reaches close to the city centre and beaches line the shores of the river and estuary beyond.
Nestled amongst the foothills of Mount Wellington, Hobart combines heritage charm with a modern lifestyle in a setting of exceptional beauty. It’s no wonder Lonely Planet has called Hobart one of the top ten spots to visit in the world right now.
Due to the cooler weather, Tasmania also has some of the best produce and wineries in Australia, so if you wish to taste the finest food and wine Australia has to offer, make the short trip over from the mainland.
From baffling rock formations and ancient Aboriginal sites to sweeping green vineyards of world-class wineries and unbelievably clear ocean waters, Western Australia is the land of endless exploration. Western Australia’s wildlife is incredible, and equally impressive are the state’s natural habitats.
Situated only 19 kilometres off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island offers visitors a casual atmosphere, picturesque scenery, and a rich cultural heritage to discover on a short or extended stay.
Home to 63 of the prettiest beaches you’re likely to see anywhere, 20 beautiful bays and many coral reefs and wrecks, Rottnest Island is a marine paradise, with plenty to experience out of the water too.
Rottnest Island is known globally as the home of the cutest and most photogenic animal in the world, the quokka. Apart from a small colony on the mainland, they are found nowhere else on Earth.
The coastline of Western Australia is a nature lover’s paradise, offering countless national parks, as well as beach camping sites which are frequently visited by friendly dolphins, emus and wallabies.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR IN AUSTRALIA
While Australia is full of beauty and excitement, there are still a few things you have to watch out for.
Many northern parts of Australia are so close to the equator that they don’t experience winter, only a ‘dry season’ in its place. In these parts, the wet season can also be known as ‘cyclone season’ so, it’s advisable to check the weather forecast when heading to the northern parts of Australia. Most of the country is warm year-round but no matter where you are, the sun is powerful enough to do harm. Always protect yourself from the sun, or take regular breaks from direct exposure, and always drink plenty of water.
If you haven’t heard stories about all the killer animals that live in Australia, I don’t know how you found yourself on this page. While there are animals that can cause some serious damage, or worse, most are pretty friendly and love a good photo opportunity. The stories of dangerous land animals, like snakes and spiders, are grossly exaggerated. You would be lucky to see a snake outside a zoo, and the last time a spider killed someone was in 1979, they just sit in their webs collecting flies. If that’s is a fear of yours then you probably watch too much TV, you should be more concerned about some of the sea dwellers, like the blue-ringed octopus and the box jellyfish, which can be hard to see but no less deadly than a big great white. Most beaches have signage and if you want to know what’s in the water, reading this is a good place to start.
As frightening as they can all be, all of these creatures are beyond magnificent and, if you can shake the element of fear, you can truly appreciate them for what they are. While you can also appreciate the saltwater crocodiles and many species of sharks, these prehistoric predators are responsible for several reported deaths every year, meaning exercise caution in areas with common sightings. Crocodiles are sneaky and sit at the bottom of darker inland waters, waiting for anything they can fit within their huge jaws. Apparently, sharks just can’t tell the difference between humans and shark food so, they usually take a few bites out of the victim before realising they ordered the wrong meal. Still, the worst can happen, and I would be lying if I said otherwise.
As all of Australia is surrounded by ocean waters, most beaches are affected by large tidal movements and strong currents. At the worst of times, these conditions can be dangerous, even for the strongest of swimmers so, it’s best to swim at patrolled beaches. Particularly in the northern, and less patrolled regions, if a sign says not to swim, you probably shouldn’t swim. Strong surf conditions claim more lives each year than sharks, crocodiles, and Irukandji, combined. The safest areas are marked with flags for swimmers to enjoy the ocean with peace of mind while under constant professional supervision. No matter where you are, check the conditions and signage before entering the water.
As terrifying as the environment may seem though, the scariest animals in Australia do not crawl, slither, swim, or bite, nor do they like to run, or even walk. They move in packs and prey on anyone who exhibits any signs of having fun. Armed with guns and badges, they are Australia’s most notorious gang, the Boys in Blue.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing an Australian police officer loves more than writing a big ticket to drain you of your hard-earned funds, so don’t give them a reason to talk to you. When speaking to friends in Europe, most are horrified to learn that drinking in public, or even just being drunk, is a punishable offence.
All things considered, Australia is a very safe place to visit or live, if you are aware of potential dangers. You will never meet a more multicultural, fun, and welcoming bunch of people, or come across such a diverse range of landscapes, plants and wildlife. If you want to create a truly unforgettable experience, start planning your trip to Australia now.
About the Author: Harrison was born in Queensland, Australia, and got the taste for adventure from a young age. Since then, he has embarked on countless journeys around the east coast of Australia and believes that at least once in a lifetime, everyone should experience an all Aussie adventure and enjoy the great Australian hospitality.
Get in touch if you would like to find out more.