Beautiful beaches, outback adventure, world-class food, stunning architecture, nature, wildlife, rich Aboriginal heritage – Australia has it all. There is so much to discover in this vast country, Signature Classic Holidays has tried to help your decision by selecting some of the most popular hotels and highly rated excursions to give you the best chance to experience it all on your trip. Whether you’re looking for a glamorous city vibe, thrilling theme park rides to try out or want to lose yourself in the mysterious, undiscovered Northern Territory, it’s all here for your enjoyment.
The continent is obviously enormous, but there are certain things you just don’t want to miss.
- No trip to Australia would be complete without a trip to the Unesco-protected Great Barrier Reef, the most famous coral reef in the world.
- The sacred Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, is a majestic sandstone rock that rises out of the Northern Territory.
- Sydney is often lauded as one of the best cities in the world, and it’s easy to see why, thanks to is culture, incredible pan-Asian cuisine, nightlife, shopping and picture-perfect city beaches.
- Surfers meet hippies at Byron Bay, one of Australia’s most alternative hangouts. Here you can practice yoga at dawn, party all night, peruse farmer’s markets selling organic regional produce or spot dolphins on a sea kayak tour.
When to visit
Seasons reverse to the UK and conditions vary greatly around this landmass the size of Europe. Winter in Australia runs June to August, when you can probably expect cooler, rainy days around the south and mild days in the north but even during these months, temperatures often stay favourable. Summer (December to February) temperatures in Australia often exceed 35C and can be unbearable; all in all, the best time to visit is spring (September−November) or autumn (March to May).
Areas of Australia
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system and the largest living structure in the world. It is also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a Unesco-listed heritage site. Cairns is a popular start point for trips to the reef, while Airlie Beach is the departure point for sailing trips to the Whitsunday Islands, a stunning archipelago with extensive coral gardens, palm-fringed beaches and crystal clear waters. Undoubtedly, tourism has taken its toll on this area; half of the reef’s coral has disappeared in the past 30 years due to higher water temperatures, increased coastal development and mass tourism, so always make sure you choose a reputable tour guide.
Melbourne & Victoria
Visitors flock here to enjoy its cosmopolitan vibe and lively arts, music and cultural scene. And while Melbourne’s climate may be a little cooler, it doesn’t stop people from filling the numerous pavement cafes and bars in the bustling districts of Fitzroy, St Kilda, Camberwell, Southbank and South Yarra. Whether you want to sip early evening cocktails on the rooftop of one of the city’s huge industrial warehouses, peruse art at the Melbourne Museum or enjoy a brew in the coffee capital of Australia – this is a fantastic city to explore.
Also worth a look nearby is the nature wonderland of Philip Island with plenty of attractions for wildlife fans and adventurers, including the famous Penguin Parade and Koala Conservation Centre.
Adelaide & South Australia
Frequently over shadowed by its well-known counterparts Sydney and Melbourne, things are slowly changing for the better. The city has a thriving live-music scene and also hosts major sporting events and festivals throughout the year. The recently refurbished Adelaide Oval is one of the best test cricket grounds in the world and should be top of the list for cricket fans. The city is a good jump-off point to discover some of Australia’s world-famous wine regions too, with more than 200 wineries on Adelaide’s doorstep.
The Barossa Valley is well established, but Kangaroo Island has recently emerged as one of the region’s most exciting wine producers. You can also seek out Penfolds Magill Estate, one of the country’s oldest wineries and birthplace of Grange, Australia’s most expensive wine.
Perth & Western Australia
The city that boasts 3,000 hours of sunshine a year – more than any other in Australia –has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years, with an invasion of hip bars, galleries, restaurants, cafes and cultural events that are quickly becoming the norm rather than a one-off. It’s a clean, pristine city with a great public transport system that makes it easy to get around. Outside of Perth, nearby attractions include the white beaches of the Indian Ocean, the ancient desert sculptures of the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park, the Kimberley – known for its dramatic geological features – and Margaret River, home to excellent wineries and huge stretches of unspoiled, uninhabited beaches perfect for whale watching and surfing.
The wild Northern Territory (or Top End as it’s also known) is where travelers come to discover the history of Australia’s oldest inhabitants whilst viewing incredible examples of Aboriginal rock art. With its cosmopolitan party vibe, Darwin is a mecca for backpackers and the place where most tours depart into the outback. No trip to the region would be complete without a visit to Kakadu National Park – here you can swim at the foot of tumbling waterfalls, view ancient rock art and hike though the outback; you might even spot a crocodile while you’re there.
Isolated, rugged, wild, historic, deserted – Tasmania is the small but perfectly formed island sitting off Australia’s south coast with historic townships, awe-inspiring landscapes, rainforests, excellent wine, rugged mountains and a slow-paced lifestyle. In Hobart, the capital city, colonial warehouses of Salamanca Place and the open-air Salamanca Market are great fun. On the East Coast you’ll discover the Bay of Fires – a 50km stretch of untouched beach, while Port Arthur is home to the ruins of Tasmania’s ‘Separate Prison; now an open-air museum and well worth a visit if you want to learn more about the convicts who were sent to this part of the world between 1788 and 1868 or take a spooky after-dark tour.
Home to the world-famous Bondi Beach (not to mention over 100 others), Sydney also offers foodies a dizzying array of restaurants, cafes and bars to suit all tastes and budgets, hosts the annual Mardi Gras celebration for the thriving LGBT community, is a surfers’ paradise and boasts a wealth of shopping opportunities, culture, music and nightlife. Some of the many areas to explore include Darling Harbour, Paddington, Central Business District, Surrey Hills, Darlinghurst, Oxford Street, Watson’s Bay, Manly and Bronte. And then there’s the Harbour Bridge – fancy climbing to the top of one of the world’s most iconic bridges and experiencing uninterrupted panoramic views of the city and beyond, 134m above sea level? Then this is the attraction for you. When you want to get away from it all, take a trip to the Blue Mountains National Park, just 80km outside the city.
Great Ocean Road
One of the most famous drives in the world, this stunning drive through the countryside of Victoria winds alongside the windswept Southern Ocean. Along the way, there’s world class surfing at Bells Beach and the famed limestone spires of the Twelve Apostles. Stop off at fishing villages, keep an eye out for migrating whales, wander into rainforests and wonder at golden beaches.
The Blue Mountains National Park lies around 80km west of Sydney. Visitors flock to the park to escape the city and marvel at The Three Sisters, an impressive rock formation towering 900m above the Jamison Valley. There are also numerous mountain bike routes, hiking trails, abseiling, rock climbing and the Katoomba Scenic Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world.
A must-see destination for backpackers and more well-heeled travellers, Fraser Island is like something out of Treasure Island, complete with its own shipwrecks – the most famous being the SS Maheno. Hop on a ferry from Queensland’s Hervey Bay to experience nature and wildlife, crisp, white sandy beaches, dingoes, rainforests, lakes and dramatic, unspoilt landscapes.
No trip would be complete without visiting the ancient monolith Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Created more than 600 million years ago, it stands 348m high and 1.9km wide. Incredibly, more than 2.5km of its bulk is underground. It is a sacred Aboriginal site and part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the spiritual heart of Australia’s ‘Red Centre’. Many visitors fly direct to the airport at Yulara, others prefer to travel through the outback by car to reach the sandstone monolith. If you choose this form of transport, bear in mind the closest town is Alice Springs, more than 450km away.
Arnhem Land is one of Australia’s unknown wildernesses and well worth a visit. The Yolngu people own Arnhem Land and have occupied the region for more than 60,000 years. This is where Australia’s most famous musical instrument, the didgeridoo, originated. The reserve is a relatively untouched area taking in ancient burial sites, Aboriginal rock and bark art, rugged coastlines, rainforest and dramatic landscapes. Visits are strictly regulated and you’ll need a permit and tour guide if you want to come and experience this magical place.
One of the highlights of Western Australia, to the north of the state lies the stunning Kimberley region, home to ancient rock formations, myriad Aboriginal rock art, dramatic gorges, waterfalls and never ending wilderness.