Australia Holiday Planning Guide
A vast, sparsely populated land of desert, swamp, and spectacular coastline, Australia charms with its combination of intimidating outback, coastal paradise, and manicured cities. Surf-lovers and snorkelers will appreciate a laid-back, beach-centric Australia vacation, while adventurers can wander the parched, red landscape of the country's interior. If you're more inclined to cosmopolitan city life, Australia's thriving metropolises have exactly what you need. In Australia, there really is something for everyone.
Places to Visit in Australia
Regions of AustraliaNew South Wales
: Australia's most populous state is a geographical playground with mighty rivers and mountains, a coastline of idyllic beaches, and numerous national parks. In New South Wales, nowhere's too far for a family road trip, RV retirees, or backpackers exploring the backyard of Australia.Queensland
: The ever-changing landscapes of Queensland let you explore the underwater wonder of the Great Barrier Reef and hundreds of offshore islands; the mainland's stunning national parks with rainforests, waterfalls, and wildlife; and the defining skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise and Brisbane. Victoria
: Food- and wine-obsessed, the state of Victoria offers history-steeped 19th-century towns, abundant national parks and wildlife, and a gastronomic culture embodied in its cafe scene, wine regions, and boutique breweries.Western Australia
: This final frontier remains relatively off Australia's tourism circuit, treating its less-frequent visitors to flaming red sunsets, picturesque beaches, and wildlife-watching opportunities including migrating whale pods and endemic species of the outback.Northern Territory
: Experience timeless indigenous culture on your Australia itinerary in the region where native rock art defines the landscapes, combined with the multicultural town of Darwin and the relaxed tropical vibe of the Top End.
Cities in AustraliaSydney
: Lots of trips to Australia start in Sydney, which draws visitors with its world-renowned harbor, famous sandy beaches, and urban pleasures--defining Australia's laid-back attitude, plus a touch of glamor and a continuous social calendar.Brisbane
: Combining lush parks and historic buildings around the edges of a river, Brisbane packs in bookshops, restaurants, and cafes, plus an edgy arts scene and thriving nightlife. Escape from the city at nearby Moreton Bay, with its sandy islets and beaches. Cairns Region
: Cairns serves as the starting point for some classic outdoor Australia tours, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Back in town, travelers and locals mingle at the boardwalk and lagoon, while bars, clubs, and restaurants provide relaxation and entertainment.Melbourne
: The inner-city neighborhoods of Melbourne define the city's cool vibe, from the beachside streets of St. Kilda to the cafes, bars, and restaurants of Carlton and Fitzroy. Add the street art, museums, and festivals of the inner CBD and surroundings, and you have plenty of Australia vacation ideas in one city.Byron Bay
: Known for its alternative lifestyle and relaxed attitude, small and ultra-hip Byron Bay provides not only a mix of surf and hippie culture, but also allows visitors to experience beaches, fine food, nightlife, and long, pleasant days.
Popular Australia Tourist AttractionsSydney Harbour Bridge
: Known around the world for its famous bridge and opera house, Sydney Harbour delights locals and visitors alike with sailboats, ferries, and beaches against the vibrant blue waters.City Circle Tram
: One of Melbourne's most convenient ways to get around, this free and frequent service shuttles you through the Central Business District and Docklands, while providing details about landmarks and attractions along the way.Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk
: Stretching 6 km (3.7 mi) along the coast, the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk features sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, parks, cliffs, ocean rock pools, and a wide variety of beaches including Bronte, Tamarama, and Clovelly.
Manly Ferry: The main water-based transport servicing Sydney Harbour and its surroundings, the Manly Ferry also offers visitors a convenient way to tour the city's harbor on their own.Kings Park & Botanic Garden
: Natural bushland and sculpted gardens make up just part of one of the world's largest inner-city parks. Enjoy panoramic views of the Swan River and Perth skyline, as well as a variety of cafes, restaurants, and open areas for picnics. The Great Ocean Road
: Built by World War I veterans, the 243 km (151 mi) Great Ocean Road represents the world's largest war memorial, complete with the Twelve Apostles--a group of striking limestone sea stacks--as well as a variety of waterfalls, rainforests, and beaches.The Rocks
: Take a tour of Australia's past and present at The Rocks, a historic area turned tourist precinct. Sydney's early convict history lives on through cobblestone streets, sandstone terraces, and cottages, while the city's modernity contrasts with museums, galleries, weekend markets, and exclusive hotels. Darling Harbour
: Walking through the hustle and bustle of Darling Harbour's waterfront, you'll soak in Sydney's atmosphere with the variety of cafes, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping on offer. South Bank Parklands
: Add South Bank Parklands to your Australia itinerary to see a mixture of rainforest, water, and grassy areas, plus the restaurants, shops, and riverfront promenade of this important cultural precinct of Brisbane. Australian War Memorial
: Commemorating all those who died in or participated in wars, the Australian War Memorial pays respect to the ultimate sacrifice through its world-class museum, shrine, and extensive archive, detailing the stories and events that have shaped Australia.
Planning an Australia Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Australia with Kids
Australia's vast land provides a variety of options to keep the kids happy on a family holiday. The country's largest city, Sydney
boasts family-friendly beaches and children-oriented activities including museums, zoos, and parks. Venture into Far North Queensland
to explore ancient rainforests and the fascinating underwater world. Your family's Australia trip would not be complete without a visit to the Gold Coast
, where world-class theme parks will keep all ages entertained for hours. On the other side of the continent, Western Australia
proves an untouched haven of idyllic beaches, national parks, and natural wonders.
Things to Do in Australia with Kids
Choose from a wide range of family-friendly attractions in Australia, from awe-inspiring nature to kid-approved museums and amusements. Begin an exploration of Australia's wildlife at the Great Barrier Reef
, where corals and tropical fish delight your visual senses, as well as Sydney's Taronga Zoo
and Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
, where you can see native wildlife in simulated natural habitats. For a day of thrills, work in one or two of Australia's major theme parks, including Luna Park
in Sydney and the Gold Coast's Dreamworld
, Sea World Theme Park
, and Wet 'n' Wild Water World
. Enjoy some quality relaxation at Manly Beach
or Bondi Beach
in Sydney, or Whitehaven Beach
in Far North Queensland's Whitsundays Region. Museums across the country will enrich both kids and parents during your Australia holiday, and a visit to Questacon
in the nation's capital will keep older children stimulated for hours with science and technology exhibits.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Australia
With a low crime rate, plus plentiful rental car and family-friendly lodgings, a trip to Australia with kids should be relatively hassle-free. Just remember that cars are driven on the left-hand side of the road (keep this in mind when checking for traffic before crossing the street, as well). Traveling as a family can be expensive, and while Australia's prices remain relatively the same, the most affordable time to fly here is between June and August, and many accommodation options consider this off-peak season. However, if weather is your priority, you'll have the best of it in the summer months, from December to February.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Australia
Cuisine of Australia
Australia's cuisine combines a mix of the many cultures and nationalities that live within its borders, as well as dishes considered typically Australian, such as meat pies and fish and chips. While in Melbourne, visit Lygon Street
, famous for its Italian restaurants. Meat is also a significant part of Australia's agriculture, with barbecues featuring frequently on menus. Gastronomes on tour of Australia will want to try restaurants serving Modern Australian cuisine, where exotic foreign influences combine with contemporary adaptations of traditional meals. Such examples of this style include Pepper steaks with mushroom sauce and creamy mash, spinach and zucchini salad with yoghurt hummus or garlic, lime and black pepper beef stir-fry.
Shopping in Australia
Among the many things to do in Australia, shopping certainly ranks highly, and within every major city you'll have a wealth of options. In Sydney, head to Pitt Street Mall
, or in Melbourne CBD to Collins St/Swanston St
for your designer and everyday clothing needs, electronics, and more. A quick Google search will also reveal weekend markets across many cities, where you can purchase second-hand and vintage clothing. Popular items to take home from a trip to Australia include warm and comfortable UGG boots, Vegemite (a salty spread), and Tim Tam chocolate-coated biscuits. For an authentic gift, look for Aboriginal crafts and musical instruments, including didgeridoos, paintings, and boomerangs.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Australia
Interesting Facts About Australia
Australia is the only Western democratic government not to have a Bill of Rights.
In 1856, the first modern commercial refrigerator was built in Australia. Its purpose: to keep beer cold.
Australia boasts the world's longest highway, Highway 1, which connects its major cities.
Perth in Western Australia reigns as the world's most geographically remote city, with the nearest urban center of 100,000 people or more over 2,400 km (1,500 mi) away.
Things You Should NOT Do in Australia
Celebrated around the world for its easygoing culture, Australia has very few cultural faux pas. That said, abide by a few social mores to ensure a smooth Australia holiday and ingratiate yourself with the locals. First, treat everyone you meet equally regardless of racial, sexual, social, or financial background. Likewise, refrain from flagrant displays of wealth or financial status, as Aussies generally frown upon this. Finally, beware of antagonizing any particular race or fostering racial tension between cultures through derogatory jokes or other means.
Holidays & Festivals in Australia
During your Australia vacation, you may come across a variety of holidays and festivals. Each year sees a variety of national public holidays, observed with a three-day weekend. Major Christian holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, are celebrated as in most Western countries, while the calendar also includes festivals and religious holidays of ethnic nationalities. In addition, Australia boasts a full calendar of arts festivals, music festivals, and film festivals showcasing local and international talent.
The annual LGBT Mardi Gras brings international visitors into Sydney for a three-week period of festivities celebrating love and diversity, with a main parade of extravagant floats passing through the city streets. On the other side of the country, the Perth International Arts Festival is the oldest international festival in the southern hemisphere, and includes theater, drama, visual arts, literature, and comedy between February and March. Comedy fans can also check out the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in March and April: ranked as one of the three largest comedy festivals in the world, it features both homegrown and international talents.
Useful Australia Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Australia
When meeting strangers, acquaintances, or business associates during your trip to Australia, expect a handshake as the most common form of greeting. Between friends it is common to hug, or to kiss once on the cheek. Various cultures will kiss differently, with some kissing twice and some even three times.
Aussies use a fairly limited set of greetings, with "How ya goin'?" fairly ubiquitous, or the slightly less-common "G'day."
Climate of Australia
Depending on your location within the country, Australia's climate can differ immensely. The north and northeast tend to have a more tropical, humid climate, while the southeast and southwest corners have a mild, oceanic climate, making them a pleasant addition to your Australia itinerary. Australia's center and western areas have a hot desert climate. The summer months fall around December to February, and temperatures can soar to 45 C (113 F) in coastal cities like Sydney and Alice Springs in the center of the continent.
If your Australia holiday falls during summertime, plan to enjoying the wonderful beaches of Australia, such as Hyams Beach
on the New South Wales south coast, Vivonne Bay on Kangaroo Island
or Surfer's Paradise Beach
in Queensland. Winter (June through August) sees mild temperatures, generally no higher than 20 C (68 F) in coastal cities like Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. In Alice Springs, however, you may still experience temperatures of 30 C (86 F). At this time, snowfall opens up the ski slopes of New South Wales for an active winter holiday, with temperatures ranging between -3 C (26 F) and 5 C (41 F) in Kosciuszko National Park
Visiting outside of those two main seasons can prove advantageous, with mild, cool weather on most days. During fall, cities along the eastern seaboard such as Sydney and Brisbane enjoy average temperatures between 15 C (59 F) and 27 C (81 F). Partly due to this habitable climate, the east coast remains the most populated region of Australia.
Transportation in Australia
Touring Australia's long distances is relatively easy, thanks to a well-connected infrastructure including airports and transport networks in every major city making your sightseeing in Australia simpler. Each metropolis has an established network of trains, tram, buses, and/or ferries for local sightseeing and destinations beyond. Some cities utilize rechargeable cards as tickets, while others maintain a paper-based system for their local networks. Frequent, daily flights connect the major cities and smaller towns. Renting a car in any major city or airport is extremely common and the easiest, most convenient way to see everything on your Australia itinerary.
Tipping in Australia
Tipping in Australia is not expected as the minimum wage is considerably high. If you wish to tip, you can do so at your discretion, but it is not expected or compulsory.