Australia Travel Guide

There is a lot to like about Australia and Australians are justifiably proud of both their cities and the great wilderness known as the Outback. Our list of  best places to visit is focused on Australia’s phenomenal natural landscapes,  although we recommend visiting the country’s leading cities, as rest stops between the real adventures.

Our recommendations for the best places to visit will help you find the right places to visit on your vacation in Australia. In addition, we provide links to the official tourism websites, for the cities or areas we recommend. When we are unable to find an official tourism website, we provide what we think is the most informative of the commercial-tourism websites for that location. Hopefully, the combination of our information with that of other authoritative sites will help you to discover what you need to know for planning a trip to Australia.

Great Barrier Reef

  • The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s number one attraction.
  • Over 1,400 miles in length, the Great Barrier Reef is billed as the world’s largest natural feature.  Consisting of thousands of individual reefs and over 600 islands, the Great Barrier Reef is best enjoyed if you dive or scuba.
  •  If you have seen video on Discovery or National Geographic of the GBR shot during a night dive, you have seen better than you will see from one of the tour boats or during a regular dive.  Nevertheless, visiting the Great Barrier Reef is a “must do”.
  • You can arrange all sorts of diving or scuba adventures on the Reef, but consider taking a high-speed boat, as the Reef is a ways offshore.
    • For an informative article on the Great Barrier Reef and links to a number of important sources, visit the Culture Portal of the Australian government.
    • For detailed information on visiting the Great Barrier Reef, see the official website   of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority of the Australian Government.
    • If looking for other attractions in north Queensland, take a quick look at Queensland Holidays, the area’s official tourism website.
  • The three towns below are good starting points for Great Barrier Reef tours.  Note, there is a wide range of accommodations in this area.  If you are looking to “escape” and  are willing to pay handsomely for it, there are some exceptionally luxe resorts near the Reef.
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
  • Cairns

    • Cairns is a popular starting point for exploration of the GBR.  It is a quaint town but not one that is particularly scenic or interesting.
    • Consider taking a ride from Cairns on the Kuranda Railway for something different
    • See the official tourism website of Cairns  for more details on visiting this small but interesting town.
    • Townsville

      • The largest town in northern Queensland, Townsville is not quite a tourist haven, but has a number of minor attractions to fill your time between explorations of the Great Barrier Reef.
    • Port Douglas

      • Port Douglas is the most popular jumping-off point for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. High-speed tour boats depart here for the Great Barrier Reef providing a nice day trip.
      • If you are looking for some pampering and can afford it, spend a few days at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas.  If you cannot afford, stop by for a drink and save-up for your next visit.
      • Most visitors find time to wander nearby Four Mile Beach, considered by many to be among the best beaches in Australia.
      • See this official website for more information about visiting Port Douglas
Port Douglas
Port Douglas

Red Centre

    • The Red Center, located in the Northern Territory, is both the physical and spiritual center of Australia.  This is the site of  the world famous Uluru (Ayers Rock), a reddish rock that is the world’s largest monolith ( a single, massive rock). Positioned in stark contrast to its flat surroundings, Uluru is best viewed at sunrise and sunset when its color seems to change in mysterious and magical ways.
      • See this official website from the Northern Territories for more information on visiting Uluru.
      • In addition to Uluru, you might consider visiting the Olgas (to the west of Uluru), another part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
      • Be sure to zoom the satellite view on our maps to “see” the beauty of this area.
      • Alice Springs is a good starting point for explorations of the Red Centre.  See this official site from the Northern Territories for more information about visiting Alice Springs.
Red Centre, Australia
Red Centre, Australia

Sydney

  • Sydney has many attractions and a great setting in which to enjoy them.
  • The city’s harbor features the spectacular  Opera House, the Rocks (the original penal colony in Australia), Darling Harbor, and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
  • Add in some great beaches (Bondi, Chinaman’s) and equally fun shopping (in the market for an Opal?). Sometime during your tour you will  begin to realize why Sydney is known as a world class city.
Sydney, Australia
Sydney, Australia

Adelaide

  • Adelaide is the entry point for an exploration of the South Australian Outback.  The area is, also, the home to many of Australia’s best vineyards.  The city is pleasant, well manicured, and a great place to relax while spending a few days visiting vineyards.
    • For more details on visiting Adelaide, see the official tourism website  for the area, as it covers Adelaide and surrounding areas including the Murray River.
Adelaide
Adelaide

Brisbane

  • When you are in Queensland visiting the Great Barrier Reef and find yourself thirsting for a real city, visit Brisbane. It is one of Australia’s largest cities and is  known for its nightclubs and good food.
    • For more information on visiting what the locals call “Australia’s new world city”, see the city’s official tourism website .
Brisbane
Brisbane

Melbourne

  • Melbourne is considered by  many to be the most stylish of Australian cities.  The City’s mix of modern and Victorian architectures blend in an attractive manner.  Be sure to see Federation Square and the New Quay for eating, drinking and shopping.
  • If you are going to visit Melbourne, you may want to tour more of Victoria, especially the Great Ocean Road, a two hundred mile drive along Australia’s most attractive coastline (mainly west of Geelong to Portland).
Melbourne
Melbourne

Northern Queensland

  • If you are going to travel to Queensland to see the Great Barrier Reef, reserve some extra time for other attractions in the area.
  • Take the old-fashioned Kuranda Railway along its spectacular route to Kuranda, a rainforest village, which has a “crafts” market that is a great place to buy trinkets for the troops at home.
    • Add the Daintree Rainforest, part of the “Wet Tropics of Queensland  World Heritage site”, to round out your explorations of the area.
    • The Daintree contains a dramatic number of unique plant and animal species.
    • See this official website for more information about visiting Daintree

Northern Queensland

Tasmania

  • Many visitors to Australia add-on a trip to the island of Tasmania. If you are looking for wilderness, encounters with nature and more hiking, it may be the place for you.
    • Tasmania has many lovely settings, but one of the finest is Wineglass Bay on the east coast of the island approximately a three-hour drive from the capital city of Hobart.  Located within Freycinet National Park, the hike to overlook Wineglass Bay is one of the most popular in Tasmania.
    • Click the  Discover Tasmania  website for more information on the attractions you can find in this remote section of the world.
Tasmania
Tasmania

Perth

  • There are a number of interesting towns on the east and north coasts of Australia.  Getting to them, after flying across the Pacific (oops, the Southern Ocean) is a daunting task for most travelers.  If you want to explore Western Australia, Perth is the best place to start: it offers great weather, fine beaches, and the unforgettable Swan Lager.
  • For those of you who travel to Perth and are looking for a peaceful, beautiful area, consider visiting the town of Broome in the Kimberley Region.  Broome is an old “pearl” port, located almost  in the middle of nowhere.  The attraction here is  miles and miles of gorgeous beaches and great weather most of the year.
  • See this informative, but unofficial website for an interesting review of Broome and the Kimberley Region.
Perth
Perth

Additional Resources

The official tourism website for Australia  provides detail on the best places to visit recommended above, as well as details on locations and attractions that are not on our list.

For country specific information on Australia, as well as detailed information on personal safety, visas, rules of the road and medical facilities, see the U.S. State Department’s page on Australia.   We recommend the State Department’s travel information to anyone planning a trip to Australia.