Many first time travelers to Australia feel a mixture of all sorts of emotions right before their trip. Excitement, anxiety, fear. You’re either scouring the internet for every single tip on traveling in Australia, or your plan is just to wing it.
Your best bet is to embrace a little bit of both attitudes. Australia is such a dynamic country full of incredible sights. We promise there’s very little you should fear, and so much you should be excited about.
To make your planning a little easier, here’s our list of 14 common mistakes to avoid when traveling to Australia.
1. Underestimating the Size of Australia
For some reason people have this idea that Australia is a rather small island. People think they can hop in a car and drive around the whole country in about a week.
The problem is, Australia is about the same size as the U.S. Hitting the major hotspots such as Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne is like traveling from Miami to New York then Houston. Definitely not a road trip you want to blast through in just a week.
2. Not Being Familiar with the Seasons
Australia’s seasons are opposite to ours in the U.S. Their summer is our winter. The weather also varies throughout different parts of Australia. Up north in Cairns and the tropics the summer season is marked by frequent rains while winters are mild and dry. Down in the southern states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, the winters get a little colder.
If you’re planning to hit up the beaches in Sydney in June, you might be in for a surprise!
Check out our guide on the weather in Australia for a detailed look of the average weather throughout different regions of the country.
3. Not Planning in Advance
It’s true that some of the joys of traveling to some place new is discovering its local delights on spontaneous adventures.
While this holds true for many parts of Australia, you’ll want to pre-book your bucket list items or you’ll risk missing out. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, visiting Sydney during New Year’s, riding The Ghan and other famous Australian rail journeys – these are things you absolutely need to book in advance before your trip. You’re traveling all the way to the other side of the world for some of these spectacular experiences. The last thing you want is to be disappointed on what should be the trip of a lifetime.
Not sure if your must-do adventure should be pre-booked? Talk with your About Australia Destination Specialist.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Photo: Tourism Australia
4. Having No Down Time
It’s hard to resist the urge to cram a ton of things to do every day of your trip. We totally get it – you want to see as much as you can with the amount of time you’ve got in Australia.
But some down time is so important to pace your journey and take it all in. You don’t want to stretch yourself thin by being on the go all the time with no breaks in between. You’ll get easily stressed by trying to keep track of everything you have to do.
It’s great to make sure you get to meeting points on time and not miss any departures. But you don’t want your head to be completely filled with logistics when you should be enjoying the moment.
5. Not Budgeting for Australian Prices
There’s no way around it – Australia is expensive. People tend to get sticker shock when they see the prices throughout Australia. Keep in mind, Australia is home to several cities that are consistently rated as the most liveable cities in the world. Prices will reflect that demand. You’ll want to save up a fair bit of money to use while traveling, as well as carry extra cash.
Eating out ranges on average around $30 per meal, not including drinks. On the upside, tipping is not generally customary in Australia. The minimum wage starts at about $18.29 an hour and service workers don’t tend to expect tips.
Definitely splurge here and there and let yourself have fun, but you’ll want to be careful about your spending while in Australia. For more about the currency and using credit cards in Australia, check out our guide on Australian currency.
6. Skipping Out on Travel Insurance
This is something you absolutely do not want to skip out on for any trip, not just Australia.
Travel insurance covers a range of unforeseen events such as medical emergencies, travel delays, bad weather, lost luggage and much more.
No matter how carefully you may plan your trip, sometimes things happen that are completely out of our control. Your trip is an investment – you don’t want to incur a complete loss should something happen.
12 Apostles, Melbourne
7. Not Allowing Enough Time for Each Destination
Imagine giving yourself one day to visit New York, then traveling to Chicago the next day, then San Francisco the next. You’d barely see anything!
Australia’s major cities – even its small towns – have so much to offer, and you could easily spend days just exploring one city.
You’ll also want to extend your stays to act as a base for exploring nearby regions. Sydney has the stunning Blue Mountains outside of the city and the Hunter Valley Wine Region a short road trip away. Explore the Great Barrier Reef one day in Cairns, then Daintree Rainforest – the oldest rainforest in the world – the next day.
Think about allowing yourself a free day as well to explore each destination on your own.
8. Leaving the Big Adventures at the End
A good rule of thumb is to schedule big ticket tours at the beginning of your stay rather than later. This is mainly due to the weather, especially important for weather-related excursions. If you’ve booked a Great Barrier Reef cruise at the beginning of your stay in Cairns but the weather causes a cancellation, you’ve at least got the rest of your stay available to reschedule the cruise.
Many tour operators are flexible in rescheduling your booking due to inclement weather, so it’s good to schedule these tours at the start of your stay just in case. Leaving these tours until the end of your stay poses the risk of missing out should anything happen.
9. Over Packing
If you’ve ever fallen victim to over packing, hopefully you remember the utter unpleasantness that comes along with it. Lugging extra bags everywhere you go, forcing all your weight down on your suitcase and praying you can zip it at lease most of the way. Not to mention having no extra room for any souvenirs!
But another pit fall of over packing is going over the airline luggage restrictions and risk having to shell out extra cash for your bags. We recommend booking all your flights within the U.S. and Australia on the same ticket which increases your luggage allowance to two checked bags. Australian domestic flights have strict carry-on limits, so an extra checked bag for free comes in handy. Your About Australia Destination Specialist will do this for you whenever possible.
Also, many hotels throughout Australia are apartment-style and include laundry units within their rooms. This way you can pack light and still have clean clothes throughout your journey. Check out our guide on what to pack for Australia to help you figure out what to bring and what to leave behind.
10. Being Scared of the Wildlife
People hear “Australia” and think they’ll be coiled to death by snakes and eaten by spiders.
But you’re more likely to get injured by a horse than all Australia’s venomous critters combined. Even then, the only places you might actually come across these dangerous creatures are in carefully maintained wildlife parks and zoos.
You definitely won’t see any snakes or large spiders in the cities, or any kangaroos and koalas in the wild, either. There’s a chance you might spot some native wildlife in more open areas outside of city limits and in national parks. As with any wild animal, as long as you leave them alone they won’t bother you.
It’s important to only interact with wildlife in the presence of a professional wildlife handler. That’s how you’ll get those special opportunities to hand-feed kangaroos or take a picture with a koala. And no, drop bears are not real!
Taronga Zoo, Sydney. Photo: Tourism Australia
11. Not Applying Enough Sunscreen
It’s way better to overdo the sunscreen in Australia than to under-do it. It’ll save you a world of pain.
Australia receives extraordinarily high levels of ultraviolet radiation due to its close proximity to the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. This lack of extra atmospheric sun protection makes sunscreen application essential. You’ll want to make sure you use a broad spectrum sunscreen protecting against both UVA and UVB rays.
If you’re heading to the reef, you’ll also want to be sure your sunscreen is reef safe.
Tip: When out on the reef, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the back of your knees!
12. Not Getting to Know the Locals
Aussies are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation and let yourself open up. You’ll get the best tips on local secrets such as the best places to grab some food or drinks, as well as extra advice on any places to avoid.
Besides, a new Aussie friend is a great reason to plan a return trip!
Opera Bar, Sydney. Photo: Anson Smart
13. Thinking You Can Catch a Train or Bus to New Zealand
There are no roads, bridges or tunnels connecting Australia to New Zealand. The only way to get there is on a flight, just about 4 hours long.
New Zealand is an incredible country on its own and deserves at least a two week trip to see the highlights. If you have enough time to see both countries, combing the two makes for a fantastic vacation.
But New Zealand is vastly different from its neighbor, and we recommend planning a separate trip if you only have a limited amount of time for your vacation.
14. Sweating the Small Stuff
Planning a trip is stressful enough, and sometimes the anxiety of being in a foreign country makes it easy to let the small stuff get to you. But you’re in one of the world’s top bucket list destinations – don’t let minor setbacks ruin your whole trip.
If you plan your trip with About Australia all the small details will be taken care of, and if you’ve got travel insurance, all the big stuff will be covered.
Avoid These Common Mistakes When Traveling to Australia
Planning a trip to Australia may seem daunting at first, but it’s rather easy to avoid these common mistakes. As long as you keep these tips in mind, it’s actually quite difficult to ruin your trip. It’s all a matter of researching your destinations and getting in touch with an About Australia Destination Specialist for extra insider knowledge. Once you’re ready to plan your trip, we’ll make sure the process is a breeze.
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(CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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The Ghan train in Australia is one of the world’s great rail journeys, traversing the vastness of the Outback through Flinders Ranges and into the heart of the Red Centre from Adelaide to Darwin. It’s an elegant train with comfortable interiors and modern suites.
For first time train travelers, we usually recommend enjoying one leg of the journey by traveling from Alice Springs to Darwin or vice versa. It’s an easy way to experience the wonder without committing a bulk of your vacation to something you are unsure of.
However, once you get on the train and start your journey, you might end up wishing you’d spent more time on The Ghan and here’s why…
The Ghan Is Comfortable
Whether you’re socializing in the Outback Explorer Lounge, relaxing in your Gold Service suite or dining in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant, you are going to be comfortable.
The seats are wide, you have generous leg room and you can move from car to car with ease.
The attentive and professional staff will tend to your every need with a warm smile and friendly demeanor.
By night your cabin is prepared with comfortable bunks that will feel like you are sleeping on air.
With Gold Service, luxurious bathrooms and showers help prepare you for a restful night of sleep as you journey through the outback.
The Journey Is Relaxing On The Ghan
When you’re on The Ghan the only thing you need to do is sit back and enjoy the scenic ride.
There is no traffic to deal with and no worry that you’ll get lost in the Outback.
On The Ghan you get to see the countryside without the responsibility of navigating the journey.
Instead, you’ll spend your time reading, sleeping, writing, eating and enjoying choice beverages all while taking in the views.
Pass the time with fellow passengers as you trade travel stories and learn about each others’ home countries over a glass of wine and a plate of nibbles.
The Australian Outback Is Breathtaking
Sure, The Ghan delivers much more than an extended train ride when it comes to comfort and service, but the one thing that will leave you feeling truly inspired is the fantastic scenery.
You’ll likely find yourself staring out the window for long stretches of time.
But it’ll be difficult to tear your eyes away.
You’ll be transported from the lush green hills surrounding Adelaide into the rusty hues of the Red Centre, then on to the tropical splendor of Australia’s Top End.
Be on the lookout for wildlife hidden within the bush – you’re sure to spot kangaroos taking in the fresh, cool air at dusk!
Time to Explore Authentic Outback Destinations
The Ghan offers whistle stops where you can choose to catch a tour or explore on your own for a few hours. This gives you the opportunity to see and experience places off the beaten path.
Going Northbound, you’ll first stop in the pioneer town of Alice Springs.
Alice Springs is a great place to immerse yourself in Aboriginal history. You can visit a working camel farm, see the region’s birds and wildlife or opt for the Spirit of Mt. Gillen Helicopter Flight, a scenic flight that takes you over Simpon’s Gap and the Larapinta Trail.
Your next stop will be in Katherine. You can cruise down Katherine Gorge, hike in Nitmiluk National Park or maybe kayak down the Katherine River. You may just want to wander around town and explore the local attractions.
Travel Southbound and you’ll find yourself in Coober Pedy, the the opal mining capital of the world where more than half of the residents live underground!
Book the Gold Service or above and you can put your credit card away while you’re aboard The Ghan.
Enjoy three gourmet meals per day and have your fill of Australian wines, beers, base spirits and other non-alcoholic beverages.
Your fare also includes various off train excursions and whistle stop tours!
You can bring up to 110 pounds of luggage per person and you’ll receive complimentary shuttle service in Darwin.
Enjoy Some Privacy
During a busy vacation, sometimes all you want to do is find a place where you can be alone, decompress, and take a breath.
On The Ghan Gold Service, passengers can retire to their private sleepers, either a two-berth for traveling companions or singles-berth if you are traveling solo.
The sleepers are comfortable with freshly made-up beds in the evening and seats during the day.
Lay down and relax as the soothing sounds of those big steel wheels rolling down the track lull to you sleep.
The Food Is To. Die. For.
The Ghan serves fresh, regionally sourced Australian food, complemented by a range of all-inclusive wines, beer and non-alcoholic beverages.
You’ll taste everything from Top End barramundi, Margaret River cheeses, and native Australian fare including kangaroo, saltbush and wild rosella flower.
There’s no doubt many Aussie travelers rate the food in and of itself as a huge draw to experience The Ghan.
Journey Aboard The Ghan
The Ghan is one of the best ways you can experience the Red Centre in all its glory. It’s also a great way to travel to Uluru (Ayers Rock). Once you’re in Alice Springs, take a coach over to Uluru and experience the magic of this inspiring outback landscape.
Are you ready to plan your trip to Australia? Whether you want to include a journey on the Ghan in your Australia vacation or want to know more before you book, our travel experts will take care of all your arrangements.
We’ll make this once-in-a-lifetime rail journey happen.
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South Australia’s Natural Wonderland
Kangaroo Island is truly an amazing experience for anyone who enjoys wildlife and nature. The island is just half an hour from Adelaide by air or a scenic three hour drive and ferry ride. Once you arrive on the island you’ll be surrounded by a lush unspoiled natural haven inhabited by friendly people and large populations of unique Australian wildlife. The island is roughly 96 miles in length. As you travel, you’ll find it to be surprisingly diverse. From soaring cliffs to dense national parks, to huge sand dunes, wetlands, and of course, untouched white sand beaches.
There are so many amazing things to do on Kangaroo Island, that it was pretty hard to narrow down the list to just fourteen of our favorites. Be sure to ask your Destination Specialist about their favorite so you don’t miss out on something you might love!
The Journey- Getting there is half the fun!
Kangaroo Island is an incredible road trip! There are many great tours that will take you to the island and provide insightful and interesting commentary, but Kangaroo Island is also a great place to explore on your own. We often recommend that you rent a car in Adelaide, drive down to the island and take your time discovering it on your own. As you drive along this friendly coast, embrace the locals’ welcoming spirit by partaking in the ‘Kangaroo Island Wave’ – a friend gesture, produced by lifting your index finger to acknowledge passing cars.
One of Australia’s Top National Parks, Flinders Chase National Park is located on the western end of Kangaroo Island. Flinders Chase is a must see for any KI visit. Here you’ll find the world renowned Remarkable Rocks- wild-sculpted rock formations that sit atop a smooth granite dome, Admiral’s Arch- a perfect sweep of rock along the coast where long-nosed fur seals play, West Bay- an amazing beach and great hiking trails such as the Snake Lagoon Walk.
Image by: Alan & Flora Botting on flikr.com
The Remarkable Rocks are a collection of enormous eroded granite boulders atop a giant dome of lava. They have been shaped by the erosive forces of wind, sea spray and rain for over 500 million years! The golden orange lichen covering some of the rocks and the many different shapes offer plenty of photo opportunities at different times of the day.
The Admiral’s Arch is located at Cape du Couedic. The natural wonder is a remnant of the ancient cave that was broken by ocean waves and transformed into a natural bridge. Stalactites still cling to what’s left of the cave’s roof. You can walk down the boardwalk around the cliff face to a viewing platform to see the arch. In the summer, you can observe a colony of New Zealand fur-seals on the rock platforms under the arch. Be sure to be on the look out for fuzzy seal pups!
Cape du Couedic Light House
While you’re checking out the arch, take a moment to cast your eyes upon the Cape du Couedic Light House. Constructed between 1906 and 1909, it consists of a tower made from 2,000 pieces of local stone. During it’s early years, the lighthouse was inaccessible by land. The materials used to build the lighthouse were brought by boat and hauled up the cliff face by a flying fox winching system powered by horses. This system was later used to haul supplies and the only method of getting keepers and their families on and off the Cape. Today, the lighthouse still warns ships of treacherous waters and an underwater reef off the Cape. There are also accommodations available.
West Bay is a remote beach in Finders Chase National Park. It supplies spectacular seaside views and is never overcrowded! Camping sites can be found nearby.
Snake Lagoon Walk
This scenic walk starts at Snake Lagoon and winds through Sugar Gums and mallee before descending into the Rocky River Valley. The trail crosses Rock River and meanders along its band to the Southern Ocean Coast. You can find the trail head about five and a half miles from Flinders Chase Visitor Center off West Bay Road.
Cape Borda Light-station
Cape Borda is about 1 hour drive from the the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre, but worth the trip for those interested in history, amazing scenery and bush-walking. The light house tour is very informative and interesting. Not only will you learn about the history of the lighthouse, but you’ll be taught some navigation skills and see a real canon fire. Accommodations are also available.
Vivonne Bay- One of Australia’s Best Beaches
Located on Kangaroo Island’s south coast, near Kingscote, Vivonne Bay is no stranger to “Best Beach” Lists. Visit Vivonne Bay and you’ll experience soft white sand, clear seas and few people. If you have snorkeling gear, be sure to bring it along, the water is great! Vivonne Bay is known for it’s surfing and strong currents, so it’s best for experienced swimmers.
Sand-boarding in the Little Sahara
Not far from the lush shores of Vivonne Bay, you’ll find a desert called the Little Sahara. For about fifty dollars you can rent a toboggan and a sand-board so that you can spend the day running up and sliding down giant sand dunes. It’s a great activity for the whole family.
See Sea Lions at Seal Bay
Seal Bay has been home to an Australian sea lion population for thousands of years, and offers one of the most exceptional nature-based experiences in the world. This is the only place in the world where you can see Australian sea lions at close quarters and walk on a beach where pups play, bulls fight for supremacy and resting mothers suckle their young. Take a guided tour to get up close to the action or take your time and observe from afar on the boardwalk. Australian sea lions are unique to South Australia and Western Australia. They are an endangered species – their total population is about 14,700. Seal Bay is the third largest colony of this magnificent, wild creature.
Feed a Roo
While on Kangaroo Island, you’ll likely see plenty of wild Kangaroo Island Kangaroos. But if you want to get really close to the cute little guys, head to the KI Wildlife Park. Here you’ll find friendly kangaroos that have been hand raised since they were orphaned in the wild. There are usually opportunities to feed and pet the kangaroos.
Birds of Prey Presentations
“Raptor Domain” on Kangaroo Island is a very personal up close experience. You have the option to see one to three wild presentations. These presentations are very interactive and very informative. You have the opportunity to hold most of the birds and reptiles featured. There is also an opportunity to purchase a private viewing to interact with the birds one-on-one for about an hour.
The Pelican Man
The Pelican Man provides you with an entertaining and informative talk about pelicans and other sea birds while encouraging their participation with fish treats. It’s quite the photo op!
Swimming with Wild Dolphins
Slip into the clear calm waters off the North Coast of Kangaroo Island and enter the amazing world of KI’s wild dolphins. This very special experience can be a bit unpredictable since the dolphins are not trained or captive. But that’s half the fun! Your tour guides will watch, wait and tell you the best time to jump in so you’ll have the opportunity to get as close as possible to these majestic creatures. You can also opt to stay in the boat and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spot dolphins jumping and playing in the surf.
Still looking for things to do on Kanagroo Island? Be sure to check back next week for “14 More Reasons Why Kangaroo Island is a ‘Must Do in Australia'”.
Are you ready to plan your trip to Australia?
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What places are on your Australian vacation wish list?
The Great Barrier Reef, our iconic Sydney Opera House and surrounding harbor, the breathtaking outback, the beautiful beaches or the luscious rainforests. These places are wonderful to visit and offer endless photo opportunities. But when they get home and return to normal life, most travelers find their most memorable moments not in ‘seeing the sights’, but in experiencing the culture.
The Aboriginal arts and culture are a very unique and interesting component of the Australian identity and one that can be experienced without traveling to remote locations. You can experience the human element of Australia in intimate and authentic ways in every state and not far from where you will likely already want to visit. Save on your trip to Australia with our deals on customized Indigenous vacation packages.
Aboriginal Australia is as diverse as the continent’s landscape; not one nation but many nation states speaking more than 250 languages. Each stop will provide you with a new and unique perspective and ground your tour of the infamous sites to the people of the land. You can also experience the culture by adding a few Aboriginal managed tours to your itinerary. Here are a few of our favorite places to visit in Australia to get a big dose of historic culture.
Places to Visit in Australia – New South Wales
Image by Dreamtime Southern X
The Rocks (Sydney) – Take a 90- minute leisurely urban walkabout with an Aboriginal guide in The Rocks, the historic area of Sydney’s city center. Your Aboriginal guide with show you how the ancient wisdom of Dreamtime is continuously weaved into the modern city to create a unique Australian culture.
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney – The Royal Botanic Garden is a great place to learn how early Aboriginal inhabitants lived as hunters and gatherers. Intimately associated with the environment they made poisonous seeds edible, created fishing line from bark, wove leaves into mats and baskets, and much more in order to survive. During a one hour tour an Aboriginal Education Officer will help you explore the rich Aboriginal heritage of the garden and give you a first-hand perspective of the its significance.
Taronga Zoo (Near Sydney) – Just short drive from the harbor you’ll find the Taronga Zoo. An Aboriginal discovery tour offers a chance to enjoy interactive experiences with unique Australian wildlife and a chance to discover more about Australia’s rich culture. An Aboriginal guide will tell you stories of Australian wildlife, the binding relationships between flora and fauna, and the Dreaming (the creation of various creatures and landscapes). You’ll also get a great photo opportunity with a Koala and ride the Sky Safari cable to discover why Taronga is known as “The Zoo with a view”.
Places to Visit in Australia – Northern Territory
Uluru, Australia’s Red Centre (Ayers Rock) – Visiting the heart of Australia is about more than just seeing a giant red rock, it’s about experiencing the Outback; its majestic beauty, its heritage and its essence. As the traditional owners of Uluru Kata Tjuta and the surrounding land, who better to help you capture the moment than the Anangu? Unlike many of us the Anangu still possess a strong connection to the past and thousands of years of accumulated knowledge, wisdom and law. Their traditions are maintained and passed on through stories, rituals, ceremonies, songs, dances and art. There are many opportunities to experience their culture and learn more during your stay at Uluru. Here are a few Indigenous tours in Uluru. Your Vacation Planning Expert can help you select the best experiences for your trip.
Sounds of Silence Dinner– A unique award-winning gourmet desert dining experience complete with a didgeridoo welcome, a beautiful Outback sunset, Australian delicacies, and a tour of the stars.
Image by AYQ
Camel Ride to the Sounds of Silence Dinner site (or just around the Outback) – Camel tours of Uluru are always an amazing experience. Friendly local guides teach and tell stories about the flora and fauna, the land, the indigenous people, their own lives and the history of camels in Australia in a fun and enjoyable way. The photo opportunities are always amazing and the camels, with their own unique personalities and cheeky nature, may also provide a bit of entertainment.
Tali Wiru Dinner – Another unique desert dining experience with a taste of Aboriginal heritage. This tour fills up quickly as only 20 people are allowed per night. You are taken to a large dune, well away from anything else. A majestic view of Uluru is in the distance as a local plays the didgeridoo and canapes are served as the sun sets. You will enjoy a three course meal with matching Australian wines, desert with port, and an evening of star gazing and Aboriginal stories.
Desert Awakenings Tour – This tour is a great way to view the landscape and learn about its history and its people. Travelers often describe their experience as powerful and spiritual as they learn the history of the land, take in the rock paintings and learn about the local lore of the Anangu people.
Places to Visit in Australia – Queensland
Image by: Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours
World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park (Pick-ups at Cairns, Beaches and Port Douglas) – This intimate tour allows you to not only learn about the Aborginal culture of the rainforest but also experience it. It’s a day full of excitement, learning, and fun. Some highlights include a smoking ceremony, mud crab hunting, a visit to your guide’s home to cook your catch, a lesson in ingenious art, and a swim in The Mossman Gorge.
Mossman Gorge Centre (A quick car ride from Port Douglas) – The Mossman Gorge Centre is managed by Aboriginal natives, Kuku Yalanji, whose natural history makes them perfect guides to the oldest rainforest in the world. Your guide will provide an entertaining narrative of the unique tropical environment while demonstrating traditional plant use, identifying bush food sources, and sharing their special relationship to the land. The Mossman Gorge Centre is a wonderfully pleasant way to enjoy the rainforest as you walk along a broad walk, swim in pristine water and cross the mighty gorge on a suspension bridge.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park (About 15 minutes from Cairns Airport) – Enjoy one of the most memorable dinner and shows in the world. This performance and tour truly takes you back in history and goes a long way to bring perspective to the culture’s 40,000 year history. The food is unexpected, abundant, tastefully prepared, and absolutely beautiful. There are plenty of opportunities for photos, fireside chats with the locals and a chance to take the stage and learn a traditional dance.
Places to Visit in Australia – Victoria
Image by: Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre (Melbourne) – The word Bunjilaka is a word created from two local Aborginal languages and means “creation place”. It is a place where Victoria’s indigenous communities can express their own history within the Melbourne Museum. It’s also a place where you can understand the aboriginal history of belonging to the land on the Yarra River, populated by the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung people before the first Europeans arrived.
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne – The award-winning walk through the Gardens is often described as one of the most interesting walks in the city. A local Aboriginal guide takes you on a journey through the traditional camping and meeting place the for Kulin nation. You’ll experience stories, culture, plant lore, tools and ceremony.
Image by: Koomal Dreaming
Ngilgi Cave (About 40 minutes north of Margaret River) – Not many American tourists make it out to Western Australia. If you do, it’s well worth your time to visit Wardandi and Bibbulman Country. You can experience this great landscape and the caves through the eyes of the traditional owners. Take a 3-hour private tour which includes a bush walk, a trip into the Ngilgi Cave where your Aboriginal guide will play the didgeridoo, and a live demonstration of spears and boomerangs. All of this will leave you with authentic insight into the indigenous way of life in historic Western Australia.
Australia’s landscape varies from sandy beaches to rocky cliffs, from the desert outback to tropical rainforests and within each landscape is a unique historic culture, whose Dreamtime stories are as varied as the country they inhabit. A trip to Australia isn’t complete without experiencing at least a few of these ancient and mysterious cultures.
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Are you looking to soak up the sun on warm, salty beaches or go “under the sea” for some incredible scuba diving? Australia lends itself to some of the best scuba diving in the world. With over 27,000 beaches and being home to the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef, it’s not surprising it’s a scuba divers and beach lover’s dream destination; the crystal clear waters are magnificently mysterious and provide out-of-this-world experiences. We have compiled a list of top Australia vacation spots, and the most popular and iconic beaches & dive locations; no matter your diving background, there are quintessential locations for everyone to explore.
Travel Tip: The seasons are reversed, making the weather in Australia different than the US.
The northeast region of Queensland yields the most diversity for travelers. Queensland is home to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Heron Island, Lizard Island and Brisbane, making it an ideal region for those looking to combine the best beaches, scuba diving, and a touch of urban culture.
The Great Barrier Reef is the most iconic scuba diving and snorkeling location in the world. The reef is surrounded by 900 islands and spans across 1,400 miles, roughly the size of 70 million football fields. You will come face-to-face with the world’s most unique and vibrant aquatic life.
- Heron Island, one of the reef’s luxury resorts, allows you to fully experience the tranquility of the reef and all of its wonders. The leisurely island experience focuses on exploring the beauty of nature and leaving the hectic outside world behind.
- Lizard Island, an exclusive Great Barrier Reef resort, accessible only by plane, is located directly on the reef. It is perfectly secluded from the world with private beaches you can unwind on and escape the “touristy” areas of the reef, as well as indulge in private, luxury spa treatments and 5-Star cuisine
True or False? Great White Sharks can be found on the Great Barrier Reef. FALSE. The reef’s waters are too warm and shallow for Great Whites; the most common shark found on the reef is a reef shark. These smaller sharks are extremely docile due to the warmer waters and the large amount of fish in the area, leaving you with nothing to worry about.
Cairns, the closest mainland entrance to the reef, is a tourism powerhouse with pristine beaches and an array of activities. PADI also rates Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef as sites for the World’s Best Big Animal Dives. In addition to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns also has the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest, where you can embark on an award winning Skyrail Cableway tour across the rainforest and national parks for the “world’s most beautiful rainforest experience.” You can choose from over 600 tours a day, including: guided reef walks, scenic helicopter flights, glass-bottom boat & submarine tours, beach adventures, and fishing & sailing.
- If you’re looking for a really authentic scuba dive experience, Cairns has various liveaboard divetrip operators that venture across the reef’s greatest dive spots for 2-7 days, where you can dive or snorkel between breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday.
Port Douglas & Cape Tribulation are the perfect mixture of beach and scuba diving. You are still close enough to the Great Barrier Reef to scuba dive at your leisure, but far enough away from everything where you can lay out on white, sandy beaches and relax without the hustle and bustle of an urban city. Cape Tribulation is the only place in the world where two Natural Wonders of the World meet – the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest.
Brisbane serves as a hub of Australian experiences for those with a short amount of time, and also provides easy access to the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast & Hinterland- breathtaking beaches, adventure theme parks, the Australia Zoo (home of the Crocodile Hunter) and incredible rainforests. While in Brisbane you can explore the South Bank Parklands – a great place to take the kiddos, lay out at Kodak Beach – Australia’s largest man-made inland beach/pool, ride a “River Cat” (ferry) across the rivers, and shop ‘til you drop at the Brisbane Mall.
Sydney, located in New South Wales, is Australia’s number one travel destination. It is worldly famous for the Sydney Harbor, the Sydney Opera House, and some of the highest rated beaches in the world; our two favorites include Manly Beach & Bondi Beach. The critically acclaimed beaches are the perfect sandy getaway with views that stretch as far as the eye can see, and offer world-class surfing, friendly locals, an incredible seafood.
Port Lincoln, also known as the “Sea Food Capitol of Australia,” sits along the shore of the Boston Bay in South Australia and is a thrill-seekers paradise. You will have the opportunity to swim with sea lions & tuna, go game fishing, or take the plunge, if you dare, and cage dive with Great White Sharks. Unwind after all of the excitement with some retail therapy at one of the countless boutiques, or dine in at one of the exquisite restaurants.
Kangaroo Island, another South Australian treasure, is home to the extremely unique leafy sea dragon which can ONLY be found in Australia; it is a scuba-divers dream to dive with something so rare and fascinating. In addition to Australia’s favorite land animals – kangaroos, sea lions, and koalas -all these remarkable creatures are what make Kangaroo Island special. You can marvel at these Aussie natives in their natural habitat and explore the wonderment that Kangaroo Island holds, above and below the water.
Ningaloo Reef is located along the coast of Western Australia, and is a World Heritage Listed site. You’re able to dive with whale sharks (seasonal), snorkel through incredible coral lagoons, and watch dolphins, manta rays and humpback whales migrate (seasonal). You can explore several different national parks as well as off-road through sand dunes – another great stop on an adventure travelers bucket-list.
Australia has over 27,000 beaches – that’s a new one to visit everyday for 27 years. We’ve made it easy on you and listed the top 5: White Haven Beach, Turqoise Bay, Cable Beach, Burleigh Heads Beach, and Manly Beach. For a full list of the best beaches in Australia click here.
Similarly, Australia has just as many fantastic dive and snorkel sites, the top 5 include: Cod Hole on the Great Barrier Reef, Flinders Reef, Fish Rock Cave, Lord Howe Island, and Ningaloo Reef.
Annual seasonal events among these locations include: turtle watching, whale watching, festivals & events, and birding which add a little bit of special Australian culture to your adventure. We can accommodate to include any of these seasonal events to personalize your trip even more.
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Australia is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world; no matter where you are, there is always something to do. The most common questions we hear are: “How big is Australia?” “When is the best time to travel to Australia?” & “What to do in Australia?”
Whether you’re planning your first trip, your second trip, or maybe even your eighth trip, there are two things you need to know before you embark on your journey ‘down under’; Australia is roughly the same size as the continental US & the seasons are reversed.
Spring: September – November
Summer: December – February
Autumn: March – May
Winter: June – August
Understanding those facts is a vital component in planning your dream getaway. The country is so large it has developed to cater to every interest, and we have compiled a list of the best Australia vacation spots to to make your vacation planning that much simpler. These destinations encompass the true spirit of Australia and are filled with incredible sights, riveting wildlife, fascinating cultural experiences & thrilling adventures. Each region has attributes that make it unique and special. To help you orientate yourself, we’ve provided a useful link to a map of Australia.
Queensland: North Eastern Australia
Cairns houses two “Natural Wonders of the World” – the Rainforest & Great Barrier Reef – making it one of the worldly famous best places to visit in Australia. Cairns is a great spot for adrenaline junkies, aquatic adventurers & wildlife enthusiasts, offering over 600 tours a day. It is the closest, and most convenient, mainland entrance to the Reef, giving you easy access to explore the ocean’s beauty. The World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest is the oldest living rainforest and is home to some of the most authentic aboriginal culture.
Brisbane is commonly known as the “river city” and is one of the fastest growing regions in Australia. With twelve months of sunshine, it is no surprise it is one of the top Australian vacation destinations – the quintessential location for year-round outdoor activities. There is a variety of leisurely or exciting river cruises & tours, in addition to: thrilling theme parks, national parks that are home to the rainforest, world renowned zoo’s & koala sanctuaries, and seasonal whale watching tours.
Gold Coast is Australia’s 5th most visited destination by international travelers, one of the best vacation spots in Australia. It is known as the “surfer’s paradise” due to the consistent waves year-round, with pristine beaches, gorgeous rainforests, and a nice mix of urban culture. The Gold Coast offers energetic theme parks, exquisite dining, and critically-acclaimed retailers with an upbeat nightlife to give you the perfect mix of entertainment & pleasure.
New South Wales: South Eastern Australia
Sydney is the most culturally diverse and heavily populated area in Australia. It is most commonly known for the iconic Sydney Opera House and gorgeous Sydney Harbor. In addition, there are a tremendous amount of delicious 5-Star restaurants, magnificent beaches, and attractions that makes travelers drawn to the area. The beauty of Sydney is that you can kick-back on the beach; stroll through contemporary art galleries, aquariums & botanical gardens; cruise the harbor and tour the Opera house, or indulge in some world class retail therapy.
Victoria: South Eastern Australia
Melbourne, a close second to Sydney in population size, has an enormous amount of indigenous culture that begs to be explored. The Arts Centre Melbourne displays the most incredible indigenous art, cultural events, and performing arts. After a day of exploring the gorgeous landscapes and eating at authentic cafes, take a drive on the Great Ocean Road along the coast to witness the grandeur of the Twelve Apostles and relax at the stunning beaches.
If you’re looking for a little adventure and a few days of exploration, take a drive from Melbourne to Adelaide foran extended “Great Ocean Road” coastal drive that allows you to fully capture the essence and beauty of the beaches and surrounding towns.
Ayers Rock (Uluru) is another one of Australia’s greatest treasures. The World Heritage Listed national parks, terrain, and aboriginal history is what makes this region a top Australian travel destination. Explore the culture, traditions, and landscapes while on a guided tour by a native Australian Aboriginal. The sunsets are breathtaking and can be best experienced in a hot air balloon or helicopter.
Adelaide, Australia’s food and wine city, is seamlessly vivacious and always has something going on. There are year-round events and festivals making it the perfect place to visit no matter the season. We suggest attending a sporting event or head to the wineries for tours and tastings, followed by an incredible dinner at one of the critically-acclaimed restaurants. There’s never a shortage of things to do.
If you’re looking for a more “off-the-beaten-path” type experience, we recommend Kangaroo Island for its well-known scenery, wildlife, and adventure. In addition to Kangaroo’s you will also discover Sea Lions and other native critters roaming the gorgeous beaches and national parks. To optimize the adventure, take a hike through a national park, kayak along the coast, or perhaps take a helicopter tour for a birds-eye-view of this wildlife oasis. Whichever you choose, you will certainly be dazzled by the charming nature and adventure on Kangaroo Island.
The essence and incredible culture of Australia can never be fully explained, it is something you just have to experience for yourself. Let us plan your personal itinerary today so you’re guaranteed to receive an experience catered to your interests and you don’t miss a minute of what Australia has to offer.
What Should I Do and See During my Australia Vacation?
One of the hardest aspects of planning a vacation is deciding which tours and attractions to select; especially in Australia where the options are seemingly endless! Australia is one of the most diverse countries in the world, along with one of the most popular destinations for tourists. With everything from world-class wine regions to stunning scenery to vibrant cities, the choices for what to see and do in each individual destination can become overwhelming. Don’t worry, About Australia is here to help!
We have summarized the best tours and attractions in all of Australia’s most popular cities to make planning your Australia vacation as simple as possible. We’ve also summarized all the best wine country experiences, rainforest adventures, and more. Whether you want to plan a luxury vacation to the Great Barrier Reef or a rugged vacation in the Outback – About Australia will help you discover the very best of your chosen destination. Browse our suggestions for What to do in Australia.
Most Popular Places:
Things to do in Sydney
Things to do in the Outback
Things to do on the Great Barrier Reef
Things to do in Melbourne
For even more help planning your Australia vacation, contact us, we’d love to help you!
Experience one of the most prestigious cultural celebrations in the world! The Sydney Festival, Jan 8 – Jan 26, 2015.
Every January, thousands of artists and entertainers from all over the world gather for the world-famous Sydney Festival. This event features over 400 performances, 140 events, and over 40 venues – each with their own diverse and unforgettable style. Festival-goers can immerse themselves in the culture of the historic city, while discovering both local and international talent.
Since it’s start in 1977, the Sydney Festival has grown into one of the biggest cultural celebrations in Australia. The festival offers a wide array of genres – including theater, dance, public art, and music. While enjoying the incredible performing arts acts, audience members can also sample the wide array of delicious local cuisine inside of Festival Village, conveniently located in the heart of Hyde Park. With many free and ticked events, people of all ages flock to Hyde Park to participate in the fun activities; free events include games, workshops, story telling, and much more; come experience it all!
If this event sounds like something that you can’t miss, we can coordinate all arrangements including flights, transfers, accommodation, event bookings, plus additional touring.
This once in a lifetime event will make your Australian vacation unforgettable!
For more info click here
Parkes Elvis Festival
Quick! Come to Australia to celebrate Elvis Presley’s 80th Birthday at Parkes Elvis Festival, 7-11 January 2015.
The King of Rock and Roll, the one and only Elvis Presley, is turning 80 on January 8th, and the Parkes Elvis Festival will be bigger than ever! Every year thousands of fans gather in Parkes to celebrate the life and music of Elvis Presley and to experience all the fun activities and events dedicated to the King. During the festival, there will be over 150 unique events including a Miss Priscilla look-a-like Competition, Elvis Street Parade, Cars of the Era show, Elvis Presley Look-a-like Contests, Tribute to Elvis competition, a Renewal of Vows Ceremony, and much more!
The annual festival is held in Parkes (aka the Elvis capital of Australia), a charming town located approximately 365 kilometers west of Sydney. Festival events are from Wednesday to Sunday and include non-stop entertainment. Over the last 20 years this event has grown from a one-night event for only a few hundred people to a five-day extravaganza with thousands of participants, and this year promises to be the best festival yet.
If this event sounds like something that you can’t miss, we can coordinate all arrangements including flights, transfers, accommodation, event bookings, plus additional touring.
This once in a lifetime event will make your Australian vacation unforgettable!
For more info click here!
So you’ve decided you want to have your next vacation in the South Pacific. Maybe Australia, New Zealand or Fiji, possibly even a combo. But you’re not quite sure how to start vacation planning? No worries! Here’s About Australia‘s low-down on where you should start & what you need to consider.
Step 1: Vacation Destination
Decide which country (or countries) you want to visit. Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papa New Guinea etc. Sounds like a simple decision right? Well, not always. If you’re struggling with this big decision, we’d be happy to offer some advice.
Step 2: Style of Travel
Work out what ‘style’ of vacation you want. The different styles of vacations are typically:
- Independent: This is the most common style of vacation. It’s where you and your companions travel following a pre-set itinerary, without a full-time guide. On some days you rest & relax, on other days you join various day tours and go sightseeing. Accommodation, flights & day tours are pre-planned and pre-booked giving you piece of mind as you travel. Some days of your trip are left ‘open’ for free-time allowing spontaneity. Meals are generally not included giving you full choice to eat what, when and where you like. Travel in luxury, on a tight budget or anywhere in between. Just let us know what you want, and we’ll help you customize your trip to suit your needs.
- Self-Drive: Is an “Independent” style of vacation that includes at least one road-trip (long or short) in a rental vehicle. For the road-trip you have a pre-set plan on where you’re going, but your plan can be as open and as flexible as you want, or conversely set-in-stone with all stops pre-planned & pre-booked. Ultimately it’s up to you. Everyone is different, so just let us know what you want and we’ll set-it up for you.
- Escorted Tours: These are all-inclusive fully guided group tours with the same tour guide & group of people being with you for the entire trip. It’s a great way to make new friends and travel knowing that everything is taken care of for you.
- Backpacker: Travel as cheaply as you can with as much flexibility as possible. Generally stay in hostels and fly on ‘standby’. Allows you to travel for longer periods of time and see a lot on a very limited budget.
Step 3: Sightseeing
Make a wish-list of things you’d like to ‘See’: wildlife, waterfalls, The Great Barrier Reef, volcanoes, glaciers, museums, art galleries, etc. We’ll use this list in step 5.
Step 4: Activities
Make a wish-list of things you’d like to ‘Do’: shopping, sight-see, wine-tasting, bird-watching, diving, rest/relax, cycle, walk, ski, etc. We’ll use this list in step 5.
Step 5: Set Vacation Travel Dates
Depending on your wish-lists (from Steps 3 & 4) you may be restricted to travel certain times of the year, especially if you want to partake in seasonal activities like snow skiing & fishing. Things to consider when selecting dates are:
- Climate & Seasons: make sure the climate, seasons, rainfall & water temperatures will be suitable for the places you want to visit and the activities you want to do. We’ve consolidated a lot of useful information for you on Australia here: Weather, Seasons and Climates in Australia
- Public & School Holidays: Check to see if your travel dates include public or school holidays. Some tours don’t operate on public holidays and if they do they may be crowded or even sold-out. Holiday periods are also typically more expensive due to higher demands (especially accommodation).
Checkout our tips on the Best Time to travel to Australia
- Airfare Pricing: Airlines typically price their fares based on ‘peak, shoulder or low’ seasons for travel. If you are budget conscious, try to avoid traveling during ‘peak’ periods of travel where pricing is typically more expense. Airfare Pricing Tips
Step 6: Places to Visit
Once you have a good feel for the types of things you want to ‘see & do’ on your vacation it makes it very easy for us to give you recommendations on cities, towns & places you should visit during your vacation. This is where we can help you a lot. With your unique wish-lists in mind, we’ll help you decide between different places by working through the pros & cons of each. Generally it’s quicker & easier for us to help you through this step via a phone call. Contact Us when you’re ready to chat.
Step 7: Accommodation
Next is selecting your vacation accommodation at each place that is best suited to you. We’re Experts at this and we’d love to help you make the right decision for your group. There are so many factors to consider when choosing the right place to stay, all the way down to the fine print in a Hotel’s Policy & Service Manual. By selecting a hotel with Policies & Services that work in your favor can sometimes save you a lot of money. (In one of my next blogs I’ll explain this in more detail, specifically what you should look for in their Policies & Services and how they can benefit you).
Step 8: Logistics & Routing
Now we need to work through the logistics & routing options to figure out the most cost-effective and time-efficient way to piece all the places in your itinerary together. At this point we need to plan ‘smart’ to maximize your time having fun, minimize time in-transit and get you the most ‘bang-for-your-buck’. For example, swapping two places around might help reduce your time-in-transit due to flight schedules. It may also save you money because it’s cheaper to pick-up a rental car in one location and drop-off in the other. We know the tricks!
Step 9: Vacation Design & Price
With all this information on hand, we can design your customized vacation with a no-obligation quote. This typically takes us 1 business day. After you’ve received the first draft we can easily ‘tweak it’ until we get it ‘just right’.
Step 10: Booking
Once your happy with your itinerary & the price, then you’re ready to Book Your Vacation
Request a Tailored Itinerary & Quote