Posted on: March 7th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
If you hate Mondays, just head to Cairns.
Here, every day of the week feels like the weekend.
Located in Australia’s far north Queensland, time is almost nonexistent in this tropical oasis of rain forest and reef.
Known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, people from all over the world travel to Cairns to see this extraordinary natural wonder.
But there’s so much more to explore in and around Cairns. Here’s our list of the top things to do in Cairns.
14 Things to Do in Cairns
1. See the Great Barrier Reef
Image: Tourism Australia
If you’re heading to Cairns, you’re heading to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s one of the top things to do in Cairns – no trip is complete without seeing the reef.
As the largest reef system in the world and one of its most precious natural assets, seeing the reef is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Cairns is the base for most excursions setting out to the reef, with options even for those who’d rather keep their feet on the ground.
Since the reef sits about 158 miles away in the ocean from Cairns, snorkeling cruises are the most popular way to see the reef. Non-swimmers can opt for tour operators that cruise out to a large pontoon by the reef, where underwater observatories, glass-bottom boats and semi-submersible vessels reveal the incredible underwater world of the reef all without dipping a toe in the water.
For the more adventurous, introductory scuba diving sessions are always on offer. Nothing beats seeing the vibrant colors of tropical fish, flitting in and out of breathtaking coral formations, up close on a dive.
Half the fun about visiting the Kuranda Rainforest Village is actually getting there.
Surrounded in the verdant rainforest of the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics, one of the best ways to get to Kuranda is riding the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
This scenic cable car ride lifts you up over this expansive rainforest system for an incredible 1.5 hour float above the Wet Tropics. Opt for a glass bottom cable car to see the millions of shades of green below you. Descend through canopy tops and stop at different stations offering boardwalk tours through the stunning rainforest and educational centers.
The village of Kuranda itself is a hub of local creatives who find inspiration in the rainforest and ancient culture of the Djabugay people belonging to this region. Markets featuring hand-made crafts, artisan goods and local produce line the village, perfect for finding a treasure to take back home.
From Kuranda you can explore the rainforest on self-guided walks, join a riverboat cruise and visit the Rainforestation Nature Park. Meet and cuddle a koala at the Koala Gardens, where you can also get up close to kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and other native Australian wildlife.
Change out furry marsupials for feathers and wings at the Butterfly Sanctuary and Birdworld, easily accessible from the Kuranda Heritage Markets.
End your visit with a ride back to Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This scenic train ride winds through the tropical rainforest over bridges and tunnels built by pioneers over 100 years ago. Dole out a little extra cash for gold class seats and receive complimentary morning or afternoon tea consisting of local delicacies, wines and lagers.
3. Discover Indigenous Australia at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Image: Adam Bruzzone
Learn about the world’s oldest living civilization at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
This award-winning park is one of Australia’s top destinations for learning about its indigenous culture through the eyes of the local Djabugay people.
Witness dreamtime stories about the creation of Earth come to life through performances, dances and breathtaking visual experiences.
Dancing is a large part of the Djabugay culture, so you can expect a hand pulling you up on stage and learning traditional dances and songs.
Join a bush food trail led by an Aboriginal guide and walk through the Tjapukai parklands, learning about the traditional uses of native plants.
Hear the sounds of native Australian animals come to life through the resounding notes of the didgeridoo. Learn about this unique instrument and its integral place in Aboriginal culture.
Kids will also love the spear and boomerang throwing. With something for everyone to enjoy, Tjapukai is not only one of the best things to do in Cairns with family but also one of the best ways to learn more about authentic Australia.
4. Explore the Daintree Rainforest
Image: Tropical North Queensland
Ready to meet a green dinosaur?
Just two hours north of Cairns is the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, where you’ll meet the green dinosaur, dating back up to 120 million years.
Although this species isn’t an actual dinosaur, once you step into the Daintree Rainforest you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
And you’d be right to feel so – the Daintree Rainforest is part of the oldest rainforest system in the world, even older than the Amazon!
The green dinosaur is one of many unique plants that make up the natural wonders of the rainforest. Explore the many walkways and viewing platforms stretching out from the Daintree Discovery Center, where you can learn about the origins of this ancient rainforest.
Join a cruise on the Daintree River and spot native wildlife such as saltwater crocodiles and bright cassowaries. You can even zip-line through the verdant canopies and take in the stunning views over the endless shades of green and cascading streams below you.
Our favorite way to explore the rainforest is on tours led by Aboriginal Kuku Yalanji guides, native to the Daintree region. As traditional caretakers of the land, they offer historical and cultural insight into the way their people used the rainforest for food, medicine and shelter for over 9,000 years. They’ll lead you through hidden streams and spots inaccessible to the general public, giving you a truly unique experience of the world’s oldest rainforest.
Don’t miss out on Cape Tribulation, a spectacular bay where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the only place in the world where to World Heritage-listed sites collide!
5. Relax at the Cairns Esplanade
Image: Tourism & Events Queensland/ Andrew Watson
Worried about stingers in the ocean?
No worries, just head to the Cairns Esplanade.
Located in the center of town right along the water’s edge, relaxing at the Esplanade is one of the best things to do in Cairns to cool off from the tropical heat.
The esplanade’s tremendously large man-made lagoon offers a beautiful spot for a safe swim in place of a beach. A sandy shore dips into crystal clear waters, dotted with splashing fountains and patrolled by lifeguards during the day.
A boardwalk runs along the esplanade, right by the pool, perfect for a walk or jog by the water. Grassy parkland surrounds the lagoon, with shady spots to lay out a picnic or enjoy local bands play live music.
Free fitness classes also run throughout the week, ranging from aqua aerobics in the lagoon to yoga and pilates. If you’re in Cairns on a Saturday check out the Esplanade markets for locally made arts and crafts.
6. Roam the Cairns Botanic Gardens
Image: Friends of Botanic Gardens Cairns
For a small taste of tropical rainforest right in the city, visit the Cairns Botanic Gardens.
Here you can explore exotic plants from tropical regions across the world, including plants from the jungles of South East Asia, South America and Queensland. These unique plants can be found in the Flecker Botanic Gardens, a conservatory highlighting some of the rarest tropical plants in the world.
Get a glimpse of what Cairns once looked like on the Rainforest Boardwalk, winding through a lush patch of rainforest ecosystem, home to endangered species of the region.
Stroll through the Fitzalan Gardens, a picturesque section connecting three separate gardens by paths and footbridges crossing through giant palms and ancient trees. There’s always a secluded nook or cranny here to hideaway and relax in the tranquility of the gardens.
Explore the journey of plant evolution at the Gondwana Heritage Garden. Its main trail traces through the evolution of plants from the very first bacteria that developed into the flowering plants we see today.
Walk around the freshwater and saltwater lakes in the gardens, where you can spot native birds, frogs and turtles or bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds.
As one of the more tranquil things to do in Cairns, visiting the gardens makes for a perfect half-day activity.
7. Discover Treasures at the Markets
Image: Tourism & Events Queensland/ Andrew Watson
What better place to get fresh produce than in the tropics?
At Rusty’s Market in Cairns, the local fruits and vegetables on offer are practically straight from the tree.
Here you can find arguably the best tropical produce in all Australia. You’ll catch the fragrant aroma of the market before you see it. Fruit and veggie lovers will find a wide variety of produce from avocados and mangoes to banana blossom, taro and cassava. You can also find boutiques selling hand-made jewelry, crafts and clothing, perfect for a souvenir.
Take a break from shopping and pick up a snack at one of the many stalls featuring local sellers. Some of the best Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches are found here. If you’re in Cairns for a few days, Rusty’s is the perfect place to pick up some ingredients for preparing fresh meals at your accommodation. The market is open during the day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
If you’re more of a night owl, then head to the Cairns Night Markets, open from 4pm – 10pm every day of the week. These lively markets offer an almost overwhelming variety of Australian souvenirs, t-shirts, custom-made jewelry and other trinkets. Grab anything from Asian cuisine to fresh Australian seafood at the food court for dinner. You’ll want to find a dessert at one of the stalls offering Australian snacks such as kangaroo and emu jerky or gelato.
This wildlife park combines a natural rainforest ecosystem with a challenging ropes course all in one attraction.
Don’t let the size of the park fool you. Though it’s not as large as other wildlife parks throughout Australia, its intimacy allows for personal wildlife encounters you won’t find in other places. The knowledgeable and passionate staff present informative talks on the wildlife, including snakes, lizards, birds, and Goliath, the gigantic saltwater crocodile. You can even pose for a picture while cuddling a koala – a bucket list photo op!
However, the main highlight of Cairns Zoom is its myriad of obstacles courses throughout the complex. Test your balance on the Slackline tightrope walk and cross above trees and tropical rainforest foliage or climb the Pirate Climb rope net to the top of the Power Jump.
Kids will love the Hi-Zoom obstacle course with its challenging wall climbs, tunnels, rope swings and zip lines. Just one look at it and the little ones will dash straight in line. Though a turn at the course is an extra cost, the reward of completing it like a champion is worth every dime.
9. See Tropical Marine Life at the Cairns Aquarium
Image: Cairns Aquarium
Stepping into the Cairns Aquarium is like stepping through the depths of the ocean. The range of aquatic life you’ll see here is even better than what a diver sees.
The Cairns Aquarium highlights the incredibly diverse marine life native to the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef. As the oldest rainforest in the world and the world’s largest reef formation, the marine life from these two World Heritage sites is absolutely unreal.
The aquarium recreates over 10 different habitats encompassing these delicate ecosystems, creating a natural home for a variety of marine life. See the brilliant colors of unique crayfish and giant prawns of the Creek and Streams exhibit. Catch a glimpse of the some of the world’s most bizarre fish, the Freshwater Sawfish, in the Waterways and Billabongs exhibit. There are even exhibits showcasing snakes, lizards and frogs from the tropical rainforests as well as exotic insects and spiders.
One of the main attractions is the Great Barrier Reef Gallery, showcasing the colorful reefs, coral and tropical fish that call this natural wonder home. You can also interact with starfish, sea cucumbers and lizards at the Touch Tanks.
The aquarium also offers presentations to give you a deeper understanding of the marine life on display. It’s one of the best things to do in Cairns on a rainy day, or a perfect substitute for a Great Barrier Reef.
Located less than an hour’s drive away from Cairns, Hartley’s is the perfect day trip for young families.
The park is made up of four different habitats showcasing different wildlife. Meet the beautiful flightless cassowary at the Cassowary Garden on a boarded walk through lush eucalyptus trees rising out of lily padded wetlands. See alligators, lizards and turtles on the Wildlife Discovery Trail, winding into the wildlife amphitheater where the Snake Show and famous Crocodile Attack Show highlight the day.
You can also meet other native Australia wildlife such as wombats, koalas and kangaroos at the Gondwana Gateway section of the park, where you’ll learn how evolution shaped Australia’s unique animals. Don’t miss out on the koala feeding to see these sleepy creatures in action!
The absolute highlight of Hartley’s is the lagoon boat cruise. Embark on a journey through Hartley’s Lagoon, gliding along side enormous crocodiles right in the water! All of nineteen crocs laze in the water, enjoying their natural wetland habitat. Cruising into the lagoon gives visitors an impressive insight into crocodile behavior just as they would act in the wild.
11. Soak Up the Sun in Northern Beaches
Palm Cove Beach
Cairns is not the place to go for the beach. In fact, there is no beach in Cairns.
But don’t cross Cairns off your list just yet. There are so many incredible beaches not even an hour away from Cairns. You’ll have the perfect beach day yet.
Just 20 minutes north of Cairns lies Trinity Beach, a favorite with the locals. The gentle rolling waves, soft golden sand and extremely laid back ambience will have you instantly rolling out your towel and laying out in the sun. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the summer months and a net is cast out during stinger season to keep out unwanted jellyfish. Barbecue areas nestled within the surrounding palm trees are perfect for a picnic out at the beach.
Palm Cove is also a popular respite from the hustle and bustle of Cairns. Only 30 minutes away, Palm Cove is surrounded by a boutique beach town with an array of upscale resorts and classy bars and restaurants for an intimate night out. The beach itself is fringed with palm tress rising high with a gentle lean into the serene, blue waters. A pier juts out into the sea, offering a boarded walk above the sea foam and spray of the fresh ocean breeze.
Yorkey’s Knob, about 20 minutes away from Cairns, is for the adventurers. It’s popular for water sports such as jet skiing, kite surfing and wind surfing. An onsite kite center offers rental gear and introduction courses on kite surfing.
12. Go White Water Rafting
White Water Rafting the Tully River
Wet and wild in Cairns means rafts and oars.
The raging rapids of the Tully River, about two hours from Cairns, offers some of the best white water rafting in all Australia.
Thrill seekers can join extreme white water rafting tours where raft flips, swimming the rapids and jumping from high rocks is not only allowed, but encouraged!
Less risky rafting with the right amount of torrents is also available for beginners.
For easier grade 2-3 guided rafting, the Barron River is the perfect rafting spot. Only 20 minutes away from Cairns, joining a half day rafting tour gives you the excitement of white water rafting while still leaving time to enjoy the rest of your day.
One of our favorite tours transports you right from your hotel in Cairns to the river of your choice for a guided rafting experience. Experience one of the best things to do in Cairns and ask your About Australia destination specialist about booking this adventure for you.
13. Skydive Over the Great Barrier Reef
Skydiving over Cairns
You don’t really hear about people proclaiming “that was awful!” after landing from a skydive. Usually it’s more incredulous laughter, an indescribable sense of accomplishment and an adrenaline rush that makes you feel like you can do anything.
Sounds like the thrill of a lifetime!
What better way to tick this adventure off your bucket list than over the most incredible natural formation in the world?
If you’ve never been skydiving before, this is the perfect place to give it a go. Any fear and nerves you’ll feel will blend in with the exhilaration of the jaw-dropping views around you.
Take in the vast, aquamarine ocean as you plummet towards the turquoise stretch of coral-framed reef. The tropical rainforests of Queensland are spread out before your eyes, and you’ll descend onto a perfect beach landing.
Tandem skydiving – where you jump off a plane attached to a certified skydiver – is the most popular form of skydiving in Cairns. Booking this in advance is essential – skydiving in Cairns tends to sell out fast!
14. Try Your Luck at the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
Image: Reef Hotel Casino Cairns
The Pullman Reef Hotel is more than just a hotel – it’s a Cairns icon.
Taking up an entire block, this 5-star hotel houses a fabulous casino, world class restaurants, live music, and the Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome.
Perhaps the best part about the casino is its rather intimate environment. With poker tables, pool tables, electronic darts, gaming machines and movie screenings on offer, there’s something for everyone.
Unwind at the electronic gaming machines and order a drink from BAR36, personally delivered to you. Join one of the gaming tables – the friendly staff are more than welcoming to new players.
Looking for More Thing to Do in Cairns?
As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest, Cairns is Australia’s tropical paradise.
About Australia knows the best hidden gems and things to do in Cairns to perfectly fit into your Australia trip.
Want to get started on planning your vacation Down Under? Contact About Australia today to get the wheels in motion for the trip of a lifetime!
Here’s our list of the top 8 free things to do in the Gold Coast.
1. Feed the Lorikeets at Currumbin National Park
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Become part of an old Gold Coast tradition and feed the colorful lorikeets at Currumbin National Park. These native Australian birds delight visitors with their incredible flying skills and friendly nature, often landing on heads and outstretched arms.
This famous wildlife sanctuary started when founder Alex Griffiths began feeding wild lorikeets to prevent them from damaging his gardens. These bright, colorful birds, coated in green, purple, red and yellow feathers, attracted local curiosity and soon developed into an essential Gold Coast attraction. The park is now home to numerous animals including native Australian wildlife and exotic animals from around the world.
Though there is an entrance fee to the park, the lorikeet feedings are free to attend. For a small donation fee you can personally feed the birds with a plate of nectar – quickly covered in the dazzling colors of the hungry lorikeets! Feeding times are every day at 8am and 4pm.
2. Cycle the Gold Coast Oceanway
Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland
Get some fresh coastal air with stunning beach views on the Gold Coast Oceanway. This 22 mile coastal route is actually a network of different paths along Gold Coast’s best beaches and parks. You’ll find locals and visitors alike exploring the Oceanway by bike or foot. For true beach vibes, try the Oceanway by skates!
The Gold Coast Oceanway stretches from the Gold Coast Seaway at the northern end of Main Beach to Point Danger headland, at the border between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. You can easily spend a whole day walking the full route, dipping into different beaches and grabbing a bite to eat at tasty fish and chip shops along the way.
Staying in Surfers Paradise? Pack a picnic, swimsuits and sunscreen and take on the Surfers Paradise section of the Oceanway. A popular route is walking from Surfers Paradise to Burleigh Heads. The contrast between the glamorous high rises in Surfers Paradise Beach to the turquoise waters and green parklands of Burleigh Heads Beach is a breathtaking sight to behold.
3. Hit Up Gold Coast’s Boundless Beaches
Photo: Tourism Australia & Tourism and Events Queensland
Australia is famous for its radiant beaches, and Gold Coast is the perfect destination to soak up some sun. With over twenty beaches stretched across 35 miles of pristine coastland, you can visit a different beach each day. Here are our favorite Gold Coast Beaches:
Main Beach – Looking for the perfect spot to roll out your towel and just chill? Main Beach is the Gold Coast go-to for relaxed beach vibes. Patrolled by lifeguards and with a range of cafes, restaurants and shops just steps from the beach, Main Beach is also one of the best Gold Coast beaches for families.
Surfers Paradise Beach – Surfers Paradise Beach has all the glamor of a Hollywood beach movie set and the natural beauty to put Instagram filters to shame. This popular beach sits right at the hub of Gold Coast’s main attractions and entertainment, drawing crowds of beachgoers. Its excellent swimming conditions and array of beachside shopping, dining and nightlife make it a favorite among travelers.
Burleigh Heads Beach – There’s no better place to try your hand at surfing than at Burleigh Heads Beach. This is a popular surfing destination due to its excellent surf break, perfect even for bodyboarding and swimming. Its wide, shady parklands are hotspots for barbeques and picnics, or simply for cool shade from the Gold Coast sun.
Coolangatta Beach – This north-facing beach offers sheltered conditions with crystal clear emerald waters perfect for swimming and sunbathing. Clean and well-equipped barbecues are placed along the shore for a beachside grill and bright cafes just across the road offer delectable menus. The view from Coolangatta Beach towards the Gold Coast skyline is simply breathtaking.
4. Explore Gold Coast’s National Parks
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Head to the Gold Coast hinterland for rainforest national parks, sparkling waterfalls and fantastic walking trails. These are our favorite Gold Coast hinterland spots:
Springbrook National Park – Just an hour’s drive away from the hustle and bustle of Gold Coast is Springbrook National Park, a hidden paradise of moss-laden rainforests and refreshing cascades. The crown jewel of the park is the Natural Bridge, a stunning rock formation formed by the force of the waterfall over an erosive cave. Keep an eye out for kangaroos and wallabies while exploring the winding trails!
Lamington National Park – Threaded with walking trails through lush rainforest and waterfalls, Lamington National Park is heaven for nature lovers. The park is part of the Gondwana rainforest system, the oldest living rainforest in the world. Walk the Binna Burra Rainforest Circuit or the Bellbird Lookout track, both strewn with scenic lookouts, tumbling waterfalls and creeks. See the rainforest from above with a Tree Top Walk at the Green Mountains Section of the park.
Burleigh Head National Park – Rainforest meets sea at Burleigh Head National Park, where you can walk along a rocky foreshore through mangroves, grasslands, coastal heath and even among Australian brush turkeys and water dragons. Visit in spring to for the chance to see whales!
Tamborine National Park – Can’t get enough of rockpools and waterfalls? Explore the phenomenal waterfalls of Tamborine National Park, just an hour’s drive away from Gold Coast. Complete with walking trails through lush rainforest and cliff-jumping into the cool waters, this park is the perfect respite for when you’re completely beached out.
5. Discover Treasures at Local Markets
Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets
Markets are a fantastic way of immersing yourself in a city’s local vibe. Gold Coast loves to support its local food vendors, artists and craftspeople with an array of markets. You’ll find everything from fresh produce, creative art pieces, handcrafted clothes, vintage items and even home-brewed beer! Do Gold Coast like a local and check out these markets:
Miami Marketta – One of the best things to do in Gold Coast on the weekend is checking out Miami Marketta, a local favorite of street food, live music and flowing drinks. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night, Gold Coast’s Miami neighborhood transforms a large warehouse into a foodie’s paradise, with vendors serving up mouthwatering eats from around the world. You’ll find everything from slow cooked brisket to Spanish paella to Vietnamese bao sandwiches, as well as a stall with over 90 different gins to choose from! Free samples and live music complete everything you need for a great night out.
Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets – Wind your day down with a browse at the stalls of handmade crafts and uniquely Australian products at the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets. These markets pop up every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night along the beach esplanade, featuring over 100 different stalls. Find unique souvenirs, onsite artists, boutiques, jewelry, and even a stall where you can take pictures while holding a macaw!
The Village Markets – Bohemian vibes and fashionable finds dominate the Village Markets of Burleigh Heads. Chic stalls focusing on boutique fashion, lifestyle products and delicious eats make this one of the Gold Coast’s best local markets. Explore racks of vintage clothes, handcrafted furniture, creative jewelry and designer clothing from local, burgeoning brands. The Village Markets are open on the first and third Sunday of each month from 8:30am to 1pm.
Marina Mirage Farmers Market – Get your Gold Coast weekend started with a trip to the Marina Mirage Farmers Market for fresh organic produce. Open every Saturday from 7am to 12pm, this farmers market showcases the Gold Coast’s finest seasonal fruits and vegetables, gourmet artisan delicacies, freshly baked pastries and organic products. Pick up something healthy to create a meal back at your Gold Coast accommodation!
6. Stroll the Gold Coast Botanic Gardens
Photo: Friends of the Gold Coast Botanic Gardens
If you’re looking for non touristy things to do in the Gold Coast, check out the Botanic Gardens. This collection of gardens showcases the unique plants found in this hotspot of biodiversity. Almost every aspect of the gardens incorporates stories of the Aboriginal people native to the region.
Easy walking paths and timber bridges cross the gardens, perfect for a quiet stroll. The Kaialgumm Games Trail takes you to six sites where you can use a QR reader from your smart phone or tablet to learn about traditional indigenous games and how to play them.
Wander through the Mangroves to Mountains section of the gardens, linked by several different pathways, to see thriving endemic vegetation. The Montane Rockery also features native species, found on the mountains and escarpments of South East Queensland’s most extreme environments.
For more traditional gardens, the Rose Garden offers delightful blooms of various roses suited to the local climate. Kids will love the playground, a local favorite for birthday parties. Don’t skip the Sensory Garden, where you can get your hands on a range of plants to touch and sniff.
7. Catch a Local Festival
Blues on Broadbeach Festival
The best time to travel to the Gold Coast is always during a festival. From jazz music to sculptures to surfing competitions, the free festivals in the Gold Coast hold something for everyone. Here are some fantastic festivals to plan around your Gold Coast visit:
Surfers Paradise LIVE – This four-day music festival is held on the Surfers Paradise beachfront, showcasing a great lineup of iconic Australian musicians. As night falls, musicians take the stage and fill the Gold Coast nights with electric vibes and incredible shows. Surfers Paradise LIVE usually runs on the first weekend of May.
Blues on Broadbeach – Not only is Blues on Broadbeach regarded as one of Australia’s best blues and soul music festival, but it’s also one of the largest free festivals in the world! International artists and talented acts from all over Australia gather for four days of amazing performances. Visit the Gold Coast in mid-May to catch Blues on Broadbeach.
Swell Sculpture Festival -If you’re visiting the Gold Coast in September, catch the Swell Sculpture Festival at Currumbin Beach. Art installations and sculptures by local and international artists transform the beach into an outdoor gallery, free for all to enjoy. Nothing makes a walk along the beach better than stunning art works set against the backdrop of the Gold Coast skyline.
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast – Want to see how pros take on the waves? Catch the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast surfing competition in early April to see the world’s best surfers ride the barreling waves of Snapper Rocks at Rainbow Bay.
8. Spot Whales from the Shore
Mick Schamburg Park Lookout. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
The Gold Coast has many excellent lookout points where you can spot humpback whales swimming close to shore. Though whale watching season in Australia runs from May to November, your best chance of spotting whales in the Gold Coast is between June and October.
Head to Point Danger Lookout for fantastic views across the ocean. Complete with public binoculars, this is one of the best spots in the Gold Coast to see whales for free!
Just north of Point Danger Lookout and along Rainbow Bay is Kirra Hill Lookout. This beautiful spot offers incredible panoramic views of the ocean and across to the high rise coastline Surfers Paradise. Pack a picnic lunch and relax on the sheltered tables and benches on your whale watching break.
Tumgun Lookout in Burleigh Head National Park is one of the more popular spots for whale watching in the Gold Coast. Make a day of exploring the park’s fantastic walks while keeping an eye out for the telling mist of whale water spouts.
Mick Schamburg Park in the Miami neighborhood of the Gold Coast is one of the locals’ hidden gems. Climb to the lookout for commanding views across Surfers Paradise and uninterrupted views across the ocean. This is one of the best spots for whale watching during the season.
Add These Free Things to Do in the Gold Coast to Your Visit!
Gold Coast is no doubt one of Australia’s best destinations for endless beach days and fun in the sun. Combined with its rich hinterland and love of all things local, the hidden gems of free things to do in the Gold Coast offer spectacular experiences for any kind of traveler.
We hope your visit to the Gold Coast is full of unforgettable memories of fresh coastal air and warm sunshine!
Posted on: February 16th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
How do the experts of About Australia know so much about this vast country?
They see it for themselves!
Our Product and Sales Manager, Melanie, recently returned from a whirlwind adventure in Western Australia as part of her trip to the annual Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) in Perth.
ATE allows travel agents and tourism companies like About Australia to meet directly with Australia’s finest tourism businesses, hotel managers and tour operators.
But there’s no better way to ensure the experiences we include in our vacation packages are the best than by testing them out!
Check out Melanie’s incredible adventures in Western Australia. Perhaps you’ll find something new to add to your Australia bucket list!
Perth, the Capital of Western Australia
Elizabeth Quay, Perth. Photo: Tourism Australia
Perth is rapidly becoming a must-see destination for foodie, art, and beach lovers.
One of the best ways to experience Perth is through its local food and drink scene. For one week in April, the annual Perth Noodle Markets awaken the city nights with sizzling stalls of signature Asian and noodle dishes.
For a breath of fresh air, Kings Park and Botanic Garden is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. With over 988 acres of tranquil parklands, Kings Park is one of the biggest parks in the world – bigger than Central Park in New York City!
Melanie explored the many walking tracks strewn across the park, including the formidable Jacob’s Ladder. This twisting staircase is popular with locals and tourists alike, running up and down its 242 spiraling steps.
Making New Friends in Rottnest Island
Perth is also the perfect base for many of Western Australia’s coastal adventures. Rottnest Island, a haven of white sand beaches and amazing wildlife, is just an hour and a half away by ferry.
With no paved roads to disrupt its natural beauty, the island is a popular destination for sunny beach days. The best way to explore its beaches, lakes, snorkeling sites and lighthouses is by bike.
But perhaps the best way to experience the island is by meeting the locals! Rottnest Island is famous for its quokkas, absolutely adorable creatures that roam the island. Their curious smiles have earned them the title of “The Happiest Animal on Earth.” Quokkas are only found on Rottnest Island, drawing visitors from around the world on a quest to capture the iconic “Quokka selfie.”
Melanie befriended a curious quokka on her Rottnest Island adventure – even posed with her for a couple of photos!
Glamping at Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef Safari Camp
There’s nothing better than surrounding yourself in extraordinary landscapes, and Sal Salis does exactly that. This incredible eco-resort puts you right on the beachfront of Western Australia’s gorgeous white sand beaches in Cape Range National Park.
This luxury camping experience allows you to totally disconnect from the world and unwind in a magical setting. The open bar and exquisite three-course meals set against uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean also help!
Guided wilderness activities such as snorkeling on Ningaloo Reef, kayaking and walks among the red terrain of Cape Range National Park are also included. During her stay, Melanie’s group walked through a secluded gorge to spot elusive black-footed wallabies, and even saw a few dingoes.
Waking up to the sounds of wallaroos thumping by and the gentle waves of the beach were some of Melanie’s highlights during her stay.
Swimming with Whale Sharks at Exmouth
Another highlight destination in Western Australia is Exmouth. This port town is known as the gateway to Ningaloo Reef, with natural beauty rivaling the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s also famous for swimming with whale sharks! Despite their name, whale sharks are actually fish – the world’s biggest fish, in fact. As filter feeders, whale sharks pose no threat to humans. The best time to swim with whale sharks is between April and July.
Melanie joined a whale shark swimming and snorkeling expedition out on Ningaloo Reef, and even saw sea turtles and a hammerhead shark! Check out her video of swimming with whale sharks.
Sailing Ningaloo Reef and Coral Bay
Undeniably, the best way to explore Ningaloo Reef and the sparkling coasts of Western Australia is by catamaran.
Sailing tours allow you to see and explore hidden gems no one else can see. Melanie enjoyed a luxury sailing expedition across the turquoise waters of Ningaloo Reef, complete with fine Western Australian wines and dishes featuring local produce.
On her sailing expedition, Melanie soaked up the sun at the best Western Australia beaches of Coral Bay, named due to the breathtaking coral gardens beneath its waters. The group also witnessed a ‘shark cleaning station’ where dozens of gray reef sharks swam below them.
This sailing expedition also offers liveaboard trips for those who want a unique experience staying overnight on a luxury catamaran. Ask an About Australia Destination Specialist about adding this experience to your trip!
Want to See Western Australia?
U.S. travelers are just now beginning to discover all Western Australia has to offer.
White sand beaches with crystal clear waters and no international crowds? Check. Unique wildlife experiences both on land and under the sea? You bet.
And if you want to explore world-class cities or get lost in untouched bush wilderness, Western Australia is the perfect destination.
Let your wanderlust take you to Western Australia – we’ll guide you with the must-see’s and do’s along the way.
Posted on: February 13th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Cairns is all about tropical vibes. Suits and ties are exchanged for shorts and sunglasses. Days feel like the carefree, relaxed summers of your childhood and nights instantly put you into holiday mode.
As gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics – the oldest rainforest system in the world – your visit to Cairns will no doubt be a busy one.
But if you’re looking for other things to do in Cairns, we’ve gathered a list of local must-see gems. Here’s our list of 7 favorite free things to do in Cairns.
7 Free Things to Do in Cairns
1. Spend a Day at the Cairns Esplanade
Some people prefer the beach, others prefer the pool.
At the Cairns Esplanade, you get the best of both worlds.
This local landmark combines a large man-made lagoon with a small sandy shore, so you get the feel of a beach at the pool. The crystal clear waters offer a fresh respite from the tropical heat, along with shaded areas to help keep you cool. Lifeguards patrol the lagoon during the day.
A lush, green park surrounds the lagoon, with soft grass perfect for laying out and sunbathing or enjoying a picnic lunch. The park also features picnic benches and BBQ grills free to use, but be sure to get in early to snag a bench!
If you’re in Cairns during the weekend, you can enjoy live bands play in the park from 2pm – 5pm. Feeling a bit more active? Take to the wide boardwalk surrounding the lagoon, equipped with free fitness equipment and a playground for the kids. Continue on to Muddy’s Playground, a small splash park perfect for younger children.
The Esplanade also offers free fitness classes throughout the week, ranging from aqua aerobics in the lagoon to yoga and pilates.
Swimming, grilling, workouts and music – there’s something for everyone at the Esplanade. The best part is it’s all free!
2. Browse the Markets
Rusty’s Market. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland / Andrew Watson
Cairns is famous for its local markets, with Rusty’s Market as the main attraction.
Rusty’s Market is known to draw in visitors from out of town for the freshest produce in Queensland. Early risers are rewarded, too – open only from Friday to Sunday, Rusty’s begins from 5am to 6pm. Fruits and vegetables are freshly gathered in the morning then carted off to the market, making it all truly farm-to-table.
You’ll find everything from mangoes, durians and leafy greens to tropical nuts, lychees and pineapples. Many local vendors also sell their wares at Rusty’s, such as turmeric products, hand made natural soaps and lotions, pastries, and knits.
In the evening you’ll want to hit up the Cairns Night Markets, a mecca of creative sweet treats and Australian souvenirs. Open from 5pm to 11pm every day of the week, browsing the night markets is a great way to spend your free evenings.
With an incredible array of souvenirs, here is where you should do your souvenir shopping. You’ll find staples such as T-shirts, fridge magnets and key chains along with more unique items such as indigenous Australian art, koala dream catchers, and even a stall where you can get a fish pedicure!
If you’re craving something sweet, choose from fish-shaped cream puffs, waffle desserts on a stick, churros served with ice cream or crepes. That doesn’t even touch the full list of sweet treats you’ll find at the Night Markets’ food court, where you’ll also find an array of Asian cuisine sure to get your mouth watering.
3. Explore the Cairns Botanic Gardens
Rainforest Boardwalk, Cairns Botanic Gardens
Get a taste of the rainforest at the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Located near the center of the city, the gardens and its walking paths offer a tranquil escape from the bustling city.
Open every day from 7:30am to 5:30pm, you can enjoy a quiet stroll through its unique gardens, each vastly different from the next. The Watkins Munroe Martin Conservatory houses some of the gardens’ most valuable and rarest plants along with a collection of local butterflies. Step inside and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into a bubble of rainforest.
Take to the Rainforest Boardwalk, winding through an ecosystem of tropical palm trees towering over a floor of green ferns. Discover the tropical fruit trees and vegetables of the grounds surrounding the Saltwater Lake, or look out for native birds while you enjoy a picnic by the gardens’ Freshwater Lake.
The Gondwana Heritage Garden displays Australia’s unique flora tracing back from the beginning stages of evolution of its native plants. You’ll find species of plants that were among the first flowering plants in the world.
You can also explore a collection of local plants used by the indigenous people of the region for over 40,000 years at the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden. See a Chinese-style garden at the Zhanjiang Friendship Garden, a perfect spot to stop and take in the tranquility of the gardens.
Join a free guided tour every day beginning at 10am for deeper insight into the gardens, or simply spend a quite afternoon.
4. Visit the Cairns Art Gallery
Cairns Art Gallery
Once you get past the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics – the undisputed stars of Cairns – you’ll get to see the hidden gems the city has to offer.
The Cairns Art Gallery, just a block away from the Cairns Esplanade, is a small but elegant gallery showcasing local, contemporary and indigenous art.
The gallery is comprised of three levels in a heritage building, beautifully styled in classical-inspired architecture. Each level is dedicated to carefully curated pieces and rotating exhibitions featuring everything from photo collections, installations, thought-provoking modern art and Aboriginal artifacts.
After exploring the gallery, pop in to Perrotta’s, the on-site cafe serving up delicious coffee, tasty breakfast options and zesty lunch and dinner menus. Outside seating underneath a shaded verandah creates the perfect ambience for al fresco dining.
The gallery shop offers a great range of specialty gifts, jewelry, books and toys inspired by the in-house exhibitions and collections. You’ll also see pieces from local artists on sale, a perfect memento of your visit to the gallery.
5. Relax at the Northern Beaches
Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
Nothing beats a day at the beach, especially in the sun-kissed beaches of Australia.
However, Cairns has no beaches. At least, not within the city itself.
Travel 20 minutes north of Cairns and you’ll come across what are known as the Northern Beaches. The closest and a consistent favorite beach is Trinity Beach, where gentle waves, soft golden sand and its relaxed ambience make it perfect for rolling out a towel and soaking up the sun. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the summer season, and a net keeps out jellyfish during stinger season so you can enjoy a swim.
Palm Cove is another favorite only 30 minutes away. This is the sort of beach you see on the covers of travel magazines, with its serene, blue waters, soft sand and splendid sunsets framed by relaxed palms. A pier juts out into the sea, offering a boarded walk above the sea foam and spray of the fresh ocean breeze.
Yorkey’s Knob is for the adventurers, popular for water sports such as jet skiing, kite surfing and wind surfing. Only 20 minutes away from Cairns, this is the place for an adventurous beach day trying your hand at extreme water sports. If you’re interested in giving kite surfing a go, an onsite kite center offers rental gear and introduction courses.
6. Discover Local Waterfalls and Swimming Holes
Swimming at Crystal Cascades. Image: Tourism & Events Queensland / Andrew Watson
There’s a local secret to staying cool during the hot Cairns summer – swimming holes and waterfalls.
In fact, many locals completely skip the beach and head straight to these hidden gems for a cool, refreshing swim. Surrounded by lush, shady rainforest, these natural rock pools and waterfalls are hidden tropical oases only minutes from Cairns.
The Crystal Cascades is a popular spot due to its close proximity to Cairns (only 15 – 20 minutes away) and its several different rock pool. Water cascades down a mountain rising out of the rainforest, creating many spectacular waterfalls splashing into the refreshing pools. Small streams running over collections of smoothed rock create natural water slides, just be careful to watch out for people before you slide down! This spot is easily accessible from a carpark, with barbecue and toilet facilities available.
Stoney Creek Falls, located 20 minutes from Cairns, is hidden beneath the pristine wilderness of Barron Gorge National Park. This sparkling waterfall cascades down into a refreshing swimming hole, surrounded in crystal clear rock pools and streams. There’s a walking path running along the creek that takes you to an old weir, a popular spot for relaxing and taking in the tranquility of the untouched rainforest around you.
Freshwater Creek, just 10 – 15 minutes from the city center, is a continuation of Crystal Cascades. This clear stream runs under towering, verdant trees and through smooth stones, offering a shady, cool respite. Picnic benches and barbecues are available throughout different spots along the creek.
7. Climb Walsh’s Pyramid
This adventure is not for the faint-hearted.
But if you’re an experienced hiker looking for the best walks in Cairns, Walsh’s Pyramid is the perfect challenge.
Located about 30 minutes south of Cairns, Walsh’s Pyramid is the highest freestanding natural pyramid in the world. Ascending over 3000 feet, this amazing natural formation rewards climbers with truly incredible views out to Cairns.
The whole walk takes about 4 – 7 hours to complete, best started early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. The marked trail to the summit is rocky and steep, so you’ll need to use your hands for many parts of the hike. Take as much water as you can, and when you think you’ve packed enough, pack even more. You’ll also want to pack snacks to keep you energized throughout the walk. Dab on a good layer of sunscreen.
You’ll likely see many runners summiting the pyramid, training for the annual “Pyramid Race” that takes place every August. They’ll make climbing the pyramid look easy, but don’t feel pressured to keep up. You’ll want to be able to say you’ve climbed the highest natural pyramid in the world!
Try These Free Things to Do in Cairns
As home to the Great Barrier Reef and the spectacular Wet Tropics, your visit to Cairns is sure to hold once in a lifetime experiences. For the free moments you may have in between, these free things to do in Cairns offer a true local’s Cairns experience.
Posted on: December 17th, 2018 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
Visit the Great Barrier Reef Between June & July to Swim with Minke Whales
First recognized by scientists less than 30 years ago, the dwarf minke whale is both elusive and super friendly.
There is so much we don’t know about these whales despite their proclivity to search out human company.
Scientists don’t understand why, but these whales are extremely curious and will often spend hours swimming around snorkelers and divers, giving quite a show! They are known to follow a boat around for hours, stopping for a look at each new dive site.
When to Swim with Minke Whales
Minke whales are the most common of the great whale species, found in abundance throughout the world’s oceans. They are mostly found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Antarctic Oceans.
They are found off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand between March and December, but the best time to see minke whales is in June and July.
Despite their wide reach, swimming with minke whales only happens in The Great Barrier Ribbon Reefs in Tropical North Queenland, Australia. The great thing about this is that minke whales in the Great Barrier Reef are very social and communicative. Expeditions out to the reef regularly report seeing multiple whales in one day!
These multi-day Liveaboard expeditions depart from Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. These expeditions visit unique reef sites each day, offering more opportunities to swim with these gentle creatures.
This is one of the only animal encounters in the world that is entirely on the animal’s own terms. When a pod is spotted, a rope is tossed into the water. Groups of up to 10 swimmers hold on to the rope and the whales can approach or leave as they like. The whales are very generous with their time and once a pod is spotted, its rare if someone on the boat misses out on the experience while waiting their turn.
Things to Know Before Swimming with Minke Whales
Being in the water with these majestic creatures is described as a life-changing experience. It’s common for people to emerge from the water crying, screaming or just plain speechless.
If you want to add this encounter to your Australia bucket list, here are a few things you should know!
1. Every Australian winter, the minke whales make their annual migration from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef from May to August. Plan your trip between June to mid-July for the best odds of seeing a pod. Peak season is in early July.
2. This special experience might take a bit of effort and luck! Only a handful of tour operators have permits to swim with minke whales and you’re never guaranteed an encounter. Increase your odds of swimming with the genial giants by taking a 3-7 night Liveaboard Excursion. In June and July, you’ll have a 98% chance of encountering the whales. It is recommend that you pre-book your excursion.
3. If you’re not keen on spending nights at sea, you can take a day-trip out of Port Douglas. These day-trips have an encounter rate of about 18%. This decreases your odds quite a bit, but if you do encounter them, you will feel as though you won the lottery! Either way it’s an amazing day out on the Great Barrier Reef. These day-trips often give discounts for multiple days out on the boat and they usually end up at different dive sites each day. So, you could stay a few nights in lovely Port Douglas and increase your odds by taking multiple trips out to the reef without feeling like you’re doing the same thing every day.
4. If you go in July, you might even have a chance to see and/or swim with Humpback whales too!
5. You can contribute directly to ongoing research including photo-identification, behavior research and conservation efforts from your minke whale encounter.
6. Dwarf minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales. Like Humpback whales, they have no teeth, but a series of baleen plates that they use to trap and filter the food krill.
7. There is still much to be learned about these whales. For example, they have never been seen feeding on the Great Barrier Reef so it is assumed that they feed in Open Ocean while in the tropics, but no one really knows!
8. They are one of the fastest whales. They can travel at speeds greater than 20 knots or about 23 miles per hour.
9. Minke whales seem to prefer snorkelers to divers. They tend to get closer to and hang around longer when humans are not wearing large air tanks.
Want a chance to cross this amazing experience off your Bucket List? Visit Australia with the help of a Destination Specialist at About Australia. We can make your once in a lifetime trip Down Under fun and easy!
Posted on: November 20th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Ever wondered what Australians eat Down Under?
Though Australian cuisine is blended with many Asian and Mediterranean dishes, truly traditional Australian food lies in bush tucker, fresh seafood and something to soak up the ale.
Not to mention the delectable pastries and sweets you’ll wish you knew about your whole life!
Here are 24 Australian foods you have to try to eat like an Australian.
You were probably expecting to see Vegemite listed 24 times in this article, but there’s more to Australian food than this controversial spread.
But what exactly is Vegemite? It’s a dark brown spread made from vegetables, spices and yeast extract, making it more savory rather than sweet.
The most popular way to eat Vegemite is on toast. It tastes extremely salty – just small amount will do. Even less than what you’re thinking. But who knows – you might be one of the lucky ones to fall in love with Vegemite the moment it graces your tongue.
There’s probably nothing more heavenly than the sweet lamington. This small, rectangular sponge cake is lighter than a feather and more airy than a fluffy cloud. It really is a dream wrapped in a perfect cube of chocolate covered cake and rolled in coconut.
This Australian dessert is a favorite with coffee or tea, and the pride of any baker.
3. Meat Pies
Photo: David McLeish
Pair a meat pie with a beer, at a sporting event or in the morning after a night out. This Australian favorite is made up of flaky pastry filled with minced meat and gravy, sometimes mixed with a variety of vegetables. It’s basically the Australian food equivalent of a chicken pot pie.
This filling snack is perfect on the go or at a pub, and is quintessentially Australian.
4. Tim Tams
These sweet biscuits (the Australian way to say cookies) have become a favorite on our side of the pond for their chocolatey goodness.
Never had one before? A Tim Tam is basically two chocolate-malted cookies with a layer of creamy chocolate filling sandwiched in between, all coated in melted chocolate.
Walk into any Coles or Woolworths (supermarkets) and you’ll find huge displays of Tim Tams in a variety of flavors. Overwhelmed with options like mint chocolate, iced coffee, white chocolate, chewy caramel and more, you might have a hard time choosing. The most popular choice is the original, but you might like to play the Tim Tam challenge and try them all!
Biting into one of these is like entering a chocolatey heaven. But for a truly transcendental experience, you’ve got to try the Tim Tam Slam. Bite the corners of the diagonal corners off the cookie and use it as a straw to sip on coffee or hot chocolate.
5. Moreton Bay Bug
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Don’t worry – this isn’t an actual bug. Moreton Bay Bugs are more like lobster, and are often said to taste even better.
You’ll find Moreton Bay Bugs featured in seafood dishes all over Australia. They are usually cut in half, drizzled in butter, oil, lemon or other seasonings and often grilled or barbecued.
After one bite of these “bugs,” lobster won’t compare ever again.
6. Witchetty Grub
Do worry – this IS an actual bug.
This small, white larva is found in the deserts of the Outback and has featured in traditional Aboriginal bush tucker for thousands of years.
If you’re brave enough to give it a try, you’ll find it tastes like chicken. It also packs a powerful amount of protein – more than an entire steak. Witchetty Grubs are traditionally eaten raw, but they are also served barbecued as an appetizer.
Photo: Maksym Kozlenko
People like to joke and ask if you can eat kangaroo, and the truth is yes, you can totally eat kangaroo. In fact, it’s quite normal. Kangaroos are essentially like deer in the U.S. – they turn up on quiet plots of land, they like to jump out in front of your car, and they are quite tasty.
Kangaroo meat is low in fat, often grilled on a barbecue to a rare to medium finish. Eat it on its own or in a burger – it’s not often you can say you’ve tried kangaroo!
You could almost start a war between Australia and New Zealand over who first invented the Pavlova.
It is said the desert was created in honor of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova during her tour of Australia and New Zealand in the 1920’s, with both countries laying claim to its creation.
This meringue based cake has a delicate, crispy outer shell and a fluffy, marshmallow-y center, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit such as kiwi, strawberries and blueberries.
9. Fairy Bread
This simple treat is a nostalgic favorite from Australian kids’ birthday parties. It’s simply slices of white bread cut into triangles, spread with butter and covered in hundreds and thousands (the Australian term for sprinkles).
You likely won’t find fairy bread in stores or bakeries, probably because it’s so easy to make.
10. Dim Sim
This is the Australian food equivalent of dim sum, differing mostly in its tendency to come fried rather than steamed.
These large dumplings are generally half the size of a fist and filled with minced meat and vegetables. Perfect as a bite-sized snack on the go.
11. Chiko Roll
Chiko rolls are Australia’s take on egg rolls. They’re more doughy than the flaky egg roll, deep-fried and filled with beef and a variety of vegetables.
These are often eaten as snacks on the go, found in local fish ‘n chip shops or by snack vendors at popular venues.
12. Fish ‘N Chips
Fresh fish lightly fried to crispy goodness paired with thick-cut chips (french fries to us on this side of the pond) is a must for those sunny Australian beach days.
Wrapped in paper and seasoned with a bit of salt and lemon adds an undeniably satisfying touch to this classic Australian food.
You’ll find fish ‘n chips in just about any pub or in a waterfront shop by the beach.
This traditional soda bread was an Australian food staple of working class Aussies in the past.
Its simple recipe lends itself to a quick preparation almost anywhere. It’s made up of wheat flour, water and salt, sometimes with baking soda, baked in the ashes of a campfire.
14. Vanilla Slice
Photo: George Seguin
This pastry is said to originate in France, but its exact origin is unknown. In French it’s called the mille-feuille, translating to “thousand sheets.” In English it’s known as the vanilla slice, a delicate dessert with layers of puff pastry and pastry cream or custard, glazed with powdered sugar or icing.
Variations of the vanilla slice are found all over the world, but Australians lay claim to this sweet pastry. With an annual competition for the best vanilla slice baker held in the state of Victoria, the Australians’ passion for the vanilla slice definitely deserves them its ownership.
Ready to slip some shrimp on the barbie?
Well first off, Australians don’t call it shrimp – it’s prawns, mate. And whether you get them at a restaurant or grilled up at a barbecue, you can’t go wrong with prawns. With the freshest seafood found along Australia’s shores, you’re sure to get tasty prawns no matter where you try them.
Emu meat is lean, low in cholesterol and high in iron and vitamin C. It’s a meat-lover’s dream, yet many people can’t get past the thought of eating this flightless bird.
It’s commonly featured in Australian food, usually in burgers, meat pies and even as a pizza topping.
Telling your friends you’ve tried emu is probably more bewildering than trying kangaroo, so don’t miss out on this tasty bird when you’re visiting Australia!
This native Australian white fish is desirable for its delicate taste, succulent flesh, moderate fat content and rich nutrients. It even has less calories than salmon yet still packed with healthy fatty acids.
The rest of the world is slowly catching on to this holy grail fish, but for now you’ll mostly find it served in restaurants across Australia.
18. Chicken Parmigiana
Simply referred to as a “parma,” this staple is a favorite on the pub specials menu. A parma is basically a schnitzel, or chicken fried in breadcrumbs, topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese.
The best way to eat a parma is at a pub parma night, where you can grab a parma and beer for a decent price.
Aussies love to add beetroot to their burgers, sandwiches and salads. You’ll definitely find this vegetable featured throughout many menus across Australia.
Its nutty, earthy taste pairs well with sweet and strong flavors, adding a flair of creativity to any dish. Be sure to try a beetroot burger after trying kangaroo and emu burgers!
20. Bush Dust
Tasmanian Gourmet Online
Get a taste of Australian herbs and spices with bush dust.
This mixture of Tasmanian native pepper, macadamia nuts, bush tomatoes, herbs and spices is perfect for bread dipped in olive oil or simply as a seasoning. Its deep red color is deceiving – this blend of spices has a mild, nutty taste, rather than hot or spicy.
Try it on fish, chicken, potatoes or vegetables. Really it pairs well with almost any dish.
Weet-Bix is similar to a granola bar made up of whole-grain wheat. High in fiber and low in sugar, it’s a favorite breakfast item so iconic it’s garnered a catchphrase in two countries: “Aussie Kids are Weet-Bix kids,” and “Kiwi Kids are Weet-Bix kids.”
22. Anzac Biscuits
These cookies have a history rooted in WWI. They were once made by the wives of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and delivered to their men at war.
Now these cookies are made in commemoration of ANZAC Day, April 25th, honoring those who gave their lives to the war.
The delicious cookies are essentially oatmeal cookies made with golden syrup and desiccated coconut.
23. Violet Crumble
This is arguably Australia’s greatest contribution to cuisine. At least, anybody with a sweet tooth will think so.
Violet Crumble is one Australia’s most popular chocolate bars, with a crumbly honeycomb toffee center coated in chocolate.
The texture of the honeycomb toffee is similar to malt candy, though much softer and delicate. It almost has a cotton-candy consistency once you bite into it.
You’ll find Violet Crumble at just about any supermarket. Try it in ice cream to send your taste buds to heaven.
24. Flat White
Alright, so this isn’t food per se, but Australians are passionate about their coffee and are strong contenders for the best coffee in the world.
One sip of their coffee and you’ll never be able to go back to Folgers.
Even taking a barista course is an unspoken requirement before getting a coffee gig in Australia.
Locals will proudly say you can’t find a better flat white anywhere else in the world, and they might be right. Stop into a local coffee shop (you’ll find dozens of local coffee shops in any city – locals tend to avoid Starbucks like the plague) and grab yourself a flat white.
Australian Foods You Have to Try
One of the highlights of experiencing a foreign land is trying its culinary delights.
From snack foods to strange meats, give Australian food a try on your next trip to Australia.
Need help planning your trip? That’s our full time job. Contact our Destination Specialists to begin your journey today. Ask us about our favorite Australian food!
Posted on: November 2nd, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
There’s no better way to recharge than on an island getaway.
But maybe your idea of recharging isn’t all beaches and sun. Maybe it’s discovering wildlife, hiking through lush rainforests or sampling local delicacies.
With over 8,222 islands in Australia, you’re guaranteed to find your own personal island paradise. Each island boasts its own unique qualities that are part of what makes Australia unlike anywhere else in the world.
We’ve gathered a list of the top 12 stunning islands in Australia that will have you dreaming of your next island getaway.
1. Kangaroo Island
Image: Alan & Flora Botting on flikr.com
See wildlife the way it was meant to be seen – out in the wild. No place does a zoo without fences better than Kangaroo Island, located off the coast near Adelaide.
Its separation from mainland Australia has allowed for the wildlife to thrive among untouched wilderness. So yes, you’ll see tons of wild kangaroos, but if you want to get close to them head to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.
Though the wildlife is the main star of this island, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the dazzling landscapes. Long stretches of beaches, turquoise waters and spectacular rock formations – no zoo could even touch this.
Head to Seal Bay to walk among sea lions, swim with wild dolphins off the north coast of the island or spot koalas hanging out on eucalyptus trees at Flinders Chase National Park. Don’t miss the stunning Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island’s signature landmark, looking like something straight out of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.
2. Phillip Island
Image: Tourism Australia
See the tiniest penguins in the world at Phillip Island, just about two hours away from Melbourne.
Phillip Island is famous for its tiny penguins, but its coastal scenery is just as spectacular in its own right. Gorgeous green landscapes crumble into rugged coasts and pink granite cliffs, stretching out into surf beaches with perfectly barreling waves.
Meet the local wildlife at the Phillip Island Wildlife Park or see koalas in the wild at the Koala Conservation Centre. Stop into one of the local restaurants for a classic fish and chips lunch and visit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for a race on Australia’s largest four-lane GP slot car track.
As the sun sets, settle into Summerland Beach for a spot to catch the nightly Penguin Parade.
3. Fraser Island
Image: Jules Ingall
For an island holiday with a more adventurous vibe, head to Fraser Island, just off the coast of southern Queensland. This unique island is the only place in the world where the beach never ends. Its ancient, cool rainforest towers over white sand, interrupted only by freshwater creeks and the clearest lakes you’ve ever seen.
Pack your swimmers and head to Lake McKenzie, a pure crystal blue lake ringed by soft white sand and verdant rainforest. Honestly, this lake beats out any chemically-treated pool in clarity. And it’s all untouched, pure rainwater!
One of the best ways to explore the island is on a 4WD. Drive down 75 Mile Beach and discover the SS Maheno Shipwreck or find a spot along the beach to try your hand at saltwater fishing. You might spot wild dingoes along the way, but only admire from afar!
4. Rottnest Island
Image: Tourism Australia
One of Australia’s favorite holiday island destinations is Rottnest Island. Located off the coast from Perth in Western Australia, many locals like to reach the island by their own boat. Ferries are also available through three ferry operators along Perth.
Though Western Australia is not often on many traveler’s lists, Rottnest Island alone is enough to add it to your bucket list. Impossibly white sand beaches with crystal turquoise waters offer fantastic swimming and snorkeling. Biking is the best way to explore the island, allowing you to beach and bay-hop across its sublime coasts to find your perfect swimming spot. The best part – no roads!
You’ll also meet Rottnest Island’s famous locals – the quokka. This unique Australian animal is found only in Rottnest Island, and has become popular for its photogenic smile.
5. Bruny Island
Image: Tourism Tasmania
Foodies rejoice! Culinary delights are the star at Bruny Island, perfectly paired with otherworldly landscapes.
About two hours away from Hobart in Tasmania, Bruny Island is well beyond the typical tourist trail. But once you step foot on the island you’ll see why it’s a true hidden gem.
Our favorite Bruny Island tour takes you to local artisanal shops showcasing some of Australia’s finest cheesemaking, chocolatiering and whisky distilling. You’ll also try some freshly shucked oysters, locally grown berries and premium wine. Every course on the menu is a stop on your journey!
Make the small journey to The Neck Lookout and see the isthmus connecting the northern and southern parts of the island. The view from the top is absolutely unbeatable.
6. Moreton Island
Want to get up close with dolphins? Moreton Island is your best bet. Just across Moreton Bay from Brisbane, Moreton Island is a must for dolphin-feeding, kayaking, shipwreck snorkeling and sandboarding.
Yes, sandboarding – it’s exactly like snowboarding except with sand! Riding down the large slopes of sand is a lot more fun than you might realize. You might find yourself climbing the slopes again and again, then simply wash off the sand with a dip at the beach.
With no roads on the island, this unspoiled paradise is perfect for relaxing walks and simply taking in the beauty of untouched nature. Be sure to stay after sunset for the chance to hand-feed wild dolphins at Tangalooma Resort.
7. Magnetic Island
Image: Tourism Queensland
A popular stop along the east coast of Australia is Magnetic Island. Located just 20 minutes off the coast of Townsville in Queensland, Magnetic Island promises extremely laid-back island vibes.
Time seems to be at a standstill on Magnetic Island, or “Maggie,” as affectionately called by locals. It’s easy to lose track of time here and just let the world go by.
Go for a dip in one of many sublime beaches or zip around the island on a hired mini moke, a small convertible perfect for island exploration.
Take the Forts Walk through historic WWII landmarks ending with incredible views across the ocean. Be sure to keep an eye out for koalas hanging around the trees. As home to Australia’s largest population of wild koalas, you’re almost guaranteed to spot one of these furry creatures.
8. Frankland Islands
Image: Frankland Islands Reef Cruises
One of Australia’s truest hidden gems is the Frankland Islands. Located off the northern coast of Queensland near Cairns, these islands are an untouched slice of paradise.
Only one tour operator is licensed to go to Frankland Islands, and their close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef make for perfect small-group snorkeling excursions. The main island, Normanby Island, boasts white sand beaches and clear waters ideal for snorkeling.
The marine biologist on the Frankland Islands tour crew offers guided walks around the island, exploring rock pools rife with exotic marine life.
Complete with an included lunch as you cruise back to Cairns, the Frankland Islands are a fantastic way to experience the Great Barrier Reef without the crowds. Ask our About Australia Destination Specialists about this special tour!
9. Whitsunday Islands
Image: Tourism Australia
Looking for a tropical island paradise? The Whitsunday Islands offer your pick out of 74 impeccable islands.
These islands off the coast of Queensland sit within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and are just as stunning above the water as below the surface.
With only 8 inhabited islands, the rest are natural sanctuaries of secluded beaches and rainforest bushwalks, making for perfect campsites. The fringing reef protects the waters surrounding the islands, making for calm bays perfect for sailing across the islands. And you don’t even need a license to rent a private yacht for bareboat sailing!
One of our favorite Whitsunday Islands is the main, titular island, the largest of all 74. Here is where you’ll find the unparalleled Whitehaven Beach, often listed in the top 10 beaches in the world.
10. Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is the definition of picture perfect paradise. There’s absolutely no bad angle – everywhere you turn is a postcard-ready scene, just waiting to be captured on camera.
As one of the 8 inhabited Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island is an Australian favorite for a luxury getaway. Take in incredible views of the ocean from high-end resort infinity pools, tropical cocktail in hand. Explore the roadless island by golf buggy and indulge in world-class dining at one of many renowned restaurants.
It doesn’t get more luxurious at Hamilton Island than in qualia, a 5-star resort embracing its magnificent surrounds in ultimate, couples-only seclusion. More budget friendly options on Hamilton Island include renting holiday homes. With a buggy included in your rental, you’re free to explore the beautiful palm-fringed, white sand beaches on this idyllic island.
11. Lizard Island
Imagine stepping onto a white sand beach right out your door and seeing one of the world’s greatest natural wonders at your feet.
The best way to experience the Great Barrier Reef is being surrounded by it. Situated right on the reef, no island does this better than Lizard Island.
This small island is home to Lizard Island Resort, an all-inclusive luxury getaway up there with some of the highest-end resorts in the world.
You can snorkel some of the reef’s most pristine and young corals right from the beach, or take a scuba diving trip out to spectacular dive sites such as Cod Hole.
See the reef right from your own private infinity pool, explore the local waters on a private dinghy or walk the lush bushland on nature walks and tracks.
Indulge in gourmet meals, taste local and international wines and enjoy a private beach picnic, all included in your stay.
Lizard Island Resort provides the ultimate luxury deserving of the Great Barrier Reef right at its steps, and will be a getaway you’ll never forget.
12. Lord Howe
Lord Howe Island is like stepping into a Planet Earth documentary. The only hues on this island seem to be endless gradients of blues and greens, hiding an abundance of wildlife.
Located over 300 miles off the eastern coast of Australia, the only way to get to Lord Howe Island is on a two hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane.
Its pristine beaches lend to some of the world’s cleanest and clearest waters perfect for snorkeling. It’s just like swimming in an aquarium!
The island is strewn with easy strolls through lush palms and forests, but for a one-of-a-kind adventure the Mt Gower climb is a must. Rated as one of the best day-treks in the world, this challenging journey takes you on a guided cliff-face mountain climb for a truly rewarding experience.
See Australia’s Breathtaking Islands
Dreaming of an island getaway on your trip to Australia? Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat surrounded by stunning beaches or an adventure unlike anywhere else, Australia’s got an island to suit you perfectly.
Our Destination Specialists are experts in all things Australia. We’ll help you pick the best island for your Australia vacation.
Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
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.
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 least 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.
Posted on: October 3rd, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
If it’s your first time traveling to Australia, you’re probably landing in Sydney.
The moment you step off that plane – right at sunrise – you’re going to want to make a beeline for your hotel and fall face first into your bed.
But that’s a terrible idea.
Not only will most hotels not have check in until at least 2pm, but you’ll want to stay up to avoid jet lag.
Luckily, Sydney is filled with countless things to do right as you step off the plane.
And there’s nothing better than diving headfirst into this beautiful harbour city in all its splendor by exploring its dynamic harbourfront.
We’ve made it easy for you with these things to do around Sydney Harbour.
Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens
With extensive grounds of beautifully manicured lawns and gardens, the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens are a tranquil escape right in the heart of the city.
Its many trails are perfect for getting your bearings and taking a leisurely stroll with fantastic views of the harbour.
Walk through the Mrs. Macquaries Road footpath to Mrs. Macquaries Point, a picturesque headland jutting out into the harbour.
Take a seat on the famous Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair for one of the best views directly across the Sydney Opera House.
Continue along the waterfront for more fantastic scenery. With the white Opera House sails set against the Sydney Harbour Bridge across the harbour, you’ll no doubt be stopping for pictures every step of the way.
The gardens are home to an array of stunning native trees, plants and flowers with lawns dedicated to each.
Grab a snack or pack a picnic lunch and rest on the Flower Bed Lawn, a clearing of verdant green grass dappled with towering trees and exotic plants. Stop by the Main Pond for a chance to see the resident eels (don’t worry, they’re harmless!). Head toward the Rose Garden Beds for a charming pavilion lined with roses, complete with a statue of Cupid to accentuate its loveliness.
You’re bound to see locals getting in their morning jog and other groups simply enjoying the resplendent grounds. Learn more about the garden by joining a free tour, hopping on the garden’s Choo Choo Express or take a guided tour led by an Aboriginal leader and taste Aboriginal bush food found in the gardens!
As you take your first steps toward the towering sails, you’ll feel the draw of this undeniably mesmerizing icon.
This is the face of Sydney, its main feature recognized around the whole world. Seeing it for the first time is an experience in and of itself.
So, bask it all in. You definitely won’t be the only one. This architectural wonder draws millions of visitors each year – and as such a unique structure set against one of the most picturesque harbours in the world, it’s no mystery why.
Join a tour to get an inside look at the Opera House with an expert guide detailing the history of the building. You’ll get an exclusive look at the interior of the concert halls – perhaps you’ll want to catch a show here later!
Right down the Sydney Opera House is Circular Quay, the hub of Sydney’s harbourfront action and gateway to iconic attractions.
This is where many cruises, ferries and water taxis depart, connecting visitors to the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the historic Rocks District.
Lining Circular Quay is a progression of fantastic waterfront restaurants promising an essential Sydney experience – excellent food paired with unbeatable views.
Grab a spot at Opera Bar, often lauded as the best beer garden in the world. Perhaps the sweeping panoramic views across the harbour steer the scales in its favor. Peer over from the ledge of the Opera House’s promenade and you’ll spot vine-laden umbrellas perched over tables and bar stools. Order a cocktail or a glass of fine Australian wine and settle into the seats curving along the water’s edge .
For a special occasion, reserve a spot at Aria, only minutes away from the Opera House. Enjoy a delectable four course menu and extensive wine list, both highlighted by sublime views out from the glass walls.
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
This Sydney staple houses Australian and international contemporary art along with touring exhibitions. Get a glimpse of modern artworks produced around the world today and let your inner artist get lost in the thought-provoking collections you’ll encounter here.
See breathtaking exhibitions by Aboriginal artists, brimming with color and spirituality. Take in puzzling artworks, bemusing at first, but always with something to take away.
The Museum of Contemporary Art will at once welcome and challenge your notions of art and stimulate your imagination. If you’ve never given contemporary art a chance, this is the perfect place to give it a go.
The Rocks District
Cobbled laneways cut through some of Sydney’s oldest pubs and historic buildings. Structures gleam with their original eighteenth century colonial architecture, standing proud with their gabled roofs.
This is The Rocks, site of Sydney’s first settlement in 1788.
Brimming with a colorful history of convicts, soldiers and sailors, this is the perfect place to learn about the history of Sydney.
Many walking tours detailing the history of the area are available, some with a focus on Aboriginal history, convict stories or even pub walks. Who wouldn’t want to grab a pint in some of Sydney’s first bars?
Amble over to The Rocks Markets for enticing street food and boutique local shops, celebrating authentic local foodie experiences. The markets recreate a feel reminiscent of the bustling commons that once thrived in eighteenth century Sydney. Discover locally crafted clothes, jewelry and homewares along with gourmet food, artisan meats, cheeses and sweet treats mingling their delicious scents within the air.
Learn more about The Rocks before European settlement at The Rocks Discovery Museum. Housed in a restored 1850’s sandstone warehouse, here you’ll find unique exhibitions showcasing images and artifacts found in The Rocks – some of which you can even hold. The best part – it’s free!
Cruise on the Harbour
You can’t go to one of the world’s most gorgeous harbour cities and not go on a cruise. In fact, it’s a Sydney rite of passage.
Lunch cruises, dinner cruises, ferries and water taxis – the options are almost unlimited.
Get the glamorous harbour cruise experience with a dining cruise. With breakfast, lunch and dinner cruises available, enjoy a spectacular meal any time of the day with million dollar harbour views.
Explore more of Sydney and the sparkling harbour aboard a sightseeing ferry. We like to recommend our clients to get their hands on a Hop On Hop Off 2-day ferry pass for an easy cruise across the harbour highway to 10 famous Sydney stop overs, including Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Luna Park, Barangaroo and others.
This lively precinct is home to fun tourist attractions, trendy waterfront dining experiences as well as premier Sydney shopping.
Meet incredible aquatic species at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world. Discover dugongs, sharks, penguins and tropical fish in the aquarium’s differently themed zones. Touch sea stars, shark eggs and coral at the Discovery Rockpool, and get a look into the prehistoric marine life from the dark depths of the ocean at Jurassic Seas.
Stroll down along Darling Harbour to the Harbourside Shopping Center, where the exciting buzz of Darling Harbour emanates from its waterfront dining and boutique shops.
Here you’ll find anything from familiar places to grab a quick bite to eat to waterfront steakhouses. Grab some grub then browse the shops for a new Australian-made outfit or souvenir.
Further along the harbour you’ll come across the Australian National Maritime Museum, where a wealth of seafaring and naval exhibitions provide a look into Australia’s coastal culture.
Climb aboard a replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavor vessel, the tall ship in which he first landed on Australia in 1770. Learn stories about the passengers – settlers and convicts from the 18th century – and their voyages to a new life in Australia. With knowledgeable guides possessing an impressive passion for Australian maritime history, you’re sure to dive deeper into the history of Australia – so closely intertwined with the ocean.
A popular stop on a harbour cruise is Taronga Zoo. With native Australian wildlife, rare exotic animals and breathtaking views of the cityscape across the harbour, Taronga Zoo might just be one of the most gorgeous zoos in the world.
Start with a gondola cable car ride lifting you above the zoo, gliding over trees and bush with views across the harbour.
Meet cuddly koalas, friendly kangaroos and their elusive tree-dwelling cousins, tree kangaroos.
Get up close to the graceful Sumatran Tiger on the Tiger Trek, or see the magnificent Asian elephants. Visit the towering giraffes, who have arguably to best view across the harbour in the whole zoo. Home to over 340 species, you’re bound to find your favorite animal.
Find a true boardwalk amusement park experience at Luna Park, another favorite stop on the sightseeing ferry. Situated across the harbour right along the water, that ferris wheel is guaranteed to have incredible views.
Vibrant with colors and exciting rides for the kids, this is an essential harbour stop for families with little ones. But there’s an undeniable thrill that will strike your very core as you feel like you’re about to be flung into the harbour as you ride the Wild Mouse rollercoaster!
Slide down steep slopes on the Devil’s Drop or spin into a frenzy on the Rotor. Wind down on the Carousel – an amusement park staple – or get lost in the dizzying Mirror Maze.
Luna Park lets your inner kid go wild and immerse yourself in the nostalgia of the perfect carnival day.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Past Darling Harbour is the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, an architectural feat to match the likes of the Opera House.
Its famous steel arch has earned it the nickname “The Coathanger.” Luckily, it’s much more supportive than that. In fact, the bridge has eight traffic lanes and two railway lines with a pedestrian walkway on the eastern side of the bridge and a cycling track on the western side.
Haven’t had enough of those gorgeous harbour views? Get a totally different perspective of Sydney Harbour at the very top of the Harbour Bridge arch on a BridgeClimb!
An essential Sydney must-do, this exciting journey combines fascinating history detailing the making of the bridge with a thrilling climb over the arch. You’ll get fitted with a climbing suit, briefed in safe practices and set off in a group led by a bridge climbing pro.
With morning, afternoon and evening climbs available, you can wake your senses with this invigorating climb or see the sunset glow cast over the harbour and Opera House sails.
Besides, it’s not everybody who can say they’ve climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
Barangaroo is the new kid on the block. Or harbour, you could say.
Once a site used for dumping shipping containers, this wasteland has transformed into a spectacular waterfront precinct. Quite the ugly duckling turned into swan story.
The precinct is named after Barangaroo, an indigenous Cammeraygal clan leader from the Eora Nation living around the north harbour at the time of European colonization. She was revered as a free-spirited and strong-willed Aboriginal woman. Several accounts tell about her refusal to wear European clothing to a formal dinner with settlers and turned up painted in white clay with a bone through her nose.
Just as Barangaroo held tightly to her indigenous roots, so does the idyllic parkland known as Barangaroo Reserve. This project is a testament to the achievable beauty of a congenial blend between urban renewal and nature.
Barangaroo Reserve is a 14-acre natural sanctuary created with a mission to restore the endemic trees, plants and shrubs of the area. Join a walking tour through the picturesque reserve and learn about the different plants and their uses, led by a knowledgeable Aboriginal guide.
Barangaroo Waterfront Dining
Head down past Nawi Cove for exceptional Barangaroo dining. The strip directly facing the waterfront features ten unique, carefully selected restaurants showcasing some of Sydney’s best local cuisine.
Indulge in Turkish share plates bursting with fresh flavors at Anason, and top it off with an authentic Baklava pastry. Treat your tastebuds to a feast of eclectic Australian flavors with an eight course tasting menu at Bea Restaurant, housed in the unique Barangaroo House. Pair your delectable dishes such as seared swordfish with bone marrow and wild barramundi with apple and brown butter with premium Australian wines. Order the Rocky Road for dessert for a chocolate experience out of this world!
Explore Sydney Harbour
Sydney is a world-class city with a harbour unparalleled in adventures to thrill history buffs, foodies and daredevils alike. The number of things to do around Sydney Harbour are countless and promise incredible experiences uniquely Australian.