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.
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877
(CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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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!
Sydney Opera House
From the Botanic Gardens you can easily reach the Sydney Opera House.
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.
Here buskers tickle out tunes and impress crowds with unique performances. Pop-up restaurants and one-of-a-kind events set up shop along the Quay. Not too long ago, Jeff Goldblum set up his Chef Goldblum’s food truck serving up free hot dogs in the Quay!
Dining with a View
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.
The best part about exploring the harbour is that many of these sightseeing stop are some of the best free things to do in Sydney!
Want more recommendations on things to see around Sydney Harbour? Connect with our Destination Specialists to plan your perfect Sydney visit on your trip to Australia.
Add Sydney to My Trip
Things to Do on Phillip Island
Photo: 3B’s on Flickr
There’s a little slice of Australian paradise less than two hours away from Melbourne.
Think pristine beaches perfect for surfing, incredible wildlife in their natural habitat and untouched, breathtaking coasts.
One of the world’s largest colonies of fur seals and little penguins call this island home. The world-famous nightly Penguin Parade and Seal Rocks are premier attractions – you could almost say its the local wildlife that call the shots.
Combining the best features of Australia’s natural beauty with its own unique charms, Phillip Island is best explored at ease. Here’s our guide on things to do at Phillip Island.
Take in the Coastal Scenery
The sheer beauty of Phillip Island’s coasts will take you breath away – you’ll need something to grab on to.
Fortunately, the island features many coastal walks and trails, some complete with railed boardwalks.
Wander along Woolamai Surf Beach to the Cape Woolamai Trail for truly dramatic views of the Pinnacles. This two hour walk rewards you with sublime scenery – rolling green landscapes crumbling into jagged rocks known as the Pinnacles, jutting up from azure waters. You might spot some wildlife along the way, including echidnas, wallabies and dolphins. During whale watching season you might spot a migrating humpback!
Head to the westernmost point of the island past the Phillip Island Nature Parks toward Nobbies Centre. Stroll on the winding Nobbies Boardwalk stretching along the rugged southern coast. Turquoise waters crash against the green-clad rocks before you in a breathtaking display of coastal splendor.
From the boardwalk you can see Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest fur seal colony.
Cruise to Seal Rocks
Home to over 25,000 fur seals, Seal Rocks is a natural haven where seals sunbathe, frolic and play in the cool water.
Get a closer look at these friendly animals with a wilderness cruise out to Seal Rocks.
The boat drifts within yards to the seal colony. Younger seals will often swim up to the boat to get a closer look at you, peering up as you peer down.
Surrounded by hundreds of seals in the water, this close encounter with Australian wildlife is part of what makes Phillip Island so special.
Catch Some Salty Waves
Phillip Island’s dynamic coastline features spectacular beaches and rugged shores.
Calm, sheltered bays line the northern coast while wild surf breaks are found on the southern stretch of the island.
As you first cross into the island you’ll spot the curve of Cape Woolamai, a sweep of golden beach set against ancient pink granite cliffs. Woolamai Surf Beach is one of the state of Victoria’s most popular surfing beaches, with large curling waves attracting keen surfers. If you’re not one to pick up a surf board, the barreling waves are mesmerizing enough to simply gaze at from a soft spot of sand.
Get a dose of surfing and wildlife all in one at Summerland Beach. Home to the famous Phillip Island little penguins, this beach is also hugely popular with the surfing crowd for its consistent year-round waves. Wildlife and waves – it doesn’t get more Australian than that.
For swimming, you can’t go wrong with the seaside holiday vibe and shallow high tide of Cowes Beach. With changing rooms, showers and a picturesque jetty flanked by charming coastal eateries, Cowes Beach has everything set for the perfect beach day.
Stroll Through the Koala Conservation Centre
As a small haven of native Australian wildlife, no trip to Phillip Island is complete without visiting the Koala Conservation Centre.
This not-for-profit organization focuses on koala conservation and preserving their natural habitat. With knowledgeable rangers and educational information on display at the visitor center, the dedication and expertise of the Koala Conservation Centre will impress you.
Here you’ll come face to face with koalas in their natural habitat. Wander through Australian bushland on tree top boardwalks at branch-level with sinewy Eucalyptus trees. The koalas are blessed with over 14 acres of pristine wilderness to call home – not something you’ll see in most wildlife parks. You’ll spot them hanging high among the trees, munching on leaves or dozing the day away.
Take the Tree Top Koala Boardwalk for superb koala viewing. If they’re feeling active, they might climb down to lower branches only an arm’s length away from you. Many visitors report seeing up to 12 koalas in one visit!
Below the boardwalks you might also spot other native wildlife, including wallabies, echidnas, rainbow lorikeets and other exotic birds.
Explore Phillip Island Wildlife Park
Photo: Unbound Outbound
For more personal encounters with a larger array of Australia wildlife, head to the Phillip Island Wildlife Park. Here you can hand-feed free-roaming kangaroos, spot echidnas shuffling through grass and Tasmanian devils lazing about in the sun.
As home to some of Australia’s most unique wildlife, some of these animals you might’ve never known existed! With over 60 acres of diverse terrain, every creature has a perfect slice of land to call their own. Other animals you’ll find here include reptiles, wombats, dingoes, emus, cassowaries and quolls.
Pack a picnic lunch or enjoy some park snacks after meeting the furry locals. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to pick up a cute souvenir!
Visit Churchill Island
Churchill Island might just be the closest thing to traveling back in time.
Horse-drawn wagons roll past historic cottages set among tranquil gardens and orchards. Verdant green pastures are dotted with cows and sheep wandering from a restored 1850’s homestead.
Sleepy mornings on this sublime island give way to lively afternoons filled with hands-on farming demonstrations. Watch an authentic sheep shearing, learn how to crack a whip and how to milk a cow. Catch the working farm dogs herd the cheeky sheep back to the farm.
Grab a bite to eat at the Churchill Island Cafe, where country charm combined with local produce and breathtaking views of the sea create the loveliest dining experience.
Or browse over 40 stalls of fresh, local produce at the monthly Churchill Island Farmers Market. Pick up a treat to enjoy while you take in the panoramic views across the island.
Rustic splendor by the sea – Churchill Island is a quiet slice of paradise you never knew you needed.
See the Famous Penguin Parade
As the sun begins to set, the sands of Summerland Beach become a stretch of red carpet.
Crowds gather to catch a glimpse of the Phillip Island famous.
Out of the rolling curls of waves come forth hundreds of tiny tuxedoed penguins, waddling back home to their burrows in the beach.
The miniature size of these little penguins is cuteness overload. They grow to an average of 13 inches, though some may seem as small as the palm of your hand.
Phillip Island Nature Park oversees this nightly Penguin Parade, with the best seats in all the island on a custom-built viewing platform. You can get a closer look at the penguins in an underground viewing platform, where you’ll see them marching right past your eyes.
You won’t catch any paparazzi at this show. No photography is permitted to protect the penguins, as bright flashes might scare or blind them.
After all, the most remarkable wildlife interactions are best experienced as close to nature as possible.
Make the Trip to Phillip Island from Melbourne
Phillip Island makes for a perfect break a whole world away from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne. Get back to nature with native wildlife and unforgettable scenery.
Plus, how many people do you know that have seen a Penguin Parade?
Add Phillip Island to My Trip
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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You haven’t gone Down Under until you’ve stepped foot on one of the best beaches in Australia.
With stunning coasts lined in white sand beaches and unbelievably clear waters, Australia boasts some of the best beaches in the world.
But with over 10,000 beaches, choosing the best Australian beaches may seem almost impossible.
Though all its beaches are undeniably beautiful, there is something truly special about our picks for the 10 best beaches in Australia.
Surrendering to the laid-back Aussie beach culture is easy once you set eyes on these coastal gems.
Burleigh Heads Beach
The Gold Coast is famed for its long stretches of sun-kissed beaches with boundless waves and endless sunshine.
But as one of Australia’s most popular beach destinations, the increasing crowds and overwhelmingly touristy atmosphere can sometimes take away from the charm of its beaches.
Burleigh Heads Beach is the one exception.
Widely considered by locals as the gem of the Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads combines pristine beach with untouched bush wilderness. The views out toward the Gold Coast skyline add to the stunning panorama.
Its surprisingly clean beach is carefully tended to by locals, remaining relatively unpolluted though situated alongside a major highway.
Host to annual surfing competitions, this is the perfect beach to pick up a surf board and catch fantastic waves.
Vigilant lifeguards patrol several swimming sections and a large parkland area complete with a playground make it a wonderful family destination.
Walking tracks and the fringing Burleigh Heads National Park provide a nice break to the salty waves.
You’ll want to keep an eye out for native wildlife on both land and sea, including brush turkeys, sea eagles, pods of dolphins and even whales.
Main Beach, Noosa
With gentle waves, golden sands and clear waters, Noosa Main Beach is one of the crown jewels of the Sunshine Coast.
Located in Noosa, an idyllic beach resort town about two hours away from Brisbane, Main Beach promises something for everyone.
As one of Australia’s few north-facing beaches, this sun-kissed beach is blessed with endless warmth throughout the whole year.
Its calm and year-round patrolled waters make it perfect for swimming and family beach days.
Take a walk on the boardwalk, shaded with palm trees, and browse the numerous restaurants and cafes lining the beach. Fantastic waterfront dining with incredible views are is just a few steps away.
Main Beach is also perhaps one of the best places in all Australia for beginners to learn how to surf. As one of Australia’s top surfing destination, Noosa boasts many high quality surfing schools headed by professional surfers.
No better way to learn how to surf than with one of the pros!
Further up along the beach at the Noosa Park headland you’ll find long peeling waves with perfect barrels, a surfers’ dream. This is the site of the Noosa Festival of Surfing, a world-class event drawing surfers from around the world to compete in divisions such as long boarding, standup paddle surfing and even dog surfing!
Western Australia, though largely skipped by North American travelers, is home to some of Australia’s most gorgeous beaches.
Known for white sands, turquoise waters and abundant marine life, these gems are slowly gaining popularity for their stunning beauty.
Turquoise Bay encapsulates all the best of Western Australia beaches perfectly, with waters as blue as its name.
Located in Cape Range National Park near the town of Exmouth, this unspoiled beach is an aquatic playground. Crystal clear turquoise waters gently lap at the white sandy shores, teasing at the tantalizing marine life hidden beneath the surface.
Turquoise Bay is perhaps one of the best beaches in Australia for snorkeling. With the fringing Ningaloo Reef less than 200 feet away from the shore, you could almost walk to the reef.
Don on a wetsuit, some flippers and a snorkeling mask and explore the underwater wonderland below.
Confident swimmers can take on the Drift Snorkel, floating along with a current running parallel to the beach and drifting over the colorful reef fish, starfish, sea slugs and even sea turtles below.
As a snorkeler’s paradise, it’ll feel like swimming in a large natural aquarium.
Main Beach, Byron Bay
Grab a classic fish and chip takeaway from one of the many beachside eateries and settle onto the golden sands of Byron Bay’s Main Beach.
You’ll want to stay after dark for the fire dancers.
Known for its roots as an alternative hippy town, Byron Bay has seen tremendous growth over the last few years as artists, musicians and dreamers of all sorts chase the laid back beach life.
As more urban sprawl and development take over Byron Bay, its beaches still retain their natural beauty.
Main Beach, with its long stretch of surprisingly uncrowded and stunning coastline, adds to Byron Bay’s popularity.
Its north-facing curve lends to its fantastic surf break and outstanding sunsets. With the iconic Byron Bay Lighthouse overlooking from a distance, the scene appears straight out of a film.
As you spend more time in Byron Bay, you’ll find its picture-perfect scenery stretches beyond Main Beach.
As you sit high astride a camel, walking in rhythm with the camel train along turquoise waters edged by red ochre cliffs, you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different world.
The purple and red sky burning to a fiery yellow glow during sunset only adds to the magical atmosphere of Cable Beach.
Located in Broome in Australia’s northwest, Cable Beach and the surrounding region possesses a rich history.
Walk to the southern end of the beach to Gantheaume Point, where red cliffs edged by bright turquoise waters create a stunning contrast breathtaking to behold. At the bottom of the cliffs are real dinosaur footprints over 130 million years old, preserved in reef rock visible at low tide.
Here you’ll also find Gantheaume Point Lighthouse, where you can see dolphins and migrating whales in season.
With soft white sands, aqua blue waters and gentle waves, Cable Beach is perfect for a lazy day and shallow swimming at the beach.
Add in umbrellas, beach chairs, paddle boards and even beach toys for hire and you’ve got a perfect day at Cable Beach.
Opt for an iconic camel ride and stay after dark for an unforgettable end to your Cable Beach day with a spectacular Indian Ocean sunset.
Many great hikes are about the journey as much as the destination, but no hike can beat that first magical glimpse of Wineglass Bay.
Its turquoise waters perfectly curving into a white sandy shore, framed by bush-clad mountains, are an iconic Australian feature.
Part of Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, this is easily makes the list of the best things to do in Tasmania.
Take the 45-minute uphill trek through the native bush to the lookout, rewarding you with stunning views over the beach and surrounding scenery.
For a truly rewarding experience, take the 20 minute hike down from the lookout to set foot on the beach. As you walk through the bush and come upon the clearing onto the white sands of Wineglass Bay, you’ll know all the work is worth it.
If you’re not keen on stretching your legs, eco cruises, yacht charters and water taxis departing from Coles Bay in Freycinet National Park offer a scenic way to reach Wineglass Bay.
Sea planes and helicopter flights deliver that incredible iconic view over the beach.
Camping grounds on nearby Coles Bay allow beach lovers to overnight at Wineglass Bay. Nothing can beat lying on the soft sand, gazing up at the endless expanse of the Milky Way spread across the night sky.
Remote, peaceful and unbelievably gorgeous, Wineglass Bay is easily one of the best beaches in Australia.
Undisputed as Australia’s most iconic beach, Bondi Beach is like a self-contained world set along one splendid shore.
As the closest beach to the Sydney CDB, Bondi is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Its curling waves create a tantalizing rhythm drawing you into its unbelievably blue waters. Even in winter you’re bound to see surfers in full body wet suits, unable to resist the tempting waters.
From fine dining to coastal walks, surfing schools to markets, you could easily spend days exploring all Bondi has to offer.
Taste exquisite regional Italian cuisine at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, where unbeatable views over Bondi are accented by a glass of exceptional Aussie wine.
Browse the best fresh produce and artisan eats at the Sunday Bondi Markets, where you can grab a snack and chill on the grass knolls looking out to the beach.
Take on the scenic Bondi to Coogee walk, a clifftop coastal walk winding between some of Sydney’s most beautiful beaches.
Behind the beach lies Gould Street, a boutique shopping strip boasting high-end designers and unique finds.
Head to Bondi early in the morning to claim a patch of sand and catch the sunrise over Sydney.
Glimmering emerald waters pooled into a shallow bay, locked into seclusion by smooth reef- this is the Basin.
Located on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth, this lovely little spot is one of Western Australia’s greatest treasures.
Its shallow waters, soft white sands and excellent snorkeling close to shore make it popular with families.
Buffalo bream fish and other reef fish swim around your ankles, visible from above the water’s surface.
At the western end of the Basin is a big limestone hill with extraordinary views across the beach and Bathurst Point Lighthouse in the distance.
Summer mornings are the best time to beat the crowds and set up your umbrella and chair.
With the sun shining through the crystal clear waters revealing an aqua glow, a dip is simply irresistible.
Whitehaven Beach is the sort of place you’d probably see in heaven. Its endless gradients of crystal blue waters blended with swirls of pure white sands create an almost celestial scene.
It’s something you truly have to see to believe.
The powdery white sand is 98 percent silica, a substance found in a high-purity form of sand. With extremely fine grains soft to the touch that never retain heat, a walk down Whitehaven Beach is like walking on velvet. No gingerly hopping across the sand, burning your feet to get to the water!
Framed by untouched tropical rainforest and surrounding reef, this pristine beach is nothing short of immaculate. Strict regulations help the beach retain its heavenly state, which not even the occasional Queensland downpour can mar.
Tucked away on Whitsunday Island of the coast of Queensland, this slice of Aussie paradise can only be reached by boat or air. This means little to no crowds even during peak season.
A high speed catamaran takes about half an hour to reach Whitehaven Beach from Airlie Beach. Most other cruises sail at a more leisurely pace, reaching Whitehaven Beach in about two hours.
For a truly spectacular experience, take a scenic helicopter flight to Whitehaven Beach, departing from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island. The aerial views of the pure white sands fused with the stunning blue waters create a breathtaking scene you’ll never forget.
Get a glimpse of the same incredible view on Hill Inlet. The best lookout point is at Tongue Point, just a ten minute uphill walk through the tropical bush of the island. At low tide, when the vivid blue waters are at their most shallow and blend with the snowy-white sands, the scene is almost impossible to behold.
But such impossible beauty is what makes Whitehaven Beach one of the best beaches in Australia.
You’ve seen us mention a lot of pure white sand beaches, but only one can lay claim to having the whitest sand in the world.
And it’s only three hours south of Sydney.
Hyams Beach is famous for having the whitest sand in the world, as backed by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Located in the Jervis Bay region, this beach is part of the White Sands Walk, a trail connecting a series of gorgeous white sand beaches.
Framed by crystal clear turquoise waters, the pristine white sands of Hyams Beach are positively radiant and incredibly soft.
Surrounded by the Booderee National Park and native forests, you’re likely to spot wildlife such as kangaroos, parrots and cormorants.
The clear, shallow waters are irresistible, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Dolphins often swim close to shore, curious and friendly.
The best part is you’ll always find a stretch of beach to lay your towel on. Hyams Beach is a small beachside town with a population of under 300, and you might find yourself parking among the residential areas of the town.
Though its growing popularity continues to attract larger crowds each year, you might easily have the entire beach to yourself, if only for the morning at least.
But a morning in paradise is better than nothing.
Want to See the Best Beaches in Australia?
These beaches are just a the tip of the iceberg of the best beaches in Australia.
With unique features that make them truly stand out from the rest, you’ll want to add these stunning beaches to your list when traveling Down Under.
Our Destination Specialists are ready to help you plan your ultimate beach holiday in Australia.
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877
(CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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Rich in history, incredible food, creative locals and smooth whiskies to warm you from the chill of mountain air – this is Hobart.
It’s the capital of Tasmania, Australia’s island state, located about one hour’s flight away from Melbourne.
Its blend of strong heritage and waterfront charm make it popular for travelers looking for a laid-back destination that has it all.
From one-of-a-kind museums to great hikes, native wildlife and haunting historic sites, Hobart has something for everyone.
Here’s our list of 9 amazing things to do in Hobart for the best vacation in Tasmania.
Stroll Through Salamanca Market
Get ready for a reawakened passion for food. At Salamanca Market, a simple stroll is impossible without the urge to taste your way through its stalls.
You’ll find wallaby burritos, salmon sausage and fresh scallop pies among other gourmet artisan food. Sample local honey, sip on locally distilled gin or whisky, and admire leather goods – every stall boasts finely made products with an emphasis on local.
Another favorite stop is at the wood work stalls, where you’ll find an array of impressive crafts made from Tasmanian timber. Along with the bustle of local musicians lending their talents to the crowd, the inviting atmosphere alone makes Salamanca Market worth it.
Located near at historic Salamanca Place next to the Hobart waterfront, the market is only open on Saturdays from 8:30am to 3pm.
Get Your Culture Fill at the Museum of Old and New Art
Known as Hobart’s eccentric child, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) sets out to challenge perceptions of art.
Some liken MONA to Vegemite – you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. But one thing is for sure about this controversial museum – you’ll never forget it.
The museum itself is considered an interactive piece. With artful architecture and winding staircases jutting out in every direction, the setting is perfect to lose yourself in a world of conceptual art and ideas.
Here, owner David Walsh displays his extensive private collection of modern art and antiquities. You’ll find pieces ranging from a waterfall installation cascading words to confronting exhibits on human anatomy.
MONA invites you to form your own opinion with its ‘O’ device. Provided to all visitors, the O offers artist interviews, self-proclaimed ramblings from David Walsh, and information on each exhibit as they are encountered.
On the ‘O’ you’ll see an option to either “Love” or “Hate” each piece, letting you know how many other people agree with you after submitting your answer. At MONA, there are no wrong opinions.
Many warn that this museum is not for the faint of heart, but all you really need is an open mind.
Indeed, that’s often the source of the most rewarding experiences.
Climb kunanyi / Mount Wellington
Slip into a sweater and head to kunanyi / Mount Wellington for the best views over Hobart.
No, that’s not a typo – the official name of Mount Wellington incorporates its Palawa kani name from the languages of Aboriginal Tasmanians, using no capital letters.
As part of Wellington Park, the many walking tracks, mountain biking trails and even rock climbing easily make for a whole day exploring the mountain.
Climb to the summit and take a break from the wind in the Pinnacle observation shelter. With tall glass walls overlooking Hobart, the expansive view will leave you breathless.
Get an even closer look on the Pinnacle boardwalk observation deck and take in the inspiring view with the breeze of cool, mountain air.
Make a stop at the Lost Freight Cafe on the way down. This charming cafe fitted out of a shipping container serves up some of the best coffee in all of Hobart, along with a savory rosemary lamb pie and other hearty treats.
See Her Story at Cascades Female Factory
As Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney, Hobart is full of historic sites with turbulent pasts. One of the city’s most significant sites is Cascades Female Factory, lying in the shadow of kunanyi / Mount Wellington.
This historic purpose-built institution incarcerated thousands of children and female convicts of yesteryear.
Plaques detailing the history of this site hang along the walls of the restored ruins. Tours are also available, led by knowledgeable and passionate guides.
A must-do experience, however, is the “Her Story” dramatization of the Female Factory’s past. You’ll relive the history as you follow the story of one woman’s experience in the institute, complete with transparent depictions of the harsh treatment endured by these women.
Taste Pure Tasmanian Beer at Cascade Brewery
Crafted with pure Tasmanian water sourced straight from kunanyi / Mount Wellington and Tasmanian-grown hops, Cascade Brewery does beer best.
Established in 1824 and still in regular operation to this day, this is Australia’s oldest working brewery.
Not even a fire can bring this Tasmanian icon down – after a great bushfire devastated southern Tasmania and Cascade in 1967, the people of Hobart joined together to rebuild the brewery. The result is not only a flagship of rich Tasmanian beer but also a testament to the resilience of Tasmania’s people.
Get a taste of the Cascade Pale Ale, the oldest continuously brewed beer in the country. The smooth and rich Cascade Stout is sure to hit the spot for stout drinkers. Or try a brew available only in Tasmania – the Cascade Lager.
The ornate gothic facade of the brewery and its splendid gardens are inviting enough to spend a day out on the grounds. Grab lunch at the onsite restaurant with a generous menu featuring locally sourced produce.
Opt for a tour of the brewery for a timeline of Cascade’s history along with a look behind the scenes of the brewing process. Just be sure to wear pants and closed-toe shoes!
Visit Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Bonorong prides itself as a small business with a huge heart. As a 24/7 wildlife rescue service, we’re inclined to agree.
The sanctuary’s aim is to nurse animals back to health and into the wild. Run by volunteers and housing species extinct everywhere in the world but Tasmania, Bonorong is truly special.
Here you’ll meet native wildlife such as kangaroos, koalas and wombats along with the Tassie favorite – Tasmanian devils.
From feeding frenzies to personal encounters, the wildlife experiences are intimate, fun and unforgettable.
Get up close with Tassie devils and have a “tug of war” with them for their dinner. Hand-feed adorable Eastern quolls, tawny frogmouth owls and sugar gliders.
Want to see it all? Join a sanctuary tour, where you’ll receive a bag of kangaroo food to hand-feed the kangaroos roaming freely on the grounds.
Located just about half an hour from Hobart’s city center, Bonorong makes for a great day trip.
Explore the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
There’s no better place to immerse yourself in Tasmania’s history than at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
Though not large, you’ll easily find yourself lost within the rich stories and history behind the exhibits.
Marvel at ancient Tasmanian artifacts and early settlement relics. Learn about the poignant Black War of the 1820s and Aboriginal culture with dedicated galleries. You’ll also find a fabulous coin collection and fine Australian paintings.
Crowd favorites include the Tasmanian devil exhibit with an extensive history of the animal. You’ll even learn how it came to feature as a character on the Bugs Bunny cartoon!
The museum star, however, is its thylacine exhibit, showcasing this infamously extinct animal. Not one to shy from Tasmania’s turbulent history, the objective portrayals this museum employs is truly a refreshing experience.
Tour through the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Escape into tranquility at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, showcasing flora from Australia, New Zealand and even Sub Antarctic species.
Established in 1818, these are Australia’s second-oldest gardens – another historic landmark for Hobart.
Stroll through cheerful fruit and vegetable patches, charming succulents and other interesting native plants.
Explore the secretive nooks and crannies, enshrouded in flowering plants and blooms.
Make your way to the Japanese Garden for true serenity, complete with a tranquil brook under a bright red bridge.
Stop by the Sub Antarctic Plant House for one of the gardens’ most exciting and unusual collections. Here you’ll find plants from Sub Antarctic islands in a climate-controlled complex complete with chilly fogs and mists.
Our favorite way to visit the Gardens is on a small group city tour of Hobart highlights.
Go on a Bruny Island Foodie Adventure
Delight your senses on a Bruny Island Traveler tour for a taste of Tasmania’s gourmet food and goods.
A popular day trip from Hobart, Bruny Island lies less than two hours away from the city. That’s a small journey for some of Tasmania’s most delectable treats.
Every stop on your journey is a course on your menu for the day. You’ll taste savory artisan cheeses from Bruny Island Cheese Company, freshly caught oysters at Get Shucked Oysters, hand-crafted spirits at Bruny Island House of Whisky and much more.
More of a sweet tooth? You’ll also get a taste of sweet berry treats, premium chocolate and honey throughout your journey.
Our tip is to skip dinner the night before the tour!
Looking for More Things to Do in Hobart?
Hobart appears a tranquil refuge at distance, but a closer look reveals a city rich in history, culture and experiences.
As experts in Australia travel, we’ll give you the best tips and sightseeing recommendations for your stay in Hobart.
Want to include Hobart on your next Australia vacation? Let’s start planning your journey today!
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877
(CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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Why You Should Visit the Gold Coast
Sun-kissed skin, sunny beach days, stunning rainforests and iconic Australian moments are what the Gold Coast is all about.
Whether the beach calls your name or you’re after adventure, the Gold Coast awaits.
Get a peek into the good times that never end – even after the sun sets. Here are our 8 reasons why you should visit the Gold Coast right now.
Boundless Beach Days
The Gold Coast boasts a fabulous collection of Australia’s best beaches. Their crystal blue waters, incredible surf breaks and breathtaking high-rise backdrops make Gold Coast beaches irresistible to any kind of beach goer.
Venture to Surfers Paradise Beach, the famous beach hotspot of the Gold Coast, and roll out a towel for a lazy sun-kissed day.
The new foreshore at Surfers Paradise is bustling throughout the day with walkers, cyclists and skateboarders taking advantage of this beachfront boulevard vista overlooking the surf and sand.
Like the Surfers Paradise of yesteryear, beachside shopping, dining, bars and clubs continually offer the complete holiday experience all in one compact destination package.
Broadbeach, south of Surfers Paradise is a precinct full of cafes, restaurants, retailers and is a friendly beachfront. Just a little further down the coast is Burleigh Heads, acclaimed for its beachside village vibe and array of excellent cafes.
Visitors flock to the Southern Gold Coast for its change of pace. From here, you can look back towards the Surfers Paradise skyline in the distance and really feel you’ve slowed down.
The surf is spectacular and the southern suburbs exude old-school beachside charm combined with world-class oceanfront hotels, restaurants and an array of retro festivals.
Live Like a Local
If you are looking for the quintessential “Aussie lifestyle” then head to the Gold Coast with its miles of sandy beaches, urban sophistication and incredible natural environment.
The city’s growth and continuing popularity as Australia’s number one holiday destination is a testament to the relaxed vibes and welcoming atmosphere that the city exudes.
The Gold Coast offers a variety of opportunities to scratch beneath the surface and live like a local.
Drop into one of it’s seriously cool micro-breweries that offer live music and food trucks, or browse its vibrant street food markets. Join the “clubbies” at the local volunteer Surf Life Saving club for a drink and world class views.
Or just take some food down to the beach, fire up one of the free BBQ’s, grab a spot among the locals and take it all in.
Conquer Your Fear of Heights on the SkyPoint Q1 Climb
Sure, the Q1 Resort tower is the highest point in all of Gold Coast, but don’t let that scare you!
The SkyPoint Climb at Q1 is Gold Coast’s answer to Sydney’s Bridge Climb, and an absolute must-do for the best views over Gold Coast.
Starting on level 77 of SkyPoint Observation Deck, you’ll shimmy into a full body suit and strap on a harness before a safety training by a professional and friendly guide.
Harnessed to a purpose-built safety rail system, you’ll find the guided climb up to to the summit unbelievably easy. As the best way to see the true beauty of the Gold Coast, the 360 degree views make the climb truly worth it. The swells of the ocean against the coast, the lush hinterland and even views from Brisbane to Byron Bay are all yours to take in.
Rise with the sun on a morning climb or watch the city lights illuminate the evening with a night climb. You can even include a dining option with your climb – the night climb boasts a delicious shrimp tagliatelle!
As one of the best photo ops in Gold Coast, your guide will snap photos of you and your group with the backdrop of the gorgeous city skyline in the distance. By then you’ll have forgotten all about any fear of heights!
Taste the Incredible Food Scene
The Gold Coast’s food scene has evolved so much in the last few years, it’s a full-time job just keeping up with the latest openings.
From hatted restaurants (the Australian equivalent to Michelin stars), quirky cafes and food trucks to wine bars and craft beer taphouses, there’s something for every palate.
Relish elegant beachfront hotel dining in Surfers Paradise or sample delectable seafood on rooftop restaurants in Burleigh Heads. Get your Asian fusion mix in Broadbeach, where you’ll find creative dishes to delight your taste buds.
The locals swear by street eats such as ramen from Muso and Double Zero’s Neapolitan style pizza.
Chill out at al fresco eateries such as Sandbar with its brunch seaside menu, or see why the good tunes and pizza of Justin’s Rooftop make it a popular favorite with the locals.
Get Up Close with Wildlife at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is the unsung attraction of the Gold Coast, home to one of the world’s largest collections of native Australian wildlife.
Catch the mini train circling around the sanctuary for easy access to the various exhibits and encounters.
Here you can pet the curious kangaroos and feed the rainbow lorikeets perched on your shoulder.
Watch an exciting crocodile feeding or catch the Dingo Walk, where you’ll get to feel the stunning white coat of Marrok, a pure white alpine dingo. Don’t miss your chance for that iconic Australia photo shoot while holding a koala!
For a unique experience, visit the hospital where you can witness the conservation team operate on sick and injured animals. The vets warmly welcome visitors and explain every aspect of their process. Now THAT’S getting up close and personal!
Head for the Hills in the Gold Coast Hinterland
Hidden beneath the Gold Coast’s bold first impression is a serene hinterland filled with thriving rainforests, stunning waterfalls and fantastic walking trails. The best part is it’s all within just an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Gold Coast.
Venture into the ancient, world heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests and explore its gorgeous national parks. Lamington National Park offers plenty of walking trails for all fitness levels, decorated by cascading waterfalls along the way. Walk among the shady tree canopies on the Tree Top Walkway near O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Take a break from the sand and find your zen in the swimming holes throughout the forest, such as the Currumbin Rock Pools.
Springbrook National Park is full of hidden gems such as caves, spectacular waterfalls and a natural bridge arch. Wherever you’re wandering throughout the rainforest, keep an eye out for kangaroos and wallabies peeking out from their bush retreats!
Catch these unique pockets of the rainforest you might’ve otherwise missed on a small group tour, our favorite way to explore the Gold Coast Hinterland.
Shop ‘Til You Dop
You won’t find a love for local markets and high-end shops alike greater than the at the Gold Coast.
Browse the stalls of handmade items and uniquely Australian products at the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets.
Feel the bohemian vibes of the Village Markets at Burleigh Heads, where you’ll find boutique stalls of fashionable and locally designed clothes along with delicious street eats.
Luxury shopping gets no better than at Pacific Fair’s offer of high-end designer digs and glamorous department stores.
An experience unto itself is Harbour Town, Australia’s largest outlet shopping center featuring premium Australian and international brands. In other words, a shopaholic’s dream.
Stay Up Late
When the sun goes down, the adults play.
By night, the Gold Coast’s vibrant nightlife welcomes the party-loving night owls, cocktails in hand, at laid-back music venues and rooftop bars.
Energetic, enthusiastic, electric, eclectic! These are just some of the words that sum up the social scene that Surfers Paradise was built on. Surfers Paradise comfortably maintains its position as the good-times hub of the Gold Coast.
For a generous flow of craft beer, stop by Balter Brewery for a nice, cold pint and hang out with its down-to-earth crowd.
Indulge in exuberant luxury at The Star’s 24-hour casino or mingle with the locals at a true Gold Coast rooftop icon – The Island.
Experience a taste of international street food and nightlife at Miami Marketta, a small venue housing 25 food vendors and fantastic live music.
Whether you’re looking for a wild night out in the city or a more relaxed end to your day, the Gold Coast’s extensive nightlife has something for all night-owls.
Ready to Go to the Gold Coast?
Incredible beaches, lush hinterland, theme parks – there’s no end to the reasons to visit the Gold Coast.
This iconic tourist destination is a must for a glimpse into the quintessential “Aussie lifestyle.”
Feeling the call of the Gold Coast? Let’s start planning your trip today! As experts in Australian travel, we’ll help plan your vacation to include a stay in the Gold Coast. We know it’ll be a highlight of your trip!
I Want to Go to the Gold Coast!
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One of Australia’s many unique qualities is its dynamic coastline.
You’ve got warm tropical waters and the Great Barrier Reef in the north, Australia’s best collection of beaches along the central east coast and towering cliffs in the south.
One of the most popular and dream travel itineraries in Australia is traveling along its east coast.
You’ll find travelers from around the world making their way from Cairns in the tropical north all the way to Melbourne in the south.
But we’ll show you the best destinations you must visit while traveling along Australia’s east coast.
See the Great Barrier Reef
Whether you’re in Cairns or Port Douglas, you can’t pass up seeing the Great Barrier Reef.
This must-do in Australia is so insanely popular for good reason. It’s the largest living organism in the world yet looks entirely otherworldly.
Nothing beats those underwater views of this colorful reef wonderland, filled with tropical fish flitting in and out of sight.
The great thing about the reef is the numerous ways to see it. From glass bottom boats to semi-submersibles and underwater viewing observatories, you can see the reef without getting wet!
To see the ultimate splendor and beauty of the reef, you’ll need to take a trip to the outer reef. Check out our Great Barrier Reef guide for more details on seeing the reef in your own style.
Sail the Whitsunday Islands
Not many international travelers know about this hidden part of Australia. Situated between Cairns and the Sunshine Coast, this region sits on the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
Surrounded by 74 idyllic islands and protected by the reef, the calm waters make this a paradise for sailing and bareboating.
And the 74 Whitsunday Islands are your playground of pristine wilderness.
Mostly covered in uninhabited national parks and secluded beaches, the Whitsundays are just waiting to be explored by the adventurous.
Be the first to walk on untouched beaches each morning. Discover cascading waterfalls and dry rainforest walking trails hidden on the islands. Or even camp overnight at designated camping grounds.
The best part is no license is required for bareboating!
See the Tantalizing Swirls of Whitehaven Beach from Hill Inlet
Let’s face it – there ‘s no end to the list of gorgeous beaches in Australia. You’ll find fantastic beaches all along the coast.
But there’s only a few that rank among the best in the entire world, and Whitehaven Beach is always counted in that number.
With sparkling, white sand so fine it squeaks beneath your feet and waters so clear and blue like something out of Photoshop, this beach is a gem of the Whitsundays.
Located on Whitsunday Island, you’ll need to take a boat tour to get to Whitehaven Beach.
Once you arrive, you’ll want to take the short trek to Hill Inlet, where swirls of white sand and turquoise water blend in stunning shades.
The sight alone is worth a trip to the Whitsundays.
Spot Whales in Hervey Bay
If you’re in Australia with the hopes of spotting a whale, you should make a stop in Hervey Bay. This coastal city near Fraser Island is one of Australia’s best spots for whale watching.
Between July and October you’ll spot humpback whales swimming by Hervey Bay – sheltered by Fraser Island, the calm and clear waters are perfect for resting their young.
Setting out on a whale watching cruise sometimes entails an amazing perk – the whales often like to venture close to the boats, showing off with spectacular breaches!
Go for a Dip in Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island
As the world’s largest sand island and only site where rainforest grows on sand, Fraser Island is out to impress.
And with pristine freshwater lakes, creeks framed in greenery and long stretches of beaches prime for 4wd adventure, this island will become your next ‘happy place.’
Though the beaches at Fraser Island are not quite swimmer-friendly, Lake McKenzie more than makes up for it.
With soft white sand and unbelievably crystal blue water, Lake McKenzie is considered the crown jewel of Fraser Island. After one day on the lake here, no other lake will measure up.
Discover Hidden Gems in the Noosa National Park
For the perfect mix of coastal scenery, native wildlife and refreshing rainforest, spend a day at the Noosa National Park.
You’ll spot something new and breathtaking every way you turn. Koalas napping among eucalyptus trees, spectacular hidden bays and beaches, even wild dolphins and whales – this enviable national park has it all.
Boasting five walking tracks, the most popular is the Coastal Walk, winding through lush shady trees, rocky coasts and clifftops.
Stop for a refreshing dip at the beach in Tea Tree Bay and spot dolphins from Dolphin Point or Hell’s Gate.
Becoming increasingly popular with travelers, this hidden secret is a must on the Australian east coast.
Walk to the Byron Bay Lighthouse at Cape Byron
Byron Bay sees the sunrise first in all of Australia. That alone sets the tone of this coastal town – the atmosphere is like a perpetual bohemian festival.
Everyone is super relaxed, smiles are found at every turn and the surrounding natural beauty and sunshine cures all ailments.
This easy-going town is a favorite with Aussies – you’ll find that most visitors are in fact from within Australia.
And locals agree that an absolute must-do is the coastal walk up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Follow the boardwalk on Lighthouse Road, winding around irresistible beaches and surf breaks.
You’ll then ascend up the headland for sea cliff views over Byron Bay and climb up the track to the lighthouse. Your reward is the unbelievable view over Cape Byron – pristine blue water set against green coastal bush, all from the most easterly point of the Australian mainland.
Image courtesy of Destination NSW
Take in Ocean Views on the Bondi to Coogee Walk
For breathtaking views along the coast in Sydney, you could do no better than the Bondi to Coogee Walk. This clifftop coastal walk stretches out almost four miles long, winding on the edge of some of Sydney’s most popular beaches.
This track is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, and is often broken up into sections: Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach and Bronte to Coogee Beach. With many rest stops, beaches and rock pools along the way, you’ll find yourself stopping throughout the track just basking in the beauty of it all.
Make a day of it and start with a morning swim and beachside breakfast at Bondi, rest at Bronte and spend the afternoon at Coogee.
Or do it all in one go and complete a jog along the track – with stunning ocean views at your side, you’ll enjoy this incredible coastal walk either way.
Road Trip Down the Great Ocean Road
The first thing you need to know about the Great Ocean Road is that it’s so named for its magnificent beauty – but also for its length.
Stretching 151 miles long along the southeastern coast, you’ll need to plan at least two days for the trip to truly enjoy the incredible sights along the road.
This makes the trip perfect for self-drivers in Australia.
The road itself begins in Torquay, a seaside town about one hour away from Melbourne and ends at Warrnambool.
Popular stops include Bells Beach for impressive swells from the ocean crashing against towering cliffs and Split Point Lighthouse on Aireys Inlet for gorgeous coastal views.
But an absolute must-see on the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, gigantic limestone formations jutting out from the ocean.
Looking for More Things to Do on Australia’s East Coast?
Stretching over 1600 miles, a vacation along Australia’s east coast is no easy feat – but its one of the world’s most rewarding travel routes.
Need more ideas on planning your trip to Australia? Our Australia travel experts make it easy to plan the vacation of a lifetime. Let’s start planning your dream trip!
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As Australia’s second largest city and capital for all things food, music and fun, the list of things to do in Melbourne is endless.
From its vibrant local music and arts scene to diverse food and incredible coffee culture, ticking off the essential Melbourne experiences in just a few days may seem impossible.
That’s why we’ve made it easy for you.
Here are 19 free things to do in Melbourne.
See the Main Sights on the City Circle Tram
What better way to see the city sights than for free? How about surrounded in the charm of a vintage cable car? And the best part – you can hop off and explore on your own, whenever you like.
Running through the city’s central business district (CBD), the City Circle Tram is undoubtedly one of the best ways to see Melbourne’s main landmarks and attractions.
You’ll catch sight of the Melbourne Museum, Federation Square, Melbourne Aquarium and much more. The accompanying commentary will give you a rundown of each landmark and its history.
Stroll the Queen Victoria Market
Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is worth exploring just for the sights alone. The range of fresh produce and handmade products include everything from fruits and vegetables to hand-made pasta and top grade Wagyu beef.
For something sweet you’ll find fluffy bubble waffle cones loaded with ice cream and Melbourne’s best American-style jam doughnuts. Forgot to pack enough clothes for your trip? Find a new favorite outfit within the racks of threads ranging from fine merino wool knits to neon yellow safety jackets.
You’ll also discover unique treasures such as 1970’s comic books and vintage records – there’s something for every taste!
Get Cultured at the National Gallery of Victoria
Consistently rated as one of the top free things to do in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria will impress even the non-art buffs.
Wander among impressionist masterpieces from Monet and antiquities from all parts of the world. Immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and thought-provoking pieces of its contemporary art collection. You could spend your whole day exploring the treasures within – and still feel like it’s not enough time!
Walk Through the Labyrinth of Street Art in Melbourne’s Laneways
Melbourne’s inner-city grid lends itself to many hidden laneways that are easy to miss. But exploring these eclectic laneways in the CBD is one of the best things to do in Melbourne. You’ll find cozy coffee shops, warm cafes and bars where the soup of the day is gin. But the true gems will be the vibrant street art decorating the walls of these lanes.
Take a walk down Hosier Lane to see some of the city’s best street art. You’ll see colorful graffiti masterpieces and artists working on new pieces. This iconic laneway is part of the heart and soul of Melbourne’s urban subculture – you’ll feel like one of the cool kids as you walk down the street.
With less foot traffic, AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place are also popular spots full of highly skilled street art. You’ll find a rock ‘n roll theme throughout AC/DC Lane, with murals of AC/DC band members (how the lane got its name) and other popular rock bands. Duckboard Place has a more gritty, urban aura with some hidden gems worth a look – easier to do with the least amount of crowds compared to other lanes.
Have a Laugh at a Comedy Night
Melbourne loves its stand-up comedy nights. If you’re looking for something a little different on a night out, catch a stand-up comedy night for a round of laughs to go with your drinks.
Spleen Bar on Bourke Street is a local favorite for its free comedy nights on Monday.
Lido Cinemas offers free comedy nights on Tuesdays, featuring some of the best rising stars of Aussie comedy. Perhaps the free popcorn makes the audience a bit more sympathetic as well!
For great vibes, cheap pints and one of the best comedy nights within the CBD, wander into Crab Lab on a Wednesday night. Grab some free popcorn and settle in for a great evening.
George’s Bar – If you’re a fan of Seinfeld, you’ll love this George Costanza-themed bar in the Fitzroy district. You’ll love their free Thursday comedy nights even more.
Learn About Australian Art at the Ian Potter Centre
For the culture vultures lacking a little in the Australian art department, this gallery is a must. Part of the National Gallery of Victoria, the Ian Potter Centre focuses exclusively on Australian and indigenous art.
You’ll see a representation of Australia’s history through artworks from aboriginal cultures as well as noted contemporary artists. Join a free guided tour to enjoy an expert’s insight into the exhibitions on display.
Visit the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Although the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art is small, the true modern art lover will feel right at home.
The building itself is an architectural artwork hinting at the eclectic collection within.
The constantly rotating exhibitions, workshops and films will challenge your perceptions and leave you with new perspectives.
Explore the Evolution of Animation at the Australian Centre for the Moving Arts
Let your inner obsession with television and video games run wild at the Australian Centre for the Moving Arts.
Their Screen Worlds exhibition is a fabulous collection of interactive displays, history of cinema, video games and more. Here you can create your very own flip book or try your hand at editing film. Unwind with one of many educational yet fun video games and favorites including Mario Kart or immerse yourself in a virtual reality experience.
The nostalgia and wonder will wash over you as your inner kid takes over.
Take in the Gorgeous City Vistas
The Eureka Skydeck is one of the best ways to see Melbourne from incredible heights, however you can catch some amazing views of the city from rooftop bars for free. Though you may be obligated to order a drink, what better way to see the city lights as the sun sets than sipping on your favorite cocktail?
Check out Swanson Street’s Rooftop Bar & Cinema or Lui Bar in Collins Street for unbeatable views and an outstanding range of drinks.
Listen to Live Music
As if Melbourne isn’t already cool enough, it’s also slated as Australia’s music capital. The city’s more than 400 venues have hosted major international bands acts as well as diverse local talent.
You’ll find disco nights, classical music concerts, jazz gigs, metal rock bands, hip hop acts – whatever your taste in music, Melbourne’s got it.
Live music is also easily found almost everywhere you turn in the CBD. Wander down AC/DC Lane and hit up Cherry Bar, infamous as a rock venue with a mix of free and paid shows.
On Mondays the Northcote Social Club hosts Monday Night Mass, a free event showcasing some of the local music scene’s underground talent.
The Gasometer Hotel is also a popular favorite in the local music scene, frequently hosting free shows on Sundays.
Browse the State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria is a bookworm’s paradise – and a must even for those not into reading.
Noted for its regal neoclassical architecture, the library contains six floors with a wonderful dome viewing balcony at the very top.
Levels 4 and 5 are dedicated gallery and exhibition spaces, housing significant collections of Victorian artwork, writings and artifacts. You’ll find rare treasures such as a 4000-year-old Sumerian cuneiform tax receipt and the bullet-dented armor of Ned Kelly, Australia’s own Jesse James.
Take a free tour to discover everything this iconic library has to offer. And enjoy the free WiFi, too – another great perk!
Taste Melbourne’s Famous Coffee
If there’s just one thing to take away from your visit to Melbourne, it’s the city’s incredible coffee scene. You won’t settle for regular drip coffee after a cup of joe from one of Melbourne’s sensational cafes.
The best way to get a taste of Melbourne’s greatest coffee is at Proud Mary, considered as one of the city’s finest coffee establishments. On Saturday mornings they have a free cupping event where all are welcome to meet their crew and taste new and favorite house blends.
Wander Through the Royal Botanic Gardens
Enjoy a tranquil afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the city at the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens sprawl across 94 acres of grassy hills, native and exotic plants, scenic walking trails and a creek, all surrounding a lake in the center.
Free guided tours can help you get started exploring the vast gardens, or simply pack a picnic and relax by the lake. You’re very likely to spot native wildlife roaming around, especially the curious purple swamphen!
Visit the Fitzroy Gardens
Besides the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne is blessed with many more beautiful gardens and parklands. At the top of the list is Fitzroy Gardens, a quiet retreat on the edge of the CBD. The lush trees, flowers and fountains give way to historic gems throughout the gardens.
In the center of the grounds you’ll see a tiny Tudor village, like something out of a fairytale. Right next to it is Fairies’ Tree, a centuries old tree stump embellished with carvings of fairies, pixies, kangaroos and emus.
Another gem is Cook’s Cottage, the historic home of Captain James Cook, the British explorer who first voyaged to Australia and the South Pacific. Though there is a fee to enter the cottage-turned-museum, seeing the cottage alone is undeniably cool.
See Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance
This historic landmark is a war memorial originally honoring the men and women of the state of Victoria who served in World War I. Now it honors all Australians who have served in war.
A walk up the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance is a moving experience in itself. The shrine is designed in a classical style, inspired by the architecture of Athens’ Parthenon.
What makes this memorial a special architectural gem is the planned, uninterrupted vista of the city from the top deck of the shrine. Its beautifully manicured grounds and outdoor memorials surround the shrine creating an aerial shape of a poppy – the symbolic flower commemorating the fallen of WWI.
Explore the galleries and exhibitions within the shrine, set in a cathedral-like underground chamber. You’ll see photographs, uniforms, artworks and memorabilia of Australia’s military history. Don’t miss the Eternal Flame, a permanent gas flame representing eternal life.
Learn About the Aboriginal Koorie People at the Koorie Heritage Trust
Escape the hustle and bustle of Federation Square and stop by Koorie Heritage Trust. Located in the Yarra Building in Federation Square, this non-profit center offers Melbourne’s deepest insight into the indigenous Koorie people through immersive galleries and exhibitions. Here you’ll find artifacts, artworks, photos and oral history and video recordings preserving the Koorie cultural heritage of Victoria.
See their temporary exhibits on the ground floor gallery or explore their permanent collections on the top floor. If you’re lucky, you might catch one of their fascinating and educational events, hosted throughout the year.
Watch the St. Kilda Penguins Waddle Back Home
Take a short half hour tram ride from the CBD to St. Kilda, a popular day trip destination for bay side fun.
Noted for its beach and Coney Island-like theme parks, stay until sunset to view the St. Kilda fairy penguins return to their homes on the shore.
The best way to view these tiny penguins is on the St. Kilda Pier, and don’t worry about what time of year to visit – you’ll see them year round.
Snap a Pic of the Brighton Beach Boxes
Further down the coast from St. Kilda is Brighton Beach, home of the iconic Brighton Beach Boxes. First built over a century ago, these historic bathing boxes remain unchanged. Their bright colors and uniform proportions create an undeniable sense of satisfaction – your eyes are just naturally drawn to them!
Though the ride to Brighton Beach is not free, buying a one-day unlimited explorer pass is more than worth it. You’ll get to spend a sunny afternoon out on the gorgeous beach with discounts to other top Melbourne attractions.
Experience Melbourne’s Countless Festivals
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit Melbourne – you’re bound to come across a festival! As Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne loves to celebrate its diversity with celebrations of music, food and culture. Step into Federation Square or the Queen Victoria Markets – where most of Melbourne’s festivals are held – and join in the fun.
From Hispanic-Latin American culture of Johnston Street Festival to its Scandinavian Christmas Bazaar, there’s a festival for every culture in Melbourne. Catch the Chinese New Year Festival in February or the Diwali Indian Festival in October.
See the night come to life in a spectacle of color and light during White Night in February, the most attended event of its kind in Australia. Moomba Festival in March is a flurry of color and spirit centered on the Yarra River with live music, parades, fireworks and carnivals.
Music lovers can plan on dozens of festivals throughout the year. Melbourne Festival is a bucket list item, featuring major international artists. St. Kilda Festival, Australia’s largest free music festival, is also a popular favorite, bringing in some of the country’s top musical talents.
Comedy fans will want to catch the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, one of the top three comedy festivals in the world.
Explore the City with These Free Things to Do in Melbourne
Ready to live it up in the city? Whether you’re looking for a quiet afternoon getting lost in a museum or seeking a fun night out, the best thing about Melbourne is there’s always a way to do it for free. Fill your free days with these fantastic things to do in Melbourne and make your stay an unforgettable one.
Want to add Melbourne to your Australia vacation? Let’s start planning your perfect vacation package – we’ll include time for you to truly get the most out of Melbourne.
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The Best Australia Food and Wine for the Gourmet Traveler
When it comes to Australia food and wine, perhaps what instantly comes to mind is Vegemite…and not much else.
Yet the culinary scene throughout the country features some of the world’s most innovative and trend-setting restaurants. And the wine? Some of the best Chardonnay and Shiraz in the world.
For the true food and wine lovers, these are 23 must-see stops in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and surrounding wine regions. No vacation to Australia is complete without a little indulgence.
Sydney’s reputation as Australia’s global city precedes itself. Right on the doorstep of the CBD you’ll find incredibly diverse eateries to satisfy any craving imaginable.
From high-end dining to cozy cafes offering anything from Aussie dishes to Malaysian cuisine, you can’t go wrong with any pick.
But if you’re finding your head swimming from trying to choose the best Sydney restaurants, we’ve made it easy for you. Here’s our list of can’t-miss restaurants in Sydney.
Graze MCA – Located in the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, this is one of those rare restaurants that has it all. Brilliant location with an unbeatable view of the Sydney Opera House, amazing food and fantastic service. Simple and fresh ingredients highlight the generous portions of dishes such as bouillabaisse, poached ocean trout and lamb rump. Their wine list is a carefully curated celebration of Aussie and Kiwi wine regions, perfect for sipping while enjoying the views of the harbor.
Hubert – Step back in time to 1930’s Paris as you enter Hubert, a must for French cuisine. Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you. Once inside, the unmistakably Parisian flair greets you with an ambience of dark elegance illuminated by dozens of candles. The menu boasts items inspired by cookbooks predating World War I. With live music adding to the splendid atmosphere, dining in Hubert is a divine slice of Paris right in the CBD.
Quay– Often lauded as the best restaurant in Sydney, this multiple award-winning restaurant never fails to live up to the hype. This is one of those essential Australian experiences: excellent views of iconic Sydney sights, dishes reflecting a unique blend of bush and local ingredients and a superb wine list detailing even the grape percentages of its champagnes.
Sake – If you’re inkling for a spot of Japanese, Sake is perhaps one of the best choices in all of Sydney. The simplicity of its sushi bar compliments the decadent main dishes, such as the sweet soy braised pork belly and pan seared barramundi. Your visit isn’t complete until you’ve had the famous dragon egg desert, a dark chocolate shell filled with toasted chocolate crumble, passionfruit curd, mango caramel and other vibrant delicacies.
Hungry for more? Check out our list of more amazing restaurants in Sydney you need to try.
Just about three hours away from Sydney you’ll find Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s premier wine regions.
Noted for its Shiraz and Semillon, there’s still a wide variety of wines to taste from one of many cellar doors dotting the region. A wine tasting tour is one of our favorite ways to get to know the region. What’s better than sampling a variety of wines without having to worry about the drive back?
If you’re a true wine lover, not much else.
Here are some of the top wineries in Hunter Valley you need to visit while Sydney.
Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard – If there’s one thing you’ll remember about your visit to Hunter Valley, it’ll be without a doubt the views from Audrey Wilkinson. This is where you’ll get that sweeping view of picturesque vineyards you see on the postcards. This historic winery dates back to 1866 and offers an excellent range of Semillons along with selections of sparkling, Chardonnay and Rose. Surround yourself in Audrey Wilkinson’s vintage charm with a picnic amongst the vines or a behind the scenes winery tour.
Piggs Peake – If you like big, fruit-driven red wines and small hidden gems, Piggs Peake is the place for you. Often recommended by other wineries, this small local winery has big personality. Here you’ll find a casual approach to wine (all wine names have a pig theme) with knowledge as professional and personal as any expert sommelier. Consistent favorites include their House of Sticks Shiraz and the House of Straw Merlot.
Mount View Estate – For a classic Hunter Valley experience with a boutique feel, Mt View Estate is a must-see. This estate has produced some of the most awarded wines in the Hunter Valley for 40 years. Mt View boasts a little bit of everything: a wide range of premium wines, gorgeous grounds and friendly and approachable owners.
Many locals fondly regard Melbourne as the Paris of the South – but then, many Melburnians are rather cheeky.
But there’s an unmistakably European feel about its lush Victorian architecture and grid-like city center, and it can’t be denied that Melbourne is considered as Australia’s undisputed cool kid.
The passion emanating from its world-renowned coffee and food scene is infectious, and your standards will rise to a level you’ll be hard pressed to experience anywhere else.
Attica – Foodies visiting Melbourne should have Attica at the top of their list. Rated as one of the world’s best 50 restaurants in 2017 and as the best restaurant in all Australasia, you’ll need to book at least a month in advance. But the month-long wait is well worth it. The menu consists of 17 courses blending Australian flavors in smaller portions so you can enjoy every plate. With dishes such as kangaroo, wattles and waxflower and camel milk ice, this is the perfect introduction to fine Australian cuisine.
Tipo 00 – Wander down Little Bourke Street to find one of Melbourne’s hottest eateries in one of its smallest venues. Tipo 00 is all about carbs, so leave your carb-counting at home. Don’t be fooled by its simple and small menu – the house-made pasta and risotto dishes crafted from bright and fresh ingredients will delight your taste buds with every bite. Their squid ink pasta is a favorite, and their rabbit tagliatelle is a consistent hit.
Brae – For a minimal yet chic experience, you can do no better than Brae. This restaurant has hopped up and up on the World’s Best Restaurants list, jumping from #65 to #44 in 2017. The experience speaks for itself; a visit to Brae is like visiting a friend’s home. Instead of single servings of one course at a time like regular degustation menus, you’ll be served multiple dishes at one time to graze at your own pace. The feel is reminiscent of an upscale holiday feast.
Less than an hour from Melbourne’s CBD is Yarra Valley, the Nappa Valley of Australia. Make a day trip to indulge in some of the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay produced from one of many wineries in the region. We also love day touring out to Yarra – winery hopping without the hassle of driving, yes please!
Here are some wineries you need to visit while in Yarra.
TarraWarra Estate – Stunning grounds and Australia’s first significant privately funded public museum make TarraWarra a cultural jewel of the Yarra Valley. Have a glass of their exceptional Pinot Noir or Chardonnay while overlooking the scenic surrounds on a crisp afternoon – paradise for any wine lover.
Yarra Yering – For the serious wine buff, Yarra Yering is a must-see. Reds are the focus here, and if you’re traveling solo you can taste ten wines for $10. An absolute steal considering the selection features their current vintages.
Oakridge Wines – Come for the food and wine, stay for a game of giant chess. What more do you need to draw you in for a visit? Perhaps complimentary wine tasting with no booking necessary? We’re so there. Not to mention the beautiful grounds – you’ll be day dreaming about hosting your wedding here.
A can’t-miss stop for any foodie MUST include a trip to Hobart. Seriously, with the cleanest air and waterways in the world, Tasmania produces some of the finest seafood and distillation around.
A stay in Hobart will be full of feasting on the freshest salmon, oysters, cheeses, whiskey and ciders. Here are our highlights of some of Hobart’s premier dining institutions.
The Source – The Museum of Old and New Art is a Hobart icon – a must for any art lover with the slightest predilection for the controversial. But one of the MONA’s brightest gems is The Source, its in-house restaurant focused on seasonal local produce. Try their own Moorilla wine or delight your taste buds with one of ten thousand bottles from around the world (no, really!).
Mures – Straight from the day’s catch from their own fishing vessel, you’ll be hard pressed to find any seafood fresher than at Mures. The restaurant is split into two decks: Mures Lower Deck provides a more casual dining experience while Upper Deck is more intimate and upscale. Situated on the waterfront, you’ll enjoy superb views of the harbor either way.
The Glass House – A small but insanely popular restaurant where tables are fought over even on Monday nights. But believe the hype: attentive service with smiles, exceptional food and gorgeous views of Derwent River cement The Glass House’s reputation as a Hobart must-do. Highlights are the carefully crafted cocktails and the salmon sashimi.
Willing Brothers – Here you’ll find great eats and an extensive wine list tucked in a cozy venue. Aussie and European labels are proudly displayed on the wall of the bar, and you can even buy a bottle to take home after tasting. Pair your sips with a small but delicious meal from locally-sourced ingredients.
Ettie’s – You won’t find a more rustic chic and stylish restaurant in Hobart than Ettie’s. Its contemporary menu offers a broad range of options from roasted duck ravioli to steak frites. For a lovely leisurely meal, opt for the seven course degustation meal and get your fill of oysters, sardines, mussels and cheese.
Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills
Adelaide in South Australia is noted for its refined elegance and culture. After getting acquainted with its stately art galleries and museums in North Terrace, take a day trip out to one of the surrounding wine regions. Some of our favorites are Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills, where you’ll find 5-star wineries and some of Australia’s best cool-climate wines.
Two Hands –For an journey into what Australian Shiraz is capable of, Two Hands is a must. Their Gnarly Dudes Shiraz is a popular favorite. Here you’ll receive a unique sit-down tasting from the day’s selection and you’ll get to take your tasting glass home with you.
Torbreck – Named one of the world’s top 100 wine estates, Torbreck is a small winery excelling in Shiraz and consistency. Though big on rich reds, their whites, particularly the Roussanne Marsanne, plays rights along side their most popular contenders.
Ochota Barrels – This is truly one of Adelaide Hills hidden gems with a well-deserved cult following. All Ochota Barrels wine names are music references sure to delight any punk rock enthusiast. Grab a seat at Lost in a Forest, their cellar door housed in a 130 year-old stone church, and try their wood fired pizza while sipping on their wines. Set within an idyllic scene of bright, lush trees hanging over picnic blankets on the lawn, you’ll feel yourself delightfully lost in a forest.
Rockford – No frills and serious wine is found in Rockford. Though a smaller winery, you’re sure to receive warm and attentive service even throughout peak times. This is the place to go for a more traditional winery experience, housed in restored buildings reflecting the architecture of Barossa Valley’s early settlements. You’ll feel the warmth of their sparkling Shiraz in your very soul.
Penfolds Magill Estate – If you’re at all familiar with Australian wine, you’ll have definitely heard of Penfolds. When in Barossa, you can’t pass up the opportunity to miss this household name at their cellar door. With a wide range of affordable and high end wines, there’s something for every palate. And only 20 minutes away from Adelaide’s city center, there’s no reason for you not to go!
Want More Recommendations on the Best Australia Food and Wine?
Part 2 will highlight food and wine spots in Australia’s east coast, including Noosa, Brisbane and Gold Coast. Your Destination Specialist is also always on hand to give you the inside scoop on restaurants and cellar doors you must visit while on your trip. Give in to your desires and lets start planning the ultimate food and wine trail for your Australia vacation!
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The Great Barrier Reef is a mind blowing natural wonder. It’s truly one of the best places to visit in Australia. It spans over 1,200 miles and harbors one of the richest ecosystems on the planet with over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands scattered along its expanse. If you’re traveling all the way to Australia, you’ll want to visit the Great Barrier Reef in all its glory. This amazing video produced by David Attenborough gives you an idea of what it’s like to explore the reef, but nothing can really do it justice. It’s one of those things you have to see for yourself.
There are a multitude of ways you can launch your reef adventure. Take the traditional route and dive or snorkel the reef, or stay dry on a glass bottom boat, scenic flight or adventurous sail. Maybe even find a more unique way to explore the reef on your own terms. Read more for your guide on exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
Snorkeling and diving
Don your mask and fins and get up close to the dazzling kaleidoscope of corals, sea turtles, rays, sharks and tropical fish of every color. Snorkeling is the cheapest and most popular way to have an aquatic adventure you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
A Day Trip on a Reef Cruise
One of the best ways to dive or snorkel the reef is to hop aboard a boat excursion. These are great because they take you out to 2 or 3 exclusive dive sites along the outer reef. All boats offer snorkeling, most offer diving for certified divers and a few even offer introductory dives for those who want to try out diving for the first time on the reef. Our favorite operators depart from Cairns and Port Douglas. If you want to make it out to famous dive sites like the Ribbon Reefs on a day-trip, you have to depart from Port Douglas. It’s a great town to stay in, but only a short transfer if you’re staying Cairns. These full day excursions tend to include lunch, snacks, snorkel gear, lycra suits and a guided snorkel tour with a dive master. Scuba diving and gear brings additional costs. Different boats offer different experiences. Some take you out to a single location with hundreds of other people, some offer a more exclusive experience and others go farther out into more remote locations to cater to the more experienced. Talk to an About Australia Destination Specialist to select the right one for you.
The best diving sites are located further from the mainland. Famous dive sites like The Ribbon Reefs with Cod Hole are best encountered on a 3 day Liveaboard. If you want to dive both the Ribbon Reefs and the remote and amazing North Horn at Osprey Reef, you’ll need to take a Liveaboard for at least a week. For the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience, embark on a 14-Day expedition. During these trips, you can swim with Minke whales (June-July), see Humpbacks (August – October), dive during a shark feed (totally safe, we swear!) and visit some of the most immaculate coral reefs in the world.
Liveaboards generally only offer diving to certified divers, but snorkelers are often welcomed at a discounted rate. Snorkelers on Liveabaords are normally accompanying their diving partners. We wouldn’t recommend it otherwise. There are usually only a few dive sites that will work well for a snorkeler on a 3-7 day liveaboard trip.
For astonishing diving or snorkeling, consider staying on a Great Barrier Reef island. Our favorites are Heron Island, Lizard Island, Elliot Island, Fraser Island, Hamilton Island, and Orpheus Island. Famous diver and documentarian, David Attenborough, has named Heron Island
and Elliot Island
as a few of his favorite dive sites.
So, you’ll be in good company! A stay at most of these islands offer the added bonus of enjoying an all-inclusive resort. Most offer free use of snorkeling gear and motorized dinghies. From these islands, a diver easily take a short boat ride with a small group to a number of amazing dive sites. Snorkelers can see the reef right off the beach or venture further on their own reef bound boat. Your About Australia Destination Specialist
can find you the best deal possible.
Luxury Snorkeling Experiences
If you really want to treat yourself, try out a day-cruise or luxury catamaran tour in the Whitsundays. These small group tours offer exclusivity and comfort all while sailing around some of the most beautiful islands in the world. The ship will drop anchor and you’ll jump into the turquoise water to snorkel among the big sea turtles, anemone and schools of colorful fish. Most excursions around the Whitsunday Islands include a visit to the famous Whitehaven Beach. This long white-sanded beach stretches over four miles along the coast of Whitsunday Island. Unlike most beaches, Whitehaven is made up of 98% pure silica which gives it a bright snow-like complexion. The sand is a fine grain with a soft velvety feel. It also doesn’t retain heat very well, so you won’t burn your bare feet on bright sunny days. It’s the most photographed beach in Australia. You can clearly see why.
See the Reef without Getting Wet
If swimming isn’t your thing, you can still see the Great Barrier Reef without submerging into the depths of the South Pacific.
Glass Bottom Boats
Glass bottom boat tours are a great way to admire the underwater beauty of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Most boats are designed to accommodate as many people as possible while still allowing everyone a clear view of the tropical life thriving below them. Some boats come with tour guides who provide detailed descriptions of the different type of coral and marine life. If you have the opportunity, take a night tour to see the coral really come to life after dark. There are great glass bottom boat tours operating out of Airlie Beach, Cairns and Port Douglas. Some also offer scuba diving and snorkeling excursions which makes them a perfect option for mixed company.
Reef HQ Aquarium
Reef HQ houses the largest living coral reef aquarium. The building itself is quite small when compared to other aquariums, but the live ecosystem sets it apart from other aquariums you’ve seen. It’s a great introduction to the reef as friendly guides explain about the reef in an educational and entertaining manner. Be sure to stop by the turtle hospital.
Fly Over the Reef
Behold the sheer magnitude of the Great Barrier Reef by taking to the sky and seeing the reef from above. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to fly over the reef while on your Australia vacation. From the Whitsunday Islands, you can take a flight out to Hardy Reef to snorkel, hang out in a semi-submersible, check out the underwater observatory or chill on the deck and get a massage. After, take the scenic view and fly over Heart Reef. Or skip Hardy Reef and soar over the heart of the Great Barrier Reef from any one of the Whitsunday Island resorts. Helicopter rides and scenic flights are also available from Cairns and Port Douglas. Stay at a resort like Lizard Island or Orpheus Island and a low-level flight over the reef is par for the course. You’ll be awed by the stunning beauty of the maze of reefs weaved together to form this natural wonder.
If you fancy yourself an angler, fishing on the reef is a must. Cairns and the Ribbon Reefs are probably best known for trophy black marlin fishing. About 30-50 miles off the coast lies a very special stretch of ocean called “Marlin Mecca” where more “granders” (100lbs or more) are taken than all the other combined fishing water in the world. Billfishing aficionados can try their hand at catching the big one every year late September through December. Lizard Island is the only land-based operation that offers access to “Marlin Mecca”.
There is also great light tackle fishing on select areas of the reef. Take a charter from Cairns or stay on a Great Barrier Reef Island for access to nearly every species of Pacific game inhabiting the ocean just adjacent to the reef and the continental shelf. It’s a great experience for fishing enthusiasts, offering some of the fastest game-fishing in the world.
Unique Reef Experiences
Looking for something a little more “out-of-the-box”? Maybe you aren’t a very good swimmer but you really want to explore the reef. Try one of these awesome tours.
Seawalking/ Helmet Diving
A helmet dive is a perfect way for non-swimmers to explore the reef like pro divers. It’s quick and easy too. You start with a quick briefing. Then, you’ll don a large space-suit type helmet and you’re ready to go. A guide will take down about 6 people at a time. Jump into the water and hold on to metal tubing as your guide takes you around the ocean floor. You’ll be completely surrounded by colorful fish and coral and you won’t even get your hair wet. Children as young as 12 can participate, so it’s great for families. You can embark on this unique diving experience from Cairns or Port Douglas.
Another great option for people who don’t want to scuba dive the reef is a tiny 3-person submarine. Two people, guided by an experienced pilot can explore the underwater world of the beautiful coral and exotic marine creatures without traditional scuba gear or training. Tours depart from Fitzroy Island, just a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns. There is always a safety diver trailing the sub while your experienced diver and submarine pilot doubles as a tour guide, providing vivid descriptions of the surrounding sea life and corals. This is a really fun and super safe way to see the Great Barrier Reef!
Are you ready to start planning your visit to the Great Barrier Reef? Check out some of our Great Barrier Reef Deals below, request a custom vacation quote or phone us toll free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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