Gold Coast is where Australia’s warm beach culture meets city lights and glamor. The vacation vibes never seem to end.
Located on the eastern coast of Australia in the state of Queensland, Gold Coast is a tropical city with a playground of sun-kissed beaches and enchanting rainforest hinterland.
These natural gems are some of the most popular Gold Coast attractions, but there are many other unique things to in the Gold Coast for free.
Here’s our list of the top 8 free things to do in the Gold Coast.
1. Feed the Lorikeets at Currumbin National Park
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Become part of an old Gold Coast tradition and feed the colorful lorikeets at Currumbin National Park. These native Australian birds delight visitors with their incredible flying skills and friendly nature, often landing on heads and outstretched arms.
This famous wildlife sanctuary started when founder Alex Griffiths began feeding wild lorikeets to prevent them from damaging his gardens. These bright, colorful birds, coated in green, purple, red and yellow feathers, attracted local curiosity and soon developed into an essential Gold Coast attraction. The park is now home to numerous animals including native Australian wildlife and exotic animals from around the world.
Though there is an entrance fee to the park, the lorikeet feedings are free to attend. For a small donation fee you can personally feed the birds with a plate of nectar – quickly covered in the dazzling colors of the hungry lorikeets! Feeding times are every day at 8am and 4pm.
2. Cycle the Gold Coast Oceanway
Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland
Get some fresh coastal air with stunning beach views on the Gold Coast Oceanway. This 22 mile coastal route is actually a network of different paths along Gold Coast’s best beaches and parks. You’ll find locals and visitors alike exploring the Oceanway by bike or foot. For true beach vibes, try the Oceanway by skates!
The Gold Coast Oceanway stretches from the Gold Coast Seaway at the northern end of Main Beach to Point Danger headland, at the border between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. You can easily spend a whole day walking the full route, dipping into different beaches and grabbing a bite to eat at tasty fish and chip shops along the way.
Staying in Surfers Paradise? Pack a picnic, swimsuits and sunscreen and take on the Surfers Paradise section of the Oceanway. A popular route is walking from Surfers Paradise to Burleigh Heads. The contrast between the glamorous high rises in Surfers Paradise Beach to the turquoise waters and green parklands of Burleigh Heads Beach is a breathtaking sight to behold.
3. Hit Up Gold Coast’s Boundless Beaches
Photo: Tourism Australia & Tourism and Events Queensland
Australia is famous for its radiant beaches, and Gold Coast is the perfect destination to soak up some sun. With over twenty beaches stretched across 35 miles of pristine coastland, you can visit a different beach each day. Here are our favorite Gold Coast Beaches:
- Main Beach – Looking for the perfect spot to roll out your towel and just chill? Main Beach is the Gold Coast go-to for relaxed beach vibes. Patrolled by lifeguards and with a range of cafes, restaurants and shops just steps from the beach, Main Beach is also one of the best Gold Coast beaches for families.
- Surfers Paradise Beach – Surfers Paradise Beach has all the glamor of a Hollywood beach movie set and the natural beauty to put Instagram filters to shame. This popular beach sits right at the hub of Gold Coast’s main attractions and entertainment, drawing crowds of beachgoers. Its excellent swimming conditions and array of beachside shopping, dining and nightlife make it a favorite among travelers.
- Burleigh Heads Beach – There’s no better place to try your hand at surfing than at Burleigh Heads Beach. This is a popular surfing destination due to its excellent surf break, perfect even for bodyboarding and swimming. Its wide, shady parklands are hotspots for barbeques and picnics, or simply for cool shade from the Gold Coast sun.
- Coolangatta Beach – This north-facing beach offers sheltered conditions with crystal clear emerald waters perfect for swimming and sunbathing. Clean and well-equipped barbecues are placed along the shore for a beachside grill and bright cafes just across the road offer delectable menus. The view from Coolangatta Beach towards the Gold Coast skyline is simply breathtaking.
4. Explore Gold Coast’s National Parks
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Head to the Gold Coast hinterland for rainforest national parks, sparkling waterfalls and fantastic walking trails. These are our favorite Gold Coast hinterland spots:
- Springbrook National Park – Just an hour’s drive away from the hustle and bustle of Gold Coast is Springbrook National Park, a hidden paradise of moss-laden rainforests and refreshing cascades. The crown jewel of the park is the Natural Bridge, a stunning rock formation formed by the force of the waterfall over an erosive cave. Keep an eye out for kangaroos and wallabies while exploring the winding trails!
- Lamington National Park – Threaded with walking trails through lush rainforest and waterfalls, Lamington National Park is heaven for nature lovers. The park is part of the Gondwana rainforest system, the oldest living rainforest in the world. Walk the Binna Burra Rainforest Circuit or the Bellbird Lookout track, both strewn with scenic lookouts, tumbling waterfalls and creeks. See the rainforest from above with a Tree Top Walk at the Green Mountains Section of the park.
- Burleigh Head National Park – Rainforest meets sea at Burleigh Head National Park, where you can walk along a rocky foreshore through mangroves, grasslands, coastal heath and even among Australian brush turkeys and water dragons. Visit in spring to for the chance to see whales!
- Tamborine National Park – Can’t get enough of rockpools and waterfalls? Explore the phenomenal waterfalls of Tamborine National Park, just an hour’s drive away from Gold Coast. Complete with walking trails through lush rainforest and cliff-jumping into the cool waters, this park is the perfect respite for when you’re completely beached out.
5. Discover Treasures at Local Markets
Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets
Markets are a fantastic way of immersing yourself in a city’s local vibe. Gold Coast loves to support its local food vendors, artists and craftspeople with an array of markets. You’ll find everything from fresh produce, creative art pieces, handcrafted clothes, vintage items and even home-brewed beer! Do Gold Coast like a local and check out these markets:
- Miami Marketta – One of the best things to do in Gold Coast on the weekend is checking out Miami Marketta, a local favorite of street food, live music and flowing drinks. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night, Gold Coast’s Miami neighborhood transforms a large warehouse into a foodie’s paradise, with vendors serving up mouthwatering eats from around the world. You’ll find everything from slow cooked brisket to Spanish paella to Vietnamese bao sandwiches, as well as a stall with over 90 different gins to choose from! Free samples and live music complete everything you need for a great night out.
- Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets – Wind your day down with a browse at the stalls of handmade crafts and uniquely Australian products at the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets. These markets pop up every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night along the beach esplanade, featuring over 100 different stalls. Find unique souvenirs, onsite artists, boutiques, jewelry, and even a stall where you can take pictures while holding a macaw!
- The Village Markets – Bohemian vibes and fashionable finds dominate the Village Markets of Burleigh Heads. Chic stalls focusing on boutique fashion, lifestyle products and delicious eats make this one of the Gold Coast’s best local markets. Explore racks of vintage clothes, handcrafted furniture, creative jewelry and designer clothing from local, burgeoning brands. The Village Markets are open on the first and third Sunday of each month from 8:30am to 1pm.
- Marina Mirage Farmers Market – Get your Gold Coast weekend started with a trip to the Marina Mirage Farmers Market for fresh organic produce. Open every Saturday from 7am to 12pm, this farmers market showcases the Gold Coast’s finest seasonal fruits and vegetables, gourmet artisan delicacies, freshly baked pastries and organic products. Pick up something healthy to create a meal back at your Gold Coast accommodation!
6. Stroll the Gold Coast Botanic Gardens
Photo: Friends of the Gold Coast Botanic Gardens
If you’re looking for non touristy things to do in the Gold Coast, check out the Botanic Gardens. This collection of gardens showcases the unique plants found in this hotspot of biodiversity. Almost every aspect of the gardens incorporates stories of the Aboriginal people native to the region.
Easy walking paths and timber bridges cross the gardens, perfect for a quiet stroll. The Kaialgumm Games Trail takes you to six sites where you can use a QR reader from your smart phone or tablet to learn about traditional indigenous games and how to play them.
Wander through the Mangroves to Mountains section of the gardens, linked by several different pathways, to see thriving endemic vegetation. The Montane Rockery also features native species, found on the mountains and escarpments of South East Queensland’s most extreme environments.
For more traditional gardens, the Rose Garden offers delightful blooms of various roses suited to the local climate. Kids will love the playground, a local favorite for birthday parties. Don’t skip the Sensory Garden, where you can get your hands on a range of plants to touch and sniff.
7. Catch a Local Festival
Blues on Broadbeach Festival
The best time to travel to the Gold Coast is always during a festival. From jazz music to sculptures to surfing competitions, the free festivals in the Gold Coast hold something for everyone. Here are some fantastic festivals to plan around your Gold Coast visit:
- Surfers Paradise LIVE – This four-day music festival is held on the Surfers Paradise beachfront, showcasing a great lineup of iconic Australian musicians. As night falls, musicians take the stage and fill the Gold Coast nights with electric vibes and incredible shows. Surfers Paradise LIVE usually runs on the first weekend of May.
- Blues on Broadbeach – Not only is Blues on Broadbeach regarded as one of Australia’s best blues and soul music festival, but it’s also one of the largest free festivals in the world! International artists and talented acts from all over Australia gather for four days of amazing performances. Visit the Gold Coast in mid-May to catch Blues on Broadbeach.
- Swell Sculpture Festival -If you’re visiting the Gold Coast in September, catch the Swell Sculpture Festival at Currumbin Beach. Art installations and sculptures by local and international artists transform the beach into an outdoor gallery, free for all to enjoy. Nothing makes a walk along the beach better than stunning art works set against the backdrop of the Gold Coast skyline.
- Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast – Want to see how pros take on the waves? Catch the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast surfing competition in early April to see the world’s best surfers ride the barreling waves of Snapper Rocks at Rainbow Bay.
8. Spot Whales from the Shore
Mick Schamburg Park Lookout. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
The Gold Coast has many excellent lookout points where you can spot humpback whales swimming close to shore. Though whale watching season in Australia runs from May to November, your best chance of spotting whales in the Gold Coast is between June and October.
Head to Point Danger Lookout for fantastic views across the ocean. Complete with public binoculars, this is one of the best spots in the Gold Coast to see whales for free!
Just north of Point Danger Lookout and along Rainbow Bay is Kirra Hill Lookout. This beautiful spot offers incredible panoramic views of the ocean and across to the high rise coastline Surfers Paradise. Pack a picnic lunch and relax on the sheltered tables and benches on your whale watching break.
Tumgun Lookout in Burleigh Head National Park is one of the more popular spots for whale watching in the Gold Coast. Make a day of exploring the park’s fantastic walks while keeping an eye out for the telling mist of whale water spouts.
Mick Schamburg Park in the Miami neighborhood of the Gold Coast is one of the locals’ hidden gems. Climb to the lookout for commanding views across Surfers Paradise and uninterrupted views across the ocean. This is one of the best spots for whale watching during the season.
Add These Free Things to Do in the Gold Coast to Your Visit!
Gold Coast is no doubt one of Australia’s best destinations for endless beach days and fun in the sun. Combined with its rich hinterland and love of all things local, the hidden gems of free things to do in the Gold Coast offer spectacular experiences for any kind of traveler.
We hope your visit to the Gold Coast is full of unforgettable memories of fresh coastal air and warm sunshine!
Happy travels from your mates at About Australia!
Many first time travelers feel a mixture of all sorts of emotions right before setting off to Australia.
Excitement, anxiety, fear. You’re either scouring the internet for every single tip on traveling in Australia, or your plan is just to wing it.
Your best bet is to embrace a little bit of both attitudes. Australia is such a dynamic country full of incredible sights. We promise there’s very little you should fear, and so much you should be excited about.
To make your planning a little easier, here’s our list of 14 common mistakes to avoid when traveling to Australia.
1. Underestimating the Size of Australia
For some reason people have this idea that Australia is a rather small island.
People think they can hop in a car and drive around the whole country in about a week.
The problem is, Australia is about the same size as the U.S. Hitting the major hotspots such as Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne is like traveling from Miami to New York then Houston. Definitely not a road trip you want to blast through in just a week.
2. Not Being Familiar with the Seasons
Australia’s seasons are opposite to ours in the U.S.
Their summer is our winter. The weather also varies throughout different parts of Australia. Up north in Cairns and the tropics the summer season is marked by frequent rains while winters are mild and dry. Down in the southern states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, the winters get a little colder.
If you’re planning to hit up the beaches in Sydney in June, you might be in for a surprise!
Check out our guide on the weather in Australia for a detailed look of the average weather throughout different regions of the country.
3. Not Planning in Advance
One of the joys of traveling to some place new is discovering its local delights on spontaneous adventures.
While this holds true for many parts of Australia, you’ll want to pre-book your bucket list items or you’ll risk missing out. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, visiting Sydney during New Year’s, riding The Ghan and other famous Australian rail journeys – these are things you absolutely need to book in advance before your trip. You’re traveling all the way to the other side of the world for some of these spectacular experiences. The last thing you want is to be disappointed on what should be the trip of a lifetime.
Not sure if your must-do adventure should be pre-booked? Talk with your About Australia Destination Specialist.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Photo: Tourism Australia
4. Having No Down Time
It’s hard to resist the urge to cram a ton of things to do every day while traveling.
We totally get it – you want to see as much as you can with the amount of time you’ve got in Australia.
But some down time is so important to pace your journey and take it all in. You don’t want to stretch yourself thin by being on the go all the time with no breaks in between. You’ll get easily stressed by trying to keep track of everything you have to do.
It’s great to make sure you get to meeting points on time and not miss any departures. But you don’t want your head to be completely filled with logistics when you should be enjoying the moment.
5. Not Budgeting for Australian Prices
There’s no way around it – Australia is expensive.
People tend to get sticker shock when they see the prices throughout Australia. Keep in mind, Australia is home to several cities that are consistently rated as the most liveable cities in the world. Prices will reflect that demand. You’ll want to save up a fair bit of money to use while traveling, as well as carry extra cash.
Eating out ranges on average around $30 per meal, not including drinks. On the upside, tipping is not generally customary in Australia. The minimum wage starts at about $18.29 an hour and service workers don’t tend to expect tips.
Definitely splurge here and there and let yourself have fun, but you’ll want to be careful about your spending while in Australia. For more about the currency and using credit cards in Australia, check out our guide on Australian currency.
6. Skipping Out on Travel Insurance
This is something you absolutely do not want to skip out on for any trip, not just Australia.
Travel insurance covers a range of unforeseen events such as medical emergencies, travel delays, bad weather, lost luggage and much more.
No matter how carefully you may plan your trip, sometimes things happen that are completely out of our control. Your trip is an investment – you don’t want to incur a complete loss should something happen.
12 Apostles, Melbourne
7. Not Allowing Enough Time for Each Destination
Imagine giving yourself one day to visit New York, then traveling to Chicago the next day, then San Francisco the next.
You’d barely see anything!
Australia’s major cities – even its small towns – have so much to offer, and you could easily spend days just exploring one city.
You’ll also want to extend your stays to act as a base for exploring nearby regions. Sydney has the stunning Blue Mountains outside of the city and the Hunter Valley Wine Region a short road trip away. Explore the Great Barrier Reef one day in Cairns, then Daintree Rainforest – the oldest rainforest in the world – the next day.
Think about allowing yourself a free day as well to explore each destination on your own.
8. Leaving the Big Adventures at the End
A good rule of thumb is to schedule big ticket tours at the beginning of your stay in Australia rather than later.
This is mainly due to the weather, especially important for weather-related excursions. If you’ve booked a Great Barrier Reef cruise at the beginning of your stay in Cairns but the weather causes a cancellation, you’ve at least got the rest of your stay available to reschedule the cruise.
Many tour operators are flexible in rescheduling your booking due to inclement weather, so it’s good to schedule these tours at the start of your stay just in case. Leaving these tours until the end of your stay poses the risk of missing out should anything happen.
9. Over Packing
If you’ve ever fallen victim to over packing, hopefully you remember the utter unpleasantness that comes along with it.
Lugging extra bags everywhere you go, forcing all your weight down on your suitcase and praying you can zip it at least most of the way. Not to mention having no extra room for any souvenirs!
But another pit fall of over packing is going over the airline luggage restrictions and risk having to shell out extra cash for your bags. We recommend booking all your flights within the U.S. and Australia on the same ticket which increases your luggage allowance to two checked bags. Australian domestic flights have strict carry-on limits, so an extra checked bag for free comes in handy. Your About Australia Destination Specialist will do this for you whenever possible.
Also, many hotels throughout Australia are apartment-style and include laundry units within their rooms. This way you can pack light and still have clean clothes throughout your journey. Check out our guide on what to pack for Australia to help you figure out what to bring and what to leave behind.
10. Being Scared of the Wildlife
People hear “Australia” and think they’ll be coiled to death by snakes and eaten by spiders.
But you’re more likely to get injured by a horse than all Australia’s venomous critters combined. Even then, the only places you might actually come across these dangerous creatures are in carefully maintained wildlife parks and zoos.
You definitely won’t see any snakes or large spiders in the cities, or any kangaroos and koalas in the wild, either. There’s a chance you might spot some native wildlife in more open areas outside of city limits and in national parks. As with any wild animal, as long as you leave them alone they won’t bother you.
It’s important to only interact with wildlife in the presence of a professional wildlife handler. That’s how you’ll get those special opportunities to hand-feed kangaroos or take a picture with a koala. And no, drop bears are not real!
Taronga Zoo, Sydney. Photo: Tourism Australia
11. Not Applying Enough Sunscreen
It’s way better to overdo the sunscreen in Australia than to under-do it. It’ll save you a world of pain.
Australia receives extraordinarily high levels of ultraviolet radiation due to its close proximity to the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. This lack of extra atmospheric sun protection makes sunscreen application essential. You’ll want to make sure you use a broad spectrum sunscreen protecting against both UVA and UVB rays.
If you’re heading to the reef, you’ll also want to be sure your sunscreen is reef safe.
Tip: When out on the reef, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the back of your knees!
12. Not Getting to Know the Locals
Aussies are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation and let yourself open up. You’ll get the best tips on local secrets such as the best places to grab some food or drinks, as well as extra advice on any places to avoid.
Besides, a new Aussie friend is a great reason to plan a return trip!
Opera Bar, Sydney. Photo: Anson Smart
13. Thinking You Can Catch a Train or Bus to New Zealand
There are no roads, bridges or tunnels connecting Australia to New Zealand.
The only way to get there is on a flight, just about 4 hours long.
New Zealand is an incredible country on its own and deserves at least a two week trip to see the highlights. If you have enough time to see both countries, combing the two makes for a fantastic vacation.
But New Zealand is vastly different from its neighbor, and we recommend planning a separate trip if you only have a limited amount of time for your vacation.
14. Sweating the Small Stuff
Planning a trip is stressful enough, and sometimes the anxiety of traveling in a foreign country makes it easy to let the small stuff get to you.
But you’re in one of the world’s top bucket list destinations – don’t let minor setbacks ruin your vacation.
If you plan your trip with About Australia all the small details will be taken care of, and if you’ve got travel insurance, all the big stuff will be covered.
Avoid These Common Mistakes When Traveling to Australia
Planning your Australia travel may seem daunting at first, but it’s rather easy to avoid these common mistakes
As long as you keep these Australia travel tips in mind, it’s actually quite difficult to ruin your trip. It’s all a matter of researching your destinations and getting in touch with an About Australia Destination Specialist for extra insider knowledge. Once you’re ready to plan your trip, we’ll make sure the process is a breeze.
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.
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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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Amazing Australia Road Trips Part 3
Australia’s Gold Rush: Halls Gap to Melbourne
Empty your pockets. When traveling through Ballarat, you’ll need the extra space for gold.
In our Amazing Australia Road Trips Pt. 2, we went over 13 great adventures in the Grampians. Now we’ll head back to Melbourne after an epic Great Ocean Road adventure, but there’s still many treasures to discover on this leg of the trip.
You might even find actual gold!
Between Halls Gap and Melbourne is a region rich in Australia’s gold rush history, including the goldfields of Ballarat.
From a spectacular local food and art scene rivaling Melbourne’s and a splendid heritage backdrop, Ballarat is the perfect stop to enjoy the finer things in life.
Here are 10 adventures in Ballarat and surrounds to end your Australia road trip with a bang.
Hang Around Halls Gap for Breakfast
After downing a few cups of Joe throughout your travels in Australia, you’ll know there’s something special about Aussie coffee.
Fuel up for the day at Harvest, where the coffee maintains the Aussie standard of excellence. Fresh ingredients create a stellar breakfast menu highlighting the amazing local produce of the Grampians.
Favorites include the Bubble & Squeak (poached eggs and ham off the bone on a bed of potato and vegetable hash) and zesty corn fritters.
Harvest is a warm and inviting spot. Almost as good as a Melbourne cafe with much lovelier staff. Good food and would recommend the aptly named Bubble n Squeak.Janelle Galea
I’m a serious coffee snob, long black, hot n strong no sugar. So to my shock the coffee at Harvest was simply superb. I highly recommend this beautiful quaint little cafe on the edge of Halls Gap… the staff are amazing and ready to share their knowledge of the area from walks to wineries and more. The food was great and I’ll miss this little cafe. It would be awesome if it were to become your local. Check it out soon.Tony Meehan
See the Gold Rush Opulence of Ballarat on a Heritage Walk
After driving about two hours on the Western Highway from Halls Gap you’ll cross paths with Ballarat.
The Australian gold boom of the 1850’s completely transformed this small sheep station to a major town, now the third largest inland city in Australia.
As you travel closer to the heart of the city, the legacy of Ballarat’s gold rush becomes evident in the magnificent Victorian and Edwardian buildings lining the streets.
Stretch your legs after your drive and take on the heritage walking trails winding through the central heritage precinct.
You’ll find some of Australia’s most beautifully preserved colonial architecture such as the impressive Town Hall and Craig’s Royal Hotel in in Lydiard Street and historic monuments and statues along Sturt Street.
It was my great experience to see inside the Ballarat town hall during a heritage week. Loved all the decorations and all furniture back in gold era. I hope the council will keep the Victorian vibe in the hall and won’t put too much urbanism into our old town hall.Jolt Media
Explore the Ballarat Botanical Gardens
Step into the serenity of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, where rows of red, yellow and pink begonias decorate verdant lawns dotted with classical statues.
Towering trees providing ample shade along paved trails lead to the Robert Clark Conservatory. Here you’ll find the setting out of something in a wedding planner magazine.
Hydrangeas, fuchsias and pelargoniums bloom into a spectacle of purple, pink and red hues in the summer, while autumn boasts a gorgeous begonia display.
Walk down Prime Ministers Avenue past bronze busts honoring Australia’s past prime ministers, adding a unique historical touch to the gardens.
Wander through the carefully landscaped lawns and find Victorian marble statues from Italy placed throughout the gardens.
A highlight is the Sensory Garden, an interactive space where you can touch and smell different plants.
Best place to hang out or enjoy a morning walk. Green house is warm for having a break after run or exercise. This historical garden will give you about Ballarat in the past and so many kinds of plants. Marble Statues are amazingly beautiful. Just come to see something green. On weekend you can enjoy a farmer market along the lake, too.Hugo Krystal
Taste Your Way Through Ballarat’s Growing Food Scene
From authentic Spanish tapas to cozy cafes with exciting menus, Ballarat’s food scene will delight any foodie.
There’s no end to the delicious eateries featuring local produce – an unspoken requirement you’ll find throughout its restaurants.
Grab a slice of some of the region’s best pizza at The Forge Pizzeria. This local favorite delights in crafting unique pizzas. Think slow roasted pork, gorgonzola dolce and green apple slaw on your pie, or woodfired roast pumpkin, goats cheese and pine nuts. Definitely a must for any adventurous eater.
Relish in the colorful Spanish atmosphere at Meigas, where the tapas pack incredible flavors in every bite.
Never have I expect to find food this good outside of Melbourne. Yes if you look at the menu, it look kinda expensive but the serving size is very generous and it is worth every cents. The octopus was tender and seasoned just right with the paprika. The Lamb skewers, the meat is tender, slightly pink in the inside, the sauce to dip with is wonderful. Oh that beef cheek, you don’t need a knife to cut it. It is soft. The sauce and the mash underneath complement it perfectly. Overall all the food are perfect. Beside the food, the atmosphere, the deco and the service are excellent. Even we were sitting by the window, the waiter and waitress came by pretty often, making sure we are okay. Oh lastly for the drink, they have this one with the gin, citrus and cinnamon, you have to try it if you like gin. It is that good!Jenny Kwong
Sip on Locally Brewed Craft Beers
Craft beer enthusiasts may want to hold off on lunch and explore Ballarat’s growing craft beer scene. In a city where food and drink are an experience-based culture, beer lovers are sure to find their slice of heaven in Ballarat.
Get up close to the brewing process at Athletic Club Brewery, boasting an eclectic range of beer styles sure to pique your interest. Settle into one of the couches facing the beer vats behind a glass wall and sip on a choice draft brewed on site.
Head over to Hop Temple, slated as the city’s craft beer mecca. Unique decor, live music and friendly staff are just the beginning of Hop Temple’s highlights. With more beers than you can count on tap and a delicious menu that stands out on its own, this gem has something for everyone.
What is there not to love about this place? The walk through the alley to get to the entrance was a thrill, and when I opened the door, my mouth dropped open at the space aesthetics. My husband and I shared some scrumptious hot sides and a beer paddle as our afternoon tea. It was so relaxing sitting there in the cozy corner near the stairs, enjoying our food and beverages. Wished we stayed for dinner, but had prearranged to go elsewhere… hopefully we will be back soon.Helen Man
Visit Sensational Art Galleries
Ballarat’s mix of major galleries and smaller studios are home to spectacular masterpieces to impress any art buff.
The Art Gallery of Ballarat, considered one of the best regional galleries in all Australia, draws visitors even from Melbourne. Housed in the heritage precinct of Ballarat, you’ll find an incredible range of exhibits throughout the spacious gallery.
This is by far the best regional art gallery I have ever been too. Wonderfully set out, has a great selection of art and lots of different exhibits and themes. From classic to modern, sculptures to painting’s and photos plus some Comic art. Was blown away with how amazing it was and the staff were excellent too. The best thing of all was it’s free, I was so surprised that something so awesome could be free. Please make sure you make a donation though as this place deserves it. Definately recommended for all.Steve Pickwell
We were totally surprised at the quality of this art gallery. It is brilliant! The art collection is amazing. We certainly did not expect to see such a large variety of beautiful works of art by both well-known and less-known artists in a regional gallery. It was certainly worth spending time here!Anna Palmer
See Nuggets of Gold at the Gold Museum
Everything that glitters is indeed gold at the Gold Museum. This informative museum is the perfect introduction to Ballarat’s gold rush history, displaying an impressive collection of gold nuggets, gold artifacts and gold coins.
Discover the chronological history of the gold rush as it swept over this region of Australia, lending to the prosperity of Ballarat. Gaze over historic photos and carefully preserved articles of clothing from the era.
Very interesting and well set out, you get to see real pieces of history from mining to clothing and jewellery plus real nuggets! Something for everyone. I was told not to miss it and I’m glad I visited.Oxley Vic
A great place to learn about the history of the Ballarat gold fields and interesting details. The replica gold nuggets found are eye popping. If you have any interest in history this place is well worthwhile. Fascinating facts and information well presented and well worth a quick visit.C_and_J_Lewis
Pan for Gold at Sovereign Hill
So far we’ve only skimmed the surface of Ballarat’s heritage. It’s time to feel the rush of the gold mining excitement for yourself and travel back in time at Sovereign Hill.
This open air museum is a living, breathing replica of Ballarat in the 1850’s. Walk through Main Street, lined with shops and factories showcasing rare 19th century trades practiced by skilled artisan using original machinery of the times.
Learn to make your own candy, watch the processing and pouring of a spectacular gold ingot or buy a post card and send it off at the working post office.
Catch a show at the Victoria Theatre or hitch a ride on a horse-drawn coach. Try your hand at firing a musket or dress up in Victorian costumes and snap a photo as a unique souvenir. With staff always in character and even a large number of actors in costume roaming the streets, Sovereign Hill feels like the closest thing to a time machine.
But the one thing you absolutely must do is try your hand at panning for gold.
If you’re lucky, you might get to keep what you find!
Absolutely wonderful place to spend the day! There are delicious bakery’s, gold panning (I found quite a bit of it) candle making (you can colour your own candles!) you can have your name be on a ‘WANTED’ poster, you can make your own bath salt jar they sell amazing boiled sweets they take you on a self guided tour underground in the mines and they run a show were you get to watch someone pour gold (gold pouring) and that is only some of what you get to experience at Sovereign Hill I definitely recommend it I’d like to thank the guy at the gold panning for teaching us how to pan and even giving us a few specks of it! Thanks to all the staff for making our day wonderful!Bella Hales
Meet the Animals at Ballarat Wildlife Park
An Aussie road trip isn’t complete without at least a few wildlife encounters.
Ballarat makes it easy to get up close to iconic Australian animals at the Ballarat Wildlife Park.
Situated on natural bush land, you’ll find a fantastic range of animals in the park, including some you may not have encountered in the wild just yet. Hand feed the kangaroos roaming around the grounds, spot exotic cassowaries, meet the cute spotted-tail quolls and get to know the resident wombats.
And of course – take a picture with a koala!
Hands down my favorite experience in Australia to date. The park is smallish, which gives it a cozy atmosphere and allows you plenty of time to explore each exhibit. The animals all appear happy and well taken care of – honestly if I could be one of the kangaroos in another life, I wouldn’t hesitate. Plus, the staff were all lovely (not something I necessarily expect from bigger zoos). We paid extra for the wombat encounter and it was definitely worth the money. Plus, feeding and cuddling with the kangaroos was such a great time. Can’t recommend highly enough!Brittany Lloyd
Soak in the Mineral Baths at Hepburn Springs
Unwind with an invigorating mineral soak in the baths of Hepburn Springs.
Just a slight detour northeast of Ballarat, Hepburn Springs is home to Australia’s largest concentration of mineral springs.
This lends to the many spas dotting the area, all fulfilling their promise to end your day on the highest note of relaxation.
Step into the healing warmth of mineral water with a night bath at The Mineral Spa. Intimate, adults-only and with breathtaking views into the countryside, this destination spa is one of the most acclaimed in all Australia.
My partner and I went on a Sunday. We did the early bird spa and the Radiance facial together. It was great as we were the only people in the spa so we were comfortably trying out all the different saunas and spas, and the facials were amazing. I can’t commend the massage therapists enough, they did an amazing job, so much so, that I fell asleep a couple of times. The refreshments throughout and at the end were a nice finishing touch. Would highly recommend and are definetely looking at planning another trip soon!Ms Blossom
End Your Australian Road Trip in Melbourne
Our epic Australian road trip has come to an end.
With countless things to see and do in regional Australia, this journey promises fantastic experiences and memories to last a lifetime.
Now one of Australia’s most iconic cities awaits. With its unique heritage and a growing food and art scene, Ballarat is the perfect precursor to the stylish city of Melbourne.
Want to Visit Ballarat, Australia?
Ballarat holds a fascinating history and treasures extending far beyond gold for the curious traveler.
Only a short distance away from Melbourne and an essential stop on an Aussie road trip, our Destination Specialists can make the visit happen!
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!
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Forever a huge draw to Australia, seeing the Great Barrier Reef never fails to inspire a huge rush of emotions.
As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is on the bucket list for nature-lovers and travelers alike.
But what is seeing the reef really like?
Are the colors and marine life as vibrant as you see in the postcards?
Is the reef still quite a sight to see?
Our clients weigh in on their Great Barrier Reef experience – and some unexpected surprises.
“We loved the helicopter ride at the reef because it gave us a feel for how large the reef is.”
Photo by: Sheri Hardin
With a scenic helicopter ride over the reef, Sheri Hardin was able to take in the immense size of the reef from a different perspective.
When you’re snorkeling up close to intricate coral gardens and gazing at the colors around you, it’s easy to forget the enormous size of the reef.
Made up of over 900 islands stretching over 1,600 miles along the coast of Queensland, the reef is approximately the same area size as Japan – and visible from outer space!
This means no two spots of the reef are the same – the marine and reef life in the northern part of the reef is different to that in the south.
But the reef takes on an entirely different look when gazed at from above.
The tantalizing blue waters of the reef blend into almost luminescent shades of turquoise – truly breathtaking to behold.
“I did not know snuba was available but was happy it was. It’s like scuba diving but you pull your tank above you.”
Sheri Hardin snuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns
Fascinated with the reef by air, Sheri wanted to go beyond snorkeling to get as up close to the reef as possible.
From glass bottom boats to semi-submersibles, she could easily see the reef without even dipping a toe in the water.
But Sheri felt a little courageous. Though scuba diving seemed daunting, she found the perfect balance with snuba.
With the help of marine biologists, tourism operators are always coming up with new, safe ways to see the reef.
One of these new ways rapidly gaining popularity is snuba, a perfect combination of snorkeling and scuba diving.
After strapping on her snorkeling gear, a snuba harness and light weight belt, Sheri was ready to go.
Breathing from a scuba mouthpiece through a long air line attached to a floating air tank, she explored the reef with ultimate freedom.
No need to come up for air, no heavy equipment weighing her down. No diving experience necessary and easier than snorkeling.
The best part was seeing those hidden sea creatures easily missed by snorkelers!
“The Barrier Reef was great…We were thrilled!”
Barbara McHuron on a helmet dive at the Great Barrier Reef
Although Barbara McHuron is terrified of the water, she was determined to see the reef in its full glory.
Glass bottom boats and semi-submersibles wouldn’t cut it.
After taking swimming lessons just for this trip to the reef, she was ready for a helmet dive.
Another fantastic way for non-swimmers to see the reef, helmet dives allow you to breath normally while walking among the fish and corals.
Once the crew secured the diving helmet on her, Barbara walked down the ramp steps to an underwater reef platform.
She was immediately greeted by curious fish as fascinated with her helmet as she was by them.
“Our favorite moment was when the crew did a fish feeding and the bigger fish came up to the barge.”
On her Great Barrier Reef excursion, Haley Olson and her husband were given stinger suits for protection.
Stinger season was approaching, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
This turned out to be a good call after all, as they caught glimpses of jellyfish floating by.
But with the impenetrable protection of their stinger suits and the abundance of marine life in the water below, they quickly forgot about these stingers.
With colorful tropical fish of different sizes and incredible coral formations, it’s easy to get lost in the underwater wonderland of the reef.
Even more amazing is when a gigantic blue fish swims up to you and refuses to leave until you pet him.
Who knew fish could be so social?
On the Great Eight list of the Great Barrier Reef, the curious Humphead or Maori Wrasse fish is known to swim right up to snorkelers and divers.
This large blue fish grows up to 6 feet in length and weighs up to 400 pounds – quite the friendly giant!
Excursions out to the reef often include a fish feeding. Among the hungry frequenters is a Maori wrasse, charming Haley with its friendliness and dazzling shades of blue and green.
“I immediately came back up from the water and cried!”
Photo Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland/Fabrice Jaine
After donning on her fins and snorkel mask, Gretchen Ibarra carefully lowered herself into the water from the reef pontoon. She couldn’t see any coral at first, as there was something blocking her view.
A giant, curious manta ray had made its way close to Gretchen for a quick ‘hello!’
Gazing at the manta ray for a few moments, she rushed back to the water’s surface, eyes filling with tears.
The crew immediately congratulated her – this was a moment many people only dream about.
Also slated as one of the Great Eight of the Great Barrier Reef, these majestic and harmless creatures are big bucket list items for snorkelers and divers. As shy creatures that keep mostly to themselves, manta rays remain a bit of a mystery.
With a wingspan of up to 22 feet, seeing these creatures up close is an incredible experience you just have to see to believe. It’s like seeing a small car just glide past you underwater!
You’ll find manta rays hanging out in the waters of Lady Elliot Island, Osprey Reef, Heron Island and Lady Musgrove Island. The best time to see them is during the Australian winter months in May and June.
“A lot of people say the Reef is dead, but that’s not true. The locals say it is on a slow recovery right now and is still quite the sight to see!”
Nicholas Culhane posing with a sea turtle.
Any fears Nicholas Culhane felt on his first diving trip were quelled by the extremely knowledgeable and outgoing crew onboard. His comfort was their utmost priority.
And as often happens – after his first dive, Nicholas couldn’t get enough.
But nothing could prepare him for the exhilarating rush when a sea turtle and 5-foot long reef shark joined him on a swim!
From parrotfish to clownfish to giant clams and reef sharks, the marine life he saw on the outer reef was plentiful and thriving.
More than 1,500 species of fish, over 300 species of molluscs, 30 species of whales and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles call this reef their home.
Despite recent coral bleaching events affecting coral systems around the globe, the reef remains one of the healthiest and most protected reefs in the world.
Standard excursions out to the reef are joined by marine biologists who provide a wealth of information regarding the health of the reef and marine life.
In fact, tourism operators play an important role in managing its recovery and helping visitors learn about the reef.
Ready to See the Great Barrier Reef?
Arguably Australia’s most precious natural asset, the Great Barrier Reef is a must for any traveler visiting from around the world.
No matter the kind of person you are – whether you’re terrified of the water or can’t get enough – there’s a way to see the reef perfect just for you.
Glorious and packing unexpected surprises, the unparalleled diversity and natural beauty of the reef awaits.
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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 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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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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