Australia’s Golden Outback
The Golden Outback is an area of incredible natural beauty covering over 50 per cent of Western Australia. The vast Golden Outback is a spectacularly scenic region, encompassing a diverse range of geological wonders from the northern Kenedy Ranges and the rugged red earth of Mount Augustus, to the exquisite white-sand beaches of Esperance and the scenic South Coast. Take in the extraordinary pink waters of Lake Hillier beautifully contrasting to the neighbouring turquoise blue ocean, visit the incredible Wave Rock, a 110-metre long multi-coloured granite cliff shaped like a large wave and learn about local history with a visit to the mining hub of Kalgoorlie and the Goldfields, offering insights into the area’s rich mining heritage. Don’t miss the wildflowers in spring, blanketing the vast Outback plains in a rainbow of impressive blooms.
Australia’s North West
The last frontier in Western Australian history, Australia’s North West is characterised by vast swathes incredible scenery stretching from Onslow and Kununurra, to the Kimberley and the Pilbara regions and includes the offshore islands of Barrow Island, Monte Bello Islands and the Dampier Archipelago. It features a collection of unique natural attractions, rugged trails and a variety of spectacularly scenic national parks. Discover Broome, dubbed ‘the pearl of the Northwest’, it serves as the gateway to the incredible wilderness region of the Kimberley; explore the ancient landscapes of the Pilbara region and visit the wildlife sanctuaries and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches in the Kimberley region of the North West.
Australia’s South West
The South West region is situated in the southwestern corner of Western Australia. This incredibly scenic area boasts a magnificent coastline, vast forests, rolling vineyards. Visitors can sample the locally-produced world-renowned wines, discover rare flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth or surf the perfect wave. Nature lovers can enjoy an array of thrilling wildlife encounters at 24 national parks, while gourmands will be enticed by the wide selection of scrumptious cuisine such as locally-caught freshwater crayfish. Other highlights include: whale watching, the Granite Skywalk in the Porongurup National Park, the Greens Pool in the William Bay National Park, the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, the Pink Lake Hillier on Middle Island, Wave Rock, and Injidup Natural Spa. See kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay and go road-tripping along the spectacular Great Ocean Drive.
Hailed for its wine and seafood, long summers, rugged Outback and spectacular coastline, South Australia offers one unique experience after another. There’s plenty of swimming, fishing, boating and surfing to be had along the coast, with happy interruptions to your fun in the sun including visits to Kangaroo Island, the Fleurieu Peninsula with its historic towns and vineyards, and the World Heritage-listed caves at Naracoorte on the Limestone Coast. Head inland to the Nullarbor Plain or Flinders Ranges for an unforgettable Outback experience, or take a houseboat cruise on the Murray River. Enjoy a few days in Adelaide, and don’t miss a visit to the Adelaide Zoo to see the giant pandas.
Western Australia occupies the entire western third of Australia and is best known for its capital, Perth – the country’s sunniest city, averaging 3000 hours of sunshine a year. The great climate is complemented by the region’s 19 beautiful beaches, pristine bushland wilderness and excellent food and wine. The coastal town of Margaret River is filled with boutique-style wineries, and with its gorgeous beaches and world-class waves draw leisure-seekers and serious surfers alike. In Broome, the ‘pearl of the north’, visitors can enjoy magical sunsets at Cable Beach, or experience the ‘Staircase to the Moon’, a mesmerising natural phenomenon which occurs when the full moon rises at low tide over Roebuck Bay. Alternatively, head inland to Karijini National Park (Australia’s second-largest), where striking gorges – carved by water into the red-pink sandstone over centuries – are complemented by sparkling pools and waterfalls.
Australia’s Southern Outback
Located in the northern reaches of South Australia, the South Australia Outback is known for its incredible natural landscapes. The majestic landscapes, timeless beauty and remote location, combine to create an excellent retreat away from civilization. Some highlights include the dazzling salt lakes, vast deserts, rugged mountain ranges, and the sprawling Nullarbor Plain. The region is best known for its spectacularly scenic Outback landscapes dotted with ancient Aboriginal traditional sites, magnificent national parks and secluded little Australian towns. Explore the Mars-like landscapes of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, discover the lunar landscapes of Coober Pedy, Australia’s opal capital and soak up the breathtakingly beautiful views of Eyre Peninsula.
The Fraser Coast is named after the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island which is set just off Australia’s eastern coast. Known for its incredibly scenic natural landscapes, the Fraser Coast lies within the beautiful Queensland state boasting the magnificent coral cay of Lady Elliot Island near the Great Barrier Reef, and the scenic Hervey Bay situated in the Great Sandy Bay Biosphere, a UNESCO-listed area, said to be the whale watching capital of Austalia. Other highlights include: Lake Mckenzie, featuring crystal clear waters fringed by white-sand beaches; the bubbling waters at the Champagne Pools and Eli Creek, the largest freshwater creek on Fraser Island.
If the sparkling lakes, mountainous dunes and verdant rainforests aren’t alluring enough, some background on this little slice of paradise will really set it apart for you. At 120×15 kilometres, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Not only this, but it is the only known place on the planet where rainforests grow in sand. This World Heritage Site is popular with 4x4ers and you can either go it alone or take a tour. Points of interest on the island include stopping for a dip in the clear waters of Lake McKenzie, or exploring the wreck of a passenger liner on Maheno Beach.
If you’re looking for that postcard-perfect experience of Australia, the Gold Coast is where you want to head. Sparkling high-rises overlook gold-sand beaches fringed by some of the most perfect surf in the world. Whether you like the idea of a relaxed snorkel or scuba dive to take in local turtles, seahorses and other marine species; or a high-octane experience on jet skis and power boats, the waters here cater for it all. When you’ve had your fill of sun and sea, you can get your adrenaline pumping at one of the many theme parks in the area, or enjoy the culinary offerings of the Gold Coast’s highly-rated restaurants.
This northeastern state incorporates 7 000km of coastline, the Great Barrier Reef and its teeming tropical waters (perfect for underwater sightseeing), sophisticated and vibrant cities of the likes of Brisbane and Cairns, rainforests, the surfing beaches of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and dazzling landscapes. Explore a little deeper and you’ll find the treasured Whitsunday Islands (all 75 of them), myriad national parks filled with indigenous fauna and flora, and vibrant Aboriginal art and festivals – all infused with an atmosphere of inviting hospitality. There are also plenty of high-adrenaline activities for more intrepid travellers, including white-water rafting, abseiling and bungee jumping.
Flanking the Coral Sea in the Australian state of Queensland, the Sunshine Coast extends north from the capital city of Brisbane up to Rainbow Beach, named for its multi-coloured sand dunes. This spectacularly scenic coast has enough of that relaxed Aussie vibe to make you feel like a local in no time. Head to stylish Noosa for a morning surf lesson, followed by exotic afternoon drinks at a swanky beachside cafe; or make your way to Alexandria Headland for a rough-and-ready backpackers experience, skydiving or bodyboarding. The region is also a natural wonderland of rivers and lakes, subtropical forests and national parks. For some up-close wildlife action, a visit to Australia Zoo is a must.
The Whitsunday Islands are an archipelago of 74 tropical islands at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef are surrounded by the tranquil, temperate waters of Australia’s Coral Sea – which are perfect for sailing or exploring the underwater wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and its coral fringe reefs. The islands range in style from down-to-earth and the laid-back Hook Island, to luxurious resort destinations such as Hayman and Hamilton. Exquisite beaches are dotted throughout the Whitsundays, but without a doubt, the most spectacular is Whitehaven Beach, widely considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Pacific, it features snow-white sand and translucent aquamarine waters.
GREAT CITIES AND TOWNS OF AUSTRALIA
Once known as the ‘City of Churches’, today Adelaide is better recognised for its sophistication, charm and cosmopolitan feel. South Australia’s capital is a hub of festivals and art galleries; it enjoys a vibrant nightlife and live-music scene; plus there’s plenty of shopping (including gorgeous opals) to be done, and gastronomic delights to be enjoyed. Pop into the Art Gallery of South Australia to view indigenous art, or the South Australian Museum devoted to natural history; take an amble in the Adelaide Botanic Garden; or if you’re up for a hike, find out about the trails on the Mount Lofty Ranges.
This hardy and remote desert town, initially named Stuart, started out as a telegraph station in the 1870s. Renamed Alice Springs in 1993, it’s the capital of the Australian Outback and the best place to start your exploration of the Red Centre – the country’s interior desert region – as well as to experience the vibrant art and culture of the Aboriginal people. Venture out to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and explore Kings Canyon, the West MacDonnell Ranges, Simpson Desert and the Devil’s Marbles Conservation Reserve – home to an iconic pair of round granite boulders. While in town, pop into the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve to get a feel of the town’s pioneering history.
Nestling in the elbow of the Brisbane River, the capital of Queensland offers a taste of the good life to all its visitors. The city’s cultural precinct boasts the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, which hosts interactive exhibitions, and the Queensland Museum of Modern Art. Don’t miss a visit to Mount Coo-tha, with its sprawling Brisbane Botanic Gardens and panoramic views from its summit. The Scenic Rim Region, just outside the city centre, is also a treat, as is the Lamington National Park, and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. After your day’s excursion, kick back at one of the many bars or restaurants and enjoy the beats provided by local musicians.
With its world heritage rainforest and its magnificent beaches lapped by azure waters teeming with colourful coral and a profusion of exotic marine life, the coastal town of Byron Bay has been truly blessed by mother nature. The town is known for its surf culture, alternative philosophies, organic food and its numerous opportunities for outdoor adventures. These include, among others: surfing, sky-diving, hang-gliding, kayaking, sailing, hot-air ballooning or simply relaxing on one of the glorious beaches and enjoying the abundant sunshine, powder-white sand and perfect waves. The town has a distinctly vibrant and youthful energy that fuels its thriving nightlife and live-music scene. Add to all this some excellent art galleries and crafts shops and a dynamic culinary tradition, and it’s easy to see why Byron Bay has long been one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.
Once a sleepy sugar-milling town, Cairns in North Queensland is now a vibrant cosmopolitan city and a premier destination for sailing, diving and snorkelling. Its tropical waters are home to the spectacular Great Barrier Reef, while lush rain forests cover the surrounding areas. Ways to make the most of this coastal paradise include cycling along the 14 kilometres of sandy beachfront, or rafting through rapids to view the ruins of Mission Beach. Other popular activities include: visiting Cooktown for a taste of history or taking a scenic drive through the farmlands and popping in at the various village markets along the way. In the town centre, visit the Tiapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park for a musical and dance interpretation of Aboriginal history, or relax at Cairns Esplanade for a perfect seaside dining experience coupled with a romantic sunset.
Australia’s capital city, also known as the ‘Bush Capital’ is surrounded by forest, farmland and nature reserves; while at its heart is the fabulous Lake Burley Griffin, filled most days with colourful sailboats and kayaks. The city boasts a treasure trove of attractions, including the strikingly modern Parliament House, the National Gallery, the Australian War Memorial and Questacon National Science and Technology Centre. A short drive from the city, you’ll find the Australia Alps, Tidnbinbilla Nature Reserve and the Murrumbidgee River Corridor – all worthy scenic day trips. And if you’re there in autumn, you’ll be treated to the Balloon Fiesta – when a cornucopia of colourful hot air balloons take to the skies.
Darwin is a tropical seaport in the Northern Territory of Australia that serves as a convenient access point to Katherine Gorge, Kakadu National Park and Litchfield National Park. The city is a melting pot of different cultures, with more than 50 nationalities represented here. With a strong Asian influence, you can expect a kaleidoscope of cuisines and a cultural blend of Thai, Sri Lankan, Japanese, Indian, Chinese and Malaysian. Darwin’s city centre buzzes with a lively tourist vibe, while unique museums celebrate the city’s past and galleries showcase the region’s rich indigenous art. Sail to the intriguing Tiwi Islands, take a speedboat ride or go fishing in a tinny – the local version of a small boat.
Melbourne is a modern metropolis located on the banks of the Yarra River and known for its many gardens, parks and open spaces, which together occupy almost one-third of the city. There are more than 50 000 plant species in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens and this collection gives insight into the rich indigenous flora found in the city and its surrounds. The town is also becoming an increasingly popular culinary destination, with the Southbank and Arts Centre buzzing with restaurants, bars and live entertainment. ‘Doing the block’ is a well-known phrase for an exploration of the hidden lanes and alleyways around Bourke, Collins and Flinders streets, while Queen Victoria Market is a popular shopping spot that has been selling clothing, art, toys, crafts and vegetables for over a century.
Newcastle, on the east coast of Australia, is a bustling city built around the harbour and beaches in the vicinity. With its edgy cafes, flourishing pubs and top-rated restaurants, it has become a destination favoured by tourists to the region. It’s also a unique shopping destination, with a plethora of pop-up stores mushrooming in buildings that were once empty and abandoned. Visit the Newcastle Museum to find out about the cultural history of the area, or explore the Newcastle Art Gallery to experience its impressive collection of Australian and Japanese art. Blackbutt Reserve is a short drive from the city centre and comprises over 128 hectares of protected land rich in local wildlife, including kangaroos, koala bears, wombats, and bird life.
Perth is Western Australia’s star attraction. Hailed as the country’s ‘sunniest’ capital – and blessed by the lapping waters of the Swan River as well as miles of coastline – it attracts foodies, fashionistas and fun lovers alike. Visit Kings Park and Botanic Garden; the city’s splendid cultural precinct where you’ll find art galleries, the Western Australian Museum, and the State Ballet and Opera; head down to the beach to swim with dolphins; saunter down the King Street precinct for a taste of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and company; and if you’re into anything vintage, visit Guildford for some retro retail therapy.
Set along Australia’s southeastern coast, Sydney is one of Australia’s largest cities and serves as the capital of New South Wales. No matter what you fancy – shopping, the arts, the outdoors – you’re likely to be bewildered by the scope of choice available here. First up, there are the must-sees – Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Tower for its 360-degree views of the city, the waterside hubs of Darling Harbour and Circular Quay, and the Rocks district for shopping. After dark, the glitzy city comes alive with a larger-than-life food and music scene that extends into the early hours. For more laid-back diversions, head down to the beach or hop on a ferry for an extensive tour of the Sydney Harbour, the Parramatta River and numerous locations lying waterside.