Roughly the size of the continental United States, many of Australia’s attractions, like Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Outback, are located considerable distances from each other (flying from coast to coast, for example, takes five hours). In addition to its mainland draws, the country lays claim to the island territories of the Whitsundays and Tasmania. The city of Canberra deserves a mention only as a must-avoid – it may be the nation’s Capital, but unless you live there, there is no reason to visit.
Australia Cities and Regions
Australia’s Gold CoastAustralia’s answer to Miami, the Gold Coast is a flashy strip of holiday apartments, luxury hotels, shopping malls, theme parks, and nightclubs fringed by 25 miles of golden sandy beaches. Away from the glitz and glam of the seaside, this legendary Queensland destination reveals its softer side with quiet hinterland hideaways, stunning national parks, and magical rainforest walks. See our Gold Coast Travel Guide
Great Barrier ReefOne of the seven wonders of the natural world, The Great Barrier Reef, located off the northeastern coast of Australia, is a 1,200-mile-long undersea wonderland of breathtakingly beautiful coral reefs and colorful marine life. Palm-fringed tropical islands dot the surface of these turquoise waters. See our Great Barrier Reef Travel Guide
MelbourneAustralia’s second largest city, Melbourne has long lived in the shadow of flashy Sydney. But scratch the surface and you’ll discover a delightfully decadent city that exudes soul and sophistication. From the finest galleries and museums, innovative theatre, and wonderful Victorian architecture to top sports venues, leafy parks, and accessible beaches, Melbourne is a smorgasbord for the senses. See our Melbourne Travel Guide
South Australian Wine CountrySouth Australia produces more than half of the country’s wine, including many of its most famous bottles. We recommend renting a car in Adelaide and spending a couple of days visiting wineries and enjoying the drive through the idyllic countryside. See our South Australian Wine Country Travel Guide
SydneyThink San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro mixed in with a heaping dose of small-town Aussie flavor. Sydney's distinctly individual appeal lies in its fantastic oceanside setting, laid-back attitude, stellar beaches, beautiful people, and eternally sunny, subtropical climate. See our Sydney Travel Guide
TasmaniaRoamed by the feral Tasmanian Devil and the spotted-tailed quoll, Tasmania is, at least in part, an untouched wilderness spanning rainforest, beaches, high mountain plains, and lakes sailed by black swans. A softer side – historic towns, fertile farmlands, and pleasant cities – also adds to its charm, belying a darker side of the island’s history, when the land doubled as a detention center for convicts. The island is located 200 miles south of the continent. See our Tasmania Travel Guide
The Australian OutbackStar-studded skies, endless red plains, quiet lakes, desert sand dunes, and monolithic rocks – the Australian Outback is so vast and wide that the silence can be deafening. But it’s not just this theatrical landscape that awes travelers – the immense region is also a stage for adventure, where you’ll encounter true-blue Aussie locals, experience ancient Aboriginal cultures, and see unique wildlife and World Heritage wonders. See our Outback Travel Guide
Ayers Rock (Uluru)A magnificent 1,100-foot-high monolith that rises out of the nearly flat Outback west of Alice Springs. The site is sacred to Aborigines, who find story and meaning in every crevice and blemish on the rock’s face. The best way to experience it is to fly into Alice Springs, rent a car, and drive through the Outback, allowing the edifice to materialize before your eyes (if you’re short on time, you can also fly into Ayers Rock Airport). Two days here delivers the full experience.
AdelaideSoutherly Adelaide is a jumping-off point for nearby wineries (there are more than two dozen within a short drive from the city). The city itself is quaint, with a distinctly British feel and a relatively compact downtown area surrounded by a ring of parks and gardens.
WhitsundaysSouth of the city of Cairns, the Whitsundays are comprised of 74 islands, of which all but 8 are uninhabited. The most easily accessible (and, consequently, most popular) is Hamilton Island, which is populated with dozens of restaurants, shops, and bars, all within walking distance of one another. Outstanding beaches can be found on neighboring deserted islands.
Sign up for the Top 25 Newsletter
to get exclusive weekly deals