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When it comes to things to do, Australia is jam-packed with “musts” – some are expected (the Great Barrier Reef requires no introduction), others are more surprising (not everyone realizes, for example, that South Australia is speckled with world-class vineyards). Mother nature is far and away the star of this nation, with people coming from far and wide to trek the flourishing rainforests, journey across the deserts, surf the waves, and explore the underwater riches of the world’s most famous coral jungle. To overlook the country’s cultural, historical, and artistic accomplishments, however, would be to do yourself a disservice. From Sydney’s happening beaches and iconic opera house to Melbourne’s thriving art scene, the urban landscape is nearly as diverse as the natural one. Add thousands of years of indigenous history to this mix and you have a collection of things to see and do that will keep you busy on this trip, and the next, and the next . . .

Things to do in Australia

Animal Sanctuary

Fifty miles northwest of Hobart lies Mount Field National Park, a land of dolerite-capped mountains, glaciated valleys, alpine moorland, waterfalls, and forests. It’s a veritable playground for birds, wallabies, platypuses, wombats, and Tasmanian devils.

Mount Field National Park, Hobart and South East; Near New Norfolk, Tasmania, 011-61-3-6288-1149,
Tags: things to do | outdoors | wildlife

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Explore the most extensive anthology of homegrown Aussie artworks (see pieces by down-under-greats like Charles Condor and Arthur Streeton), as well as noteworthy displays of European and Asian art.

Art Gallery Rd., Sydney, 011-61-2-9225-1700,
Tags: family | art | things to do | culture

Australian Museum

Founded in 1827, this natural history extravaganza is Australia’s first museum. In Spring 2008 their collection, which encompasses 16 million cultural objects and animal, fossil, and mineral specimens, will emerge from $41-million renovations.

6 College St., Sydney, 011-61-2-9320-6000,
Tags: family | things to do | history

Beach Picnic

Experience the ultimate romantic adventure as your private seaplane soars above the Whitsundays, then lands on Whitehaven Beach for a champagne lunch. With more than 4 miles of pristine silica sand lapped by crystal clear aqua water, Whitehaven is consistently voted one of the world’s best beaches.

Air Whitsunday Seaplanes, Airlie Beach; The Whitsundays, 011-61-7-4946-9111,
Tags: luxury | smart splurge | things to do | outdoors | adventure

Bondi Beach

Topping the world charts as a happening sun and surf mecca, this much-photographed 0.62-mile strip of sand in the eastern suburbs is quintessential Sydney.

50 minutes by bus (buses #326 and 327 run from Circular Quay to Bondi Junction),
Tags: beach | things to do | outdoors | swimming

Daintree Rain Forest

The oldest tropical rain forest on the planet contains an almost a complete record of the major stages of the evolution of plant life on earth. Let Tropical Horizons Tours show you around beneath the towering canopies. They can also arrange diving and snorkeling trips to the nearby reef.

Tropical Horizons Tours, 65 Greenbank Rd.; Cairns/Great Barrier Reef, 011-61-7-4058-1244,
Tags: family | hiking | things to do | outdoors | diving

Dive In

The fragile, underwater kingdom of the Great Barrier Reef is comprised of 2,800 individual reefs – an ecosystem that shelters 400 species of coral and 1,500 types of tropical fish. It’s also one of the most popular and most reasonable places in the world to learn to dive. The Cairns Dive Center offers day cruises out onto the reef for snorkelers and divers as well as a range of courses, from open-

The Cairns Dive Center, 121 Abbott St.; Cairns/Great Barrier Reef, 011-61-7-4051-0294,
Tags: things to do | outdoors | adventure | diving

Federation Square

In a city that loves modern architecture, Federation Square’s odd-looking geometric buildings have become iconic. Highlights include The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, which showcases works of art by famous Australian artists (including Aboriginal art), the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, and Champions: Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.

Flinders St., Melbourne, 011-61-3-9655-1900,
Tags: family | art | things to do | culture | architecture | museum

Gold Coast Beaches

With warm blue waters, golden sand, and an average of 300 sunny days a year, the beach is a way life on the Gold Coast. The most popular beaches are Surfers Paradise, Main Beach, and Broadbeach, where world-class surfing conditions draw in the crowds. With its 24-mile-long strip of golden sand, however, Surfers Paradise is definitely where you’ll find most of the action.

Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast,
Tags: beach | family | things to do | outdoors

Kangaroo Island

Sometimes called the Galapagos of Australia, this island off of Australia’s southern coast is home to plentiful and indigenous wildlife such as penguins, seals, kola bears, platypuses, and – of course – kangaroos. In fact, Kangaroo Island is so populated with its namesake marsupial that if you rent a car you’ll be asked to sign a waiver warning of potential danger of hitting one. To get here, either fly or take a ferry( from Adelaide.

about 125 miles south of Adelaide (45 minutes by ferry; 30 minutes by plane), 011-61-8-8553-1185,
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | wildlife

McLaren Vale Cheese and Wine Trail

Operated by Blessed Cheese, this tour takes in South Australia’s best wineries, offering perfectly matched cheese pairings. This is the best introduction to the big, powerful Shirazes that have come to define Australian wines, along with the highly-palatable Rieslings, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay that the region produces.

50 Main Rd., South Australian Wine Country, 011-61-8-8323-7958,
Tags: things to do | tour | culinary | wine

Rafting the Franklin

The Franklin River is Australia’s wildest and most unpredictable river. It runs for 78 miles through pure wilderness, passing through temperate rainforest and deep echoing gorges. White-water rafting trips take between 5-10 days, with camping stops en route.

Rafting Tasmania, Franklin River/Sandy Bay; Tasmania, 011-61-3-6239-1080,
Tags: sports and adventure | smart splurge | things to do | outdoors

Royal Botanic Gardens

Established in 1846, these highly regarded gardens form the green heart of Melbourne. Covering more than 99 acres, the gardens are home to over 12,000 species of plants. Attractions include the Ornamental Lake, the National Herbarium of Victoria, the Old Melbourne Observatory, the Australian Rainforest Walk, and the Water Conservation Garden. Free guided walks are available.

Central Business District, Birdwood Ave, Melbourne, 011-61-3-9252-2300,
Tags: things to do | gardens | park

See Uluru at Sunset in the Australian Outback

Formerly known as “Ayers Rock”, the massive Uluru rock in Kata Tjuta National Park is considered the world’s largest monolith, sizing in with a circumference of almost 6 miles and a height of 1,250 feet. The impressive crimson geological marvel rises from the flatlands of the Australian Outback. It is particularly striking when viewed against the rich hues of an Outback sunset. To get here, fly to Connellan Airport, which is located just outside the park.

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, Yulara Northern Territory, 011-61-8-8956-1100,
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | national park

Sydney Harbor Bridge

This 440-ft high, 3,770-ft-long bridge is among the world’s largest single-span bridges. Walk across or climb it on a bridge tour (groups of 12 are decked out in space suits, harnessed to cables, and guided up stairs to the top).

Sydney, 011-61-2-8274-7777,
Tags: views | things to do | architecture | climbing

Sydney Harbor National Park

Pristine bushland pockets and five outlying islands packed with Aboriginal rock art, incredible lookout points, beaches, subtropical forest, and historic buildings comprise this protected area.

Cadmans Cottage, 110 George St., Sydney, 011-61-2-9247-5033,
Tags: family | historic | things to do | outdoors

Sydney Opera House

Nothing can prepare you for this Aussie emblem’s real-life splendor. Admire it from the harbor, then come in for a close-up of this $90+ million structure by Danish architect Jørn Utzon.

Circular Quay, Bennelong Point, Sydney, 011-61-2-9250-7111,
Tags: family | things to do | culture | architecture

The National Wine Centre

With its own vineyard, this facility showcases the basics of wine production. Aficionados and novices alike will enjoy the focused tastings that provide perspective on the various styles of Australian wine.

Botanic and Hackney Rds., South Australian Wine Country, 011-61-8-8303-3355,
Tags: things to do | history | tour | wine

The Overland Track

The crown jewel of Tasmania is this 53-mile Overland Track – Australia’s finest hike. The path wends its way through an ecosystem that is delicate, rare, and pristine. Go solo and camp out in simple huts along the way or join a guided trek with Cradle Mountain Huts and bed down in comfortable cabins each night (

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, 011-61-3-6492-1133,
Tags: sports and adventure | things to do | outdoors | wildlife

The South Australian Museum

With its whale-skeleton frontage, this museum is home to what is probably Australia’s best collection of aboriginal artifacts, plus a display of the state’s geology (opal mining is big here).

North Terrace, South Australian Wine Country, 011-61-8-8207-7500,
Tags: family | things to do | culture | history

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