. Australia is as big a country as it is diverse. With many incredible sights and experiences it has been well travelled, well documented and…
Australia is as big a country as it is diverse. With many incredible sights and experiences it has been well travelled, well documented and well… blogged to death, but that doesn’t mean you wont need a little bit of help deciding where to go. With Prue having spent most of her life living and travelling in Australia, what we can do is give you the highlights from an Aussie’s perspective, where do the Australians go and which are the best places to see in Australia? I myself began as a backpacker ticking off the ‘must sees’ along the east coast but stayed to work for two years. A year on and it is many of the off-road gems, that my Australian friends brought me to, that linger in my mind.
There are definitely two ways to experience Australia, by hop-on/hop-off buses that dot to dot the coastline or by camper-van which does give you more freedom. Which is the best option for you I cannot say but if you are travelling solo, Australia promotes the most unlikely of friendships so keep an eye out at hostels for people looking to car share or buddy up, it might just get you on an awesome detour.
Now it’s not just the sights that ensure a good vacation. Anyone who has travelled to Australia before will tell you that it was the people that made their experience. Rather brash, somewhat coarse (proof here) and thinking they have the world’s best sense of humour, the Australian people know how to laugh and make the utmost of their surf and sunshine. They are also rather obsessed with being ALTERNATIVE, fact. The most popular bars have unusual lighting and crates for seats, the most popular restaurants have tiny and ‘organic’ menus and a coffee goes up in price if the ‘professional’ making it is covered in tattoos. Alternative is the Australian way so get on board! Oh and one other thing, they do NOT put “shrimp on the barbie” – so don’t you dare mention it!
With three states spanning over 3200km’s of its eastern coastline, this country is not easy to define in a single paragraph, but I shall try to be concise about our favourite places to see in Australia.
Hot humid summers in December and blue sky winters, Queensland is a year round destination, with one iconic natural wonder: The Great Barrier Reef. Cairns is the closest port of access and as such this northern town is booming. Love it or hate it, you are likely to spend a few days here while you arrange your Barrier Reef expedition and other northern highlights. The various day trips and range of buffet dinners that tour companies offer tourists wanting to visit the Barrier Reef can be overwhelming, so feel free to use our honest guide to the Barrier Reef for some non-for-profit advice. But its not just Cairns’ coast that makes this region worth visiting, hiding in Cairns’ backyard are wallabies just waiting to be fed, impressive gorges and the only place in the world where rainforest meets the reef.
Southern Queensland is dominated by the glamorous city of Brisbane whose CBD is somehow stunning to look at. But to get to the heart of Brisbane you could follow Prue’s 10 Alternative activities in Brisbane and locate the best sunset spot, shop at the funkiest markets and go sailing for a cheap price. Brisbane is getting busier, or more so the south east corner, it is the fastest growing area in Australia and I think it’s got something to do with its surroundings. Just beyond Brisbane is a world of adventurous day trips which we have narrowed down to our top 8 favourites; go and scramble up a glasshouse mountain, explore glow worm caves, or go searching for whales. If your find yourself bored, do what Brisbanites do and take a weekend trip to Moreton Bay Island for some serious wreck snorkelling and sand-dune driving, or visit the wine country of Mount Mee. Now that’s not a bad backyard for a city dweller.
Skirting southern Queensland is the Gold Coast, a conglomeration of high-rises and awesome theme parks. Theme parks aside, our only highlights for this region would be The Spit and Coolangatta, which really do put the GOLD back into the Gold Coast.
A country of big personalities makes extravagant cities. Each state has a glorious and modern metropolis whose shimmering skyline moulds itself around a river bed. Honestly, city centres have never looked so good (well Singapore is also… you know). We all know that Sydney is Australia’s supermodel city so although NSW is less summery than QLD, no one seems to care.
Many people will spend a day or a week ogling at the eaves of the opera house, watching surf bods at Bondi and hiking the coastal trails as far south as Botany Bay, where Australia began to make history and that’s fine, but let us also remember that it’s not all about Sydney (sorry Sydney siders). In fact it is the northern stretch of coast running from Tweed Heads to Newcastle that gets everyone excited about NSW, even its Queensland rivals. A continual showcase of protruding headlands, gigantic surf and idyllic arcs of sand makes this stretch of coast a sublime destination. When you’re driving down the highway, any small sign can lead to a paradise cove and there is a chance you will have it all to yourself so give some a go and find your own ‘alternative’ adventure. Or you could just check our top spots guide to the East Coast where we share our four favourite spots!
Alternating between piercing cold winters and 45º heat waves, Victoria experiences weather patterns that are drastically and constantly changing. Locals fondly refer to these “4 seasons in a day” as one of the highlights of living in somewhere so attractive and they have reason for feeling so smug. Melbourne, the state capital has now been ranked the World’s most liveable city for two years running and it’s obvious choice once you have spent a bit of time there. It’s the cultural capital of Australia, possesses the country’s biggest sports stadium (the MCG holds 100,000!), has the biggest outdoor produce market; The Queen Victoria Market, has funky, grungy pockets like Brunswick Street who love singer-songwriters and encourages street artists, the iconic St Kilda foreshore and an underground club scene that will leave you in bed for days.
If you can drag yourself away from the CBD, Melbourne’s large personality will follow you. Seeping onto Victoria’s highways are big, bold, elaborate pieces of highway art. These often unique and very odd sculptures lead off in all directions. If you’re heading south of Melbourne, keep an eye out for the Brighton beach boxes which have to be the most expensive sheds in the World (and famous for being so). Further south, gorgeous Phillip Island has the largest colony of Little Penguins (so cute), while the Mornington peninsular has the best vanilla slices and is the easiest place in the world to spot amazing sea dragons.
Haunting Victoria’s entire western coastline is The Shipwreck Coast and The Great Ocean Road. This popular site ranks high among our favourite places to see in Australia, we recommend that you take a car and set aside a few days to explore some alternative (see there is it again) locations; Volcanic nature reserves, shipwreck anchors embedded in the rocks, THE best place to see wild Koalas and camp alongside the 12 apostles. Inland highlights include the Yarra Valley for wine lovers and the undulating Aberfeldy ranges. Pass the Thompson dam and embark on scenic wilderness drives or hectic four wheel off-roading (Prue’s dad showed us the latter). A beer in the famous quaint town of Walhalla is a must.