Australia continues to attract many visitors because of its animals, lifestyle and sunshine but just about all are surprised at its size. Australia is nearly as large as Canada, so don't expect to be able to see the whole country in one visit unless you are planning on a three-month vacation or a two-year working holiday. The East Coast is the most populated area, so this is not a bad place to start. From Melbourne in the south to Cairns in the north is around 3,000 kilometres but there are several great places to visit in between.
We start in the World's Most Liveable City and quickly see why it has scored this award for several years. Melbourne is Australia's sporting, coffee, restaurant, and arts capital. Depending on your interest, you can attend the Australian Tennis Open, the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, the AFL Football Final Series, the Melbourne Cup Horse Racing Carnival and international cricket tests.
A recent study found Melbourne hosts over 60,000 live concerts annually, making it one of the live music capitals of the world. The city has more theatres and performance venues than anywhere else in Australia. There are approximately 5,000 cafes and restaurants in the city, the highest per capita in the world. Many are top class.
The city is the capital of Victoria which has numerous visitor attractions ranging from the Great Ocean Road to Puffing Billy and the nightly penguin parade on Philip Island.
Australia's little-known capital is well worth a visit. There is nothing old here but there are modern buildings aplenty. Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the National Science and Technology Centre, the National Zoo and Aquarium, the National Museum of Australia and more, will have you extending your stay.
This is Australia's only major inland city so it is quite different to the state capitals, which are all on the coast. The surrounding area will show you something of the quintessential Australian bush. You can visit the Australian Institute of Sport, go to some of Australia's best ski resorts, enjoy one of 140 wineries and explore Namadgi National Park.
Sydney is the oldest and largest of the Australian cities and today, the city's attractions are dominated by the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. There is a guided walking tour of the Opera House and you can join a guided ascent of the bridge. Between these two is Circular Quay, the city's main ferry terminal and just nearby is The Rocks where more than 100 heritage sites and buildings jostle along the narrow streets.
Elsewhere, Darling Harbour is a waterfront pedestrian precinct packed with shops, restaurants, museums, exhibitions, and entertainment venues. Sydney is famous for its beaches from tiny harbourside strips of sand to Bondi, Coogee, Bronte, Tamarama, Maroubra, Manly Collaroy, Dee Why, and Narrabeen on the Pacific Ocean.
Once it was called a big country town but Brisbane has now grown up. Across the river from the CBD, South Bank is home to the Cultural Centre with its world-class galleries and entertainment. You can climb the Storey Bridge, cuddle a koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, or go to Morton Island where you can feed wild dolphins and snorkel around an old ship wreck.
Eighty kilometres to the south is the famous Gold Coast with its excellent beaches, theme parks, restaurants and nightlife. To the north is the Sunshine Coast for more beach activity.
North Queensland Islands
With rugged coastlines and surrounding reefs bursting with life, you are spoiled for choice when choosing a tropical island off the coast of North Queensland. Many are wholly or partly National Parks and many have nature viewing, snorkelling and sailing opportunities, and bush trails. Quite a few have accommodation. Some are very up-market such as Hayman, Hamilton, Orpheus, Badarra and Lizard while others have a range of rooms from excellent to budget.
Magnetic Island off Townsville is the easiest to reach with ferries and car barges making the 20-minute crossing multiple times a day. The island has a permanent population of around 2,000 and visitor facilities are excellent. It is particularly popular with backpackers and families.
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the breathtaking beauty of the world's largest coral reef. This is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, larger than the Great Wall of China, and the only living thing on earth visible from space. A visitor can enjoy snorkelling, scuba diving, aircraft or helicopter tours, bare boats (self-sail), glass-bottomed boat viewing, semi-submersibles and educational trips, whale watching, and swimming with dolphins.
Townsville is the largest city in Australia's tropical region and is the headquarters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority which is home to the world's largest living coral reef aquarium. Reef trips leave from many other northern towns including Cairns and Port Douglas.