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Country Guide: Australia
Country Guide: Australia
Australia is a nation of plenty, so soak up all it has to offer. Our top tip is simple: It’s a very big country, so make sure time is on your side.
It’s certain that you’ll find the Land Down Under awesome and awe-inspiring. So much so that, like most people thinking about a visit, you’re bound to feel a bit, well, over-awed by it all.
If you're planning on seeing Australia anything like properly, give yourself months. It's more than 2500 kilometres from Cairns to Melbourne with plenty to see in between, and that doesn't even get you off the coast. Don’t despair though, we’ll come on to a few ideas for the time-poor in a bit.
First though, you’ll need a must-see, would-like-to-see and don’t-mind-if-I-do-see list to start with.
We suggest you grab a map and start by picking what’s what you might want to see and do from this little lot.
Get your rocks off in the Red Centre. Gawp at the irresistibly enchanting Uluru, the giant orange sacred domes of Kata Tjuta and be blown away by Kings Canyon.
Keep on driving
Hit the road, Jack. Following an endless straight stretch of bitumen through bizarre, barren and desperately beautiful landscapes day on day. It’s what this insanely vast country is for.
From mossy woodlands to snow-capped peaks, trek Tasmania’s famous 80km Overland Track.
The Great Barrier Reef
The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living organism and home to a rainbow-coloured underwater wonderland.
Join Sydney’s beautiful people
Eat at one of Sydney’s excellent eateries, by the harbour, at sunset, after a day at the beach.
Drive a 4WD on Fraser Island
Rainforest stubbornly thriving on the world’s largest sand island; unique ecosystem with no roads and plenty of paradise moments.
Milk up Melbourne
The beguiling Victorian capital, with its café culture, superior bars and friendly locals, is many European visitors’ favourite city.
Learn an instrument
Learn to play the didgeridoo properly round an Outback campfire, with some tasty bush tucker.
Tour one of Australia’s excellent wine regions, like the Barossa Valley (SA) or Hunter Valley (NSW).
The top end
Dodge the crocs and witness the World Heritage-listed wilderness of Kakadu National Park.
Now; remember we said to give yourself plenty of time? But what if time is something that, for whatever reason, you don’t have plenty of?
We’ll try to help.
Australia in 2-3 days
Not possible. Oh, alright then; if you insist on spending just a couple of days here you can’t take in more than one city. And that city should be Sydney.
Base yourself in central Sydney to allow yourself to make best use of your time. It might be touristy and a touch expensive but do the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. It's not often you get a chance to climb one of the world's most famous landmarks and the view is spectacular. Book ahead if you can because it does get very busy. Spend the rest of the day wandering around The Rocks, which has great markets on the great weekends, Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in Darling Harbour to choose from in the evening.
Spend the morning at the Powerhouse Museum which covers a variety of subjects including science, history and space exploration. It's very interactive and is popular with all ages. In the afternoon get on Sydney Harbour by catching the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly where you can while away the afternoon
Head for a day in the eastern suburbs. Start off with a morning swim at Coogee Bay. There is a footpath which leads north to Bondi Beach where you can spend the afternoon swimming, eating, drinking and watching all the beautiful people splash about.
Australia in 7-9 days
Start off with three days in Sydney as described above. Then take a day trip out to the Blue Mountains where there are short bush walks to enjoy.
Catch a flight to Cairns and make your way to Port Douglas. From here you can go diving or snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. You can also make day trips to Mossman Gorge, the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation.
Australia in 2 weeks-plus
But if you're limited to two weeks take the 7-9 day itinerary above and head for Australia's red centre. You can fly into Alice Springs and then catch a bus to Uluru, which is stunning. Give yourself a few days to explore the area. You could spend a day just wandering around The Rock. You'll also have time to see the Olgas while at Uluru and then head to King's Canyon for a day or two
Unless you're keen on cruise ships, you're going to have to fly to Australia. The main international airport is in Sydney, but Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Cairns also receive a lot of international flights.
Getting between some cities takes days rather than hours. Buses are a cheap and popular way of getting around and most areas are well covered. Greyhound (www.greyhound.com.au) buses operate all over Australia.
There are some legendary train journeys, like the Ghan (from Adelaide to Alice Springs and Darwin), however journeys like this are for novelty value rather than time efficiency, and are costly. CountryLink, in the eastern states, is much better value for money. The other interstate railway service is run by Great Southern Railways.
It can be affordable hiring a car or van with friends or pitching in to buy your own wheels. Private transport, hired or purchased, is the ultimate way to go, but make sure a vehicle is roadworthy before putting the foot down on a never-ending road we mentioned earlier.
Flying in Australia can be very cost effective and brilliant for saving time on the road (Sydney to Cairns in four hours rather than four days). The airlines business in Aus is all a bit changeable these days with budget airlines coming and going and capacities getting adjusted so you will need to check out who’s going where and at what price once you’ve decided that you want to take to the air.
If you're travelling to Tasmania, it is also worth considering The Spirit of Tasmania, which sails between Sydney and Devonport, and Melbourne and Devonport.
Food and drink
Finally, a word about your own personal fuel.
The greatest influence on Australia's culinary scene has come from its Asian neighbours. Cities across the nation are full of Thai, Japanese, Indian and Malayasian restaurants.
Not that it's all rice and noodles. Anywhere along the coast great seafood is normally available.
What state (territory, not sobriety) you're in will strictly determine what beer you should be drinking.
Queensland = XXXX Gold
New South Wales = Tooheys New
Victoria = Victoria Bitter
Tasmania = Cascade
South Australia = Cooper's
Western Australia = Swan
Darwin = Victoria Bitter
Australia’s wine regions are world-class. You'll be able to find Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Wynn's and Brown Brothers in all liquor stores (locally known as bottle shops).