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White sandy beaches dotting it’s coast lines, lush rainforests and national parks, hip cities, pristine islands off the coast, and an abundance of wildlife you won’t see anywhere else in the world, Australia is a bucket list destination for a reason. However, with so much to see in such a massive country it can be difficult to figure out what the must-visit places are. Though difficult to narrow down, here is a list of the best places to visit in Australia.
1. Whitsunday Islands
In the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Airlie Beach, are 74 breathtaking islands surrounded by lush rainforest, turquoise water, and white sand. These islands are known as the Whitsunday Islands. As most of the islands, with the exception of 4, are uninhabited national parks, they retain their unspoilt beauty giving visitors the opportunity to experience a piece of paradise on Earth.
One of the most popular ways to explore The Whitsundays is on a catamaran day cruise or on a 2-day sailing trip on which you’ll snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, visit the second best beach in the world, Whitehaven Beach, and sleep under the stars in the middle of the ocean. Skydiving over the Whitsundays, scenic flights, and luxurious overnight stays on one of the four inhabited islands are also popular activities to do on The Whitsundays. With luxury resorts, sailing, snorkeling, and white sand beaches, there is no place that invokes relaxation quite like the Whitsunday Islands.
2. Fraser Island
At 76 miles long and 14 miles wide, Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island offers one of Australia’s most unique four-wheel-drive adventures with no sealed roads, just pure sand. Even the highway is actually a beach, a 75-mile beach. Lush rainforest growing on top of sand dunes, over a 100 freshwater lakes and creeks, wild dingos, spectacular sandstone cliffs, and one of the best places to see baby humpback whales are just a few reasons why this UNESCO World Heritage island is one of the coolest place in Australia.
Whether you choose to explore Fraser Island on a day tour, 4X4 tag along tour or with your own set of 4X4 wheels, you should definitely swim at Lake McKenzie, take photos at the shipwreck, float through Eli’s Creek, and stroll through the rainforest trail at Central Station.
3. Great Barrier Reef
The world’s largest barrier reef system, composed of over 300 individual reefs, 900 islands, and stretching a little more than the distance from New York City to Maimi, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is truly a natural world wonder and cannot be missed. Taking a scenic flight over the reef to get a birds eye view, enjoying a tour on a luxury catamaran, staying on one of the luxurious islands within the reef, and diving are just a few ways to explore the UNESCO World Heritage reef. Besides Cairns, Whitsundays, Lady Elliot, and Lady Musgrave are great places to explore the GBR from.
Voted as the world’s most livable city and also probably Australia’s coolest city with vintage shops, graffiti-covered backstreets, quirky cafes, and hidden bars with hipster vibes, Melbourne deserves a spot on your Australian itinerary. Whether you want to eat your way through Melbourne’s incredible food scene, admire street art in the laneways, catch a sport game in the sports capital of Australia, or shop at Queens Victoria Market, the city has plenty to see and do for all types of travelers. Melbourne is also a great gateway destination to visit other popular attractions in Australia such as the Great Ocean Road, Philips Island, and Yarra Valley.
5. Daintree National Park
Just a two-hour drive from Cairns, along the coast of Queensland lies the oldest rainforest in the world, Daintree National Park. At over 180 million years old, this rainforest is older than the Amazon in Brazil. And to give you even more reason to visit, Daintree is also the only place in the world where two natural World Heritage Sites meet, the Reef and Rainforest. From walks through the rainforest to swimming holes and beaches, Daintree is a nature lovers playground. Some highlights of Daintree include a crocodile river cruise, Mossman Gorge, the Marjdda Boardwalk, and Emmagen Creek. For more information, check out our Daintree Rainforest guide.
6. Gold Coast
With a coastline that stretches for 60 miles, a booming nightlife, and some of the best beaches in Australia, the Gold coast attracts millions of visitors each year looking to soak up the sun and try their luck at surfing. Home to the world famous Surfers Paradise, the Gold Coast is one of the top surfing destinations in Australia and a great place to learn! With a great mix of beautiful coastal water and lush national parks, nature lovers can spend their time hiking through Springbrook National Park and Lamington National Park.
7. Great Ocean Road & 12 Apostles
With unique rock formations and small seaside towns, the Great Ocean Road is one of the most scenic drives in the world. The 243 kilometer drive from Torquay to Allansford takes you mostly along the coast where you’ll be in awe of the natural rock formations such as the must-visit Twelve Apostles, and the London Arch. Hike through the Great Otway National Park for a chance to see glow worms at night as well as swim in gorgeous turquoise waters along the coast. For the more adventurous, we recommend the Great Ocean Walk, which is an eight day, 100km walk that takes you along the coast and allows you to experience more than driving the Great Ocean Road. This easy day-trip from Melbourne can be done either with a tour or with a rental car.
As the first city to bring in the New Year, Sydney is a fantastic destination with enough to see and do to keep your Sydney itinerary full. Catch a performance at the world renown Sydney Opera House, take photos of the Harbour Bridge, or if you are more adventurous, climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for spectacular 360° views of Sydney, do the Bondi to Coogee Beach coastal walk, and dine around Circular Quay. The activities are endless. For a day in nature, explore the nearby Blue Mountains.
9. Blue Mountains National Park
Named after the blue haze emanating from the many eucalyptus trees, Blue Mountains National Park is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia. Just 32 miles from Sydney a visit to the Blue Mountains is the perfect day-trip from Sydney. Attracting thousands of visitors, The Three Sisters rock formation, which is the most popular attraction in the Blue Mountains, offers the most iconic view of the National Park. Exploring Scenic World and riding the Scenic Railway and Skyway, hiking, rock climbing, abseiling, and exploring the limestone caves of Jenolan Caves are just a few of the activities you can do in Blue Mountain National Park.
10. Port Douglas
Balmy tropical weather, the beautiful Four Mile Beach, it’s abundant luxurious accommodations and lush natural surroundings makes visitors gravitate to the small town of Port Douglas along Australia’s coast. Located just a one hour scenic drive from Cairns, Port Douglas gives visitors a more laid-back, small town vibe compared to its neighbor. Also, its close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, and Daintree National Park which is only a 40 minute drive away, make Port Douglas the perfect base for access to these natural wonders.
11. Kangaroo Island
Boasting over 300 miles of picturesque coastline, pristine beaches, delicious food, and fascinating natural attractions, Kangaroo Island shouldn’t be missed. Visitors can see koalas sleeping in eucalyptus trees, kangaroos hopping along the beautiful landscape, sea lions chilling on the white sandy beaches, and dolphins jumping out of the ocean. Seal Bay, Flinders Chase National Park, the Remarkable Rocks, and Admirals Arch are some of the must-visit attractions while adventurous travelers might enjoy sandboarding or hiking and camping the 61 km Wilderness Trail along the Park’s coast.
12. Flinders Range
Dusty red scenic roads, ancient cliffs, dramatic gorges, rich aboriginal history, and an abundance of wildlife, Flinders Range is Australia’s most accessible outback area and offers the best 4WD adventure in the country. The main attraction at Flinders Range is Wilpena Pound, a natural, crater-like amphitheatre. Visitors can explore this natural phenomenon either on a scenic flight, or by hiking to the rim. Other highlights include admiring ancient rock art at Arkaroo Rock, catching the sunset at Bunyeroo Valley Road, enjoying a feral fest at Prairie Hotel, embarking on an aboriginal cultural tour through Wilpena Pound Resort, driving the scenic and rugged 4WD tracks, and admiring the 600 million year old landscape.
13. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Australia’s most iconic landmark and undoubtedly the symbol of Australia’s outback, Uluru is one of the greatest natural wonders in the world. Towering over the flat desert plain at 348 meters (1,142ft) high, 3.5 km (2.2m) long, and over 500 million years old, it’s quite a sight to see! A must-have experience while visiting is watching one of the world’s largest monoliths, Uluru, change colors during sunset and sunrise.
Uluru shares the UNESCO World Heritage Park with the just as impressive Kata Tjuta which has over 30 rock domes soaring up to 546 meters (1791ft) above the surrounding desert plain. While exploring the Red Centre Way, we highly recommend visiting the underrated yet spectacular Kings Canyon nearby.
14. Byron Bay
This well known laid-back coastal town offers visitors the perfect opportunity to kick back, relax, and enjoy the waves. Filled with resorts, spas, and yoga studios, Byron Bay is known as a wellness destination and attracts the spiritually minded, yogis, and spa lovers as well as backpackers and surfers. Surfers can catch some of the best surfing breaks in the country and nature lovers will love the close access to seven nature reserves. Photographers can admire the breathtaking views along the hike to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, and beachgoers can relax on 15 miles worth of white sandy beaches or learn to surf.
15. Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
Considered one of Tasmania’s most iconic natural jewels, Cradle Mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is recognized as one of the last true wilderness regions on Earth. Home to the world famous Overland Track, the picture-perfect Dove Lake, and over 20 self-guided walking tracks along a rich and diverse range of plants and wildlife, Cradle Mountain is without a doubt a nature lover and hikers paradise.
16. Barossa Valley
Food and wine enthusiasts won’t want to miss this famous wine region in South Australia. Just a short drive from Adelaide, Barossa Valley is home to over 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors which are best tasted and experienced on a wine tour of the region. Feast your way around the valley, tasting the local specialty; Shiraz grapes, and sampling smoked meats and traditional bread while dining at fine restaurants. Besides the delicious food and wine, the 57 km long Barossa Scenic Heritage Drive is a great way to explore the beautiful landscape and heritage of the area.
The small sleepy town in Western Australia is surrounded by endless beaches, national parks, and desert-like landscape, making it the perfect base to explore the nearby natural wonders of Ningaloo Reef and Cape Range National Park. Ningaloo Reef, one of the largest fringing reefs in the world is a short swim from the shore and offers snorkelers and divers the unique opportunity to see colorful corals and fish, and swim with the world’s largest fish – whale sharks. Cape Range National Park on the other hand, gives visitors the opportunity to admire the landscape with sheer cliffs, deep gorges, limestone ranges, unspoilt beaches, and diverse wildlife.
Just two hours from Brisbane is Queensland’s seaside haven, Noosa. National Parks and Reserves surround its boundaries, award-winning restaurants, cafes and bars dot the main street, and stunning beaches with world renowned surfing breaks make up its coastline meaning Noosa might be small but it certainly packs a punch with activities to keep visitors both entertained and relaxed regardless if they’re beachgoers, nature lovers, or foodies. The Noosa’s Farmers Market, Noosa National Park, and visiting one of the only two everglade systems in the world, the Noosa Everglades, are must have experiences while visiting the town.
19. Kakadu National Park
Half the size of Switzerland, and Australia’s largest National Park, Kakadu’s abundance of natural wonders, wildlife, and rich aboriginal culture makes this UNESCO World Heritage park impossible to pass up visiting while discovering the Northern Territory. Natural swimming pools and waterfalls with stunning backdrops like the popular Jim Jim Falls, and Gunlom Falls, Aboriginal rock art 20,000 years old, termite mounds as tall as 19 ft, unsealed roads for 4WD adventures, 30 walking trails, and dramatic seasonal changes make Kakadu’s magic easy to fall in love with.
Kakadu is also one of the best places to see Australia’s wildlife, as it’s home to one third of Australia’s bird species, one-fifth of Australia’s mammals, along with 120 species of reptiles, and 300 kinds of fish. Did I mention there are over 10,000 crocodiles in Kakadu with some reaching as long as 19 feet? The best place to spot some of these wildlife and crocs in the park is on a boat cruise on the Yellow River Billabong.
Broome is one of the country’s most remote holiday destinations in Western Australia. The small town is where you go to escape the crowds to relax and appreciate nature. Camel rides along Cable Beach at sunset, witnessing the most unusual, yet spectacular natural phenomenon known as “The Staircase to the Moon”, as well as learning about and shopping for South Sea Pearl, the finest variety of pearls in the world, are just a few of the iconic things you can do in Broome. Broome is also the perfect gateway to exploring the nearby natural wonders in the Kimberly region such as the gravity defying Horizontal Falls, the grand canyon of Australia, Purnululu National Park, and the pristine beaches and striking red cliffs of Cape Leveque.
21. Freycinet National Park
Home to Tasmania’s most celebrated views, Freycinet National Park is a treasure trove of white sand beaches, excellent hiking trails, and spectacular views. The most popular thing to do at Freycinet is the Wineglass Bay Lookout hike which rewards visitors with breathtaking views of the famous Wineglass Bay beach. Honeymoon Bay, Cape Tourville Lighthouse, and Sleepy Bay are a few other iconic beaches and walks that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Freycinet National Park.
22. Rottnest Island
Imagine an island that’s barely inhabited, has no public cars, pristine beaches with crystal clear water surrounded by beautiful landscapes, and a vast array of wildlife. That’s Rottnest Island. Just off the coast of Perth in Western Australia this island is the perfect destination to go hiking, snorkeling, biking, and even skydiving. Get close to wildlife including quokkas and marispals, and see stingrays and dolphins from the shore. Pedal across epic bike trails around the island or just relax and take in the natural beauty of this pristine Island.
23. Karijini National Park
Often referred to as Australia’s best national park, Karijini is a unique, picturesque, and adventurous natural wonder in Australia’s Outback that beautifully illustrations how beautiful Mother Nature can be. From exploring ancient gorges and mammoth mountains via excellent walking trails, to swimming in natural water holes and camping under the stars, Karijini National Park will keep you busy and active for days. Dales Gorge, Hamersley Gorge, and Handcock Gorge are some of the popular hiking adventures at Karijini.
24. The Pinnacles of Nambung
Within the Nambung National Park in Western Australia is the iconic and impressive Pinnacles Desert. The desert features a sea of eroding limestone rock formations with some as high as 3 meters (9ft) poking out of the desert sand. This natural wonder can be admired at any time but it’s beauty really comes to life both at sunset and on clear starry-sky nights. Because of Nambung’s close proximity to Perth, it’s a popular day-trip from Perth.
25. Atherton Tablelands
Cairns is home to beautiful beaches that you can’t swim at during the blazing hot summer because of deadly crocodiles and jellyfish. But luckily, just an hour drive from Cairns, is Atherton Tableland, a refreshing oasis filled with waterfalls, swimming holes, and lakes that tourists and locals alike can cool off in.
This popular day trip from Cairns takes visitors on a scenic drive through rolling hills to swim in the volcanic lakes of Eacham and Barrine, walk through national parks, admire 500 year old curtain fig trees, and marvel at the many waterfalls along the popular Waterfall Circuit. This day trip should also be coupled with visits to Josphine Falls and Babinda Boulders for the ultimate day-trip experience.
Now that you’ve uncovered all the best places to visit in Australia, you can officially start planning your trip Down Under.