Australia travel guide

Australia is the only country that is a whole continent. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces - beaches, deserts and the Outback. Australia is even so one of the world's most urbanised countries and well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its major cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and the capital Canberra.

Australia is also a major tourist destination and is one of the world's wealthiest countries. The country is renowned for its vast, untouched landscape and unique culture and this Australia travel guide will help you make the most of your travel to Oz. Most visitors to Australia also visit New Zealand while on vacation.

Places to go in Australia

Queensland's Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is the destination to head for if you want sun, sand, and sea. This stretch of Queensland coastline is great for surfers and sun worshippers. It includes Caloundra, Noosa, Maroochydore and Mooloolaba. This is also your base for the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is a coral formation, the largest in the entire world. It's located off the Pacific coast of Queensland. It is home to a spectacular array of marine life and offers awesome diving opportunities. You'll get here by flying to Cairns and taking a boat or short hop flight to the islands of the reef.

The Outback

Australia's red centre. There are two very important facts to keep in mind about the Outback: it has very few inhabitants and very little water. You should follow standard safety precautions for desolate regions:

  • tell someone where you're going and when and where you should arrive; they should have instructions to raise the alarm if you do not appear soon after your intended arrival time
  • carry immense amounts of water
  • travel in a sturdy vehicle
  • have clothes that can protect against cold, as well as clothes suitable for extremely hot weather

Keep in mind also that the Outback is very large, much larger than desert regions in most other Western countries. You could easily end up twenty hours' drive away from emergency help.

Uluru

Uluru in the Australian OutbackUluru, also known as Ayers Rock, located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a gigantic wind-swept rock. The easiest way to get to the Uluru is to drive, catch a bus or join a tour from Alice Springs.

You can also fly from most capital cities to Connellan Airport, which is located just outside the park. Contact your travel agent for more details. Car hire is available from the airport and is best arranged through your travel agent before arrival.

Another option is the Ghan Train from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs. The nearly 3,000 km train ride does take a few days though.

Tasmania

Tasmania was once known as the Apple Isle and, is the smallest of Australia's states. It is located off the south eastern tip of the mainland. We recommend the Launceston to Hobart highway for a great coastal drive. To get to Tasmania, either take an internal flight to Hobart or the ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, Tasmania, with Spirit of Tasmania.

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Australia's major cities

  • Melbourne - Australia's second largest city and the nation's first capital city. Melbourne is a huge sporting and cultural capital. Melbourne is Australia's most European city
  • Canberra - the purpose-built, planned national capital of Australia
  • Adelaide - the City of Churches, a relaxed South Australian alternative to the big eastern cities
  • Brisbane - sun-drenched capital of Queensland, fastest growing city in Australia (and the Southern Hemisphere) and gateway to beautiful sandy beaches
  • Gold Coast - a large, beach city south of Brisbane. Known for its beaches, high rise apartments and its amusement parks
  • Cairns - gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, Daintree National Park, and many beautiful beaches and resorts. A great place for people to getaway to and relax
  • Darwin - Australia's smallest and northern-most capital, at the top of the Northern Territory
  • Hobart - small and quiet capital of Tasmania
  • Perth - the most remote continental capital city on earth, on the south-western edge of Western Australia
  • Sydney - Australia's first and largest city, the capital of New South Wales

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Practical information about Australia

Visas to Australia

It's worth nothing that all foreigners except citizens of New Zealand require visas to visit Australia. The citizens of some countries can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which is a tourist or business visa valid for up to three month stays. These are often also available through travel agents at the time of booking your flight to Australia - apply for the ETA through your agent if possible, as the fee for applying directly is most often waived. Citizens of New Zealand may remain in Australia indefinitely without restrictions regardless of reason.

Australian national holidays

  • January 1: New Years' Day
  • January 26: Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove in 1788.
  • Easter weekend ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.
  • April 25: ANZAC Day, honouring military veterans
  • Second Monday in June: Queen's birthday holiday (not celebrated in Western Australia, which observes Foundation Day a week earlier)
  • December 25: Christmas Day
  • December 26: Boxing Day

Facts and map

Australia is the world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; it's slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous United States. The highly urbanised population is heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Australia is bordered on the northwest, west, and southwest by the Indian Ocean, and on the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, while the Great Barrier Reef lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbors, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.

Getting there and around

There's not much option besides flying to Australia. This is a trying 24-hour flight from London, and 18 hours or more from North America. To find a cheap airfare, check with our list of air ticket consolidators and our tips on finding a cheap flight. Sydney is the busiest international destination but significant numbers of travelers also arrive first in Australia in Melbourne (Tullamarine Airport), Brisbane and Perth.

You'll also be flying if you want to visit other destinations in Australia, as driving distances are enormous. This wouldn't be a useful Australia travel guide unless that simple fact was made very clear. For example, Melbourne to Sydney will take about 10 hours to cover 560 miles of highway. That's one of the shorter drives too.

A nation-wide (except Tasmania) interstate bus service is provided by Greyhound Australia. There are a number of other interstate and state-wide bus services as well.

States in Australia

      Weather in Australia

      Australia is mostly arid and semi-arid: the center is desert and much agricultural land is poor quality by the standards of continents with richer soil. The south east is temperate and the north tropical. Australia was massively deforested for agricultural purposes and forest areas survive only in extensive national parks and some other areas. Australia is prone to severe drought and water restrictions are currently in place in some areas, however these shouldn't affect travellers as they mostly relate to watering gardens and washing cars.

      A common perception of Australia is that it is always hot and sunny: Wrong!

      Both Sydney and Melbourne can experience days or even weeks of almost continual rainfall, while Western Tasmania has a climate that closely resembles that of England, although Tasmania's capital, Hobart, is the second driest Australian capital. In addition, temperatures can easily drop below freezing point in winter.


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