From the outback to the reef, Australia’s landscape is diverse and breath-taking. Go down-under and check it out for yourself.
Any time is a good time to be in Australia. Summer (December-February) can get uncomfortably hot just about anywhere, except Tasmania. Up north, this is the wet season, where it’s very humid and the sea will be swarming with box jellyfish. On the upside, the Top End is beautifully green and free of tourists at this time.
From June until August things have cooled down a little and dried up a lot up north. This is a good time to visit Queensland or the outback. If you’re here for the skiing, now’s the time to head for the snowfields of Victoria and NSW.
Overall, spring and autumn are probably the safest bets – the weather is reasonably mild wherever you are, and spring brings out the wildflowers in the outback, while autumn is particularly beautiful in Canberra and in the Victorian Alps. If you want to avoid holiday road chaos, don’t arrive in Australia at Easter.
Don’t miss the following:
Australia’s premier city is the oldest settlement in Australia. In February 1999, “Travel and Leisure” magazine named Sydney “the best value city in the world” for the third straight year.
Australia’s second city is a place of contradictions and hidden charms. Visitors come for its shopping, restaurants, nightlife and sporting calendar.
Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is a vibrant and modern city pleasantly sited on the Swan and Canning rivers, with the cerulean Indian Ocean to the west and the ancient Darling Ranges to the east.
Great Barrier Reef
The Reef and Rainforest Coast is an international showcase of natural beauty, world-class resorts and tourist attractions. Home to the vibrant coastal town of Port Douglas, the green surrounds of Mossman and the lush wilderness of the Daintree region, the Reef and Rainforest Coast embraces some of Australia’s most wonderful natural and man-made attractions
Uluru is a site of deep cultural significance to the local Anangu Aboriginals and the most famous icon of the Australian outback. A pilgrimage to Uluru and the coronary-inducing scramble to the top was an entrenched Australian ritual. The 3.6km (2.2mi) long rock rises a towering 348m (1141ft) from the pancake-flat surrounding scrub, smack in the middle of the country, and is especially impressive at dawn and sunset when the red rock spectacularly changes hue. There are walks around the base of the rock which pass caves, rock art and sacred Aboriginal sites. Nearby Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), 32km (20mi) west of Uluru, are equally impressive monoliths and Mt Olga is actually much higher than Uluru. The Valley of the Winds is a worthy 6km (4mi) circuit.
Great Ocean Road
This route along the southwestern coast of Victoria is one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world.
The rugged Kimberley at the northern end of Western Australia is one of Australia’s last frontiers. It’s a little-travelled and very remote area of great rivers and magnificent scenery.
Although its renowned as a winter playground, the park is also popular with bushwalkers in summer, when there are marvellous alpine wildflowers.
The raw materials are superb. A glance at a catalogue from a gourmet supplier reveals exotic Australian produce such as chevre, prosciutto and marron from Western Australia, cold-pressed olive oil from South Australia, snails from Victoria, bush foods from the Northern Territory and milk-fed lamb from New South Wales. Australia’s seafood is a story in itself.
Australia has been fabulously endowed by nature. Climatic diversity enables the country to produce rambutans as well as custard apples, mangoes, coconuts, lychees, mandarins, strawberries and blackberries. Its lush coastal pastures are well suited to dairying and farmhouse cheese production; Australian rice is sold in Japan; its wines are among the worlds finest; its free-range beef is superb and its vast coastline is invested with a wealth of marine life.
Australia has a proliferation of outlets selling food – from supermarkets and specialist delicatessens through to every conceivable type of restaurant. There are numerous cafes and bistros lining the main streets in most towns and all of the major precincts in capital cities.
While you are here try some of the authentic Australian cuisine such as Kangaroo, Crocodile, Emu and Shark.
Australia also offers a great selection of international cuisines to suit every palate including Italian, Mexican, Thai, Malaysian, Chinese, Greek and Vietnamese.
BYO : Many Australian restaurants offer a BYO service which means that you can bring your own wine and beer. Most charge a corkage fee of $1-$2, so bringing your own booze can greatly reduce the cost of a meal out!
Smoking : Many Australian restaurants are non-smoking, although most provide outdoor seating where smoking is permitted.
Beer : Australian beer is the same consistency as lager and brands vary from state to state. While, Fosters is probably the most well known brand internationally, brands such as VB, Carlton, Tooheys and XXXX (Four X) are more commonly seen.
Wine : Australia is rapidly gaining international recognition as a wine producer, well-known varieties include those from the Hunter Valley in NSW,Barossa Valley in SA or Coonawarra Valley in Victoria.
Most visitors to Australia arrive by air. The main international airports are Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, followed by Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin and Cairns. There are plenty of connections from Asia, Europe and the USA, but Australia’s remoteness makes flights expensive and long. Australia’s current international popularity also means that many flights are heavily booked. Make plans well in advance!
Once there, Australia is so vast that up to 80% of long-distance trips within the country are also made by air.
There are several long distance bus companies. Buses are comfortable, but if you’re travelling between major cities be prepared for a long trip.
Few people travel long-distances by train because it’s usually the slowest mode of overland transport and remains relatively expensive.
An economical way of travelling round Australia would be to group together and hire or purchase a car.
Here’s just some of the popular activities and areas where you can do them:
Apart from the diving mecca which is Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, diving spots include South Australia’s Kangaroo Island (where there are several accessible shipwrecks) and West Australia’s Esperance, Rottnest Island, and Carnarvon.
White-water rafting and canoeing are possible at Coffs Harbour on New South Wales’ Nymboida River, on the upper Murray near Khancoban also in New South Wales; along Queensland’s Tully and North Johnstone rivers between Townsville and Cairns; and in Tasmania.
There are countless surfing beaches along the Australian coast, some of them in the cities (Sydney and Perth), some in beach towns (Lorne, Victoria; Byron Bay, New South Wales; and Surfers Paradise, Queensland) and some in remote areas (the south-west of South Australia and the north-west of West Australia).
Sydney and Melbourne are the main centres of classical music, but the Darwin Symphony Orchestra holds concerts in interesting locations such as Kakadu and Katherine Gorge. Australian Folk Music is popular in the bush – if you get a chance try to attend a local folk festival or bush dance.
No doubt Sydney Opera House is one of the most famous locations to attend an opera, but Melbourne also has an impressive Opera House. The national Opera company Opera Australia tours the country.
The following is a summary of festivals that should not be missed:
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race – Tasmania month long festival taking place in January, also incorporates the Taste of Tasmania Food Festival.
Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras – NSW
Not to be missed! This is a huge procession along Sydney’s Oxford Street with extravagant costumes and decorative floats. Takes place the end of February and is GREAT FUN!!
Alice Springs Camel Cup
Camel races in the desert in July
First Tuesday in November in Melbourne – its a national holiday in Victoria, but the whole country celebrates the biggest Horse racing day of the Australian calendar.
Tamworth Country Music Festival
The biggest and best country music festival in Australia is held on the Australia Day long weekend in January in Tamworth.
All visitors to Australia need a passport and a visa. Those from New Zealand are issued a visa on arrival; all other visitors must obtain one in advance. There are several different types of visa depending on the reason for visiting, but most holiday visitors will need a standard tourist visa. To apply for a visa you’ll need an application form, available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and many travel agents. There’s a US$33 fee for a three-month stay and you’ll have to provide your passport and a passport photo with your application. Visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Holland, Malta, South Korea and Japan may be eligible for a working holiday visa. You can work either full-time or part-time for as much of the year that you want, but you can’t work for the same employer for more than 3 months.
Australia’s currency is the Australian dollar ($). This is divided into 100 cents (c).
It is no problem to change foreign currency and traveller’s cheques as banks are plentiful. Normal banking hours are Monday to Thursday from 9.30am to 4pm and Friday from 9.30am to 5pm. You’ll also find foreign-exchange booths at Sydney airport and in the city centre. These have more convenient opening hours than banks but generally their rates aren’t as good. Most hotels will change currency or traveller’s but the rates are usually quite poor. The one down side with changing currency in banks is that they charge $5 to $7 per transaction.
The country code for Australia is 61. Local calls from public phones cost 40c for an unlimited amount of time. You can make local calls from Telstra payphone booths and also from the gold and blue phones found in many shops and hotels. Long-distance calls can be made from almost any public phone. Many public phones accept Telstra Phonecards which come in $5, $10, $20 and $50 denominations and are available from retail outlets which display the Phonecard logo. Otherwise you can use coins of 10 cents and upwards. Long-distance calls are charged according to distance and rates vary depending on what time you call. The lowest rates are currently at weekends and after 8pm during the week.
The postal service in Australia is relatively efficient. Generally, post offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. If you wish to purchase stamps you can buy them from most newsagents as well as the post office. All post offices will hold mail, keeping it for one month before returning it to the sender, although for a small fee you can arrange to have mail forwarded to you.
In Australia tipping isn’t a must as is in America and some parts of Europe. It is considered as a ‘thank you’ for good service rather than an obligation. If you decide to tip the amount should be in accordance with how good you felt the service was. Ten percent of the bill would be considered reasonable.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Australia they occur on January 1st, January 26th,Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 25th, June 12th, December 25th and December 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.