Australia offers visitors from all over the world diverse, and especially natural, attractions; vast national parks with unique ecosystems, natural phenomena, thousands of species of animals and plants, mountains and islands. But it is also worth visiting the cities where several cultures intermingle. Here are the top 10 places you should definitely include in your itinerary when visiting Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef stretches along the east coast of Australia near the state of Queensland. It is roughly two thousand kilometres long, made up of nearly three thousand coral reefs and over six hundred islands. This makes it even visible from space! The reef is home to over 1,600 species of tropical fish, sharks, dolphins, turtles, starfish and shells. Diving and snorkelling in the world's largest coral reef is definitely an unforgettable experience. The cities of Cairns and Port Douglas and Airlie Beach are bases for trips to the reef.
The landmarks of Australia's largest city, Sydney, are of course the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. But there is much more to the distinctive colour of this vibrant and cosmopolitan city. Historic buildings in the city centre complement modern developments in the commercial centre. Sydney Tower offers beautiful views of the city and its surroundings. The coastline is lined with cliffs and, above all, beautiful beaches, including the renowned Bondi Beach.
It is a paradise not only for surfers. Australia's rich fauna is represented by the Taronga Zoo. Sydney also attracts sports enthusiasts. Cricket and rugby are the most popular games here. And above all, this city never sleeps, it also offers a rich nightlife, and most of the bars and clubs are concentrated in the city centre, especially in Darling Harbour.
Along the coast of Victoria is a unique road, more than 300 kilometres long, called the Great Ocean Road. It runs from the surfing town of Torquay to Portland and was built in the 1930s during the Depression to create jobs. It is also meant to be a memorial to all those who died during the First World War. The Great Ocean Road thus combines beautiful scenery, adventure and history. It rightly ranks as one of the world's great "road trips".
There are several places of interest along the way. The world's largest surfing museum in Torquay is worth a visit before you start your journey, and the world's most prestigious surfing competition is also held here at Easter. Next stop is Port Campbell National Park with its many limestone rock formations. The most famous of these is the 12 Apostles, which are scattered in the sea off the coast.
In the picturesque village of Apollo Bay, roughly halfway along the Great Ocean Road, you'll find the highest and longest treetop trail in the world. Opened in 2003, it is 47 metres high and 600 metres long. In the seaside village of Anglesea, you can play golf with the locals – there are over 300 kangaroos that roam the course. The largest town on the route is Warrnambool, which is a renowned whale-watching spot.
Tourists can choose several ways to take the Great Ocean Road. The most popular is to pack their belongings in a backpack and start the journey on foot and under a tent. However, there are also a number of tour operators that are happy to arrange multi-day trips.
One of the most photogenic natural features in Australia is definitely the so-called "Red Wonder" or "Red Centre", the dominant monolith of Uluru in central Australia. The name Uluru means "shady place" in the local Aboriginal language. The monolith rises to a height of 348 metres in the middle of the plateau.
For the local Aboriginal people, Uluru is a sacred place. Tourists head here especially for the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The monolith is part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which takes its name from the monolith itself and the nearby gorge.
The Blue Mountains are located near Sydney and are an excellent alternative for a day trip from the Australian capital. The mountains get their name from the blue haze that emanates from the rare eucalyptus trees on hot days, when their leaves evaporate oils.
The highest peak, Birds Rock, is 1,180 metres high. The dramatic nature of the mountains is mainly due to the numerous chasms, waterfalls and also the isolated sandstone cliffs. The most famous rock sculpture is the Three Sisters, which was named after an old Aboriginal legend. Around 140 kilometres of hiking trails await visitors, and climbing, abseiling, mountain biking and horse riding are also popular.
One of the symbols of Australia, besides kangaroos, are koalas. You should not miss them when visiting this red continent.
Byron Bay is often referred to as a paradise for surfers and other adrenaline seekers, especially paragliding. Thanks to the tropical climate and high water temperatures, the area is also popular for snorkelling and diving, as well as whale watching. Julian Rocks in particular is a renowned spot among divers. Nightcap National Park with its rainforest and the beautiful Minyon Falls is also nearby.
The Daintree Tropical Rainforest, which stretches across northern Queensland, is believed to be the oldest in the world. It is inhabited by the indigenous Kuku Yalanji tribe. The forest lies in the national park of the same name, which is divided into two parts: the Mossman Gorge with its crystal clear water and Cape Tribulation, where the forest ends on the cliffs on the white-glowing beaches of the Coral Sea. The park is home to more than 18,000 species of plants, as well as many animals such as crocodiles, kangaroos and butterflies. The Daintree Rainforest is therefore a popular destination for day safaris, which usually depart from the nearby town of Port Douglas.
Australia's second largest city, Melbourne, is also a popular stop, and is particularly notable for its rich cultural life. The city has a wealth of galleries, museums, theatres, restaurants and shops, with Queen Victoria Market being one of the most popular shopping centres. Parks, gardens and open spaces take up more than a third of the area, giving the city a very airy feel. Landmarks include the Royal Botanic Gardens and the National Gallery of Victoria. To the east, the city is flanked by the Dandenong Ranges.
Fraser Island is located off the east coast of Australia about 200 kilometres north of Brisbane and is often referred to as the largest sand island in the world. It is a popular place for ATV tours, but other vehicles would not be able to wade through the sandy roads, as there are no others. A narrow channel separates the island from the mainland and the easiest way to get to Fraser Island is by ferry from Hervey Bay or from Inskip Point to Rainbow Beach.
The island measures approximately 122 kilometres in length and is only 15 kilometres wide. The highest dune reaches up to 260 metres high. In addition to the adrenaline-fuelled dune rides, another local attraction is the wreck of the S.S. Maheno, which was originally a luxury liner. In the 1930s, however, it was wrecked during a storm and washed up on the beach.
Other attractions are the sandstone cliffs or the small lakes in the rocky coastline with bubbling water, called "Champagne Pools". One of the world's largest populations of dingoes in the wild, numbering around 150, lives here, as well as over 300 species of birds, wild horses and bats. The waters around the island are popular with dolphins, sharks and whales.
Kakadu National Park is the largest park in Australia and the second largest in the world. It is located in the north of the Northern Territory and is considered one of the "wildest places" ever. Within the park there are rainforests, mangrove swamps, rivers, waterfalls, ancient rock paintings and of course a variety of plant and animal species.
The park can be visited by car and plane, but also by boat. There are also miles of hiking trails. During the rainy season, from November to April, many parts of the area are closed due to flooding.