Australia is a vast and varied country, filled with modern cities, ancient culture and outstanding natural beauty. It has got something for every type of holiday. Whether visiting on a short vacation or starting out on an extended period of travel, any trip to the land down under is likely to involve lying back on some of the worldís best beaches, exploring untamed wilderness and meeting unique creatures.
Thanks to a well-established and highly-organised tourism industry, travel in Australia is very easy. Whether you want find a hotel, or book a flight, tour or diving trip, youíll rarely have to search for long. However, itís easy to underestimate just how massive Australia is, so itís well worth planning at least a rough travel itinerary.
Sydney and Melbourne are Australiaís two biggest and most exciting cities, and you will most likely start your holiday in one of them, due to them being where most international flights land. The two cities are both world class, but are hugely different in character, and very competitive as a result. Sydney has its iconic buildings and sunny beaches, while Melbourne is more about cafť culture, shopping, street art and nightlife. Melbourne also hosts most of Australiaís main sporting events, such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Grand Slam tennis. You could easily fill a few days vacation time in both. Cheap flights linking Sydney and Melbourne, just over an hour long, are plentiful. By hire car the drive would take about 12 hours.
Queensland, home to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and Whitsundays, is where most tourists will have their eye on. You could easily tick off the major highlights in 2-3 weeks, travelling between Surfers Paradise and Cairns. However, itís worth not rushing the main sights (or hurrying past so many stunning beaches). For example, ideally spend a few days each doing a 4WD tour of Fraser Island, a sailing trip around the Whitsundays and on a liveaboard scuba dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef (if youíre learning to dive, allow 4-5 days).
The Northern Territory is home to Australiaís other most famous natural icons Ė Kakadu National Park and Uluru (Ayers Rock). Allow a few days to take a tour of each, plus itís worth spending a day or two in tropical Darwin. Travel in style from the top to the middle, stopping at Katherine, on The Ghan train. You can generally see the most of Kakadu at the start of the Dry season (May-June). You can easily tour Uluru all year, however, itís best to go in either spring (September-November) or autumn (March-June). The summer has long, very hot, days, while in winter you will get shorter days and surprisingly cold nights.
Perth is the Australian city most popular with people choosing to migrate down under, but Western Australia generally is a fantastic option for more adventurous travel. Itís got everything from wine tours to swimming with whale sharks and stunning frontier country. If youíre planning on hiring a car or campervan and driving from Perth to Broome, allow at least a couple of weeks. Try to time your holiday for whale shark season on the Ningaloo Reef (March-July). If youíre planning to take a tour through the Kimberley, and if youíve got time, you should, allow about 10 days.
Tasmania is the nearest Australia gets to New Zealand. Thereís lush scenery, dramatic mountains and fascinating convict history. The best option is to hire a campervan and do a circuit of the island. You could see most of the top attractions in a week. Aim for summer, as Tasmania gets pretty cold and very wet in the winter, especially on the west coast.
When is the best time to visit Australia?
Australia is a year round holiday destination, but the time of year you are planning your vacation for is likely to dictate where you go. The north of the country, including Cairns, Darwin, Kakadu and the Kimberley, all has a tropical climate.
This essentially means there are just two seasons: the dry winter (May-October) and the wet summer (November-April). Itís always hot in the north, but thereís more rain and humidity in the Wet season, making many national parks, including Kakadu, largely inaccessible. The Wet is also stinger season. This means there are lots more jellyfish in the water. This wonít stop you doing any activities or tours, but will mean you have to wear a thin stinger suit if youíre snorkelling or diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
As a result, itís best to travel to northern Australia during the Southern Hemisphere winter, and southern Australia during the summer.
The south, including Sydney and Melbourne, enjoys a temperate four-season climate. The summers get very hot, while the winters do still get surprisingly cold, especially in Tasmania.
The most popular route for travellers planning an extended holiday in Australia is to arrive in Melbourne or Sydney in the summer, explore the south of the country and experience New Yearís Eve in Sydney, before then gradually travelling up the east coast and across the north.