Australia is known for many things, including swathes of tropical beaches, marine reserves, Aboriginal culture, cute koalas, rolling wine country, and lush rainforests.
From Queensland’s sultry north, the location of the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, to Sydney’s iconic architecture and Melbourne’s buzzy’s independent neighborhoods, Australia is one of the most diverse and fascinating countries on the planet.
Find out what Australia is famous for below.
The Great Barrier Reef
Where on the planet might you encounter the warm-water dwelling dugong and the endangered green turtle? The answer is the extraordinary UNESCO-listed Great Barrier Reef, stretching over 1,400 miles off the northeast coast of Australia.
The sheer size of this eye-popping reef system has the ability to make even the most intrepid of travelers feel tiny. The ecosystem is extraordinary, with more than 400 types of dazzling coral and 1,500 species of fish.
You could experience a slither of this spectacular Australian landmark from Airlie Beach or Cairns in Queensland, where swirls of glistening white sand streak through the crystal-clear water.
When you visit the Great Barrier Reef, consider taking a seaplane ride over Heart Reef near the Whitsunday Islands to get a bird’s eye perspective. Due to its protected status, swooping over this heart-shaped reef formation is the only way to witness it.
You’ll want to capture this vision on camera so make sure you have enough battery power for the trip. Gaze down at the breathtaking scenes as your guide points out sights including Hamilton Island, Whitehaven Beach, Daydream Island, and Hayman Island.
To view the Great Barrier Reef’s medley of marine life up close, enjoy a trip on a glass-bottom boat. Dive into the blue waters for the chance to experience some of the best snorkeling in the world among glowing clownfish, giant manta rays, and shimmering Maori wrasse.
From ancient rock art, found in sacred locations such as Uluru, to contemporary paintings displayed in modern galleries around the country, Aboriginal art is the works by Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Melbourne’s Koorie Heritage Trust, in Melbourne’s Federation Square, focuses on representing the works of the Koorie Aboriginal culture of South-Eastern Australia. The First Nations-owned and managed organization is a must-visit for its program of immersive exhibitions, a permanent gallery, and public events such as talks and workshops.
In Sydney, join the Australian Museum’s fascinating Waranara tours, led by a First Nations guide, to learn more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures on a tour of objects from the museum’s exhibitions.
The Sydney Opera House
One of the most famous images for which Australia is famous has to be the Sydney Opera House. Located on the city’s huge harbor, Sydney Opera House is defined by three pearly-white sails.
Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this music, performing arts, and dining venue has dazzled travelers since 1973.
Neatly sandwiched between other popular Sydney landmarks—the Royal Botanic Garden and The Rocks district on Bennelong Point—Sydney Opera House’s auditoriums are home to Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
One of the best things to do in Sydney is to join a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the opera house. Gaze at the cathedral-like interiors, wander the Opera House’s usually off-limits underbelly, and learn about the jaw-dropping building’s history.
Save time to enjoy a leisurely lunch at Bennelong—helmed by celebrity chef Peter Gilmore—at the Sydney Opera House. You’ll be treated to course after course of gourmet Australian fare alongside sweeping views of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
This is one of Sydney’s most popular restaurants, so you’ll need to reserve a table at Bennelong in advance of your visit.
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
Lying on the banks of the River Derwent, just north of Hobart, Tasmania, the striking Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is a superb modern art venue surrounded by gorgeous landscaping and a leafy vineyard.
The museum is the star attraction of Hobart’s impressive cultural scene and is reached via a 25-minute ferry journey from Hobart’s Brooke Street Pier on the waterfront.
You could easily spend an entire day at MONA, exploring the exhibitions and elaborate architecture, followed by sipping on zesty wines at the Moorilla Winery.
You’ll find plenty of MONA talking points to discuss as you graze over mouth-watering Tasmanian produce at the museum’s two kitchen-garden restaurants, Source and Faro Bar and Restaurant.
Quirky Melbourne Neighborhoods
Australian cities are known for their makeup as clusters of fiercely independent neighborhoods. In Melbourne, a city well-known for its quirky quarters, visitors could experience independent shops and diverse restaurants in Brunswick, a nostalgic seaside vibe in St. Kilda, and chic boutiques and cafés in South Yarra.
To see one of the most intriguing, head for the central neighborhood of Fitzroy. This eclectic neighborhood is known for its vibrant street art, Victorian architecture, bijou shops, and world-class restaurants and bars.
Start with brunch—arguably the most important meal of the day in Australia—and some of Melbourne’s famously good coffee at one of Fitzroy’s many all-day eateries before browsing the designer stores of Gertrude Street.
Stop by Brunswick Street’s many vintage stores, found alongside cocktail bars and restaurants serving an array of international cuisines. Afghan Gallery, where most dishes are gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan, is outstanding. After, savor killer cocktails and craft beers on the rooftop of Brunswick’s Naked for Satan.
Collingswood, which runs parallel to the east of Fitzroy, is equally enchanting. Try the single-origin coffee at Proud Mary, visit Lamington Drive and Backwoods Gallery for eclectic Australian art, and linger over a long lunch and local brews at Stomping Ground Brewery & Beer Hall.
Australia’s terrain ranges from red desert to rolling vineyards, forested mountains, and in the tropical north, rainforest. One of the most beautiful forests is Daintree, in Queensland.
Estimated to be around 135 million years old, Daintree is the oldest living rainforest on the planet and one of the best-known landmarks in Australia. This ancient emerald jungle in North Queensland is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, and the land of the Yalanji people, stretching over 17,000 hectares.
To make the most of your visit here, stop by the Daintree Discovery Centre, with its exhibits, canopy tower, and aerial walkways. A café serves the locally-made Mungalli Creek dollop ice cream, which makes for a delicious treat before you head into the jungle.
The 75-foot high canopy tower offers five different viewing platforms, while the mid-level aerial walkway provides dazzling views of McLean’s Creek, which cuts through the heart of Daintree.
Wander through lush ferns, creeping vines, and towering tropical trees to explore Daintree’s biologically diverse landscape.
Look out for the native wildlife, including the southern cassowary, Bennett’s tree kangaroos, ringtail possums, and the brilliant blue and black butterfly. To spot some of Daintree’s leathery reptiles, enjoy a boat ride on the crocodile-infested Daintree River.
From Queensland’s vast stretches of gleaming white sandy beaches to secret coves in New South Wales, Australia’s sizzling shores have earned iconic status around the world.
Bondi in Sydney is one of the most famous beaches in Australia. Lie back and relax on the fine, soft sand. Enjoy a swim or sign up for a surf lesson to break Bondi’s rolling waves.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat, stop by Bondi Icebergs Club, a swimming club with a pool carved into the rocks and a restaurant that serves excellent iced coffee, salads, burgers, and seafood. Treat yourself to a plate of shimmering oysters—the shallot and lemon dressing is divine.
Port Douglas, in North Queensland, boasts the ravishing Four Mile Beach, an idyllic tropical stretch of tilting palm trees and powdery sand, nestled between green mountains and the balmy Coral Sea.
Palm Cove—also lying between rainforests and reefs—is a 30-minute drive north of Cairns in Queensland, known for its centuries-old Melaleuca trees on its laid-back esplanade. Travelers to Palm Cove could relax on the heavenly shore, enjoy the watersports, and explore the esplanade’s trove of delightful cafés and restaurants.
If you’re in Melbourne, St. Kilda is a buzzy spot where you can dig your heels into soft sand, look out for cute penguins huddled around the pier, and enjoy thrilling seaside rides at Luna Park. Plenty of cafés, restaurants, and bars offer an abundance of beachfront drinking and dining options, too.
Australia produces some of the world’s most delectable wines and is dotted with wine regions that export all over the world. One of the finest is the rolling hills of the Barossa Valley, located an hour’s drive northwest of Adelaide.
Visiting this lush landscape is the perfect opportunity to explore the wineries and sample their wares at the cellar doors. Sip on zesty Riesling, silky Cabernet, and robust Shiraz as you learn about the history of wine-making in this historic region.
One of the best things about the Barossa Valley is that many of the vineyards and tasting rooms are knitted close together, so you could easily visit a handful of wine producers and enjoy a leisurely lunch in a short visit.
Barossa Valley Estate Winery & Cellar Door, Chateau Tanunda, Hart Of The Barossa, and Turkey Flat Vineyards are just a small selection of the region’s top wineries.
The Gold Coast
Lying on the sun-drenched Pacific Ocean, roughly an hour’s drive south of Brisbane, the Gold Coast is a gleaming, 44-mile seaside stretch of pure white sand, the meandering Nerang River, and buzzing resorts and cities, as well as Australia’s tallest skyscraper, Q1.
The center of the Gold Coast’s high-rise and shorefront action is in Surfers Paradise. Here, Cavill Avenue offers plenty of shops, cafés, restaurants, and lively bars. You could take in the far-reaching views from SkyPoint Observation Deck, located on the 77th story of the Q1 building.
If you’re feeling like a challenge, try the white-knuckle SkyPoint Climb, a guided climb 885 feet above sea level that takes you outside of the Observation Deck.
The ultra-modern skyscrapers that line Surfers Paradise are impressive, but the biggest draw is the long stretch of powdery sand where you can sunbathe, swim, and surf.
Looking for a quieter spot on the Gold Coast? Check out Tallebudgera Beach for its white sand beach, rainforest trails, and headland walks.
If you’re hoping for a culture fix, head to the Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts (HOTA), an art gallery, theater, music venue, and much more. Cultural talks, family events, a circus, dance performances, and live comedy features on HOTA’s programming.
Mount Wellington, which towers over the Tasmanian capital of Hobart at 4,167 feet, is one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.
Drive to the summit from the city in 30 minutes. Stop by Lost Freight Café, located on the roadside on the winding route to the top, to fuel up for a mountain hike with delicious fresh coffee, veggie quiche, and stout sausage rolls.
Enjoy a scenic walk around the top of Mount Wellington to soak up sweeping views that stretch across the Tasman Peninsula. Go on a bushwalk to see O’Grady Falls or the multi-tiered Strickland Falls.
Discover some of the mountain’s 500 native plant species that thrive in Wellington’s unique micro-climate. Animals that you could spot include bandicoots, platypus, possums, and echidna.
The 12 Apostles
The lure of Australia’s Port Campbell National Park—aside from its wild beaches, stunning surf spots, and the opportunity to spot koalas and dolphins—is the rugged 12 Apostles, one of the most beautiful places in Australia.
A collection of towering limestone sea stacks in the Southern Ocean, the 12 Apostles make for an unforgettable day trip from Melbourne. Each sea stack has a fun nickname bestowed upon it, such as Gog and Magog.
Only eight of the stacks remain, though. Stroll the coastal path to capture the scenery from different angles. Wander down the 86 steps, known as Gibson Steps, carved into the cliff by local settler Hugh Gibson to get a closer look at Gog and Magog.
Dip your toes into the turquoise ocean at the nearby Loch Ard Gorge, where an inlet of clear water seeps between two golden-hued cliffs.
Koalas and Kangaroos
When it comes to wildlife, there are two species in Australia that are more famous than the rest—fluffy, tree-hugging koalas (spot one and you’ll instinctively want to cuddle it) and the equally iconic kangaroos.
You will spot koalas in the gum trees as you drive through Australia’s countryside, and kangaroos are also common in open grasslands of the bush, and the national parks. But to guarantee seeing either of these beautiful creatures, one of the best things to do in Brisbane is to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
Set on 44 acres of blissful grounds, the sanctuary began by providing refuge to koalas almost a century ago. It now houses many different types of animals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.
Red kangaroos, red-necked wallabies, platypus, dingos, and southern hairy-nosed wombats are among the other species you could experience at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
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