Best of Australia

We got a lot of questions about travel in Australia and what is the best of Australia to see and do via email and on our social media accounts. Typically we get asked, “where should we go?” “What should we see?”

That’s a great question, but it’s a loaded question filled with many variables and it’s hard to give a simple answer.

But I get it, you’re confused. Australia is massive – 6th biggest country in the world – and you don’t know where to start. You don’t know where to spend your valuable travel money and time.

More often than not, I have to answer the question with a question. And it starts off with, it all depends on you!

What are your interests? What type of experiences do you enjoy? What is your personal travel style (solo, as a couple, as a family?) How are you getting around? And how long do you have?

So I’ve put together this “Best of Australia” list broken up into categories to help you narrow down your choices, to guide you on the places to visit based around your needs.

I’ve suggested my favourite places and experiences in Australia you should consider based on the following topics:

Please note. This is MY best of Australia list based on personal experience or those from trusted friends. If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we haven’t visited South Australia yet – besides the Barossa Valley – so tips on SA are lacking. We’ll get there!

Hopefully, you find these recommendations useful, and please leave your suggestions and tips in the comments section at the bottom of the post!

The Best Beaches in Australia

The Basin, Rottnest Island, Western Australia
The Basin, Rottnest Island, Western Australia

If Australia is known for one thing, it’s our beautiful beaches. We have 10,000+ beaches so if you want a beach holiday, we have you covered!

But which beaches and where? I recommend you choose one of these destinations in either NSW, Queensland or Western Australia.

NSW:

  • Byron Bay – this northern NSW town is well known for its surfing culture and is a beach lover’s paradise. Check out; Main Beach, Wategos Beach, Clarkes Beach, The Pass, Tallows, and Belongil Beach.
  • Jervis Bay – this south coast NSW region has some of the best beaches in the country including; Hyams Beach, Greenfield’s, Chinaman’s, Greenpatch, Murrays.
  • Sydney – besides the Harbour, it’s the city’s magnificent beaches that make it a world-class city. On the Northern side you have; Manly, Collaroy, Freshwater, Dee Why, Mona Vale, Newport, Avalon, and Palm Beach. On the Eastern Suburbs check out Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Gordon’s Bay, and Coogee,

Queensland:

Western Australia:

  • Margaret River – most people think of wine when they think of Margaret River, but the quantity,  and quality of beaches rivals anywhere in Australia. Top picks are Hamlin Bay, Yallingup, Smiths Beach, Rivermouth, Meelup Bay, Bunker Bay, and Eagle Bay!
  • Rottnest Island – with a choice of over 63 secluded beaches and bays, Rotto is a great island to explore. My favourites are The Basin, Pinky Beach, Little Salmon Bay, and Little Parakeet Bay.
  • Broome – Cable Beach is one of the top three beaches in Australia and one of the best beaches in the world. And Broome is our favourite town in Australia. Nuff said!

Yes, there are beautiful beaches in Tasmania to look at and walk on, but the climate doesn’t support a beach holiday. And I haven’t visited any of the beaches in South Australia yet.

The best food and wine in Australia

Jacob's Creek Winery, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Jacob’s Creek Winery, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Whilst Australia doesn’t come to mind as a “foodie” destination with the likes of France, or Italy, or Thailand, it has moved beyond its meat and three veg reputation and there’s not much you can’t get down under due to our ever growing multi-cultural society.

In every city, you can find pockets of international cuisine to rival that of its origins. And does anyone do fresh seafood better than us? I haven’t tasted it.

As for wine, Australia continues to win awards for our excellent range of wines produced around the country and our reputation grows yearly.

And typically our best wine regions also offer up world class gourmet food offerings! Here are my pics:

Victoria:

  • Melbourne – the cafe and restaurant scene in Melbourne is second to none as far as our cities go. Melbourne is also known for its alleyways and coffee scene, not to mention the bakeries, and there’s a large population of Italians and Greeks. The Queen Victoria night time food market is a hit and Chinatown is the best one in the country.
  • Yarra Valley – an hour northeast of Melbourne, Yarra Valley is home to more than 80 wineries and 50 cellar doors scattered around its rolling hills.

South Australia:

  • Barossa Valley – just outside of Adelaide, the Barossa is one of my top two favourite wine regions in Australia, and home to a personal favourite Jacob’s Creek, plus 80 other wineries. And the food scene is sensational too!
  • Adelaide Hills – nearby Adelaide Hills is known to be the food bowl region of South Australia and home of the long lunch.
  • Clare Valley – we didn’t make it to the Claire Valley, but again this region comes highly recommend by local South Australian friends and other travellers.

NSW:

  • The Hunter Valley – two hours from Sydney gets you to one of Australia’s most well known and popular wine regions. The Hunter offers world class wines and fine dining, and a beautiful location just outside of Newcastle.
  • Mudgee – this country town four hours from Sydney was one of our best finds on our trip around Australia. A great alternative wine region to the Hunter Valley – less commercialised and lots of country charm.

Western Australia:

Tasmania:

  • The Tamar Valley & Launceston surrounds – quality wines and dining options in a beautiful setting.

The food and wine scene in Tasmania was a huge eye opener. I knew there was the history and scenery in Tassie, but the fresh produce is as good as you will get anywhere including fresh salmon and oysters, cheese factories, chocolate factories, and you MUST try a famous Tassie scallop pie!

Queensland

Stunned to hear Queensland has a wine region? So were we! Check out the Bunya Mountains and the South Burnett Wine Trail. Great spot for a Brisbane getaway OR a winter holiday (they get snow!)

The Best of Outback Australia

Uluru, Northern Territory
Uluru, Northern Territory

The Aussie Outback is vast and can be unforgiving, but is uniquely Australian. It ranges from sandy arid deserts to scrublands to tropical savannah. You can be sure of hot sunny days, clear starry night skies and miles of unbroken horizon.

Where to go? The Red Centre in the Northern Territory:

  • Uluru – no visit to the Outback is complete without visiting Uluru, the heart of Australia. It’s more than a physical monolith that stands 348 metres high, it’s a spiritual experience.
  • Kata Tjuta – just down the road from Uluru is the equally impressive Kata Tjuta, another of Australia’s natural wonders!
  • Alice Springs and the West MacDonnell Ranges – spend some time in Alice Springs then drive the Red Centre Way that takes in incredible gorges, waterholes, homesteads, the Kings Canyon Walk and the famous Larapinta Trail.
  • The Oodnadatta track – known as the best Outback track, 620 kilometres of red dust, salt lakes, and historic railroad remnants.
  • Adelaide to Darwin – drive the Stuart Highway (3,020 kilometres) and you’ll conquer one of Australia’s greatest road trips. Stop in at quirky Coober Pedy, take the short detour to Uluru, head along the Red Centre Way to Alice Springs, stop at Devils Marbles, cruise spectacular Katherine Gorge and explore the unbeatable Kakadu National Park. 

The Best Cities in Australia

Sydney Harbour and Opera House
Sydney Harbour and Opera House

Australia has two world class cities in Sydney and Melbourne, and if it’s your first visit to Australia, and you’re on a time limit, I would concentrate on these two:

  • Sydney – spectacular setting on one of the world’s best harbours. Explore the Opera House, climb or walk across the Harbour Bridge, visit Bondi and walk to Coogee, take the ferry to Manly, explore the historic Rocks District and picnic in the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Read more – things to do in Sydney

  • Melbourne – my favourite city in the country. It’s the sporting capital of Australia and home to the best cafe and pub scene. There’s always a festival going on, the shopping is world class, it’s easy to get around, and it has a great vibe to it. Just know it has a reputation for unpredictable weather – it can change by the hour – and you’re good to go!

Read more – Things to do in Melbourne with kids

The Best National Parks in Australia

Karijini National Park, Western Australia
Karijini National Park, Western Australia

Visiting National Parks is always at the top of my list for a destination. Here are my top recommendations for Australia:

Tasmania:

  • Freycinet National Park – my favourite place in Tasmania. Incredible walks, mountain landscapes and stunning beaches including famous Wineglass Bay.
  • Cradle Mountain National Park – another popular destination in Tassie thanks to its natural beauty and over 20 self-guided walking tracks. Our highlight was the Dove Lake Circuit, it’s also home to the popular Overland Track.

Victoria:

  • Port Campbell National Park – the highlight of driving the Great Ocean Road. It’s here you’ll find the 12 Apostles, London Arch, Loch Ard Gorge, Gibson Steps and incredible coastal scenery!
  • Wilsons Promontory National Park – just a 3-hour drive from Melbourne, this is Victoria’s best kept secret. A 50,000-hectare coastal wilderness with brilliant hiking, camping and beaches.
  • Grampians National Park – another highlight of our visit to Victoria. Lovely walks and hiking, rock formations, waterfalls, and wildlife.

Western Australia:

  • Karijini National Park – before we visited Karijini so many people said this was their favourite NP in Australia. We now agree. Amazing gorges, waterholes, waterfalls, hiking and colours of rock.
  • Kalbarri National Park – has a lot of diversity with its inner gorge, Murchison River and Coastal Cliffs

NSW:

  • Blue Mountains National Park – an easy 2 hour drive from Sydney and one of the most popular parks in Australia. Home to the Three Sisters plus awesome bushwalking, sandstone rock formations, rainforests and waterfalls.
  • Kosciuszko National Park – if you want to climb Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko, it’s here. Located withing the Snowy Mountains skiing area for winter activities, then mountain biking and hiking in the warmer months with beautiful wildflowers.
  • Royal National Park – second oldest NP in the world (behind Yellowstone) and just an hours drive from Sydney! The park’s diversity is seen in its coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, mountainous sandstone ridges and deep river valleys.

Queensland:

Northern Territory:

  • Kakadu National Park – In our top three parks in the country. From wetlands, to sandstone escarpments, waterfalls, swimming holes, billabongs, rivers, wildlife, and aboriginal rock art, it has it all.
  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park – where you find two of Australia’s natural icons, Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
  • Litchfield National Park – Just over an hours drive from Darwin, the highlight of this park is its many beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes.
  • Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) – 5 hours from Darwin, Katherine Gorge is made up of thirteen gorges carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River. Awesome sunrise cruise, kayaking and camping.

South Australia

The Best Road Trips in Australia

Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Great Ocean Road, Victoria

There’s no better way to explore Australia than on a road trip, especially if you have kids like us. Road trips make family travel more practical, cost effective and allow for so much flexibility.

Victoria:

  • The Great Ocean Road – famous in Australia and around the world as one of the best drives on the planet. Beginning one hour outside of Melbourne in Torquay, it stretches over 250 kilometres and attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Northern Territory:

  • Red Centre Way – between Alice Springs and Uluru, this drive takes in the best of the Aussie Outback; Uluru, Kings Canyon, and the West MacDonnell Ranges.
  • Top End Loop – If you’re exploring the Top End of Australia then a looped road trip from Darwin taking in Kakadu National Park, Katherine Gorge and Litchfield National Park is a must.

Queensland:

NSW:

Western Australia:

  • Gibb River Road – The Gibb River Road in Western Australia is a famous dirt track and takes you through the heart of The Kimberleys, one of Australia’s last wilderness frontiers. If you’re into your 4-wheel driving, this could be your ultimate adventure.
  • Broome to Perth – We love the coast of Western Australia, and this 3,900 kilometre stretch of coastline will expose you to some of the best landscapes and beaches in the country. Explore Broome, Exmouth, Coral Bay, Kalbarri and The Pinnacles.

Tasmania:

  • Launceston to Hobart – Tasmania is one of Australia’s great driving destinations, and a scenic road trip from Launceston to Hobart via the east coast takes in some of Tasmania’s iconic destinations; Bay of Fires, Wineglass Bay, Port Arthur, and of course, Hobart. 

The Best Islands in Australia

Daydream Island, Queensland
Daydream Island, Queensland

Feeling like an Australian island getaway? We’re an island continent so have hundreds of islands to choose from. My picks:

Queensland:

The more I travel up and down the Queensland coast, the more I realise how many incredible islands this state has.

  • Fraser Island – the world’s biggest sand island and perfect for four-wheel driving adventures, camping, fishing, freshwater lakes and rainforest exploration.
  • Moreton Island – a mini version of Fraser Island, closer to Brisbane.
  • Daydream Island – this one is a family-friendly resort destination.
  • Hayman Island – for the luxury conscious and those with deep pockets.
  • Great Barrier Reef – the Barrier Reef is made up of 900 islands and a mecca for diving, snorkeling and island life.
  • The Whitsunday Islands – as mentioned the Whitsundays are made up of 74 islands and if you’re into sailing, snorkelling, diving, or just laying on a patch of paradise you can’t go wrong here.
  • Great Keppel Island – one of our favorite chilled island getaways!
  • Stradbroke Island – what an easy and beautiful getaway from the Gold Coast

Western Australia:

  • Rottnest Island – if a visit to Perth is on your itinerary, don’t miss one of the most incredible islands in Australia with some of the best beaches in the world.

South Australia:

  • Kangaroo Island – as mentioned, we haven’t explored South Australia properly yet but everyone we meet who has visited Kangaroo island RAVES about the place and says it’s a must visit!

And well yes, Tasmania is an island state, and well worth exploring with its many highlights. 

The Best wildlife experiences in Australia

Kangaroo and her joey at Carnarvon Gorge National Park, Queensland
Kangaroo and her joey at Carnarvon Gorge National Park, Queensland

Getting up close and personal with the Aussie wildlife was a highlight for our kids.

  • Kangaroos in the wild – the best places we saw kangaroos in the wild were at Murramurang National Park (Pretty & Pebbly Beaches) on the NSW South Coast. And at Carnarvon Gorge National Park and Cape Hillsborough in Queensland.
  • Koalas in the Wild – the best places we saw koalas in the wild was on Magnetic Island in Queensland, and at Kennett River along the Great Ocean Road and you Port Macquarie.
  • Crocodiles in the wild – we saw lots of crocs on the Yellow Water Billabong Cruise within Kakadu National Park, and on the Proserpine River near Airlie Beach in Queensland and near Rockhampton. Of course, they are all over the Top End of Australia, pay close attention to warning signs and never swim or get close to their habitat!
  • Humpback Whales – between June and October thousands of humpback whales migrate up and down the east coast and the protected waters of Hervey Bay in Queensland is a favourite transit stop for them as they rest and play.
  • Whale Sharks – we didn’t time our visit right (March to July) to swim with the world’s largest fish, but the best place for this is at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.
  • Swim with Seal Lions – you will love swimming with the seal lions in Port Lincoln, South Australia. Swim with the Great Whites too if you dare.
  • Platypus – we’ve only seen platypus in the wild once – at the Eungella National Park near Mackay in Tropical North Queensland.
  • Kangaroo Island – it’s called Australia’s Galapagos Island for a reason!. Here are our things to do on a Kangraoo Island road trip.

The Best Historical sites in Australia

Port Arthur Historical Site, Tasmania
Port Arthur Historical Site, Tasmania

If you’re into your Colonial history or learning about the Aboriginal Australians and their incredible history and culture, consider these destinations:

  • Port Arthur Historical Site –  one of the best things to do in Tasmania, and the most interesting, is to visit Port Arthur. It has a violent and troubled history as a penal colony for some of Australia’s hardened convicts, yet it’s pastoral beauty brings this contrasting sense of peace and happiness.
  • Hobart – Australia’s second oldest city with lots of historical sites. One of the most interesting things we did was learn about Australia’s convict women at The Cascades Female Factory, the only Australian Convict World Heritage property that shares the female story of transportation.
  • The Rocks District – the oldest area of Sydney, there’s a story around every corner when you walk the cobblestone streets, browse the weekend markets, or go on a pub crawl at some of Sydney’s oldest pubs.
  • Canberra – we haven’t visited our nation’s capital since high school, but if you’re into museums and learning about our countries history, Canberra would be the place for you! Visit the National Museum of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, and Parliament House.
  • Aboriginal Culture – the best Aboriginal Rock Art and cultural experiences we had were at Kakadu, Uluru and the Uluru Cultural Centre, and Arnhem Land.

There you have it. If I haven’t covered your topic of interest, please leave a question in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer it.

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What do you think are the best places in Australia and why? Please share any suggestions in the comments section below!

13 thoughts on “Best of Australia”

  1. Oh man, I have not been on your site in a while – and then this popped up in my news my newsfeed. Talk about making me homesick. It’s been a year since I was home – and now I wanna go more than ever. So many great things to see and do there!

  2. We, my husband and 21 year old daughter and I are going to Australia and NZ Jan.28,2016. Planning on 3 nights in Sydney, 2-3 nights in Cairns then2-3 days in Melbourne. I am trying to decide where to stay in Cairns or pt douglas and if there is a tour to take in Daintree. Thanks, any info is appreciated.
    Lori

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