REGIONS OF AUSTRALIA
New South Wales (Sydney, Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley)
New South Wales is a southeastern Australian state, distinguished by its coastal cities and national parks. Sydney, its capital, is home to iconic structures such as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Inland are the rugged Blue Mountains, rainforests and outback towns where opals are mined. Along the coastline are long surfing beaches.
Sydney is the biggest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia - and one of the most vibrant and exciting cities on earth. The Harbour City, as it’s commonly called, is home to many of Australia's must-see attractions – such as the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach – but also abounds in sophisticated dining, secret harbour beaches and hole-in-the-wall coffee shops off the beaten path. Discover the hip inner city neighborhoods of Potts Point and Surry Hills, beach hop through exclusive Vaucluse and drink and dine in artsy Chippendale. You'll find cultural riches such as galleries, museums, theatre companies and alternative cinema, without ever being too far from those glistening million-dollar views.
The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area has abundant natural beauty, and offers excellent hiking, spectacular scenery and quaint towns and villages, making it a popular getaway from the big smoke. Walk to the foot of the Three Sisters on the 998-step Giant Stairway, or glide between clifftops on the Scenic Skyway, 886 feet above ancient ravines. Stroll around picturesque villages Leura and Blackheath for antique stores, quirky cafés and top-notch restaurants, then spend the night in a luxury lodge or charming B&B. The Blue Mountains are only a 90 minute drive west of Sydney.
Lord Howe Island
Only 400 visitors are allowed on the treasured island at any one time to experience its unique natural attractions, which range from snorkeling to trekking up Mount Gower to playing golf on a picturesque nine-hole course. The pristine waters are home to more than 500 species of fish and 90 species of coral. A wonderful way to see the reef, colorful fish and turtles is on a glass-bottom boat and snorkeling tour. You can also hand-feed fish at Ned’s Beach, in a sanctuary zone where recreational fishing is not allowed. This multi award winning, World Heritage-listed paradise is less than a 2 hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane.
Other New South Wales Highlights:
- Byron Bay is world renowned for its beautiful beaches, lush rainforest and laid-back lifestyle. Domestic flights arrive at nearby Ballina Airport, and take about 1.5 hours from Sydney.
- Hunter Valley is home to more than 120 wineries, gourmet restaurants and luxury retreats, and is conveniently located just two hours’ drive north of Sydney.
- Jervis Bay is three hours south of Sydney, where the beaches are known for having some of the whitest sand and turquoise waters in Australia.
Queensland (Cairns, Port Douglas, Daintree Rainforest, Whitsunday Islands)
Explore ancient rainforests, snorkel with rainbow fish, sink your toes into some of the world's whitest sand and watch whales on their annual migration. Discover the living masterpiece that is the Great Barrier Reef, stay at one of the world's best hotels or shop up a beachside storm on the cosmopolitan. Head north to admire the world's largest sand island, explore the tropical city of Cairns, and experience a thriving cultural and arts scene in an emerging world city – the state of Queensland really does have something for everyone.
The tropical town of Port Douglas, roughly a one-hour drive north from Cairns, has it all: the aquamarine waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the breathtaking canopy of the Daintree Forest, the crystal creeks of Mossman Gorge, and the palm fringed golden sands of Four Mile Beach. It is the only place on Earth where two World Heritage-listed sites, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, meet.
Great Barrier Reef
The living masterpiece that is the Great Barrier Reef stretches for more than 1,200 miles along the Queensland coastline. Whether you snorkel, scuba dive, fly, motor or sail over it, you simply must experience the colors and textures of this natural wonder.
The Daintree, a two-hour drive north of Cairns, is the world's oldest tropical rainforest. The Daintree's scenery is so beautiful that it provided inspiration for the movie Avatar. Stand in awe under the branches of the 600-million-year-old Zamia Fern, which has an underground trunk system evolved in defense against dinosaurs.
The Whitsundays are made up of 74 Island Wonders, right in the Heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The stunning natural landscapes of coast and islands are dotted with secluded beaches and friendly towns. Whether you choose to base yourself on the coast or on the islands, there's so much to do, you'll have to work out how to fit it all in! Swim with sea turtles and rainbow-colored fish, sail the clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef and sink your toes into the world's most beautiful beach on a tropical Whitsundays holiday.
Other Queensland Highlights:
- Cairns: Find brilliant cafés, bustling markets and plenty of beaches nearby. Relax by one of the pools at a five-star resort, or spend your days out and about exploring this city oasis.
- Gold Coast: In Australia's "theme park capital" see native Australian wildlife, meet your favorite movie characters and superheroes, or swim with dolphins.
- Whitsundays: Made up of 74 tropical islands, here, you’ll find some of the world’s best island resorts as well as the most beautiful beaches for its powder fine sands and dazzling aqua water.
- Hervey Bay: From July to November, humpback whales travel north from Antarctica to the warm waters of the Whitsundays, stopping in the calm Bay to breed and nurse their young.
- Fraser Island: Four-wheel drive next to the colored cliffs of The Cathedrals, take a joy flight over 75 Mile Beach, bushwalk through rainforest and swim in mirrored lakes ringed with golden sand.
Northern Territory (Darwin, Kakadu National Park, Katherine Gorge, Uluru, Ayers Rock)
The Northern Territory is vast, extending from the center of Australia's map, near and the town of Uluru and the town of Alice Springs, to the coastal capital city of Darwin and its neighboring islands. Despite its geographical footprint, this is a territory rather than a state because of its small population. Just over 250,000 people live here – less than half the headcount in Tasmania. A village feel makes Territorians some of the friendliest folk you'll find. Strong indigenous cultures offer thriving art practices, ancient storytelling and deep spiritual tradition, while diverse national parks provide striking landscapes. Above all, the Northern Territory is fun. To venture beyond Australia's big cities to the outback of the Red Centre and the Top End tropics is to launch yourself into an out-of-the-ordinary travel experience. The Northern Territory is a place that stays with you.
Uluru – Ayers Rock
Standing 1,150 feet high, ringed by ghost gum trees and waterholes, Uluru is a giant sandstone rock and a spiritual Dreaming site for the local Aboriginal people. Uluru is at its most captivating at when the rock's surface shifts through a gamut of colors. Spend an afternoon walking the 6.6-mile base trail before relaxing at one of the two designated sunset viewing areas.
Other Northern Territory Highlights:
- 68 miles beyond Alice Springs to the gentle West Macs, a landscape characterized by ochre soil, cliffs and royal blue skies. Swimmable creeks and semi-arid desert walks abound.
- 260 miles shy of Darwin, luxuriously warm waters that glow turquoise due to their mineral content lie inside Elsey National Park. Snorkel the thermal pool, alive with fish and turtles.
- Kakudu National Park is famous for its dramatic waterfalls, and hosts 6 unique ecosystems. Take it all in from a scenic flight.
- With a network of 13 gorges that cradle the Katherine River, Nitmiluk National Park is ideal to explore by canoe, thanks to its placid waters, scenic surrounds and low-lying rock shelves.
- 70 miles from Darwin, Litchfield National Park's Buley Rockhole is a series of descending, connected swimming pools. Secure a small site all to yourself and relax.
Victoria (Melbourne, Great Ocean Rd, Yarra Valley, Phillip Island, Mornington Peninsula)
With the foodie, cultural and sports-loving city of Melbourne as its hub, experience Victoria’s diverse adventures all within just a few hours’ drive. Enjoy intimate encounters with Australian wildlife, one of the world’s great coastal drives, beautiful gardens and relaxing mineral springs, plus superb food, wine and coffee throughout the state.
Find out why The Economist has named Melbourne the world’s most liveable city several times over. This easygoing metropolis is Australia’s cultural, shopping and foodie capital, and in 2017 hosted the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards. Come also for the sport (think Australian Open, the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Melbourne Cup horse race and the Boxing Day cricket Test) but make time to discover its hidden bars, local designers, tucked-away restaurants and cutting-edge.
Great Ocean Road
Starting an hour outside of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road spans Victoria’s epic, wave-crashing coastline all the way to the spectacular rocky outcrops of the 12 Apostles, and beyond to the South Australian border. Enjoy expansive views of the Southern Ocean, plus golden beaches, jagged cliffs, and temperate rainforests. See animals and birds in the wild, watch pro surfers in action, relax in pretty coastal towns, savor gourmet treats, and discover indigenous cultural sites. The Great Ocean Road is as much about a spectacular journey as it is the destination.
Pristine white beaches and hi-octane motor sports, endless family fun and iconic wildlife, you'll find it all on a seaside holiday at Phillip Island, just 90 minutes from Melbourne. At Summerland Beach, spectators gather daily at sunset to watch the Penguin Parade, when little penguins come ashore in groups. The Nobbies outcrop is the viewing site for Seal Rocks, home to a large colony of Australian fur seals. Visit the Koala Reserve to see sleepy koalas in their natural habitat. Phillip Island is also a sacred place for any fan of two wheels, where epic turns are cast against a stunning backdrop.
Other Victoria Highlights Include:
- Just a one-hour drive from Melbourne, explore the forests and fern gullies of the Dandenong Ranges by steam train and admire some of Australia’s finest gardens.
- Healesville Sanctuary, a great place to interact with Australian wildlife in natural surroundings and continue to the Yarra Valley, Victoria’s finest cool-climate wine region.
- Invigorate body and mind in the natural mineral springs and historic villages of the Daylesford Macedon region, just an 80-minute drive northwest from Melbourne.
- Swim with dolphins in Port Phillip Bay, pick strawberries, visit a wildlife sanctuary, ride horses along beaches and across vineyards, and relax in Peninsula Hot Springs.
Home to just 500,000 people, the island of Tasmania is as intimate as it is beautiful. Its gorgeous capital city, Hobart, is home to one of the world's most intriguing art galleries, while northern is one of the few cities on the planet to be wrapped around a gorge. Drive anywhere in the island state and you can go from beach-lined coasts to World Heritage-listed mountain areas in just a few hours. Along the way you'll pass welcoming farm-gate producers, cellar doors and restaurants specializing in local produce so fresh it's the envy of the culinary world.
A short walk from the carpark at Freycinet National Park brings you to a lookout platform above the flawless white curve of on the eastern Freycinet Peninsula (a three-hour drive northeast of Hobart). From here, walk down to the beach and feel the sand between your toes. You'll probably meet a kangaroo or two on the beach, and may see dolphins playing in the water.
Cradle Mountain is a dramatic cliff-lined peak rising from the shores of Dove Lake. Trek the 3.7-mile Dove Lake Circuit walking track or climb to Marions Lookout for a mountain and lake view. Experience the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis), like its Northern Hemisphere counterpart (Aurora Borealis), illuminate the night sky with flickering shades of green, blue, purple and red. For avid hikers, experience the Overland Track the gorgeous 40-mile trail through Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
Hobart’s backdrop is 4,200 feet high Mount Wellington, with gorgeous sweeping views, with abundant hiking and cycling trails. Eat fish and chips from a floating fish punt in the docks, or dine in the finest and freshest of restaurants. For art buffs, visit Hobart's subterranean, Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, a heady combination of art and architecture. This museum has a collection of art designed to provoke. For history fans, visit Battery Point, a historic district with narrow lanes and colonial-era cottages.
Sitting on the Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur was a 19th-century penal settlement and is now an open-air museum. Ruins include the huge penitentiary and the remaining shell of the Convict Church, which was built by inmates. Solitary confinement cells in the Separate Prison building were used to inflict mental punishment in place of floggings. For those who like a fright, take a ghost or a paranormal investigation experience tour.
Other Tasmania Highlights:
- 30-minute drive from Hobart, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary offers opportunities to see the state's emblematic Tasmanian devil.
- Salamanca Market is the most-visited tourist spot in all of Tasmania. Open on Saturdays, this open-air space is the place to go whether you crave a sweet treat, a souvenir, or a new outfit.
Western Australia (Perth, Margaret River, Ningaloo Reef, Broome)
Perth is known for its sunshine, natural beauty and relaxed pace. Explore Kings Park, watch the sunset from Cottesloe Beach, then hit Northbridge's trendy bars. Explore Australia's best-preserved 19th-century port streetscape in Fremantle and enjoy Indian Ocean seafood and craft beers.
Ningaloo Reef is a fringing coral reef located off the west coast of Australia, approximately 1200 km north of Perth. The reef is 260 km long and is Australia's largest fringing coral reef and the only large reef positioned very close to a landmass. World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef Marine Park of Western Australia. With over 500 species of fish and 200 species of coral featuring Whale Sharks, Humpback Whales, Turtles, Dolphins and Manta Rays, life is amazingly abundant at Ningaloo with crystal clear waters and crisp white sand set against the red ochre hues of the Cape Range desert providing an amazing backdrop to explore this magical marine world. Ningaloo Reef is a two hour flight north of Perth. Margaret River is a 3hr drive from Perth, known for its food and wine, beautiful beaches, surfing and adventure.
This World Heritage-listed site is famous for the world’s largest fringing reef, 162-mile long coral reef with white crisp sand and crystal clear waters swarming with turtles, tropical fish, manta rays and humpback whales. Nowhere on Earth do these majestic creatures reliably congregate in such large numbers as here, at Ningaloo Reef. If you like adventure, take a swim with the huge (up to 33-feet) but gentle whale sharks.
Margaret River is a small town known for its craft breweries, boutiques and surrounding wineries. Beaches and surf breaks line the nearby coast, whose waters host migratory whales (Jun–Nov). Stretching between 2 lighthouses north and south of the town, the long-distance walk, the Cape to Cape Track, fringes the limestone caves and sea cliffs of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. For wine enthusiasts, there are 120 world-class wineries to explore, including Vasse Felix, Leeuwin and Voyager Estate, and opportunities to not only try fine wines, but get beyond the cellar doors.
Cable Beach, Broome
Not your average country town, Broome is the heart of the Kimberley, an old pearling port where heritage buildings house lively bars and restaurants. The town's pride and joy is the extraordinary Cable Beach, a 14-mile stretch of fine white sand washed by tides that rise up to 30 feet. Don't leave town without treating yourself to a sunset camel ride along the beach as the sun sinks over the ocean.
Just 12 miles off the coast of Perth, this laid-back island is home to Australia's most-photographed marsupial. The quokka – found only on Rottnest – is a furry, cat-sized animal with a cuddly appearance and a tendency to smile. In recent years it has become a social media star, thanks partly to the fact that quokkas are less shy around humans than many other Aussie animals.
Other Western Territory Highlights Include:
- The Gibb River Road is one of Australia's great road trips: a 410-mile journey on red dirt roads through the heart of the Kimberley.
- Bungle Bungles is one of the most striking rock formations in all of Australia. Witness these tiger-striped sandstone dome formations, in the East Kimberley.
- Swim with the world’s largest fish in Ningaloo Reef. Whale sharks can grow up to 59 feet in length. The reef also life includes manta rays, humpback whales and colorful corals.
South Australia is a diverse state made up mostly of dramatic arid and semi-arid country known as the outback. There are areas of greener land towards the beautiful coastline and along Australia's longest river, the mighty Murray. The vibrant capital city, Adelaide, was a planned colony rather than a convict settlement like most other Australian state capitals. The state is known for its wines, produce and major festivals and sporting events.
Adelaide (population 1.3 million) is a vibrant, culturally diverse city. Thriving bars and restaurants serve local produce and some of the country's best wines, sourced from local vineyards. Adelaide is an outdoor kind of place with wide boulevards and large public squares, as well as extensive parklands and several beaches. Adelaide is also known for some of Australia’s best galleries.
Kangaroo Island, 30-minutes by plane from Adelaide, is brimming with native animals, some of which aren't found anywhere else. More than one third of the island is protected by conservation areas and national parks, while lush farmland and small towns make up much of the rest. Wombats, kangaroos, and koalas are among the 1,500 different animals who live in the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in the middle of the island.
Barossa Wine Region
Wine has been a way of life in Barossa since 1842. Fast forward to today, and Barossa is home to more than 550 grape growing families, many with the sixth generation still working the same plot of land, supplying quality grapes to more than 170 wine companies. Shiraz grapes are the local specialty. With great wine comes great food so make sure you leave enough time to sample all of the locally-produced delights the Barossa has to offer. The 6 mile-long Seppeltsfield Road is home to some of the Barossa’s most famous places to eat.
Other South Australia Highlights Include:
- Experience the heart of Australia by luxurious train on The Ghan, a legendary four day, three night journey that crosses the continent from south to north from Adelaide to Darwin.
- Flinders Ranges is a spiritual place known for its Aboriginal rock art sites and the giant natural amphitheater, Wilpena Pound. Take a tour to learn about the traditional owners of the land.
- Explore Australia's longest river, the Murray, by traditional paddle-steamer from the historic riverboat town of Mannum. This region also hosts a range of wineries, breweries and distilleries.
- Come to Adelaide between February and March to experience a riotous month of cabaret, circus and comedy at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.