The official currency of Australia is the Australian dollar. Credit and debit are accepted across the country, but ATMs and banks are easy to find if you want to take out cash.
Australia’s official language is English, but it contains a lot more slang than other forms of English. People also speak Indigenous languages among the Aboriginal communities across the country.
Best Time to Go
Australia accommodates travellers all year round, although travellers should keep in mind that because the country is in the Southern Hemisphere, seasons are reversed from North America. Summers are hot and winters are mild. The shoulder season of September and October is particularly appealing, as it’s warm across the country, but not too warm in the Red Centre. Spring and fall also have the best airfare deals.
Each state and territory has a unique climate in Australia. The northern parts of the country across the Northern Territory and Queensland are tropical, while the Red Centre is dry and arid. The more populous southern half has variations from state to state, but generally averages between 20°C/68°F to 35°C/95°F in the summer and 3°C/37°F to 20°C/68°F in the winter. Coastal areas see a lot of rain, while the interior can be dry and very hot.
It may be cliche to say, but every kind of traveller will find something to like in Australia. The cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide show up on lists of the world’s best cities. The beaches of the east and north are second-to-none when it comes to surfing and snorkelling. The Great Barrier Reef is the best diving spot on the planet, while Western Australia also has the Ningaloo Reef to attract divers. The Red Centre with Uluru/Ayers Rock offers a mix of culture and nature like no other spot on the planet. Wildlife lovers will get to see only-in-Australia animals like kangaroos, wombats, and koalas. And let’s not forget the wine regions, which are celebrated around the world. As you can see, there’s something for every kind of traveller in Australia.
Getting There From North America
The major international airports in Australia are Sydney International Airport (SYD), Melbourne International Airport (MEL), Brisbane International Airport (BNE), and Perth International Airport (PER). There are also other airports that are used for domestic flights.
Major Air Routes from the United States
Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu have direct flights to Australia. There are also great connecting flights through Fiji, New Zealand, and the Cook Islands, offering great stopover options for travellers.
Major Air Routes from Canada
The only direct flight to Australia is from Vancouver International Airport (YVR). It’s also easy to connect to Australia through US gateway cities or head the other way and stopover in the Middle East or Asia en route.
Essential Sights in Australia
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure. It can be seen from space and remains the largest reef system in the world. While rising sea temperatures have caused coral bleaching and dramatically affected the reef, it remains the world’s foremost underwater playground. The northern city of Cairns is often considered the gateway to the reef. You can also easily pair a diving or snorkelling adventure on the Great Barrier Reef with a stay on the Whitsundays, a series of islands that have year-round warm temperatures and popular resorts.
Home to arguably the most beautiful harbour in the world, Sydney is Australia’s largest city and its most popular. The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge are among the country’s most beloved landmarks, but travellers can go beyond the harbour to discover the history of the Rocks neighbourhood, learn to surf at Bondi Beach, or enjoy some of the world-class restaurants and bars that define the city’s nightlife. Sydney is also close to the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley, offering accessible hiking trails and wineries to explore.
For many years running, Melbourne was voted the world’s most livable city. It’s easy to see why it’s so beloved, as its downtown culture of laneway bars and pubs and lively artistic scene make it the kind of place that people flock to from around the world. It’s attractively located on the Yarra River and has a clean, modern design. It’s also located close to several appealing natural locations in any direction. The Great Ocean Road offers the country’s best road trip to the west, while to the east, Phillip Island offers the chance to see Little Penguins parade out of the ocean at dusk. The nearby Yarra Valley is also a great wine region.
This massive sandstone monolith in the Red Centre of the Northern Territory personifies the Outback in Australia. It’s the world’s largest monolith and has been a sacred landmark for the local Aboriginal people for all of recorded history. Travellers can ride a camel through the Field of Lights installation or get up at dawn to see the red rock transform deep purple or orange depending on the quality of light. The other sandstone formations of Kata Tjuta/The Olgas are also nearby.
Other Highlights of Australia Off the Beaten Path
The capital of South Australia is known for its attractive city centre, art museums and galleries, and accessibility to the Outback. It’s also close to the wine region of the Barossa Valley, arguably the country’s best, as well as Kangaroo Island to the south, which is a biodiverse playground with a large number of endemic species on its relatively small landmass.
Brisbane is one of Australia’s fastest growing cities and a great base for exploring the natural wonders of Southern Queensland. Australia Zoo, founded by the Irwin family, lies to the west and offers the chance to hug koalas and feed crocodiles. The surf havens of the Gold Coast to the south and Sunshine Coast to the north also attract local surfers, adventurers, and leisure travellers alike.
Perth is the capital of Western Australia and the sunniest city in the country. It’s often the starting point for an adventure through Western Australia’s natural highlights, such as the Margaret River, the Ningaloo Reef, and the Pinnacles Desert, but it’s an appealing destination in its own right, with long beaches, a friendly cafe culture, and easy access to Rottnest Island, which is home to the adorable quokkas.
The capital of the Northern Territory offers an atmosphere unlike the rest of Australia, with a tropical climate and a blend of Indigenous, Australian, and Asian cultural influences. It’s a great place to dig into World War II history at the war museums or learn about Indigenous culture at art galleries and installations. But it’s also the jumping off point for an adventure through the national parks of Kakadu, Litchfield, and Nitmiluk, which offer a taste of the Outback. The beaches are great as well.
While Hobart is the capital of the island state of Tasmania, it’s also a historical highlight, with the terrifying history of Port Arthur and its penitentiary museum shedding light on the country’s foundation as a penal colony. Outside of Hobart, travellers can explore the island to see Cradle Mountain, Freycinet National Park, and spot the Tasmanian Devil, the adorable but ferocious predator that’s beloved around the world.
Top Activities and Experiences in Australia
Drive the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is often dubbed the greatest road trip in the country. A stretch of coastal highway between Torquay and Port Fairy in southern Victoria, the Great Ocean Road offers a chance to drive along the gorgeous crashing waves of the ocean and stop off in lovely fishing villages along the way. It also features the Twelve Apostles, which are some of the most impressive coastal formations in the country, and Great Otway National Park, an attractive place with hiking trails through thick forest.
Go Snorkelling or Diving
Australia is not lacking for amazing diving spots. The Great Barrier Reef is the most popular, but the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is another great spot to dive, offering the chance to swim alongside migrating whale sharks. No matter where you choose to dive or snorkel, you’ll discover a colourful underwater world of coral and sea critters.
Trek into a National Park
Australia’s national parks offer the best insight into its magnificent natural ecosystem. Kakadu National Park is the country’s largest and most iconic, with wetlands, billabongs, and sandstone escarpments defining its landscape. You can see saltwater crocodiles and colourful bird species, as well as examine ancient rock art paintings. Other parks such as Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park in Tasmania, and Kuranda National Park in Queensland are also fantastic natural showcases.
Have a Wildlife Encounter at a Zoo or Park
The animals of Australia are among its most appealing attractions. Luckily, the country abounds with kangaroos, koalas, and other curious marsupials to get up close to. Australia Zoo in the Sunshine Coast, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, and the “open-air zoo” of Kangaroo Island are the best spots to get close to kangaroos and koalas. You can even hug a koala at Australia Zoo. If you want a more exciting wildlife experience, you can visit Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin and get face-to-face with saltwater crocodiles (with a nice layer of protective glass between you and the croc). You can also head on a crocodile safari along the billabongs of Kakadu. The Alice Springs Reptile Centre offers another place to engage with the more scaly creatures of the Australian Outback.
Essential Australian Foods to Try
Meat Pie, Sausage Roll or Pastie
Aussies love their meat pastries. Whether the minced meat is baked in the form of a meat pie, sausage roll, or pastie, Aussies are here for it. You can easily find these savoury pastries around the country in convenience stores, bakeries, and restaurants. They’re great for lunch on the go or a snack between sightseeing. If you have more time, relax in a pub with a cold beer and enjoy an Aussie classic.
Being surrounded by the ocean on all sides, Australia is not lacking for seafood. Lobster, shrimp, and oysters abound along the coastlines and in the major cities. South Australia is particularly known for its oysters. Those that want to avoid shellfish can still enjoy the wide variety of fish served up in restaurants and at fish and chip stalls.
This meringue dessert is popular across the country. It’s often topped with passionfruit or local berries and a generous portion of whipped cream. It offers a light dessert following some of the hearty Australian meals. It’s also a popular item for afternoon tea.
Australia is renowned for its many wine regions across the country, with the Barossa Valley in South Australia, Margaret River in Western Australia, Yarra Valley in Victoria, and Hunter Valley in New South Wales being the most popular spots. Tour wineries and taste local vintages of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
It’s important to protect Australia’s natural ecosystem to preserve it for future generations. Thus, make sure to travel with tour organizations that value sustainable tourism practices. When you visit the Great Barrier Reef, choose cruise options that operate off of green energy and avoid impact on the coral gardens. Don’t interact with endangered wildlife and make sure that you choose reliable companies to arrange for animal encounters. If you have the time, consider train transport between cities as it’s more eco-friendly than flying. Within cities, take advantage of the public transportation infrastructure to get around.
Where to Go Next
The flight to Australia is among the longest flights in the world, so you might as well take advantage of the flying time and see some of the neighbouring nations after a trip to Australia. New Zealand is an obvious destination to pair with Australia, while Papua New Guinea rewards more adventurous travellers. Travellers can also easily connect to Southeast Asia and Japan.
Most Popular Itineraries for Australia
Classic Sydney Rock and Reef is an ideal introduction to Australia, taking travellers to Sydney before hopping over to Uluru/Ayers Rock to experience the Outback and ending in Cairns to cruise the Great Barrier Reef. Classic Golden Triangle - Melbourne to Sydney replaces Uluru with the popular city of Melbourne and includes a day trip to see the Little Penguins of Phillip Island. Authentic Australia doubles the length of the stay to take in Melbourne, Sydney, Uluru/Ayers Rock, Kakadu National Park, and the Great Barrier Reef.
15 Oct 2020, 8:52 p.m.