Destinations where you can find something new to love each and every time you visit, are ones that become your habitual favourites.
Australia is one of those destinations. It is the sixth largest country in the world, accounting for five percent of the world’s total land area, so safe to say that’s enough room to fit in a bucketload of attractions. Putting this in context, you could fit the whole of Europe into Australia and still have room for a few more countries.
We have been there a few times now, for completely different experiences from getting to grips with Victoria’s art and coffee cultures to getting out on the road to see the coast, lounge in a spa and spot the incredible wildlife indigenous to Australia (cuteness alert!).
Measuring in at a mega 2,500 miles wide, it’s safe to say the continent is so huge, that planning a trip here could be a bit daunting. Not so, with our latest how to guide which will help you narrow down your favourite area to explore, with a selection of the unique things to do in each region. Plus, it’s wise to plan your stopovers carefully, so you won’t want to miss our suggestions of the best flights to Australia and routes to make the most of the journey in the comfort, convenience and affordability stakes.
And of course don’t forget your travel insurance to Australia and everywhere else for that matter.
The best places to visit in Australia
Whether it’s your first time here or you are back once again, here is our simple breakdown of the huge country.
Queensland for nature and cities at their best
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most fascinating natural phenomenons and for good reason. Boasting the world’s most extensive subtropical rainforest, and some of the most stunning islands, including Fraser Island, it’s a paradise for outdoor adventures. And you have a number of options to experience it, either snorkel, dive or board a glass-bottomed boat to admire the views below, or get an aerial perspective of the whole reef with a helicopter tour.
If you’re looking for a sunshine boost, the state’s capital Brisbane is one of the warmest cities to spend winter in Australia, so pack your shorts, t-shirts and sandals to enjoy the warmth of the sun on your back.
And there’s much to unravel in the city with art galleries, craft breweries, animal sanctuaries, rooftop bars and fine dining all on offer. This selection of 86 things to do in Brisbane should make a great start.
Where to stay in Queensland…
Pullman Brisbane King George Square – One of the city’s landmark hotels, it is perfectly situated for being near all the major attractions. upgrade to an executive room for access to the guest lobby which serves breakfast, late afternoon canapés and cocktails.
Northern Territory for art and culture
Darwin is the territory’s capital and the former frontier outpost is also a gateway to the immense Kakadu National Park. For a cultural adventure, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory has a unique selection of Southeast Asian and Pacific art which reveals the world-view and everyday life of the people of the Northern Territory.
After your art and cultural immersion, Darwin is the perfect place to hit the beach and Mindil Beach is a hotspot for hanging out. Visit at sunset on Thursday and Sunday evenings when the beach comes to life with live entertainment and markets.
Alice Springs is the physical centre of Australia and a hub for Aboriginal art and quirky outback events like the Henley-On-Todd Regatta. But the most visited landmark, Uluru is perhaps the most iconic attraction and you can choose your own way to experience it.
Helicopter or hot air balloon it for a birdseye view, or get out on the ground and trek by camel or on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. You can also extend your visit and book a gourmet dining experience overlooked by the ancient red rock for a once in a lifetime experience.
Take some time out here learn about bush tucker and traditional medicines, as well as the sacred Aboriginal rock art with a guided tour with a park ranger.
Further reading: Places to go in the NT
Where to stay in the Northern Territory…
Vibe Hotel Darwin Waterfront – Stay in the heart of the action at Vibe Hotel, surrounded by shopping, dining and entertainment venues while the cool and breezy interiors of the hotel provide a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of Darwin.
If you ever have that uneasy feeling that you might be missing out on something, the continent’s largest state, Western Australia has enough contrast to allow you to cover it all off.
From desert to coast, cities to parklands, there will be something to capture your attention. As one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions, Western Australia presents a fusion of fresh local flavours in its dishes, including succulent seafood and even highly-prized black truffles so spending some time exploring the restaurant scene in the region will be far from disappointing.
Start your ocean to plate encounter with a guided tour of a freshwater farm, and discover how the likes of seasonal favourites, Geraldton rock lobster, Rottnest scallops and Broome pearl meat are harvested.
You will be spoilt for choice in Perth, with more restaurants per capita than any other capital city in Australia. The fine dining waterfront restaurant, Matilda Bay is perfect for a special celebration with stunning views of the Perth skyline.
And tucked away in the city’s charming lanes you will uncover an impressive bar scene too, from grand iconic colonial hotels to elegant European bars.
Further reading: Extraordinary things to do in Western Australia.
Where to stay in Western Australia…
COMO The Treasury, Perth – A contemporary hotel in the heart of the historic district, with specially curated spa experiences. COMO is also home to restaurants at the forefront of the city’s burgeoning dining scene, or you can skip in-hotel dining and order an artisan picnic to enjoy on the go.
South Australia for festivals and furry friends
If art and wine are part of your holiday scene, base yourself in Adelaide to unearth the winemaking methods in Barossa’s vineyards and the thriving arts scene of the Festival State. Over 500 events are held here annually, so if you are partial to more cultural pursuits, should check out the region’s events calendar.
Adelaide Festival is held every March, bringing together theatre, dance, music and other creative arts across two weeks.
The epicurious should waste no time in booking tickets to Tasting Australia, with tasting pavilions, artisan produce, wine classes, farmer’s markets, long table dining events and a whole host of other foodie themed events to celebrate the best of the Australian region.
But of course, we cannot forget Kangaroo Island. After a short ferry ride, you can explore the native bushland, wildlife and pristine beaches. The island’s wild residents have protected status here, and you could spot sea lions basking in the sun, koalas dozing in the trees and of course, kangaroos roaming free.
Further reading: Things to do in South Australia.
Where to stay in South Australia…
The Mayfair Hotel – For glamour and luxury intertwined, the Mayfair is one of the newest five-star boutique hotels in the city with stylish suites, elegant dining and a rooftop bar to while away your downtime in between your city wanders.
Tasmania for history and healing
The Bass Strait separates Tasmania from the mainland. Visit for picturesque walking trails, mountain scenery, national parks and observing the wilds at their best.
If you love adventure pursuits, a hike to the viewing platform at Freycinet National Park reveals incredible views of Wineglass Bay from the top of Mount Amos. Alternatively, you can book a scenic flight, but we think this is a worthy reward after a heady hike.
Once you have had your fix of nature, head over to Hobart, the island’s capital referred to as a small city with big ideas. The fashionable Salamanca Place features old sandstone warehouses with hip galleries and classy coffee houses to be experienced. The cobblestone district was once the stomping ground for sailors and workmen, but today it is very much the creative, cultural and historic heart of the city, so this vibrant area should be one of the first places you head to.
You can also trace Tasmania’s convict history of crime, punishment, and tales of survival following the transportation of over 70,000 men and women to Van Diemens Land in the 1800s. Five of Australia’s eleven UNESCO World Heritage Sites related to convicts are in Tasmania. Start your journey at the Cascades Female Factory which chronicles the thousands of female convicts who were transported here.
Further reading: Discover Tasmania.
Where to stay in Tasmania…
Thaila Haven – Go back to basics and awake to the sound of the waves, and enjoy complete solitude with your own fully-equipped kitchen, roaring fire and plenty of space to enjoy your own company – your nearest neighbours are well over a mile away.
Victoria for the coffee and coast
Even though Victoria is the smallest of all the mainland states, it doesn’t reflect its nature. Melbourne is considered the cultural capital with street art spectaculars, ahead-of-the-trend boutiques and bustling cafés.
And if you are a coffee lover like myself, you will be spoilt for choice with some of the best flat whites, cappuccinos and piccolo lattes – which are a hit with the locals. In Melbourne you will be spoilt for choice for perfect places to eat, shop and play and you can also read all about our Melbourne adventures too from hot air balloon rides to art gallery tours (not forgetting an official Neighbours tour too of course).
One you should certainly cross off your list before heading home is the rugged Twelve Apostles on the southern ocean of the Victoria coast. The limestone cliffs were created by erosion but the attraction is a bit of a misnomer as there are actually only eight limestone stacks making up this natural wonder. Time your visit for sunset when the cliffs take on a brilliant sandy yellow colour. It was one of the best parts of our Great Ocean Road Trip adventure.
Where to stay in Victoria…
Crown Towers – Crown is practically a city in its own right. A three-hotel, spa, casino and multiple restaurant venue in the Southbank, it’s a Melbourne icon. Despite the scale of the Crown Melbourne complex, five-star Crown Towers keeps service levels very high.
Great Ocean Ecolodge – When kangaroos come up to the deck of your accommodation, you know you’re in an interesting place. Rooms are comfortable and not at all “eco” in feel, even though it’s home to a number of important environmental projects.
Australian Capital Territory – New South Wales for wine and the wilds
New South Wales is Australia’s oldest and most populous state and home to Sydney, the nation’s largest city.
Visit the region for its idyllic beaches, world-class dining and iconic attractions such as the Sydney Opera House. To slow the pace down visit the rugged Blue Mountains just an hour west of Sydney. It is a world heritage area, with one million hectares of cliffs, bush, waterfalls and koala nirvana in the form of a vast eucalyptus forest. Pause to soak up the dramatic and deep valleys at key lookout points including the more view-worthy Wentworth Falls, Echo Point and Sublime Point.
Then it’s time to go from the wild to the wines and devour the distinguished Hunter Valley Semillon – a crisp white wine considered Australia’s most iconic wine. Time your visit for the Valley’s Food and Wine Festival in June for an epicurean journey with a line up including winemaking masterclasses and gourmet dining experiences.
After touring the boutique estate, pick up a bottle of handcrafted Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Viognier varieties of wine.
Further reading: Places to visit in NSW
Where to stay in the Capital Territory…
Lilianfels Resort & Spa – this is a smart and glamorous hotel built around a century-old stone mansion, close to Echo Point.
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley – The bushland setting is that get away from it all experience you may have been craving for some time, but the sophisticated resort blends wellness and the wild, home to native wildlife and signature spa experiences, with all the indulgences you could ever need.
Flights to Australia
Australia’s international airports are Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Cairns, Adelaide and Brisbane so you have plenty of options for covering the different regions.
The fastest one-stop flight between London and Sydney is 22 hours, but when adding in stopovers you can be looking at wait times between one hour and 23 hours, so comfort and convenience may well become the priorities over the cost factor when planning your Australian adventures.
The inaugural non-stop flight from London to Perth took place on 24 March 2018, it’s set to transform air travel to Australia. The Qantas flight by Dreamliner will take just 17 hours. With an estimated fare price of £791, it might just be worth every penny, with six hours less in the air, and more time on the ground. And the in-flight dining menu combines research from the University of Sydney and the in-house dining experiences curated by celebrity chef Neil Perry and his Rockpool restaurants to develop options that aid sleep, hydration, digestion and reduce jet lag.
Australia’s international airport options
New South Wales: International flights arrive at Kingsford Smith International Airport, just five miles from Sydney.
Queensland: There are three international airports in Queensland: Cairns in the northeast which is best for visiting the Great Barrier Reef, Gold Coast (also known as Coolangatta Airport) is in the southeast, 16 miles from Surfer’s Paradise and Brisbane Airport is the third largest in Australia, and is situated nine miles outside of the city.
The Northern Territory: You can fly into Darwin International Airport, eight miles outside of the city of Darwin itself.
Tasmania: Although the airport is named Hobart International Airport, Tasmania is currently only served by domestic flights, so you will need to transfer on the Australian mainland. Domestic carriers include Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Rex and TigerAir (see more below for getting around). The airport is just under ten miles outside of Hobart.
South Australia: Adelaide Airport is less than four miles west of the city centre.
Victoria: Melbourne Airport, also known as “Tullamarine”, is 14 miles from the city and it is the second busiest airport in Australia.
Western Australia: Perth Airport is the entry point to Western Australia, just 11 miles away from the city.
You have a number of destinations for stopovers and this handy guide provides some suggested stopover options with average flight times for each leg.
London >> New York >> Sydney
To pick up some designer buys or to tick another iconic destination off the bucket list, stopover in New York. Enjoy tax-free shopping in Manhattan’s huge department stores. Not forgetting the city’s top attractions the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square and the views from above in one of the rooftop bars.
Journey time: London to New York: 6.5 hours. New York to Sydney: 21 hours.
London >> Bali >> Perth
For luxury beaches, nowhere seems to do it better than Bali. Bali is closer to Perth than Sydney, and where most Australians will go for their annual break – a good sign, seeing as Australia boasts some of the world’s best beaches. The island is popular with windsurfers and divers, and honeymoons.
Journey time: London to Bali: 21 hours. Bali to Perth: four hours.
London >> Bangkok >> Melbourne
As repeat visitors to Thailand, we would always choose Bangkok as a stopover on our flights to Australia. The Land of Smiles is a lovely contrast, with the warmth of Thai hospitality and the cultural attractions providing a wealth of enchanting experiences to enjoy en route to Australia. And exploring the key sights in just a few days is easily achievable.
Journey time: London to Bangkok: 11.5 hours. Bangkok to Melbourne: just over nine hours.
London >> Dubai >> Adelaide
If you’re looking for luxury on your stop off and would rather a shorter first leg, Dubai has your name written all over it. With over the top hotels, casinos, fabulous shopping and more, you are surrounded by grandeur at every turn here.
Journey time: London to Dubai: seven hours. Dubai to Sydney: 13 hours.
London >> Singapore >> Brisbane
Singapore is a modern and fascinating city, with a kaleidoscope of cultures and a multitude of quirky attractions including the iconic Supertrees light installation and of course, stopping by for a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel is a major consideration. When in Singapore…
Journey time: London to Singapore: 14 hours. Singapore to Brisbane: eight hours.
Other popular stopover options included Chicago, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuala Lumpur and Abu Dhabi.
Search for flights now.
How to get around Australia
Here are some tips to plan your travel from state to state.
Driving in Australia
Given the sheer size of Australia, if you plan on hiring a car to travel between the capitals, prepare to make a road trip of it with stops along the way. The Great Ocean Road is one of the most scenic road trips which hugs the south eastern coast, or you can drive across the desert and hire a 4×4 to journey through Australia’s Red Centre.
If you still plan on hiring a car in Australia, this guide provides all the information you need on the main rental companies, the associated hire terms and the general driving rules – road users drive on the left here.
Coach travel is also possible, and you can check out Greyhound for their range of long-distance journeys. Coaches are fitted with air conditioning, free wifi, adjustable seats, reading lights and free wifi for the ultimate comfort. You can also book hop on-hop off passes, short trips and flexible options.
|Road Distances (kms)||Adelaide||Brisbane||Canberra||Darwin||Melbourne||Perth||Sydney|
Domestic flights in Australia
Catching a flight is the most convenient way to cover long distances in a short space of time. Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Rex and TigerAir are the main players in the domestic market serving all the state capitals, and if you book in advance you can get some great value fares.
Australia by rail
Train travel is one of the most affordable and scenic ways to see Australia, without the stress of driving long distances yourself.
TrainLink operates between Sydney, the regional centres of New South Wales, and along the east coast to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. V-Line trains connect Melbourne with Victoria, Queensland Rail covers Queensland, while Western Australia is covered by TransWA.
Click here for an air, coach and rail journey time comparison for all the major cities.
Things to know before you take flights to Australia
- You will need a valid Australian visa to enter the country. The visa you require will depend on the length of stay, your passport and the purpose of your visit. The eVisitor is valid for a 12-month period, which allows European visitors to travel for business or leisure for up to three months at a time. Non-European nationals will require an Electronic Travel Authority Visa. Charges apply for certain applications. Click here for more information.
- Many foods – even pre-packaged ones – are prohibited from entering the country due to customs laws. So for a swift transit through the airport, leave the likes of food, plants and seeds at home.
- A Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10% applies on any goods you buy. If you have spent over AUD$300 with a single business, you can claim this tax back no more than 60 days before departure and some of the international airports offer refund facilities in departure areas.
- The seasons run differently in Australia: Spring is September to November, Summer runs from December to February, Autumn is March to May, while June to August is the Winter season.
- Consult with your nurse or doctor at least six to eight weeks before you travel to ensure you have the necessary vaccinations. While there is no risk of yellow fever transmission, you are still required to provide a certification, as well as if you are transiting through a country at risk. Mosquito repellant is advisable, and immunisation against Japanese encephalitis will be required, especially if you are visiting the Islands of Torres Strait and the Cape York Peninsula in the northeast.