The land down under is known for its sandy, white beaches, cute and cuddly wildlife and red, arid centre. With so much diversity it’s hard to know where to start when you are planning a trip to Australia. As an Australian born and bred I am here to help you out with my top picks of the best things to do in Australia.
1. Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
The world’s largest coral reef in Far North Queensland is simply breathtaking, whether you are viewing it from a boat, under water or even from the moon! But in my opinion, the best way to explore the Great Barrier Reef is by going snorkelling. From the minute you submerge your head in the water, you can’t help but be in awe of the natural beauty of this natural wonder of the world. There are over 1500 species of tropical fish, not to mention giant sea turtles, hundreds of brightly coloured coral and birds flying above. I even caught sight of an octopus once when I was snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef.
The reef stretches out over 3,000 kilometres, from the town of Bundaberg to the northern tip of Cape York. Along the way, there are many towns, small and large that you can use as a launching point for your Great Barrier Reef adventure. Some of the most popular include Cairns, Townsville and the islands of the Whitsundays.
2. Walk around Uluru
Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, is located in the red centre of Australia and is considered by many to be the spiritual heart of the country. It is a geological wander that appears to change colour depending upon when and where you view it from. Despite its imposing size, it is actually not too difficult to walk around Uluru and is definitely worth taking the time. By walking around this magnificent landmark, you can see some beautiful Aboriginal rock art that tells the stories of this ancient culture.
After your walk, make sure you also visit one of the many viewing points for Uluru both at sunrise and sunset. It is at these times that you can witness the stunning landscape and the incredible transformation it makes as it glows from vibrant red to orange under the sunlight.
3. Hike Cradle Mountain
The small island of Tasmania is often forgotten by visitors to Australia in spite of being one of the most naturally beautiful regions of the country. The World Heritage Area of Cradle Mountain is popular amongst hiking enthusiasts due to its incredible views. With rugged mountains surrounded by glacial lakes and the smell of pine in the air, the great outdoors doesn’t really get much better than this. If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of an Australian native animal like an echidna or platypus.
One of the most popular hikes is the Overland Track that is a 6 day journey from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. But if you are looking for something a little less strenuous, there are many shorter day walks that you can take in the Cradle Mountain region.
4. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
An iconic part of the Sydney skyline, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is unforgettable when viewed from Circular Quay. But if you are a bit more adventurous, you can see it from a completely different angle when you climb it.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb involves being latched onto a guide that then allows you to scale the curve of the bridge. It can be a little bit scary but you are quite secure and the view from the peak is truly breathtaking. I climbed the bridge on a rather wet and grey day and even the rain didn’t dampen my experience. If you are looking for a truly unique experience, you can even get married at the peak of the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
5. Visit Byron Bay Lighthouse
The small country town of Byron Bay in northern NSW is the eastern most point of Australia, making it the perfect place to watch the sunrise. The Byron Bay Lighthouse was built here to lookout for ships as they came into the rocky shores. Nowadays, it is the perfect vantage point for stunning ocean views, catching a glimpse of some dolphins at play or even humpback whales during their annual migration.
Wander around the headland and then slowly meander back into town. You can even take a break and go for a dip in the ocean at Watego’s Bay on the way.
6. Wine tasting in the Barossa Valley
One of Australia’s most famous wine-growing regions, the first vines in the Barossa Valley were planted in the 1830s. The region is now home to world-renowned brands including Penfolds and Seppelts and niche brands such as Rockford’s. Most of the wineries are open for tastings, with each using their own special varieties and techniques, it is worthwhile trying a few different places to get a taste for how diverse the region’s wine is.
Whilst wine is the main attraction here, the Barossa Valley is also famous for its gourmet food. Don’t miss having lunch at Maggie Beer’s Farm and trying some of her homegrown products. My personal favourite has to be her spiced pear paste with some local cheese and crackers.
7. See the penguins at Philip Island
Visiting Philip Island near Melbourne is one of my favourite childhood memories. I used to wait in anticipation on the wooden benches that overlooked the bay, huddled under a blanket to keep warm as the sun went down. I was waiting for the first sign of a tiny fairy penguin coming to shore after a long day at sea.
These dainty little birds waddle their way along the beach and up through the sand dunes searching for the burrow where they will rest for the evening, before heading back out to sea the next morning. I must admit, even as an adult I still get goosebumps when I see these gorgeous little penguins come to shore.
8. Go whale-watching at Monkey Mia
The town of Monkey Mia is located on the West Australian coast in the ominously named Shark Bay. But it isn’t the sharks that you come here to see but rather the huge humpback whales. This region sees the world’s largest migration of these gentle giants with over 20,000 whales passing the coast each year. The migration can be seen from July to October. With whales breaching and frolicking, it is a sight to behold.
9. See the Australian Open
Australia is well-known as a sporting nation and particularly for its cricket. But it is also home to one of tennis’ biggest events, the Australian Open. Held at Melbourne Park, in 2014 the Australian Open begins on January 13th and goes through to the men’s final on the 26th.
This Grand Slam event draws the biggest names in tennis and is great fun to watch. My favourite time to attend the Australian Open is in the first week when a ground pass will get you access to some great matches on the outer courts. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of tennis, there is live music and a great atmosphere outside centre court which is well worth attending.
10. Sail the Whitsundays in Queensland
There are 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, located on the northern coast of Queensland. Located in the Great Barrier Reef, the marine life surrounding the islands is spectacular. There is no better way to really see the region then from a yacht. Whether it is a day trip or a long cruise, you can explore this stunning region from the open seas.
Relax on deck, or dive off and swim in the crystal ocean, ride along in a jet-ski or dock on shore and lie on the white sandy beaches, the choice is yours. The only thing for sure is that you may choose never to leave this paradise.
Want to visit Australia? MakeMyTrip has a variety of holiday packages to Australia.