The wilderness of Kangaroo Island, the dense rainforest of the Daintree, the wineries of Margaret River and the beaches of the Gold Coast are some of Australia’s biggest tourist drawcards… and there wasn’t even room for them in this article! That means the 10 places that did end up on this list of Australia’s best destinations are seriously good. We promise.
Australia’s biggest city is most international visitors’ gateway into the country, and the sparkling Sydney Harbour provides a spectacular welcome mat. You can’t miss Sydney’s two iconic landmarks – the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House – but there’s no doubt that the Harbour City’s main attraction is its gorgeous beaches, including Bondi and Coogee in the Eastern Suburbs and Manly on the Northern Beaches.
Sydney cityscape | © Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock
The country’s second-largest metropolis can’t match Sydney’s sand or sunshine, but Melbourne makes up for it with coffee, culture, food and sport. The Victorian capital is Australia’s most cosmopolitan city, made up of moody laneways lined with urban art and hole-in-the-wall cafes, arty boutiques and galleries, a progressive dining scene, and sport. Lots and lots of sport.
Flinders St Station, Melbourne | © Travellers travel photobook / Flickr
Great Barrier Reef
See it while you still can. Climate change is bleaching the colour out of the world’s largest coral reef system, which stretches 2,300 kilometres along the sunny Queensland coast, but there are still plenty of dive sites where you can snorkel the warm water to see brilliant coral and amazing marine life. Visit the lush Daintree Rainforest, the remarkable Fraser Island and the serene Whitsunday Islands while you’re in tropical North Queensland, too.
Heart Reef | © Tobias Begemann / Flickr
Words can’t quite capture the majesty of ‘The Rock’, a hulking sandstone monolith that emerges out of the ochre-red dust of Central Australia. Uluru carries immense significance to Australia’s Indigenous people and is one of the country’s most iconic landmarks – take it in by foot, on the back of a horse or a Harley Davidson, from above in a helicopter or hot air balloon, or with a meal at dusk.
Uluru | © nosha / Flickr
‘The City of Churches’ really needs a new nickname that more accurately reflects the vibrant, dynamic place Adelaide has become in recent years. Maybe ‘the city of year-round festivals’, or ‘the city of charismatic bars, cafes and restaurants that gives Melbourne a run for its money’, or perhaps ‘the city with dozens of wine regions on its doorstep’, the perfect place to sample the world-class reds South Australia is famous for.
Statue of Sir Donald Bradman at the Adelaide Oval | © Amanda Slater / Flickr
Great Ocean Road
Spanning 243 kilometres of rugged Victorian coastline west of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is easily Australia’s most picturesque touring route, and perhaps one of the most scenic road trips on the face of the Earth. Schedule pit stops to marvel at the towering limestone stacks of the 12 Apostles, the postcard-perfect Loch Ard Gorge, and quaint coastal villages such as Port Fairy.
12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road | © Alex Proimos / Wikimedia Commons
Hippie haven, surfing mecca, celebrity hideaway, compulsory stop on the well-trodden backpacker trail up the East Coast – the most easterly point on the Australian mainland is many different things, including one of the country’s hottest tourist destinations. If you want to avoid the crowds and cost of Byron Bay itself, escape into the pristine hinterland, bliss out in the alternative lifestyle hub of Nimbin, or catch a wave down the road in Yamba.
Cape Byron Lighthouse | © thinboyfatter / Flickr
The capital of Tasmania – a leafy island state just south of the Australian mainland – has always been a pleasant place to visit, but Hobart has turned into a must-see destination for one reason and one reason only: MONA. Opened in a winery in 2011, the Museum of Old and New Art is Australia’s most exciting cultural experience thanks to a subterranean collection of subversive pieces that has to be seen to be believed.
MONA interior | © Fraser Mummery / Flickr
Australia’s capital gets a bad rap, mainly because it’s crawling with politicians. But visitors are treated to a compact city packed full of great attractions too often overlooked by tourists, including the engrossing Australian War Memorial, the modern National Arboretum, the array of museums including Questacon and the National Gallery, plus an exciting (and booming) food and drink scene.
Floriade flower festival in Canberra | © Robert Montgomery / Flickr
An island paradise blessed with more than 60 white sand beaches, turquoise water and abundant marine life located just a half-hour ferry from Perth would be a popular enough destination – and that’s before you add Australia’s cutest animal into the equation. The star attraction of ‘Rotto’ is the resident population of quokkas, an adorable little animal that looks like a miniature kangaroo and isn’t afraid to bounce up to admirers for a selfie.
Quokka on Rottnest Island | © S. Rohrlach / Flickr