With six states, two territories, and endless possibilities, choosing the perfect Australia vacation is all in the planning.
With award-winning airlines taking care of the long flight, and the exchange rate now in the USD’s favour, Australia is the most accessible it’s been to North Americans in years. The hardest part might be choosing where to go. You might not see it all in one trip (put aside several months if you plan to do that one!), but this guide may help you pick some highlights for your dream Australia vacation.
The Tropical Spread – Cairns
The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s top attraction. Don’t just take our word for it. Lonely Planet this year ranked it the second best attraction in the world, right behind Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. That makes the Reef the world’s most impressive natural wonder, and those who see it for themselves will find it hard to argue. Cairns offers plenty of opportunities to explore. Go diving, snorkelling, or enjoy the colours and vibrancy from the dry comfort of an underwater observatory or semi-submersible. A helicopter flight over the reef is another popular choice, but your options don’t stop at the shore. Turn inland to explore Kuranda and the beautiful rainforest that surrounds Cairns. Some tours will even include a taste of authentic Australian Aboriginal culture. When you’re done, a trip on the scenic Skyrail is by far the most spectacular journey back to town.
BEST DAY TRIPS & HIGHLIGHTS: Trek into Kuranda Rainforest, or choose from more Great Barrier Reef options than you’ll ever fit into one trip!
The Culture Vulture – Melbourne
No Harbour. No fancy Opera House. Just the most liveable city on Earth, and some of Australia’s best day trips. You could spend months exploring the bars, restaurants, cafes, architecture, neighbourhoods, and galleries of Melbourne, and still find new surprises. Just lace up your walking shoes, grab a delicious Flat White from one of the city’s hundreds of independent cafes (avoiding Starbucks – the sure sign of a tourist!), and dive in. Visit Old Melbourne Gaol to learn the history of infamous bushranger Ned Kelly, visit the Shrine of Remembrance, or the National Gallery of Victoria, take in a lavish musical, or hop a day trip to some of the most historic, and/or dramatic sites in Australia such as the Great Ocean Road, or Sovereign Hill.
BEST DAY TRIPS & HIGHLIGHTS: See the Little Penguins of Phillip Island, see history recreated at Sovereign Hill, or roam the Great Ocean Road – home to the famous Twelve Apostles.
The Foodie’s Paradise – Adelaide
We’re calling it. Adelaide is Australia’s most delicious capital city. It’s no slouch on the cultural front either, boasting the world’s biggest cabaret festival and an innovative performance culture year round. But it’s the wine and food that really bring Adelaide to the front page. The Barossa Valley is arguably the country’s best known wine region, particularly famous for its Shiraz. This area is defined by its German immigrant heritage, which is evident in towns such as Tanunda. With some extra time, you can also journey to the vineyards of McLaren Vale. Wildlife lovers should also consider putting Adelaide on their agenda. Nearby Kangaroo Island is known as Australia’s Galapagos for its range of native animals including seals, sea lions, birds, and of course, kangaroos, as well as its fascinating geological formations.
BEST DAY TRIPS & HIGHLIGHTS: Go wine, cheese, and local treat tasting in the Barossa Valley, or visit the diverse wildlife of Kangaroo Island.
The Family Getaway – Brisbane
The last thirty years have seen Queensland’s capital leave its humble past behind to become a major centre for events, arts, sports, and tourism. Brisbane is also the perfect family destination, within easy reach of Southeast Queensland’s best wildlife and theme park attractions. Spend a couple of hours at the Queensland Museum or Art Gallery, then admire the city views from South Bank parklands, or catch one of Brisbane’s CityCats to enjoy the skyline from the water. Out of town, visit the famous crocs (and many other species) at Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast. Or, zip down to the Gold Coast for a day at one of Australia’s best large theme parks, or just relaxing on the beach. You’ll find superb hiking all around, with a range of national parks surrounding Brisbane and the Coasts. For a truly unique wildlife encounter, catch the ferry across to Tangalooma Island Resort, where you can feed wild dolphins at dusk before settling in to enjoy a vast range of activities for all ages.
BEST DAY TRIPS & HIGHLIGHTS: Say hello to the crocs of Australia Zoo, the dolphins of Tangalooma, or take a wild ride at a Gold Coast theme park.
Nature’s Escape – Tasmania
Feel like visiting two countries in one? Though Tasmania is an Australian state, it can sometimes feel a world apart. This island at the country’s southern tip supports its own unique wildlife, much of which inhabits an unspoiled wilderness unlike any found on the mainland. That’s not to dismiss its contribution to Australia’s story. Roam the remnants of historic convict sites for a glimpse of harsher times. Only the hardest convicts were sent to Tasmania, and their stories live on at stops such as Port Arthur Historic Site. Tasmania is also a great self-drive trip, small enough to see in a few days, but sure to leave you wanting more. Oh, and just in case you thought it was all about the wilderness and days gone by, Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art is turning heads alongside the likes of MOMA and the Tate Modern as one of the world’s finest modern art museums.
BEST DAY TRIPS & HIGHLIGHTS: Nature lovers will enjoy a Bruny Island wilderness cruise, plus, you can’t visit Tasmania without seeing the Tasmanian Devils.
The Aussie Icon – Sydney
No city better captures the essence of Australia than Sydney. The sight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge rising over the white sails of the Sydney Opera House as a ferry rounds Bennelong Point, is one of those travel images that will stay with you forever. A trip on one of those ferries is an essential Sydney experience, and a practical and picturesque way to see many of the city highlights, such as Darling Harbour and Taronga Zoo. Some services are geared more to visitors than others, and may even give you discounted entry to some attractions. Sydney is also a great ‘beach bum’ destination. World famous Bondi isn’t the only stop worth visiting, but it’s a good start, marking the beginning of a spectacular clifftop walk to the more local beaches. A morning exploring The Rocks, found on the southern shore of Sydney Harbour, will give you an insight into the city’s past, while exploring around the Botanic Gardens, Art Gallery of New South Wales, St. Mary’s Cathedral, and Hyde Park, offers you a glimpse of today’s Sydney.
BEST DAY TRIPS & HIGHLIGHTS: Explore the Blue Mountains, or sample a drop in the Hunter Valley Wine region.
3-Day Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley
Goway Travel, in partnership with Air New Zealand, is thrilled to offer Globetrotters a wide range of air-inclusive Australia vacation packages at unbeatable rates. Combine Sydney and Melbourne with your choice of Tasmania or Cairns, or pair Sydney and Cairns with Adelaide. Not quite right? Design your own dream Australia vacation, including any combination of the destinations above, starting at just US$1369 per person from Los Angeles or San Francisco, or CA$1669 per person from Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, or Edmonton. Prices will vary according to the stops chosen and the duration of stay. Competitive deals are available on connections from other cities across North America.
Main Photo: Wineglass Bay, Tasmania