Australia is breathtaking in beauty, rich in diversity and daunting in size. There are so many wonderful places to visit in Australia as you travel the length and breadth of this extraordinary country.
There are so many places to visit in Australia than just the beach, wilderness and koala tourist stereotypes. As well as its iconic landmarks – Uluru (Ayers Rock), the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour – the Great Southern Land has many hidden delights to discover and new experiences to savour. Modern Australia is much about thriving, exciting cities, teeming with cutting-edge festivals, major sporting events, sophisticated restaurants and a well-developed arts scene, as it is about the bush and outback.
As a visitor to Australia you have an astonishing 7,686,850 square kilometres of land to cover – so plan your trip wisely! The trick with planning any vacation Down Under is to realise that the country is just too big to explore in one holiday. Finding the best places to visit in Australia can be tricky which is where this guide comes in handy. We’ve hand-picked the top twenty places to visit in Australia based on visitors’ ratings. Our list will help you choose some of the best places to visit during your next trip to the Land Down Under.
Top 20 Places to Visit in Australia
20. Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is a booming destination in Australia for wilderness and wildlife fans – it’s a veritable zoo of seals, birds, dolphins, echidnas and, of course, kangaroos. In a single day, you can stroll along a beach crowded with sea lions and watch kangaroos, koalas, pelicans and fairy penguins in their native environments. The island is most beautiful along the coastline, where the land is sculpted into a series of bays and inlets teeming with bird and marine life. The stark interior has its own charm, with pockets of red earth between stretches of bush and farmland. Island produce is also a highlight.
Location: South Australia
19. Wilsons Promontory
One of the most popular national parks in Australia, Wilsons Promontory is the place to visit for sheer natural beauty. If you like wilderness bushwalking, stunning shorelines and secluded white-sand beaches, you’ll absolutely love Wilsons Prom. This national park boasts sublime ocean beaches and some of the best wilderness hiking and camping in coastal Australia. The overnight walk across ‘the Prom’ from Tidal River to Sealer’s Cove and back is a relaxing way to get started. Serious hikers should tackle the three-day Great Prom Walk, staying a night in the gloriously isolated lighthouse keepers’ cottage.
18. Fraser Island
Apart from its World Heritage status, Fraser Island is also the largest sand island in the world and the biggest of Queensland’s islands. If you don’t visit for these reasons, consider visiting for its wildflower-dotted meadows, 100-plus freshwater lakes, dense, tall stands of rainforest, towering sand dunes, sculpted, multi-colour sand cliffs, up to 40,000 migratory shorebirds and rare and endangered animal species including dugongs and turtles. The island also has Aboriginal sites dating back more than a millennium. The best way to explore Fraser is on a 4WD tour – cruising up the seemingly endless Seventy-Five Mile Beach and bouncing along sandy inland tracks.
17. South Australian Wine Regions
Australia is world-famous for its export-quality wines and no where does it better than these three South Australia wine regions: the Barossa Valley in the north, with its gusty reds, old vines and German know-how; McLaren Vale in the south, a Mediterranean palette of sea, vines and Shiraz; and the Clare Valley, known for Riesling and wobbly bike rides. Better-kept secrets are the cool-climate stunners from the Adelaide Hills and the country Cabernet Sauvignon of Padthaway and Coonawarra. The best way to explore these regions is on a winery tour so you don’t have to worry about drink driving.
Location: South Australia
16. Southwest Coast WA
The Southwest coast is Western Australia’s most popular destination and should not be missed. The joy of drifting from winery to winery along country roads shaded by tall gum trees is only one of the delights when visiting. There are caves to explore, historic towns to visit and spring wildflowers to admire. Surfers flock to world-class breaks around Margaret River, but it’s not unusual to find yourself on a white-sand beach with nobody else in sight. In late winter and early spring, look offshore and chances are you’ll spot whales cruising on the coast-hugging ‘Humpback Highway’.
Location: Western Australia
15. Perth & Fremantle
Perth may be the most isolated capital in the world but this isolation brings with it a charm of its own. Perth is a combination of big-city attractions and relaxed informal surrounds, offering an appealing lifestyle for locals and a variety of things to do for visitors. This sophisticated city boasts top-class restaurants featuring modern Australian cuisine, chic cocktail bars and grungy inner city suburbs. Just down the river, the lively port of Fremantle is popular for its waterfront streetscape lined with seafood restaurants and energetic bars and its colonial buildings from the early settlement period.
Location: Western Australia
If there’s one thing that attracts visitors to Canberra it’s for its world-class museums. Whether your passion is art, history, film or big guns, you’ll find it in spades in the country’s capital. Highlights include the National Gallery of Australia, with its magnificent collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Australia and Asian art; the National Museum of Australia, whose imaginative exhibits provide insights into the Australian heart and soul; and the War Memorial with its moving Hall of Memory and its fascinating displays.
Location: Australian Capital Territory
13. Darwin & Kakadu National Park
Darwin is Australia’s most colourful and exotic capital city. It’s surrounded on three sides by the turquoise waters of the Timor Sea while its streets are lined with tropical flowers and trees. It’s also a multicultural hedonistic hotspot and the launch pad for trips into some of Australia’s most remarkable wilderness. It’s the best location from which to explore Australia’s Top End, with its wonders of Kakadu and Kimberley region. Kakadu National Park is the place to see Indigenous rock art under jagged escarpments and idyllic waterholes at the base of plummeting waterfalls. Raucous birdlife and saltwater crocodiles are guaranteed highlights.
Location: Northern Territory
12. Broome & the Kimberley
Like no other town in Australia, Broome is a kinetic, postmodern pastiche of bars, beaches, nature, locals and every type of traveller. Turquoise waters melt with package tourists while red pindan earth blows into luxury spa resorts, and camels amble past a searingly beautiful sunset. The pearling town is also the starting point for many adventure tours into the remote Outback and visiting Aboriginal communities with local Aboriginal guides. Visitors to Australia looking for a genuine Outback experience should consider a visit to the Kimberley. This secluded area contains several of Australia’s most spectacular national parks, and numerous tropical forests, croc-infested rivers, and soaring cliffs.
Location: Western Australia
11. Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair
The stunning World Heritage area of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair is Tasmania’s most visited destination and for good reason. With gorgeous mountain peaks, dank gorges, pristine lakes, tarns and wild moorlands, this is Australian landscape at its finest. At one point, the area was Australia’s most heavily glaciated areas; today, it is home to Mt Ossa (1617m), Tasmania’s highest peak and Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest natural freshwater lake (167m). Cradle Mountain is best seen on a day’s hike to the summit for panoramic views over Tasmania’s alpine heart. Alternatively, the view across Dove Lake from the valley below is just as picturesque.
10. Gold Coast
Resorts, theme parks, and 300 days of sunshine a year ensure that the Gold Coast, the most developed tourist destination and one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia, remains a popular spot for holiday makers all year-round. Bear in mind, the Gold Coast won’t appeal to everyone especially its capital, Surfers Paradise with its Brash, hedonistic party scene. For a more relaxed holiday, head to Broadbeach which offers beach-chic without the frenzy, Burleigh Heads with its seaside charm or Coolangatta as the quietest and cheapest option. The Gold Coast hinterland with its rainforest walks, waterfalls and cosy retreats makes for a wonderful destination in itself.
9. Byron Bay
With its fabulous beaches, perfect waves and a sunny, relaxed atmosphere, Byron Bay is the quintessential Australia and deserves a place on our list of places to visit. Located on the easternmost point of the Australian mainland, this beachside destination might appear touristy at first but stay a while and its infectious upbeat vibe will put a smile on your dial. Long lazy stretches of beach coupled with a cute undeveloped town centre and an eclectic food scene makes Byron Bay a favourite with locals and tourists alike. Try to get there on the first Sunday of the month when the town is at its liveliest thanks to the bustling local market.
Location: New South Wales
8. Whitsunday Islands
The stunning islands and sandy atolls of the Whitsunday Islands are amongst the most stunning holiday destinations in Australia. Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island is recognised as one of the world’s best beaches, with 9 km (5.6 miles) of pure white silica sand and turquoise sea. There are so many ways to enjoy the beautiful Whitsunday Islands – sailing across the shimmering blue water of the Coral Sea, lounging beside the pool in a luxury island resort or playing castaway on a secluded beach. The islands’ close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef makes it a convenient base from which to explore the nearby reef.
7. Great Ocean Road
One of the world’s iconic scenic drives, the Great Ocean Road is a ‘must-do’ for any visitor to Australia. It combines a scenic road trip replete with sharp twists and turns against a backdrop of stunning ocean views. Along the way, you’ll see sheer limestone cliffs and rock formations fall into the Southern Ocean, drive through pretty coastal village towns and stop to relax on pristine beaches. On route, you can also visit the Otway Ranges, a rainforest landscape ecologically rich and visually splendid. The piece-de-resistance of your road trip will be the Twelve Apostles, an amazing collection of rock formations that rise tall and stand strong in the ferocious ocean waters.
6. Daintree Rainforest
For nature lovers, a visit to the Daintree Rainforest, one of the most extraordinary ecosystems in the world will be a truly unforgettable experience. The ancient World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is a lush green rainforest replete with fan palms, prehistoric-looking ferns and twisted mangroves which tumble down towards a brilliant white-sand coastline. Enveloped in a cacophony of birdsong, frog croaking and the buzz of insects, you can explore the area via wildlife-spotting night tours, mountain treks, canopy walks, 4WD trips, horse riding, kayaking, croc-spotting cruises, tropical-fruit orchard tours. If you’re lucky, you might even spot an elusive cassowary.
While not as popular as Sydney or Melbourne, Hobart has a charm all of its own. The capital of the island state of Tasmania is very different to other Australian capital cities and hence makes for an interesting visit. The magic of Hobart lies in the union of its very English beginnings and its setting at the edges of isolation and wilderness. Situated beneath towering Mount Wellington on the banks of the Derwent River, Hobart’s waterfront areas are as big a hit with locals and tourists alike as is its world-class museum, Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).
4. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
No matter how many times you’ve seen it on postcards, nothing prepares you for the burnished grandeur of the Rock as it first appears on the outback horizon. With its remote desert location, deep cultural significance and spectacular natural beauty, Uluru us a pilgrimage well worth the many hundreds of kilometres it takes to get there. But Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park offers much more than the chance to see the Rock. Along with equally captivating Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), there are mystical walks, sublime sunsets and ancient desert cultures to encounter. Image from here.
Location: Northern Territory
Playing second-fiddle to Sydney no more, Melbourne is the cultural and sporting capital of Australia. With a calendar packed with star-studded cultural performances and world-famous sporting events, visitors to Melbourne can expect to be entertained any time of the year. Melbourne is renowned for its bluestone laneways with its secret bars, restaurants, boutique shops and colourful street art. Shopping, dining and drinking with friends are the usual pastimes for locals and visitors should join in on the action to experience Melbourne true identity. Day trips from the city to celebrated locations such as the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island places Melbourne in prime position for every adventure in Victoria.
When one thinks of Australia, the white sails of the Sydney Opera House come to mind. This iconic landmark, situated on the Sydney Harbour in the vibrant city of Sydney, is one of the most visited attractions in Australia and once you step inside, you will understand why. Apart from its World Heritage listing, it also hosts a stunning array of bars, restaurants, cultural performances and backstage tours. While the Sydney Harbour is its major drawcard, there’s more to this dazzling city, including the award-winning Taronga Zoo, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and world-famous Bondi Beach. Sydney also boasts magnificent museums, more magnificent beaches and colourful inner city neighbourhoods and outer suburbs.
Location: New South Wales
1. Great Barrier Reef
Stretching over 2000km up the Queensland coastline, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s truly awe inspiring natural wonders and one of Australia’s most visited destinations. Diving or snorkelling are the best ways to get a close-up view of the dazzling corals, sea turtles, sharks, rays and multi-coloured tropical fish that inhabit this mysterious world; exploring the reef by sailboat, taking a scenic flight for a bird’s eye view or a glass-bottomed semisubmersible are fantastic for people who prefer to keep their feet dry. Cairns, Port Douglas, Townsville and the Whitsunday Islands are popular destinations for accessing the Great Barrier Reef.