The Best Places to Visit in Australia

06 Nov 2017

When planning a visit to Australia, the options can seem endless. And indeed they are. No one trip to Australia can take in everything, but it is possible to experience the country’s stand-out highlights. Below I’ve shortlisted just some of my personal favourites. For more ideas, check out our Australia holidays, or talk to one of our Experts about creating a bespoke itinerary with your favourite highlights from below.

Sydney, New South Wales

Australia’s largest and oldest city, Sydney enjoys a picturesque and sprawling harbour location. Beloved for being a big city with beaches on its doorstep, Sydney offers a multitude of things to do for visitors, from historic museums to trendy neighborhoods and scenic beaches.

Best for: Sweeping views

Top things to do:

  • Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Take a tour of the Opera House
  • Laze on Bondi Beach

How to visit: As home to Australia’s main international airport, Sydney is a fantastic place to begin your Australia holiday. We recommend spending at least three days in Sydney, before hiring a car and driving up the coast towards Brisbane or south towards Melbourne. For itinerary ideas, see our Sydney holidays.

The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Undoubtedly one of Australia’s most famous attractions, the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef stretches for over 120 miles along the east coast of Australia in Queensland. Its immense size makes the Great Barrier Reef the largest living structure ont the planet, as well as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The reef is home to a multitude of wildlife, including 400 different kinds of coral, over 1,500 species of tropical fish, dolphins, rays, sea turtles, giant clams and more.

Best for: Snorkelling and diving

Top things to do:

  • Join a cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef
  • Fly over Heart Reef in a helicopter
  • Go on an underwater safari in a semi-submersible

How to visit: With a sprawling size, there are a number of places within Queensland from which you can visit the reef. One of the most popular starting points is Cairns in Tropical North Queensland. It’s possible to fly to Cairns from most of Australia’s major cities including Sydney. From Cairns or nearby Port Douglas, most travellers opt to take a cruise out to Agincourt Reef where you can then choose from a number of ways to see the Great Barrier Reef, including snorkelling, scuba diving, submarine, helicopter and the 'Ocean Walker' helmet dive. It’s possible to even sleep on the Great Barrier Reef too. For more ideas, see our Great Barrier Reef holidays.

Uluru, Northern Territory

An iconic symbol of Australia, Uluru – also commonly known as Ayers Rock – is a large sandstone monolith located in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre. Dating back 550 million years, the site is considered to be sacred by Indigenous Australians, namely the Anangu people who are the traditional custodians of Uluru. In addition to the site’s incredible history and culture, Uluru is also an immense site to see, with the monolith’s elevation measuring 863 metres high, and the colour changing throughout the day, especially at sunset.

Best for: Sunsets and Indigenous culture

Top things to do:

  • Take a guided tour around Uluru
  • Learn about local Indigenous culture
  • Enjoy dinner in front of Uluru with the Sounds of Silence experience

How to visit: The best way to reach Uluru is by flying into Alice Springs. From there it’s a six-hour drive to reach Uluru, where there are a number of hotels to choose from. One of our favourite ways to experience Uluru is on our Sydney, Rock and Reef Journey which includes two nights in Uluru staying at the Voyages Desert Garden Hotel, as well as the Sounds of Silence dinner experience.

Melbourne, Victoria

Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city, located at the bottom of the east coast in Victoria. Popularly regarded as Australia’s cultural capital, the city is beloved for its restaurants, cafés, boutiques, nightlife, sporting events, art galleries and more. Melbourne’s dining scene is particularly famed for being the best in Australia, with some of the world’s best restaurants and food trends calling Melbourne home.

Best for: Foodie adventures

Top things to do:

  • Stroll along the Southbank
  • Explore the city’s laneways
  • Catch the tram to the beachfront suburb of St Kilda

How to visit: As one of Australia’s major cities, there are a number of ways you can visit Melbourne. Opt to start your Australian holiday by flying into Melbourne, or drive there from either Sydney or Adelaide. After you’ve spent a few days in the city, there are a number of scenic road trips you can take, the most popular being the Great Ocean Road drive from Melbourne to Adelaide. For more itinerary ideas, see our Melbourne holidays.

Fraser Island, Queensland

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, stretching for over 74 miles along the coast of Southern Queensland. World Heritage-listed, the island is home to a range of attractions including over 100 freshwater lakes, rock pools, rainforest, shipwrecks and wildlife. One of the island’s biggest draw cards is its sand highway along 75 Mile Beach, best experienced on a 4X4 tour.

Best for: Outdoor adventure

Top things to do:

  • Go for a swim in the freshwater Lake McKenzie
  • Do a 4X4 tour of the island
  • Spy humpback whales between June to October

How to visit:

Fraser Island is located around a three-hour drive north of Brisbane. The drive is ideal as part of a larger road trip of Australia’s Nature Coast, with scenic locations such as Hervey Bay and Noosa nearby.

The Barossa Valley, South Australia

The Barossa is Australia’s most famous wine region, found in the South Australian countryside. The region is home to over 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors, boasting famous Australian wines such as Penfolds, Jacob’s Creek and Wolf Blass. The valley is also beloved for its local produce and food scene, particularly cheese, meats and eggs.

Best for: Wining and dining

Top things to do:

  • Enjoy a wine tour of the region
  • Take a sunrise hot-air balloon ride
  • Shop at famed Australian chef Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop in Nuriootpa

How to visit:

The Barossa is around an hour’s drive north-west of Adelaide, making it an easy place to visit on a day trip from the South Australian capital, or as a wider road trip taking in the best of South Australia.  

Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

Located in Australia’s Top End, Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest national park, spanning over 7,500 square miles. The UNESCO-listed park is home to ancient Indigenous culture as well as diverse terrain and wildlife including wetlands, waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, crocodiles and 290 bird species. Things to do in the park vary depending on whether you visit during the wet or dry season, with the rainy weather promising larger wetlands to explore, while the drier periods offer superior wildlife-watching opportunities.  

Best for: Experiencing life in the Outback

Top things to do:

  • See crocodiles on a cruise of the Yellow Water Billabong
  • Spy ancient rock art
  • Take in the terrain from above on a scenic flight over the park

How to visit:

Kakadu National Park is located around a three-hour drive from Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory. A visit to the park can be combined as part of a larger road trip of the Top End’s National Parks including a stop in Katherine. Be inspired by our Kakadu National Park holiday ideas.

Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Found off the coast of Western Australia, Rottnest Island is a protected nature reserve and a haven for Australian wildlife. Most famously known as the home of the cute quokka, Rottnest Island is also where you can see New Zealand fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, migrating humpback whales, and a wide range of coastal birds, including osprey. The island’s diverse landscape comprises 63 secluded beaches, 20 bays, a marine park, wetlands, woodland and scrub heath.

Best for: Seeing wildlife

Top things to do:

  • Join a guided tour of the island
  • Snorkel at the island’s Marine Reserve
  • See quokkas on the free guided walk

How to visit:

Rottnest Island can be reached by ferry from various locations around Perth and nearby Fremantle, including the Barrack Street Jetty from Perth City. The ferry ride from Perth City takes around 90 minutes. A tour of the island is included in our South West Highlights holiday

Byron Bay, New South Wales

While Australia’s coastline is dotted with charming coastal towns, the most popular beach town to visit is Byron Bay in northern New South Wales. Once known as a small alternative town for hippies and surfers, Byron Bay in recent years has grown and refined itself to become a stylish yet bohemian holiday spot with fantastic dining, art and music scenes.

Best for: The bohemian beach scene

Top things to do:

  • Enjoy a swim and lunch at Wategos Beach
  • Take the scenic walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse
  • Do a beachside yoga class or learn to surf 

How to visit:

Byron Bay is around a two-hour drive south of Brisbane and an ideal stop when driving along Australia’s East Coast between Brisbane and Sydney.

Flight Centre is an Australian-born company and sells over 1.3 million tickets to the Land Down Under every year, making us the world’s number one to Australia. For more ideas, browse our Australia holidays or talk to one of our Experts today on the phone, online or in store.

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Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.