Australia map & highlights
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Getting around Australia definitely whips you into the walkabout spirit and if you are planning to travel under your own steam then more power to you. Self-drive routes along the Great Ocean Road, the Coral Coast and the Legendary Pacific Coast, between Sydney and Brisbane, take you past some of the world's most enticing shores where parking up for a picnic or impromptu barbecue can turn into a real event. Trains tend to stop at every single stop; however, there are a couple of coast to coast routes that go from Sydney to Perth (via the Blue Mountains and Barossa Valley) and Adelaide to Darwin (via Katherine and Alice Springs), both of which take four days and three nights.
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island and stands out from the bounty of beautiful beaches on Queensland’s South Pacific coast. Fraser's just a 45min ferry ride and features coloured sands and freshwater lakes, many of which are the cleanest on the planet. Hikers should check out the 90km walk that, although relatively easy, does require participants to be self sufficient for up to eight days.
Great Barrier Reef
There are several ways to maximise time in the Great Barrier Reef with snorkelling, scuba diving and accompanying a marine biologist on a glass bottomed boat all adding to the natural attraction. As several reefs are close to the (900) islands’ white sand shorelines everyone can appreciate the mesmerising marine life whilst, on land, rainforest trails offer a totally tropical alternative.
Great Ocean Road
Aside from being an awesome stretch of Victoria’s coastline, running from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles, the Great Ocean Road is also the world’s largest war memorial dedicated to the soldiers of WW1. A marathon route and over 100km of walking trails will take you via cliff tops, waterfalls, rivers and sandy beaches, accompanied by kookaburras, wombats, kangaroos and koalas.
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu features over 280 species of birds, many of which are endangered, including Gouldian finch, red goshawk and hooded parrots. A hike or river cruise amongst the billabongs, mangroves, woodlands and waterfalls unveils untold animal encounters so expect to see several sets of beady eyes as crocodiles, wallabies, possums and water monitors watch you pass. Check out the Aboriginal rock art, too.
Sea lions slipping in Southern Ocean spray, rock formations that are nothing short of remarkable and sheep farming tour guides who know landscapes as intimately as their own flock; Kangaroo Island never fails to deliver. Honey from Ligurian bees, ‘pure’ sheep cheese and locally produced wines are all worth the trip however, it will be Seal Bay, Cape du Couedic or the dunes at Little Sahara that last a little longer.
Calling all cosmopolitan sports fans and festival goers: Melbourne is Victoria’s city of choice and promises boutique shopping arcades, Victorian era architecture and the world’s largest tram network. With a population that combines Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian, Melbourne is majorly multicultural as expressed in the restaurants, food halls and huge, open air market, the Queen Vic.
The south and west coasts of Philip Island have been designated Important Bird Areas and although the nightly penguin parade on Summerland Beach does attract flocks of tourists, this also helps to pay for the island's preservation. Philip Island remains relatively untouched with seals and pelicans blending with friendly locals and surfable swells to create a charming old town ambiance.
Unmistakable harbour views place Sydney up there with the best of them and if you’re planning to spend a few days skipping between trendy bars, botanical gardens, art galleries and the gentrified streets of the Rocks then why not? Outer suburbs such as Bondi, Coogee and Cronulla offer sandier days out with the 10km Spit Bridge to Manley walk providing a scenic stroll via untouched bush land.
With 19 national parks and 300 smaller islands, including Macquarie, Flinders and King, Tasmania showcases some of the world’s finest wilderness and is much more than just a ‘tag on’ destination. Often termed Australia’s ‘veggie basket’, exploring the island on a self drive tour is a really exciting option with farm stays and family-run B&B’s definitely the best way to taste the Tassie difference.
The Blue Mountains
Just 50km from Sydney but a world away in scenic terms, the Blue Mountains provide day trippers and overnight visitors with railed paths, panoramic points and Australia’s steepest aerial cable car, alongside unforgettable photo ops. An early start allows for a full day in the Blue Mountains from Sydney with a train to Katoomba and a bus to Echo Point letting you off at the Seven Sisters.
Camp out in the Bungle Bungles or scramble over boulders to lunch on a wildflower meadow; the Kimberley region of Western Australia promises a rarely matched remote experience. From Aboriginal heritage and untouched beaches on the Dampier Peninsula to bush walks, gorges and striped rocks around Broome, nothing says specially guarded secret more than the Kimberley.
Wondering how anything survives in such an unforgiving landscape is one of many Uluru ruminations; and as you watch the sun set over Australia’s most iconic rock you may just impart a tiny smidgen of Aboriginal enlightenment. Camping in the Outback and interpretive walks with indigenous guides make Uluru and Kings Canyon all about experiencing Australia’s great outdoors.
Sample Australia itineraries
East Coast highlights (21 days): Sydney ► Bondi Beach Uluru ► The Outback ► Cairns ► Daintree National Park ► Great Barrier Reef ► Cairns ► Townsville ► Airlie Beach ► Rockhampton ► Brisbane ► Toowoomba ► Brisbane ► Coffs Harbour ► Sydney
South Coast highlights (21 days): Sydney ► Blue Mountains ► Sydney ► Canberra ► Melbourne ► Tasmania ► Melbourne ► Great Ocean Road ► Adelaide ► Kangaroo Island ► Adelaide ► Barossa Valley ► Adelaide ► Sydney
West Coast highlights (21 days): Perth ► Geraldton ► Kalbarri National Park ► Denham ► Shark Bay ► Coral Bay ► Exmouth ► Cape Range National Park ► Exmouth ► Karratha ► Port Hedland ► Eighty Mile Beach ► Broome ► Kununurra ► Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles) ► Katherine ► Kakadu National Park ► Darwin
Northern Territories Highlights (7 days): Darwin ► Alice Springs ► Kata Tjuta ► Uluru ► Kings Canyon ► Alice Springs ► Western MacDonnell Ranges ► Darwin ► Kakadu National Park ► Darwin
Travel times in Australia
- Sydney to Melbourne: 90 mins by plane
- Sydney to Byron Bay: 8 hrs 40 mins via Pacific Highway
- Melbourne – Tasmania: 11 hrs by ferry or 1hr by plane
- Adelaide – Uluru: 5 hrs by plane via Alice Springs
- Adelaide – Kangaroo Island: 2 hrs by road plus 45 mins by ferry
- Perth – The Kimberley: 11 hrs fly/drive via Kununurra
- Kununurra – Darwin: 12 hrs 30 mins by bus
- Darwin – Kakadu National Park: 3 hrs by road
- Darwin – Cairns: 3 hrs by plane
- Cairns – Great Barrier Reef: 1 hr by ferry and on foot
- Cairns – Brisbane: 24 hrs by train
- Brisbane – Byron Bay: 3 hrs by bus