Australia is both a country and a continent between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. The majority of the population lives in coastal areas where the largest cities flourish: Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Adelaide. The capital, Canberra, is the only major city located inland. The vast inland area of the country is called Outback and it is dotted with small towns and wilderness parks and wildlife habitats worth exploring.
Australia has a strong Aboriginal heritage and a history of indigenous people inhabiting the country way back 65,000 years ago. Arts and crafts with Aboriginal motives and style are very popular and can be found in every corner. Nowadays, Australia is a melting pot of nations and cultures, similar to the US, but on a much smaller scale.
The country’s iconic landmark is the Sydney Opera House, a unique architectural gem in Sydney Harbour and, among others, a symbol of Australia’s modern age. There are many national parks where visitors can enjoy wonderful nature and engage in activities such as hiking camping and wildlife watching.
Coastal cities offer various entertainment activities, including water sports, snorkeling, scuba diving, and marine life exploration. Australia has something to offer to every type of visitor and it is a family-friendly destination. Enjoy!
1. Quick facts
- Official name: Commonwealth of Australia
- Capital: Canberra
- Country population: 22.9 million
- Area: 7.7 million sq km (2.9 million sq miles)
- Major language: English
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 80 years (men), 84 years (women)
- Currency: Australian dollar
2. Where is it?
Australia is part of the Australia and Oceania continent, consisting also of New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and thousands of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, together with the Melanesia and Polynesia groups. It is the sixth-largest country in the world (by area size), and although it is very underpopulated, it has a density only of 2.99 persons per square kilometer.
3. Visa requirements
As with many countries, your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete your visit to Australia, so please plan ahead of your visit. You will need a visa to enter Australia for tourism, regardless of your country of origin. The only country allowed to get a visa on arrival is New Zealand.
Fortunately, there is an online visa application process where you can obtain your visa before arrival. Depending on your country of origin, your visa will be free (for most European countries) or for a fee of about $20.
4. Getting there
Getting to Australia is best via air, due to its remote location. Also, traveling between major cities is also recommended by air as well, due to the distance. The top points of entry are Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, and Darwin.
The list of cheapest flights to main Australian cities is shown below.
- Honolulu — Sydney from $208
- San Francisco — Sydney from $397
- Los Angeles — Melbourne from $456
- Los Angeles — Sydney from $488
- Los Angeles — Brisbane from $490
- Phoenix — Brisbane from $511
- San Diego — Coolangatta (Gold Coast) from $523
- New York — Sydney from $541
- Phoenix — Sydney from $543
- Phoenix — Melbourne from $564
5. Where to stay in Australia?
Depending on where you want to go in Australia, your options for accommodation vary from standard hotels or Airbnb to wilderness lodges, resorts, lighthouses, pubs, and even sheep and cattle stations. So, there is accommodation for every type of traveler.
It is up to you and your budget and personal preferences. For budget (and young) travelers, there is some cheap accommodation to choose from, such as hostels.
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6. Moving around
Transport in Australia varies from city to city, but most major cities have developed commuter train and bus networks, which is great for moving around when you are staying within city limits. There is also a reliable taxi and shuttle service in every city. For intercity transport, we recommend air traffic, due to the vast distances between large cities. You can still travel by road and rail to inland small towns and for visiting sites in the Outback.
In many coastal locations, ferry and boat transport is an option, both for commute and sightseeing, so you can give it a try as well.
7. Food in Australia
Australia’s food has influences by original settlers coming from the UK in the late 18th century, which mixed with indigenous eating habits. Later on, when Australia became try a melting pot of nations with massive immigration after WWII, there are very few food types that are truly Australian.
One of these foods is certainly Vegemite, a dark paste, made of vegetables, yeast, and spices, and mentioned infamous song ‘Down Under’ by Man at Work. It is used as a food supplement for making sandwiches and toast. It’s an acquired taste for non-Australians. Meat pies are also famous Australian food, although not entirely local. Chicken parmigiana is another not-so-authentic food here, but very popular, especially in pubs. You can have kangaroo meat, which is definitely of Australian origin.
Barramundi is a fish meal, made of fresh sea bass, and shrimp on a barbie is often linked to Australians, but they actually call shrimps – prawns, so there a confusion there.
From the sweet side of Aussie cuisine, we have Pavlova, meringue cake with cream and fruit (New Zealanders are claiming this as their invention as well), Anzac biscuits, traditional biscuits from WWI, Lamington, sponge cake with chocolate cover and sprinkled with coconut and several more.
Apart from, more or less, Australian food, other ethnic cuisines are very popular here, so you can have great Mediterranean food (Greek and Italian), Chinese or Thai, or any world-famous chain with a specific Aussie twist.
And of course, don’t forget to try some of the world-known Australian wines.
How safe is Australia for tourists and to move around?
Australia is very safe; it is ranked as the top safest country in the world (on various indexes). Tourist areas are generally safe, both for single tourists and groups or families, but extra caution for pickpocketers is advised.
Australia is not that costly for tourists; the costliest part is usually an airplane ticket if you are traveling there from Europe or from the US, but some places are more expensive than others. For example, Sydney and Melbourne are the most expensive cities, but Adelaide and Perth are not as many.
Australia has a moderate climate in general, but due to the size of the country, the climate varies from north to south, wherein the north is mostly hot with dry and wet seasons, while the south has more four seasons of weather, and is inverted from the northern hemisphere – summer is from December until end of February, while winter is from June to August.
11. Best time to visit Australia
Australia is in the southern hemisphere, so when in the northern hemisphere is summertime, Australia has winter and vice versa. The top season is from April to September when airfares are also quite low and the weather is really nice, meaning no rain. The low season is from October to the end of March when can be really hot, humid, and with lots of rain.
The busiest time is from Boxing Day (26th December) until the end of January, when most Australians go for summer vacation, so this time of the year should be avoided by foreign tourists.
12. Money matters
Australia’s currency is the Australian Dollar and it is much weaker than the US dollar or Euro, so prices might look very high until you adjust to the exchange rate.
Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving a tip in the restaurant or for a taxi ride.
There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in Australian Dollars with a fee. Major banks don’t charge ATM fees to foreigners, but privately operated ATMs may sometimes charge high fees. However, the machine should warn you about the charge so you have a choice to cancel the transaction before committing to it.
13. What to see in Australia?
It would take you weeks, even months to explore the entire Australia as it is a very big country, so here are some top recommendations.
Great Barrier Reef. Located off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia, this is the largest and most unique ecosystem on Earth, visible from outer space. Thousands of coral reefs and islands stretch over a distance of 2,300 kilometers.
Sydney Opera House. Australia’s world-known landmark with a unique shape, housing performing arts: opera, theatre, music, and dance. Offering guided tours.
Uluru. Also known as Ayers Rock, this massive sandstone monolith is located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Northern Territory, the nearest town being Alice Springs. It is a sacred site to indigenous Australians.
Great Ocean Road. Coastal route with many landmarks. A 243-kilometer (151 mi) stretch of a road along the southeastern coast of Victoria.
Sydney Harbour Bridge. Steel arch bridge across Sydney Harbour with rail, vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic. The iconic structure opened in the early 20th century in Sydney. Offering BridgeClimb and the Pylon Lookout attractions and exhibitions.
Bondi Beach. Popular surfer location, white sand crescent shape beach with constant sea waves, located in Sydney.
Whitsunday Islands. A total of 74 Islands stretched between the northeast coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, most of them uninhabited. Covered with rainforests and with sandy beaches, they are popular for hiking.
Fraser Island. Massive, long sand island with freshwater lakes, located off Queensland coast, north from Brisbane.
The Twelve Apostles. Popular attraction along with the Great Ocean Road – natural rock stacks on the shore.
Kakadu National Park. Massive, diverse national park in the Northern Territory (north Australia) with more than 2,000 plant species and various wildlife types.
Darling Harbour. West Sydney harbor and leisure area. Many attractions, including museums, galleries, parks, cruises, and lots of places to eat and shop.
Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park. A protected area located in Northern Territory. It hosts both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Great for hiking, bird watching, and nature photography.
Port Jackson. Combination of waters of Sydney Harbour, Middle Harbour, North Harbour, and the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers. Offers many recreational activities, including Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Daintree Rainforest. Large tropical rainforest on the northeast coast of Queensland. Several endemic plants grow there. Offering visitors center and hiking activity.
Outback. Most of Australia’s inland area and remote costs are called the Outback. Mostly unpopulated and arid areas.
Phillip Island. Just south of Melbourne, this island is a popular destination to watch a famous penguin parade at sunset.
Whitehaven Beach. A 7 km long, white sand beach located on Whitsunday Island, off the coast of Queensland. Perfect for swimming in its turquoise waters
Circular Quay. A harbor, formerly operational port and nowadays international passenger shipping port, public square and popular tourism spot.
Sunshine Coast. Located north of Brisbane, this is the area on the Queensland coast populated with beach resorts and an offering of water sports.
Hamilton Island. The most popular tourist spot on the Great Barrier Reef. White sandy beaches with sailing, diving, and luxury resorts with golf courses.
The Rocks. Historic neighborhood near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Many shops for handmade fashion and sellers of street food. Popular tourist area.
Cape Tribulation. Part of the Daintree National Park and Mount Sorrow, located in northeast Queensland, this is the most popular Australia ecotourism destination.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. A 7.5 km long, spectacular cable ride over the rainforest. Located north of Cairns, northeastern Australia.
Grampians National Park. A nature reserve in Victoria is famous for forested parts of sandstone mountains, wildflowers, and wildlife, including echidnas and wallabies. Popular with climbers on ridges areas.
Freycinet National Park. Located on the east coast of Tasmania, a large island off the coast south of Melbourne, this mountainous coastal national park is famous for white sandy beaches with campsites.
Royal Botanic Garden. Massive garden in Sydney, hosting many plant species and recreational areas. Famous for its rose garden, fernery, and ‘Jurassic Jungle’ for children.
Yarra River. Located in east-central Victoria, ending up in the Melbourne area. Offers boat cruises and trails.
Three Sisters. An iconic trio of rock formations, east of Sydney, in Blue Mountain National Park. Platform views are available to this natural wonder.
Kings Canyon. A canyon in Australia’s Northern Territory, over 100 m deep. Popular for camping and hiking trails.
Hunter Region. The winery region north of Sydney has a history back to the early 19th century. Many wine tours are available to major wineries or small family-owned places.
Green Island. An island with rainforest in the Cairns Region, Queensland. Popular for snorkeling and boat trips with a glass bottom.
Cradle Mountain. Part of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania, this mountain is famous for hiking trails and amazing lake views.
Blue Mountains National Park. The protected area west of Sydney. Popular with walking and biking trails.
The Pinnacles. Located in Nambung National Park, north of Perth in Western Australia, this desert area is covered with unique limestone pillars. Great for scenic photography.
Palm Cove. Palm trees lined the beach in Cairns, Queensland. Popular with tourists for spas, eateries, and day trips to rainforests and boat trips.
Sea World Gold Coast. Massive oceanographic theme park with marine animals, and polar bears, offering shows, rides, and tours. Located on Gold Coast, south of Brisbane.
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. More than 700 species of freshwater and marine are hosted in this great aquarium in Sydney. Featuring species of the Great Barrier Reef.
Kuranda Scenic Railway. Railway dating back from the late 19th century, traveling through the dense rainforest from Cairns. Spectacular views of nature throughout the journey.
Kings Park. A massive park overlooking central Perth, with botanical gardens, natural bushland, and State War Memorial.
Great Otway National Park. National park in southern Victoria, covering coastland, beaches, and the mountains. There are several waterfalls inside the park and it is an area with Aboriginal heritage and history.
Litchfield National Park. The massive area of about 1,500 km2, south of Darwin in the Northern Territory, this park has waterfalls, creeks, and rainforests and it is popular with campsites and hike trails.
Flinders Street railway station. Iconic, early 20th-century railway and metro hub, located in Melbourne. It is famous for being haunted, according to a popular tale.
Barossa Valley. Large wine region with scenic views, north of Adelaide. Known for its vineyards, eateries, and wine-tasting tours.
Katoomba Scenic World. Tourist attraction about 100 km west of Sydney, offering dramatic scenic views, a cable car ride, and a railway.
Jervis Bay. Large, 102 km2 oceanic bay and a village on the south coast of New South Wales. Offering scuba diving, whale and dolphin watching, and visits to Booderee National Park and camping.
Lord Howe Island. A small and beautiful island in the Tasmanian Sea, famous for white sandy beaches, tropical forests, surfing, and scuba diving.
Daintree National Park. The vast area north of Cairns, in eastern Australia, with mountain rainforests and beaches. Popular for camping and hiking.
14. Interesting facts about Australia
- After Athens, Greece, Melbourne has the world’s largest Greek population.
- The Australian state of Tasmania has the world’s cleanest air.
- The Great Barrier Reef has its own mailbox.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Australia!