Where to Visit
in Australia part 1
Australia's 'A' list
The wonderful Skyrail
experience in the Cairns region should be on your 'A' List
of must do activities in Australia.
Part one of a four part article on places to visit in
Australia - click on to
of a general series on travel to and in Australia -
click the links on the right hand
side for more articles.
There's such a lot to see and
do in Australia that your problem is not so much what to do and
where to go, but instead it is a more delightful and possibly
more difficult problem - what to omit and where to not visit.
To help you in this process, we
have prepared prioritized lists of what we consider to be
Australia's most generally appealing destinations.
We recommend you don't attempt to
see too much on each trip to Australia, so that you don't spend a
disproportionate amount of time traveling between destinations.
Prioritizing Your Australian
There's a big problem when visiting Australia - so much of the
country is interesting, different, unusual, and enjoyable.
There are very few areas that can be immediately crossed off
your doubtless long list of places to see and things to do while
You're going to run out of time - and/or money - long before you
run out of great things to see and do in Australia.
The first part of your planning process is to accept this stark
reality. Don't try to see and do the entire country in a
single visit; you'll end up exhausted and overwhelmed.
Your objective is to relax and enjoy your visit, not to run
around like a mad thing, furiously checking places off a huge
What you should do is make a list of the places you want to
visit, more or less in priority, and perhaps set a minimum and
ideal amount of time (there's no such thing as a maximum!) you'd
want to spend in each place.
Then compare your time and cost budget with the time and cost
implications of traveling around Australia to multiple places
and decide how much you can include and how much you'll have to
leave for another time.
One final thought. If you wanted to 'cheat' a bit, you
might decide to deliberately leave out one or two of the things
you most wanted to see/do, so as to encourage your return to
Australia in the future.
Along these lines, sometimes people choose their destinations
based on a common 'theme'. One theme might be food and
drink; another might be cities, arts and culture, another might
be beaches and sunshine type activities, another might be
wildlife, another might be natural beauty, and so on.
Creating Our Own Recommended List
of Places to Visit in Australia
Before we present our own
list to you, we need to offer a disclaimer, an explanation, and
First, the explanation.
We're preparing this list based on our own experiences of helping
tens of thousands of primarily American tourists visit Australia,
and what we have discovered they most and least enjoy.
Our ratings are far from
exact, with most of the items being arguably appropriate for
inclusion in the category we've placed them, or in a category
higher, or a category lower. So use these ratings for
guidance but don't adhere to them too strictly. Which leads
Second, the disclaimer.
We're of course using subjective judgment and trying to create
'average' scores for places based on what works for most people.
Your own interests may be very
different, and so our list may not be in line with how your own
list will be developed. For example, you might want to add a
three day live-aboard dive cruise to your time in Far North
Queensland, which would totally change the time needed in that
area. Or in any other way, your interests may diverge from
the generic 'averages' we are considering.
Neither you nor we are right or
wrong - we are just looking at the topic from different
Third, the apology.
We've overlooking or downgrading some truly amazing places in
Australia that are world class by any other standard.
Anything and anywhere in Australia is sure to delight you.
But some places are simply better than others, even though the
'less best' places are still excellent too.
Australia's A List and How Many
Locations to Include in Your Itinerary
We place two parts of
Australia on the highest priority A list of places you simply must
The first is Sydney, and the
second is Tropical North Queensland.
If you are spending a week or
less in Australia, it is generally best to spend all the time in
one location, particularly if you've traveled a long way to get to
Australia. Figure on a day for rest and relaxation and
recovery after your long journey, and only after that do your
'quality' days of enjoyment start to tick over.
If you are staying up to about
a week and a half, then two or at the most three locations would
be an appropriate itinerary to build.
Then, as you add extra time,
you can consider adding an extra destination every 2 - 4 days.
Allowing for Traveling Time
Remember that Australia is a
huge country, and you can end up spending an entire day simply
traveling from one place to another.
Don't forget to allow not just
for the time it takes for a plane to fly from one airport to the
other, but all the rest of the time too. From when you start
packing your bags, to checking out of the hotel, to getting to the
airport an hour or two prior to departure, to your flight, to
collecting luggage at the other end, to then completing your
journey by getting to your next hotel, checking in, getting to
your room and doing some unpacking - all these other parts of the
total travel equation can easily add four or more hours to the
flight time by itself.
In other words, even the
shortest flight represents a good half day of time for the total
process, and probably messes up the entire day in terms of hoping
to combine the travel with a 'major' activity that might take half
a day or more to enjoy.
That also points to one
benefit of traveling when it is not winter in Australia. You
have more hours of daylight, allowing you to include more
activities in a day.
A List Attraction - Sydney
The first of our two A list
locations is Sydney.
This city is Australia's largest city (population of about 4.5
million) and also one of its oldest (the site of Britain's first
penal colony in Australia and founded in 1788).
It is located around the
shores of a gorgeous harbor, and has the country's largest
international airport. It is a clean lovely city full of
enjoyable experiences, and is blessed with a wonderful climate
pretty much year-round.
In addition to things to see
and do in the city itself, there is plenty more to see and do in
the form of short day touring from Sydney too.
How Long to Stay in Sydney
We recommend you have a
minimum of three days in Sydney. One day can be used for
organized touring in Sydney itself, one day for touring outside of
Sydney, and the third day would be a 'free' day to stroll around,
sightsee, relax, and enjoy.
You could easily add another
two days in Sydney before reaching the point where time might be
better spent traveling on to other places.
On the other hand, some people
travel to Australia for a week or longer and spend the entire time
in Sydney, so if you are only going to Australia for about a week,
maybe you should simply base yourself in Sydney for the entire
duration rather than spend some of your precious in-country time
traveling to other places.
A List Attraction - Cairns and
Tropical North Queensland
If you have time to visit only
one other place in Australia, it should probably be the region
known variously as Far North Queensland or Tropical North
Queensland, with Cairns as the major gateway city.
Here is the best place to go
and see the Great Barrier Reef and also the World Heritage
Rainforest - indeed, this is the only place in the world with two
very different World Heritage areas (the Reef and the Rainforest)
adjacent to each other.
Other things to do include
Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands.
How Long to Stay in the
Cairns/Tropical North Queensland Area
We recommend a minimum of
three days in this part of Australia. One day can be used to
visit the Great Barrier Reef, another day to visit the Rainforest,
and a third day perhaps for Kuranda. A fourth day and even
fifth day could easily be spent as well before you started to get
to the point where your allocation of time was becoming
For more information
This is part one of a four part article on places to visit
in Australia - please click on to part two which describes the
'B' list Australian
destinations we recommend.
Click the links in the top
right of this page for additional helpful information about
travel to and in Australia.
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2 Sep 2011, last update
21 Jul 2020