Where to Visit
in Australia part 3
Australia's 'C' and 'D' list
The Stuart Highway
stretches from Port Augusta near Adelaide, through Alice
Springs, and 1700 miles up to Darwin.
Part three of a four part article on places to visit in
Australia - click on to
part four or back to
of a general series on travel to and in Australia -
click the links on the right hand
side for more articles.
You're probably now starting to
fill in the time you have (and the money you have) to spend in
Australia, and having selected most or all of the A & B list
places, you'll now probably choose to become more selective
about the additional places on our C and D lists.
Don't forget we have still more
places on our E list, too! And maybe there are other places
that you want to visit that didn't make any of our lists.
The 'C' and 'D' Lists
We've only selected one item for the 'C' list, and have
uncomfortably included another three items on the 'D' list.
Uncomfortabley? Whereas probably no-one would or could
argue that Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef region in Far North
Queensland deserve to be at the top of the 'A' list, now that
we're starting to go down the lists further, the places to
consider are less distinctive and the respective rankings become
much less certain.
So consider our following rankings with even more grains of
salt, and adapt them to suit your own preferences.
C List Attraction - The Top End - Darwin and Kakadu
Bob Hawke, a former Prime Minister of Australia is reputed to
have said 'The best way to see Darwin is from 35,000 ft, in a
plane heading towards London'. We don't entirely disagree
with this statement. To be as polite as we can, Darwin is
best considered as a functional rather than attractive town.
It is more a stopping point on the way to some amazing
destinations, rather than a destination in itself.
The best of these amazing destinations is the Kakadu area east
of Darwin. You can do day tours to Kakadu, but we
recommend you spend at least one night there, and consider also
either flying one way or taking a scenic flight while in the
Also in the nearby area is the Katherine Gorge and, less
compellingly, the Litchfield National Park.
How Long to Stay in the Darwin Area
You should plan on at least two days in the Kakadu area, and if
it appeals, another day to visit Katherine. Depending on
how your arrival and departure times work out, you may need to
spend an overnight or two in Darwin itself as well.
If you wish to spend additional time, you can add another day to
your Kakadu tour (going on into Arnhemland), possibly a day tour
to Litchfield National Park, and even some time in and around
So you're looking at a three day minimum in and around Darwin,
and possibly as many as six or more days. Yes - we know it
is strange that we're recommending more time in the C list
destination than at some of the A and B list destinations, and
of course you can allocate your time any way you wish.
D List Attraction - Coober Pedy
Australia has a huge wealth of various mineral deposits,
including opals which can be found in various parts of the
country, most prominently in and around Lightning Ridge in NSW
and Coober Pedy in South Australia.
We suggest Coober Pedy as a 'D' list attraction due to the its
distinctive underground housing. To shelter from the
extreme heat, some of Coober Pedy was built underground,
including a local hotel.
Coober Pedy is a small town in the middle of nowhere, and is
accessible either by road, rail or air - if taking a train (the
Ghan) you actually stop a bit away from the town itself (about
25 miles west), and need to have pre-arranged for someone to
come and collect you.
The locals claim that opal prices are better in Coober Pedy than
in the big city stores, and they are probably correct about
that. (If you're not going to Coober Pedy, our favorite
place to buy opals is the
Outback Opal Mine,
just a bit north of Cairns - a shop with a video and other
features on how opals are mined, but not an actual mine.)
You even have a chance to 'fossick' for your own opals while in
the area, and other tours take you around the desert regions in
the vicinity, including even a tour with the local mail carrier.
It is a very different experience, although not an easy place to
get to or from.
How Long to Stay in the Coober Pedy Area
Depending on the times you arrive into and depart from Coober
Pedy, you'll probably want to spend one or two days in the area.
D List Attraction - Tasmania
Much of Australia is dry and arid, with a harsh unforgiving
climate in desert surroundings, although for sure, there are
notable exceptions, mainly dotted around the coastal regions.
For a very different type of geography and climate, there is
Tasmania; a smaller island south of Melbourne that is in many
ways more reminiscent of New Zealand - perhaps if you're not
including NZ on your Australian vacation, you should include
Tasmania instead (and, vice versa - if you are visiting NZ,
maybe there is less reason to visit Tassie too).
The state of Tasmania includes the eponymous island and several
smaller islands too. The island of Tasmania is actually
the 26th largest island in the world, but is small by
Australia's standards - it measures about 225 miles from its
northern to southern extremities, and a maximum of about 190
miles from east to west.
Its relatively compact size makes it suitable for a self-drive
tour, with the major towns where you might choose to stop over
probably being Hobart and Launceston.
Over one third of Tasmania is in national parks and World
Heritage sites. The island also has some interesting
convict history, particularly at Port Arthur (nice
panorama picture here).
One of the highlights of a Tasmanian visit is (arguably) taking
the overnight ferry between Melbourne and Devonport. Good
air service is also available to Launceston and Hobart.
How Long to Stay in Tasmania
We'd suggest three days as a minimum for a Tasmanian stay.
A day in/around Launceston, and two in/around Hobart, or
possibly doing a loop, with overnights somewhere around
Launceston, perhaps at Cradle Mountain Resort, and Hobart.
You could add another day or two to this if time allowed and
interest motivated you.
D List Attraction - A Queensland Island
We're definitely conflicted on how to categorize staying on one
of the many island resorts off the Queensland coast.
Our feeling is that if you're seeking a 'sea, sun, sand and
surf' type experience, there's no need to fly as far as
Australia to do so. Many places in the Caribbean, or
Mexico, or Hawaii can give you such experiences much closer to
home, and probably for much less money.
On the other hand, none of these closer places offer uniquely
Australian experiences, and we feel it would be disappointing to
miss out on something uniquely Australian while substituting a
generic island type experience instead.
But, on the other hand, by the time you've reached this point on
our list, you've already covered most of the ultimately
Australian experiences, and if you happen to like island stays
and water related activities, and particularly if you're
escaping from a northern hemisphere winter, then why not indeed
treat yourself to some time on an island.
There are lots of islands to choose from if you want to stay on
an island for a while, ranging from budget priced islands
designed to appeal to a younger, party-oriented crowd (Great
Keppel and Magnetic Islands spring to mind) to the huge resort
complex type (Hamilton Island - so large it has its own airport
that will accept regular jets) to the ultra luxurious (Lizard
and Hayman Islands for example).
Some islands include all food and drink in their daily rates,
others do not, or have optional plans including some but not all
food/drink. Activities are also included to varying
degrees, although motorized activities generally cost extra.
Most islands are not immediately adjacent to the Great Barrier
Reef (Dunk is an island that is right on the reef) and some are
quite a distance from the reef.
The islands are clustered more or less around the Cairns and
slightly south area, and the Whitsunday Islands north of
Brisbane, between about Gladstone in the south up as far north
How Long to Stay on an Island
In most cases, you go to an island not so much to see and do the
essential things in the vicinity, but rather to relax and
unwind. So it is harder to specify a minimum - or a
maximum - time for an island stay, but it does seem to us that
anything less than three days is not really going to be truly
relaxing, because you've no sooner arrived than you're starting
to get ready to leave again.
As for a maximum length of time, how long is s piece of string?
Only you can answer that question!
For more information
This is part three of a four part article on places to visit
in Australia - please click on to
part four which describes the
'E' List and lesser destinations in Australia or back to part two for the
'B' list Australian
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