Where to Visit
in Australia part 4
Australia's 'E' list
tourist attractions - and some non-attractions too
This generic beach resort
area picture depicts Surfer's Paradise in Australia - hardly
a quintessentially Australian experience.
Part four of a four part article on places to visit in
Australia - click back to
of a general series on travel to and in Australia -
click the links on the right hand
side for more articles.
Winding up this four part
article on where to go in Australia are places on our 'E' list -
places that you'd definitely enjoy, but perhaps also placs best
left for a return visit to Australia in the future.
On the other hand, the paradox of
it is that these less well known places may actually be more
memorable and distinctive than some of the 'A' and 'B' list
Lastly on this page are some
places that are perhaps always missable and which are less
The 'E' List
In most categorizations, being included on an 'E' list would
sound like representing a substandard categorization, and
something to feel less than triumphant about.
This is not the case with our E list of Australian places to
visit. While we view them as nonessential parts of a first
Australian experience, we definitely also see them as places
you'd enjoy going to and be pleased to have visited and
experienced, indeed, due to their not so well known nature, they
may give you more distinctive and vivid impressions and memories
than going to the archetypal places that you already half 'know'
from all the brochure and other material you've seen about them.
But if you did not get to see and do all - or even any - of the
items on this list, you'd probably not feel that you'd failed in
your desire to see and do a representative sampling of all that
Australia has to offer.
E List Attraction - Perth
Perth is a lovely clean city on Australia's west coast, and
there's a lot to like about it.
But it is thousands of miles from pretty much everywhere else in
Australia, and it is a huge long way to go 'just' to see Perth
(although there are some interesting things to see in the
broader region around Perth).
Perth is so remote that it
is often claimed to be closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney
- a memorable claim, albeit not entirely correct (2400 miles on
a great circle route to Singapore compared to 2060 miles to
If you do go to Perth, you will probably want to travel around
the Perth area some more to make such a long journey worth your
while. Locally, you'll probably go to Fremantle and maybe
over to Rottnest Island, and heading further out of town - about
a three hour drive - you can get to the amazing Pinnacles rock
Perth is probably a three day stopover, plus travel time there
E List Attraction - Adelaide and Kangaroo Island
Adelaide is a clean lovely city which slightly suffers from a
similar 'problem' to Perth. While it is a nice city, there
is very little unique or distinctive about it, and no compelling
reason to go out of your way (as would be required) to include
it in an Australian itinerary.
For that reason, we estimate that probably fewer than 1% of
American visitors go to Adelaide (or to Perth) on their first
visit to Australia. Most people who do go there are on a
repeat visit to Australia.
If you do visit Adelaide, there are a number of interesting day
tour type activities to enjoy, including going for a riverboat
tour on the Murray River (Australia's longest river, almost 1500
miles long), traveling out to the Barossa Valley winefields
(probably including a stop in Hahndorf), and going over to
Kangaroo Island is a short flight or reasonable length drive and
ferry ride away from Adelaide. It can be visited in a
single (long) day, but most people choose to stay at least one
night on Kangaroo Island.
The island is home to a huge variety of wildlife, including
kangaroos (no surprise about that) and many koalas as well as
seals and assorted other creatures.
If you're going to Adelaide it is probably a three day stopover,
or four if you do an overnight on Kangaroo Island.
E List Attraction - The Sunshine Coast
Conspicuously absent from any of the lists so far (but see down
to the last list) is Brisbane or the conglomeration to the south
of it generally known as 'The Gold Coast'.
North of Brisbane is a much less over-developed area, generally
known as 'The Sunshine Coast', with the major towns being
Maroochydore. Noosaville and Caloundra are other places to
consider staying in.
While we view Brisbane and the Gold Coast as eminently missable, we like
the Sunshine Coast.
If you were to visit there, you'd probably want to go for a
drive through the lovely and distinctive Glass House Mountain
National Park and possibly the Blackall Mountains (more like
hills than mountains in both cases) too.
A must do in the area is a day safari up to and around Fraser
Island - World Heritage listed and the largest sand island in
the world. But it isn't just sand dunes - it has over 100
freshwater lakes, up to 40,000 migratory birds, wild dingos,
shipwrecks, and much more, with amazingly beautiful rainforests
growing in the sand dunes. Well worth a visit.
You can drive to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane (it is little
more than an hour's drive north of Brisbane airport, which
conveniently is on the north side of Brisbane city), or fly
directly in to its local airport just north of Maroochydore
You're probably looking at three days to experience the key
attractions of the Sunshine Coast.
E List Attraction - An Outback Town
We're very hesitant at putting this on any list at all, due to
the potential application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty
What does quantum physics have to do with tourism in outback
Australia? Well, this principle says (among other things)
that the simple act of observing something changes it.
That is true in some of the more esoteric aspects of quantum
physics, and it is also true in tourism. Any place that is
'unspoiled by tourists' becomes - yes, you guessed it,
spoiled by tourists if it is featured and written up in
positive 'You've got to see this' terms.
That's not to say we're keeping Australia's 'best' outback towns
a secret. Rather, it is to say that the abstract notion of
an outback town, perhaps as portrayed in a Crocodile Dundee
movie, is somewhat fanciful at best, and definitely very
fragile, and frankly, gawking tourists are only moderately
welcomed in such places.
Furthermore, the 'best' outback towns are massively out of the
way. You can't fly a scheduled jet into their airport, go
on an air conditioned coach sightseeing tour, stay in a four
star hotel overnight, and enjoy great cuisine.
Instead, you'll need to drive hundreds of miles, probably on
unsealed dry dusty roads, and you'll end up with basic
accommodation in a basic country pub/hotel.
If your travels already take you to Darwin and Katherine, or to
Coober Pedy, or even inland a way into the Atherton Tablelands,
or out of one of Australia's main cities only 100 miles or so,
you'll probably find such places that will meet, to a greater or
lesser extent, your expectations. You don't necessarily go
into the heart of the Outback.
If you do choose to stop in some type of outback town, you
probably will only spend a single night there.
E List Attraction - A Multi-Day Train Journey
Australia has two famous trains that offer upmarket traveling
experiences where you ride the train primarily to enjoy the
journey, rather than as a simple way of traveling from Point A
to Point B.
The first of these is the Indian Pacific - a train that travels
east/west across the bottom of the country, from Perth in the
west, and over to Adelaide and on to Sydney in the East, a total
of 2,698 miles and taking much of four days and three nights to
complete the traverse, including the longest straight stretch of
railroad track in the world, across the Nullabor Plains.
The second of these is the Ghan - a train that travels
north/south through the middle of the country, from Adelaide in
the south and up through Alice Springs (but not Ayers Rock) and
all the way to Darwin, an 1846 mile journey over three days and
The Ghan used to travel only between Adelaide and Alice Springs,
but when the track was extended to Darwin in 2004, the train
extended its route to match.
Both trains include three classes of service (Platinum, Gold and
Red) with varying standards of cabins and accoutrements.
Trains operate twice a week for some of the year, and only once
a week the rest of each year; and - yes - you absolutely do need
to book in advance.
More details on the
operating company's website. The company - Great
Southern Rail - also operates two lesser trains, The Overland
which travels between Adelaide and Melbourne (about a ten hour
journey done during the day) and The Southern Spirit which goes
between Brisbane and Melbourne/Adelaide.
The Lesser List
We're not sure what the least politically incorrect description
is for this list of places which are essentially places we
suggest you avoid.
When we suggest you avoid these places, we are not saying that
they are bad places. Not at all, indeed some of them are
massive tourist meccas that enjoy huge amounts of international
Instead, they are places which we feel are perhaps over-rated,
or which have little essentially Australian about them, or which
provide experiences you can recreate at lower cost and more
conveniently, somewhere else in the world.
Lesser List - Brisbane and/or Surfer's Paradise
Brisbane and particularly the garish Surfer's Paradise area
south of Brisbane reminds us of Hawaii. Surfer's Paradise
has the same trashy stores and overpopulated beaches lined with
high rise hotels, with its only distinctive feature being that
it takes almost three times as long to fly to Brisbane as it
does to Honolulu from the US West Coast.
Question - why would you fly three times further to experience
the same generic beach experience you could get in Hawaii (or,
for that matter, in a Mexican resort)?
Follow-up Question - why would you spend (waste?) your precious
time in Australia, a country brimming with unique animals,
sights, and experiences, by lying on a generic beach doing
nothing. Sand is sand, water is water, sun is sun.
So we generally recommend you don't include this region on an
Australian trip. Of course, if you live in the mid-west,
where the nearest ocean is thousands of miles away, and if
you're traveling in mid-winter, leaving behind snow drifts
several yards high and sub-zero temperatures, well, just
possibly maybe, we might understand your desire to soak up a bit
of sun and warmth!
Lesser List - Canberra
Canberra is a nice city. It was an artificial creation - a
compromise location for the new nation, unable to agree where
its capital should be located, and with the two obvious choices
(Sydney or Melbourne) being too vigorously supported by each
state and too vehemently opposed by the other state.
So, sort of in the middle between (actually closer to Sydney),
the place now known as Canberra was chosen to become the
nation's capital, with the region being carved out of New South
Wales and designated 'Australian Capital Territory' (a bit like
our Washington in the District of Columbia).
The name Canberra was chosen in preference to some appalling
other names that were suggested, including Olympus, Paradise,
Captain Cook, Shakespeare, Kangaremu, Sydmeladperho, Eucalypta
and Myola. It is said to be a variation on a native
aboriginal word that means 'Meeting Place'.
An international competition for the design of Canberra was held
in 1911, with the winner being a Chicago based architect, Walter
Burley Griffin, with a somewhat geometrical layout centered
around an artificial lake.
The city boomed - unsurprising perhaps, being as how its key
'business' is politics and government officials and nowadays has
almost 360,000 people. It has some impressive buildings,
most erected in the last 40 years, including the National
Library, the High Court, the National Gallery the National
Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.
The earlier Parliament building was replaced with a new
parliament building in 1988.
So Canberra is a nice city, but it isn't really very steeped in
Australian history or tradition and as such, is not an essential
part of a tourist's Australian experience.
For more information
This is part four of a four part article on places to visit
in Australia - please click back to part three for the
'C' and 'D' lists of Australian
destinations or go all the way back to the
first part of the series
Click the links in the top
right of this page for additional helpful information about
travel to and in Australia.
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9 Sep 2011, last update
21 Jul 2020