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Perth, Adelaide, a luxury overnight train, and other places/things are still more recommended Australian experiences to consider on your visit.

But probably by the time you work you way through the lists to these options, you'll have run out of time and so perhaps you'll reserve them for a second visit, on some future occasion.

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Where to Visit in Australia part 4

Australia's 'E' list tourist attractions - and some non-attractions too

Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia

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 part three.

Also part 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 places.

Lastly on this page are some places that are perhaps always missable and which are less quintessentially Australian.


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 Sydney).

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 formations.

Perth is probably a three day stopover, plus travel time there and back.

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.

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 (MCY).

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 Principle.

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 two nights.

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 tourism.

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 here.

Click the links in the top right of this page for additional helpful information about travel to and in Australia.

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Originally published 9 Sep 2011, last update 30 May 2021

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