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Australia has considerable urban energy and an increasingly fantastic food and drink scene, but what stands out is its happy outdoor lifestyle. It’s the place for public barbecues by the beach and watching surfers ride the waves.
Things To Know Before Traveling To Australia
It is also a country that embraces nature with extensive reef systems, coastal reserves and a vast network of forested national parks. Kangaroos hang out in campsites, koalas sleep in trees along hiking trails, and dolphins frolic in bays.
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Australia is also distinguished by epic. Endless blue skies stretch across the roaring backwaters – and immensely rewarding journeys wind through seemingly untouched landscapes.
Visitors to Australia require a visa. For the vast majority of people coming from the UK this will be a subclass 651 eVisitor, which is free and can be completed online.
Most of the Covid restrictions have been lifted. There is no need to be tested or show proof of vaccination before entry. However, masks are still mandatory on upcoming flights and you will still need to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while in Australia. The rules in each country are slightly different. The Department of Health website has links to each country’s restrictions.
As for the weather, the best time to visit varies greatly depending on the geographical area. Aim for May to October in the tropical north and vice versa in the south. Spring (September to November) is a pleasant point with less rain than autumn. In January, when it is the main school holidays, prices and crowds increase. It can be unbearably hot during this time.
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New Year’s Eve in Sydney is popular and truly memorable, but extremely expensive to accommodate. Other events to catch include the Melbourne Cup horse races (starting November), the Adelaide Festival (March) and Anzac Day (April 25).
Arguably one of the largest cities in the world, Sydney offers natural beauty around the harbour, a legion of enviable coastal beaches and modern urban energy in inner suburbs such as Surry Hills and Chippendale. It also really works as a beach and city break destination, with paid activities such as climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge offset by days out in the rock pools by the sea. The Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley wine region are a day trip away.
With an emphasis on culture over looks, Melbourne is full of galleries, museums and art spaces. But the real joy comes from the street culture, where specialty bars and world-class restaurants squeeze into small alleyways surrounded by world-class street art. The Victorian capital is also the starting point for the Great Ocean Road and penguin watching at Phillip Island.
Cairns is one of the many diving and snorkeling gateways to the aquatic wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef, surrounded by World Heritage-listed rainforest. Reef tours can be combined with tropical produce tasting in the Atherton Tableland, Aboriginal viewing in the Daintree Rainforest and a wide range of adrenaline-pumping activities.
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The 10km Uluru walk, with its unusual hummocks, caves and indigenous cultural sites, is the quintessential desert experience. However, most visitors don’t realize that there are many other experiences on the menu at the Red Center. Dot painting workshops, dune dinners, helicopter flights and camel rides are among the options at Uluru – and that’s before you factor in side trips to the smooth rock domes of Kata Tjuta and a jaunty gorge walk in Kings Canyon.
South West Australia is the perfect Australia for beginners. Perth offers Indian Ocean beaches, lively bars and restaurants, and hearty encounters with curious quokkas on Rottnest Island.
Meanwhile, a short trip around the southwest corner of the Western Australian capital brings quality wine tasting in Margaret River, beautiful surfing beaches, whale watching cruises from Dunsborough, tall forests and easy-to-explore caves.
On the remote west coast, surrounded by remote areas, Ningaloo is best known for its sharks. Watching the biggest fish in the world swim is really exciting. In different seasons, there is also the possibility of swimming with humpback whales and manta rays.
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But Ningaloo’s underrated glory is how close it is to the coast. A short swim on white sand beaches like Osprey Bay takes you among undulating corals and colorful shoals of fish. At Turquoise Bay, you can snorkel by being carried by the current over the reef from one end of the beach to the other.
The seriously underrated capital of the Northern Territory, Darwin offers a quirky mix of country attitude, Asian culture and bohemian whimsy. It is a hub for exploring the magnificent Top End National Parks. Litchfield National Park offers giant termite mounds, picturesque waterfalls, and natural swimming pools. Nitmiluk hosts cruises and kayak trips through the high sandstone walls of Katherine Gorge. Meanwhile, the largest of these, Kakadu National Park, offers crocodile walks, ancient Aboriginal rock formations and epic views of wide green floodplains.
Honestly, any wine region near Adelaide is fantastic to enjoy. The Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills are top spots for wine tasting and dining.
But McLaren Vale, in addition to being arguably the best place in Australia for big, meaty Australian Shiraz, has the advantage of being next to the extremely poorly marketed sand dune beaches of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Some of them, such as the very photogenic Sellicks Beach, are so big that you can drive a 4WD on them.
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Then a short ferry hop from Cape Jervis at the tip of the peninsula to Kangaroo Island, dotted with koalas, echidnas and sea lions, one of Australia’s largest wildlife reserves.
It’s a bold claim, but Australian wine tastes better than anywhere else in the world. Many cellar doors offer free tastings, a few have great restaurants, and the staff are usually happy to switch between casual sips and geek notes depending on guests’ preferences.
Most regions have operators offering full- or half-day wine tours, often with visits to cheese and chocolate factories. Practical regions include the Hunter Valley near Sydney, the Barossa Valley near Adelaide, the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne and the Swan Valley near Perth.
Australia’s vast array of aquatic experiences extends far beyond the Great Barrier Reef. Dozens of locations offer dolphin-watching cruises, with some, such as Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay or Bunbury near Perth, allowing guests to swim with wild dolphins.
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Whale watching is also excellent across the country, with Hervey Bay in Queensland and Eden in New South Wales.
You can also snorkel with sea dragons in Port Phillip Bay, kayak with dolphins in Byron Bay in NSW and swim with sea lions in Baird Bay in South Australia.
Indigenous cultural tours that explain the local Aboriginal perspective on the local landscape, history and wildlife are increasing in both number and quality. Tourism Australia has curated 185 premium Aboriginal experiences across the country, including guided walks, art workshops and bush food tastings.
Self-driving is an engaging way to see a country that encourages freedom. Distances are longer but fuel is cheaper than in the UK. The highways are well maintained and somewhat reduce the traffic load outside the big cities.
What You Need To Know Before You Travel To Australia
Long-distance rail services operated by NSW Trainlink and Queensland Rail Travel are spotty, quite slow and miss the most attractive coastal towns. Bus services like Greyhound usually have better stops and convenient multi-destination fares, but you need to plan your schedule.
Fastest: The only direct flight to Australia is Qantas’ service from Heathrow to Perth. This takes 16 hours and 45 minutes.
Cheapest: Otherwise, expect to change planes somewhere. Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways offer regional services from London and no airline is reliably the cheapest. A lot depends on which airline has a promotional offer at the time. The minimum one-way flight time is 19 hours 20 minutes with Qatar Airways to Perth and 22 hours 30 minutes with Singapore Airlines to Sydney.
The best things to do in Australia – wildlife encounters and beaches – are usually free. Affordable cottage accommodation in coastal holiday parks often combines both. Generally aimed at Australian caravanning families, these parks usually offer some relatively spacious multi-bedroom units with kitchens and sometimes kangaroos hopping around outside.
What You Need To Know Before Traveling To Australia
Tipping is not expected in Australia, but some choose to round the bill or leave 10 percent.
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