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Things to Do in Australia

With its imitable mix of nature, culture, and laid-back coastal cool, there’s far more to Australia than koalas and kangaroos. The cosmopolitan style and iconic cityscape of Sydney and its opera house don’t compromise the quality of Bondi Beach, ripe for surfing and sunbathing. In Melbourne, a cutting-edge culinary scene and nearby vineyards are a top draw for foodies. And in Cairns, opportunities to spot wildlife in tropical rain forests or the Coral Sea abound. If you’re a thrill seeker, climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, take a hot-air balloon over Alice Springs, or go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Visit Adelaide’s Kangaroo Island, watch dolphins at Port Douglas, or snorkel with tropical marine life on Fraser Island if nature is your bag. And, if you’re after unique and spectacular sights, you’ll be spoilt for choice in the Land Down Under. Natural wonders and World Heritage sites include the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Ayers Rock in Uluru (best seen on a sunrise tour), and the imposing Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains. If that’s not enough, flightseeing tours of the Whitsunday Islands, excursions to Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, and a ride on Melbourne’s colonial tramcar restaurant should also be added to your Oz itinerary.
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Great Barrier Reef
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The Great Barrier Reef is Australia's greatest natural treasure, and the world’s largest coral reef. This underwater wonderland stretches for 2,300 km (1,426 miles) from Bundaberg to Australia's northernmost tip. At its closest, it's only 30 km (18.5 miles) away from the Queensland coast.

The Great Barrier Reef encompasses almost 3,000 individual reefs. Their multicoloured beauty is made up of 400 types of living and dead coral polyps, home to around 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 breeds of clams, 500 types of seaweed, 200 species of birds, 1,500 different sponges and half a dozen varieties of turtles.

The Great Barrier Reef is also dotted with around 900 islands, including coral cays such as Green Island and Heron Island, along with the Whitsundays sand islands. Fringing reefs surround the islands, while the outer reef faces away from the mainland and islands and out to sea.

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Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge National Park)
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Nitmiluk (also called Katherine Gorge) is the deep path cut through the sandstone by the Katherine River, and the Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge National Park is where you can go to lap up the luscious experience of the Gorge, whether that be swimming in it (sometimes with harmless freshwater crocodiles), canoeing in it, hiking around it, gazing it from an observation deck, flying over it on a helicopter...or any combination of the above.

The park is run by the traditional owners, the Jawoyn, in conjunction with the Australian government. It's a well-appointed place with lots of visitor facilities (and lots of visitors, especially in the dry season). You can choose your level of activity, from lounging around at your campsite or the visitor center café to strenuous canoeing trips or hikes. But make sure you take at least one long hike, perhaps to see the Aboriginal rock art, or at least to get sticky enough to make cooling off in the river a delight.

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Swan River
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Swan River carves its way through the middle of the city of Perth before joining with the sea.

Fed by the Avon, Canning and Helena Rivers, the Swan River itself is only around 60km long. Over 130 species of fish inhabit the Swan River, including bull sharks, catfish, rays and bream. Bottlenose dolphins are also regularly seen in the estuary.

One of the easiest ways to appreciate the beauty of the Swan River is simply to take a walk along its banks. Cycling and walking paths line the foreshore, and parklands along the water’s edge keep things interesting. Circuiting the river by the Narrows Bridge and the Causeway is a casual 10km walk well worth undertaking.

Cruises along the Swan River are also popular, often lasting a few hours – or simply take the ferry across the harbour for a cheaper option. Jet boating and parasailing are activities less suited to appreciating the quiet beauty of the river, but guaranteed to get your heart pumping.

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Sydney Harbour
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Its sparkling waters and iconic sights draw visitors from all over the world who wish to enjoy the beauty and excitement of the harbor. On any day, Sydney Harbour is dotted with sail boats and ferries which stand out on the vibrant blue waters. With nearly 150 miles (240 kilometers) of shoreline, the harbor is a breathtaking expanse awaiting the exploration of its visitors.

A visit to Sydney Harbour will not disappoint, as the area is home to many of Sydney’s top attractions and offers some of the city’s best activities. A must-see (and impossible to miss) structure of Sydney Harbour is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which you can cross or climb for stunning views. Within walking distance are the Taronga Zoo, the historic Rocks area, Circular Quay, and the famous Sydney Opera House.

To get the best views of the harbor it is recommended that you enjoy a cruise through its waterways, and perhaps stop off at one of the many islands that Sydney Harbour embraces.

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Busselton Jetty
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At over a mile in length, the Busselton Jetty is the longest of its kind found anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Because Busselton’s Geographe Bay is far too shallow for ships, the Jetty was constructed as a means of transporting cargo to deeper water. Though ships no longer dock here today, Busselton Jetty is now a draw for legions of coastal visitors, who stroll the jetty, take in the views, and swim in the waters of Geographe Bay whenever it’s warm enough in summer. Aside from the scenic stroll over water, a popular activity at Busselton Jetty is visiting the Underwater Observatory, where a spiral staircase leads 26 feet to the ocean floor below. With 11 portholes for viewing beneath water, the Observatory offers a look at marine life inhabiting the artificial reef, which includes a colorful collection of coral that’s rare for the southern latitude.

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Green Island
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Lapped by the sea 27 km (16.5 miles) from the mainland, Green Island is one of the most popular island day-trip destinations from Cairns. A true coral cay, the island is covered in rainforest and surrounded by coral reefs for snorkeling adventures. The island's luxury resort has a swimming pool for day visitors' use, along with a restaurant, snack kiosk and several bars.

While you're on Green Island you can visit the tropical aquarium, follow the self-guided island walking track, take a short stroll along nature boardwalks leading through the rainforest, and spot turtles swimming in the sea off the island's patrolled beach.

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Uluru (Ayers Rock)
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Uluru - or Ayers Rock - is Australia's proud symbol, and site of spiritual significance for the Anangu people. Like an iceberg, it's believed that only a third of the big red rock lies above ground. What we can see measures 3.6 km (2.5 miles) long, 348 meters (1,141 feet) tall, so Uluru is an awfully big rock. Ayers Rock is known for its fabulous colors at dawn and sunset, when the pitted rock surface turns from ocher brown to a rich burnished orange. Walking tracks lead around the base of the rock, ranging from easy 45-minute strolls to the circumnavigation which can take up to four hours and passes caves, paintings and sacred sites. The Anangu people ask visitors not to climb their sacred rock, and it is a dangerously steep and windy ascent. Instead, taking a tour led by the Anangu is a very rewarding experience, as is visiting their cultural center to learn the Dreamtime stories and cultural significance of the site.
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Agincourt Reefs
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The Great Barrier Reef is the Earth’s largest structure built entirely by living organisms. It runs for over 1,200 miles from its northern to southern tip, and is almost the size of the state of Montana when its various reefs are combined. One of the reefs—the Agincourt Reef—is a distant section along the reef’s northern tip where stunning biodiversity creates one of the most pristine ecosystems found anywhere along the reef.

Known as a type of “Ribbon Reef,” the Agincourt Reef runs parallel to the line with the Continental Shelf. Exotic species such as the Maori wrasse are commonly found along the reef, and sharks, rays—and even whales—can be seen when scuba diving the reef. Even for travelers who are just snorkeling, however, there are sections of the reef only a few feet below the clear, turquoise waters. Here, in the shallow lagoons, thousands of fish inhabit a reef that bursts with vibrancy and color.

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Main Beach
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Suitably named, Byron Bay's Main Beach stretches along the front of the town and is the go-to destination for beach lounging, swimming or catching a wave. On a sunny day in Byron Bay, expect locals and visitors alike to be making the most at Main Beach – the town's closest beach outlet.

Main Beach is known for its beautiful surroundings, with views of the Julian Rocks, Cape Byron Light and grassy hills meeting the horizon line of white sandy beach and enticing water. Besides swimming and beach lounging, a popular activity is to snorkel out to the old shipwreck of the Tassie II just off-shore.

The reliable right and left-hand breaks at Main Beach make it a popular place for beginners to learn to surf. Several surf schools operate directly at Main Beach, but make sure to research this fact before making a booking. Surf schools must be authorized to operate at the beaches of Byron Bay or else they travel several minutes outside of the region for their lessons.

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More Things to Do in Australia

Dampier Peninsula

Dampier Peninsula

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Noosa Everglades

Noosa Everglades

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The Noosa Everglades are the ideal destination for those looking for an experience in nature. Hundreds of species of birds circle above the diverse foliage as lizards, snakes, and kangaroos enjoy the ground. The flora of the Everglades is completely unique, with big twisting grasses, large swamp banksias, hundreds of different flower species, and of course, the iconic vines and trees that make the forest so dense. The best way to see the Everglades is by boat tour up the Noosa River. There are many companies to choose from, and rest assured that all of them are "eco-certified", and are constantly conscious of the impact that they are having on the natural beauty of the surrounds. You can also do a personal canoe tour, but this is only advisable if you have canoeing experience and a knowledgeable guide.
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Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

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Located in the beautiful and iconic Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge overlooks the magnificent blue waters that help to make the Harbour a spectacular sight.

Nicknamed "The Coathanger" because of it's steel arch-based design, the Harbour Bridge boasts 8 traffic lanes, 2 railways and a pedestrian and bicycle lane, transporting both locals and tourists from the Central Business District (CBD) to the North Shore.

Visitors interested in getting the best view from the bridge can do so with the help of the BridgeClimb. Climbers can choose to climb either the outer arch or the inner arch of the bridge for spectacular views and an unforgettable experience.

The bridge also plays a special part in the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, where hundreds of spectators travel from near and far to gather on the shore and on the water to watch the festivities each year.

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Gantheaume Point

Gantheaume Point

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Abrolhos Islands

Abrolhos Islands

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Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

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The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s preeminent cultural center. Famous for its cutting-edge architecture, the building’s series of white-tiled sails jut into the harbor at Bennelong Point, perched on a platform of pink granite. The iconic structure was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, and Australians have been divided about its design ever since it opened way over-budget in 1973. Recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the opera house has a range of venues under its sails.
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Tiwi Islands

Tiwi Islands

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The Tiwi Islands sit about 50 miles off the north coast of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, and the chain is made up of 11 individual isles. The largest are Melville – the second largest island in Australia behind Tasmania – and Bathurst, the fifth largest of Australia’s islands.

It is believed that this string of islands has been inhabited for the past 7,000 years by the Tiwi people, which led to them being named an Aboriginal Reserve in 1912. Like at Arnhem Land, another Aboriginal Reserve, visiting these islands requires an invitation or an escort, as well as a permit. The islands are governed mostly by the Tiwi Aboriginal Land Trust and the Tiwi Land Council. The island communities are renowned for their art, particularly for their wood carvings of birds. Fabric creations are also common and made in a similar fashion to Indonesian batik prints.

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Cape Byron Lighthouse

Cape Byron Lighthouse

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As Australia's easternmost and strongest lighthouse, Cape Byron Light is a main attraction for both the historical aspect of the building itself as well as the spectacular views it provides from the edge of Cape Byron. Opened for operation in 1901, the lighthouse provides Byron Bay visitors with a glimpse into the marine industry from years past when lighthouses had to be manned by live-in keepers so passing ships remained safe along the coast. Still active today, Cape Byron Light changed to a fully automated system in 1989, making a live-in keeper obsolete.

The eastern coast of Australia sees humpback whale migrations each year, and the lighthouse platform acts as the perfect vantage point for its 500,000 annual visitors, as well as the Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre, which is located on the premises. The lighthouse itself stands 74 feet tall (22.5 meters); an internal spiral staircase reaches from the lobby to its viewing platform.

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Swan Valley

Swan Valley

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It’s easy to indulge in gourmet food, great wines and river scenery on a great day out from Perth by taking a trip to the Swan Valley. Right on Perth’s doorstep, the Swan Valley kick-started the state’s flourishing wine industry.

The best way to experience the Swan Valley’s wineries, food outlets and scenery is by car or tour coach, following the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail.

Sample wines at award-winning vineyards, buy a beer at a boutique brewery, see heritage buildings and colonial history at Guildford, and experience life on the Swan River with a cruise.

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Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

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The 36 domed red rocks known as the Olgas - or Kata Tjuta - dotting the desert are of huge cultural and spiritual significance to the Anangu people. Meaning 'many heads,' the huge rocks are separated by steep-sided gorges and valleys. Walking tracks lead around the area to lookouts, waterholes and picnic areas. The main trail is the Valley of the Winds, a 7.5 km (4.5 mile) loop, while the sunset lookout is an easy stroll from the car park for striking views of this surreal landscape. The tallest rock, Mt Olga, is much higher than Ayers Rock (Uluru), soaring 546 meters (1,790 feet).
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Shark Island

Shark Island

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Now named for its shape and the image it brings to mind, Shark Island was once referred to as “Boambilly” by Australia’s aboriginal people. The island was previously the site of an animal quarantine and naval depot, but today travelers flock to its shores for recreation.

Settle in under shady trees and enjoy one of the island’s many well-kept picnic sites, or explore the rocky passes and handmade grottos along Shark Island’s beaches.

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The Rocks

The Rocks

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With its Georgian sandstone buildings, narrow alleyways, historic pubs, and regenerated warehouses, The Rocks is one of Sydney’s oldest and most popular precincts. Set back from Circular Quay, it was one of the earliest parts of Sydney to be settled. Formerly a raffish area, today this city-center quarter has been gentrified and given a good polish.

You’ll find Sydney’s oldest pubs here, a vibrant weekend street market specializing in handicrafts, historic Cadmans Cottage, the Sydney Observatory, Museum of Contemporary Art, and a swag of shops and boutiques. Some of Sydney’s best restaurants are also here, including Sailors Thai, Altitude, Neil Perry’s Rockpool, and Doyles at the Quay. The best way to get a feel for The Rocks is to just follow your nose down 200-year-old cobbled laneways like Playfair St, Mill Lane, and Nurses Walk.

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Wategos Beach

Wategos Beach

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