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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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Freycinet National Park
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One of Tasmania’s most popular coastal holiday spots, Freycinet National Park is backed by the pink-tinged granite outcrops known as the Hazards.

Low-lying coastal heathland frames views of blue sea and sand throughout the park, with the Hazards looming large in the distance. Bushwalkers head here to follow coastal trails along the peninsula’s secluded coves, and the park is a popular holiday camping spot for families. The park’s white-sand beaches are beautiful but top marks always go to perfectly formed Wineglass Bay, which often appears in travel top 10s as one of the world’s most gorgeous beaches. It really does have a circular wineglass shape, fringed by white sand and untouched bushland.

Birdwatchers come to Freycinet to spot seabirds, and you might see cockatoos, wattlebirds and wallabies on the two-hour return walk to the lofty lookout over Wineglass Bay.

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Port Arthur Penitentiary
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There was once a time when visiting Port Arthur was akin with a sentence to death. Isolated on a scenic peninsula and facing the Tasman Sea, the famous and feared Port Arthur Penitentiary was where the worst of the worst of Britain’s convicts were sent to live out their days. Though not all convicts were sentenced to death, the harsh working conditions and manual labor were enough to drive convicts to literal insanity and commit murder for an early, death sentence exit.

For all of its grisly history, however, Port Arthur today is a sprawling historic site that’s been restored and preserved as the best example of Australia’s convict past. At the iconic Penitentiary building, gaze upon the concrete ruins where 480 convicts and prisoners spent days filled with toil and misery. The penitentiary ruins are rumored to be haunted, and with the eerie, abandoned exterior that the penitentiary exudes, it’s an historic, authentic representation of the darker days of Port Arthur.

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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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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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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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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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Fremantle Markets
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With a history dating back to 1897 and a far-reaching reputation, the Fremantle Markets are among the most famous of their kind in Western Australia, and the lively weekend markets are equally popular with locals and tourists. Housed in a striking Victorian market hall, restored in the 1970s, the legendary markets feature more than 150 stalls split between two sections – The Yard and The Hall. Visiting the Fremantle Markets is an experience in itself, with huge crowds turning out each weekend, and an array of street entertainers, artists and musicians providing entertainment. This is the place to buy fresh farmer’s produce, organic delicacies and artisan foods, or feast on tasty street food. It’s not just food on sale either – the eclectic stalls include clothing and accessories by local and upcoming designers; unique art and handicrafts; great value cosmetics and toiletries; and a myriad of souvenirs.

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More Things to Do in Australia

Busselton Jetty

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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Three Sisters

Three Sisters

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In a country known for walkabouts and wandering it’s no surprise one of the biggest attractions is also one of the most mythical. According to local folklore, three sisters once fell in love with three men from a different tribe—a love that was forbidden. When the men tried to capture and marry the women war broke out and the ladies were turned to stone to protect them.

Today, travelers who flock to Blue Mountain Park ascend the 800-plus stairs to the valley floor in order to catch a glimpse of the stones that tower hundreds of meters into the sky.

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Tamborine National Park

Tamborine National Park

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Visit Queensland’s first national park on Mount Tamborine, in the Gold Coast Hinterland region, to enjoy the natural wonders of eucalypt forests, palm groves, prehistoric volcanic rock outcrops and lush subtropical waterfalls.

Mount Tamborine National Park originated with the protection of the Witches Falls and has since expanded across the Tamborine plateau and surrounding foothills. Popular national park activities include walking the many mapped and marked bush trails, spotting Australian brush-turkeys and listening for the call of the threatened Albert’s lyrebird.

Once you’ve explored the natural wilderness of Mount Tambourine National Park, be sure to indulge in the boutique beers, local wines and specialty crafts from the Tambourine Mountain township, which is known as a luxury getaway destination and hang gliding hotspot.

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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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Brisbane River

Brisbane River

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Brisbane is a city shaped by the river. It is a city of long walks in the summer dusk and riverside picnics on weekends. Bringing natural life to the urban scape, the Brisbane River is the site of many of Brisbane’s best attractions, events and everyday joys.

Popular activities on the Brisbane River include kayaking through the city at night, exploring the river on a CityCat, taking a dining river cruise or catching a local ferry to reach the opposite shore. Climbing the Kangaroo Point Cliffs on the river’s edge is a popular evening activity, and many residents and visitors alike enjoy climbing the famous Story Bridge, dining at South Bank by the water and relaxing with a drink at Eagle Street Pier.

You can also take a walk through the City Botanical Gardens that follow the northern river’s edge, see a live show at the famous Riverstage, look across the urban night from a Gallery of Modern Art ‘Up Late’ event, or read by the river.

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Tamar Valley

Tamar Valley

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Lake McKenzie

Lake McKenzie

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Awe-inspiring Lake McKenzie is possibly one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. It is also one of the world’s least polluted and a swim in the crystal-clear freshwater will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

The lake is a “perched lake,” meaning it sits atop a sand dune where the sand and humus underneath have bonded into a concrete-like base. The lake isn't connected to streams or the ocean, which means all the water is pure rainwater. The sand also acts as a filter keeping the water clear, and makes for an amazing experience when relaxing in the lake.

Fraser Island is home to forty of the world’s eighty perched lakes, and like the many other freshwater lakes on the island, Lake McKenzie relies solely on rain for replenishment.

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Wirra Wirra Vineyards

Wirra Wirra Vineyards

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Sydney Harbour

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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Scenic World

Scenic World

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World Heritage sites are typically known for their quiet beauty and historical significance, but Scenic World, stationed in the heart of Katoomba, amps it up with a major adrenaline rush. It includes the Scenic Railway, Scenic Skyway, Scenic Walkway and Scenic Cableway and visitors can “walk on air’ in a glass-floored skyway suspended 270 meters above ground, or hitch a ride in the steepest incline railroad on earth.

Those afraid of heights can wander through Jurassic Rainforest or stroll through the Waterfall Walk and informative Coal Mining exhibit. More adventurous friends can catch the incredible views of Jamison Valley and Three Sisters from inside the country’s steepest cable car.
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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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Abrolhos Islands

Abrolhos Islands

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Glen-Forest Tourist Park

Glen-Forest Tourist Park

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Glen Forest Tourist Park is a 400-acre outdoor playground with activities for the entire family. The main attractions are of the four-legged variety; kangaroos, wombats, dingos and koalas are just a few of the many species at home in the extensive animal park, along with abundant bird life that resides in the area’s many natural spring-fed waterways. In the animal nursery, it’s hands-on fun as kids learn to feed and cuddle the newborn wildlife.

Other family activities include an 18-hole mini golf course, off-road Segway rides and widespread picnic areas. There are also 80 acres of vineyards, which produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay varieties for the Lincoln Estate label.

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