Australia is a country like no other. Its sheer dimensions, its unique nature and wildlife and its variety of unmistakable locations make Australia one of the most alluring places on the planet. Here is a complete travel guide on how to approach your trip down under.
- General info:
Brief historical overview:
- 65-70k years ago: first indigenous migration from modern day Southeast Asia to Australia, the first nomad inhabitants were hunter gatherers and ancestors of indigenous Australians
- 1770: English captain James Cook takes possession of New South Wales and claims the land for Great Britain
- 1788: Foundation of Sydney
- 1870: British troops withdrawn from Australia
- 1915: Anzac: alliance with New Zealand
- 1917: End of World War 1 (Australia fought with the Allies)
- 1945: End of World War 2 (Australia fought with the Allies)
- 2000: Sydney hosts the Olympic Games
- Political system: Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy (the British queen is the official head of state but exercises no power, the power lies with the federal government)
- Capital city/Largest city: Canberra (435k inhabitants)/ Sydney (5M inhabitants)
- Official Language: English
- Currency: Australian dollar
- Size and Climate: 7,69M sqkm (2,96M sqm), several climate zones ranging from tropical in the North to temperate climate in the South.
- Demographics: 24,7M inhabitants (26% foreign born)
- Economy: Australia’s economy is the 13th largest in the world and its GDP per capita is the 10th largest in the world.
Some fun facts:
- Australia is the sixth largest country in the world (after Russia, Canada, the USA, China and Brazil) and the second least densely inhabited large country.
- There are twice as many kangaroos in Australia as there are people (50M in total)
- Australia’s nickname is ‘down under’, due to its location, with people jokingly saying that everything is upside down in the country.
- Some of the best locations:
Whitsunday Islands: A breathtaking set of 74 tropical islands which are located a short boat ride off the coast of Queensland. The Whitsundays are known for their gorgeous beaches, notably Whitehaven and the fact that they are virtually uninhabited. There are some hotels and resorts on the islands but they can also be visited on a day-trip by boat.
Great Barrier Reef: The Great Barrier reef is the largest coral reef in the world and a stunning nature sight to behold. Snorkelling in the reef itself is a great experience but splashing the cash on a helicopter ride will enable you to see the complete extent of this natural wonder. It is moreover important to stress that many scientists fear for the reef’s long-term existence. On this basis now is the time to see the Great Barrier Reef, in a few decades it might be gone from this world.
Sydney: Sydney is Australia’s largest city and in direct competition with Melbourne. Sydney is an economic, cultural and academic powerhouse and there are many fantastic smaller beach towns nearby. You can easily spend several weeks in Sydney without running out of things to do and the city consistently ranks high on global liveability rankings.
Uluru & the Outback: The Outback is one of Australia’s most unique regions due to the fact that it is endless, lifeless and extraordinarily beautiful.
The red soil that characterises it stretches across an area so vast (Northern Territory and Western Australia) that you can drive for over 20 hours without seeing a single human soul.
The famous Uluru rock is moreover located right in the middle of Australia and has been worshipped by the Aborigines for centuries.
Melbourne: Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city (4.5M) and Sydney’s fierce rival. When you visit both cities, you can see why. They are both cultural and economic hubs of similar size and both attract expats from all over the world, mainly thanks to their strong economy and their world class quality of life index.
It is impossible for us to rank one over the other, on that basis we will conclude that Melbourne has the better nightlife and museums while Sydney has the better beaches, climate and nature parks.
Kakadu National Park: A great nature sight in the Northern Territory full of wildlife and great hiking spots. The park is the ideal place to see some crocodiles without getting eaten and to watch the manifold Australian bird species going about their day.
Tasmania: The island of Tasmania is the southernmost part of Australia and mostly known for its jaw dropping landscapes. Sparsely populated (like all of Australia), Tasmania is one of the country’s most hailed hiking regions. The island is also famous for its bespoke wildlife, namely the Tasmanian devil.
Perth: Perth is Australia’s fourth largest city and the largest metropolitan area in the western part of the country. Akin to Sydney and Melbourne, Perth scores points with its high degree of liveability and its large amount of cultural activities. Perth also has areas with well-preserved architectural heritage, notably the Freemantle area. All in all, Perth is a charming city that’s well worth a visit if you opt to explore Western Australia’s infinite widths of empty wilderness.
Gold Coast – Surfers Paradise: Gold Coast is a vibrant coastal city in Queensland and its most well known area is Surfers Paradise, yes that is the actual name of the place. The town is an excellent location for a great variety of beach activities and of course, surfing. Trying out one of Australia’s national sports is an absolute must when visiting Gold Coast and there is no shortage of surfing instructors in the city. The city also has a vibrant nightlife scene and a great laidback feel to it.
Great Ocean Road: The Great Ocean Road in the state of Victoria is one of Australia’s most scenic highways. Steep cliffs and gorgeous beaches nestled between imposing rocks make up most of the scenery and provide stunning locations for hiking and mountain biking. The road’s most famous sights are the Twelve Apostles, a fabulous set of rocks characterised by their unusual shape. The sight is a joy to behold but extremely touristy and therefore less romantic than you would imagine.
Kalbarri National Park: One of the most beautiful natural parks in Western Australia. Kalbarri is a great stop in Western Australia and offers excellent hiking trails and secluded beaches. You can moreover find breathtaking river gorges and endless stretches of striking cliffs. If you plan to explore the less teeming parts of Western Australia, Kalbarri should definitely not be missed.
- Local traditions and customs:
Australians love their platters containing different sorts of local meat (Kangaroo, beef, emu, wallaby and even camel and crocodile) You should definitely try all of these since all these animals are part of the Australian landscape and the meat is VERY HIGH QUALITY.
Australia is moreover a very sports focused nation, sports generally constitute a very important part of Australian daily life.
The Aborigine culture is somewhat of a debate in Australia, you will hear and see a lot of bad things about the natives (drink problems, obesity) but you will also hear and see a lot of great things about them (culture, ability to survive in very hostile circumstances). We recommend that you form your own image of the native Australian tribes in a respectful manner while visiting the more secluded lands.
Australians are also highly sociable and outgoing. There is no party or cultural festivity that Australians will deliberately miss, the pub culture also playing an important role, on par with other anglo-saxon countries.
Australia has a strong sense of national identity and you should NEVER EVER mention the fact that they were once an island full of convicts from Britain (seriously guys, don’t mention this). They have moved on to an innovative, prosperous and well-functioning country and they consider themselves a model for other countries to follow, which is certainly justifiable.
- Practical tips:
Planes are the main transportation mode if you want to get from one city to another. The distances are so huge that driving for 8 hours is considered a ‘short trip’. Australia has one big airline, Quantas and some smaller companies which will take you from one city to another for lower fares (Tiger Air for example).
Do not try to be a hero and cross a line where it says ‘crocodiles/sharks or box jellyfish’, Australia is one of the countries with the highest number of lethal wildlife species and you frequently hear of stupid tourists getting eaten by some of them.
Australia is a country full of signs and rules and following these rules is very important in order not to run into trouble.
When spending a night out with Australians, make sure to buy rounds since this is a very common way of socializing and partying in Australia.
Note that Australia has very strict drinking and smoking rules in comparison to other countries, last call and lockout rules have been hampering Sydney’s nightlife for the past few years, but Australians usually find a way to circumvent them.
- Summary & verdict:
*1-3: very low *3-4: low *5: medium *6-8: high *9-10: very high
- Cost: 9
- Safety: 9
- Infrastructure: 8
- Difficulty: 2
- Quality of life: 9
- Natural beauty & diversity: 9
Pros: Unbelievable national parks, beaches and other natural sights. Some of the most liveable cities on the planet, great outgoing and fun-loving people.
Cons: High cost, distances make it difficult to include many locations on one trip.
Verdict: The land down under is so unique and vast that it will always be a great place to visit. One trip will not be enough and after leaving Australia you will already start to miss the sheer endless landscapes, the great people, the food and the fantastic beaches.