Australia is repeatedly listed on travelers “wish” destination lists, and rightly so. Experiences are as diverse and big as the land itself, which is close to 3 million square miles, or about the same size as the 48 U.S. mainland states. You can go from cultural city, to isolate outback, and on to enjoy an island atmosphere all in one trip. You choose your exploration, whether it’s the red desert, countryside, wine regions, wilderness coast, islands or the incredible reefs below the sea.
Australia is made up of six states, including New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, as well as two major mainland territories -- the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Its coastline stretches just over 31,000 miles, with over 10,000 beaches. More than 85 percent of Australians live within 31 miles of the coast, so fun in the sun is definitely a part of the lifestyle.
The people of Australia are a mix of cultural diversity. More than 20 percent are foreign-born and over 40 percent are of mixed cultural origin. The Aboriginal people have lived in Australia more than 50,000 years and are believed to be the world’s oldest civilization. The different cultures bring a nice mix of cuisine to Australia, as does the superior quality of its produce, and you can find just about every type of food. Australian meat pie is considered the national dish, but “Modern Australia” cuisine has recently popped on the scene with chefs using international dishes in inventive ways.
The beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Sydney offers top dining and hotels, and is home to magnificent beaches as well. Bondi, minutes from Sydney, is one of Australia's most famous beaches. It’s a “scene” to enjoy.
Other cities, including Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, as well as Sydney, offer cultural attractions that include museums, art galleries, theaters and orchestras that appeal to a wide variety of tastes and interests. Shopping comes in the form of department stores, major malls and gift and souvenir shops.
The Gold Coast, part of the east coast, is home to magnificent beach resorts, and divers should head for the famed Great Barrier Reef. The winery districts of South Australia and New South Wales offer more romantic spots to stay. Adventures await those who head to the Outback and more of Australia’s wild side.
Most trips to Australia begin with a flight into Sydney, the most eastern city and closest to the U.S. Nonstop flights are available from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Getting around the big land can be done any number of ways. Enjoy the adventure with a four-wheel-drive at your own pace, but flying is your best bet to cover the big distances and get to see the most in the least amount of time. Australia also has an excellent rail system, and sailing tours, ferry rides and cruise ships are ways to travel through its waters and along its massive coastline.
Australia’s climate varies across the continent, from hot and tropical in the far north to cool and even snowy in the south. Think opposite seasons when booking travel here, with December through February as the summer months for most of the country, and the wet season in the tropical north. The Australian winter is from June to August, but is generally mild. You will find snow in the southern mountain regions.