Australia holidays

Experience Australia

Best Places to Visit

Sydney has become one of the most famous cities in the world, and with its several iconic landmarks, it's easy to see why. The Sydney Opera House is a stunning sight, night and day, and a great place to catch a show. Sydney Harbour Bridge is lit up at night, but it's also possible to climb it during the day with the aid of a professional guide. Together, it forms the centrepiece of the city's New Year celebrations each year.

The beaches around Sydney are stunning, with the famous Bondi Beach just a short bus ride from the city centre. Along the east coast, there is no end of beaches, from the busy Hervey Bay to the deserted Rainbow Beach.

Both of these beaches offer trips to Fraser Island, a massive sand dune off the coast where visitors can camp, hire four-wheel drives and take a dip in the natural tea tree pools. This is also a great place for wildlife watching, as many species of shark come here to feed. The view from Indian Heads across the ocean makes it the ideal viewpoint.

Surfers Paradise, not surprisingly, is the best place for those wanting to ride the waves. However, most beaches in Australia are great for this sport, depending on the time of year and local weather conditions. The Whitsunday Islands in the north of Australia are a collection of islands with eye-watering white sands, a pristine paradise that appeals to many visitors each year. It's possible to join a boat tour, often lasting several days, meaning tourists can head right out to the more remote islands and even have a go at sailing.

On the east coast is Brisbane, a thriving city with an amazing nightlife. Here, nearby tourists will find Australia Zoo, Steve Irwin's famous establishment. There are many native animals here including the most deadly bird in Australia, the cassowary.

Port Arthur in Tasmania is an open-air museum dedicated to Australia's history, with its historical penal colony site where many prisoners were once exiled. There are some well-preserved old buildings here, although archaeological digs are still ongoing. It's a reminder of Australia's early colonial age and the arrival of Europeans to the continent, contrasting with the much more ancient history of the native population. The two have become intrinsically linked to many of the customs of the country in the present day.

Top Landmarks

One of the top attractions in Australia is the Great Barrier Reef. The world's largest coral reef can even be seen from space. A majority of it is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – an area that offers must-do diving and snorkelling activities. It's important to go on one of the tours, as access to the reef is restricted to ensure its survival, whereas an organised guide can help you to see the spectacle without damaging the marine life.

Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a huge sandstone rock formation. Found in the south of the Northern Territory, Uluru is listed as a World Heritage site and is considered sacred to certain aboriginal tribes in the area. Alice Springs is the nearest place to stay and watching the sunset or the sunrise at Uluru is a truly magnificent experience. There's also plenty of wildlife.

Daintree Cape Tribulation Rainforest in north Queensland is a diverse setting in which to see a huge range of plants and animals. This World Heritage listed area is 1,200 square kilometres and home to crocodiles and wild cassowary birds, along with many other animals and plants.

For those not wanting to venture so far into the outback, the Blue Mountains are only a short drive from Sydney. Named after the haze which occurs from the eucalyptus trees, giving the landscape a blue hue, the area is home to amazing rock formations and hiking trails, making it a great place to spend the day.

Entertainment

There's a huge amount of entertainment across Australia. Sydney is well known for its nightlife, and there's plenty to offer visitors. On the harbour is the Ice Bar. Here, visitors can enjoy a cocktail served in a glass made from ice, while enjoying the spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House.

Melbourne and Brisbane are famous for their live music, and many of the bars and clubs in these cities have live music any night of the week. There are many VIP clubs and funky bars to visit while out in the evening, with Melbourne's South Yarra and Brisbane's Fortitude Valley night-time hot spots.

For theatre, it has to be the Sydney Opera House. Performances run throughout the year and it's best to check the website for listings. Student and mid-week discounts are available. There are also a handful of theatres which show international productions, including the Capitol Theatre.

In the Northern Territory, there are Aborigine cultural shows for tourists to enjoy and explore a unique culture. Many hotels organise didgeridoo lessons which allow visitors to try their hand at playing this well-known instrument.

Australia is known for its love of gambling, and the Crown Casino in Melbourne is the largest casino in Australia. However, casinos can be found in almost every town and city. All the capital cities have horse racing at weekends, and attendees make an effort in showing that fashion is equally as important as the races themselves.

Dining Out

Australia is famous for its barbeques, and many hotels organise buffets for their guests. Failing this, it's easy to set up your own barbeque on the beach. There are a number of Australian native foods that can be sampled in traditional Aussie restaurants or purchased from the supermarkets to add to the barbeque.

Kangaroo meat is common and is best served medium-rare as it can be quite tough. Crocodile is most commonly found on the menu in the Northern Territory and often comes in the form of a croc burger. Emu is also popular along the east coast and is available from butchers, or as emu pie in restaurants.

For those wanting something a bit different, there are many cuisine tours that allow participants to sample bush tucker including nuts, roots, ants and grubs. These tours can be an interesting experience, to say the least.

Vegemite, a salty yeast spread is served in many coffee shops on toast for breakfast and usually comes with butter. Due to the significant Chinese and Vietnamese communities, many cities have a Chinatown. Some fantastic little restaurants serving a range of dishes can be found in these districts. Italian and Mexican cuisine are also common, and fried chicken places are not hard to come by.

Beach

Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. Rainbow Beach in Queensland is one of the more deserted beaches and a great jumping-off point for Fraser Island. The famous Bondi Beach, just outside of Sydney, is bustling no matter what time of day or year, but is big enough that visitors won't be fighting for towel space. Perhaps the best beaches, however, are found in the Whitsunday Islands.

Romance

The Whitsundays are a great place to charter a private boat for a few days. The white sands of the islands are great for daytime frolicking, while at night couples can lie back in the sand to watch the stars. Thanks to the lack of light pollution, the heavens really put on a show here - a magical experience for any couple.

Family

Brisbane has a huge amount to offer families including the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which lets the family get up close and personal with koalas. Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort in Moreton Bay Marine Park has shows and wildlife, and offers the chance to swim with dolphins. Australia Zoo, a short drive from Brisbane, features crocodile shows which the kids will love.

Adventure

Australia is one of the best places for adventure in the world. Skydiving, surfing, diving and rock climbing can all be done here. However, for real thrill-seekers there's cage diving. Complete with scuba diving equipment, you are dropped into shark-infested waters, protected by a cage, of course. It's certainly the best way to see these amazing creatures up close. Tours can be booked in Port Lincoln, South Australia.

Need to know

Language

The official language of Australia is English, so getting around and communicating doesn't present a problem for visitors from the UK. In many cities, there are large Vietnamese and Chinese communities, and some road signs in tourist areas are written in multiple languages. There are also over 100 aboriginal languages spoken within the aborigine communities of Australia, although many aboriginal people are also fluent in English.

Currency

The official currency is the Australian dollar (AU$), the only currency which is accepted here. There are 100 cents in AU$1. ATMs are available in every town and city, and all accept foreign cards. Moneychangers and exchange outlets are able to exchange currency, but the exchange rate at banks tends to be more favourable. Travellers' cheques are best changed at banks. Credit cards can be used across Australia in hotels as well as at large shops and restaurants, but be wary of any additional charges for using your credit or debit card abroad, especially for cash withdrawals. It may be more economical to buy a prepaid foreign currency card in AU$ that you can top up during your stay, helping you to budget and improving your security.

Visas

Visitors from the EU. including the UK, require a visa in advance. UK travellers visiting for less than three months need to obtain an e-Visitor visa. This visa is free, can be applied for online and is normally processed instantly. All tourists must show they have the funds to support themselves for the duration of their holiday and provide proof of a return flight.

Climate

The sheer size of Australia means there is a wide variation of climates.

Throughout the summer (June to August) and winter (November to February) months, temperatures in the tropical north hover around 30°C. Summers here are wet, with the winter drier and less humid. In summer, the Mediterranean-like south sees temperatures of around 29°C, while in the winter, it can drop as low as 9°C. Here, summers tend to be dry, with most of the rainfall occurring in the winter.

Main Airports

Nearly half of all international flights to Australia land in Sydney. Tourists can either choose to stay here or fly to other domestic destinations such as Cairns in the north, Adelaide in the south or Perth on the west coast. Flying from the UK involves a stopover to re-fuel or catch a connecting flight, with Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong popular transfer points.

Flight Options

Many airlines charter weekly flights to Australia. Sydney Airport receives British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Qantas flights from London-Heathrow. AirAsia flies to Melbourne, Sydney and Perth from London-Gatwick, stopping in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Flight time for a direct flight from London with a stop for re-fuelling but no flight change is around 24 hours.

Travel Advice

Flights from the UK can be expensive but some have stopovers at hotels that are included in the price. It is cheaper to fly from London than from other cities in the UK. Flying on a weekday or outside of the school holidays are other ways to save on fares. Be aware that Australian quarantine and customs are very strict about what can be brought into the county with regards to food.

Other Transport Options

Princess Cruises as well as other cruise lines make stops in Australia on their Pacific journeys between November and February. It's also possible to drive through Europe, across Asia and then take a short flight to Australia. However, this journey can take a number of weeks, with the quickest option flying.

Getting Around

Due to the sheer size of Australia, many tourists choose to fly between domestic cities. Flights to all of the big cities are cheap and frequent. The highway network is extensive and well served by inter-city buses, while a four-wheel drive will get visitors to the most remote areas.

Bus

Travelling by bus is cheap and easy. Greyhound has daily services and the hop on, hop off ticket allows tourists to spend as long as they like in each destination.

Car

Australia has a well-maintained system of roads, although some roads in the outback are nothing more than dirt tracks. Those visitors wanting to rent a car can do so at any airport, city or town.

Train

The national rail service in Australia is slow; however, it can be cheaper than flying, particularly when heading somewhere off the beaten tourist track. Great Southern Railways runs services between Sydney, Adelaide, Alice Springs and Perth.

AUSTRALIA`S WEATHER TODAY

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MAP

FACTS

  1. Australia is one of the biggest countries in the world, but the smallest continent - technically the continent does not include New Zealand, although it is often included in everyday discussions of the region.
  2. It was populated for about 50,000 years by indigenous Australians, before being 'discovered' by the Dutch at the start of the 1600s, and used for penal colonies by the British from the late 1700s.
  3. The name literally means 'southern land', with 'austral' referring to the southern hemisphere's equivalent of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights.

FACTS

  1. Australia is one of the biggest countries in the world, but the smallest continent - technically the continent does not include New Zealand, although it is often included in everyday discussions of the region.
  2. It was populated for about 50,000 years by indigenous Australians, before being 'discovered' by the Dutch at the start of the 1600s, and used for penal colonies by the British from the late 1700s.
  3. The name literally means 'southern land', with 'austral' referring to the southern hemisphere's equivalent of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights.

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