Australia is a vast country with a large number of places worth seeing. These range from world class cities with sights and activities for everyone, to national parks and beaches among the most beautiful in the world. I have selected five places that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Australia.
The world famous Gold Coast is in south-east Queensland, about an hour’s drive south of Brisbane, the state’s capital city. Halfway up Australia’s east coast, the subtropical climate means you can soak up the sun, surf and sand at any time of year.
Popular theme parks include Dreamworld, Movieworld, Seaworld, Wet’n’Wild, and Currumbin Sanctuary. I have been to them all and can recommend a visit to each one. Ripley’s Believe It or Not in the middle of Surfers Paradise is well worth a visit. It’s a fascinating place. Check out the views from Q1, the world’s tallest residential tower when it was built in 2005 and now sixth tallest.
With a resident population of well over half a million, the Gold Coast has many hundreds of restaurants to choose from, and dozens of nightclubs provide plenty of entertainment.
The southern end of the Gold Coast is probably more picturesque, with its headlands and vast expanses of sand. Look out for the dolphins at the mouth of the Tweed River around high tide. My wife and I have walked around this area a number of times.
You might like to time your visit to the Gold Coast to coincide with one of the major events held each year. There’s the Gold Coast Indy race in October (now the Gold Coast 600), the Magic Millions horseracing carnival in January, and for those who like 1950s and 1960s music and cars, don’t miss the Wintersun Festival in June.
If you’re into partying, or quiet walks along the beach, the Gold Coast is for you.
A visit to Australia wouldn’t be complete without seeing Sydney, one of the great harbour cities of the world. Apart from numerous restaurants and nightclubs, things to see include the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Hyde Park, the Domain, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and various museums and art galleries.
For those who like history, visit the Rocks for a fascinating tour of buildings dating back to Sydney’s convict era in the early nineteenth century. It’s part of the downtown area. Whenever I visit Sydney, I like to walk around this locality.
Popular events are the Sydney Festival of arts, dance and music each January, the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in February, and the Sydney Film Festival in June.
The traffic in the downtown area can get a bit heavy and parking is scarce and expensive, so a good spot to stay is Manly, next to the ocean. From there, it’s an easy 20 minute ferry ride across the harbour to the central city area. I have stayed at Manly twice, once with my wife and once while at a conference with work. Lovely beach.
I’ve visited Sydney at least a dozen times and always enjoy it. My first trip to Sydney was with my family when about 10. A great day trip was a visit to the Jenolan Caves about 100 miles to the west.
A great place to visit is Melbourne, often called Australia’s sporting and cultural capital. It is home to the Melbourne Cup, the horse race that stops a nation on the first Tuesday in November. The state of Victoria has a public holiday on this day, while people in other states tend to stop what they are doing and find the nearest television or radio when the race is on.
Experience the thrills and spills of that great Aussie game, Australian Football. Finals matches in September can attract crowds of 100,000 people. Many of the matches are played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, one of the great stadiums of the world.
Take in the views of Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay from the top of the 91 storey Eureka Tower. It was the second highest residential building in the world when built in 2006, although it has since been overtaken by about a dozen other buildings, mainly in Dubai.
The Crown Casino, Melbourne Aquarium, the Shrine of Remembrance, and the Docklands precinct are all fascinating spots to visit. And don’t forget the arts centres, museums and art galleries.
Not to be missed events in Melbourne include the Comedy Festival in March-April, the Arts Festival in October, and of course the Australian Football grand final and the Melbourne Cup.
I grew up in Melbourne about 100 yards from the bay. There are some lovely beaches right the way down its eastern side. I’m in Brisbane now and don’t get down there all that often as it is over 1000 miles away. I flew down recently for a school reunion and to catch up with a few other old friends.
Great Ocean Road
One of the world’s most picturesque drives is Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, south-west of Melbourne. It runs for about 150 miles from Torquay, which is about 60 miles from Melbourne, and passes through some lovely seaside resorts. I’ve been there a number of times, though not since 1998 as I now live over 1000 miles from this area.
The Great Ocean Road was built in the 1920s by 3,000 returned servicemen from World War I. It hugs the coastline and is often carved into steep coastal mountains. There are many lookout points, as well as bush and beach walks along the way. In 2004, the Great Ocean Walk opened, joining 60 miles of walking tracks from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles.
Make sure you see the Twelve Apostles, regarded as one of the world’s most scenic coastal sites. Erosion has formed a series of rock formations of limestone and sandstone 150 feet or more in height in the shallows. But be quick. There are actually only eight apostles left after one collapsed in 2005.
Accommodation is offered at various towns along the route. There are guided tours, helicopter rides and plenty of touristy things.
This is an area that covers the southern part of the Northern Territory. I went there on a school trip back in the late 1960s.
Central Australia has a number of icons significant to Aboriginal culture, such as Uluru (or Ayers Rock, as it was known back when I was there), and various cave paintings. Uluru is one of the main attractions, 280 miles south-west of Alice Springs (population 25,000), the only town of any size in this vast desert region.
Allow an hour for the steep climb to the top of the 1,140 foot high sandstone rock, although climbing is discouraged these days, not so much because of safety concerns but due to local Aboriginal beliefs. I think I scaled it easily in about 20 minutes, but I was 16! A six mile walk will get you right around its perimeter. It changes colour at different times of the day and is quite spectacular at sunset and sunrise.
The only accommodation when I was there were a couple of camping grounds / caravan parks, and some cabins. I think the nearest asphalt road was in Alice Springs. Now there are luxury hotels, including five-star, and made roads.
Many animals unique to Australia proliferate in the centre, including wallabies, dingoes and emus. As it’s so far away from major cities, the night sky is filled with more stars than just about anywhere else in the world.