Who says you need to travel overseas to encounter some of the world’s most amazing sights?
We’ve got a massive back yard here in Australia, and oftentimes all it takes is hopping in the car and taking a short drive to encounter an experience that’s on par – or better than – what many other countries have to offer. It’s one of the benefits of having an entire continent as our country: if variety is the spice of life, then Australia clocks in at veritable jalapeÃ±o level. Want some of the best beaches in the world? We’ve got ’em. More of a fan of wining, vining, and dining? Check. How about some pristine alpine landscapes comparable with Europe? You bet.
In case you’re not convinced, here are 23 of our favourite photos that prove DownUnder ranks tops.
1. You can enjoy a beer in South Australia while checking out Great White Sharks
Looking for an ultimate wildlife encounter that comes with a dose of frothy, cold refreshment? Join Port Lincoln‘s Adventure Bay Charters aboard their unique Aqua Sub and peer through its glass windows as your body remains completely dry – but not your throat.
2. You can see the Aurora without putting up with 6 months of night time and sub-zero temperatures
The Aurora Australis may not have the international fame of its northern counterpart, however those visiting Tasmania and other southerly parts of the country during the winter can be treated to a spectacular light show all the same, such as that above Tassie’s Cradle Mountain/Lake St. Clair National Park pictured here.
3. Even holes in the ground look amazing here
A massive section of the ground collapse and give way not too far from where people live? No worries, mate; just create a gorgeous, enchanting garden inside. Formed as a result of a cave collapse, Mt. Gambier’s Umpherston Sinkhole has been delighting families with its blend of shrubs, ferns, trees and vines for decades.
4. Our waterfalls go sideways…
For when a regular waterfall just doesn’t cut it: head to Western Australia’s Kimberley region, which is home to what soothingly-voiced legend Sir David Attenborough once labeled “one of the world’s greatest wonders”. The Horizontal Falls near Broome and Derby in WA has not one, but two sideways-rushing waterfalls, and can be explored with operator Horizontal Falls Adventures for an up-close look from both above and below.
5. …and our lakes are pink…
Anyone care for some strawberry milk? It may look pretty, but don’t drink it; Middle Island’s Lake Hillier in Western Australia is believed to derive its unusual colour from a certain type of algae common in the region. Part of the Recherche Archipelago (try saying that 3 times fast), the lake can be seen up close by joining Esperance Island Cruises for an extended journey to the island’s shores.
6. …and our regular waterfalls are no slouch, either
In what flavour do you prefer your waterfalls, good sir or madam? Dramatic, single drops such as QLD’s Wallaman Falls? Or perhaps in “Twin” form such as within the NT’s Kakadu National Park? Or a veritable-tier-a-thon as in Western Australia’s Mitchell Falls? Odds are, there’s a wonderful cascading display of water near YOU that you never knew existed; who knows, it might even be able to compete in its own way with the gorgeous multi-tiered display that has long made Tasmania’s Russell Falls one of Australia’s most photogenic spots.
7. We make the edge of the Earth look good, too
With a visit to South Australia’s Head of Bight, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world WAS truly flat; when mapmakers of old envisioned the âedge of the earthâ, South Australiaâs Head of Bight is likely a close approximation of what they had in mind. It’s an awesome spot for spotting whales from June to September, as well.
8. Our sunsets are legendary – on both coasts
One of the main benefits of having so much coastline is the sheer quantity of top spots which to soak in an evening sky. In fact, there are so many awesome sunsets each night in Australia, we run a poll a few years ago to determine which took out the title of “Best Sunset in Australia“. The winner? The small and charming town of Busselton, in Western Australia – pictured here.
9. We’ve got plateaus just like the central USA – except we stick them in the water
The word “island” mostly brings to mind palm trees, golden beaches and exclusive resorts. Not the case with Tasmania’s Tasman Island – a dolerite-dotted and wildlife rich speck of rock that lies in the blustery Tasman Peninsula. Plus, you have to respect the ingenuity – or is that insanity? – of building the country’s most isolated lighthouse over 100 years ago in a place that’s only accessible by air today.
10. Plus islands with holes in them
No, this isn’t a secret base for some form of supervillain; it’s Cleft Island off the coast of Victoria’s Wilson’s Promontory – a massive chunk of granite home to a gaping, grass-filled cave that’s over 130 metres wide. It’s completely inaccessible for the average traveller – making it the perfect hiding spot for all sorts of global plotting and scheming.
11. But yeah, we also have awesome “regular” islands as well
Australia is teeming with gorgeous islands of various shapes and sizes, with NSW’s Lord Howe Island one of the most unique. True, it may lie over 600km off the Australian east coast, but it’s an Aussie territory and a simply gorgeous one at that. In fact, one American man who is fortunate enough to have visited every country in the world named it “the most perfect place on Earth”. High – but deserving – praise.
12. There are approximately 10,685 beaches to choose from here
One needn’t head to a far-flung island for a dose of blue-and-gold goodness; according to an estimate by the Coastal Studies Unit at the University of Sydney, there are over ten thousand beaches throughout Oz from which to choose. Which is the “best” is entirely subjective – you voted the Whitsundays‘ Whitehaven Beach tops in our national poll several years ago – however the sheer number of beautiful contenders is staggering (including WA’s Twilight Beach, pictured here).
13. We’ve got some truly great road trips…
Thanks to our wide, open roads, there’s plenty of adventure to be had in Oz on four wheels, whether that be on a guided tour or in our own private car. While the likes of QLD’s Cairns to Cape York, WA’s Gibb River Road, Tassie’s East Coast and NSW’s Pacific Coast are all epic trips, Victoria’s Great Ocean Road ranks near the top.
14. …and some epic flights to take as well
Of course, for alternative angles on the best of Australia, few trips can compete with hopping aboard a helicopter or light aircraft for a birds-eye view of the best Oz has to offer. From the QLD’s iconic Heart Reef, to SA’s expansive Lake Eyre, to seeing Uluru high from high above, those willing to open their wallets can take in some truly unique landscapes such as South Australia’s massive Wilpena Pound pictured here.
15. You can visit the moon, without actually… visiting the moon
Neil Armstrong and friends could have saved themselves some substantial stress by simply renting a car and driving a couple of hundred kilometres to the north of Perth instead. The Pinnacles Desert in WA’s Nambung National Park is a collection of thousands of odd limestone figures that bring to mind a distinctly alien landscape; especially in the evening.
We do 3 of the essential “W”s really well including…
Take your pick of any of the renowned wine regions that have put Oz firmly on the international map in recent years and you’ll find your palate delighted, be that in the Yarra, Hunter, Barossa or Tamar Valleys, or WA’s increasingly popular Margaret River wine region. Add in a number of boutique offerings throughout regional QLD, NSW and the ACT and there’s a domestic red or white available to suit all tastes.
Whether you’re a fan of pale turquoise blues, deep azures, or simply prefer to keep things crystal clear, Australia does water well in all its forms. For stunning examples of the former, head to one of the island chains on both coasts such as QLD’s Whitsundays or WA’s Buccaneer Archipelago and Rottnest Island; for the darker of the three few are as spectacular as Tassie’s alpine Lake Oberon; and for clarity, any number of the country’s Hinterland regions – or Fraser Island‘s gorgeous lakes – will fit the bill.
18. …and Wildlife
The world loves our animals almost as much as we do; there’s an estimated 943,832,119 photos hanging on international walls of former visitors to Oz cuddling a koala, but you can also hand-feed kangaroos, play with a platypus, pose underwater with parrotfish, peer on parading penguins, or get within hand’s length of some of the world’s largest crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin.
19. Our rocks are big and mighty
Who said size doesn’t matter? You all know the majesty of Uluru, but don’t forget the likes of…
Kata Tjuta / The Olgas in the Northern Territory or…
Mount Augustus in Western Australia or…
The Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island in South Australia or…
Western Australia’s Bungle Bungles, either.
20. Our oceans come with built-in swimming pools
Swimming in a pool, within an ocean? Call it Poolception, but there are multiple spots ’round the country in which swimming a few laps in a man-made pool fuelled by the intermittent splashing of the ocean isn’t merely a dream. Some of the most famed include Manly and Bondi in New South Wales, but don’t “sleep” on the recently-renovated Merewether Baths of Newcastle on the state’s central coast.
21. We turn graffiti into an artform
No young hooligans, we aren’t referring to plastering your ironic “tag” over pieces of public property; artistic capital Melbourne has turned what used to be merely a public annoyance into a true piece of beauty in multiple parts of the city. There are numerous “endorsed” examples of street graffiti around Melbourne city, with the ever-changing Hosier Lane being the standard bearer for its layer-on-layer of political and individual expression.
22. Here’s what you can do in Australia in Winter…
While there’s a certain appeal to the magic of snowfall, there’s also a certain appeal to walking out of the house in shorts, not having to shovel snow to get the car out of the garage, not needing to dress like an Eskimo to grab a bottle of milk from the local shops, or even popping in the water for a snorkel in the world’s most beautiful reef system in the middle of winter, as much of QLD’s North coastline – and the pictured Lady Elliot Island – offers.
23. …and this is what Aussie Christmas looks like!
In addition, if you’re looking for all the top things to see and do in and around the rest of Australia including activities, attractions and more, be sure to check out our main Experiences section.