The common image of ‘the land Down Under’ is miles of untouched beaches or deserts of red dust, but the reality is that Australia is one of the most urbanised nations on Earth, with more than 90% of the population living in a city. Want to discover the urban side of Australia? Tick these 10 towns off your to-do list.
The biggest city in Australia is also its ultimate city break, packed full of big-ticket attractions and the most scenic urban geography in the country. Visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, catch the ferry across the glittering harbour to Manly, stroll along the jaw-dropping coastline between Bondi and Coogee, eat your way through Surry Hills’ dining scene then enjoy a tipple on Oxford St. Phew, that’s a lot to squeeze into your Harbour City itinerary!
The Victorian capital is also Australia’s capital of coffee, sport and culture. Stroll through the graffiti-covered laneways of Centre Place and Hosier Lane to sniff out a cafe or a small bar, pay a visit to the world-class National Gallery of Victoria and Melbourne Museum for a dose of culture, and catch a game of footy or cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the country’s revered sporting cathedral.
The City of Churches has shed its once-staid reputation to become one of Australia’s most dynamic cities, brimming with bars, cafes and outdoor experiences. Go swimming with wild dolphins in the morning, sample the local produce at one of the world’s oldest wineries at lunch, then tuck into dinner at an atmospheric restaurant in the West End by night, an area named one of the world’s three coolest neighbourhoods by Lonely Planet last November.
The capital of Western Australia might well be the most isolated major metropolis on the face of the Earth, but it’s also one of Australia’s coolest cities. Check out the beachside bars and breweries of Fremantle, lap up postcard views of the skyline from leafy Kings Park, grab a coffee at salubrious Cottesloe Beach, take a day trip to gorgeous Rottnest Island, and let your hair down in the nightclubs of Northbridge.
The Sunshine State is bathed in warm weather 12 months a year, making Brisbane the perfect city break away from cooler climes during the winter months. The Queensland capital is renowned for its shady inner-city parks, its sophisticated food and drink options, and its vibrant Southbank precinct on the banks of the Brisbane River, home to a man-made lagoon, a towering Ferris wheel, and a clutch of good museums and art galleries.
Any Aussie that still writes off their national capital as boring obviously hasn’t visited recently, with a thriving hospitality scene transforming the once-sterile city. The quirky cafes lining Lonsdale St in Braddon and the buzzy watering holes in Manuka complement big-ticket attractions including Parliament House, the Museum of Australian Democracy and the superb Australian War Memorial.
The Top End is a city break with a difference. Darwin provides a gateway for impressive national parks such as Litchfield and Kakadu, and there’s plenty to do in town, too — swim with crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove, catch the spectacular sunset over the Timor Sea at the Mindil Beach Markets, learn a little more about Darwin’s engrossing military history, and the nightlife on Mitchell St has to be seen to be believed.
Sure, Tasmania’s largest city is Australia’s smallest state capital, but no town in the country is growing as fast as Hobart. Mainlanders are flocking to the Apple Isle for its unique blend of historic colonial-era architecture, booming gourmet food and drink culture, pristine nature, and the most exciting art gallery anywhere in Australia: MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, which is worth the journey alone.
Located two hours’ drive north of Sydney, New South Wales’ second-largest city is like a little version of its biggest one, right down to the sparkling city beaches and prominent harbour. Newcastle – like the English city it was named after two centuries ago – used to be a gritty industrial town, but it’s enjoyed a stunning resurgence over the last decade thanks to a wave of cutting-edge restaurants, cafes and bars.
The Glitter Strip has come of age after hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games, presenting itself well on the international stage. The row of high-rises towering over the golden sand is only one aspect of the Gold Coast – explore the famous surf breaks, dozens of brunch spots, and gorgeous hinterland for the full experience of Australia’s sixth-largest metropolitan area.