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Fraser Island | © xmattmcleodx/Pixabay
Fraser Island | © xmattmcleodx/Pixabay
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The Top 15 Things to See And Do in Australia

Picture of Tom Smith
Updated: 30 October 2017
Australia is a big place. Like, seriously big — roughly 32 times bigger than the UK, 11 times bigger than Texas, or as big as India, Mexico, South Africa, France, Japan and Germany combined. And with a seriously big country comes a seriously big number of things to see and do, with so many cities, beaches, landmarks, islands and forests spread across this wide brown land. Don’t know where to start planning your trip? We’ve narrowed down the top 15 things you should add to your Australian bucket list.

Swim at Bondi Beach

Strips of sand don’t get any more famous than Bondi Beach, the world-renowned stretch of shoreline in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. The green grass, golden sand and turquoise water attracts more than a million visitors a year — don’t miss having a dip in the Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, enjoying a meal or a drink at one of Bondi’s trendy bars or eateries and strolling along the jaw-dropping coastal walk between Bondi and the equally gorgeous Coogee Beach.

Admire Uluru

Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) is the beating heart of the Australian continent. Five hours’ drive south-west of Alice Springs, the two-kilometre long, 348-metre high sandstone monolith is one of the country’s most iconic sites. You can experience ‘The Rock’ and the neighbouring Kata Tjuta rock formation on foot, on the back of a Harley Davidson, by helicopter or in a hot-air balloon — just don’t climb it, because Uluru carries huge spiritual significance to Australia’s Indigenous people.

Visit MONA

Australia can’t boast art galleries that rival the history of Europe’s, but it can boast a new museum that matches anything you’ll find overseas. Tasmanian millionaire and art collector David Walsh opened the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in 2011, a gallery he describes as a “subversive adult Disneyland”. Catch the 25-minute ferry from Hobart to admire an indescribable series of 400 artistic works from Walsh’s private collection housed in MONA’s striking modern edifice.

Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef

Live out your own sequel to Finding Nemo by diving into this 2300-kilometre stretch of coral reef straddling the North Queensland coast, the largest coral reef system anywhere on earth. Sail, snorkel and just splash around the reef from its major gateway cities Cairns and Townsville — but get in quick to catch the reef at its most colourful, because warmer sea temps caused by climate change are quickly bleaching the coral.

Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef | © Kyle Taylor/Flickr

Watch sport at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

If sport is religion to Australians, then the MCG is our cathedral — and tens of thousands make the pilgrimage every time the country’s sporting idols grace the hallowed turf. Whether it’s a game of Australian rules football in winter or a cricket match in summer, the rich history and sheer scale of ‘The G’ is palpable — sport has been played here since 1853, and with capacity for 100,024 punters, it’s bigger than any stadium on earth outside North Korea and the United States.

Melbourne Cricket Ground
Melbourne Cricket Ground | © Flickerd/Wikimedia Commons

Call on Canberra

When Lonely Planet named Canberra the third hottest city on the planet to visit in 2018, plenty of Australians thought that must have been a typo. But Australia’s capital city — a place Aussies normally only visit on school excursions to learn about democracy at Parliament House — is full of treats for anyone who ignores the haters, with classy museums and a burgeoning food and drink scene.

Parliament House, Canberra
Parliament House, Canberra | © JJ Harrison/Wikimedia Commons

Taste wine in the Barossa Valley

Australia is blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to world-class wine regions — there’s the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, the Yarra and Swan Valleys on Melbourne’s doorstep and Margaret River south of Perth — but the Barossa Valley near Adelaide might just be the pick of the bunch. Home to some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world, the Barossa’s 150 wineries are famous for their reds, particularly renowned wine-makers like Penfolds, Jacob’s Creek and Wolf Blass.

Jacob’s Creek vineyard, Barossa Valley
Jacob’s Creek vineyard, Barossa Valley | © Amanda Slater/Wikimedia Commons

Catch a sunset at Cable Beach

This 22-kilometre stretch of white sand creates one of the most spectacular sunset spots in the country, especially if you’re a part of Cable Beach’s iconic camel train as the sun slinks into the Indian Ocean. The historic pearling port of Broome — itself a fascinating, multicultural and uniquely remote town of 15,000, two-and-a-half hours’ flight north of Perth — also serves as the gateway to Western Australia’s wild Kimberley region, an ancient landscape of canyons, gorges and swimming holes.

Cable Beach, Broome
Cable Beach, Broome | © Ian Armstrong/Flickr

Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Any visitor to Sydney that doesn’t at least visit ‘The Coathanger’ is doing something wrong, but for the full experience, you’ve got to don a grey jumpsuit and climb the thing, too. Starting at $163, the BridgeClimb scales the arch towering 134 metres above sea level, providing 360-degree panoramic views of the Harbour City — including the Sydney Opera House, just across the water — from the top of its most famous landmark.

Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb
Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb | © ImagineCup/Flickr

Tour Fraser Island

The world’s largest sand island — 120km long and 24km wide, three hours’ drive north of Brisbane — is home to an eclectic collection of treasures, from the white-sand freshwater Lake McKenzie and the lofty Valley of the Giants rainforest to one of Australia’s purest strains of dingo and the haunting shipwreck of the S.S. Maheno. Hervey Bay — your launchpad for tours of the island — is also the best whale-watching spot in Australia during winter, when Fraser Island shelters newborn humpback calves to grow strong before the long trip back to Antarctica.

Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island
Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island | © Sensenmann/Wikimedia Commons

Adventure into the Kakadu National Park

Welcome to Kakadu, a national park so huge it’s roughly the size of Jamaica and Lebanon combined. Found a three hours’ drive west of Darwin in a region (erroneously) named the Alligator Rivers, Kakadu’s prehistoric landscapes are actually home to about 10,000 crocodiles as well as an incredibly diverse population of native flora and fauna, 20,000-year-old Indigenous rock art and countless pristine waterfalls, billabongs and swimming holes (so long as you keep an eye out for crocs).

Drive the Great Ocean Road

Google “world’s best road trips” and you’ll notice a scenic stretch of bitumen in our own backyard consistently named alongside the likes of Route 66 across the States, South Africa’s Garden Route and the Ring Road in Iceland — and it’s not hard to see why the Great Ocean Road matches it with the best driving routes on earth. The 400-kilometre drive winds along the coast between Torquay near Melbourne and the South Australian border, clinging to the dramatic coastline that links landmarks like the 12 Apostles rock formation and surfing mecca Bells Beach.

Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road | © MartinaFotos/Pixabay

Explore the Daintree Rainforest

The Great Barrier Reef grabs most of the attention, but there’s another World Heritage Listed natural wonder in the Queensland tropics that’s no less impressive. Covering 1,200 square kilometres near Cairns, the Daintree is home to primitive plant life that preserves different stages of the earth’s evolutionary history, more than 400 species of birds and untouched natural swimming pools as Mossman Gorge… little wonder Richard Attenborough described it as “the most extraordinary place on earth”.

Daintree Rainforest
Daintree Rainforest | © Diliff/Wikimedia Commons

Cycle around Rottnest Island

There are dozens of reasons that would convince you that ‘Rotto’ — a laid-back island just 25 minutes on the ferry from Fremantle, Perth — is one of Australia’s must-visit destinations, including the 60-plus stunning beaches connected by car-free bike roads, the 35,000 humpback and southern right whales that cruise by during winter, or the sparkling waters that house an array of marine life. But you only really need one reason to visit: the quokka, an impossibly cute marsupial found in very few places other than Rottnest.

Surf in Byron Bay

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has famously bought himself a luxury pad in Byron, and if it’s good enough for Thor, it’s good enough for you. The sublime beaches and bohemian vibe of Australia’s eastern-most town explain why Byron Bay is so popular with travellers who want to learn to surf at some of the country’s most reliable breaks.

Byron Bay surfers
Byron Bay surfers | © pxhere