Skip past the photos to the Australia tips, reasons to go and highlights here.
Australia – Should You Go?
Yes. Go there, do it soon, go.
Australia is an amazing place to travel around and there are lots of reasons to visit.
The country is vast, mostly inhospitable and potentially very hazardous – which is part of the allure for me. Driving out towards Uluru through the “ghastly blank” with mile after mile of nothingness – day after day – running on vapours as the next petrol station slowly comes into view – may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we loved it. Coming from a small country myself – England, where you can’t go very far without coming across human activity, the enormous Australian outback is pretty mind-blowing. We hired a basic “hi-topper” campervan and spent 12 days on a massive loop from Brisbane, up through Queensland via Mount Isa, into the Northern Territory, down the Stuart Highway, stopping at Alice Springs & Uluru, down into South Australia, Port Augusta for repairs and across New South Wales via Dubbo before joining the Pacific Highway around Coffs Harbour for the drive back to Brisbane. Utterly awesome.
Must see places and sights
The famous iconic megalith in the red centre. Amazing just to gaze at it dawn and dusk, walk around and, if you can, see from the air via helicopter ride. TIP – take a hat with a fly net – or go insane swatting the flies away every 2 seconds. You can spot the people who don’t have them a mile off – they look crazy waving their arms all over the place. We arrived at the camp site without nets and lasted 5 minutes, luckily the shop had some. There must be something about human eye juice that is very tasty to an Uluru fly because those little buggers are relentless!
The Great Ocean Road
The famous drive along the south coast taking in Lorne, Apollo Bay & Port Campbell. Staggeringly beautiful coastline and beaches. You are almost guaranteed to see koalas in the Otway National Park. Be prepared for plenty of getting in and out of the vehicle as you make numerous stops to soak up the views and take pictures.
Just how many pictures of the Opera House can you take? Having seen so many photos of this world-famous icon, getting up close to it in the flesh was a bit surreal first time around. The Harbour Bridge, Sky Tower and a trip across the bay are also well worth it.
There are loads of them. We found ourselves gawping at breath taking scenery in the Blue Mountains, Lamington, Flinders Ranges, Grampians and Carnarvon Gorge. Hiking and camping in these parks is great.
Also see or maybe do
Great Barrier Reef
Had I known the human-made problems this extraordinary coral reef faces, I would not have done scuba diving there (this was in 2010). The dive itself was OK, but not the technicolour fishy swarms I was expecting. Quite a bit of the particular bit of reef we were on was just brownish and sick looking. There were plenty of fish to look at but the whole area looked overused. Over the years the tourists, boats and pollution have taken a serious toll on this immense, living wonder. If we do go again, we’ll be doing low impact, eco-friendly activities whilst still learning about, and enjoying the reef. For now it’s best left alone to recover in the places where it still can.
There are plenty of places to learn about the indigenous aboriginal peoples both before and after European arrival. The installation at Uluru was very good. Some of the modern aboriginal paintings are fabulous, and I can’t help but like the hypnotic sound of a didgeridoo. If you visit cave paintings, such as those at the Manja shelter in the Grampains (Victoria) or at Carnarvon Gorge (Queensland), it’s likely some the oldest human art on the entire planet. See the movie Samson and Deliliah – it’s awesome. Rabbit-Proof Fence and Walkabout are worth seeing too.
Daintree National Park
If you are in Cairns to visit the Great Barrier Reef, a day trip to this park is worth it. Set in the tropics proper, the park is ancient rainforest in action. A pity we didn’t spot any cassowaries, but we did see an enormous crocodile on a short cruise up the river in a tiny boat which wasn’t scary at all.
Good for a look around Parliament House, Questacon and The National Library. The Royal Mint was the highlight for us – a fascinating look into how coins are made.
Pretty good for a day out with the family. Shame about the lack of big primates, but then again, they shouldn’t really be in zoos should they?
For whale watching – humpbacks on migration. Some tours will guarantee you see them. You may see dolphins show up too. Good activity for an afternoon.
Scenic and chilled out towns like Melaney in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland.
- Safety – yes, it is true about Australia – there is danger everywhere. We came across snakes in forests and in camp sites – from biggish pythons to the highly venomous red-bellied black snake. We saw a red back spider nested under a public toilet…… Jellyfish are common at the beaches – some harmless, others not. Crocodiles will dine upon your soft bodies if given the chance. The kangaroos might try and disembowel you if you look at them. Even the magpies swoop down and attack your head as you quietly cycle by minding your own business. Don’t forget the Ozzie sun will seriously fry your skin very quickly in the summer. Long distance driving is potentially deadly – as the road signs (and ample roadkill) will constantly remind you. Bushfires and flooding are a serious hazard too. Apart from all that it’s pretty safe.
- Bottle-Os – if you want to buy alcohol you have to go to a special shop. You can’t just pick up a bottle of wine or a few beers at the supermarket or local store. This seems highly uncivilised at first, but you get used to it.
- Drive on the left.
- Avoid the peak summer months (December, January, February), particularly in the north.
- Read “Down Under” by Bill Bryson for his unique look on Australia.
- More info.