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A beginner’s guide to Australia

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Say ‘G’day’ to Australia – a coastal continent of red deserts, lengthy beaches, an easy-breezy culture and extraordinary endemic wildlife. For travellers from Europe and the USA, Australia is dreamily deemed ‘the other side of the world’, and so has built a reputation as the ultimate travel fantasy.  

Despite its comparatively small population, Australia is huge. It’s unlikely you’ll cover its marvels all in one trip; those who try will probably only scratch the surface of what the country has to offer. So how should you plan a trip down under that will have you experiencing a well-rounded dose of Australian magic? Our local experts can help you plan a tailor-made trip that will help you embrace the flamboyance of Sydney, the dynamism of the Gold Coast or the unmatched glory of the Outback… Read on to discover our beginner’s guide to Australia.

The mystery of the Outback

Australia is almost synonymous with its sprawling interior, the ‘Outback’. Consisting of expansive red-hued deserts, incredible rock formations and rare and distinctive flora and fauna – this vast landscape has been home to the country’s Aboriginal population for thousands of years. Due to its harsh desert environment and extreme temperatures, the majority of the country’s population (approximately 90%) have settled along the coast. This leaves this central region shrouded in a sense of untouched wilderness that begs for adventure. 

For those looking to explore the Outback, travellers typically fly to Uluru where they can witness the majesty of Ayers Rock, or head to Alice Springs to tackle Australia’s Central Desert. Yet, there are numerous bountiful national parks to traverse, awash with desert panoramas, spectacular gorges, dense forestland and the odd mountain range. Outback exploration is largely what Australia is famous for, and it makes for sensational expeditions, just be prepared for scorching heat.

Cities of fun and culture

The urban jewels of Australia are known for their joyous, progressive nature and never-ending cultural goods; you’ll find that city-goers believe in having fun at all costs.  

Sydney proudly upholds its standing as a city synonymous with progress – a reputation immortalised by iconic moments such as Kylie Minogue ushering in the new millennium against the backdrop of the brilliantly illuminated Sydney Opera House. Beyond being recognized as one of the LGBTQ+ centres of the world, the city also captivates with its stunning aesthetics; with a hub of gleaming modern architecture juxtaposed against a backdrop of world-class beaches, including the iconic Bondi Beach. 

Joining Sydney in the East, you’ll encounter Melbourne, a city teeming with vibrant art galleries and a thriving coffee shop culture, the laid-back charm of Brisbane, and the Gold Coast, where the vivacious beach party atmosphere beckons with its lively energy. Heading to the West Coast introduces you to the eclectic and nature-loving community of Perth. While down in the lush landscapes of Adelaide in the south, you’ll find cheerful locals and the opportunity to embark on enchanting wine tours.

For Australian cities, coastal scenery is a given, but they’re also surrounded with natural splendour. Nearby stunning sites include the Blue Mountains near Sydney; the lush rainforests of Great Otway National Park, near Melbourne; or the koala and kangaroo-packed walking trails of Yanchep Park, near Perth.

Wildlife above and below the ocean

Australia boasts a collection of truly iconic and unique wildlife, from kangaroos and koalas to wombats and platypuses. Not to be overlooked are the impressive array of colossal insects, with snakes and spiders that are more prolific here than anywhere else in the world. In general, Australians approach the presence of formidable-looking wildlife with a sense of humour; shooing off a huntsman spider much like Europeans would a stray cat in the garden. 

If you’re looking to see wildlife in its natural habitat, then you’ll be spoiled for choice with an abundance of animal hot spots everywhere you go. From the tree-dwelling species in the enchanting Daintree Rainforest to the self-explanatory inhabitants of Kangaroo Island, and from the echidnas and diverse birdlife of Lamington National Park to the charming penguins of Phillip Island — the list is both extensive and captivating.

In the waters surrounding Australia, you’ll encounter great white sharks, schools of manta rays, majestic humpback whales, and captivating gatherings of octopuses and jellyfish. However, the pinnacle of underwater biodiversity lies in the renowned Great Barrier Reef. Spanning almost 1,500 miles, this underwater marvel is a habitat for cherished inhabitants like the clownfish, graceful green sea turtles, and colossal giant clams — not to mention the thousands of other species contributing to a vibrant spectrum of marine life, coral formations, and cays. 

Coastal dreams

As a nation surrounded by ocean, Australia stands as a coastal haven for those enamoured with seaside living. Impressive surf, warm waters and golden-sand beaches exist here in harmony with the country’s biggest urban centres. The presence of numerous world-class surf breaks, spanning the likes of the Gold Coast, Margaret River, Byron Bay, and beyond, unveils the secret to why Australia is a breeding ground for many surfing champions. 

Life along the coast is centred on embracing the great outdoors and appreciating the gift of having beautiful, easily accessible beaches right on your doorstep. Those with an affinity for watersports are truly spoiled for choice here; the potential for surfing, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and fishing attracting enthusiasts from across the globe. Swimming and snorkelling are natural pastimes, enhanced by the proximity to world-renowned sites like the Great Barrier Reef, along with other rich locations such as Ningaloo Reef and Lord Howe Island, making scuba diving excursions in this region unparalleled. 

Aboriginal heritage

Australia’s Aboriginal history stretches back over 65,000 years, tracing the footsteps of some of Earth’s earliest inhabitants, and this profound heritage is intricately woven into the very fabric of the land. In the Northern Territory and various regions of the Red Centre, historic centres pulsate with a vibrant Aboriginal presence. Guided tours by local experts offer visitors an in-depth experience, providing insights into a rich culture steeped in storytelling, abstract art, and traditional dance. 

Today, the Aboriginal population constitutes only 3.8% of the country’s total, and their enduring traditional ‘off-the-land’ lifestyle is frequently entangled with pervasive challenges of racism, poverty, and addiction. Nowhere is this more evident than in Central Australia, home to numerous Aboriginal communities facing these complex issues. Ongoing dialogues revolve around addressing historical injustices and advocating for land rights for the Aboriginal people. While navigating this topic may be intricate, investing the additional time to delve into this integral facet of Australian heritage and culture is undeniably worthwhile. 

The Aussie way

Those who spend time in Australia quickly develop an appreciation for the laid-back nature of Australians, coupled with the distinct eccentricity embedded in their cultural humour. The national fixation on ‘Big Things’ adds a touch of quirkiness to the experience—tourists can explore the likes of the Big Prawn, Big Pineapple, Giant Koala, and Big Banana, among other whimsical sculptures. From competitive races featuring cockroaches, camels, to even lawn mowers, to the use of humorous Aussie slang terms that might warrant on-the-spot translation (think: ‘zonked’ for tired or ‘woop woop’ indicating a remote location), the cultural landscape is vibrant and diverse. 

Whether you find yourself sharing a beer with locals in a Tasmanian town or immersing in the exuberant crowds during the iconic Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney, interactions infused with a touch of cheekiness are all part of the quintessential Australian way. 

Things to consider

1. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia experiences seasons opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere. Winters (June to August) bring cooler and more comfortable temperatures, with it rarely dropping below 10 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, the summer months (December to February) can bring scorching highs exceeding 30 degrees Celsius along the coast— even higher if you venture inland. Be ready for intense heat, you’ll soon understand why Australians are vigilant about sun protection during these months. 

2. The choice of destinations on your inaugural tour of Australia, be it the awe-inspiring natural landscapes of the West Coast, the lively cities along the East Coast, or the untamed and secluded Northern Territories, hinges on factors such as time constraints and your specific priorities. 

3. While the commonly acknowledged highlights of Ayer’s Rock in Uluru, the vibrant capital Sydney, and the iconic Great Barrier Reef can certainly be combined into a single trip, opting for a more personalised tour that immerses you in a specific region of Australia is best achieved through discussions with a local expert during the planning stages. 

Make it happen

Are you ready to embark on an adventure Down Under? Connect with our team of locally-based travel experts who possess an abundance of first-hand knowledge – brimming with insights to assist you in crafting your ideal trip to Australia. Reach out today and let us help turn your vision for the perfect vacation into a tailored and unforgettable experience.

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