Australia is an enormous country, offering everything from idyllic golden beaches, epic surf, thriving metropolitan cities, and lush, green rainforests. With so much on offer, deciding what to do or see can be overwhelming. To help you narrow it down, we’ve included our list of the ultimate things you must experience in Australia.
1. ROAD TRIP THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
If you’re looking for the perfect road trip, head to the southern coast of Victoria towards the Great Ocean Road. This stunning stretch of coastal road spans a total of 243-kilometers, starting off south of Melbourne. Rent a car or join a guided tour to explore the area’s epic surf, picturesque coastal scenery, idyllic beaches, and abundant wildlife. Winding through the Victorian coastline, you’ll find several small towns to visit, including Torquay, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, and Anglesea. Hike to a Great Ocean Road waterfall, sip a coffee at a hip beachside cafe, or stroll the Surf Coast Walk. Highlights of this road trip include the legendary Twelve Apostles, Bells Beach, and the Port Campbell National Park.
2. SNORKEL THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
If there’s one thing you must do in Australia, it’s visiting the Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest coral reef system is made up of nearly 3000 reefs and 900 islands spanning over 2300-kilometers along Australia’s east coast. Unfortunately, the Reef is under threat due to climate change, overfishing as well as coastal development. Thankfully, there are several eco-responsible tour providers in the area that allow visitors to explore the area sustainably. Snorkeling is one of the best ways to see the reef, as you’ll be fully immersed and can swim alongside sea turtles, eagle rays, and tropical fish while taking in the colorful corals. We recommend Ocean Safari, a company with both Advanced Ecotourism Certification and Global Sustainable Tourism Council approval. Don’t forget to bring coral-safe sunscreen!
3. MEET A KOALA AT THE LONE PINE SANCTUARY
Australia is home to some of the world’s most iconic animals, including our personal favorite, the koala. These little creatures spend their days tree-climbing and sleeping among branches of the eucalypt forest they rely on for food and shelter. One of the best places to spot these animals is at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, located near Brisbane on the east coast. Founded in 1927, it is the oldest and largest koala sanctuary in the world, totaling nearly 18-hectares of land.
Visitors can explore the area and visit the 130-koalas the sanctuary is home to. You can even meet and touch a koala! A keeper holds the koala while you stand beside them and give them a cuddle. Despite looking soft and fuzzy, you might be surprised to find out koala’s fur is more reminiscent of the coarse wool of a sheep! If you find yourself on the southern coast but still want to see koalas, check out the Kennet River Koala Walk. Located along the Great Ocean Road, this trail is home to a large population of koalas. We recommend visiting during the early morning or late afternoon when the walk is less busy. Most often you’ll spot a koala dozing off above within the first ten minutes on the trail.
4. EXPERIENCE AUSSIE SURF CULTURE
No trip down under is complete without experiencing quintessential Australian surf culture. The country is known around the world for its epic waves, attracting beginners and professionals from around the world. If you’re never surfed before, we recommend taking an introductory surf lesson to familiarize yourself with surf etiquette and basic skills like paddling-out, standing up, and riding a wave. Regardless of where you decide to surf, do your research first to find the best spots to match your skill level. Some beaches are better for newbies, while others are best suited for the pros.
If you find yourself near Sydney, Bondi Beach is suitable for both beginners and experienced surfers. Even if you’re not into trying the sport yourself, you’re sure to enjoy watching from the beach or learning about the evolution of the sport. We loved the Australian Surf Museum in Torquay where you can learn about the sport’s history and influence on the area as well as admire some cool vintage boards. Nearby you’ll find Bells Beach, one of the country’s most iconic surf spots and home the world’s longest-running surf competition, Bells Beach Pro.
5. TASTE WORLD CLASS COFFEE
Australia has earned its reputation for world-class coffee culture. In the post-WWII-era, droves of Italians immigrated to Melbourne, bringing with them their taste for fine coffee as well as their steam-powered espresso machines. The Italian cafe culture meshed well with the laid-back Aussie lifestyle, evolving to take a shape of its own. If there’s one drink that stands out, it’s the flat white. This warm drink is essentially a shot of espresso with steamed milk poured straight over. It’s the perfect middle ground – not as strong as straight espresso, but still smooth and milky without a bunch of foam. Though you’ll find great coffee across the country, some of our favorites include Seven Seeds in Melbourne and Mecca Coffee in Sydney.
6. DO THE WUKALINA WALK
For a genuine Australian Aboriginal cultural experience, we recommend doing the Wukalina Walk in North East Tasmania. Not only is the walk Aboriginal owned and operated, but you’ll also get to learn about the palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginals) and their homeland. The three-night, four-day guided walk takes you through the Bay of Fires, an incredible natural landscape boasting white sand beaches, clear blue water, and characteristic orange-hued granite boulders. You’ll hear firsthand palawa creation stories and take part in ancestral cultural practices, all while taking in the pristine natural environment.
7. SAIL THE WHITSUNDAYS
The Whitsunday Islands are a group 74-bays and idyllic white-sand islands located off the coast of north Queensland. Airlie Beach is the most popular base from which to explore the islands, with several tour companies offering day or overnight sailing adventures. We recommend taking a few days to explore the area, passing through the Great Barrier Reef and relaxing on the secluded beaches. Most tours will stop at several islands and include activities such as paddle-boarding and snorkeling. Be sure to make a stop at Whitehaven Beach, one of the best spots for swimming in the Whitsundays as the water stays around 26-degrees year-round.
8. VISIT SYDNEY
As Australia’s largest city, Sydney is a huge metropolitan city offering everything from iconic landmarks and fine dining, to hip art galleries, stunning beaches, as well as major brands and unique boutiques. Regardless of what you’re into, Sydney has got you covered. Explore the city center and walk the Harbour Bridge while enjoying views of the harbor and Sydney Opera House. Next, stroll the lush gardens at the Royal Botanical Gardens or visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you prefer the beach, you can easily reach several including Bondi, Coogee, and Manly, by public transport. When its time to eat, you’ll have a huge selection of international cruise with something for every budget.
9. VISIT THE GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK
Stretching inland from the Great Ocean Road, the Great Otway National Park is the perfect destination for any outdoor lover. The park is full of lush rainforest vegetarian, exotic flora and fauna, beaches, and abundant wildlife. Keep an eye out of the Otway Black Snail, native birds including the Kookaburra and Cockatoo, as well as Kangaroos and Wallabies. Check out the Otway Treetop Walk. The walk consists of a series of suspended bridges hanging 25-meters up in the treetops, hidden among the rainforest canopy. The park is also home to several gorgeous waterfalls, including Triplet Falls and Hopetoun Falls, just to name a couple. Lastly, be sure to stop by the Mia Mia Indigenous Culture Centre, where you can learn more about the Gadubanud Aboriginal People that have called the park home for thousands of years.
10. EXPLORE THE WORLD’S LARGEST SAND ISLAND
Spanning over 120-kilometers long, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. This unique island is easily accessed by taking a quick 50-minute ferry from Hervey Bay on the east coast. Because the island’s plants and animals are isolated from the mainland, they are part of a highly unusual ecosystem. It is the only place in the world where rainforests grow on sand dunes at elevations over 200-meters, as well as being home to over fifty percent of the world’s perched lakes. Keep an eye out for dingoes. Because of their isolation, the species that live around the island are thought to be Australia’s most pure strain. Keep in mind that they are wild animals, and should be admired from a distance.
Now you know all the things you must do in Australia! Get planning your trip!
Meet the Guest Author: Natasha
Natasha is of the Great Ocean Road Collective. A website dedicated to sharing the beauty of the Great Ocean Road in Australia with travelers far and wide. If you are planning your trip, need some inspiration, or looking for authentic advice on Aussie travel visit our website The Great Ocean Road Australia or check us out on Instagram.