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Lonely Planet Australia

Lonely Planet Australia

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Lonely Planet Australia

3/5 (49 ratings)
3,085 pages
26 hours
Nov 1, 2019


Lonely Planet: The world's number one travel guide publisher*

Lonely Planet's Australia is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Stake out a patch of sand on Bondi Beach before exploring the big-ticket sights of Sydney, dive into the dazzling ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef, and drive along the Great Ocean Road spying the Twelve Apostles on the way - all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Australia and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Australia:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sightseeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights provide a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, people, music, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine, politics
  • Covers: Sydney, New South Wales, Canberra, Queensland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Victoria, Tasmania, Adelaide, Darwin, the Northern Territory, Perth and the Outback.

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet's Australia is our most comprehensive guide to Australia, and is perfect for discovering both popular and off-the-beaten-path experiences.

Looking for just the highlights? Check out Pocket Sydney, our smaller guide featuring the best sights and experiences for a short visit or weekend trip.

About Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world's number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveller since 1973. Over the past four decades, we've printed over 145 million guidebooks and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travellers. You'll also find our content online, and in mobile apps, video, 14 languages, nine international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more.

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves, it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Nov 1, 2019

About the author

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Lonely Planet Australia - Lonely Planet



Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Australia

Australia’s Top 25

Need to Know

What’s New

If You Like…

Month by Month


Family Travel

Your Reef Trip

Your Outback Trip

Australia Outdoors

Wildlife Watching

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

Sydney & New South Wales


Around Sydney

Royal National Park

Blue Mountains

The Central Coast

Hunter Valley


Mid-North Coast

Port Stephens

Myall Lakes National Park

Port Macquarie

Crescent Head

Hat Head National Park

South West Rocks


Coffs Harbour


Byron Bay & the Far North Coast

Yamba & Angourie


Lennox Head

Byron Bay

Brunswick Heads

North Coast Hinterland




New England




Northern NSW



Lightning Ridge

Central NSW






Outback NSW


Broken Hill

Mungo National Park

Tibooburra & Corner Country

South Coast NSW


Kiama & Around


Kangaroo Valley


Jervis Bay

Ulladulla & Mollymook

Batemans Bay



Tilba Tilba & Central Tilba

Sapphire Coast

Southern Highlands

Mittagong & Bowral

Snowy Mountains



Kosciuszko National Park




Wagga Wagga




Sydney’s Beaches

Canberra & the ACT



Activities & Tours

Festivals & Events



Drinking & Nightlife



Around Canberra



D’aguilar National Park

Around Brisbane

North Stradbroke Island

Moreton Island


Granite Belt

Gold Coast

Surfers Paradise

Main Beach & The Spit

Broadbeach & Mermaid Beach

Burleigh Heads

Currumbin & Palm Beach


Gold Coast Hinterland

Noosa & The Sunshine Coast


Bribie Island


Mooloolaba & Maroochydore

Coolum & Peregian Beach

Cooloola Coast

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Fraser Coast

Hervey Bay

Rainbow Beach





Fraser Island

Capricorn Coast & the Southern Reef Islands

Agnes Water & Town of 1770


Southern Reef Islands



Great Keppel Island

Capricorn Hinterland

Whitsunday Coast


Airlie Beach

The Whitsundays


Eungella National Park

Townsville to Cairns


Magnetic Island

Ingham & Around


Hinchinbrook Island


Mission Beach

Dunk Island


Innisfail to Cairns

Cairns & Around


Islands off Cairns

Cairns’ Northern Beaches

Atherton Tablelands




Millaa Millaa

Malanda & Around


Lake Tinaroo

Crater Lakes National Park

Port Douglas to Cooktown

Port Douglas


The Daintree & Cape Tribulation

North to Cooktown


Cape York Peninsula


Laura to Weipa

Telegraph Rd: PDR to Seisia

To the Tip

Thursday Island & Horn Island

Gulf Savannah

Undara Volcanic National Park

Undara to Croydon



Karumba & Karumba Point

Northwest Corner

Outback Queensland

Charters Towers to Cloncurry


Mt Isa

Mt Isa to Charleville



Channel Country

The Great Barrier Reef

Melbourne & Victoria


Melbourne Region

The Dandenongs

Yarra Valley

Marysville & Lake Mountain

Daylesford & Hepburn Springs

Mornington Peninsula

Phillip Island

Great Ocean Road


Bellarine Peninsula


Bells Beach & Point Addis


Aireys Inlet & Around


Wye River

Apollo Bay

Cape Otway

Port Campbell

Port Campbell National Park


Tower Hill Reserve

Port Fairy



Goldfields & Grampians





The Grampians

Northwest of the Grampians

Mt Arapiles State Park

Gippsland & Wilsons Promontory

Fish Creek

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Lakes District

East Gippsland & the Wilderness Coast

Victorian High Country


Mt Buller

Milawa Gourmet Region





Mt Beauty & the Kiewa Valley

Falls Creek

Mt Hotham & Dinner Plain

The Murray





Around Hobart

Richmond & Around

Mt Field National Park & Around

The Southeast

Bruny Island


Huon Valley

Geeveston & Around


Southport & Around

Tasman Peninsula & Port Arthur


Eaglehawk Neck

Port Arthur & Tasman National Park

The Midlands

Oatlands & the Southern Midlands


The East Coast

Maria Island National Park


Coles Bay & Freycinet National Park


St Helens

Binalong Bay & the Bay of Fires

Derby & Around

Flinders Island


Around Launceston

Tamar Valley

Longford & Around


Ben Lomond National Park

Devonport & the Northwest


Sheffield & Around


Mole Creek

Walls of Jerusalem National Park




Marrawah & Around

King Island

The Tarkine Wilderness

Corinna & the Pieman River

Cradle Country & The West

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park



Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park

The Southwest

Lake Pedder & Strathgordon

Southwest National Park


Adelaide & South Australia


Adelaide Hills


Stirling Area

Gumeracha, Birdwood & Lobethal

Fleurieu Peninsula

McLaren Vale


Gulf St Vincent Beaches

Victor Harbor

Port Elliot


Kangaroo Island

Penneshaw & Dudley Peninsula


North Coast Road

Cygnet River & South Coast Road

Flinders Chase National Park

Barossa Valley




Clare Valley




Murray River

Murray Bridge





Renmark & Paringa

Limestone Coast


Meningie & Coorong National Park

Mount Gambier

Penola & the Coonawarra Wine Region

Yorke Peninsula

West Coast

East Coast

South Coast & Innes National Park

Eyre Peninsula

Port Augusta

Port Lincoln

Coffin Bay

Streaky Bay & Around


Ceduna to the Western Australia Border

Flinders Ranges

Southern Ranges



Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park

Blinman & Parachilna

Outback South Australia

Woomera & Around

Coober Pedy

Darwin & The Northern Territory


Around Darwin

Tiwi Islands

Arnhem Highway

Berry Springs


Litchfield National Park

Pine Creek

Kakadu National Park

Ubirr & Around



Cooinda & Yellow Water

Southwestern Kakadu

Arnhem Land

Gunbalanya (Oenpelli)

Eastern Arnhem Land


Around Katherine

Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park

Katherine to Western Australia


Beswick (Wugularr)

Barkly Tableland & Gulf Country

Roper Highway

Carpentaria & Tablelands Highways


Central Northern Territory

Tennant Creek

Devil’s Marbles & Around

Tanami Road

Alice Springs

MacDonnell Ranges

East MacDonnell Ranges

West MacDonnell Ranges

Northern Territory’s Far South

Old South Road

Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve

Lasseter Highway

Kings Canyon & Watarrka National Park

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park


Ultimate Outback

Perth & Western Australia


Perth Region

Rottnest Island

Swan Valley




Perth Hills

Avon Valley

New Norcia

Turquoise Coast

Margaret River Region




Cape Naturaliste


Margaret River

Caves Road

Augusta & Around

Southern Forests




Southern WA

Walpole & Nornalup



Porongurup National Park

Stirling Range National Park


Batavia Coast



Kalbarri National Park

Shark Bay


Monkey Mia

Gascoyne Coast


Quobba Coast

Ningaloo Coast & the Pilbara

Coral Bay


Around Exmouth

Ningaloo Marine Park

Cape Range National Park



Port Hedland

Karijini National Park

Broome & The Kimberley


Dampier Peninsula


Devonian Reef National Parks

Gibb River Road

Great Northern Hwy


Purnululu National Park & Bungle Bungle Range

Outback WA



Understand Australia


Aboriginal Culture


Food & Drink


Survival Guide

Deadly & Dangerous

Out & About

Where the Wild Things Are

Directory A–Z

Accessible Travel


Customs Regulations

Discount Cards





Internet Access

Legal Matters



Opening Hours


Public Holidays

Safe Travel




Tourist Information


Women Travellers



Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Australia

Australia is the unexpected: a place where the world’s oldest cultures share vast ochre plains, stylish laneways and unimaginably blue waters with successive waves of new arrivals from across the globe.

An Ancient Land

Australia is a country, but also a land that encompasses many countries. To understand the latter is to walk in the footsteps of its first peoples. Whether you’re tracing outlines of rock art more than 20 thousand years old in Kakadu National Park, floating in the azure waters of Rottnest Island or admiring the iconic sites of Sydney Harbour where the Eora Nation traded for centuries, you are on Indigenous land.

Urban Wonder

Nowhere builds cities quite like Australia: each is a homage to magnificent waterways or beachfronts, while offering different experiences across different geographies. Grab a bicycle from one of Melbourne’s bike-share racks and tour the city’s fashion districts and cafe-lined laneways. Only a city like Darwin can fuse southern-Asian influence with contemporary Aboriginal culture (and leave you with an impressive sunburn to boot). Want a bit of everything? Sydney will take your breath away with its natural beauty and bustling neighbourhoods, while Hobart strikes a chord with its Gothic history and contemporary art.

Adventurous Spirit

You only have to travel a stone’s throw from any of Australia’s capital cities before you’ve landed somewhere truly out of this world. Not scared of the deep blue? Dive into famous reefs from the Ningaloo to the Great Barrier Reef, or witness majestic southern right whales along the Great Australian Bight. And nothing will steady your sea legs more than getting on a 4WD tour and hitting one of the many dirt roads leading to rocky outcrops, from Uluru to the Kimberley.

A Foodie’s Dream

Decades of migration combined with the re-emergence of native ingredients has brought Australian cuisine on to the radar of the world’s best chefs. You can buy a mouth-watering kangaroo steak complemented by indigenous greens at high-end restaurants, or take a bush tucker tour outside Alice Springs and learn which local plants to taste. No trip to Tasmania would be complete without planning exactly where you’ll slurp freshly shucked oysters, and don’t leave South Australia without a Barossa Valley taste tour. And a word for the brave: Darwinians love their spice!

Stunning cliff scenery, Broome, Western Australia | XANKAI PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES ©

Why I Love My Country

By Rachael Hocking, Journalist

When I walk across this magnificent land, I speak to my forebears: great Warlpiri warriors, and the ancestors of each tribe that call this country home. I sing to the spirits who inhabit speckled night skies above the Tanami Desert: they look down from the stars and see circles, lines, dots; the veins of our Mother. I’ve shared turtle eggs with Meriam on Erub Island at the edges of the beautiful Torres Strait, and I’ve sighted rare rock-wallaby in the heart of the Pilbara alongside Martu Aboriginal rangers. I do not own this land, but it is a part of me.

For more, see Our Writers

Australia’s Top 25

Aboriginal Culture

Australia’s Aboriginal people, from over 500 different first nations, are the inheritors of the longest continuous culture on earth. Your first engagement with Aboriginal culture may be on a walking tour, via a bush-tucker experience, or while enjoying artistic expressions of art, film, music, story and dance. You don’t need to visit the outback to learn about Aboriginal Australia. Whatever your introduction is, expect to have your worldview completely turned around. Post-colonial Australia is only starting to appreciate Aboriginal custodianship of the land and the humble intelligence required to thrive here for millennia.

Bush foods, central Australia | HOHENHAUS/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences


Native wildlife brings Australia’s wild regions to life. You’ll never forget seeing your first kangaroo bounding across a field, or encountering your first wombat in a campground. From the crocodiles of Kakadu to whale watching off the coast in winter, and adorable quokkas on Rottnest Island in Western Australia to a rainbow of birds in its cities, Australia is rich with wildlife-spotting opportunities. It’s almost impossible to miss them. Did we mention koalas, dingoes, rock wallabies, platypuses, goannas and more? Don’t forget to pack your binoculars.


Top Experiences

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Australia’s most recognised natural wonder, Uluru draws pilgrims from around the world like moths to a big red flame. No matter how many postcard images you have seen, nothing prepares you for the Rock’s immense presence, character-pitted surface and spiritual gravitas. Not far away is an equally beguiling clutch of stone siblings known as Kata Tjuta. Deeply cleaved with narrow gorges sheltering tufts of vegetation, these 36 pink-red domes blush intensely at sunset.


Top Experiences

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is as fragile as it is beautiful. Stretching more than 2000km along the Queensland coastline, it’s a complex ecosystem populated with dazzling coral, languid sea turtles, gliding rays, timid reef sharks and tropical fish of every colour and size. Whether you dive on it, snorkel over it or explore it via a scenic flight or a glass-bottomed boat, this vivid undersea kingdom and its coral-fringed islands are so unforgettable people are signing up to become a Citizen of the Great Barrier Reef to help save it.


Top Experiences


Sydney is immediately recognisable, with its iconic Opera House, the Harbour Bridge lights glistening in the night and sun worshippers lying on its famous beaches. Beyond postcard Sydney, this eclectic city has layers of history and culture to excavate as you explore neighbourhoods. Flamboyant citizens, living Aboriginal stories, Asian influences, colonial streets, old-school pubs, dramatic architecture and always the water: Sydney is defined by its relationship with the briny sea air. It’s possible to witness all of this in a single Sydney moment.


Top Experiences

The Whitsundays

You can hop around a whole stack of tropical islands in this seafaring life and never find anywhere with the sheer beauty of the Whitsundays. Travellers of all monetary persuasions launch yachts from Airlie Beach and drift between these lush green isles in a slow search for paradise (you’ll probably find it in more than one place). Don’t miss Whitehaven Beach – one of Australia’s (and the world’s) best. Wish you were here?


Top Experiences

Daintree Rainforest

Lush green fan palms, ferns and twisted mangroves tumble down towards a brilliant white-sand coastline in the ancient, World Heritage–listed Daintree rainforest. Upon entering the forest, you’ll be enveloped in a cacophony of birdsong, frog croaking and the buzz of insects. Continue exploring the area on wildlife-spotting night tours, mountain treks, interpretive boardwalks, canopy walks, self-guided walking trails, 4WD trips, horse riding, kayaking, crocodile-spotting cruises, tropical-fruit orchard tours and tastings…You might even spot a prehistoric cassowary.


Top Experiences


Why the queue? Oh, that’s just the line to get into the latest ‘no bookings’ restaurant in Melbourne. The next best restaurant, chef, cafe, barista, hidden bar may be the talk of the town, but there are things locals would never change: the leafy parks and gardens in the inner city; the crowded trams that whisk creative ‘northerners’ to sea-breezy southern St Kilda; and the allegiances that living in such a sports-mad city brings. The city’s world-renowned street-art scene expresses Melbourne’s fears, frustrations and joys.

Hosier Lane street art | PATJO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Margaret River & Cape Naturaliste

The decadent joy of drifting from winery to farm gate along eucalypt-shaded country roads is just one of the delights of Western Australia’s southwest. There are underground caves to explore, historic towns to visit and wildflowers to ogle. Surfers bob around in the world-class breaks near the Margaret River mouth, but it’s not unusual to find yourself on a white-sand beach along the cape where the only footprints are your own. In winter and early spring, whales migrate along the ‘Humpback Highway’.


Top Experiences


Occupying an improbable riverside location a ferry ride from Hobart’s harbourfront, the Museum of Old & New Art is an innovative, world-class institution. Described by its owner, Hobart philanthropist David Walsh, as a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’, three levels of astounding underground galleries – in a building (pictured) by architect Nonda Katsalidis – showcase more than 400 challenging and controversial artworks from his collections. You might not like everything you see, but a visit here is a sure-fire conversation starter and one of Australia’s favourite arts experiences.


Top Experiences

Byron Bay

Up there with kangaroos and Akubra hats, big-hearted Byron Bay (just Byron to its mates) is one of the enduring icons of Australian culture. Families on school holidays, surfers and sunseekers from across the globe gather by the foreshore at sunset, drawn to this spot on the world map by fabulous restaurants, a chilled pace of life and an astonishing range of activities on offer. But mostly they’re here because this is one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in the country.


Top Experiences

South Australian Wine Regions

Adelaide is drunk on the success of its three world-famous wine regions, all within two hours’ drive: the Barossa Valley to the north, with its gutsy reds, old vines and German know-how; McLaren Vale to the south, a Mediterranean palette of sea, vines and shiraz and stunning d’Arenburg winery; and the Clare Valley, known for riesling and cycling (in that order). Better-kept secrets are the cool-climate stunners from the Adelaide Hills and the country cabernet sauvignon from the Coonawarra.


Top Experiences

Ningaloo Reef

Swim beside ‘gentle giant’ whale sharks, snorkel among pristine coral, surf off seldom-visited reefs and dive at one of the world’s premier locations at this World Heritage–listed marine park, which sits off the North West Cape on the Coral Coast in Western Australia. Rivalling the Great Barrier Reef for beauty, Ningaloo has more accessible wonders: shallow, turquoise lagoons are entered straight from the beach for excellent snorkelling. Development is very low-key, so be prepared to camp, or take day trips from the access towns of Exmouth and Coral Bay.


Top Experiences

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu, the traditional land of the Bininj/Mungguy, is a portal into a natural and cultural landscape like no other. Weathered by relentless wet and dry seasons, the sandstone ramparts of Kakadu and neighbouring Arnhem Land have sheltered humans for millennia, and an extraordinary environmental legacy remains. Rock-art galleries depict the Dreaming, hunting stories, zoological diagrams and ‘contact art’ (records of visitors from Indonesia and European colonists). The Ubirr and Nourlangie galleries are World Heritage listed and are accessible to all.

Gunlom waterhole | TOURISM NT/JEWELS LYNCH ©

Top Experiences

Cradle Mountain

A precipitous comb of rock carved out by millennia of ice and wind, crescent-shaped Cradle Mountain is Tasmania’s most recognisable – and spectacular – mountain peak. It’s an all-day walk (and boulder scramble) to the summit and back for unbelievable panoramas over Tasmania’s alpine heart. Or you can stand in awe below and fill your camera with the perfect views across Dove Lake to the mountain. If the peak has disappeared in clouds or snow, warm yourself by the fire in one of the nearby lodges…and come back tomorrow.


Top Experiences

Broome & the Kimberley

Australia’s northwestern frontier is one of its most beautiful corners. Broome, where so many journeys out here begin, is where every evening a searing crimson sun slips into the turquoise Indian Ocean as seen from beaches that never seem to end. The far-flung Dampier Peninsula is all about extraordinary cliffs, Indigenous cultural experiences, outdoor adventures and luxury camping. And then there’s the Kimberley, a world of blood-red rock formations, remote trails and unrelenting beauty, not to mention that mysterious call of the outback.


Top Experiences

Great Ocean Road

The Twelve Apostles − craggy rock formations jutting out of wild waters − are one of Victoria’s most vivid sights, but it’s the ‘getting there’ road trip that doubles their impact. Drive slowly along roads that curl beside spectacular Bass Strait beaches, then whip inland through temperate rainforest studded with small towns and big trees. The secrets of the Great Ocean Road don’t stop there; further along is maritime treasure Port Fairy and hidden Cape Bridgewater. For the ultimate in slow travel, walk the Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to the Apostles.


Top Experiences

Canberra’s Museums

Though Canberra is only a century old, Australia’s purpose-built capital loves history. So it’s not surprising that the major drawcard here is a portfolio of lavishly endowed museums and galleries focused on interpreting the national narrative. Institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Australia, National Portrait Gallery and Australian War Memorial offer visitors a fascinating insight into the country’s history and culture and do so with style and substance.

National Museum of Australia, by architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall and Robert Peck von Hartel Trethowan | INAVANHATEREN/SHUTTERSTOCK © ARCHITECTS ASHTON RAGGATT MCDOUGALL AND ROBERT PECK VON HARTEL TRETHOWAN

Top Experiences

Fraser Island

The world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island is home to dingoes, shipwrecks and all manner of birdlife. Four-wheel drive vehicles – regular cars cannot drive on sand – fan out around epic camp spots and long white beaches. The wild coastline curbs any thoughts of doing much more than wandering between pristine creeks and freshwater lakes. Beach camping under the stars will bring you back to nature. A short ferry trip away is Hervey Bay, where humpback whales shoot along the coast in winter and spring.


Top Experiences

The Outback & Broken Hill

Whether you’re belting along South Australia’s Oodnadatta Track in a 4WD or depreciating your van on the southern section of the Birdsville Track, you’ll know you’re not just visiting the outback – you’ve become part of it. Out here, the sky is bluer and the dust redder than anywhere else. Days are measured in kilometres, spinifex mounds and tyre blowouts. Nights are spent in the five-zillion-star hotel, waiting for one to fall… If time isn’t on your side, a road trip to the mining town of Broken Hill may be as far from the coast as you get.


Top Experiences

Arnhem Land

The honour of visiting Arnhem Land in Australia’s Top End is so more than just an opportunity to get off the beaten track. The beaches are truly pristine, and very often deserted, and the wildlife, both on land and in the sea, is abundant because of the Aboriginal approach to Country. Cobourg Peninsula has an earth’s-first-morning quality. And put Injalak Arts & Crafts Centre at Gunbalanya on your itinerary – it’s an important cultural hub for the remote communities living out here beyond the paved road.


Top Experiences

Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge)

While paddling a canoe upstream through one gorge and then another and leaving the crowds behind, you will be drawn into the silence of these towering cliffs, which squeeze the waters of the Katherine River. Take a break on a sandy river beach, walk up to a viewpoint or take a helicopter flight for an eagle-eye view. The surrounding Nitmiluk National Park has even more to offer such as the Jatbula Trail, a five-day walk from the Gorge to the wonderful Leliyn (Edith Falls).


Top Experiences

Wilsons Promontory

Victoria’s southernmost point and finest coastal national park, Wilsons Promontory (or just the Prom) is heaven for bushwalkers, wildlife watchers and surfers. The bushland and coastal scenery here is out of this world; even short walks from the main base at Tidal River will take you to beautiful beaches and bays. But with more than 80km of walking trails through forests, marshes and valleys of tree ferns, over low granite mountains and along beaches backed by sand dunes, the best of the Prom requires some serious footwork.


Top Experiences

The Ghan

The legendary Ghan – named after central Australia’s pioneering Afghan cameleers – is one of the world’s great railway journeys. Begun in 1877, the old line from Marree to Alice Springs suffered from washouts and shoddy construction before a shiny new line replaced it in 1980. The Alice-to-Darwin section followed in 2004: now there’s 2979km and 42 hours of track between Adelaide and Darwin. The Ghan isn’t cheap or fast, but the journey through the vast, flat expanse of central Australia’s deserts is unforgettable.


Top Experiences

Pinnacles Desert

It could be mistaken for the surface of Mars, but scattered among the dunes of Nambung National Park, thousands of ghostly limestone pillars rise from the surrounding plain like a vast, petrified alien army. One of the west’s most bizarre landscapes, the Pinnacles Desert attracts thousands of visitors each year. Although it’s easily enjoyed as a day trip from Perth, staying overnight in nearby Cervantes allows for multiple visits to experience the full spectrum of colour changes at dawn, sunset and the full moon, when most tourists are back in their hotels.


Need to Know

For more information, see Survival Guide


Australian dollar ($)


English, plus Djambarrpuyngu, Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri, Tiwi, Murrinh-Patha, Kunwinjku among 120 Indigenous languages


All visitors to Australia need a visa, except New Zealanders. There are several different visas available from short-stay visitor visas to working-holiday visas.


The Australian dollar is the only currency accepted. You won’t have much trouble finding an ATM (cashpoint).

Mobile Phones

Either set up global roaming, or pick up a local SIM card with a prepaid rechargeable account on arrival.


Australia has three main time zones: Australian Eastern, Central and Western Standard Time. Sydney is on AEST, which is GMT/UTC plus 10 hours.

When to Go

High Season (Dec−Feb)

A Summertime: wet season up north, bush fires in the south.

A Accommodation price rises, busy beaches.

A Festivals season: arts, food, film, music.

Shoulder (Mar−May & Sep−Nov)

A Warm sun, clear skies, cool nights.

A Coastal areas busy at Easter with families.

A Autumn colours are atmospheric in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

Low Season (Jun−Aug)

A Cool wintery days down south; mild with sunny skies up north.

A Lower tourist numbers; some attractions keep slightly shorter hours.

A Head for the desert, the tropical north, or whale-watching spots.

Useful Websites

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/australia) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Tourism Australia (www.australia.com) Main government tourism site with loads of visitor info.

Bureau of Meteorology (www.bom.gov.au) Nationwide weather forecasts and weather warnings.

Parks Australia (www.environment.gov.au/topics/national-parks) Get excited about Australia’s cornucopia of national parks and reserves.

Go Camping Australia (www.gocampingaustralia.com) Beginners’ guide to camping in Australia; includes detailed campsite reviews.

Important Numbers

Australian landline phone numbers have a two-digit state-by-state area code, followed by an eight-digit number.

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than $200

A Hostel dorm bed: $40

A Double room in a basic motel: $100–150

A Simple main meal: $15–20

A Short bus or tram ride: $5

Midrange: $200−350

A Double room in a B&B or hotel: $150–250

A Brunch in a good cafe: $25–40

A Small gig or show: $30

A Short taxi ride: $25

Top End: More than $350

A Double room in a top-end hotel: from $250

A Three-course restaurant meal: $125 per person

A Theatre or festival tickets: from $100 per person

A City-to-city domestic flight: from $100

Opening Hours

Most attractions close Christmas Day; many also close on New Year’s Day and Good Friday.

Banks & post offices 9.30am–4pm Monday to Thursday; until 5pm Friday

Cafes 7am–5pm; some close later

Petrol stations & roadhouses 8am–8pm; some open 24 hours in cities

Restaurants Lunch noon–2.30pm and dinner from 6pm; service ends early in country towns or on quiet nights

Shops 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday; sometimes on Sunday; in larger cities, doors close at 9pm on Friday

Supermarkets 7am–9pm; some open 24 hours

Arriving in Australia

Sydney Airport AirportLink trains run to the city centre every 10 minutes from around 5am to 1am (15 minutes, $16–19). Prebooked shuttle buses service city hotels. A taxi into the city costs approximately $55 (15–40 minutes).

Melbourne Airport SkyBus services run to the city (30–45 minutes, $19.75), leaving every 6–10 minutes from 6am to midnight and at every 30 minutes through the night. A taxi into the city costs around $55 (30–40 minutes).

Brisbane Airport Airtrain trains run to the city centre (20 minutes, $19) every 15 to 30 minutes from 5am (6am weekends) to 10pm. A taxi to the city costs $35 to $45 (40 minutes).

Getting Around

Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world: how you get from A to B requires some thought. If you’re short on time, consider internal flights − they’re affordable (compared with petrol and car-hire costs), can usually be carbon offset, and will save you some long travel days.

Van or car Travel at your own pace, explore remote areas and visit regions with no public transport.

Plane Fast track your holiday with affordable, frequent, fast flights between major centres.

Bus Reliable, frequent long-haul services around the country. Not always cheaper than flying but you’ll get a better sense of scale.

Train Slow and not inexpensive, but the scenery is great! Australia has some bucket-list rail journeys so plan ahead.

For much more, see Getting Around

What’s New

Here’s the low-down on what’s new and interesting around Australia. From boutique big-city hotels to little bars in little towns, and from vegan eats to high-end camping retreats, there’s plenty of new stuff going on here to impress first-time and repeat visitors alike.

Best in Travel

Australia’s Red Centre was awarded fourth place in Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 regions internationally in 2019, and Margaret River & Southern WA was awarded the number one spot in Asia Pacific.

The spiritual heart of the Red Centre is Australia’s most recognised natural wonder, Uluru. In 2019, Uluru, a sacred site to local Aboriginal people, was finally closed to climbers, almost 150 years after explorers decided to ‘conquer the rock’. Learn about the unique world view of the traditional custodians of this special place, and see the stars and the desert with new eyes.

Looking west, Margaret River and Southern WA has captivating coastlines, award-winning wineries, coveted food festivals, and DIY coastal hikes. And with a new 17-hour direct flight from London to Perth, Europe suddenly doesn’t seem so far away.



Charles Rawlings-Way, Lonely Planet writer

To say that Australia is now familiar with political flux is an understatement. After electing just four prime ministers between 1975 and 2007, the Australian public has endured a grimy series of internal backstabbing events, delivering the nation six prime ministers in the 12 years between 2007 and 2019.

Fuelling this tumult are issues that much of the world can relate to at the moment: immigration and climate change are dividing Australian society like never before, with politicians quick to align their policies with the latest opinion polls. Fortunately, far-right and far-left politics have yet to strangle Australian societal views: despite a rather far-flung location, this has always been a relatively outward-looking, welcoming country. Whether or not new arrivals can afford to buy a house (or a coffee) is another matter…

Aboriginal Cultural Tourism

Travellers to Australia have always been thirsty for experiences with its Indigenous cultures, but now more Australians are finding out more about agriculture, astronomy and their country’s ancestry through new books, apps and Aboriginal tours.

Small Towns, Small Bars

Small-bar culture has hit Australia’s country towns. From Bunbury and Jurien Bay in Western Australia to Ballarat in Victoria, you’ll find shopfront bars with low lighting, cosy furnishing, killer cocktail menus or extensive wine and whisky lists.

World-class Tourism Management

While the world is wringing its hands about ‘overtourism’, Australia gets on with building the best infrastructure to manage its popularity. Best examples include sunrise at Uluru and the platform over The Gap near Albany.

Luxury Lodges

Australia’s wilderness is astonishingly beautiful, and now travellers with coin – or anyone willing to splash out for a treat – can enjoy remote locations with oodles of ‘barefoot luxury’ all over the country. See Australia Tourism’s website (www.luxurylodgesofaustralia.com.au) for this suite of options.

Vegan Eats

Plant-powered menus and restaurants have taken Australia’s foodie scene by storm. Put Yellow in Sydney, Smith & Daughters in Melbourne or Raw Kitchen in Fremantle on your hit list.

Glamping Retreats

Australians have always loved camping, but glamping retreats – replete with wi-fi, swimming pools, yoga and wellness vibes – have taken the experience to a new level. Check out the new Discovery Rottnest Island in WA for starters.

Camping on Private Land

A host of new apps makes it easier than ever to book a space to set up camp on your Australia road trip away from the crowds; see Go Camping (www.gocampingaustralia.com) and YouCamp (www.youcamp.com).

Sydney’s West Gets Hip

Plans to turn Parramatta into a second centre for the metropolis have come to fruition. The eclectic neighbourhood also hosts Australia’s premier short-film festival, Tropfest.

Winery Tourism

Australia has a number of world-class winery regions, all with tasting rooms and some with fine dining attached. A growing number offer more relaxed experiences with an environmental focus: biodynamic and organic vineyards, and pizza ovens over linen tablecloths. Take a tour through WA’s Margaret River, SA’s McLaren Vale and Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula wine regions and see what the buzz is about.


For inspiration and up-to-date news, visit www.lonelyplanet.com/australia/travel-tips-and-articles and www.lonelyplanet.com/news/australia.

twitter.com/Australia Official Tourism Australia Twitter account (@Australia).

Q&A (www.abc.net.au/qanda/podcast) Podcast of the always-provocative ABC TV show Q&A, dissecting the issues (and politicians) in the firing line.

Insta @placesweswim In-the-water Australian culture; see www.placesweswim.com for info on the book.

The Real Thing (www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/realthing) Podcast zooming in on quirky Aussie characters and stories.


Food trend Plant-based eateries

Number of languages spoken in Australian homes 300

Number of venomous snake species 100

Pop 24.4 million

Hotels You Won’t Want To Leave

Hotels have responded to the sharing economy by upping their game. Packed with personality and offering excellent hospitality, restaurants and bars in great locations include Alex Hotel or Como the Treasury in Perth, Old Clare Hotel and Establishment Hotel in Sydney, plus chains like QT and Ovolo in Melbourne.

If You Like…


Whitehaven Beach The jewel of the Whitsundays in Queensland, with powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters.

Bondi Beach An essential Sydney experience: carve up the surf or just laze around and people-watch.

Wineglass Bay It’s worth the scramble up and over the saddle to visit this gorgeous goblet of Tasmanian sand.

Bells Beach Australia’s best-known surf beach is near Torquay on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

Hellfire Bay Talcum-powder sand in WA’s Cape Le Grand National Park; precisely in the middle of nowhere.

Avalon The most photogenic of Sydney’s gorgeous northern beaches.

Cape Tribulation The Queensland rainforest sweeps down to kiss the long stretches of sandy beach.

Cable Beach The famous camel-strewn beach in Australia’s north.

Aboriginal Culture

Kuku-Yalanji Dreamtime Walks Guided walks through Mossman Gorge in Queensland with Indigenous guides.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre Understand local Aboriginal law, custom and religion on Uluru’s doorstep. Book an Indigenous guide for the Rock.

Dampier Peninsula Interact with remote WA communities and learn how to spear fish and catch mudcrabs.

Kakadu Animal Tracks Tours through Kakadu’s famous Aboriginal rock-art galleries and wetlands, departing Darwin or Jabiru.

Barunga Festival Aboriginal cultural and sports festival near Katherine. Music, dance, arts, storytelling, crafts, football and spear throwing.

Injalak Arts Terrific gallery and shop, with a chance to sit with the artists while they paint.

Lurujarri Dreaming Trail Nine-day walking tours following an ancient Kimberley songline.

Koorie Heritage Trust In Melbourne: a great place to discover southeastern Aboriginal culture, with tours, and contemporary and traditional art.


Kangaroo Island A great spot in South Australia for wildlife watching and super-fresh seafood.

Bruny Island A windswept, sparsely populated retreat south of Hobart, with magical coastal scenery.

Fraser Island The world’s largest sand island has giant dunes, freshwater lakes and abundant wildlife.

The Whitsundays Go sailing around this pristine Queensland archipelago.

North Stradbroke Island Brisbane’s holiday playground, with surf beaches and passing whales.

Rottnest Island A ferry ride from Fremantle in WA is this atoll with adorable quokkas but a chequered history.

Lizard Island A real get-away-from-it-all isle in Far North Queensland: splash out on a resort or rough it with some camping.


Whale watching You can spy whales offshore in WA and Queensland.

Wombats Wilson’s Prom or Cradle Mountain are two great spots to see these marsupials.

Little penguins Phillip Island hosts the world’s largest little penguin colony; catch them at sunset marching up from the sea.

Quokkas Rottnest Island just off Fremantle in WA has been made famous by these adorable little creatures.

Birdlife The rich wetlands of Kakadu National Park are great for birdwatching in beautiful landscapes.

Crocodiles Cahill’s Crossing, where Kakadu meets Arnhem Land, is one of many crocodile-watching spots.

Dingoes The wild dingoes on Fraser Island are the purest breed in Australia.

Dolphins At Bunbury in WA visitors can see these incredible mammals when they come into the shallows

Saltwater crocodile, Kakadu National Park | TOURISM NT/JEWELS LYNCH ©

Winery Touring

Margaret River Over 150 cellar doors, many with exquisite restaurants, close to surf beaches and towering forests.

Barossa Valley Home to Australia’s greatest reds, with 80-plus cellar doors around historic German-settled villages in SA.

McLaren Vale An hour south of Adelaide, this is Mediterranean-feeling shiraz heaven with prominent architecture.

Tamar Valley Tasmania’s boutique cool-climate wine area (pinot noir a favourite), a short hop from Launceston.

Clare Valley SA’s Clare Valley makes riesling that rocks in a semi-arid truly Australian landscape.

Yarra Valley Just outside Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is the place for complex cabernets and farm gates interspersed with cellar doors.

Hunter Valley Dating back to the 1820s, the Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine region – super semillon.

Granite Belt Queensland’s high-altitude wine region produces some surprisingly good wines.

d’Arenberg winery, McLaren Vale | COURTESY OF D’ARENBERG ©


Overland Track Classic, multiday traverse through Tasmania’s heart.

Uluru Base Walk Take your time on this lap of Uluru: for such a monstrous monolith the atmosphere is surprisingly intimate.

Great Ocean Walk Walk the length of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road with superb views all the way.

Cape to Cape Track Enjoy Indian Ocean views on this 135km trail from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin in WA.

Six Foot Track The pick of many wilderness walks in the Blue Mountains of NSW.

Larapinta Trail Majestic 233.5km track along the NT’s West MacDonnell Ranges.

Three Capes Walk Stunning multiday hike with high-spec huts on the Tasman Peninsula.

Jatbula Trail An intense, five-day jaunt through 66km of Nitmiluk National Park in the NT.

Bibbulmun Track This track stretches nearly 1000km from the edge of Perth through the southern forests to Albany in WA.


Blue Mountains National Park The closest true wilderness to Sydney: spectacular canyons, cliffs and dense eucalypt forests.

Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park Treading a line between desolation and beauty, the ancient outcrops of SA’s Ikara (Wilpena Pound) are mesmerising.

Cobourg Peninsula Watch for sea turtles and whales (and crocodiles!) at this isolated stretch of paradise.

Nitmiluk National Park Tackle the epic five-day Jatbula Trail in this rugged NT wilderness, with plenty of cooling swim spots on the way.

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park Immerse yourself in Tasmania’s sometimes forbidding, ever-photogenic landscape.

The Kimberley In northern WA you’ll find pounding waterfalls, spectacular gorges, barren peaks and an empty coastline.

Daintree Rainforest Explore Far North Queensland’s ancient forest with abundant activities and few tourists.

Art Galleries

National Gallery of Australia This superb Canberra museum houses 7500-plus works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

MONA Australia’s most thematically challenging art museum is the talk of Hobart town.

National Gallery of Victoria International Home to travelling exhibitions par excellence (Monet, Dali, Caravaggio): queue up with the rest of Melbourne to get in.

Art Gallery of NSW This old-stager keeps things hip with ever-changing exhibitions, including the always-controversial Archibald Prize for portraiture.

Art Gallery of South Australia On Adelaide’s North Terrace, this art gallery does things with progressive style.

Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Darwin’s classy art gallery is packed full of superb Indigenous Australian art.

Art Gallery of Western Australia A treasure trove of Indigenous Australian art.

Otherworldly Landscapes

The Red Centre Expect to be moved by the spiritual significance imbued in these beautiful rock formations at Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the NT.

Karijini National Park Scramble, abseil, slide and dive through gorges on an adventure in this remote WA park.

Oodnadatta Track This historic former rail route in SA passes Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre), remote pubs and desert landscapes.

Nullarbor Plain The ultimate outback road trip: 2700km from Adelaide to Perth across the long, wide, arid Nullarbor Plain.

4WD to Cape York One of Australia’s great wilderness adventures, this is an off-road journey to Queensland’s most northern tip: best done on a tour unless you have all the gear.

Arnhem Land Prepare well in advance, seeking permission and guidance to take a tour of remote Arnhem Land in the NT.

Purnululu National Park It’s worth the journey to wander through these ancient eroded beehive domes in WA.

Month by Month


Australian Open, January

Adelaide Fringe, February

WOMADelaide, March

Vivid Sydney, May–June

Gourmet Escape, November


January yawns into action as Australia recovers from its collective New Year hangover. Festival season kicks off with outdoor music festivals; Melbourne hosts the Australian Open. It’s wet season up north.

z Sydney Festival

The festival promo material says it all: it’s big! Held over three summery weeks, this is an affiliation of music, dance, talks, theatre and visual arts in glittering Sydney. Much of it free and family-focused.


In Launceston in northern Tasmania, MONA FOMA is an annual festival bringing together international artists in the Australian answer to the Venice Biennale – but with more rock music. Edgy, progressive and unexpected performances complement the weird and wonderful museum down in Hobart.

z Australia Day

The date when the First Fleet landed in 1788, 26 January, is for some Australia’s ‘birthday’, celebrated with BBQs and fireworks. Aboriginal Australians refer to it as Invasion Day or Survival Day and a growing chorus is calling for Australia to ‘change the date’.

3 Australian Open

Held in Melbourne, the Australian Open draws tennis fanatics from around the planet. The city centre buzzes with international visitors there to take in the courtside action.


February is usually Australia’s hottest month: humid and sticky up north as the wet season continues, and often baking hot in South Australia and Victoria. Locals return to school and work while the sun shines on.

z Adelaide Fringe

All the acts that don’t (or don’t want to) make the cut for the more highbrow Adelaide Festival end up in the month-long Fringe, second only to Edinburgh’s version. Hyperactive comedy, music and circus acts spill from the Garden of Unearthly Delights in the parklands.

3 Tropfest

The world’s largest short-film festival happens in Parramatta west of Sydney in February, with satellite links to locations in Melbourne, Canberra and Surfers Paradise. A compulsory prop must appear in each entry: a kiss, sneeze, balloon…

z Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is a decades-old festival that culminates (on the first Saturday in March) in a flamboyant parade that runs along Sydney’s Oxford St and attracts 300,000 spectators. Gyms empty out and waxing emporiums tally their profits. After-party tickets are gold.


March is harvest time in Australia’s vineyards; and in recent years it has been hot, despite its autumnal status.

z Adelaide Festival

Culture vultures absorb international and Australian dance, drama, opera and theatre performances at this ultra-classy annual event, Australia’s biggest multi-arts festival.

3 WOMADelaide

This annual festival of world music, arts, food and dance is held over four days in Adelaide’s luscious Botanic Park, attracting crowds from around Australia, with plenty for children to enjoy too.

3 Port Fairy Folk Festival

Past the gorgeous Great Ocean Road, southwest of Melbourne (far enough to make it a long weekender), this folksy fest spreads itself through photogenic little Port Fairy. Look for accommodation early.

3 Australian F1 Grand Prix

Melbourne’s normally tranquil Albert Park explodes with four days of Formula One action in late March. The 5.3km circuit around the lake is known for its smooth, fast surface. The city and colourful sunsets are a bonus.


Melbourne and the Adelaide Hills are atmospheric as European trees turn golden then maroon. Up north the rain is abating and the desert temperatures are becoming manageable. Easter means pricey accommodation everywhere.

3 Byron Bay Bluesfest

Music erupts over the Easter weekend when 20,000 festival-goers swamp Byron Bay to hear blues and roots bands from all over the world. Held on Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, 11km north of Byron. Some folks camp.

6 Barossa Vintage Festival

Biennial festival held in odd-numbered years around Easter has processions, maypole dancing, traditional dinners and much Barossa Valley wine (shoot for a sip of Penfolds’ famous Grange).

z Tjungu Festival

The otherwise in-between month of April in the Red Centre sees the dynamic Tjungu Festival take over Yulara, with a focus on local Aboriginal culture.


The dry season begins in the NT, northern WA and Far North Queensland: relief from humidity. A great time of the year to visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

2 Whale Watching

Between May and October along the southeastern Australian coast, migrating southern right and humpback whales come close to shore to feed, breed and calf. See them at Hervey Bay (NSW), Warrnambool (Victoria), Victor Harbor (SA), Albany (WA) and North Stradbroke Island (Queensland).

5 Noosa Food & Wine

One of Australia’s best regional culinary fests, with cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, cheese exhibits, feasting on gourmet fare and live concerts at night. Over three days in mid-May.

3 Uluru Camel Cup

Camel races within sight of the Rock are a fabulous if rather ungainly sight at this festival that never takes itself too seriously. It all culminates in the Frock Up & Rock Up Gala Ball.

z Vivid Sydney

Kicking off at the end of May, this festival of light, music and ideas brings the crowds to Sydney in winter.


Winter begins: snow falls across the southern Alps ski resorts and football season fills grandstands across the country. Peak season in the tropical north: waterfalls and outback tracks are accessible (accommodation prices less so).

2 Ski Season

When winter blows in (June to August), snow bunnies and powder hounds dust off their skis and snowboards and make for the mountains in Victoria and NSW.

z Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival

Sleepy Laura, 330km north of Cairns on the Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland, hosts the largest traditional Indigenous gathering in Australia. Communities from the region come together for dance, song and ceremony. The Laura Races and Rodeo happen the following weekend.

z Derby Boab Festival

Derby strings out its party season from late June to mid-July with concerts, mud footy, horse and mudcrab races, film festivals, poetry readings, art exhibitions, street parades and a dinner out on the mudflats.


Pubs with open fires, cosy coffee shops and empty beaches down south; packed markets, tours and accommodation up north. Bring warm clothes for anywhere south of Alice Springs.

3 Beer Can Regatta

The NT festival calendar is studded with quirky gems like this one at Darwin’s Mindil Beach, where hundreds of ‘boats’ constructed from empty beer cans race across the shallows. Much drinking and laughter: staying afloat is a secondary concern.

z Fremantle Festival

Ten days of parades, performances, music, dance, comedy, visual arts, street theatre and workshops. Founded in 1905, it’s Australia’s longest-running festival.

z Noosa Alive

Noosa – that affluent little beach enclave on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast – stops gazing at its own gorgeous reflection in July when this 10-day festival brings in the food, music, dance, readings and workshops.

3 Melbourne International Film Festival

Right up there with Toronto and Cannes, MIFF has been running since 1952 and has grown into a wildly popular event; tickets sell like piping-hot chestnuts in the inner city. Myriad short films, feature-length spectaculars and documentaries flicker across city screens from late July into early August.


August is when southerners, sick of winter’s grey-sky drear, head to Queensland for some sun. It’s almost the last chance to head to the tropical Top End and outback before things get too hot and wet.

z Cairns Festival

Running for three weeks from late August to early September, this massive art-and-culture fest brings a stellar program of music, theatre, dance, comedy, film, Indigenous art and public exhibitions. Outdoor events held in public plazas, parks and gardens make good use of Cairns’ tropical setting.

z Garma Festival

Out in remote East Arnhem Land, Yirrkala launches the Garma Festival, one of the largest and most vibrant celebrations of Indigenous culture in the Top End.

3 Henley-on-Todd Regatta

Alice Springs’ iconic ‘boat’ races on the (usually) bone-dry Todd River take place on the third Saturday in August. Watch from the riverbanks or build your own boat and join in.


Spring heralds a rampant bloom of wildflowers across outback WA and SA, with flower festivals happening in places such as Canberra and Toowoomba. Football finishes and the Spring Racing Carnival begins.

z Brisbane Festival

One of Australia’s biggest arts festivals runs for 22 days in September and features an impressive line-up of concerts, plays, dance performances and fringe events around the city. It finishes off with Riverfire, an elaborate fireworks show over the river.

3 AFL Grand Final

The pinnacle of the Australian Football League – AFL – season is this high-flying spectacle in Melbourne, watched (on TV) by millions of impassioned Aussies. Tickets to the game are scarce, but at half-time everyone’s neighbourhood BBQ moves into the local park for a little amateur kick-to-kick.

z Floriade

Floriade is a florid display of spring flowers in Canberra running from mid-September until mid-October. Locals shake off the winter chills with a look at some blooms.

z Perth Wildflower Festival

In September and early October, Kings Park and the Botanic Garden are filled with colourful wildflower displays in the annual Kings Park Festival, which celebrates WA’s unique and spectacular flora. Events include guided walks, talks and live music every Sunday.


The weather avoids extremes everywhere: it’s a good time to go camping or to hang out at some vineyards (it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it…). The build-up to the rains begins in the Top End – very humid.

z Melbourne Festival

This annual arts festival offers some of the best of opera, theatre, dance and visual arts from around Australia and the world. It starts in early October and runs through to early November.

6 Riverland Wine & Food Festival

Sample Riverland food and drink in Berri, on the banks of the mighty, meandering Murray River (Australia’s Mississippi).

z Sculpture by the Sea

From late October to early November, the cliff-top trail from Bondi Beach to Tamarama in Sydney transforms into an exquisite sculpture garden. Serious prize money is on offer for the most creative, curious or quizzical offerings from international and local sculptors.


Northern beaches may close due to ‘stingers’ – jellyfish in the shallow waters off north Queensland, the NT and WA. Outdoor events ramp up; the surf life-saving season flexes its muscles on beaches everywhere.

3 Melbourne Cup

On the first Tuesday in November, Australia’s premier horse race chews up the turf in Melbourne during the Spring Racing Carnival. The whole city takes the day off and many host picnics and put a bet on the horses. A national gambling event!

6 Gourmet Escape

The culinary world’s heavy hitters descend on regions from Margaret River to Swan Valley for four days of culinary inspiration; celebrity chefs like Nigella Lawson and Rick Stein are often on the program, as well as more accessible, family-friendly events.

3 Wangaratta Jazz & Blues

Rural Wangaratta – population roughly 20,000, in rural northeast Victoria – fills with groovy, finger-snappin’ beboppers for this esteemed annual jazz and blues fest.


Ring the bell, school’s out! Holidays usually begin a week or two before Christmas. Cities are packed with shoppers and the weather is desirably hot. Up north, monsoon season is under way: afternoon thunderstorms bring pelting rain.

3 Woodford Folk Festival

On the Sunshine Coast, the Woodford Folk Festival stages a diverse collection of performers playing folk sounds from across the globe. Runs from 27 December to 1 January.

3 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

Pack a picnic and join the Boxing Day (26 December) crowds along Sydney’s waterfront to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart, the world’s most arduous open-ocean yacht race (628 nautical miles through testing waters).

3 Sydney Harbour Fireworks

A fantastic way to ring in the New Year: join the crowds overlooking the harbour as the Sydney Harbour Fireworks light up the night sky. There’s a family display at 9pm; the main event erupts at midnight.


Best of Australia


Two short weeks to explore one of the largest countries on the planet will never be enough, but if you plan carefully and don’t mind flying between stops, you can get a taste for Australia’s greatest hits.

Fly into Sydney to explore one of the world’s most charismatic cities. Wander the sparkling waterfront, tour the Sydney Opera House and take a ferry out to Manly, all the while enjoying outstanding museums, cocktail bars, beaches and outdoor markets. Then get out of the city to the Blue Mountains or Royal National Park. Next, fly directly to the Red Centre to spend three days exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park – both Uluru and Kata Tjuta deserve as much time as you can give them – with a night in Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon).

With a week left, you’re heading for the Top End. Fly to Darwin and head straight out to Kakadu National Park for rock art, river cruises and fabulous wildlife. Swing over to Cairns, from where you can spend your last few days in Daintree rainforests at Mossman Gorge and snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef.


East Coast Van Life


Follow the coast from Adelaide to Cairns and you’ll see every kind of Australia, from sleepy seaside hamlets to the bright lights of Sydney Harbour, plus wildlife, wilderness and waves galore. You could do it in four rushed weeks, but we recommend a minimum of six to really soak it all in.

Regal Adelaide is a low-key city to begin your Oz odyssey. Head south to dreamy Robe via the salty Coorong National Park, snapping a selfie with Larry the Lobster on the way. Next, the blue lake at Mt Gambier, after a winery cycle in Penola and you’re into Victoria. Port Fairy is the first Great Ocean Road highlight but more await between here and Torquay, where you might want to stop a night and soak up the surf culture. Then it’s due north to Geelong with its traditional seafront distractions and Melbourne for a city culture fix.

From Melbourne the Princess Hwy runs inland through rolling countryside, but choose a couple of spots to detour to the coast: Wilsons Promontory, Cape Conran and Mallacoota are all excellent. Once you enter New South Wales you’re on twisting highway past ocean hamlets from Eden north to Wollongong and Royal National Park. Make sure you do the elevated Grand Pacific Drive during daylight hours.

A few days in Sydney will recharge your batteries after all that driving as you’re not even halfway yet. Next, meander north along the Pacific Hwy through central and northern NSW. Quaff wines in the Hunter Valley and stop to splash in the sea at family-friendly Port Stephens and Coffs Harbour, home of the iconic, kitsch Big Banana. Skip up to Byron Bay for wellness awakenings and superb beaches, then head over the Queensland border to the surf- and sun-addled Gold Coast. Pause in Brisbane for another big-city hit, then amble up through the Glass House Mountains and on to the unsung gem, Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.

The Bruce Hwy traces the stunning coast into Far North Queensland. Spot some passing whales off the coast of Hervey Bay and track further north to the blissful Whitsundays archipelago, the coral charms of the Great Barrier Reef and the scuba-diving nexus of Cairns.


West Coast Adventure


Feeling adventurous? Fly into Perth, take a quick detour south to Margaret River, then drive north up the coast until you hit Darwin!

Enjoy the laid-back charms of Perth and Fremantle, then head southwest for wine, surfing, forests and foodie delights from Margaret River to Albany. Hammer back past Perth and north to the otherworldly Nambung National Park, followed by Kalbarri with its soaring sea cliffs and incredible gorges. Then hug the coast for superb

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