Tropical rainforest, world-class diving, thrilling cities, picture-postcard beaches and the sparse splendour of the Outback: Australia’s giant isle is a smorgasbord of sights and experiences. This is a place to get back to nature. A place to surf, to hike, to camp, to swim. A place to explore for days, weeks and even months. And when the city calls, dive into the world-class culture and iconic sights of its cities. They will not disappoint.
The major cities may be rather too congested for pleasant driving, but hit the motorway and you'll realise that Australia is one of the best countries for a road trip. Magical landscapes await, with wide open spaces like you’ve never seen before. The superb network of coastal and cross-country trains is another option if you don't want to drive.
Typically after a long flight, your first glimpse of Australia will be via one of its extraordinary cities. Whether you start with the glittering architecture of Sydney or the cosmopolitan cool of Melbourne, you're likely to be dazzled. Don't miss the former's beautiful harbour views and irreverent nightlife, while the latter is known for its art vibes and culinary circuit. Queensland's bustling, fast-growing Brisbane is also worth a look, while Perth is the west coast's newest hip haven.
Of course, there's much more to Australia than its cities. Much of the country is underpopulated, its 24 million inhabitants stretched out over a continental landmass nearly as big as China. At some 2,600km long, the Great Barrier Reef to the northeast is one of the world's most spectacular sights, with 1,500 species of fish and hundreds of types of coral. Naturally, diving is enormously popular.
For overland biodiversity, head south from the reefs to the wet tropics of Queensland. Unique rainforests sprawl in every direction around Cairns, with thousands of different plant species, several hundred mammal species and more than half of Australia's birds. Some creatures, like the green possum and the tree kangaroo, can only be found here. From the wet tropics you might head into the Outback, the beguilingly barren interior of the country.
Australia's national parks preserve much of its gob-smacking nature. The northwestern Kimberley region is worth venturing out to for its Purnululu National Park, boasting many bird species, gorges and sandstone towers. Others to check out include Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, whose grand rock domes are much prized by the aboriginal Anangu. Meanwhile, some of the precious art at Kakadu National Park dates back 20,000 years.
Australia also encompasses several beautiful islands, not least Tasmania, which boasts rare temperate rainforest and diverse nature courtesy of extreme weather conditions. Meanwhile, Fraser Island of Queensland's coast boasts sand dunes, unique lakes and terrific adventure tourism.
Today's Australian cuisine is cosmopolitan. There's much more to it than 'shrimps on the barbie', though barbecues are something of a national pastime. Since the colonial era's stodgy Anglo-Irish fare, Mediterranean and East-Asian immigrants have brought their own influences, making for a wonderful melting pot. Meanwhile, the original cuisine of Australia nurtured over millennia by the indigenous community still plays its part; kangaroo and crocodile are often on the menu, and native fruits such as quandongs and finger lime abound. In the big cities, cuisine from almost every corner of the world can be found in restaurants that range from the very stylish to hip local joints.