Mention Australia in a conversation and you’ll get a wide and varied response.

For many however, it’s a place that’s coveted, a place on the ubiquitous bucket list, a place where dreams come true.  It’s a country where people come for a visit and stay a lifetime.

It’s a land of opportunity and a relaxed attitude, where G’day mate is said often and to all.

Australia is a country rich and diverse, with so many beautiful and iconic destinations, all worthy of equal attention.  But Australia is geographically dispersed so getting to all of these magical locations takes time.

To help you start planning your dream vacation to Australia, here are the top 5 best places to visit in Australia.

#1: Experience the Great Barrier Reef’s aquatic playground

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most recognizable names in the world and one of the most visited destinations in Australia, by visitors and locals alike. Covering more than 2,300 kilometres, this coral reef is the largest living reef system in the world!

Located on the north-eastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef runs from the tip of the Cape York Peninsula, extending south until Bundaberg. The reef is now a marine park and world heritage area, covering over 344,000 square kilometres. It’s the aquatic home of over 600 types of coral, 1600 species of fish and 133 of sharks, to name just a few. The reef is a complete ecosystem for animals and plants.

The Great Barrier Reef offers so much for visitors, depending on their interests. It’s the reason why it is truly one of the most amazing places in Australia to visit. People can scuba dive and snorkel on many of the accessible parts of the reef, along the eastern coast. Approximately halfway along the reef, 74 islands make up an archipelago called the Whitsundays, the starting point of any visit to the Great Barrier Reef for most people. Seven of the islands are inhabited and are made up of beautiful resorts, offering a wonderful chance to stay and explore the water playground at your front door.

sailboat charter whitsundays Australia
Charter a sailboat to experience all the Whitsunday Islands have to offer

Unique experiences include helicopter rides to and over Heart Reef, hiring your own private yacht or power cruiser, or sleeping under the stars, 39 nautical miles off the mainland aboard the Reef Sleep pontoon, skydiving, riding “seabobs” under the water, having a picnic on a private island or swimming with turtles!

Some of the best Great Barrier Reef experiences can be found at:

  • Cairns, in tropical North Queensland.
  • Airlie Beach, the gateway to the beautiful Whitsundays.
  • Lady Elliot Island, on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and home of swimming with the turtles.
Make the most of your Great Barrier Reef experience by sleeping on the reef
Make the most of your Great Barrier Reef experience by sleeping on the reef

#2: Sydney and its iconic spots

Sydney is one of Australia’s most famous and beautiful cities for good reason. As the area first settled in Australia, there is plenty of history surrounding the capital city of state, New South Wales.

But it’s Sydney’s natural features that makes it stand out. The “harbour city” is built around one of the most famous harbours in the world, Sydney Harbour. Sydney Harbour is bursting with iconic places to see. Taking its place as one of the most distinguishing features of the harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge is known affectionately by Australians as “the coathanger”; it’s the largest steel arch bridge in the world, offering one of only three bridge climbs in the world.

sydney harbour bridge at night
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Don’t miss the Sydney Opera House, instantly recognizable by its sail-like rooflines; it was built in the 1950s, in a design that was clearly ahead of the times. It became an instant architectural hit and continues to hold its relevance today.  By day, it is a cultural hub for artists, musicians and theatre. Visitors can attend a show or simply do a tour of the facility itself. By night, the Sydney Opera House is nothing short of spectacular.

If you are thinking about visiting Sydney in the middle of the year, consider timing it with the Vivid Sydney Festival that runs for 23 days during May and June each year. A celebration of music, arts and culture, the most fascinating element is the free light, music and laser show that has now become a drawcard for the festival. Each night, a free music, lights and laser show lights up all of Sydney’s icons in a spectacular display. See the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay and The Rocks lit up with designs that change each year.

uluru ayers rock
Uluru is one of Australia’s most iconic places to visit
Photo Credit: Matt Williams Photography

#3: Explore the desert of the Australian outback

Australia can be a wild country. From the beautiful beaches of the east coast, to the rainforests of the north, rocky coastlines of the southern regions and desert of the outback, there’s a diversity that can’t be understood until it has been experienced. The outback can be fierce, and many a traveller has found themselves at odds with the land.

However, not all of the Australian outback is severe. There are so many locations that are not only accessible, but are relatively easy to get to. Head to the middle of a desert to explore the red rock of Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock. There is a strong cultural link here to Australia’s indigenous people and a myriad of experiences here on offer, including dune walks and sunset tours. Be sure to check out the Field of Light display too.

What better way to experience the Australian outback, than by camping.
What better way to experience the Australian outback, than by camping.

#4: The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast was prominently featured recently on the world stage, as the host of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. With white sandy beaches that run for approximately 50 kilometres, blue ocean waters that are great for swimming and surfing all year round, and an idyllic, casual lifestyle, it’s little wonder it’s always one of the most sought after Australian destinations.

The “Goldie” as it is most commonly known, turns out brilliant weather and sunshine most of the year round, making it the perfect place for all the Gold Coast adventures you can find.

Gold Coast beach
The beaches of the Gold Coast stretch further than the eye can see

Surfers Paradise is the most known beach on the Gold Coast, sitting front and centre of everything that goes on here. Surfers Paradise is home to a booming nightlife scene but by day, the beach is the place to be. If you are wanting a beach that is a little less crowded, head to Burleigh, Coolangatta, or the protected waters of Tallebudgera Creek.

Take a surf lesson, ride a paddle board, fish in the creeks, relax on the white sand or eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants that take in the view of the ocean. The Gold Coast is a place where everyone is welcome.

surfing gold coast australia
The Gold Coast beaches are perfect for swimming and surfing

#5: Brisbane

Brisbane is a city that has been under-rated over the years but is finally starting to get some time to shine. Sure, it’s not as fancy as Sydney or Melbourne, but it’s a great place to visit. There are less people here than the other big Australian cities. It has such natural beauty, a growing cosmopolitan presence, and it’s a city with some of the best weather in Australia, for much of the year. It’s also within easy driving distance of the Gold Coast and has access to several beautiful islands, in close proximity.

Brisbane also has a stunning green oasis, right in the heart of the city, known as South Bank.  Each year, the number of visitors to the area increase, as it develops into a leading destination for great food, family activities, and stylish apartment living.

With a man-made beach and swimming area, the perfect Brisbane temperatures mean people come here to swim and relax all year round. Each weekend, the local markets fill the area with hand-made products; and a regular festival schedule could see you eating at the Night Noodle Market one minute, and savouring French cuisine at the French Festival the next.

brisbane south bank australia
South Bank, a green paradise in the city centre, offers something for everyone

Planning your vacation to Australia

So, armed with your list of some of the best places to visit in Australia, you can start planning that amazing vacation. Remember to include your travel insurance for Australia in your planning process too.

One final tip, Australia is a very large country, don’t plan too much in too short a timeframe. Take it slowly and plan to do some things well. That way, you’ll have a great reason to plan another return trip soon!

Happy travels,




Kerri McConnel
A former business executive for over 20 years, Kerri McConnel now travels regularly with her husband where eating great food, drinking great beer and wine, and cooking international foods are integral to their adventures. A firm believer that everyone can travel, Kerri shares her tips, advice and stories on everything from motorhome travel through to luxury experiences on her website Beer and Croissants.

Top 5 places to visit in Australia

Oct 18 2018