Australia : Highlights Tour
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Melbourne is a modern metropolis located on the banks of the Yarra River and known for its many gardens, parks and open spaces, which together occupy almost one-third of the city. There are more than 50 000 plant species in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens and this collection gives insight into the rich indigenous flora found in the city and its surrounds. The town is also becoming an increasingly popular culinary destination, with the Southbank and Arts Centre buzzing with restaurants, bars and live entertainment. 'Doing the block' is a well-known phrase for an exploration of the hidden lanes and alleyways around Bourke, Collins and Flinders streets, while Queen Victoria Market is a popular shopping spot that has been selling clothing, art, toys, crafts and vegetables for over a century.
This hardy and remote desert town, initially named Stuart, started out as a telegraph station in the 1870s. Renamed Alice Springs in 1993, it’s the capital of the Australian Outback and the best place to start your exploration of the Red Centre – the country’s interior desert region – as well as to experience the vibrant art and culture of the Aboriginal people. Venture out to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and explore Kings Canyon, the West MacDonnell Ranges, Simpson Desert and the Devil’s Marbles Conservation Reserve – home to an iconic pair of round granite boulders. While in town, pop into the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve to get a feel of the town’s pioneering history.
Once a sleepy sugar-milling town, Cairns in North Queensland is now a vibrant cosmopolitan city and a premier destination for sailing, diving and snorkelling. Its tropical waters are home to the spectacular Great Barrier Reef, while lush rain forests cover the surrounding areas. Ways to make the most of this coastal paradise include cycling along the 14 kilometres of sandy beachfront, or rafting through rapids to view the ruins of Mission Beach. Other popular activities include: visiting Cooktown for a taste of history or taking a scenic drive through the farmlands and popping in at the various village markets along the way. In the town centre, visit the Tiapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park for a musical and dance interpretation of Aboriginal history, or relax at Cairns Esplanade for a perfect seaside dining experience coupled with a romantic sunset.
Set along Australia's southeastern coast, Sydney is one of Australia's largest cities and serves as the capital of New South Wales. No matter what you fancy – shopping, the arts, the outdoors – you’re likely to be bewildered by the scope of choice available here. First up, there are the must-sees – Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Tower for its 360-degree views of the city, the waterside hubs of Darling Harbour and Circular Quay, and the Rocks district for shopping. After dark, the glitzy city comes alive with a larger-than-life food and music scene that extends into the early hours. For more laid-back diversions, head down to the beach or hop on a ferry for an extensive tour of the Sydney Harbour, the Parramatta River and numerous locations lying waterside.
Australia’s second largest state, Victoria is also one of the country’s most diverse regions, with its attractions ranging from spectacular beaches and quaint seaside towns, to the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne – the state capital, and Australia’s unofficial cultural capital. Voted one of the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne is also a fantastic place to visit, offering a cornucopia of galleries, live music venues, markets and fine dining establishments to keep visitors entertained. Beyond the city limits, highlights of the state include the Great Ocean Road, which stretches for nearly 250km along the coast, taking in incredible scenery along the way; the winelands of Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula; the pristine Wilderness Coast of Gippsland; and the misty mountain peaks and countless Aboriginal rock art sites of the Grampians National Park.
New South Wales
New South Wales (NSW) lies in southeastern Australia and is home to Australia’s capital, Canberra, as well as the world-famous city of Sydney, with its glamorous harbour, museums, galleries and restaurants. Sydney draws visitors from around the globe to view its iconic Opera House and visit the popular east coastal strip of golden beaches. Further afield, one of New South Wales’ top attractions is the Blue Mountain National Park, where nature lovers spend time rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and abseiling. The Snowy Mountains are also located in this region and include Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, which is a popular base for year-round recreation.
West MacDonnell National Park
Located in Australia’s Northern Territory, West MacDonnell National Park, also known as Tjoritja, is renowned for its ancient landscapes and awe-inspiring scenery. This stunning park features an array of natural waterholes, steep gorges, and picturesque camping spots. This photographer’s dream draws people from near and far to capture its beauty. Visitors can also enjoy exploring the Larapinta Trail, a popular 223-kilometre walk that traces the soaring West MacDonnell Ranges; visit Ochre Pits, an Aboriginal sacred site; and climb Mount Zeil, the Northern Territory’s highest mountain. Some other highlights include: Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Serpentine Gorge, and Roma Gorge.
The Red Centre is the colloquial name given to the southern desert region of Australia’s Northern Territory as the oxidized iron in the soil gives the whole area a distinctive reddish glow. Most visitors to the area use the sizable town of Alice Springs as a base for exploring this remarkable wilderness area as the town provides easy access to the awe-inspiring landscapes of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the MacDonnell Ranges and Kings Canyon. Spend your days: marvelling at the Aboriginal rock paintings at Kakadu National Park; driving the Red Centre Way; hiking the Larapinta Trail; riding a camel through the Simpson Desert; or taking the Ghan train journey from Darwin or Adelaide. The Red Centre is an ideal destination for travellers seeking a wild outback adventure full of historical, cultural and natural wonders in a uniquely Australian environment.
The Northern Territory of Australia is known for its stark natural beauty, desert stretches, wetlands, rocky gorges and raging rivers fed by monsoon rains. In addition to the lure of its stunning scenery, tourists travel here to visit sacred Aboriginal sites and enjoy an array of adventure activities. This is where you will find the town of Alice Springs, famous for its wildlife safaris, as well as the Red Centre with the remarkable landscapes of Kings Canyon, the McDonnell Ranges, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Kakadu National Park in the Top End is a must-visit spot where you can explore the traditional lands of indigenous tribes, dotted with over 5 000 rock painting sites.
Tropical North Queensland
Situated in the northernmost part of the Australian state of Queensland, the Tropical North Queensland area, also known as Far North Queensland, this flourishing destination boasts scenic landscapes characterised by magnificent reef, lush rainforest, and vast outback. It is also home to the city of Cairns, a collection of over 70 national parks, and multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics of Queensland and Riverleigh, Australia’s most famous fossil site. Visitors can explore the many natural wonders and rich cultural heritage of the area including learning about the indigenous cultures of the Aboriginal Australians and the Torres Strait Islanders; and climbing Mount Bartle Frere, the highest peak in Northern Australia. Highlights include: picnicking at Vlasoff Cay, plunging into a cascading waterfall and discovering the underwater wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef.
Far North Queensland
Far North Queensland, a vast coastal region in Australia’s Queensland state, presents its visitors with a paradise of natural, historic, and modern treasures. Home to three World Heritage Sites, more than 70 national parks, and wonderful cosmopolitan cities, the area provides something for every kind of traveller. From here, dive in the rich abundance of the Great Barrier Reef, swim at a diversity of postcard-perfect beaches all the way along the coast, bathe in breathtaking waterfalls at Atherton Tableland or explore lush rainforests of Daintree. Try bungee jumping, sea-kayaking, and swinging across gorges, go crocodile-spotting at Cooper Creek, or soar over it all in a helicopter. See the largest fossil mammal site in the country at Riversleigh, or delve into the unique heritage of the Aboriginal people with a visit to the Tiapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns.
Great Barrier Reef
There’s a reason the Great Barrier Reef appears on so many bucket lists. This immense natural phenomenon – so colossal it can be seen from outer space – is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. From getting up close and personal with the abundant marine life to taking in spectacular views of the reef by air, the list of incredible experiences to be had in this area is almost endless. The palm-fringed Whitsunday Islands are an ideal base station – although they’re so marvellous in themselves you may find it difficult to leave!
This northeastern state incorporates 7 000km of coastline, the Great Barrier Reef and its teeming tropical waters (perfect for underwater sightseeing), sophisticated and vibrant cities of the likes of Brisbane and Cairns, rainforests, the surfing beaches of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and dazzling landscapes. Explore a little deeper and you’ll find the treasured Whitsunday Islands (all 75 of them), myriad national parks filled with indigenous fauna and flora, and vibrant Aboriginal art and festivals – all infused with an atmosphere of inviting hospitality. There are also plenty of high-adrenaline activities for more intrepid travellers, including white-water rafting, abseiling and bungee jumping.