Australia Travel Guide 2020
Those planning an Australia holiday come for a variety of reasons. Some travel to Melbourne in Victoria for its gastronomical delights, others head north to Queensland’s Gold Coast and Byron Bay in northern New South Wales for sand, surf and sunshine while more and more are visiting Darmin, gateway to the “Top End” (Australians have a wonderful way of naming places literally), and Perth, in Western Australia. Every state and city in Australia has its own charm and its own wonders, both natural and man made and each appeal to the different needs of travellers.
What close to 10 million visitors each year and 25 million residents do agree on is that Australia is the greatest place in the world. And here, at Travala.com, our team would agree wholeheartedly with several calling Australia home.
The climate, the food (and the wine and beer), the terrain (hiking in Australia is highly recommended) , the people, the animals (even those which might want to maim you) and its history, both modern and ancient all combine to create the ultimate holiday destination.
Using the Travala.com Australia travel guide, our discounted prices and the Travala.com Price Guarantee, you will have almost everything you need to plan and book your Australia trip.
With this guide, you will know when to go to Australia; where best to go and where best to stay during your stay. We will help you plan the best things to do during your Australia holiday and we will equip you with all the essential information on Australian tourism, including its culture, religion, language, cuisine and customs.
What people say about Australia
“After five holidays to Australia, I’ve only touched a fraction of what this great and vast nation has to offer. It really is the best country in the world (after Scotland, obviously).”
“Where one day is perfect and the next day is even better. That’s Australia.”
Australian cities to visit
City of Gold Coast
Everything you need to know about Australia
New South Wales (NSW)
New South Wales is synonymous with Sydney and its iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. However, it is much more than that. Visitors are flocking to the laid back Byron Bay in the north while the Blue Mountains, abandoned outback mining towns such as Silverton and the wineries of the Hunter Valley region all contribute to make this the Premier State.
Blessed with snow capped mountains, vast national parks, welcoming wineries, some of Australia’s most iconic surfing beaches and one of the world’s great driving routes along the Great Ocean Road, Victoria is a haven for travellers of all tastes. Its state capital Melbourne, is consistently voted in the top two places to live in the world (Sydneysiders might disagree) and within its lanes gastronomes will discover a labyrinth of bars, restaurants and clubs.
Where one day is perfect and the next is even better. Queensland with almost 7,000km of coastline is the gateway to the spectacular Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system and host to thousands of marine species. With Noosa to its north and Gold Coast to its south, Brisbane, the state capital, is a great base to start your tour of North Australia.
Australia’s largest state, by size, is Western Australia. It mostly comprises the arid Outback with the bulk of its population settled in the region around Perth and the Margaret River. Further north, discover ancient Aboriginal rock art and the beehives like Bungle Bungle sandstone domes.
A growing travel destination, South Australia is home to the spectacular Flinders Ranges and the Murray River while Mclaren Vale and the Barrosa Valley are two of the country’s most famous wine producing regions. West of the state’s capital, Adelaide, you will be floored by the pristine beaches and rugged cliffs of Fleurieu Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula. Go offshore and visit Kangaroo Island, home to sea lions, penguin colonies and of course, kangaroos.
Located off the lower East coast of Australia, Tasmania, is renowned for its rugged wilderness and equally its arable land that produces some of the finest produce, chocolate and beer in Australia, With Hobart home to galleries, boutiques and high quality restaurants, it isn’t surprising that tourism in Tasmania is one of the fastest growing in Australia.
Northern Territory (NT)
At the “Top End” of Australia, lies Darwin, the Northern Territory’s state capital, famed for its crocodiles, as a gateway to Kakadu national Park and the beautiful Katrherine Gorge and the gone but not forgotten Darwin Stubby. Further south in this vast territory lies the Red Centre, the iconic and mystical Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Central Australia with Alice Springs at its heart.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
Home to Australia’s capital city, Canberra, the ACT lies within the border of New South Wales. For insight into Australia’s history and culture, Old Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial are a sombre reminder of Australia’s history. For horticulturists, the Australian National Botanic Gardens are a delight to explore.
Befitting its size, Australia doesn’t have one climate but instead eight climate zones spread across the country. While winter skiing is very popular in the mountainous regions of the southern states, long hours of summer sunshine is typical Australian weather. The North of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory experiencing hot and humid summers and warm winters. Travellers to these states should be aware of the possibility of tropical cyclones during the summer months. Travelling south, the winter months become cooler and more wet.
With the sun shining throughout the year, when is the best period to go to Australia? To avoid the extreme heat of summer, the best times to visit are in October and November and February and March. If visiting Queensland, the former is highly recommended with the coastal waters home to whales and their calves migrating south.
If looking to avoid the crowds and save on flights and hotels, June through to August is still pleasant with slightly more rain and temperatures in the mid to high teens.
Australia was founded as a British penal colony in 1778 following several landings by Dutch and British sailors. However, for over 50,000 years, the indiginous Aboriginals had been building communities, traditions and folklore. Much of this is still communicated through a rich tapestry of storytelling, music and art.
Australia today has been shaped by the arrival of British prisoners and early settlers searching for fresh starts, new homes and even riches with the gold rush of the mid 19th century attracting more settlers and opening up more land, often to the detriment of their Aboriginal hosts. Settlers congregated along coastlines building farms, rail tracks and thriving industrial hubs resulting in Australia becoming a net exporter of wheat, meat and dairy products and possessing one of the world’s highest standards of living.
Immigration has also shaped Australia into a rich, diverse and multicultural society with its people renowned for their humour, their open-mindedness and their open hearts.
You would be forgiven for thinking that food in Australia was anything that could be thrown on a BBQ. While prawns are still a favourite dish, cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Hobart are home to some of the finest dishes you’ll find in the southern hemisphere with almost every style of cuisine catered for.
Australia’s climate, soil, the oceans surrounding and its citizens’ love of food have created the perfect recipe for bountiful seafood, award winning wines and several seasons of jaw dropping good cooks on Masterchef.
And, if you are a steak lover, Rockhampton, in Queensland is home to the most succulent and mouth watering beef you’ll ever taste.
English is the official written and spoken language of Australia but as a multicultural society, you will discover almost every spoken language in the world. In Cairns, in far north Queensland, it is not uncommon for shops to display signs in Japanese while there are also large Chinese communities across Australia.
There are also over 120 aboriginal languages spoken in Australia with many at risk of becoming lost forever.
The official currency of Australia is the Australian dollar. Notes start at $5AUS and since 1988, these have been polymer banknotes with Australia being the first country to introduce them. Lasting longer and having more advanced security features, they are an ecological improvement.
Should you arrive with no local money in Australia, you will find currency exchanges in all ports, airports and major cities. International debit and credit cards are also accepted by most businesses and ATMs.
You could fit most of Europe within Australia’s borders, so getting from A-B can often be an adventure.
Virgin Australia, Qantas, Jetstar and Tiger airlines connect most Australian cities, with flying a sensible choice for travellers wanting to explore several states and territories. Following the merger with Travelbybit, you can now book flights across Australia using the Travala.com token AVA.
All the major cities have excellent public transport systems but a few rail journeys stand out. The 4,325km Indian Pacific journey from Perth to Sydney is, for many, one of the most memorable experiences in Australia. Not quite as glamorous and a lot less expensive is the charming Puffing Billy Railway. Although only 25km long, you will be taken on a magical and winding journey through the forests of the Dandenong Ranges, north of Melbourne.
Another option favoured by many is a Greyhound Australia Hop On Hop Off ticket which allows you to travel long distances with as many stops as you want. It is a wonderful way to travel from Sydney all the way north to Cairns.
Alternatively, hire a car and enjoy the fabulous Great Ocean Road drive from Melbourne to Port Fairy.
In addition to beautiful beaches, delicious food and wine and hours of sunshine, Australia is host to a year round calendar of festivals. Choose from sporting events, to comedy, music and cultural festivities.
- Sydney Mardi Gras: 2nd Thursday in February
- Adelaide Festival: 28 Feb – 15 Mar
- Moomba Festival: 6-9th March
- Ultra Australia: 7-8th March
- Castlemaine State Festival: 19th-28th Mar
- Melbourne International Comedy Festival: 25 Mar – 19 Apr
- Parrtjima: 3rd-12th Apr
- Byron Bay Bluesfest: 9-13th Apr
- Vivid Sydney Winter Festival: 22nd May – 13th June
- Darwin Festival: 6th-23rd Aug
- Melbourne Cup: 3rd Nov
- Woodford Folk Festival: 27 Dec-1st Jan
- New year’s Eve: 31st Dec
- Melbourne International Arts Festival: TBA
- Splendour In The Grass: TBA
- To make the most of your time in Australia there are a few things that you’ll want to do and want to avoid.
- Do make sure to try the local wines, whether you are visiting New South Wales, Victoria, South and West Australia or Tasmania.
- Do sample the seafood. With most Australian cities on the coast, there is an ample and awesome supply of seafood.
- Do wear sunscreen and a hat.
- Get used to the flies and consider a non toxic and natural fly repellant
- Do not swim outside the red and yellow flags. Australian beaches can be as dangerous as they are beautiful. Swimming inside the flags ensures that the lifeguards can see you and help you, if you get into difficulties.
- While Australia is not generally a tipping nation, you can tip good service
- When hiking, try to stay on the marked paths. From experience, you do not want to meet too many snakes or spiders and straying off the path can result in you getting lost (also from experience).
FAQs about Australia
Do I need a visa for Australia?
In order to enter Australia, you will need a valid visa. Applications for the popular Electronic Travel Authority (subclass 601) visa can be made online or at travel agents in most European countries and also Taiwan.
With an Electronic Travel Authority visa you can make multiple entries to Australia with a maximum permitted stay of three months. There is an online cost of $20AUD with 90% of applications processed within 35 days.
Alternatively apply online for an eVisitor (subclass 651) visa which provides the same entry options with 90% processed in 2 days.
Those wishing to visit family or work temporarily in Australia can apply for longer visas which allow stays of up to 12 months with workers aged between 18-30 years old able to apply for an additional 12 months via the Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462).
Is Australia safe to visit?
Australians are friendly and welcoming hosts and Australia is a generally safe country to visit and explore. It is advisable to have travel and medical insurance as accidents do happen and petty crime does exist in its major cities.
Always swim between the flags on beaches as rip tides can be deadly and tread carefully while hiking in the out back, rainforests and shorelines keeping a look out for snakes, spiders and stonefish.
Also watch out for the infamous (and also incredulous) “Drop Bears”.
What is the best time to travel to Australia?
The best time to travel to Australia is arguably spring and late summer. September and October are almost perfect temperature wise across the continent with the added bonus of whale spotting in Queensland.
February and March are ideal for visiting the wine producing regions such as Hunter Valley and to attend many of the late summer festivals.
What to pack for Australia?
Sunglasses, a sun hat, sun lotion and a swimming costume/shorts are all essential items for travelling around Australia with mosquito spray also highly recommended. For those hiking in Australia, make sure to pack sturdy, comfortable and broken in boots while all visitors will benefit from bringing light cotton tops, trousers and shorts.
One of the great things about Australia is its relaxed attitude to attire. You may want to bring some dressier clothing but you will generally not be judged for not. Do bring a waterproof jacket as despite all the sunshine, it does rain. Especially in Melbourne, according to those living in Sydney.
What are the best places to travel in Australia?
For sand, sea and sunshine, the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland are a popular destination while foodies might want to eat and drink their way around Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart.
Families will love the coastal towns of Coffs Harbour and Noosa. Those looking to relax will love Byron Bay while Port Douglas will appeal to those looking for luxury and access to the Great Barrier Reef.
In all honesty, every state and territory of Australia is visitor friendly and you will want to explore them all. One visit will not be enough.
Top booked hotels in Australia
Seasons Harbour Plaza
Seasons Harbour Plaza Hotel is a 4-star venue in Sydney CBD district of Sydney close to cafés and an oceanarium. Built in 1999, this Chinese-style accommodation was remodeled in 2008. Featuring 119 apartments, you are provided with studios and apartments to choose from.
Situated in the heart of Sydney city, Swissôtel Sydney is ideally located for shopping, sightseeing and enjoying cultural events. It features deluxe 5-star rooms offering stunning city views. Guests enjoy an onsite day spa, swimming pool, a bar and a restaurant.
W Brisbane is located on North Quay with views over the Brisbane River. Offering 312 spacious guest rooms, W Brisbane boasts three restaurants and bars, a spa and fitness centre. The 5 star hotel is within walking distance to the South Bank and Brisbane’s public transport system.
Mantra Towers of Chevron
Just 400 metres from Surfers Paradise Beach, Mantra Towers of Chevron offers a private sanctuary of sandy beaches, swimming pools and tropical gardens overlooking the ocean. Each apartment is decorated in a modern style with spacious open-plan living areas.
Top 10 things to do in Australia
Great Barrier Reef
The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the top reasons to visit Australia and with more than 3,000 coral reefs and 3,000 coral reefs it is one of the largest living structures on earth. A wonder of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef covers over 2,300 kilometers along the eastern coast of Australia east coast. Book a luxury stay in the Whitsundays, making sure to visit the stunning Whitehaven Beach and try an introductory diving and snorkeling for a sensational experience on a boat tour from Airlie Beach, Cairns or Port Douglas.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
One of the most popular things to do in Sydney is a guided climb to the top of the 134 metre high Sydney Harbour Bridge, where you will enjoy spectacular views over the harbour and the Sydney Opera House.
If possible, book your climb for around dusk to watch the city lights switch on as you reach the bridge’s peak. Although it isn’t quite as spectacular as New Year’s Eve fireworks over the bridge, it is a fantastic view.
A 3.5 hour drive from Alice Springs and located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park lies Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), one of the most photographed and iconic natural wonders in the world. This 348 metre high red monolith is the central attraction in the Red Centre and a place of spiritual importance to the Aṉangu people. Visit as the sun begins its descent and watch as Uluru changes colour.
Fraser Island Tour
No visit to Queensland should be complete without a visit to World Heritage listed Fraser Island. Accessible by ferry from Hervey Bay, you can either hire a 4wd Jeep or take the more sensible option of joining one of the numerous tours that will pick you up from your hotel.
The island itself is one of Australia’s gems. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and home to half of the world’s perched lakes. These rainwater filled lakes such as Lake McKenzie are surrounded by the whitest sands which seemingly possess great teeth whitening properties.
Drive along seven mile beach and look out for humpback whales breaching majestically from the water.
Located an hour north of Cairns and staring at Mossman’s Gorge, the Daintree region covers 60 miles and is considered one of the world’s oldest rainforests. Home to many unique forms of flora and fauna, it is a nature lover’s paradise.
Stroll along the white sands of Thornton’s Beach and the beaches at Cape Tribulation and take a river cruise along the Daintree River looking for crocodiles.
For intrepid travellers and skilled drivers, the drive from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown is a challenging and stunning 4WD route and one of Australia’s most captivating driving routes.
Hunter Valley wine tour
If your palate appreciates a zesty Semillon or a crisp sauvignon blanc then a Hunter Valley wine tour should be included in your visit to Australia. With more than 150 wineries, a tour of this green and fertile region of New South Wales will leave you believing that you are a sommelier.
Choose from the numerous tours available and let the wine flow.
Great Ocean Road
One of the great Australian drives is the Great Ocean Road. Starting at surf spot Torquay and ending for many at the charming and historic fishing town of Port Fairy, this 664km drive is best completed over three days. This will allow you ample time to surf or boogie board at Bell’s Beach, learn the history of the Cape Otway Lighthouse and the treacherous waters of the Bass Straight and Southern Ocean and gaze at the iconic 12 Apostles.
West of Sydney lie the rugged Blue Mountains, named after the blue haze generated by oils from the densely eucalyptus covered terrain. With stunning scenery, steep cliffs and waterfalls, delightful gardens, epic trails and welcoming villages and towns, the Blue Mountains make for a relaxing escape from Sydney.
Katoomba, the main town of the Blue Mountains, is an excellent base providing access to the Three Sisters and the Scenic Highway.
Kakadu National Park
Located in the top end of Australia, Kakadu National Park is a mammoth nature reserve south of Darmin. Over 2,000 species of flora and fauna, including salties (saltwater crocodiles) can be found in this diverse ecosystem. Deep escarpments, waterfalls, beautiful and refreshing pools and ancient aboriginal rock paintings make the trip north to Kakadu an unforgettable experience.
Explore Melbourne’s Lanes
Coffee, food and drink lovers will love exploring the lanes of Melbourne. Discover the hippest bars and restaurants, appreciate the street art and soak in the atmosphere. Travala.com favourites include Chin Chin, 11 Inch Pizza and Movida. Spend the night bar hopping before ending it at the Rooftop Bar for drinks overlooking Melbourne’s skyline.
Reasons to Visit Australia
Sun, sand and surf
With sunshine in an almost unlimited supply, stunning beaches, and welcoming waters, you could be excused for spending a holiday touring Australia’s best beaches and surf spots. From Cape Tribulation to the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland; from Bryon Bay to Manly Beach in New South Wales; St Kilda to Bells Beach in Victoria; Henley Beach to Coffin Bay in South Australia and The Basin and Turquoise Bay in Western Australia, your are spoiled in every state.
A gastronomical delight
After sun-chasers, food lovers are the next set of travellers who will adore Australia. With oceans laden with the freshest seafood, arable land growing vineyards and every other conceivable fruit and vegetable and pastures full of the finest beef and lamb, every meal in Australia could be your favourite.
A hiker’s paradise
Pack some sturdy shoes and a sun hat and head into the bush, forests and outback to discover Australia on foot. Hiking in Australia is ideal for those looking for single day outings and multi-day expeditions. Spend a morning on a family friendly hike in Queensland’s Glass House Mountains, discover more of Victoria’s coastline with the multi-day Great Ocean Walk and be amazed by the views from the Kings Canyon Rim in the Northern Territory.