A Top-to-Bottom Guide on Australian Discovery

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For a country that doubles as its own continent, the expanse of Australia is understandably immense. With nearly three million square miles from sea to shining sea in every direction, there is no shortage of sights to be seen, experiences to unearth or discoveries to treasure. So much so, that the definition of an Australian adventure is wholly dependent on where you choose to venture—just as the difference between Oregon and Florida is palpable, the difference between Northern and Southern Australia is filled with nuances big and small.

For a surface-level introduction to those nuances, here’s a top-to-bottom guide on Australia’s lay of the land.

north australia versus south australia

Southern Australia

If you sawed a map of Australia horizontally in half with a line located just above Brisbane, about 90% of the country’s population would reside in the temperate-weathered lower half. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that the southern metropolises are the place to be for the forefront of the new and exciting, thanks to the likes of global cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Culture of the sophisticated sense is blooming here and constantly innovating, with art and cuisine drawing from local and worldly inspiration.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for getting out of town and discovering wilderness in the South: right off the coast of Adelaide is the picturesque Kangaroo Island, aptly named after some of the prominent denizens of its protected nature preserves. Equally pristine is the stretch of national parks and scenic coast between Melbourne and Sydney—the perfect setting for an idyllic drive. Witnessing the penguins of Philips Island pairs perfectly with both a cricket match in Melbourne, a beachside brunch between contemporary art galleries in Sydney or both. The beauty of an adventure through South Australia lies squarely in its variety.

north australia versus south australia

Northern Australia

Counterintuitively, to the north of most of Australia’s major cities lie endless deserts, tropical rainforests and palm-lined beaches—the overwhelming majority of the continent consists of entire expanses unblemished with the hustle and bustle of city life. Off the coast of Queensland is the Great Barrier Reef, 134,000 square miles totaling one of the seven natural wonders of the world—it’s as close as you could get to discovering Atlantis. In the northeast corner of Queensland is the Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest in the world with an estimated age of 180 million years. Over on the other end of the continent is the equally majestic Kimberley—Western Australia’s (very) sparsely settled northern region known for stunningly gorgeous landscapes. Sandwiched between the two is the Northern Territory, simultaneously Australia’s third-largest federal division and its least populated. Fewer than 246,700 people live in the entire territory, just a pinch under half the population of the island of Tasmania. There is a single paved road threaded through the territory that connects the capital of Darwin (located at the tiptop point of the continent) with the southern city of Port Augusta, and most of the meager traces of civilization are dotted along this stretch. Suffice to say: There are few places on Earth that provide more of a “great outdoors” experience.

While the coastline serves as the setting for a good and proper South Pacific beach getaway, the true northern sight to behold is nowhere near the water. The town of Alice Springs, located in the lower end of the Northern Territory, is your gateway to the enchanting Outback. Uluṟu (Ayers Rock) towers out of the arid desert, a massive red behemoth of stone amongst the endlessly flat desert and bush. Orbiting it are a myriad of springs, waterholes, rock caves, ancient paintings and wildlife competing for your captivation. In tandem with the draw of the outdoors, the benefit of Indigenous-led experiences and insights all throughout the Outback is priceless in terms of deeper appreciation for your personal discoveries.

Ready to narrow down your Australian adventure to one half of a continent? Speak with one of our travel agents. It’s easy to focus your vacation itinerary when an expert is helping you map it out. Thanks to a convergence of insight, expertise and professional relationships with industry-leading companies like GOGO Vacations, you can embark on the journey of a lifetime without ever breaking a sweat preparing for it.