For a country as massive and impressive as Australia, there’s almost a never-ending list of things to see and do. However, if it’s your first time to the continent, then you need to start somewhere. While it would be tricky to see all of Australia’s staples in one trip (Australia really is massive), we’ve compiled a list of must-sees for your consideration when discovering the Down Under for the first time. Whether you pick two or all of the below, make sure you spend at least 4 days in each to get a true sense of the location. In the off chance you don’t manage to pay a visit to them all, don’t kick yourself at the end of your trip—by that time you’ll see how easy it is to come back.
One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef is an absolute must-see of Australia. Whether it’s snorkeling amongst the thriving marine life, glimpsing the underwater ecosystem from a glass-bottom boat or soaking up the sun while sprawled out on a beach, the Great Barrier Reef could easily fill up the focus of your trip with its jaw-dropping existence. Luckily, the largest coral reef on Earth also has many adventures that complement it.
The Whitsunday Islands are a great option for both families and couples alike, with paradise offerings ranging from sailing to blissful lounging and relaxation at a resort. For couples looking for some quality time together and wanting the ultimate Reef experience, you’ll want to discover qualia on Hamilton Island, or the soon to re-open Hayman Island by Intercontinental.
Further north, where the Reef kisses the edge of the lush Daintree Rainforest, Cairns and Port Douglas harbor more land adventures for your discovery. Visit an Aboriginal cultural park, go mudcrabbing with a Kuku Yulanji member, float above rainforests on the Skyrail gondola, and explore surrounding villages and craft markets to weave together a trip of priceless experiences and memories.
208 miles away from the nearest town of Alice Springs, Uluṟu (Ayers Rock) and its nearby Kata Tjuta are Australian gems nestled deep within the Outback. Between Alice Springs and Uluru, there is a lot of adventure waiting to be unearthed. A bright-red goliath of sandstone towering over 1000 feet in the air, Uluru is the famous giant monolith amongst the desert plains. Sacred to the local people, Uluṟu is a sight to behold—be it on foot, camelback, with an indigenous guide, basked in a sunset or as the background to an open-air dinner—any and all provide a spiritual awakening unlike anywhere else in the world. Another high point of the Red Centre worth exploring is the West MacDonnell Ranges, located between Alice and Uluru, with its beautiful gorges and waterholes. Afterward, stop at Alice Springs and explore the aboriginal art in its galleries, meet wildlife at sanctuaries starring on TV, and see the past at the historic Telegraph station for the complete Red Centre experience.
The magical city of Sydney is different from other must-sees of Australia. Its laid-back beachside cool is an interesting mix of modern and natural wonders combined. Wiggle your toes in the sands of Bondi Beach while the joy of other beachgoers fills the air. Peruse the bustling streets of Sydney’s origin in The Rocks district and witness the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge framed by a prismatic sunset. If you can, plan your visit so that you don’t miss the Vivid festival—the city comes alive with lights, ideas and events each May and June. Of course, city-life pairs perfectly with a few days outside the city for some time in the natural the natural beauty of the Blue Mountains.
Sydney is the pairing of Australia’s enchanting past with its promising future, making it a present-day must-see sight. At least a few days in the city complements the wilder staples of Australia perfectly.
Ready to get started discovering Australia’s must-see gems? Talk with one of our specialized travel advisors for help planning your first time to the land down under.