17x What to see in Australia

Australia is a gigantic country, so it's only logical that there are a lot of things to see and places to discover. From the tropical north to the desert-like inland towards the rugged south: the sights in Australia are very diverse and fantastically beautiful. To honor this country, you have to travel here for at least one month. What are the highlights of Australia? Check out the most beautiful places Down Under in this article.

what to do in australia

Ready for a road trip along the most beautiful sights of Australia?

1. Tasmania

Tasmania is the largest island in Australia. With a size similar to West-Virginia or Switzerland, you can be sure that there is plenty to discover.
You’ll also immediately notice that it looks very different here compared to mainland Australia.
Hobart (the ‘capital’ of Tasmania) is the perfect starting point for many interesting day trips and sights. A visit to one of the pristine islands in the north (Bruny and Maria Island) should definitely be on your to do list (especially if you want to spot wildlife!), but also the nearby Freycinet National Park is worth some of your time. In this national park you can see some exceptionally beautiful viewpoints. It’s often a bit of a climb, but the reward that you get is definitely worth that.
A little closer to Hobart is the Mount Field National Park, famous for the highest tree in the world, which reaches just under 100m high (99.6 m or 326,77 ft). You feel really small when you walk right next to these forest fiants!
My personal favorite attraction of Tasmania is without doubt the Bay of Fires. An immeasurable, paradise-like beach stretches in front of you with gigantic cliffs and rocks that are covered in a rust-brown layer of lichen. These bright colors stand in such a sharp contrast with the bright blue water and the snow-white sand, that it seems as if you’re driving around in a painting. In the north you’ll also find the incredibly beautiful Cradle Mountain. The walks you can do here are among the most beautiful in Australia.

Other than these recommendations, I would try to visit a wildlife sanctuary where you can see the Tasmanian devil. This protected species is the mascot of Tasmania and they are cute too! Finally, I would say to just cruise around a bit with your car, because you’ll find fantastic viewpoints at pretty much every turn.

Bay of fires tasmania things to do in Australia

A rainbow would be jealous of the colors of the Bay of Fires!

what to do in Tasmania

When you drive around in Tasmania, you get to see beautiful views everywhere you look.

2. Kings Canyon

If you plan a visit to the Northern Territories, then I also recommend to travel to Kings Canyon. Although the desert here also turns red and orange, it’s slightly less fierce than in Uluru. That might also have something to do with the rocky landscapes.
The most famous (and most beautiful) landmark here is Kings Canyon. This Australian response to the American Grand Canyon is at least equally impressive.
After a steep climb (start early enough, because otherwise it’ll be too hot!) You’ll get magnificent views over the seemingly endless desert that stretches out in front of you. I advise you to complete the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, because during this hike you get the most beautiful views over this landmark and the surrounding area.
Stare into the immeasurably deep canyon, but always keep a safe distance!
This place is certainly one of the most spectacular things to see in Australia.
Would you like to book a tour to this paradise? Check out possibilities and prices by clicking here.

kings canyon australia highlights

Kings Canyon is exceptionally beautiful, but don’t stand too close to the rim!

3. Diving in the Great Barrier Reef

If you visit Australia, then it’s imperative that you also dive into the Great Barrier Reef.
The largest coral reef in the world stretches out over thousands of miles, but (from what I’ve heard) the most beautiful and colorful fish and other sea animals and plants can be found under the transparent waters around Cairns.
Book a liveaboard (= a boat on which you stay overnight) and explore this underwater world for one, two, three or more days. Of course you can also book day trips, but keep in mind that these excursions usually can’t take you to the most beautiful parts of the reef. With a multi-day diving holiday to the Great Barrier Reef you can overcome that problem and it really is worth spending that money. The Outer Barrier Reef is the best place to dive, because the corals there haven’t really been affected by overfishing, global warming or other drastic changes.

great barrier reef diving australia things to do

The underwater world is exceptionally beautiful here!

great barrier reef what to do in Australia

Diving next to these towering walls of coral is truly breathtaking!

4. Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation

In the north of Australia you can find the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. With landscapes that seem to come straight from Jurassic Park, you can’t help but wonder if you’re still on planet earth. The dense vegetation overgrows almost everything and makes a ride through this area quite the adventure. The roads are excellent, so you certainly don’t have to rent a 4×4 to explore this area. From Cairns or Port Douglas there are also many tours that bring you to this piece of paradise. For $80+ per person you are guided to the most beautiful spots of this area.

Between all these lush rainforests, you’ll also find lots of wildlife. Beautiful birds, strange mammals and scary insects. If you’re very lucky, you might even see the largest bird in the world: the cassowary. This prehistoric fowl looks anything but kind, so if you see one I recommend not to get too close.

In addition to the endless rows of trees and plants, you can also occasionally see the paradisiacal colors of a tropical ocean peeking through. It’s very tempting to take a splash in that beautiful blue, but that’s strictly discouraged. Crocodiles, alligators, deadly jellyfish and hungry sharks all swim in these waters and the many warning signs don’t lie: if you do swim, you risk your life. Feel free to walk on the beautiful beach, however!

Don’t forget to visit Cape Tribulation during your visit to Daintree. Perhaps this is the most beautiful beach in this national park. Moreover, from this sandy stretch you also get some of the best viewpoints over the Daintree Rainforest. If you’re lucky (or unlucky), you might spot some wild crocodiles or even sharks swimming in the area.

One last tip that I certainly want to give when you explore the Daintree Rainforest, is to stop at the Alexandra Lookout. I think this is the best vantage point over the rainforest. From this location you can see the vastness of the rainforest, but also the beautiful shades of blue of the tropical coral reefs surrounding it.

Did you know that Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation are the only places in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage sites are located right next to each other?

daintree rainforest what to see in australia

The view over Daintree Rainforest from the Alexandra Lookout.

what to see in australia cape tribulation

Another thing for your ‘what to see in Australia’ list: the beautiful cape tribulation.

5. Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas)

The first thing that I would say if people ask me what to see in Australia, is recommending a trip to the Northern Territory. The highlight of my trip through Australia was undoubtedly the visit to Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park.
In the heart of the red center you’ll find a highlight like no other in Australia. The gigantic orange-colored mountains that are visible from miles away in this arid and deserted landscape are very impressive. These mountains are sacred for the Aborigines and since 2018 it’s forbidden to climb them. Personally, I think the views around it are much nicer anyway! Plan one of the many walks around Uluru, or admire this monumental rock from a distance. Trust me: you’ll never get enough of these views!
The Olgas are equally impressive. Personally, I found the hikes between these desert mountains even more imposing than those in Uluru. However, if you have the time, I would recommend doing both.
Don’t forget to experience both a sunset and sunrise in this national park, because it truly looks like magic. When the sun goes down or sets, the orange and red hues in this national park become even more saturated and create a stunning real-life painting.

If you’re traveling alone or with two, it’s not a bad idea to book a guided tour. Depending on how many days you choose, you’ll travel around Uluru and Kings Canyon and possibly some other beautiful places in the Northern Territories. A three-day tour costs around $275: much cheaper than if you have to arrange everything yourself. If you’re traveling with more than 2-3 people, renting a car yourself is probably a better idea.
Exploring Uluru with a tour is also the only way to sleep in the national park itself. If you arrange everything yourself, you can’t stay overnight in the park itself. If you don’t necessarily need to wake up facing Uluru or Kata Tjuta, there are plenty of options nearby.

If you like to plan everything yourself, then don’t forget that you’ll be driving very long distances and that speed cameras are often used. From Alice Springs it takes about four hours to reach Kings Canyon and from there you should count on another four hours to make it to Uluru.
If you want to drive offroad, you should at least rent a 4×4 car. Otherwise, you’re not insured.
Of course you can also fly directly to Uluru, but these tickets are often very expensive (check prices here).

uluru what to do in australia

What a fantastic place this is… Wow!

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The most beautiful walks in this national park can be found around Kata Tjuta or the Olgas.

6. Off roading on Fraser Island

Another unique place to visit in Australia is Fraser Island. Here you’ll find the only tropical rainforest in the world that grows completely on sand. And what kind of sand! It seems like this whole island is covered with powder and it doesn’t take long before you throw away your shoes here permanently.
Fraser Island may be an island, but it really is gigantic. With beaches of 75 miles long you’ll have plenty to see and do! In the exceptional rainforest, movie scenes were recorded for the Jurassic Park films, so here too you can expect a very unique fauna and flora.

The best thing about Fraser Island, however, is that humans have only intervened a little. There are hardly any roads and that means that you can only drive around in a four-wheel drive car. Bump through the sandbanks that are overgrown with strange plants or race past the seemingly infinite pearly white beaches: Fraser Island is paradise!
If you don’t want to drive off-road yourself most of the time, you can always book a (multi-day) excursion to this island. Highly recommended! For possibilities and prices you can check out this website.

Unfortunately, it’s also not recommended to go skinny dipping in the ocean around, because sharks and deadly box jellyfish count the seas around Fraser Island as their favorite areas. Fortunately, there are more than enough freshwater lakes on the island itself. A natural whitewater course, a green pool where you get a free wellness from the fish that nibble from your feet or a freshwater lake that seems to be plucked away from the Caribbean: yes, Fraser Island is certainly not a bad holiday destination!

Want to read more about what you can do on this beautiful island in Australia? Be sure to read this article too.

fraser island lake mc kenzie

The most beautiful area of Fraser Island: Lake McKenzie!

fraser island off road what to do in australia

Is off-roading on Fraser Island already on your bucket list? Because it really is amazing!!!

7. Kangaroo Island

When you search for lists with ‘What to see in Australia?’, you almost never get to see ‘Kangaroo Island’. I really don’t understand why, because for me this is perhaps the most beautiful place in Australia.
This third largest island of Down Under has been almost completely transformed into one large national park, and this makes the nature flourish on Kangaroo island.

From Adelaide you can take the ferry to Kangaroo Island (or by plane) to see the spectacular wildlife and rugged nature with your own eyes. As the name says, you’ll find lots of jumping kangaroos here. But also seals and sea lions, koalas, echidnas, colorful birds, cute wallabies and other gorgeous animals belong to the local fauna. In a place like this, the flowers and plants are also impressive. The fragrant eucalyptus trees can be found everywhere on the island and they ensure that you always get some fresh air with a hint of perfume.
Marvel at the fantastic beaches, take refreshing walks along some monumental panoramas or just enjoy the seemingly endless roads with stunning views over and over again. Kangaroo Island isn’t called the Galapagos of Australia for nothing, it really is very impressive here.

Would you like to know more about this beautiful place? Be sure to read this detailed article.
Do you want to book a trip to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide? You can book this online from $200 per person.

what to do in australia kangaroo island

Having an island named after you… This roo must feel lucky!

kangaroo island beaches activities australia

Did I already tell you that the beaches here are phenomenal?!

 

8. The paradisical Whitsundays

The Whitsundays are for me still one of the most beautiful sights of Australia. Dozens of white sandbanks lie spread out between the turquoise water and create one of the most fantastic landscapes that I’ve ever seen.
This extraordinarily beautiful environment can only be discovered by boat, so a tour is necessary and can be arranged from $70 per person. From Airlie Beach you’ll take off together with a few other adventurers to this earthly paradise and on the way you can also discover some of the fantastic underwater landscapes. A big chunk of the Great Barrier Reef is located here too, where you can snorkel or dive. Admittedly, it’s less impressive than the coral reefs around Cairns, but still… It remains spectacular!

The favorite part of most visitors is probably Whitehaven Beach: a vast sand island surrounded by nothing but transparent blue sea. From this island I also recommend to climb to the viewpoint, because from there you really see what a paradise it is here. Even better is to discover the Whitsundays from the air. It’s quite pricey (between $90 and $220 per person), but perhaps the most beautiful helicopter flight you’ll ever make!

australia things to do whitsundays

The gorgeous Whitsundays!

9. Visiting a Wildlife Sanctuary

As you can see, there’s a lot to do in Australia for animal lovers, but for a close encounter this really is the golden tip.
Scattered over Australia, there are hundreds of wildlife sanctuaries. In these places you come face to face with the Australian wildlife. In most cases the animals were saved from a cruel fate and can no longer function in the wild. Because they are used to contact with people, they also don’t mind that tourists always come and peek at them.
These wildlife sanctuaries are therefore the best place to come face to face with the many animals of Australia. You can almost always feed kangaroos and wallabies, see endangered species (Tasmanian devils, for example!) Or simply learn more about the fauna of Australia.

In some parks you also get the opportunitie to have your picture taken with the animals. Certain states prohibit tourists from hugging koalas, while others don’t make a problem out of it. Personally, I don’t think these animals really like being petted by people all day, but of course you have to decide that for yourself.
In any case, feeding (always) hungry kangaroos is really something that should be put on your bucket list when you visit Australia!

australia wildlife sanctuary

You have to admit that it really can’t get much better than this.

 

10. Brisbane

Brisbane is much smaller than Sydney or Melbourne, but I think that you should also try to see this big city if you’re in Aussie. If you just want to recharge your batteries after being in the car for a long time, then this is an excellent place to do so. Moreover, Brisbane is close to some very beautiful beaches and also not far from Fraser Island. Brisbane is also the perfect base for arranging one of the popular whale watching trips.
In the modern city center itself, there is also more than enough to see and do. Go swimming in the public swimming pools in the middle of the city, have a great meal in one of the many yummy restaurants, walk or do a bike ride and enjoy the magical skyline views from the city or go have fun in one of the great parties in Fortitude Valley. Brissie is amazing!

things to do in australia brisbane

Brisbane is a hypermodern city and there is a lot to do.

11. Stand face to face with a white shark

Have you always wanted to see one of the most notorious predators in the world in person? Then you have to put this activity on your Australian bucket list too!
Around the seas of Australia there are swimming around a few species of bloodthirsty sharks, but none of them is as spectacular as the white shark. This mastodon can grow up to twenty-one feet or six and a half meters and weigh more than 2200 lbs or 1000 kg.
On the south coast of Australia, it’s possible to willingly lock yourself up into a cage that is dropped into the habitat of these fearless predators. And that’s the way it should be; the people in the cage and not the other way around.
In addition, the sharks aren’t lured here with bait, so you can be sure that this attraction is in fact animal friendly. Not using bait also makes sure that the sharks will not lose their natural instincts.
You don’t need to be afraid of anything, because everything is organized in the safest way possible. In the long history of the company that offers these tours (Calypso Star Charters), not a single accident has happened.

Is this activity high on your list of what to see in Australia? Then you have to be in Port Lincoln (South Australia). To splash in the water for 30 to 45 minutes together with these friendly sharks, you pay around $275 or €250. If you would like to do a combination tour where you also swim with sea lions afterwards, you’ll pay around $400 or €350 per person.

swim white shark australia things to see

Would you dare to do so?

12. Swim with dolphins, seals or whales!!!

I myself am an advocate of meeting animals on their own terms. That’s why I think that it’s fantastic that you can do so many wildlife encounters in Australia in the natural habitat of the animals.
Undoubtedly one of the nicest things to see in Australia, is to get acquainted with dolphins, seals or even the giants of the sea.

Swimming with dolphins in Australia is possible in many places. Which dolphins you see is usually a surprise, as there are many different species of these curious creatures. With a boat you sail into the open sea and together with the crew members you look out for signs of dolphins. When they are spotted and it’s safe for both humans and animals, the tourists are guided into the water. Dolphins are curious creatures, so they’ll probably come say hello to you right away.
A tip to attract the attention of the dolphins: make funny sounds and move as if you were a dolphin yourself (with your arms on your sides). Before you know it, ten of these olympic swimmers have surrounded you. This truly is a magical experience!

With seals and sea lions you’ll have to behave a bit different. You’ll be asked to remain in the water as quietly as possible, because otherwise these animals become too nervous and they will almost certainly swim away. If you stay calm, seals are quite curious! Once underwater, their eyes become really gigantic, so a close-encounter is pretty comical! They aren’t called the clowns of the sea for nothing…

The most impressive meeting must be the one with humpback whales. You can swim with whales in western Australia (Ningaloo Reef) or near Brisbane. From mid July to the end of October you can splash into the oceans together with these giants. This is really something very unique, because you can only do this in a few places in the world. Moreover, in terms of price it’s also quite alright ($290 or €260 pp), especially if you compare it to other parts of the world. In any case, this is an adventure that you’ll never forget!

Don’t you feel like swimming with the animals? Then there are of course also tours where you stay on board and can take pictures while staying dry.

swimming with whales australia

Wow!

13. Sydney

Huge cities are always a bit magical and that’s no different for Sydney! This concrete jungle has dozens of things to see that will definitely make it worthwhile to stay here for a few days.
City trippers can shop in one of the beautiful malls or go for a treasure hunt in one of the cute boutiques. While you get lost between the streets that are reminiscent of the United Kingdom and the United States, you should definitely pay attention to the street art. Are you getting hungry from all those impressions? Then head into one of the cozy restaurants or international bars.

What makes Sydney even more attractive are the many beaches. From Sydney Harbor (where the world famous Opera House is located!), you can easily set sail to one of these beaches by ferry. Highly recommended is to do the Bondi to Coogee Beach Walk. An easy hike, which takes you along some of the best views over Sydney.
Another crowd puller in Sydney is the Luna Park, where you are guaranteed to come out with a gambling addiction.
Do you want to escape the bustle of this metropolis? Then pay a visit to the Botanical Gardens: an oasis of peace, at least if you don’t pay too much attention to the screaming cockatoos!

From Sydney you can also plan many day trips and excursions. You can easily arrange these yourself with the excellent public transport. If it’s slightly less easy to reach, you can always call in the help of a tour organization.

what to do in australia sydney

The Sydney Harbor, with the impressive Sydney Opera House.

14. The Blue Mountains

One such day trip from Sydney that I recommend doing is the Blue Mountains.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a paradise for nature lovers. Gorgeous waterfalls, eucalyptus trees that bring your nostrils to the seventh heaven or rock formations that are more dramatic than Shakespeare: the Blue Mountains are such a highlight of Australia that you can not and must not skip them. Do you want to see all that natural beauty from a unique position? Then book a ride on the cable car, or reserve a spot on one of the world’s steepest (and most beautiful!) railways (both attractions cost $55 or €50 pp).

Would you like a guide who shows you all the most beautiful places of this National Park, or are you not looking forward to the drive out there? From Sydney you can arrange a guided tour for +/- $65 or €60 per person.

blue mountains australia highlights

Australia has a lot of highlights. One near Sydney are these Blue Mountains.

15. Melbourne

Of course Melbourne shouldn’t be skipped on this list of things to do in Australia. I would even dare to say that this is my favorite city Down Under!!
Melbourne has been named the most livable city in the world for several times already. This is undoubtedly due to the friendly people, the proximity of nature (and lots of parks!), the dizzying skyscrapers and the endless possibilities to discover new sights and activities.
Even on the most gray days, this city is vibrant in colours thanks to the street art that you’ll find everywhere but especially in the small alleys. The modern architecture is interspersed with buildings that are very reminiscent of England (make sure to visit the Flinders Chase Station!). Don’t just stay in the central parts of the city, but also visit the surrounding areas of this metropolis. The Shrine of Remembrance is a beautiful sign of solidarity for the many fallen soldiers from both world wars, and from here you also get a fantastic view of the -according to me- most beautiful city of Australia.

Melbourne is also the perfect location to plan a few day trips from. Just think of Phillip Island or the Great Ocean Road (read more about these further down in this article). There’s plenty to do here! So try to spend at least a few days here.

melbourne what to do in australia

Melbourne; the second largest city in Australia, but for me it’s the number one city in this country!

16. The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road -together with the Douro Valley of Portugal is one of the most beautiful routes in the world that you can travel by car. That really isn’t an exaggeration, because here you see one spectacular view right after another! The entire 150 mile or 243 kilometer ride is incredibly varied. The main part of this road trip is located of course next to the wildly sloshing ocean, but along the way you can also make stops in rain forests of millions of years old (with carnivorous snails!!!), eucalyptus forests that are plagued by koalas (or colorful birds) or open plains that are home to hundreds of kangaroos.
Highlights of The Great Ocean Road that you shouldn’t skip include the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge (in 1990 it collapsed partly, but there’s a very funny story for that! If you visit the Great Ocean Road with a guide, he or she will certainly tell you more about it.), the Bay of Islands and Teddys lookout.

The best way to visit the Great Ocean Road is of course with your own (rental) car, but if that doesn’t work for you, you can also book a tour from Melbourne for +/- $90 or €80.

great ocean road highlights australia

The Twelve Apostles are one of the most beautiful sights along the Great Ocean Road.

17. Phillip Island

The extensive wildlife in Australia is a magnet for many tourists. Besides cute kangaroos, wallabies and koalas, there are also many impressive birds that you can spot in this country. For example: did you know that the smallest penguin in the world can be found here?!
The little blue penguin (or ‘fairy penguin’ as locals like to name them) only grows up to 12 or 16 inch (30 or 40 cm) and they are mainly found in southern Australia (and also in New Zealand). One of the best places to see these cute birds in their natural habitat is on Phillip Island. This peninsula is located about two hours away from Melbourne, and if you don’t like to drive there yourself, then there are more than enough tours that take you to this unusual activity (Starting from $90 or €80).
You’ll have to wait until it gets dark, because only then these little penguins dare to come out of the water. When you see the first heads pop out from the ocean, it’s difficult to suppress your screams of joy any longer. Once the bravest wigglers have come ashore, dozens of other dwarf penguins follow. What a spectacle!
Taking pictures is forbidden (the flash can make the animals blind, and even if it’s not on, there are often searchlights of camera’s that shine too brightly on the animals), but that doesn’t take anything away from the experience.
Don’t forget to look next to and under the wooden promenade as you return to your car. Very often you can see the penguins from even closer here.

Phillip Island australia

Another one for your what to see in Australia list: these cute little penguins!

Fly comfortably to Australia

For a European like me, Australia is completely on the other side of the world. That means that it takes quite a few hours before you reach Down Under.
To make your flight as comfortable as possible, it’s not a bad idea to fly with a good airline. That is why I highly recommend Cathay Pacific (logically, because they have already been named the best airline in the world a few times!).

From most European cities, there are direct flights to Hong Kong (where you can do and see a lot too: read more here), and from this Asian metropolis you can fly comfortably to anywhere in Australia.

To make yourself completely comfortable, you can of course also opt for a flight in first class. However, that costs quite a lot, and so a great alternative is to book a ticket in Premium Economy Class. You can read my own experience about this here, and prices and availability for these flights can be found here. I can assure you that a flight of more than twenty hours in Premium Economy is heavenly!

flight australia cathay pacific premium economy

In Premium Economy you can enjoy your flight in peace and comfort.

Package tour Australia

Are you not at ease in a foreign country? Or do you just want to enjoy your holiday? Then a package trip might be something for you. How about these nice deals ?:

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In this article you'll find a few affiliate links. When you book something with these travel organizations, I get a small commission. You don't pay anything extra for that. You can thus see it as a way to support this blog if you found the information helpful. I use all of these travel organizations myself, and I will only recommend the ones that I really like.
 

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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