After recently finishing an 18-month road trip around Australia I’m often asked what are the top places in Australia to visit? And what experiences should be on my bucket list?
Let me start by saying it’s always a good idea to visit Australia, but it’s currently an even better idea to travel in Australia at the moment with the weakening Aussie dollar.
If you’re an Aussie like me, not travelling overseas to destinations where our money doesn’t travel far but exploring more of our own backyard probably makes sense financially. And if you’re from places like the USA or Europe, then the US dollar and Euro offers good value for your money.
But regardless of where you’re from, and what the dollar is doing, visiting Australia is on most people’s bucket list at least once in their lifetime, and if you really want to come down under, make it a priority and do it.
It’s a tough choice narrowing it down to a list of my 20 best places in Australia, and I’ve had to leave out some fantastic destinations, but if you’re only going to visit Australia once, these would be my top suggestions for seeing the best of what our country has to offer.
In no particular order.
Top 20 places in Australia
1. Whitsunday Islands, Queensland
74 islands make up The Whitsundays and what’s not to love?! It’s home to our favourite beach in Australia, Whitehaven Beach, and numerous other magical beaches and secluded bays with that turquoise water and pure white sand. Throw in tropical sunsets, every watersport imaginable, and the fact you’re in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The mainland town of Airlie Beach is a happening place with Hamilton Island being the most concentrated for accommodation and activities.
Where to stay in the Whitsundays:
2. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
Some people call it Kaka-don’t, but don’t listen to them. They probably raced through the park on a day trip with a tour group and it deserves so much more time than that. We spent 5 days in Kakadu and still only scratched the surface, but it easily makes our top places in Australia list. From wetlands to sandstone escarpments, waterfalls, swimming holes, billabongs, rivers, wildlife, and aboriginal rock art, it has it all.
Where to stay at Kakadu:
3. Margaret River, Western Australia
I can’t wait to go back to Margaret River, one of our top 3 regions in Australia because it pretty much has it all. There’s over 150 wine producers, numerous breweries, incredible beaches, gourmet food, coffee houses, chocolate makers, cheese factories, caves to explore, forests to walk through, mountain bike trails, whale watching, surf culture, artists, and stunning landscapes. What are you waiting for?!
Where to stay in Margaret River:
- Camping & Caravanning – Wharncliffe Mill Bush Retreat
- Budget – Margaret River Backpackers YHA
- Midrange – Edge of the Forest Garden Motel
- Luxury – Grand Mercure Basildene Manor
4. Sydney, NSW
You can’t visit Australia and not spend at least a few days in one of the world’s most beautiful cities – many of you will fly through here anyways. Sure it has a reputation of being on the expensive side, but most of the best things to do are free or cheap – walk across the Harbour Bridge, picnic in the Botanical Gardens, walk around Circular Quay and admire the Opera House, take the ferry over to Manly, explore The Rocks District, and my favourite – the Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach coastal walk!
Where to stay in Sydney:
5. Broome, Western Australia
If you’ve been following us for a while you’ll know that Broome is our favourite place in Australia. Our love affair with Broome dates back to our days working on a pearl farm in the Kimberley region, and on our recent trip we spent 5 weeks there and didn’t want to leave. It’s the striking red earth against the turquoise water of the Indian Ocean, the most amazing sunsets over Cable Beach, and perfect weather – it has the vibe of a charming country town by the sea!
Where to stay in Broome:
6. Byron Bay, NSW
This legendary beachside town in Northern NSW has been attracting surfers, the spiritually minded, spa lovers, yogis, backpackers and those trying to find themselves for years. With some of the most famous surfing breaks in the country, the alternative lifestyle, and the stunning hinterland, Byron is the place to be, and be seen. Don’t miss the lighthouse walk past Wategos Beach, sunrise and sunset, Bluesfest over Easter, and take a surfing lesson!
Where to stay in Byron Bay:
7. Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
Where to stay in Freycinet:
8. Uluru, Northern Territory
Visiting Uluru in the Red Centre of Australia is an experience I’ll never forget. Known as the “spiritual heart of Australia” Uluru is one of those places you just have to see, and feel, for yourself. Don’t rush through here like most people, stay a while and take it all in. Experience sunset and sunrise, walk around the base, take a camel ride, maybe a helicopter flight, and visit nearby Kata Tjuta.
Where to stay at Uluru:
9. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Getting out on the world’s largest coral reef and the largest living structure on the planet has to be on your Aussie bucket list. Stretching 2,300km long, the GBR is a natural wonder of the world and in my opinion lives up to its reputation. If you’re a diver, or even just a snorkeler, the options are endless. Most people visit the reef from Cairns which is known as the unofficial gateway.
Where to stay in Cairns:
- Budget – Cairns Central YHA
- Midrange – Rydges Tradewinds Cairns
- Luxury – Shangri-La Hotel The Marina
10. Daintree Rainforest, Queensland
How can something so old be so beautiful? I mean, at 110 million years old the Daintree Rainforest is pretty damn old, and possibly the oldest existing rainforest in the world. My favourite spot is Cape Tribulation – a headland located within Daintree National Park, a place where two World Heritage Listed sites collide – the Daintree and Great Barrier Reef. Other spots to visit include Daintree Discovery Centre, Cow Bay, Myall Beach, Emmagen Beach, Cape Kimberley and Mason’s Cafe and swimming hole.
Where to stay in the Daintree:
- Budget – Cape Tribulation YHA
- Midrange – Daintree Wilderness Lodge
- Luxury – Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa
11. Fraser Island, Queensland
If you’re a hard-core 4×4 driving enthusiast put Fraser Island at the top of your Aussie bucket list. Fraser stretches 123 km long, 23 km wide, and is the largest sand island in the world dumped over 800,000 years ago from places as far as Antarctica when it was still joined with Australia. I can’t get enough of Fraser, it’s an adventure with nature you’ll crave more of. My favourite spots are 75 Mile Beach, Eli Creek, Maheno shipwreck, Lake Mackenzie, Indian Head, and Champagne Pools.
Where to stay on Fraser Island:
12. Melbourne, Victoria
I could live in Melbourne, and I’m not the only one apparently as it consistently ranks at the top of most liveable cities in the world, I just don’t know if I could live with the four seasons in one day weather pattern. Anyhow, Melbourne is an awesome city to visit. If you’re a sports nut like me it’s got the Australian Open Tennis, the Grand Prix, the Melbourne Cup, and the AFL. For everyone else it’s got an incredible food scene, some of the best coffee and cafes in the country (if not the world), cool pubs, endless shopping, great festivals, awesome markets, handy public transport, and just an all round addictive vibe!
Where to stay in Melbourne:
13. Great Ocean Road, Victoria
You’ve probably heard of the Great Ocean Road, it’s kinda famous around the world as one of the best road trips. We spent 2 weeks driving the GOR and it lived up to expectations. If I have one tip, don’t rush it, don’t drive it in one day like the tour buses, slow down and give it the time it deserves. But if you only have time for one place, then Port Campbell National Park is the highlight, it’s where most of the top scenic spots are located like the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge.
Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road:
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14. Rottnest Island, Western Australia
“Rotto” as the locals call it, is something special. With over 60 picturesque beaches and bays and top spots for snorkeling, diving, kayaking, swimming and fishing it’s possibly my favourite island in Australia and if you make it to Perth, don’t miss Rottnest. Stay over if you can, but if you only have half a day make sure you visit The Basin and Pinky Beach. Grab a bike, it’s the best way to explore the island, and don’t forget your camera!
Where to stay on Rottnest:
15. Hobart, Tasmania
I’m not CRAZY about Hobart, but it’s definitely a nice enough place with lots of history – it’s Australia’s second oldest city – and I really enjoyed a few other places within easy reach of the city so that’s why I’m including it in this list. I do love the fact that it’s walkable, my favourite spots being Salamanca and Historic Battery Point, and of course, the famous MONA museum is a must visit. The other places close enough to Hobart I highly recommend are Bruny Island, Port Arthur, and historic Richmond.
Where to stay in Hobart:
16. Barossa Valley, South Australia
If we’re just talking wine and food, then the Barossa Valley and nearby Adelaide Hills is probably my favourite place in Australia for satisfying the taste buds. It’s a short drive from Adelaide and with over 80 cellar doors and 150 wineries from big names to boutiques including Jacob’s Creek, Penfold’s, Wolf Blass and Grant Burge, you’re not lacking in options. And the scenery is something else too – do the 57-kilometre Barossa Scenic Heritage Drive for some stunning scenery.
Where to stay in the Barossa:
- Budget – Barossa Gateway Motel
- Midrange – Novotel Barossa Valley Resort
- Luxury – Jacobs Creek Retreat
17. Karijini National Park, Western Australia
We had high expectations for Karijini. So many people we met on our 18-month trip told us that Karijini was their favourite national park. And they weren’t lying. This place is spectacular, and I can’t believe that three years ago I don’t think I’d even heard of this place, but we’re doing our best to share it with as many people as possible. The colours of the rock, the gorges, the swimming holes, the waterfalls, the hiking – it’s off-the-beaten-path in WA but totally worth the effort!
Where to stay in Karijini
18. Gold Coast, Queensland
We chose to call the Gold Coast our current home for a reason. Whilst it’s a region well known for tourism with a tagline famous for fun, it has a great mix of beautiful coastal and hinterland scenery, with some of the best beaches in the country. My favourite spots on the coast are Burleigh Heads, Rainbow Bay and Coolangatta. Whilst in the hinterland check outLamington National Park, Springbrook National Park, and Binna Burra National Park!
Where to stay on the Gold Coast:
- Budget – Coolangatta YHA
- Midrange – 2nd Ave Beachside Apartments, Burleigh Heads
- Luxury – Palazzo Versace, Main Beach
19. Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria
Another place we knew little about until we travelled around Australia, and it wasn’t until friends in Melbourne suggested we go here, it’s a 3-hour drive from the city, that we did. It’s a 50,000-hectare coastal wilderness area and so popular they have a ballot system to stay in the accommodation during peak season. You’re reward – stunning vistas of pink granite boulder mountains, turquoise water, squeaky white sand, intimate coves, forested valleys, and incredible hiking.
20. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Ok, Kangaroo Island is the only place on this list that we haven’t personally been to, yet. But we’ve had that many people we trust rave about this island that I’m adding it in for you guys to learn about. What’s so good about Kangaroo Island? From what I’ve been told the wilderness and landscapes, the diverse wildlife, and the food is amazing. I can’t wait to go!
Where to stay on Kangaroo Island:
What are your favourite places in Australia?
Tell us in the comments. And what places are on your Aussie bucket list?