Whether you're after high-energy cities or laid-back beaches, Australia has it. Here's where to go for exactly what you're after!
GOLD COAST. BEST FOR BEACHES
The great thing about Australia’s Gold Coast is that it does exactly what is says on the tin, hence why the beaches — or the coast for want of a better word — is a glorious shade of gold. AKA The Gold Coast — they don’t over complicate things in Oz-land.
There’s no limit to the glorious golden beaches that tickle the fringes of Australia’s east coast, with 57 kilometres of shoreline, there’s a little stretch of sand for everybody. Surfers Paradise is without doubt the most populous beach; with a relaxed vibe and gorgeous, gregarious Aussies. Perfect for independent travellers and the young or young at heart, whereas Kurrawa Beach at Broadbeach is a great all-rounder due to its plentiful facilities, including beach volleyball and lifeguards. And then there’s Mermaid Beach; less crowded and a bit more chilled. Families like it here for the picnic tables, playground and safer swimming.
HOT TIP! For panoramic views of Burleigh Beach to Surfers Paradise, head to the National Park at Burleigh Headland.
ADELAIDE. BEST FOR WINING & DINING
Two words. Sparkling Shiraz. And two more – The Barossa. Put them together and you have a very good reason to visit Adelaide.
Vineyards define South Australia; yes this is where Jacob’s Creek first set up shop, but it’s also home to some of the oldest vines in the world. Keep an eye out for the short and gnarly ones (look a bit like Yoda) because they’re the golden oldies. Then there are the numerous cycle tracks that weave between vineyards and provide the perfect opportunity to knock at cellar doors and lock lips with a fine glass of Sav.
HOT TIP! If you wine you must dine, and Adelaide is brilliant at both. Venture to Adelaide Central Market (open every day except Sunday and Monday). Book a Central market Tour and you’ll be transported to a food-lovers’ heaven; sampling pots of molten chocolate, organic fruit, creamy yoghurt, cheese and coffee that rivals NZ’s best; all of which is grown, produced or sourced locally. Even HOTTER tip: Go with an empty stomach.
MELBOURNE. BEST FOR ART & CULTURE
Melbournians can’t move for art, culture and hip happenings. Well not quite, but it’s true that they’re pros at providing new and novel things to see, do and partake in.
For traditionalists, the National Gallery of Victoria has been wow-ing art-seekers since 1861, making it Australia’s oldest public art gallery and a top-spot for truly remarkable art pieces. On the flip side there’s the Gertrude Contemporary Art Gallery which displays international modern artwork across three impressive gallery spaces. If you really want to experience the city’s gritty art scene, there’s the incredible street art; these works of graffiti mastery need to be seen to be believed. If you’re not quite sure where to start, Melbourne Street Art Tours take you to hidden underground treasures, with the opportunity to meet the street artists and discuss their work.
HOT TIP! If you haven’t got time for a full tour, get on the Google Maps and check out 21 Degraves Street, Hosier Lane or Rutledge Lane — graffiti goodies abound.
SYDNEY. BEST FOR SHOPPING
Warning: Reforming shopaholics fall off the wagon in Sydney. As Australia’s premier shopping mecca there’s an opportunity to max-out your credit card at every corner, from the CBD’s colossal department stores, Myer and David Jones, to high street favourites such as Topshop and Zara. And now, wait for it... H&M!
Albeit touristy, The Rocks Markets, opposite the Sydney Opera House offer 200 stalls selling mostly arts and crafts, including Aboriginal art prints and artisan candles. You can’t beat the stunning backdrop while you peruse Uggs and leather goods.
Putting Melbourne's indie-scene to the test, the weekend Rozelle Market serves vintage treasures on a plate. Open from 9am- 4pm, if you’re in the (excuse the pun) ‘market’ for furry moccasins and retro ashtrays, go here. Then polish things off in the Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Taking up an entire inner-city block and boasting 200 stores across five levels, if you’re not engrossed by the goods, you’ll be stunned by the Victorian architecture.
HOT TIP! Paddy's Market, which sells an eclectic mix of food, cheap clothes and even cheaper souvenirs (kangaroo scrotum anyone?) sits conveniently close to Chinatown and Darling Harbour, both of which are walkable.
SUNSHINE COAST. BEST FOR FAMILIES
Families are well looked after on the Sunshine Coast. As well as a top selection of family-orientated attractions, such as Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, UnderWater World and the Ginger Factory, there’s also Aussie World, with over 30 child-friendly rides and the Aussie World Pub for parents.
Between May – November, Strawberry Fields Farm in Palmview provides the perfect excuse to soak up ample sunshine while picking (and devouring) the season’s best strawberries. Children love playing in the tractor playground and finding Sammy, the mischievous Strawberry Elf who hides amidst the plants, while both parents and kids alike don’t turn their nose up at the selection of goodies in the farm’s café – from strawberry cheesecake to strawberry ice-cream and syrupy pancakes, they sure know how to work with their best produce.
HOT TIP! The Sunshine Coast enjoys an average 260 days of sunshine per year, but if you happen to wake up on a rainy day it’s worth seeing what’s happening at the local library. Many of them feature year-round kids shows and performances.
PERTH. BEST FOR INDEPENDENT TRAVELLERS
The great thing about Australia’s west coast is the huge dolphin population – they can’t get enough of the place! Dotted along the coastline like a motley crew of bottle nosed ocean-lovers, stop to take a cruise or kayaking trip in the warm waters of Mandurah.
From here you can continue to Geographe Bay, with talcum-powder sand and pretty white boats that freckle the turquoise water. There's also a dinky-cute jetty that pokes into the sea. Then there’s Ngilgi limestone cave and if you’re travelling between September and December, the potential to go whale watching. Finish in Margaret River where you’ll be rewarded with an ample supply of food, wine and beer.
HOT TIP! Enjoy a boutique brewery experience in Margaret River. Order a tasting paddle and wrap your taste buds around a selection of ciders and beer.