A beginners guide to visiting Australia

A trip Downunder can be a once in a lifetime experience – though for many visitors they use the opportunity to take an extended vacation and combine it with work so they can fund their travels and make the most of what this giant and diverse country has to offer.

Uluru - begineers guide to visiting Australia

But where do you start with a country as large as Australia?  In this practical beginner guide we take you through;

  • When and where to visit in Australia
  • Visa and entry requirements for Australia
  • Not-to-miss Australian experiences to help plan your itinerary

This post is part of our series Discover Australia


When and where to visit in Australia

Now remember before you plan anything, Australia is big!!  All 7.7million square kilometres of it. To cover it all –  or even remotely close to it – you will need several months.  If you only have a matter of weeks, you should narrow it down to one coast of the country, or a few key cities with internal flights.

We are from the West so totally biased to road tripping around Western Australia – but there is a lot of road to cover and great distances between attractions. A road trip around the South West corner though will give you one of the most beautiful driving experiences Australia has to offer from the vineyards and beaches of Margaret River to the giant timber in the Southern Forests.

If seeing the major landmarks is a priority for you, the most famous are mostly around Sydney with its Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The Great Barrier Reef and Sunshine coast are of course great drawcards too for those who prefer Queensland and (almost) guaranteed sun.  Melbourne is best known for its café and food culture, arts, sport and culture, though pick your day as the weather can be very variable!

We’d also strongly recommend you take some time to head to the outback.  Be it heading to the Red Centre to see Uluru, or heading to Far North Queensland to take in the Daintree Forest and Great Barrier Reef through to the gem Gem Fields.

Daintree Australia

Australian Climate

There are several different climate zones in Australia, which makes it such a great year-round destination as somewhere is always sunny and warm!

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Best day trips and weekenders from Perth

The south-east corner of the country broadly from Adelaide around to Sydney experiences the best weather from about September through to April, while the northern “top end” of Australia is subtropical through to tropical, ideal during the dry season May to October. 

Then there are plenty of areas in between particularly on the Western Australia and Queensland coasts that can see relatively mild weather without the huge extremes year-round. 

It may surprise you to know you can also catch snow in Australia! From tallest peaks of Tassie through to the Great Dividing Range that runs down the east coast of the country, you will get snowfall in winter months.  Maybe not with conditions like Colorado or the Alps but nonetheless enough to play and ski in mid-winter!

Snow in Australia

Visas and entry requirements for Australia

Visa requirements vary by your passport country and your purpose for visiting.  New Zealand citizens can receive a visit Visa on arrival but all other citizens must apply for a visitor visa before they arrive. Apply for your Australia Visa online in advance for a smooth entry into the country.

If you do want to spend several months travelling and exploring more in-depth, you should consider the Working Holiday Visa for Australia.  This visa category allows eligible holders to work for up to 6 out of 12 months in certain industries. It is always best to seek the help of an agency when applying to make sure you’ve applied for the right visa category.

When your packing and planning, don’t forget Australia’s strict quarantine laws too. Australia’s borders are strictly protected and penalties for bringing illegal items are high.

Not to miss Australian Experiences for your itinerary

As an island continent, there is so much to see and experience that is unique to Australia from the deserts to the oceans and the unique flora and fauna, here are just some of the things you build into your Australian itinerary.

Animal encounters

One aspect of travelling to Australia that is unmissable for both kids and grownups alike is catching some of the unique Australian wildlife.  If not in their natural habitats, at the very least in one of the country’s premier wildlife sanctuaries dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitation or world-acclaimed zoos.

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Grape Adventures in Great Southern

With 50 different species of mammals, 800 species of birds and over 4000 species of marine life to be found in Australia there is something for everyone! (And no, not all of them are dangerous!!)

Koala

Some of the best wildlife experiences include:

  • Taronga Zoo, Sydney, NSW
  • Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo NSW
  • Featherdale Wildlife Park, Doonside, NSW
  • Australian Reptile Park, Central Coast, NSW
  • Healesville Sanctuary, Healesville, Victoria
  • Penguin Parade, Phillip Island, Victoria
  • Kangaroo Island, South Australia
  • Whale Spotting, Bremmer Bay, Western Australia
  • Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay, Western Australia
  • Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast, Queensland
  • The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
  • Jumping Crocs, Adelaide River, Northern Territory

We have a detailed guide to the best Australian animal encounters in every state here.

Best beaches and coastline

With over 35,000 kilometres of coastline, it’s no surprise that Australia’s beaches are one of its main selling features.  So many beaches are readily accessible from the state capital cities, but the beauty of travelling in Australia is definitely finding that favourite all to yourself!

Whitehaven Beach

Whilst Bondi Beach in Sydney and Cottesloe in the West might be well known and easily accessible, here are some of the more remote gems definitely worth the road trip:

  • Wineglass Bay, Tasmania
  • 75-mile beach – Fraser Island, Queensland
  • Little Beach, Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, Western Australia
  • Coral Bay, Western Australia
  • Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays, Queensland
  • Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW
  • Squeaky Beach, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria

When planning a beach trip, always be wary of the powers of the ocean.  Other than the obvious that waves can be fierce, and yes sharks can be in the waters, don’t forget to think about stingers. Most prevalent in the tropics in the wet season – swim only at designated beaches with nets and swim between the flags.

Stingers Sign

And in case you haven’t heard it enough, protect yourself from the sun!  The UV rays in Australia are far stronger than other parts of the world and can catch many tourists unaware.

A nation of sports lovers

Sport is a huge part of Australian culture. Some of the big events on the regular family sporting calendar you could time a trip around include:

  • Tennis – The Australian Open (January in Melbourne)
  • Formula 1 – Australian Grand Prix (March in Melbourne)
  • Rugby League – NRL State of Origin (June/July – NSW & Queensland)
  • Aussie Rules – AFL Grand Final (September in Melbourne)
  • Horse Racing – Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival (late October to early November),
  • Sailing – Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race (end December)
  • Cricket – Big Bash (countrywide December to February)
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Unique ways to explore Sydney with your Kids

Sport in Australia MCG

For More Australian inspiration don’t forget to check out:

So what are you waiting for? There’s always a perfect time to be visiting Australia!


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Beginners Guide to Visiting Australia

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