Everything you wnt to know before heading Downunder
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.
But where do you start with a country as large as Australia? In this practical beginner guide we take you through;
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 will give you one of the most beautiful driving experiences Australia has to offer from the vineyards to the beaches. Or you could find a used yacht for sale and explore Geographe Bay before travelling 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. Both of these famous landmarks are conveniently located right in the middle of Sydney where all the tourist hotel and accommodation options are.
The Great Barrier Reef, Sunshine Coast and Whitsundays 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.
There are several different climate zones in Australia, which makes it such a great year-round destination as somewhere is always sunny and warm!
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!
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.
Check current COVID-19 Entry rules for Australia here.
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.
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.
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!!)
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!
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.
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)
For More Australian inspiration don’t forget to check out:
- Unique ways to explore Sydney with Kids
- Day trips and weekenders from Perth
- Port Douglas and Tropical North Queensland with kids
- Discover Darwin & surrounds with kids
So what are you waiting for? There’s always a perfect time to be visiting Australia!