6 Places in Australia to Visit Now

As the FIFA Women’s World Cup crisscrosses the country, so do we with these of-the-moment recommendations for where to eat, stay, and play.

Sydney, Australia

The Sydney Opera House was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

Photo by Michelle Heimerman

For the past six months, I’ve been researching and planning a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand with my family—the impetus being the FIFA Women’s World Cup, played here from late July to the final in Sydney on August 20. The global sporting event covers a lot of ground—five cities in Oz, four in NZ—and though we’re not necessarily making every stop, we’ll see much of both countries in the process.

And so, I offer parts of my actual itinerary as well as of-the-moment intel on the best new happenings across Australia and New Zealand right now.

Where should I go if it’s my first time to Australia?


Chin Chin, Sydney Australia

Chin Chin brings the flavors of Southeast Asia to Surry Hills in Sydney.

Photos by Michelle Heimerman

It’s hard not to want to start in Sydney, which has more than its share of iconic Aussie sites like the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Royal Botanic Garden, and Bondi Beach with its outdoor rock pools. Just be sure to get out of the Central Business District (CBD) and heavily touristed Circular Quay because Sydney’s charm unspools in its neighborhoods. One of my favorites of late is Surry Hills, a suburb just southeast of the CBD with beautiful residential streets lined with terraced houses. Check into the Paramount House Hotel, set in a former Paramount film studio, with a specialty coffee shop fronting it and spicy, jet lag–busting restaurant Chin Chin across the street. Or for a special experience with the kids, spend a night or two at the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga Zoo—a five-star, lodge-like stay with animal sightings from your room (proceeds support the Taronga Conservation Society).

Where to stay

Consult AFAR’s list of the best hotels in Sydney, or be among the first to stay at the striking new Capella Sydney, a heritage building in the Sandstone Precinct (late 1800s/early 1900s architecture).

Where to eat

Head to the Paddington neighborhood to try some of Sydney’s best bars and restaurants: Ursula’s, Saint Peter, and 10 William Street among them. Food crawl through Carriageworks farmers’ market, and grab an espresso and pastry at the original Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills.

What to do

Do what you can to get tickets to the FIFA Women’s World Cup final on August 20. Ride the ferry to Bondi or Manly. Swim in a rock pool. Check out the new North building at Art Gallery New South Wales, a modern marvel without parallel lines being touted as “the most significant cultural building in the city since the Opera House.” Solange will headline Volume, a music, film, and performance festival at the Art Gallery of NSW September 22–October 8. See whatever performance is on at the Opera House (with a pre- or post-show cocktail overlooking the harbor).


Byron Bay’s miles of beaches are a haven for surfers.

Photo by Laura Dannen Redman

I’m here for the quintessential Aussie surf experience.

Byron Bay

Last time I was in Byron Bay, circa 2001, the coastal town in far-north New South Wales was a backpacker’s haven, unironically hippie and exceedingly friendly. I loved it at that stage in my life. Now that I’ve grown up (somewhat), Byron has as well, going boho chic with five-star eco-resorts and Instagram influencer surf moms being featured in Vanity Fair. Though the vibe has changed, the surf town has stayed true to its roots in many ways, with sustainability and small businesses front and center. No building is more than two or three stories tall, and resorts like Elements are set thoughtfully in the semi-tropical terrain—wild brushturkeys roam around the pool and two-bedroom villas. (“I’m basking in bird song” actually came out of my mouth yesterday.)

Best of all is the Farm, a working farm/idyll on a hill about 10 minutes from the surf break. Here you can easily come for dinner at Three Blue Ducks—a now-iconic restaurant that put hyper-local Australian cuisine on the map—and rock back up for brekkie 12 hours later. Treat yourself to mini Dutch pancakes with vanilla ice cream at 9 a.m.

Where to stay

Book a room at Elements of Byron Bay or The Sunseeker.

Where to eat

The Farm; Bang Bang for Southeast Asian comfort food (dine in or takeaway); Tones at Sōko for a flat white and avocado crumpet after a yoga class at Creature Yoga.

What to do

Surf. Shop Byron boutiques like independent, women-led Rowie, Spell, Mister Zimi, and Kivari. Take the kids to learn Circus Arts on a rainy day. Meet Manda the wombat and Arnie the koala at Byron Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Drive into the Byron Hinterland to visit Harvest, great for breakfast/brunch/lunch.

Oysters at The Agrarian Kitchen in New Norfolk, Tasmania

Tasmania’s wild waters yield some of the country’s freshest seafood, like these oysters at The Agrarian Kitchen in New Norfolk.

Photos by Michelle Heimerman

Give me rolling countryside and amazing food and wine...


“The last time I went to Tasmania was purely to eat,” says Sydneysider and travel writer Krisanne Fordham, who visited twice in 2022. “It’s a food lover’s paradise. Honestly, the best oysters I’ve ever had are from the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast—specifically [those from] Freycinet Marine Farm. They’re bright and creamy and go amazingly with Tassie bubbles.

“What keeps me going back is that there’s something for everyone,” Fordham raves. “If you’re into nature, almost half of Tasmania’s land mass lies in national parks and World Heritage areas, so you’ve got glittering alpine lakes, rivers, incredible snowcapped peaks like Cradle Mountain and Mount Wellington. If you’re into culture, MONA [Museum of Old and New Art] has really cool exhibits, and there’s always some kind of music or film or art festival happening year-round.” Read on for the full story on why Tasmania should be one of your next trips in Australia.

Where to stay

The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel by Marriott (Hobart), which incorporates an 1840s former hospital at its center, a 1940s art deco extension, and a brand-new glass building; MONA pavilions, which allow guests to stay on-property at one of the world’s wildest art museums; Saffire Freycinet, a luxury lodge in Freycinet National Park with stunning views of the Hazards Mountains; family-friendly Freycinet Lodge, where you can stay in high-design cabins overlooking the bush.

Where to eat

Freycinet Marine Farm, for ultra-fresh oysters. The Lounge by Frogmore Creek, where you’ll want to order the wine pairing. Fico, where the menu highlights Tassie ingredients, including cheese, sea urchins, and truffles.

What to do

Embrace the mind-bending private-art collection at MONA. Food lovers will enjoy Mic Giuliani’s foraging tours. Explore the island’s rugged northeast coast and gain insight into Australia’s Aboriginal heritage on the wukalina walk.

Queensland Art Gallery

Michael Eather’s collaborative artwork Two Worlds dazzles at the Queensland Art Gallery.

Photo by Laura Dannen Redman

I want it all: city, rain forest, Great Barrier Reef.

Brisbane and Tropical Northern Queensland

United Airlines announced new direct flights between Los Angeles and Brisbane this year, in addition to daily service between San Francisco and Brisbane, opening up Queensland’s semi-stuffy business hub to a world of new international leisure travel. The art scene is interesting, with Underground Opera and large-scale Australian Aboriginal and Asian works at Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art.

Spend a few days here before heading north for Great Barrier Reef diving and Daintree Rainforest walks. Don’t resign yourself to boarding a giant tour bus–style catamaran to catch sight of the GBR—instead, sign up for a guided snorkel tour with Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel. This adventure acknowledges multiple Aboriginal cultures and views the reef and its ecosystem through the lens of Indigenous heritage.

Where to stay

Crystalbrook Vincent (Brisbane); Silky Oaks Lodge (Daintree Rainforest); Crystalbrook Riley (Cairns); Lizard Island (Great Barrier Reef). Coming in November 2023: Pelorus Private Island, a super-exclusive new retreat accessible only by helicopter or private yacht.

Where to drink

Brisbane Distillery and Gin School, where you’ll choose from more than 130 botanicals to make your own bottle of gin.

What to do

See conservation at work at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Do a day trip to Fitzroy Island or Green Island (better for little kids). Ride the heritage-listed Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns to Kuranda, home to Australia’s biggest butterfly sanctuary.

Perth, Australia

Skateboarders take in the sunset at Perth’s Scarborough Beach.

Photo by Harry Cunningham/Unsplash

I want to go somewhere most of my friends haven’t been.

Perth and Rottnest Island

As one of the FIFA Women’s World Cup cities this August, perpetually underrated Perth gets its moment in the spotlight. The Western Australia hub is closer to Bali, Indonesia, than Sydney and claims more sunny days than any other city in Australia, giving it an interesting vibe: a beach-and-brew city with a side of culture. Opt to stay centrally near Perth’s Elizabeth Quay, or just outside in Fremantle (aka Freo), and make it a starting point for further WA exploration, be it a ferry to nearby Rottnest Island (home of the stinkin’ cute quokka), up to Margaret River for wine or Ningaloo Reef for diving, and farther still to beloved Broome beaches.

Where to stay

The Adnate–Art Series Hotel (Perth–Elizabeth Quay); Ritz-Carlton Perth (Perth–Elizabeth Quay); Warders Hotel (Fremantle aka Freo); Samphire Rottnest (Rottnest Island).

Where to eat

Cooee for a flat white, followed by a morning stroll through Kings Park. Emily Taylor for the lobster truffle dumplings. Tonic & Ginger. Mother. Bread in Common. The newish Gage Roads Freo Brewery for surfer vibes and great food. Indigo Oscar for its ocean views.

What to do

Maalinup Aboriginal is an Indigenous owned- and -operated gallery where you can buy art, experience cultural performances and talks, and sample bush tucker. Feed a kangaroo at Caversham Wildlife Park. Take the ferry to Rottnest and rent bikes to explore the island. Drive an hour to Mandura for Thomas Dambo’s Giants of Mandurah sculptures. Wander the Fremantle Markets and linger on Bathers Beach.

Safety beach, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia

Safety Beach is a popular protected swimming cove on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Julia Kuleshova/Shutterstock

I want to relax—full stop.

Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula

Melbourne holds a soft spot in my heart. It’s one of my happy places, my former home; it’s also one of Australia’s hipper cities (though I probably just made it unhip by writing that). On my next trip, I’m keen to visit Mornington Peninsula, a 90-minute drive south of Melb where a lot of great things have been happening in the wine and wellness spaces. New in 2022 is Alba Thermal Springs and Spa, a luxury wellness sanctuary with Vichy showers, a hammam, aroma baths, and a long list of massages and facials. It complements the award-winning Peninsula Hot Springs, a day spa known for its natural thermal pools and private baths on the coast. The wine country is more up-and-coming (Yarra Valley to the north has some of the best wines in the country), but it offers family-run vineyards with family-friendly dining.

Where to stay

Jackalope Hotel for the Donnie Darko–ish bunny sculpture alone.

Where to eat and drink

Make a reservation ASAP at Doot Doot Doot. Sip pinot noir and stroll the sculpture garden at Montalto. Try the sparkling pink moscato and margherita pizza at T’Gallant Vineyard. Set the kids loose on the playground at Green Olive at Red Hill, a family-owned restaurant and winery known for its family-style dishes.

What to do

Come for a long spa weekend or the complete opposite, a Great Alpine and Lakes Adventure with B Corp-certified Wild Adventures Melbourne. On the new five-day trip, which starts in the Mornington Peninsula, you can ski, snowboard, snowshoe, and kayak through Gippsland in the High Country.


There are tens of thousands of the eponymous marsupials on Kangaroo Island.

Photo by Andrea Izzotti

Plan ahead for 2024: Kangaroo Island

One of Australia’s first and greatest luxury lodges, Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, fell victim to the wildfires of 2020 that burned almost half the island. It has been reborn, a beacon of resilience for the close-knit community that will reopen in December 2023.

Read on for more about “Kangaroo Island, the Galápagos of Australia.”

Laura Dannen Redman is Afar’s editor at large. She’s an award-winning journalist who can’t sit still and has called Singapore, Seattle, Australia, Boston, and the Jersey Shore home. She’s based in Brooklyn with her equally travel-happy husband and daughters.
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