Dip your snorkel mask into the waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and you’ll be greeted with an explosion of technicolor and activity: schools of rainbow-hued fish swimming through vibrant coral bursting with colors you’ve never seen before—or even imagined.
But perhaps what’s most amazing about the Great Barrier Reef—the world’s largest coral reef system—is that it’s just one of the otherworldly wonders you can only find Down Under. Traverse the country and you’ll discover iconic sites, bustling cities, Outback gorges, striking beaches, pristine rainforest, and the world’s oldest living culture. Wherever you go, you can sample world-class food and wine, join the welcoming locals, and relax while you enjoy the Aussie way of life.
Plus, it’s easier than ever to get to Australia, thanks to United’s multiple nonstop flights every day. Fly nonstop to Sydney from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston, or hop over to Melbourne from Los Angeles (or, starting October 29, from San Francisco). Whichever you choose, you’ll be on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—an eco-friendly plane with 65 percent larger windows and high-tech lighting. Make your trip even more comfortable by flying United Polaris business class, where you’ll be treated to high-quality bedding, chef-designed inflight cuisine, cozy sleeping amenities, and pre-flight access to the exclusive United Polaris lounge.
Now go exploring! Whether it’s your first time visiting Australia or you’re going back to explore more, there’s always something new to experience. Whatever your passion, here are a few trip options.
Icons and Wildlife As if the Great Barrier Reef—with more than 900 islands and a full 10 percent of the world’s total fish species—wasn’t enough to see in northeast Australia, just inland from Cairns and Port Douglas you’ll find the world’s oldest rainforest. Visit the lush, World Heritage-listed Daintree to wander past towering waterfalls and deep gorges as you discover the amazing diversity of flora and fauna, including creatures like cassowaries, rufous owls, and musky rat-kangaroos.
Head west into the Outback to lay eyes on the spectacular Uluru/Ayers Rock. More than 1,100 feet tall, this sacred Aboriginal monolith is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s particularly gorgeous at sunset, partly due to its unique combination of minerals. Then road trip or take the Ghan train from Alice Springs to Darwin and look for unique species like red kangaroos and dingoes, along with a wide array of colorful birds.
Travel south to breathe in the world’s cleanest air in Tasmania, home to great food and wine, beautiful beaches, and surreal landscapes in parks like Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Park. Stay in luxurious eco-lodges and keep an eye out for penguins, whales, platypuses, wombats, and of course Tasmanian devils.
People and Culture Famously outgoing, the locals you’ll meet in Australia will be some of the friendliest you’ll encounter anywhere. Amazing people are part of a tradition that dates back an estimated 50,000 years, when Aboriginal Australians appeared on the scene. If you enjoy the contrast of ancient and contemporary in the same trip, start in Australia’s great cities and then spend time experiencing the fascinating Aboriginal culture.
In Sydney, do as the locals do and head to the beach to relax, walk, and swim in a rock pool. Even the art scene here comes with great water views, whether you’re checking out Sculpture by the Sea—the outdoor exhibition near Bondi Beach that changes annually—or visiting the museums overlooking Sydney Harbor. Explore the city’s convict history on a tour of The Rocks, then go deeper on a walk with an Aboriginal guide around Sydney Harbor.
Then learn the rich history of the world’s oldest living culture from their descendants. While you can find amazing indigenous experiences throughout the country, visit the country’s northern Kimberley region to do it in one of the world’s last true wilderness areas. Go out with Aboriginal guides to view rock art many thousands of years old and get their singular perspective on the land. In some places, you can stay in an Aboriginal-owned camp, take a cruise, or go on a four-wheel-drive tour with Australia’s indigenous people—all of which make for unforgettable experiences.
Food and Drink Everything’s big and bold in Australia—and that’s also true when it comes to eating and drinking well. Start in Melbourne, one of the top destinations for amazing cuisine, where you’ll find some of the world’s best restaurants tucked away in hidden laneways alongside innovative bars and cafes. To explore up-and-coming foodie meccas, add Adelaide and Perth to your list for great festivals and bars, along with seafood that lives only in the surrounding waters.
And no visit is complete without tasting the great wine, beer, and whiskey found in each of these cities. Each offers a unique spin on what you can drink. From Perth, head to Freemantle and sample that city’s explosion of innovative craft beers or hop over to Margaret River and relax where the vines meet some of Australia’s best surf. Add some art to your vineyard experience at the new d’Arenberg Cube near Adelaide or at the luxurious Jackalope hotel south of Melbourne. All of these cities feature some of Australia’s best wine regions nearby, set among some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. No matter where you go, you’re guaranteed to discover deliciousness.