The land down under may seem like a world away, but it’s a dynamic destination that caters to music lovers and fashionistas, urban adventurers and discerning gastronomes, the nature-intrigued and seasoned outdoors explorers. Now reopen to international travelers, Australia beckons with all that it offers. You may come for the very great barrier reef in Queensland and discover scuba diving led by Indigenous guides; or pair Victoria’s ski scene with its wine scene. Maybe you should consider a longer trip...



When’s the best time to go to Australia?

It’s hard to find a wrong time to visit Australia. Winter is June to August, when most of Australia hits a low season. This is the time to ski in the Kosciusko National Park or on Victoria’s Mount Hotham. It’s also the best time to visit northern Australia.

Between May and September the Northern Territory, northwestern Australia, and Queensland offer ideal weather. In summer, these areas swelter, either too humid or too hot, inciting some travelers to make a U-turn to more friendly climes down south.

From September to May, southern Australia is at its peak. Every other traveler looking for antipodean escapades arrives at this time of year, but there’s plenty of land to go around. December to February have most Sydneysiders and Melbournians pumping up the air-conditioning, while braver tourists define new tan lines on Bondi and Manly beaches.

How to get around Australia

They don’t call Australia “the land down under” for nothing. It’s a long flight from just about anywhere. And once you’re here, the various must-see destinations are spread over vast distances, so some logistical planning is necessary.

As of 2022, there were nine nonstop inbound flights to Australia from the U.S., stopping in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, or Perth. Interstate flights are easily accomplished via Qantas, Jetstar, Tiger, and Virgin.

To see the whole continent in under a month is a serious undertaking and will involve trains, planes, a few automobiles, boats, and a ferry or two.

A less daunting project would be to take on the East Coast in one trip, spending time in Sydney and Melbourne, exploring Adelaide and the Great Ocean road by car, taking a car-ferry or flight to Tasmania, popping in to Canberra, and jetting up to Queensland for the tropical experience.

Western Australia is simple to navigate by train, car, or tour bus, but don’t even think about going into the outback alone in summer.

The interior outback, known as the Red Center, is best reached by organized tour, available as luxury excursions, adventure operations, backpacker units, and every other imaginable collective. You can take four-wheel-drives off road, but carry water (five liters per day, per person), bring a high-frequency radio transceiver, and be sure to respect Aboriginal sacred land, national park rules, and animal crossings at dusk and dawn. (Neither party comes out well from an on-road clash with a large kangaroo.)

Food and drink to try in Australia

Foreigners’ overused jokey adage to “throw another shrimp on the barbie” no longer sticks. First of all, Australians call them prawns. Second, Australian gastronomy has surpassed the humble barbecue. It remains a happy summer stalwart in backyards across the country, but what happens elsewhere is more interesting. The country’s food scene has been largely overlooked abroad, and for the most part the global food media have shunned Australia’s culinary experience, focusing instead on its cuddly native critters and extraordinary landscapes. It’s also true that the nation’s food culture is really coming of age. What was a less than inspiring restaurant scene just a couple of decades ago has blossomed in recent years. Restaurants such as Attica, Quay, Sepia, and Flower Drum can stand up to the world’s best.

Culture in Australia

The new year kicks off the traditional cycle, and less than a month later the country celebrates Australia Day. Officially it marks the anniversary of the arrival of the British in Sydney on January 26, 1788. Mindful of the original inhabitants of the land, the day is now simply a celebration of being Australian. Folks light the barbecue, play cricket on the beach, and take to the outdoors. Every happy Australian stereotype comes out on one glorious public holiday. Parties don’t come much more mind-blowing than the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, the biggest of its kind in the world. Go along to cheer on the sequined, feathered, Lycra-wearing ensemble as they celebrate equal rights.

Hippies, rockers, folk fans, indie types, country listeners, jazz groovers: There are festivals across Australia for every sort of music lover. Travel north to Byron Bay to revel in the stunning bushland setting of Splendor in the Grass, and go to Victoria for the Falls Festival, relocated from Tasmania following a two-year pandemic hiatus. See where Keith Urban started his career at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. There’s Tropfest for film lovers, and the Sydney, Melbourne, or Byron Bay Writers Festivals for the more literary.

Local travel tips for Australia

Australia is a wide, stunning, varied land. To travel around it well requires great research and good advice. Locals love nothing better than spouting off about their favorite places, the best eats, the must-nots and must-dos. “Shout” (buy) a local a beer and you’ll get better insider advice than you could from a guidebook, and probably a really good laugh.

Read Before You Go
Resources to help plan your trip
Surrounded by spectacular harbor and beachfront, Sydney is one of the world’s most stunning cities. But this beauty has brains, too, like cracking cultural attractions, hard-to-believe history, and surprise twists and turns around every little lane.
The capital of the Northern Territory isn’t known for its shopping, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. Beyond Aboriginal artwork and market handicrafts, there are plenty of stylish boutiques to outfit travelers in fresh swimwear and modern Australian fashion. There are also precious local pearls, second-hand books, natural body products, and anything one could ever want made out of crocodile skin. These great boutiques deserve more than a window shop.
Not long ago, the flat whites served in Darwin were a little too flat. The city hadn’t yet been swept up in the coffee craze that’s taken Darwin’s cosmopolitan cousins by storm. But the beards, bikes, and baristas have arrived, and with them local roasters, single-origin beans, filtered pour overs, and cold brews—a godsend in the sweaty summer. From a garden oasis to a cafe serious about sweets, here’s where travelers can find the best coffee in Darwin.
Wherever you travel in New South Wales, you’ll find iconic sights: the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Gondwana Rainforests, and World Heritage sites such as Lord Howe Island and the Blue Mountains, The state also has an event calendar that includes opera in settings as dramatic as the music, sculpture walks, and VIVID Sydney—a spectacular lights, music, and ideas festival. Getting here is a can’t-miss experience in itself when you travel on an Air New Zealand Economy Skycouch.
Accommodations near the Great Barrier Reef take advantage of their incredible surroundings, offering access to far more than just scuba diving. Options range from family-friendly resorts to adults-only retreats, ensuring you’ll find your paradise.
New South Wales is much more than just Sydney. Venture out to the mountainous western side of the state and the stunning coastline north of the famous city.
Victoria, the home of what some would argue is the best pinot noir and coffee in Australia, if not the world, calls on all visitors to explore its vast offering. Explore the cafe, restaurant and bar culture in Melbourne, drive to Daylesford’s luxurious Lake House and, whether it’s via plane, car or walking boots, visit the extraordinary 12 Apostles on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. Victoria’s beaches are known for their surf, and water buffs explore the coast to look for a few good waves.
Australia’s most tropical state has everything to offer adventure seekers, from bungy jumping to skydiving, from scuba diving to swimming with jellyfish.
Balmy nights and some of the clearest skies in the country make for dreamy dinners under the stars. Add in ocean views and desert dunes, and al fresco dining in the Northern Territory is pure magic. Here’s the best of the batch.
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