EXPERIENCE AUSTRALIA’S VIBRANT CITIES, WHICH ARE RICH IN NATURAL BEAUTY, CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS, OUTDOOR ADVENTURE AND ABORIGINAL HISTORY.
There’s so much to experience in Australia’s dynamic and diverse cities, which teem with both cultural attractions and natural beauty. Hike around Sydney’s stunning harbour or get lost in Melbourne’s laneways. Swim with dolphins in Adelaide, sate your culture cravings along Brisbane’s South Bank or delve into the ancient Aboriginal history of Alice Springs. Each of our cities is unique, but each offers a relaxed outdoor lifestyle, melting pot of cultures and a whirlwind of theatre, restaurants, nightlife and events. What’s more the skyscrapers and shopping strips are just a short drive from mountains, ocean, river and bush. Following are just some of the unforgettable city experiences Australia offers.
SOME UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCES IN AUSTRALIA’S CITIES
Soak up Sydney’s million-dollar harbour views for free on the Great Coastal Walk, which stretches from Barranjoey in the north to Cronulla in the south. Think dramatic headlands, sandstone cliffs, golden beaches, lush lagoons and native bushland. The walk is also dotted with monuments to Sydney’s Aboriginal and colonial history. You’ll need at least eight days for the entire journey. Otherwise do day walks and short scenic sections, meander off the main trail or break up the walking with public transport. Camp in secluded coves and national parks or stay in picturesque beachside suburbs such as Manly and Bondi.
There are all sorts of treasures in the cobblestone laneways that sprawl secretly off Melbourne’s ordered city streets. Discover swanky bars, tiny trattorias, secret art spaces and off-the-beaten-track boutiques. Wake up with good coffee in Degraves Street and Centre Place or listen to live jazz in Bennetts or Manchester Lanes. Dine underground in George Parade’s basement restaurants or have a yum-cha lunch in Chinatown along Little Bourke Street. During summer, bands serenade the diners in historic Hardware Lane. Find a fashion original in Flinders Lane and check out Union Lane’s bold graffiti mural. Vist galleries and see cutting-edge outdoor exhibitions, from suspended sculptures to interactive soundscapes.
Get an aerial view of Canberra’s national attractions on a sunrise hot air balloon flight. It’s a great way to see the spread of this planned city, where monuments, galleries and gardens radiate out from the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Look down over Parliament House, with its 81m flag mast and forecourt mosaic inspired by a Central Desert dot painting. Spot more iconic buildings, the green patchwork of parks and Canberra’s elegant suburbs. There’s a lovely sense of tranquillity up here in the clouds as you watch the city awaken. Afterwards you can reflect on the experience with a glass of champagne and gourmet buffet breakfast.
You’ll find museums, galleries, theatres and more beneath the huge, architecturally-designed roof of the Queensland Cultural Centre on South Bank. See the skeleton of a Queensland dinosaur in the Queensland Museum or have fun with the interactive science exhibitions in Sciencentre. Browse the work of famous Australian artists in the Queensland Art Gallery. Lovers of the performing arts can watch ballet, opera or orchestra in one of the many theatres of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. After your cultural immersion, wander through South Bank’s lush riverside gardens, swim in the sandy lagoon or browse the colourful weekend markets.
Soak up the sights, smells and sounds of Adelaide Central Market, the largest undocer produce market in the Southern Hemisphere. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, the markets sell a colourful and enticing array of fresh, local produce. Load up on organic fruit and vegetables, premium meat and poultry, locally fished and farmed seafood, gourmet cheeses and bakery products. Snack along the way on sweets and nuts or enjoy the bustle with coffee or brunch at a stylish café. Watch guest chefs give cooking demonstrations, sign up for a cooking class or learn about the market’s history and different cultural influences on a guided tour.
There are so many ways to enjoy the wide, sparkling Swan River which winds past Perth’s city skyline. Go windsurfing and sail to sandy bays and beaches such as pretty Matilda Bay. Hire a jet-ski or lift your heart rate going ski-biscuiting or parasailing. Fish for brim, mulloway and taylor from the river’s edge and discover picturesque picnic spots and walking tracks. From Barrack Square, you can cruise past Perth’s riverfront mansions to the vibrant port of Fremantle. Or head in the other direction, stopping for wine tasting in the Swan River vineyards or Devonshire tea in historic Guildford.
Combine Darwin’s exotic food and gorgeous water views at one the city’s many harbourside restaurants. Dining options range from relaxed pub lunches to upmarket dinners in Fannie Bay, home to some of Darwin’s most sought-after real estate. Soak up the hot-pink sunset with a glass of Australian sparkling or imagine life in the waterfront mansions as you savour freshly-shucked oysters. You’ll find a more casual food style round the corner in Cullen Bay. Watch the tinnies, sailboats and barges jostle on the harbour with a takeaway plate of battered bug tails. Wander the marina with an ice-cream or check out the Italian, Thai, Greek and French eateries.
Once the haunt of sailors, whalers and workmen, the cobblestone square of Salamanca Place is now Hobart’s top tourist spot, with lots of places to dine and imbibe. The Georgian warehouses house have been reinvented as galleries, theatres, cafes, bars and restaurants, with glass and chrome glinting over the 1830s sandstone. Browse the bustling Saturday markets for a one-off piece of craft, organic fruit and vegetables or freshly-cut flowers. Drink coffee under the sun umbrellas or taste a pint of Tasmanian beer in a historic pub. Catch a local band at the Salamanca Arts Centre or wander past the busking string quartets.
It’s always buzzing along Cairns’ elegant oceanfront esplanade, where travellers from around the world relax between their reef and rainforest excursions. Swim in the huge saltwater lagoon, browse the shops and check out the upmarket bars, hotels and restaurants. In the back streets you’ll find cafes for quick eats and big breakfasts as well as a global smorgasbord of eateries. From dusk onwards, the area between the esplanade and McLeod Street becomes one jam-packed social district. Hop between the pool bars, enjoy live music in a beer garden or dance to local DJs in a cocktail lounge or mega-club.
From desert landscapes in water colours to dot paintings of the seasons, Alice Springs is rich in Aboriginal art. Wander through the Araluen Cultural Precinct, learning about Central Australian mythology, art and culture. Visit the Albert Namatjira Gallery and peer into the traditions of the Arrernte people at the Strehlow Centre. Trace the region’s geological history in the Museum of Central Australia or walk between seven sacred sites on the Two Women Dreaming Track. Tour the arts centre, which is built around a 300-year-old Corkword Tree sacred to the local Arrernte people. Or catch a performance in the professional theatre. Afterwards, browse contemporary Aboriginal art along pedestrian-only Todd Mall.
Discover the idyllic waves of the Gold Coast, which is home to more than one surfer’s paradise. The 35 beaches are patrolled year round by professional lifeguards and have surf to suit all levels of experience. Ride some of the world’s longest waves at the Snapper Rocks Superbank near Coolangatta. Snapperbank, Kirra Beach and Broadbeach are where the world’s pro-surfers congregate for the Quicksilver Pro in February. Body board at Burleigh Heads, paddle across the Gold Coast Seaway to South Stradbroke Island or learn to surf on North Stradbroke Island. Other top surf spots include Currumbin, Palm Beach, Nobby Beach and Mermaid Beach.
See 130 million-year-old dinosaur footprints preserved in rock at Gantheaume Point. You can view them from the reef at very low tide, or check out the plaster cast at the top of the craggy cliff. Another local marvel is the ‘Staircase to the Moon’, a silvery illusion created by the reflection of rising full moon. Locals celebrate the phenomenon – which happens three nights a month between March and October – with live music and markets on Town Beach. Migratory birds make their own fanfare when they fly in from Siberia between September and April. See them in their tens of thousands at the Broome Bird Observatory in Roebuck Bay.