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Things to Do in Australia

With its imitable mix of nature, culture, and laid-back coastal cool, there’s far more to Australia than koalas and kangaroos. The cosmopolitan style and iconic cityscape of Sydney and its opera house don’t compromise the quality of Bondi Beach, ripe for surfing and sunbathing. In Melbourne, a cutting-edge culinary scene and nearby vineyards are a top draw for foodies. And in Cairns, opportunities to spot wildlife in tropical rain forests or the Coral Sea abound. If you’re a thrill seeker, climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, take a hot-air balloon over Alice Springs, or go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Visit Adelaide’s Kangaroo Island, watch dolphins at Port Douglas, or snorkel with tropical marine life on Fraser Island if nature is your bag. And, if you’re after unique and spectacular sights, you’ll be spoilt for choice in the Land Down Under. Natural wonders and World Heritage sites include the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Ayers Rock in Uluru (best seen on a sunrise tour), and the imposing Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains. If that’s not enough, flightseeing tours of the Whitsunday Islands, excursions to Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, and a ride on Melbourne’s colonial tramcar restaurant should also be added to your Oz itinerary.
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Great Barrier Reef
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The Great Barrier Reef is Australia's greatest natural treasure, and the world’s largest coral reef. This underwater wonderland stretches for 2,300 km (1,426 miles) from Bundaberg to Australia's northernmost tip. At its closest, it's only 30 km (18.5 miles) away from the Queensland coast.

The Great Barrier Reef encompasses almost 3,000 individual reefs. Their multicoloured beauty is made up of 400 types of living and dead coral polyps, home to around 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 breeds of clams, 500 types of seaweed, 200 species of birds, 1,500 different sponges and half a dozen varieties of turtles.

The Great Barrier Reef is also dotted with around 900 islands, including coral cays such as Green Island and Heron Island, along with the Whitsundays sand islands. Fringing reefs surround the islands, while the outer reef faces away from the mainland and islands and out to sea.

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Sydney Harbour
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Its sparkling waters and iconic sights draw visitors from all over the world who wish to enjoy the beauty and excitement of the harbor. On any day, Sydney Harbour is dotted with sail boats and ferries which stand out on the vibrant blue waters. With nearly 150 miles (240 kilometers) of shoreline, the harbor is a breathtaking expanse awaiting the exploration of its visitors.

A visit to Sydney Harbour will not disappoint, as the area is home to many of Sydney’s top attractions and offers some of the city’s best activities. A must-see (and impossible to miss) structure of Sydney Harbour is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which you can cross or climb for stunning views. Within walking distance are the Taronga Zoo, the historic Rocks area, Circular Quay, and the famous Sydney Opera House.

To get the best views of the harbor it is recommended that you enjoy a cruise through its waterways, and perhaps stop off at one of the many islands that Sydney Harbour embraces.

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Yarra River
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The Yarra River flows west for more than 240 km (148 miles) from its source in the Yarra Ranges, through rural and suburban Melbourne to the city center and Docklands, where it empties into Port Phillip Bay. Transport and pedestrian bridges cross the river, and you’ll find some of Melbourne’s most popular golf courses and parklands along its length.

Melbourne was established on the banks of the Yarra River in 1835, and it was a vital source of water and transport for the city's settlers. Today the Yarra River flows past the pedestrian Yarra Promenade and Flinders Street Station in the heart of Melbourne.

Rowers stroke past from the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, and pleasure boats cruise up and down the river. Cycling and walking trails also mirror its path, and there are popular picnic grounds on the suburban fringe at Yarra Bend and Warrandyte.

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Agincourt Reefs
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The Great Barrier Reef is the Earth’s largest structure built entirely by living organisms. It runs for over 1,200 miles from its northern to southern tip, and is almost the size of the state of Montana when its various reefs are combined. One of the reefs—the Agincourt Reef—is a distant section along the reef’s northern tip where stunning biodiversity creates one of the most pristine ecosystems found anywhere along the reef.

Known as a type of “Ribbon Reef,” the Agincourt Reef runs parallel to the line with the Continental Shelf. Exotic species such as the Maori wrasse are commonly found along the reef, and sharks, rays—and even whales—can be seen when scuba diving the reef. Even for travelers who are just snorkeling, however, there are sections of the reef only a few feet below the clear, turquoise waters. Here, in the shallow lagoons, thousands of fish inhabit a reef that bursts with vibrancy and color.

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Green Island
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Lapped by the sea 27 km (16.5 miles) from the mainland, Green Island is one of the most popular island day-trip destinations from Cairns. A true coral cay, the island is covered in rainforest and surrounded by coral reefs for snorkeling adventures. The island's luxury resort has a swimming pool for day visitors' use, along with a restaurant, snack kiosk and several bars.

While you're on Green Island you can visit the tropical aquarium, follow the self-guided island walking track, take a short stroll along nature boardwalks leading through the rainforest, and spot turtles swimming in the sea off the island's patrolled beach.

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Hamilton Island
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Hamilton Island is the second largest inhabited island in the Whitsunday group and one of the region's star attractions. It's the largest island resort in the South Pacific and boasts an exciting mix of things to see and do. Seven pools, boutiques, galleries, bars, a number of restaurants, over 40 optional activities, walking trails and a koala and wildlife gallery are just a few of its features. Those Whitsunday-white beaches may lure you to do not much more than pick up a book or a cocktail, but if you're in the mood for something more active there's plenty to keep you busy. Snorkel, jetski, play beach games, sail, play golf, sea kayak, race go karts or even do an art class.
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Sydney Harbour Bridge
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Located in the beautiful and iconic Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge overlooks the magnificent blue waters that help to make the Harbour a spectacular sight.

Nicknamed "The Coathanger" because of it's steel arch-based design, the Harbour Bridge boasts 8 traffic lanes, 2 railways and a pedestrian and bicycle lane, transporting both locals and tourists from the Central Business District (CBD) to the North Shore.

Visitors interested in getting the best view from the bridge can do so with the help of the BridgeClimb. Climbers can choose to climb either the outer arch or the inner arch of the bridge for spectacular views and an unforgettable experience.

The bridge also plays a special part in the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, where hundreds of spectators travel from near and far to gather on the shore and on the water to watch the festivities each year.

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Sydney Opera House
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The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s preeminent cultural center. Famous for its cutting-edge architecture, the building’s series of white-tiled sails jut into the harbor at Bennelong Point, perched on a platform of pink granite. The iconic structure was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, and Australians have been divided about its design ever since it opened way over-budget in 1973. Recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the opera house has a range of venues under its sails.
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Swan River
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Swan River carves its way through the middle of the city of Perth before joining with the sea.

Fed by the Avon, Canning and Helena Rivers, the Swan River itself is only around 60km long. Over 130 species of fish inhabit the Swan River, including bull sharks, catfish, rays and bream. Bottlenose dolphins are also regularly seen in the estuary.

One of the easiest ways to appreciate the beauty of the Swan River is simply to take a walk along its banks. Cycling and walking paths line the foreshore, and parklands along the water’s edge keep things interesting. Circuiting the river by the Narrows Bridge and the Causeway is a casual 10km walk well worth undertaking.

Cruises along the Swan River are also popular, often lasting a few hours – or simply take the ferry across the harbour for a cheaper option. Jet boating and parasailing are activities less suited to appreciating the quiet beauty of the river, but guaranteed to get your heart pumping.

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Sydney Harbour Tall Ships
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No trip to Sydney is truly complete without a full embrace of the ocean water. Day or night, the Sydney Harbour's Tall Ships set off providing passengers an authentic Australian experience, watching over the city harbour over some genuine barbecue. With a variety of different services, meal offerings, and specials, you can choose which time of the day and price setting best suits you, either choosing to share a romantic date with a loved one or giving the kids something to brag about, as you set sail on these majestic tall ships. The scenery is spectacular, with most boats providing amazing views of some of the city's great landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Fort Denison, and even the Taronga Zoo, so be sure to bring a camera!
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More Things to Do in Australia

Tamar Valley

Tamar Valley

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Cable Beach

Cable Beach

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Main Beach

Main Beach

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Suitably named, Byron Bay's Main Beach stretches along the front of the town and is the go-to destination for beach lounging, swimming or catching a wave. On a sunny day in Byron Bay, expect locals and visitors alike to be making the most at Main Beach – the town's closest beach outlet.

Main Beach is known for its beautiful surroundings, with views of the Julian Rocks, Cape Byron Light and grassy hills meeting the horizon line of white sandy beach and enticing water. Besides swimming and beach lounging, a popular activity is to snorkel out to the old shipwreck of the Tassie II just off-shore.

The reliable right and left-hand breaks at Main Beach make it a popular place for beginners to learn to surf. Several surf schools operate directly at Main Beach, but make sure to research this fact before making a booking. Surf schools must be authorized to operate at the beaches of Byron Bay or else they travel several minutes outside of the region for their lessons.

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Nightcap National Park

Nightcap National Park

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Michaelmas Cay

Michaelmas Cay

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Calm waters, crystal clear visibility and tons of tropical fish make Michaelmas Cay one of the best scuba and snorkeling destinations outside of Cairns. Underwater enthusiasts love the colorful coral found far below the ocean’s surface and the lively birds that fly high overhead. Time spent on a boat isn’t so bad either.

Leopard sharks, sting rays and sea turtles swim among the coral reefs, and since the sandy lagoon is protected from the elements, snorkeling conditions are ideal regardless of the weather nearby.

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Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge National Park)

Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge National Park)

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Nitmiluk (also called Katherine Gorge) is the deep path cut through the sandstone by the Katherine River, and the Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge National Park is where you can go to lap up the luscious experience of the Gorge, whether that be swimming in it (sometimes with harmless freshwater crocodiles), canoeing in it, hiking around it, gazing it from an observation deck, flying over it on a helicopter...or any combination of the above.

The park is run by the traditional owners, the Jawoyn, in conjunction with the Australian government. It's a well-appointed place with lots of visitor facilities (and lots of visitors, especially in the dry season). You can choose your level of activity, from lounging around at your campsite or the visitor center café to strenuous canoeing trips or hikes. But make sure you take at least one long hike, perhaps to see the Aboriginal rock art, or at least to get sticky enough to make cooling off in the river a delight.

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Wategos Beach

Wategos Beach

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Cataract Gorge Reserve

Cataract Gorge Reserve

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Launceston’s ruggedly beautiful Cataract Gorge is a popular highlight for visitors, combining dramatic natural landscapes and Victorian-era landscaping right on the edge of the city.

The reserve is surrounded by wild natural parklands, and near-vertical cliffs soar alongside the South Esk River as it enters the Tamar River.

Hikers and rock climbers head here to follow picturesque walking trails along the gorge’s northern bank, and the open-air swimming pool becomes a mini lido in summer, surrounded by beach umbrellas and sunbathers.

With picnic grounds, restaurant, kiosk, cafe, wandering peacocks, scenic lookouts, a lofty suspension bridge and walking trails, you can easily spend a day here. At night the gorge is beautifully floodlit, and a chairlift whisks visitors over the river to West Launceston.

Before Launceston’s hydro dam was completed in 1955, the waters here were channeled to create electricity.

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Mt. Wellington (Kunanyi)

Mt. Wellington (Kunanyi)

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Standing sentinel over Hobart, Mt. Wellington is known by locals simply as ‘the Mountain.’ A visit to the Pinnacle is an essential Hobart experience.

At the Pinnacle you’ll find a glass lookout building and boardwalks. In every direction the views of Hobart, all the way to the sea, are incredible.

The weather can change very abruptly up here, and it’s often freezing or can even be snowing when fair Hobart Town is experiencing mild weather.

If you’re feeling active, come to Mt Wellington to go bushwalking, bike riding, horse riding or rock climbing, or pack some lunch to enjoy at the sheltered Springs picnic area.

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Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

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Uluru - or Ayers Rock - is Australia's proud symbol, and site of spiritual significance for the Anangu people. Like an iceberg, it's believed that only a third of the big red rock lies above ground. What we can see measures 3.6 km (2.5 miles) long, 348 meters (1,141 feet) tall, so Uluru is an awfully big rock. Ayers Rock is known for its fabulous colors at dawn and sunset, when the pitted rock surface turns from ocher brown to a rich burnished orange. Walking tracks lead around the base of the rock, ranging from easy 45-minute strolls to the circumnavigation which can take up to four hours and passes caves, paintings and sacred sites. The Anangu people ask visitors not to climb their sacred rock, and it is a dangerously steep and windy ascent. Instead, taking a tour led by the Anangu is a very rewarding experience, as is visiting their cultural center to learn the Dreamtime stories and cultural significance of the site.
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Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

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The 36 domed red rocks known as the Olgas - or Kata Tjuta - dotting the desert are of huge cultural and spiritual significance to the Anangu people. Meaning 'many heads,' the huge rocks are separated by steep-sided gorges and valleys. Walking tracks lead around the area to lookouts, waterholes and picnic areas. The main trail is the Valley of the Winds, a 7.5 km (4.5 mile) loop, while the sunset lookout is an easy stroll from the car park for striking views of this surreal landscape. The tallest rock, Mt Olga, is much higher than Ayers Rock (Uluru), soaring 546 meters (1,790 feet).
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Noosa Everglades

Noosa Everglades

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The Noosa Everglades are the ideal destination for those looking for an experience in nature. Hundreds of species of birds circle above the diverse foliage as lizards, snakes, and kangaroos enjoy the ground. The flora of the Everglades is completely unique, with big twisting grasses, large swamp banksias, hundreds of different flower species, and of course, the iconic vines and trees that make the forest so dense. The best way to see the Everglades is by boat tour up the Noosa River. There are many companies to choose from, and rest assured that all of them are "eco-certified", and are constantly conscious of the impact that they are having on the natural beauty of the surrounds. You can also do a personal canoe tour, but this is only advisable if you have canoeing experience and a knowledgeable guide.
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Port Arthur Penitentiary

Port Arthur Penitentiary

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There was once a time when visiting Port Arthur was akin with a sentence to death. Isolated on a scenic peninsula and facing the Tasman Sea, the famous and feared Port Arthur Penitentiary was where the worst of the worst of Britain’s convicts were sent to live out their days. Though not all convicts were sentenced to death, the harsh working conditions and manual labor were enough to drive convicts to literal insanity and commit murder for an early, death sentence exit.

For all of its grisly history, however, Port Arthur today is a sprawling historic site that’s been restored and preserved as the best example of Australia’s convict past. At the iconic Penitentiary building, gaze upon the concrete ruins where 480 convicts and prisoners spent days filled with toil and misery. The penitentiary ruins are rumored to be haunted, and with the eerie, abandoned exterior that the penitentiary exudes, it’s an historic, authentic representation of the darker days of Port Arthur.

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Manly Beach

Manly Beach

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Straddling the peninsula of North Head on Sydney Harbour, the town of Manly is Sydney’s most popular seaside resort. It offers the best of both worlds, with calm harbor beaches on one side and wild ocean waves on the other. Linking the two is The Corso, lined with cafes and restaurants. Along with swimming, surfing, wining and dining, Manly’s most popular attraction is of course Oceanworld, on Manly Cove Beach on the harbor side of the town. Sharks and rays swim overhead curving walkways, or you can don a wetsuit and go diving with these monsters of the deep (if you dare!). Manly is surrounded by gorgeous beaches linked by scenic seaside walkways. Boating, kayaking, surfing and cycling are popular pastimes in summer, while winter is a good time to visit the historic former quarantine facility Q Station or take a North Harbour walk to Shelly Beach or The Spit.
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