The truth is that this could very easily be a “best of 30” or even 40 or 50 list, however, for the sake of simplicity I tried to narrow it down as much as I could, while still maintaining something for everyone.
Whether you’re a sport fanatic, wine connoisseur, outdoors person, or you’d rather just lay on the beach, there are many, many things for you to experience in Australia, so let’s get into it.
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is by far Australia’s most recognizable building so while you won’t see it on a lesser known Australian attractions list, there’s a reason it’s so popular. It took 15 years to build beginning back in the late 1950’s and is the focal point of the Sydney Harbour. Aside from the incredible views and photo opportunities surrounding this area, there is also plenty to do inside.
There is a wide array of events and shows on offer at the Opera House, as well as boat tours around the Harbour, and plenty of restaurant and bar options including Peter Gilmore’s “Bennelong.” There is plenty to see and do both during the day and at night, but I would highly encourage you to get down there at night, at least once.
Great Barrier Reef
One of the greatest natural wonders of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland is an enormous ecosystem comprised of over 600 different types of coral. It is a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO, and one of the most sought out tourist destinations in the world.
You will find a huge number of different species of fish, dolphins, sharks, jellyfish, rays, and even turtles, making this a great place to go snorkeling or scuba diving. You can also swim with dolphins if that’s something that you’re interested in, or go on a whale watching tour.
If snorkeling or scuba diving is not your thing, you can still have a great experience via a helicopter tour, or by getting aboard one of the glass-bottomed boat tours. You can even experience the reef via jet ski, or spend a day on a sailing tour. There is truly a huge amount of ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef, and it really should be part of any trip to Australia.
Rottnest Island is an island off the coast of Western Australia. While not enormous in size (19 square kilometres / 7.33 square miles), it is home to 63 beaches and is one of the premier island destinations in the country. There are plenty of fun things to do here, including snorkeling at Salmon Bay, have a relaxing day by the beach at Parakeet Bay (You can also snorkel here), or explore the island via bike or bus.
You also have the option of playing golf, going skydiving, and a number of other options for all ages. Lastly, if you’re interested in Australia’s wildlife, at Rottnest you will find arguably the cutest animal in Australia, the Quokka.
The Barossa Valley, located about an hour drive from the Adelaide CBD in South Australia, is renowned for its many wineries and European roots dating back to the mid 1800’s when German settlers first started arriving in the region. There are 3 main regions of the Barossa Valley each with differing British and German influence, and many of those traditions/influences still remain today.
Visiting the Barossa is perfect for the tourist who would like a break from the outdoors and beaches that Australia has to offer, and would instead prefer an experience more based around culture, food, and wine.
Of all of the vineyard tour options available, one that is very popular among tourists is the Murray Street option, located in Greenock. At Murray Street you can expect a large array of wines to taste, accompanied by a nice range of food.
If you’re a morning person, you can also visit the Barossa Farmers Market which runs between 7:30am and 11:30am on Saturday mornings, and contains over 50 stalls selling lots of different breads, meats, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is a long stretch of road outside of Melbourne in Victoria spanning 243 kilometres (~150 miles) long. There are a lot of small towns along the way that you can stop off at, with some of the more prominent being Apollo Bay, Lorne, Torquay, and Anglesea.
Although there are various bus and coach tours that can take you along the Great Ocean Road, I would highly encourage you to rent a car and take the drive yourself over the course of a few days, as there are so many different options of what to do that it’s a better plan to have the flexibility to go at your own pace and choose your own route.
Whichever way you decide to go, make sure to check out both the Twelve Apostles, and the London Arch, and also spend some time in the towns I listed above (I have a soft spot for Lorne).
Melbourne Cricket Ground
The MCG is a massive sporting stadium in Melbourne that has been around since 1854, and has a capacity of 100,000 people. It is primarily used for cricket in the Summer, and Aussie Rules Football in the Winter. The stadium is located in Richmond which is about 5 minutes from the Melbourne CBD, and as such, it’s very accessible by either train or tram.
There is a lot of history at the MCG, and you can learn a lot about it via the guided tours that take a bit more than an hour and run between 10:0am and 3:00pm, and cost $22 for an adult.
However, in my opinion, the best way to experience the ‘G is to skip the guided tour and go to the footy on a Friday or Saturday night during the winter, preferably when a big crowd is expected. The atmosphere is fantastic.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Harbour Bridge in Sydney is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in Australia, and there are several ways to experience it. The first is by taking a ferry to and from Darling Harbour where you will go directly under the bridge and, at the time of writing this, costs around $7. The other options to see the bridge are to either simply walk across it, or the more adventurous and highly recommended option, to climb it.
You will get incredible views of the city either way, with the latter obviously providing the better views. Even if you’re afraid of heights, it’s a very easy climb and also very rewarding. Given it’s location, there are an endless amount of places to stay.
I consider Whitehaven Beach the best beach in Australia, and it’s easy to see why. A glance at the reviews on TripAdvisor will see people describing Whitehaven as “Mesmerizing,” “Nothing short of amazing”, and “Easily the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been on.”
Have a read of our Best Beaches in Australia post to learn more about Whitehaven.
The only placed on this list in the Northern Territory, Uluru is a huge sandstone monolith elevated 863 metres (~2831 feet) above sea level (Most of which is underground). It is very sacred to Australia’s indigenous population and is estimated to be roughly 700 million years old. Visiting Uluru is truly an “outback” experience, as it’s located in the center of the country and a very long 450 kilometre (~280 mile) drive from the nearest large city, Alice Springs.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hire a car and make the drive yourself, or there are a number of tours you can go on, with most spanning anywhere from 2 to 7 days. The longer trips, while more expensive, can very much be worthwhile as they offer things like hot air balloon trips in Alice Springs, helicopter flights over Kings Canyon, and even camel rides.
Lastly, if you do decide that you want to explore this part of the country instead of going on a tour, it can be a very harsh environment, so please make sure that you’re adequately prepared.