20 Best things to do in Australia (2023 Guide)

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If visiting Australia isn’t already on your bucket list then perhaps we can convince you to head to the land down under in 2023 and experience the best things to do in Australia.

As the largest island nation in the world that’s home to a unique array of biodiversity, rich cultural history and native plant and animal wildlife including multiple unesco world heritage sites, a trip to Australia needs to be high on your bucket list.

Due to its size and geographical separation however, travelling between the east coast and Western Australia can be an expensive and timely endeavour.

Visiting Australia should include experiencing places like the Great Barrier Reef on the Coral sea for a snorkel, followed by a hike through the oldest tropical rainforest in the world, the Daintree rainforest.

The top end of the Northern Territory is a truly remarkable landscape, particularly in Kakadu national park where you will be able to see saltwater crocodiles, or head out to central Australia’s Alice Springs to experience unique Aboriginal culture. 

Best things to do in Australia
The Greta Barrier Reef from above - Tourism Australia

Read Next >> Plan your ultimate adventure using our Australia Travel Guide

Best activities to experience in Australia

No matter what your interests are, Australia is sure to excite even the experienced and seasoned traveller with novel and unique attractions and activities.

Everything from skydiving over Rottnest island to witnessing the Sydney Opera House near Circular Quay at New Years Eve fireworks display. 

Whether you’re travelling on a backpacker budget or staying in 5 star hotels, this guide to the top things to do in Australia will give you the best personal recommendations, as well as providing an alternative to the more expensive activities.

What are 5 Practical tips for exploring the best things to do in Australia?

To make life easier for you there are a few things you should know about travelling Australia, and we figure since we live here we are in a good family position to give you some first hand advice.

Bring sunscreen – the sun will burn you long before you feel it and it doesn’t have to be a bright sunny day to burn. Consider purchasing reef safe sunscreen to help protect our marine ecosystems

Always give wildlife space – whether its a Kangaroo, Dolphin or Echidna, our wildlife is precious but timid at times and the best interactions are the ones not forced.

Use less plastic – a lot of trash ends up in the ocean and our sea creatures pay the price; always throw rubbish in the bin, and where possible, recycle and use reusable items.

Bring walking shoes – it can seem like a smart thing to wear flip flops in Australia, but all the walking you will do will give you sore feet.

Make sure you have travel insurance – Our beautiful country is also home to beautifully dangerous animals not looking to hurt you, but sometimes a snake looks like a fallen stick and a trip to the emergency department and ambulance ride (if you’re not on the health care reciprocal) can leave you out of pocket close to $3000AUD.

Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Surely you have heard of the world’s largest coral reef system that spans more than 2300 km and is seen from space? 

If not then visiting the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia’s Queensland state is a must do activity in Australia. 

Cairns and Port Douglas are the two most popular towns with the best weather that most people travel to for the humid, warm summer months.

Protected by law and classified as the Great Barrier Reef marine park, a trip to far north Queensland to either snorkel or go scuba diving in the reef is one of the best things to do in Australia. 

In recent years the reef has drawn a lot of media attention due to the coral bleaching events from climate change and pollution but there are many strategies in place to preserve this iconic marine ecosystem.

The easiest way of getting here is by flying or driving into Cairns or Port Douglas; from here you could also take day trips into Cape Tribulation or Magnetic island

A cheaper alternative to seeing the GBR is to do a sunset sail on Airlie Beach on board a sailboat for less than $80AUD

The best time of year to visit is between May and October in the dry season.

Visit outback Australia

What comes to your mind when you hear outback and Australia?

For us, it’s a hot, arid bushland overlooking Uluru in the Northern Territory, another UNESCO world heritage site.

Uluru/Kata Tjuta national park is of great cultural significance to Indigenous Australians and represents an essential link to their spirituality and ancestry- a place of worship and reverence.

This enormous sandstone rock is one of Australia’s most recognisable natural landmarks and is still to this day one of the best things to see in Australia. 

Walking and climbing on top of Uluru is no longer permitted however there are multiple awesome hikes around the base that will take you at least a full day to complete. 

The weather here can be harsh in the Northern Territory, so make sure you bring plenty of water to last you a full day. Alice Springs is the closest town to Uluru and sits within the Uluru region. 

The best time of year to visit Alice Springs and Uluru is during the Autumn/fall months from March to May where the days are warm and the nights are cool. 

For less than $100AUD you could join a 1.5 hour sunset walk and wine tasting over the field of lights tour below.

See the iconic Sydney Opera House

On every postcard in Australia is the magnificent Sydney Opera House near Darling Harbour, a multi-venue performing arts centre designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed by Australian architect Peter Hall.

Situated in New South Wales in Circular Quay, the opera house is easily seen throughout most of the city on the water’s edge and is towered opposite the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge

If you happen to fly into Sydney international airport you will undoubtedly have amazing views of the Opera House from your window seat!

We’d recommend visiting New South Wales during the Autumn months when the weather is cooler, the crowds have left and school holidays are over. 

Take a tour of the opera house, walk the base or even climb the 1332 steps of the harbour bridge and admire it from 134 metres above sea level.

Beach out at Bondi

There’s a good reason Bondi Beach is a must-do in Australia; its proximity to inner city suburbs, epic surfing conditions and an vibrant cafe and restaurant scene along Campbell parade and Bondi pavilion.

Marine life such as Dolphins are also known to hang around the surf coast here so if you decide on getting in the water, keep an eye out for these guys. 

The icebergs ocean pool is a purpose built swimming pool on the foreshore of Bondi Beach where swimmers can frolic without the at times harsh tides of Bondi, open to both adults and kids.

There’s an incredible Bondi to Coogee coastal walk that takes you along the eastern coastal towns through Bronte Beach, past Tamarama and eventually to Bronte Beach. 

For an alternative to Bondi travel north to Stockton beach in Newcastle’s Worimi regional park. 

best things to do in Australia
Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory - Tourism Australia

Go on a wildlife safari on Kangaroo Island

A short 45 minute ferry across the great Australian bight from mainland South Australia to Kangaroo island and you will find yourself on one of Australia’s largest national parks.

Definitely one of the top things to do in Australia is to join an eco-friendly boat tour with pods of Bottlenose Dolphins.

Head into Flinders Chase and discover diverse wildlife like Kangaroos, Wallabies, native bird species, Echidnas, Sea lions at Seal bay and even New Zealand fur seals.

The summer months tend to cause the wildlife to hide in the shade away from humans, so your easiest chance of seeing wildlife is generally the cooler months of the year from March to October.

Unique rock formations and park land offer bush hikes and paid camping, which are always fun and budget friendly ways to see Kangaroo island.

When you arrive back on mainland South Australia, drive north to visit Australia’s largest national park, the Munga-Thirri Simpson Desert. 

best things to do in Australia
Daintree Rainforest is the oldest in the world- Tourism Australia

Explore the Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland

Of all the best things to do in Australia you simply cannot leave the continent without visiting the Daintree Rainforest of tropical North Queensland.

Daintree national park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) is comprised of both Cape tribulation and Mossman Gorge, home to the Eastern Kuku Yulanji Aboriginal people, the traditional owners of the land. 

Some 180 million years old the Daintree is the only natural landscape on earth that borders another world heritage site (Great Barrier Reef) and is the oldest temperate rainforest in the world.

It’s also a place of interesting Aboriginal culture and rich is Indigenous history. 

A truly memorable experience like no other, the Daintree is home to the Cassowary (flightless bird) with its bony head and colourful body, this prehistoric creature is beautiful to see in the wild.

Check out the clear running waters of Mossman Gorge by day, or try a nature cruise at night where you’ll see frogs, snakes, owls and bandicoots.

Our personal favourite is the day cruise to Mossman Gorge and Cape tribulation but if you prefer a cheaper yet just as interesting option there is a Crocodile & wildlife cruise for $38AUD per person.

The Daintree weather is that of a tropical climate, and for Australia that means the wet season is over the summer months, and the dry season is during our winter. 

See Whale Sharks in Western Australia

The biggest difference between the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef is that you need to take a boat to get out to the GBR; in Western Australia simply jump off the water’s edge and you’re practically there.

With a slew of incredibly popular attractions, Western Australia is one of the most underrated places to see in all of Australia and for good reason.

Of all the fun things to do in Australia, swimming with whale sharks in Exmouth is a once in a lifetime opportunity that happens between March and August in the Indian Ocean in Western Australia.  

Visit Rottnest Island

Less than 20 km from Perth in the Indian Ocean is Rottnest Island, home to potentially Australia’s cutest macropod, the Quokka.

Visit Hillarys boat harbour to join whale watching tours from Freemantle, or take a ferry to Rottnest island and enjoy a bike tour to experience the magic of Rottnest Island

 

Take a road trip along the Great Ocean Road

One of the best road trips in Australia winds through the Otway national park that hugs the beach along Victoria’s surf coast.

The Rip Curl Pro surfing competition at Bells Beach is a world famous surfing competition attracting the likes of Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater in their heyday. 

Enjoy incredible views of the southern ocean as you drive through scenic coastal towns between Lorne and Port Campbell. 

The Twelve Apostles are your final destination and you can even book a helicopter flight over the Victorian coast. 

London bridge is a short 5 minute drive from here and the best time to visit is the summer shoulder season from March to June.

Need a road trip? Explore the Great Ocean Road using our road trip guide

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City skyline from the Yarra River of Melbourne CBD

Visit the city centre Melbourne

If you love coffee and street art then you will love Melbourne. Hop on a train to Flinders street station and explore the CBD (central business district) and all the hidden alleyways and lanes it has to offer.

Street art lights up the city and places like Hardware lane and ACDC lane are incredible for free street art walking tours all year round.

Take a Yarra River cruise that runs alongside the city and admire the city skyline from the water passing by Docklands, the Royal Botanic gardens, Crown towers and Port Melbourne.

Make sure you’re well fed before a full day exploring by hopping on a 2 hour bottomless brunch cruise through the city.

Melbourne Cricket Ground is Australia’s largest sporting ground and tours are available year round. 

Melbourne is a colourful and exciting city to see with amazing nightlife and an even better food and wine scene. There are so many opportunities to take day trips out of Melbourne and explore the rest of the state. 

Explore More >> Check out this awesome Melbourne Guide

Go on a wine tasting tour in the Barossa valley

Visit one of the most successful and desirable wine regions in the entire world, the Barossa valley.

Just 50 minutes north east of Adelaide are incredible wine tasting tours that take you through the early settlement of Adelaide hills and the winemaking process that has developed over the decades. 

Officially named the best wine in the world there are over 80 cellar doors to choose from as well as a variety of gourmet food tours to partake in. 

The areas surrounding Adelaide contain some of the finest wineries anywhere in South Australia, including McLaren Vale, Hahndorf and Mount Barker region. 

For around $85AUD you can create your own blend of wine with this tour right here.

See a Pink Lake

 

Located on a small island in the Esperance region of Western Australia, Pink Lake, also known as Lake Hillier is one of the most photographed lakes in the country.

A unique form of bacteria and algae secrete red pigments that turn the salt water bright pink and make for incredible scenery and imagery. 

Visit the Rugged Tasmanian wilderness

For those unfamiliar with Australia, that “little” island off the southern coast of Victoria is a whole new state called Tasmania and is very much a solid part of the country.

A large part of Tassie is wild, rugged terrain with dozens of national parks and even smaller islands just off the coast, easily accessible by boat or ferry.

Whilst not attached to mainland Australia, Tasmania is known for epic landscapes and bright white sand at Wineglass Bay to the East in Freycinet national park, and Bruny island to the south.

One of the most popular things to see in Australia is to spend a few days in Cradle Mountain national park, home to native Australian wildlife found nowhere else on earth like the Tasmanian devil, Platypus, Tasmanian Pademelon, the red-necked Wallaby and other furry creatures.

Most people who hike here stay in one of the Cradle mountain huts along the Overland Track, one of the best things to do in Australia.

See the state in all its glory on a Cradle Mountain day trip with lunch provided.

Take a balloon ride over the Yarra Valley

What better way to start a fresh, clear morning than by taking a hot air balloon ride over the wineries of the Yarra Valley in Victoria’s east.

The Yarra Valley and wider Dandenong Ranges is a great place to see one of the oldest steam railway lines in the country, Puffing Billy run through the Dandenong ranges suburbs of Belgrave and Menzies Creek with first class dining on board.

Set above popular wineries such as Chandon, Tarra Warra estate and Boat O’Craigo you can join a balloon flight with a champagne breakfast.

If taking to the skies isn’t your thing we personally recommend  this Hop on-Hop off wine tour from Melbourne for under $100AUD

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A picture of a tail slap by a southern right whale - Shutterstock

Whale watch in Hervey Bay

Just 3.5 hours drive north of Brisbane next to the world’s largest sand island is Hervey Bay. This place is world famous for its annual congregation of Humpback whales which in our opinion is one of the best things to see in Australia.

Fraser Island in Indigenous Australia is called K’gari and is an island composed completely of sand with over 50 artificial reefs to explore. Whilst you’re here you should also explore Hamilton island and relax at Whitehaven beach, or venture as far as Lord Howe island

Most tours in the region combine both Fraser Island and Hervey Bay whale watching tours like this one here, however there is an abundance of marine life along Australia’s east coast particular to this region, like Southern right whales, false killer whales and of course the Dingos of Fraser Island.

Peak season for Hervey Bay whale watching is between July and October where you might be lucky enough to see whales from the shore, with a good camera lens or binoculars!

bluemountains

Explore the Blue Mountains

Given its name from the Eucalypt vapours in the air, creating a blue haze over the limestone mountains, the Blue Mountains of New South Wales is an awe inspiring landscape filled with lots of waterfalls and great overnight camping.

One of the best things to do in Australia is to go on a road trip through this great continent of ours and if you decide to visit the east coast then why not start in Sydney.

After visiting the Sydney Opera House & Sydney harbour bridge you can make your way north to the Blue Mountains.

Katoomba falls are magical at sunset and with the three sisters’ walk and giant stairway easily accessible from here you will have incredible views over the landscape. 

The townships of Leura and Katoomba are right around the corner for a comfy night’s stay if you choose to hang around. 

The Blue Mountains in New South Wales are so spectacular because they’re so close to metropolitan Sydney that it never feels like you’re driving for too long to get out of the city.

Why not have a look at this super popular tour and cruise of the Blue Mountains for your next trip

Go on a hike through the Grampians

Inland of Victoria’s west is a sacred Indigenous park known to locals as Gariwerd, or Grampians national park and marks the end of a huge mountain range that spans 3 states known as the Great Dividing Range.

There’s lots of single day to multi day hikes you can try here, with the most recent opening of the new 11 day Grampians Peaks Trail that opened in 2022.

Considered one of the best things to do in Australia and certainly one of the best hikes in the country, Grampians offer something for everyone at different times of the year. 

The summer is generally busier because of the warmer weather, but in the shoulder season the surrounding towns of Halls gap host the annual Grampians Grape Escape: Wine and food festival in early May.

Most tourists add the Grampians onto a multi day trip that includes the Great Ocean road like this tour here from Get Your Guide.

If that’s too much for you then we’d recommend a 3-4 hour self-drive from Melbourne to attempt one of the day hikes like Borokka lookout or the Pinnacles hike

Stand up paddle boarding through the Whitsunday islands
Stand up padle boaridng through the Whitsundays - Tourism Australia

Visit the Whitsunday island and go sailing

The natural beauty of Queensland is hard to overlook when you plan to visit Australia, especially when you start considering travelling to the Gold Coast, the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands.

Seriously…if there’s one place you have to tick off your bucket list of things to do in Australia it’s a sailing adventure through Whitsunday island.

White sand beach, dense rainforest and the most turquoise water you have ever seen, it’s no wonder the Great Barrier Reef was added to the 7 wonders of the natural world and a listed world heritage site.

Make sure you save your pennies for this incredible 2 day sailing tour from Airlie Beach in the Whitsunday islands. 

Of course the view from above is so highly sought after, people from all over the world travel here to get this view of the island from above

If none of those activities interest you then simply relax on the beach with a beer or piña colada in hand and enjoy the sunshine for free.

Visit the Australian War memorial in Canberra

Whilst not on the typical list of the best things to do in Australia we try to include lesser known attractions that are of significant cultural and historical value to Australia.

Based in the tiny state of Australian Capital Territory, of which Canberra is the capital is the Australian war memorial dedicated to soldiers and members of the Australian Defence Force that have lost their lives in defence of Australia.

A number of permanent and temporary displays live here showcasing Australia’s involvement in conflicts domestic and abroad throughout the years, including WW1/2, Afghanistan, an informative Holocaust display and much more.

For the nature lovers, swap the memorial for Kosciuszko national park, Australias tallest mountain peak. 

Entry into the memorial is free and open daily from 10am to 4 pm

See the penguins on Phillip Island

Three things come to mind when we think of ‘the island’, the Moto GP, dramatic coastline and little penguins!

At the Nobbies Visitor Centre is a dedicated coastal information centre with a specially designed viewing room that gives visitors that chance to see little penguins parade from the murky waters of bass straight towards their sleeping burrows at night.

One of the coolest activities in Australia is seeing this completely wild colony of penguins come in from a night’s feed around 9 o’clock at night. 

You can combine the penguin parade with an eco-friendly Koala Experience earlier in the day.

best things to do in Australia
saltwater crocodiles of Kakadu national park - Tourism Australia

Go on a crocodile tour in Darwin 

Visiting the ‘Top End’ of Australia is a journey in itself, purely because it’s rather far to travel by road from almost every other major city in Australia.

However if you’re wondering what to see in Australia that represents the beating heart of this country, you can’t go wrong with Darwin. 

However once you’re here you will fall in love with the vibe, culture and sheer enormity of natural landscapes and multiple national parks like Kakadu national park, Litchfield national park, Nitmiluk national park and Katherine Gorge.

The only wildlife tours we ever recommend are ethical and follow a do no harm policy, which is why we recommend this Edith falls and Katherine Gorge full day tour below because instead of jumping crocodiles, your tour guide takes you to places where saltwater Crocodiles simply sun bathe on the banks of the river. 

Learn about Indigenous culture through ancient rock art followed by a lunch and swim in the paperbark and Pandana lined waterholes and the many species of bird life. 

For a cheaper alternative there is an incredible Darwin sunset cruise with fish and chips for under $100AUD.

Blend in at Byron Bay

Just south of Gold Coast and the capital city Brisbane is the home of one of Australia’s most desirable locales to live in. Byron Bay is a perfect blend of being super close to the incredible beach front, known for a chilled out vibe amongst locals with amazing surf.

House prices here are astronomically high, in fact some of the highest along Australia’s east coast. 

See one of Australia’s most beautiful lighthouses at the edge of Cape Byron near Tallow Bay. 

Whale watching, local cafes and Nightcap national park are all incredible things to see when visiting Australia’s Byron Bay.

Train across the country

Embark on a once in a lifetime train journey across the country that not many people get to do. 

 

The Indian pacific is a luxury train that takes you through Perth, Adelaide and Sydney, whereas The Ghan travels between Darwin and Adelaide for a very different experience.

 

Whilst these unique train journeys are enjoyable, they are quite expensive and not ideal for budget backpackers.

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Christopher Aiello
Christopher is the head writer and co-founder of Chris and Laura Travels. Having travelled to over 27 countries and counting, he has a passion for adventure travel in a responsible way. Christopher and Laura currently live in Melbourne but share their time between down under and the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. We aim to inspire others to get outside and explore through our storytelling imagery and video. Keep up to date on where we are by visiting us on our Instagram page or find out more of our story on our About us page.

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Chris & Laura

Australian and Canadian freelance photographers & storytellers addicted to travel,  inspiring you to travel the world.

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