Australia is a land of contrasts - topographical, cultural, physical, meterological and visual. About 40,000 years ago, the Aborigines were the first to settle. They lived as hunters and gatherers for this entire time, living with a close link to nature, although backburning and other poor agricultural techniques have since been realised to have caused significant deforestation, salinification of the soil and elimination of much of the natural diversity of the landscape. Such a poor ability to interact with nature, despite it being so important, helps explain why much of Australia is now unsuitable for sustaining life. Interestingly, this provides one of the few examples of where the native population damaged the land more than later waves of settlers. Their way of living developed into a complex culture based on oral tradition and intricate social bounds, which was almost destroyed by the second wave of settlers, who were able to populate the land with much more success.
Australia is a nation in its own right, it is also a technically a continent, with large differences between regions. It has a reputation as a land of leisure, with sun, sea and an enviable 'Crocodile Dundee' outdoor lifestyle, but this is just a very narrow conception of a continent. The reality however, is that most people work all day, and then spend the weekend running around trying to pack life into the 2 days on the weekend. Only the homeless and tourists have time to sit around on the beach, or laze away days watching sport on TV.
Australia is a nation in its own right, it is also a technically a continent, with large differences between regions. It has a reputation as a land of leisure, with sun, sea and an enviable 'Crocodile Dundee' outdoor lifestyle, but this is just a very narrow conception of a continent. The reality however, is that most people work all day, and then spend the weekend running around trying to pack life into the 2 days on the weekend, albeit around the NRL ladder. Only the homeless and tourists have time to sit around on the beach, or laze away days watching sport on TV.
One of the states is the island state Tasmania of which one fifth is World Heritage area. Each state has its own national parks with their specific character where you can indulge in bush-walking or maybe even rock-climbing. When you are interested in the miracles of water-world, you can not miss out on the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast, the main reason for many travellers to visit Cairns. The Wet Tropics of Queensland comprise dense rainforests and foaming waterfalls. Rare species of animals can be spotted in the famous Kakadu National Park as well as ancient aboriginal art. These old drawings can also be seen in the Namadgi National Park.
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Captain Cook stumbled onto Australian shores in 1770 to find an Aboriginal way of life that went back some 40,000 years. By 1868, Britain had sent more than 160,000 convicts to Australia.
Experiencing the culture of Australia's indigenous population is one of the great highlights of a visit. Many tensions still exist between mainstream Australia and its Aboriginal people. The first European settlers treated the Aboriginal population with appalling brutality, which gave way to racist and cruel policies from subsequent administrations. However, the slow march towards reconciliation was given a boost in 2008 when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a formal apology to the indigenous population for the suffering of the past.
In November 2007 elections, after almost 12 years of conservative rule, the public voted out the Liberal Party coalition and gave the Australian Labor Party (ALP) a decisive win. This has meant some significant changes in the direction of the country. Prime Minister Rudd swiftly set about signing the Kyoto Protocol, investing more in alternate energy sources.
The Labor government's stimulus package and strong trading links with China have resulted in Australia riding out the 2008/2009 global financial crisis relatively unscathed. The government withdrew its troops from Iraq in early 2008, yet retains 1,500 troops in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan.
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Best Time to Visit:
Australia is in the southern hemisphere and the seasons are opposite to those in Europe and North America. There are two climatic zones: the tropical zone (in the north above the Tropic of Capricorn) and the temperate zone. The tropical zone (consisting of 40% of Australia) has two seasons, summer ('wet') and winter ('dry'), while the temperate zone has all four seasons.
Spring to summer (October to March): Warm or hot everywhere, tropical in the north, and warm to hot with mild nights in the south.
Autumn to winter (April to September): Northern and central Australia have clear warm days and cool nights; the south has cool days with occasional rain but still plenty of sun. Snow is totally confined to mountainous regions of the southeast.
Drought is becoming more widespread with southeast Queensland, Victoria and South Australia all badly affected.
For further details, including climate statistics, see under individual state entries.
Lightweights during summer months with warmer clothes needed during the cooler winter period throughout most of the southern states. Lightweight cottons and linens all year in the central/northern states with warm clothes only for cooler winter evenings and early mornings. Sunglasses, sunhats and sunblock lotion are recommended year round in the north and during the summer months in the south.
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Australia for Youth(ful) Travellers
Join the droves of young people who choose Australia to fulfil their dream of a gap year, career break, working holiday or overseas study. Australia offers endless opportunities for adventure and a warm, friendly, relaxed lifestyle.Learn about Australia’s working holiday visas, study visas and volunteer opportunities. Find out where backpackers and travellers stay, hang out and play.Australia is the land of adventure, and we’ve compiled a few ideas to get you started. Take a camel trek through the Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory, 4WD across South Australia’s rugged Flinders Ranges or do the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria. Ski or snowboard winter slopes, trek through ancient rainforests or pick one of our pristine islands to combine adventure with true relaxation. You can dive, snorkel, canoe, kayak and surf all around Australia.
Discover Australia in winter
Welcome to winter in Australia, which lasts from June to August for most of the country.
These months fall in the dry season in our tropical north. You can ski and snowboard down Victoria’s powdered slopes or snorkel and dive the balmy waters of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. Four wheel drive South Australia’s Simpson Desert or head to the Blue Mountains for Christmas festivities.
Follow Western Australia’s wildflower trail or embrace the Northern Territory’s unique festival culture. Snuggle next to a roaring fire at Canberra’s Fireside Festival or celebrate the winter solstice in Hobart’s cobblestone streets. Winter is also a great season to discover our coastline, where you can spot migrating whales and dive with a dazzling array of marine life.
Australia’s surf beaches, where first-class waves for all surfing abilities crash, are born from the Pacific Ocean in the east, the Indian Ocean in the west and the Southern Ocean in the south . Visit iconic Bells Beach, near Torquay, the gateway to Victoria’s Surf Coast on the Great Ocean Road. In New South Wales, Byron Bay, Newcastle, Sydney and its south coast offer a superior swell. Hang out in Burleigh Heads or coast along one of the world’s longest waves at Snapper Rocks on Queensland’s Gold Coast. In South Australia, great surf beaches dot the Fleurieu, Yorke and Eyre peninsulas as well as the Limestone Coast. In Western Australia, Perth, Margaret River and Esperance are home to an abundance of surf beaches. Brave Tasmania’s Southern Ocean swells in Hobart, Bruny Island, Launceston, Devonport and Marrawah. You’ll find a wave to yourself on our uncrowded and pristine coastal beaches.
Australia’s heritage attractions
Connect to Australia’s history, from ancient Aboriginal traditions through to convict and colonial eras. Learn about Sydney’s traditional owners and see the colony’s beginnings in historic sites stretching from the harbour to Parramatta. Check out Melbourne’s grand gold boom architecture and dine, wine and shop in Brisbane’s heritage-listed buildings. See Aboriginal and colonial art in Adelaide, near the historic German village of Hahndorf. Trace the Aboriginal lineage of Kings Park in Perth and walk with the ghosts of convicts, whalers and sailors in Hobart. Read Australia’s first constitution in Canberra and learn about Darwin’s dramatic World War II history.
Sydney, New South Wales
Follow a heritage trail down Macquarie St to Circular Quay. Browse social history exhibitions in the sandstone fortress of Hyde Park Barracks, visit the Justice and Police Museum and dine harbourside in Victorian-era Customs House. Take a ferry to Fort Denison, the tiny harbour island where petty criminals were once held. Explore the colonial mansions of Elizabeth Bay and Vaucluse Houses or catch a performance in the palatial State Theatre. Visit Old Government House, Australia’s oldest public building, in Parramatta. See Sydney through Aboriginal eyes on a cultural cruise round Sydney Harbour or Cronulla or an Aboriginal tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens or Rocks.
Wander the World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Buildings in Carlton, erected in 1880 and the site of the first Commonwealth Parliament. In the city centre, visit the Old Melbourne Gaol, where Australia’s infamous bushranger Ned Kelly was hung, and wander through grand Flinders Street Station. Visit Cooks Cottage – Captain Cook’s carefully reconstructed childhood home – in East Melbourne. Picnic in the gardens of Como Historic House, built in 1847. Pay tribute to the Victorians who died in World War I at the Shrine of Remembrance. Walk the Golden Mile Heritage Trail from Federation Square past the remnants of Victoria’s gold boom. Learn about Victoria’s Aboriginal culture at the Koorie Heritage Trust or on an Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Connect to the area’s long Aboriginal history watching local Yuggera dancers perform in the bushland of Kangaroo Point. Explore the landmark, heritage-listed building of Brisbane City Hall, which also houses the City Hall Art Gallery, the Clock Tower, King George Square and Brisbane Administration Centre. Built in the 1920s, the English neo-classical interior includes a sweeping marble staircase, vaulted ceilings, chandeliers and mosaic-tiled floor. Shop in the heritage-listed Brisbane Arcade and visit Old Government House, the original home of Queensland's early Governors. See an orchestra play between the grand Corinthian columns of Customs House and catch a performance in the Treasury Building, built in the style of an Italian palazzo.
Adelaide, South Australia
See Aboriginal artefacts in the South Australian Museum and Australian colonial art in the Art Gallery of South Australia, both on North Terrace. Take a guided tour through the colonial mansion of Ayers House Museum and wander Carrick Hill, a 1930s home built in the style of a 17th century English manor. Re-enact 1880s military life at Fort Glanville and the life of early state governors in Old Government House in Belair National Park. See churches, cottages and colonial mansions in North Adelaide and historic warehouses, wharves and museums in Port Adelaide, the city’s maritime heart. In the Adelaide Hills, visit the 1830s German village of Hahndorf and English-style village of Mt Torrens.
Perth, Western Australia
Explore the state’s geological origins, rich Aboriginal history and European settlement in the Western Australian Museum in Northbridge. Tour the Old Mill, built in 1835 to grind flour, and the Old Perth Boys School, built in 1854 from sandstone that convicts ferried up the Swan River. Visit the Perth Mint, one of the world’s oldest mints, in East Perth. Take an Aboriginal tour through Kings Park, where the mythical Wagyl serpent is said to have entered the ground before emerging at the foot of Mt Eliza to shape the Swan River. Soak up Fremantle’s history at the Roundhouse, the state’s earliest convict jail, as well as the Fremantle Prison and Western Australian Maritime Museum.
Meander past the 1830s warehouses of Salamanca Place, the cobblestone square on Hobart’s waterfront. Stare at early settler art and a pair of preserved Tasmanian Devils in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which embraces heritage buildings on the Sullivans Cove waterfront. Glimpse the rumoured ghost at the Theatre Royal, Australia’s oldest theatre. In Battery Point, Hobart's oldest suburb, you can climb Kelly's Steps, built by legendary adventurer James Kelly in 1839, and do a ghost tour. You’ll also find elegant old buildings such as Arthur Circus Cottages, St. George's Anglican Church and the Narryna Heritage Museum. Walk across Australia’s oldest bridge and stand in the cell of its oldest jail in nearby Richmond.
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Wander down the ceremonial avenue of Anzac Parade and connect to stories of Australian war and peacekeeping at the Australian War Memorial. Visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. Stroll the sprawling gardens of Lanyon Homestead and wander Blundells’ Cottage, built in the 1860s and now a hands-on museum. Take a guided tour through the worker’s cottage of Mugga Mugga, or Canberra's first school in the St John’s Schoolhouse Museum. Pore over historical documents at the National Library of Australia or Australia’s first constitution at the nearby National Archives. See ancient Aboriginal rock art in nearby Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
Darwin, Northern Territory
Tour Government House and visit the Myilly Point Historical Precinct, where the four cottages are prime examples of the city’s pre-World War II architecture. Learn about Darwin’s rich Aboriginal heritage and relive the tragic 1974 Cyclone Tracy in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. On Smith St, visit Christchurch Cathedral and heritage-listed Browns Mart, built in 1885. Watch footage of the World War II air raids on Darwin at East Point Military Museum and see ammunition bunkers in Charles Darwin National Park. Walk to World War II oil tunnels around the Wharf Precinct and dive the war’s shipwrecks in Darwin Harbour. Connect to the city’s longstanding Aboriginal cultural traditions in the art galleries along Mitchell St.
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Shop till you drop in Australia’s markets, mega malls, warehouses and high-end boutiques. Discover Australian designers in Melbourne’s hidden laneways or trawl Surry Hills in Sydney for retro chic. Shop up a sub-tropical storm in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall or browse at least 500 stores in Rundle Mall in Adelaide. Soak up the atmosphere of Fremantle Markets, near Perth, or the Saturday markets in Hobart’s historic Salamanca Place. Shop beneath the palm trees on Darwin’s Smith Street Mall or hit the huge shopping centre in Canberra’s Civic. Shops are generally open until 6pm, with late night shopping offered either Thursdays or Fridays. You’re covered by Australia’s consumer protection laws which require businesses to treat you fairly.
Find most brands under the sun in Melbourne Central or head to the historic Melbourne General Post Office, which covers an entire city block. Every day at the vibrant Queen Victoria Markets, you can buy fresh produce, clothes and gifts. Find high-end fashion and homewares in the QV laneways, and more obscure labels in the city’s other alleys and wrought-iron arcades. Discover upmarket designers and delis in and around Prahran’s Chapel Street. Browse funky boutiques on Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street or explore the nearby Rose Street Artists Market. For everything from fashion to furnishings at fantastic value, visit Bridge Road in Richmond.
Combine history and high fashion in the Queen Victoria Building or elegant Strand Arcade, both built in the 1890s. Also in the CBD, hit the Market Street department stores, trawl Pitt St Mall or do international designers on Elizabeth and Castlereagh Streets. Head to Paddington for Saturday markets and the eclectic Oxford Street shops. Find retro fashions, edgy boutiques, homewares and cheap eats on Crown Street in Surry Hills or King Street in Newtown. Mix vintage chic with local designs in Bondi’s Saturday markets or back streets. Snap up a second-hand bargain at Rozelle’s weekend markets or the Glebe markets on Saturday.
Discover more than 500 stores and Brisbane’s biggest shopping centre in Queen Street Mall. It sits right in the CBD but has no traffic lights to slow your shopping pace. In the nearby heritage-listed Brisbane Arcade, you’ll find designer fashion, jewelry, gift and antique shops. Trawl the 50 specialist stores while admiring the 1923 terazzo floors, elegant balustrades and dado paneling. You can pick up handmade art and crafts, fresh produce and locally designed clothes at South Bank Markets, where buskers wander the open air aisles. For unadorned bargains, join a shopping tour to the city’s cut-price fashion warehouses.
Indulge your inner shopaholic in Rundle Mall, home to 500 shops across 13 arcades. Find funky clothes and homewares on Rundle Street to the east. To the west, Hindley Street offers bookshops and boutiques. Bag a bargain in the clearance stores on nearby Glen Osmond Road. For fashion, furniture and books, visit King William Road at Hyde Park. Shop for antiques in Grote Street or on Maylands’s Magill Road, where you’ll also find retro furnishings. Mix Australian designers and Italian coffee on North Adelaide’s Melbourne Street. For beachside shopping, head to Glenelg. There’s lively Jetty Road, the summer Moseley Square Markets and a direct outlet centre nearby.
Check out local and European fashion on Perth’s King Street or designer dazzle along the Colonnade in Subiaco. For fresh produce, as well as flowers, art, fashion and jewellery, visit the weekend markets at the Perth Cultural Centre. Move from retro to runway on Beaufort Street in Mount Lawley, just 10 minutes from the city. Explore the vintage stores in nearby Inglewoood or go undercover at one of Perth’s mega malls. Karrinyup’s centre offers more than 170 stores while Morley’s multi-storey complex houses 220 shops and a cinema. Watch buskers, buy local artworks and have your tarot cards read at the colourful weekend markets in Fremantle.
Visit galleries, boutiques and furniture stores in sandstone warehouses on Salamanca Place. At the Saturday markets, you can buy from organic food producers, glassblowers, potters and painters. Browse chic boutiques and Hobart’s 1950s Bank Arcade in Liverpool Street, in the city centre. On nearby Murray Street, you’ll find a shopping mall and everything from homewares to men’s fashion. Hop between major national chains in Elizabeth Street Mall or check out smaller shops in The Cat and Fiddle Arcade. Head to Sandy Bay for fashion and North Hobart for gourmet delights. For a one-stop-shopping centre, visit Glenorchy in Hobart’s north or Rosny Park on its eastern shore.
Shop for Aboriginal art on Smith Street Mall, in the heart of Darwin’s relaxed, tropical CBD. Wander from the Mall to Mitchell and Cavenagh streets through 20 elegant arcades. See historic photos and specialty shops in the Air Raid Arcade and visit the open-air Vic Arcade, where a twisted bougainvillea still blooms. There are 200 stores to explore, not counting more than 40 in the mall on Mitchell Street. For Darwin’s biggest shopping centre, head to Casuarina, 15 minutes north of the city centre. Buy exotic handicrafts from across the world at the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, from May to October.
Explore over 200 specialty shops in the huge shopping centre in Bunda Street in Canberra’s Civic. In Manuka and neighbouring Kingston, fashion, furniture and jewellery shops line the leafy streets. Wander the shopping centres in Dickson, Woden, Riverside, Erindale and Belconnen. In Tuggeranong, you’ll find a centre with over 170 stores and a vibrant community market on the last Sunday of the month. Enjoy entertainment and exotic food while browsing craft and collectibles in Kingston’s Old Bus Depot Markets, held every Sunday. Check out the Gorman House Markets in Braddon each Saturday. Head to Hall for Australia’s largest craft markets, held on the first Sunday of the month.
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You know Australia is a big country, but you may not know how easy it is to get around. The untouched beaches that stretch for miles and deserts that touch the horizon are all within your reach. Want to sail the Whitsundays, cross the continent by car or take a train through the rainforest canopy? Following are the different ways you can explore our vast and diverse country.
Flying is the best way to cover large distances in a short time. You’ll spend less time travelling and more time on the ground savouring Australia’s can’t-miss landscapes and laid-back lifestyle. Australia’s domestic airlines – Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Blue, Rex and their subsidiaries - serve all state capital cities and regional centres. Competition amongst domestic airlines means that great fares are available.
Australia has a vast network of well-maintained roads and some of the most beautiful touring routes in the world. Travel from Sydney to Brisbane past sleepy seaside towns and lush hinterland. Experience Australia’s Red Centre in an epic drive across the desert. Or follow Victoria’s Great Ocean Road as it hugs our spectacular south-east coast. You’ll find car rental companies at major airports, central city locations, suburbs and resorts. So hire a car, four wheel drive, caravans or motorbike and hit the highway.
Coach and bus travel in Australia is comfortable, easy and economical. Coaches generally have air conditioning, reading lights, adjustable seats and videos. Services are frequent, affordable and efficient. Australia’s national coach operator, Greyhound, offer passes to fit every budget.
Train travel is a convenient, affordable and scenic way to explore Australia. Interstate and intra-state rail services connect our cities and regional centres, while cross-country train trips offer a unique insight into Australia’s size and diversity. Travelling options range from budget to luxury, and a range of rail passes can reduce your costs if you plan to see large sections of the country.
Countrylink trains connect New South Wales destinations and also travel along Australia’s east coast to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. VLine trains link Melbourne with regional hubs in Victoria, Traveltrain covers Queensland and TransWA criss-crosses Western Australia.
Australia also has epic rail journeys such as The Ghan and Indian-Pacific, which sweep across the continent, offering comfort and a sense bygone romance. The Indian-Pacific travels between Sydney to Perth, stopping for whistle-stop tours of Broken Hill, Adelaide and gold-rich Kalgoorlie. The legendary Ghan travels between Adelaide and Darwin, taking in Australia’s Red Centre and the tropical Top End.
All of Australia’s capital cities are served by a wide variety of public transport, including trains, buses, ferries, monorail, light rail and trams. Taxis charge according to their meter.
Walking is a great way to get around our cities, so get ready to pound our wide, easy-on-the-feet pedestrian streets. You can also tackle some of the longest tracks and trails in the world in Australia – impressive journeys of a thousand kilometres or more that can take several weeks to complete.
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