Australia consists of mainland Australia, the island of Tasmania and a number of smaller islands. Australia is the world´s largest island, so big, in fact, that it is a continent in itself. The neighbouring countries include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north. A number of Pacific islands lie to the north-east and New Zealand, (often combined with a visit to Australia), lies to the south-east. The largest city is Sydney, and the capital is Canberra.
One thing is for sure – you can´t see the whole continent in 14 days. Plan a longer trip or be selective and choose something you have always dreamed of seeing or doing. Australia takes time, so choose the highlights you simply cannot miss. This is a trip that will be imprinted onto your memory long after you come home. Enjoy the great outdoors? Why not hire a motorhome and drive one of the world´s most stunning coastal routes, hugging the wild and windswept Southern Ocean from Melbourne to Adelaide, taking in the craggy, limestone spires of the “12 Apostles”. Along the way, you can visit some of the country´s renowned wineries, enjoy fresh seafood, or watch for whales.
Always wanted to see the spectacular Ayers Rock (Uluru)? At 350 m. high and 3.6 km. long, this huge monolith is not only one of the great natural wonders of the world, it is also a deeply spiritual place. Watch its extraordinary hues of red come alive at sunset or sunrise, or dine under the stars for a powerful experience that cannot be equalled elsewhere. You can fly into Alice Springs, 350 km. away, and explore the spectacular gorges of the Red Desert, get some great shots of kangaroo herds from a hot air balloon at dawn, and learn more about the aboriginal people who live here. If an opal is on your list of things to bring home, there are plenty to choose from, either here in the outback or in one of the exclusive boutiques further along on your route. Time to head for the city? The Opera House in Sydney needs no introduction, but there is also so much more to explore in this surprisingly laid-back metropolis.
Heading north, who could leave without a few days snorkelling or diving on the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef? You don´t even need any experience – there are plenty of great excursions that will show you the ropes. Pick one of the tiny islands that dot the reef – and there are plenty to choose from – such as Lady Elliott Island (where Sir David Attenborough filmed some of the footage that kept us glued to the screen), Heron Island (reckoned to be one of the best 10 dive sites in the world by Jacques Cousteau), Green Island or one of the many other tiny pearls which offer everything from campsites to luxury lodges.
If rainforests are your thing, the Daintree Rainforest in Tropical North Queensland is one of the oldest and most precious tropical forests in the world with the highest number of rare plant and animal species on the planet. Stay in a rainforest lodge and fall asleep to the sound of the forest´s exotic birdlife and then explore it in a 4-wheel drive or take one of the many expert, guided excursions.
As we said, it´s a big country – but transportation networks are excellent and domestic flights are frequent and reasonably- priced, so you can combine several areas without any trouble. But don´t rush it! One visit is never enough!
Make no mistake about it; Australia has become a leading player on the world scene when it comes to wine. Over 130 different varieties of grape are grown by commercial vineyards, which produce everything from wine sold in bulk by the box, to sublime vintages from the regions of Barossa, Clare or Goonawarra. Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from Southern Australia and NSW, Pinot Noir from the cooler climes of Victoria and many others are now on supermarket shelves around the world.
This huge continent contains virtually every kind of geographical environment and climate to be found: from lush rainforest to barren desert, from mountains to fertile fields and rolling landscape dotted with grazing cattle. Its rich diversity of animal life includes kangaroos, koalas and the 30 kg. Marsupial: the wombat which has achieved the same sort of cult status as the panda. This huge country stretches across three climate zones from tropical in the north to temperate in Tasmania in the south, separated by the vast expanse of flat, dusty, red desert in the centre. The “Outback” is, in fact, an ancient, dried up seabed where you can still stumble across mussel shells that are thousands of years old, buried in the red sand and dunes among the hardy trees and tough porcupine grass.
Read more about Oceania, the region that includes Australia, New Zealand, the Fiji Islands, and New Guinea.