Australia Travel Guide: Pro Tips for Traveling the Land of Oz

By Xavier Vale Buisson

Author's note: This was co-authored by Alexandra McGowan.

The great southern continent is a place of wonder just waiting to be explored. Its vibrant cities, marine wonderland, and rugged landscape are all only a part of what gives Australia its magic. To find out what gives Australia its aura of adventure, you’ll have to head there yourself. Luckily, you have our travel guide to point you in the right direction, and we’ll give you a sprinkling of some glamping inspiration, too.

Good to know before you go

Getting there and around

As if you need any more excuses to embark on your next adventure, it’s great to know that this is a lot more straightforward than you may have first thought. Traveling to the southern hemisphere may feel like an odyssey to the other side of the world, but Australia has many international airports, making this far-off wonder very accessible. The international airports are in a number of Australia’s major hubs: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Once you’ve touched down Down Under, traveling around Australia presents you with various options. Australia’s wide reaching and reliable road system gives you the perfect opportunity for a road trip. Car hire is reasonable, so buckle up and head out on the open road; but remember, in Australia the cars drive on the left side of the road! Just be sure you have a driving license issued in English or an International Driving Permit.

If you fancy a road trip but driving doesn’t appeal to you, why not try the Australian bus system? Greyhound Australia has a national network of comfortable buses and offers a short "hop on-hop off" bus pass for 30 days. You could even join a backpacker bus to take in all the sites along the way. Groovy Grape Tours offers small group tours ranging between one day to one week.

The sheer size of Australia, however, can make land travel time consuming. Head up into the skies to cut your travel time with the many domestic airfares on offer. Jetstar, Qantas, Tigerair, and Virgin Australia are all well-known domestic airlines. It’s also good to know that if you’ve arrived in Australia with Qantas or American Airlines, you can apply for a "Walkabout Air Pass." This offers benefits for customers when booking domestic flights.

Alternatively, you could even head onto the high seas and enjoy a short distance regional ferry ride to Kangaroo Island, Rottnest Island, and Bruny Island. Long-distance boat trips can also be enjoyed on the Spirit of Tasmania when departing from Melbourne to Devonport.

Useful facts

Culture

Food and Drink

The vast majority of Australia's hot spots are based around its incredible coast line. This creates the opportunity for travelers to indulge in some of the world’s best seafood. Whether you're looking for a three-hat ('hats' being Australia's answer to Michelin stars) experience or simply some "fish 'n' chips" by the beach, Australia has got you covered. For those that are a fan of lobster, look out for the Moreton Bay Bug or marron, which are unique shellfish native to Australia. If there is any seaafood that describes the local cuisine and atmosphere the best, that is the simple prawn or tiger prawn. Australians love this simple crustacean that can be cooked in a variety of different ways to tantalise the taste buds.

Seafood aside, Australia has many other popular culinary traditions. You can’t get more local than sizzling some steaks on the "barbie" and having a beer with your family and friends. Kangaroo meat is becoming an even more popular choice among locals and is perfect for a barbecue. For snacking in between meals, you should try a bit of toast with the infamous Vegemite spread. Very similar to British Marmite, guests will either love or hate this acquired taste!

Despite popular belief, Fosters beer is not actually readily available in Australia. Popular local beers include VB, commonly known as Victoria Bitter, XXX, and Carlton Draught. The coffee culture has grown intensively over the past few years, too. Melbourne, which is the sport capital of Australia, can also be dubbed as one of the coffee capitals of the world. So for that morning burst of energy, or that simple relaxing brew, Australia has got you covered.

Sporting Events in Australia

Melbourne is home to numerous sporting events throughout the calendar year. One of the first events to arise is one of the four major tennis competitions held between January 15-28. Watch the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battle it out on court to enter the history books. Next on the calendar in late January is the festival of sails held in Geelong. This festival is a week of festive fun with fireworks and free sailing entertainment for all.

For the motorsport fanatics, Melbourne always plays host to the opening race on the Formula 1 calendar. This includes four days of action-packed drama. Albert Park hosts this event, which is right in the centre of Melbourne. Finally, the events keep on flowing for motorsports fans, as MotoGP comes to town in late October and offers even more exhilarating drama.

The State of Origin series is one of Australia’s biggest sporting events. It’s all about one very bitter rivalry between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons. Rugby League is already huge within Australia, but this event tops it all. Players are selected to represent their state, and it is a huge honor for these players to battle it out in front of a sold-out crowd. Make sure to try and catch one of these events either live in the stadium or in a bar around Australia—it is an experience not to be missed!

Australia Day

This important moment in Australia’s calendar is a national holiday to commemorate its settlement in 1788 by the British. Be sure to celebrate in style with the locals on January 26, and check out one of the many events, shows, and ceremonies that run throughout the day. The biggest events take place in Sydney Harbour, which the British fleet sailed into in 1788. There will be fireworks, performance acts, and a buzz in the air on a day that cannot be missed.

Alongside Australia day there is another festival hosted called the Yabun Festival. It celebrates the survival of the aboriginal culture during one of the most frightful days in their history. These side by side festivals highlight the great diversity of cultures and beliefs in this sprawling country.

Safety Essentials

Documentation and Customs Regulations

Let us clue you up before you set off. Our low down on the ins-and-outs of documentation is sure to save you a headache at the departure gate. Be aware that documentation and visa checks are carried out before boarding the plane, and make sure you have them ready to be checked.
  • Proof of a yellow-fever vaccination if arriving in Australia within six days of staying overnight in an affected country is required.
  • A "travel history card" and an "incoming passenger card" must be filled out on arrival.
  • Tourists require an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority).
  • All food, plant material, and animal products must be declared on arrival. Be aware that due to strict biodiversity protections, most food, animal products, and plant or wood products are not permitted to enter the country, at the risk of severe fines or even jail time!
  • Prescription medicines must be left in original packaging and accompanied by a doctor’s letter noting the dosage. No more than a three-months supply can be brought into Australia.

Health

  • Tap water is safe to drink. Treat any water that is not tap water.
  • Do not underestimate the strength of the Australian sun. Be aware of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Apply plenty of sunscreen, stay hydrated, and seek shade.
  • Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing, and bug spray to protect against insect-borne diseases.

Dangers

  • Be aware that many areas are far from each other. Always carry a means of communication and First Aid supplies when taking a trip outside of the city.
  • Take care on rural roads, especially at night time, due to roaming wildlife.
  • Check the regulations regarding Interstate Quarantine of fruit and vegetables, if traveling between states.
  • Take note of warnings from local authorities about possible natural disasters including bush fires, floods, and cyclones.
  • Be aware when swimming in Northern Australia. Check with locals to find out if crocodiles frequent the waters.

Places to visit

Great Ocean Road

Rated by many as a true bucket list item the Great Ocean Road is not to be missed. Located just west of Melbourne, explore one of the greatest coastal drives the world has to offer. Stretching for 243 kilometers you can sightsee, sunbathe, and surf your way down the coast. The biggest attraction along this road is the 12 apostles that have been formed by thousands of years of constant wave erosion. As the coast line gets pushed back, several of these apostles continue to stand tall and strong embedded in the ocean floor.

Elsewhere along the Great Ocean Road, you can partake in numerous outdoor activities, including mountain biking and bush walks. For the animal lovers out there, take a detour off the road and visit one of the many koala sanctuaries and share some incredible moments with these charming creatures.

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Great Barrier Reef

Arguably the southern hemisphere's most famous natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef provides color, life, and adventure for those who seek to dive in its magical waters. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef, and it is made up of over 3,000 different coral systems. The magnitude of this reef cannot be overlooked, quite literally, as it can be spotted from outer space.

The best way to visit the reef is by partaking in one of the numerous activities on offer including snorkeling, scuba diving, and for those that are not a fan of swimming, glass-bottomed boat sailing. The Great Barrier Reef is located on the North Eastern coastline of Australia and is easily accessed from Cairns, in the state of Queensland.

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Blue Mountains

Just west of the thriving bay city of Sydney are the glorious Blue Mountains. This National Park is a heritage site spanning over 1 million hectares. The best way of exploring the parks is via the walking trails. You should look out for the famous Three Sisters, a uniquely shaped rock formation that marks the skyline. Once at the top, take your time to walk around, relax, and watch the sun cross this stunning bush greenery at one of the many viewing platforms provided.

For those that are not afraid of heights and are up for the challenge, check out the Giant Stairway, which is a trail spanning from Echo Point to Scenic World. This 4.7 kilometer trek can take around three hours in one direction, so food and water provisions are a must while taking on this walk. .

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Uluru

Right in the center of Australia, within the heart of the desert outback, exists an enormous sandstone rock named Uluru, a sacred site to many of the aboriginal people of the area. If it is total seclusion that you're looking for, glamping around this area would be perfect, as Uluru is located 450 kilometers from the nearest big town of Alice Springs. Uluru stands at 348 meters high; however, this is a very minute part of the rock. The rest of it is a whopping 2,500 meters underground.

The best way to appreciate this beautiful red natural wonder is by taking a 10-kilometer trek around the base of the rock. This incredible experience will take you three hours and 30 minutes and will be sure to leave you with lasting memories of Australia’s incredible landscape.

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