If you have never been to Australia before it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start, so I have shared a few of my top tips and a suggested itinerary.
My love affair with Australia spans over 20 years, when I started my career with a luxury Australian travel specialist. Since then, my job has taken me to Australia almost every year, where I have had the opportunity to discover new corners of this diverse land and re-connect with passionate hoteliers and tour companies, all bursting to share their unique offerings. Each time I unearth something new about this fascinating country, but what always strikes me most is the strong connection between the people, the landscapes, the wildlife and the local produce, which is intrinsically woven within the fabric of their tourism offerings. This is what makes Australia special, the combination of luxury barefoot paradises exclusive by virtue of their remoteness, striking locations abundant with wildlife and local hotels strong support for paddock to plate food offerings.
My top tips for visiting Australia
1. Never underestimate the size of this country, which can easily fit the whole of Europe within its vast land. You would never consider visiting the whole of Europe on one holiday and treat Australia in the same way. Due to the distance many people consider Australia as a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip and as such try to include as many areas as possible, often compromising their experience. However, with over 60% of visitors returning to Australia, it’s worth making sure you focus on quality over quantity.
2. The flight alone can act as a barrier to visiting Australia and if you cannot stretch to a business class seat, then I would recommend breaking the journey with a short stopover in the Far East or try the new direct Qantas flight to Perth which has been known to complete the journey in a record 16 hours!
3. Many people choose to travel from December to February, but these are some of the hottest busiest and most expensive months. It is worth considering some of the shoulder months such as April-May and September-October, not only will flights and accommodation be cheaper but the temperatures more comfortable and the crowds fewer. You can also avoid the wet season in North Queensland.
4. Mix up the modes of transport. Self-drives are a popular choice for many, but do not under-estimate the distances! It is not uncommon for drives to last between 4-5 hours, so consider mixing in some rail or domestic flights.
5. Try to include some touring with a local operator. There are some incredible local tour companies that offer a unique perspective on the destination that is impossible to discover yourself. They often have permits to access areas others cannot, they can arrange for you to meet the owners of vineyards for a personal wine tasting or lay on a picnic spread of local produce in a bush setting with panoramic views.
Icons of Australia
If you have never been to Australia before you could genuinely pick any combination of states as they all offer incredible coastal, wilderness, indigenous and culinary delights. But there is no escaping the magnitude of Australia’s icons and a first-time trip would not be complete without taking in the breath-taking Sydney Harbour, the spiritual pull of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the colourful marine playground of the Great Barrier Reef.
A typical trip would start in Sydney, with at least 3 nights in the city and a further 2 nights in either the Hunter Valley for those that enjoy fine wine or the Blue Mountains for those that want to combine stunning scenery with active bush walks. Sydney is blessed with all the attractions of a cosmopolitan city coupled with incredible beaches and harbour experiences.
Sailing on Sydney Harbour, Sydney, NSW. Image credit: Tourism Australia
Next fly to the red centre, for a 3 night stay at Uluru (Ayers Rock) to experience the vast expanse of the outback and the spiritual homeland of the aboriginal people. This sacred rock is awe-inspiring and is best experienced at sunrise or sunset to see the changing colours on the rock face. I would highly recommend the ‘Sounds of Silence’ dinner where you dine in the desert amongst the stars with the backdrop of the sacred Uluru (Ayers Rock).
Uluru Aboriginal Tours, Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, NT. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia
Finally, take a flight to Cairns and head to the Northern beaches of either Palm Cove or Port Douglas. These quaint coastal towns offer more charm than Cairns, with stunning beaches and access to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest on your doorstep.
Tropical North Queensland. Image Credit: Tourism Australia
15 Day Icons of Australia, starts from £3,500 per person twin share, including international & domestic flights with Qantas, 11 nights 4* accommodation with breakfast and transfers. Based on travel in November 2021, subject to availability. *Header image description: Jacaranda trees blooming in First Fleet Park, The Rocks. Image credit: Destination NSW