It’s no surprise that a country as large and diverse as Australia boasts a variety of cities each with its own vibrant personality and the city that you touch down in plays a strong role in shaping your view of what Australia is. From diverse food scenes, world-class surf, immaculate beaches, award-winning wine, and legendary nightlife, each city is an essential jumping-off point to some of the most extraordinary landscapes and badass outdoor experiences you can have on the planet.
Adelaide, South Australia
Once considered a sleepy city, Adelaide is quickly becoming the lifestyle capital of Australia. Boasting an emerging small-bar scene, world-class art and music, and a festival calendar to rival that of any other Australian city, Adelaide is bursting with culture, flavours and events to impress every traveller. From relaxing sea-side at one of Adelaide's many beach bars to exploring coastal road trips, soaking up the sun at one of the picture-perfect metropolitan beaches to wandering through their breathtaking botanical gardens, this diverse city truly has something for everyone.
- Surrounded by the likes of the Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, Adelaide is one of the world’s great wine tourism bases. And it's not hard to see why when you can visit at least 5 wine regions within less than an hour's drive of the city, including more than 80 cellar doors in Barossa alone.
- Adelaide Festival is back in 2021 (February 26th - March 14th) with a whole host of artistic and cultural delights! From dance performances to contemporary and classical music, theatre to opera - as well as Adelaide Writers Week and fine dining experiences to boot, there’s no better time to visit.
- The Adelaide Central Market is a much-loved local favourite. This multicultural foodie haven is full of local characters and a great community vibe. The Market offers a huge range of fresh food including fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, seafood, cheeses, bakery, smallgoods and health foods, along with some of Adelaide’s most popular cafes and eateries.
- If you’re interested in learning about the history of the city, take a trip to the vast and airy South Australia Museum. Beloved for its Aboriginal exhibitions that give an insight into Aboriginal life, Pacific Island artefacts and even a giant squid, this is the perfect stop to add to your trip.
As the capital of Australia's Sunshine State, life in Brisbane revolves around the outdoors. With a flourishing restaurant, bar and cultural scene, each suburb is a hub of activity with its own distinct vibe, unique personality and seemingly endless offering of things to see and do. From climbing a bridge to cuddling a Koala or exploring idyllic islands, there’s no doubt that you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.
- Eating in the open air is a Brisbane speciality and food is something they take seriously. Whether it’s a steak at a pub, a great coffee or a five-star degustation, their year-round outdoor climate and abundance of fresh produce makes for a unique and memorable meal. From Moreton Bay prawns to greens from the Lockyer Valley, you’ll discover Queensland’s largest collection of Good Food Guide-awarded restaurants, cafes and bars in the region.
- See Brisbane from a new vantage point or take a shortcut to getting to know the city, with a climb up the iconic Story Bridge. Not only will you get to gaze over Brisbane City and nearby Kangaroo Point, but you’ll also get a view over the many mountain ranges that are accessible from the city.
- Get to know a true Australian icon up close and personal at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Boasting a size of 18 hectares, the koala sanctuary is the world’s largest and oldest and a Brisbane visitor favourite. But don’t be fooled by its name, the sanctuary is also home to 72 different types of animals including kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes, crocs and a multitude of birds.
- If you can’t decide whether to take a beach vacation or head to the city, Streets Beach offers the best of both worlds! This South Bank icon is Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach and is a must-visit while you’re exploring the 17-hectare South Bank Parklands.
- Tap into the cultural pulse of Brisbane through an exploration of Aboriginal culture, or a trip to one of the city’s many museums or galleries. The Riverside and Parkland Tour will take you on an enriching journey of cultural discovery across the south and north banks of the Brisbane River, while the Henderson Gallery is a unique space celebrating emerging indigenous artists.
- Brisbane's coastline is dotted with a variety of idyllic islands just waiting to be explored. Moreton Island, just a 70-minute ferry ride from Brisbane, is the third largest sand island in the world, and a blissful paradise of sandy beaches, bush and lagoons. The island is also home to the Tangalooma Wrecks, a popular spot for diving and snorkelling. North Stradbroke Island is just a 40-minute ferry ride from the coast and is fringed by magnificent surf beaches and migrating whales between June and October.
With the Great Barrier Reef on one side and The Daintree Rainforest on the other, Cairns is the gateway to Queensland's tropical north. Most famous for its tropical weather and amazing natural attractions, this is one of the country’s most popular destinations, consistently drawing local and international tourists alike. Here, you'll find everything from eye-opening wildlife encounters and brilliant café to bustling markets and plenty of picture-perfect beaches.
- As well as being the main access point for adventures on the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns offers a whole host of incredible things to see and do right across the region. Soar over the rainforest on a Skyrail adventure, trek through the tropics or island-hop, discover hidden rainforest waterfalls, go white-water rafting along raging rivers, or even skydive over the sparkling blue ocean.
- Cairns might be known as the gateway to Queensland's tropical north, but there are loads of things to do in the city itself. With everything from food and wine trails, fascinating museums, markets bursting with locally made goodies, and some of the best spas and wellness retreats in the country, you’ll have no problem keeping busy.
- The thing about wildlife is that it is, well, wild. And therefore, slightly unpredictable. The thing about Cairns is that you can still have a guaranteed wildlife encounter, regardless. At Rainforestation Nature Park, you can have the ultimate Aussie animal experience - including some you won't find in any other sanctuaries.
- Exploring the Daintree Rainforest should be high up on any visitor's list when going to Cairns. When Sir David Attenborough calls something “the most extraordinary place on Earth”, you know it must be good. To begin getting to know this natural wonder, The Daintree Discovery Centre should be your first port of call. Located a two-hour drive north of Cairns along one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world, this award-winning interpretive facility gives you an in-depth insight into the rainforest. Check out the 23-metre high Canopy Tower and 125-metre long Aerial Walkway Rainforest Skywalk or take a guided jungle night walk or a zip-line through the lush rainforest canopy.
Canberra, Australia’s Capital Territory
Ranked as the world's most liveable city and region, Canberra’s small-town vibe means it's easy to get around and the locals are eager to share the best of their food, wine, beer and attractions. Within the city limits, you'll find museums, galleries, breweries and modern architecture, but just minutes away lies the quiet nature of mountains, valleys and everything in between. Discover stylish restaurants, hip bars, boutique shopping, fun kid's activities, great outdoor adventures and a busy calendar of events and festivals.
- Canberra is a hub of adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventures. From being the mountain biking capital of Australia - offering everything from beginner's loops to double black diamond descents - to a hub for hot air ballooning and stand-up paddle-boarding, an active outdoor adventure is almost guaranteed.
- Step into a deeper appreciation of Aboriginal culture and history with a half or full-day tour that include a detailed Aboriginal interpretation of the landscape from an experienced guide, the chance to identify and sample bush foods and discover the tools and traditions of traditional Aboriginal inhabitants of the Canberra region.
- Feed your appetite for history with a visit to the War Museum or wonder at world-class art at the National Gallery, one of Australia's largest art museums.
- There's a good reason Canberra is known as the Bush Capital. Escape to nature nearby, with the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve just a few kangaroo hops away from the city centre. If you’re in the mood for unforgettable views, head to Mount Ainslie and enjoy a summit trail that ends with a dreamy Instagrammable overlook of Canberra itself, including Parliament House and Anzac Parade. The Black Mountain, meanwhile, is the most diverse of Canberra's nature parks with 100 species of birds, 500 species of plants and 5,000 species of insects.
- Canberra is also surrounded by a unique wine wonderland, featuring more than 30 wineries within 35 minutes’ drive of Canberra's city centre.
Darwin, Northern Territory
With everything from crocodile encounters to open-air movies and sunset cruises with a cocktail in hand, Darwin is as easy going as it is exciting. Walk on the wild side and get up close to the Northern Territory's incredible wildlife, or take in the scenery in style. Immerse yourself in the surrounding Aboriginal culture and history in the Tiwi Islands to timeless Kakadu or catch a beauty of a barramundi without ever leaving the land.
- Take in the scenery in style with a range of options to suit any level or appetite for adventure. Jump on a jet ski tour to scope out Darwin's scenic coastline, discover some underwater history - including a WW2 wreck - or relax on a deserted sandbar. For a more laid-back alternative, set sail at sunset, nibbling on a Territory-style buffet and enjoying a refreshing cocktail, or, if you prefer, dive in headfirst at Berry Springs and spot native fish in the shady and clear pools.
- Immerse yourself in the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal culture and history in its jaw-dropping natural surroundings. Take a trip to the Tiwi Islands, 80km off Darwin’s coast and one of the world’s most remote locations, where Aboriginal residents are famous for their traditional lifestyle, stunning artworks and vibrant textiles. Plan an escape to one of Australia’s last true wilderness areas, the otherworldly Arnhem Land; or head to the epic and timeless Kakadu National Park, World Heritage-listed for its cultural and natural value.
- Indoors or outdoors, art and culture is there for the taking in Darwin. Catch a film under the stars at the Deckchair cinema (re-opening 17 April 2021), explore Darwin's vivid and instagrammable street art, or get drawn into the MAGNT - the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory - home to internationally renowned artistic, cultural and scientific collections and research programs.
- A must-do in Darwin is to wander through the Mindil Beach markets. From the end of April to the end of October, Mindil Beach Sunset Market hosts street performers, musicians, craft stalls and a large collection of international food stalls on the stretch of parkland behind Mindil Beach every Thursday and Sunday evenings. Pick up some Asian street food from one of the many stalls and catch the sunset over the horizon – nothing quite sums up the laidback Darwin lifestyle like that.
- Top End Safaris is ideal for those who can't decide - including a scenic helicopter flight over majestic floodplains, an airboat ride through the rainforest to spot crocs, birds and buffalo, and Australia's only nature-based croc safe pool where you can get face to face (if you want!) with a saltie. The Territory Wildlife Park brings things down a notch with its slightly more sedate walking tracks and shuttle rides that allow you to get acquainted with NT's natural wonders, while Barramundi Adventures offers the chance to reel in a real beaut of a Barra without ever leaving the land.
- To feast your eyes on a live crocodile in the city, pop into Crocosaurus Cove, where, if you're really brave, you can go cage swimming with a croc too. Alternatively, hire a car and drive 100 kilometres (60 miles) along the Arnhem Highway to the Mary River to join a jumping crocodile cruise in which wild crocs jump from the water to eat buffalo meat dangling from long hooks. There are three operators to choose from: Adelaide River Cruises, Adelaide River Queen and Spectacular Crocodile Cruises. Each offers a one-hour journey through croc-infested waters that are also patrolled by brown whistling kites.
Gold Coast, Queensland
It’s no secret that the Gold Coast's star attraction is its stunning beaches, but beyond the beaches, you’ll discover laid-back neighbourhoods, a booming culinary scene, Aboriginal experiences and the Gold Coast's famous theme parks. Whether it’s watching the sunrise at Burleigh, fishing at Main Beach, taking in the golden sand at Surfers Paradise, or surfing with the pros at Snapper Rocks, there’s a spot reserved for you on this spectacular coastline.
- Thanks to its status as the theme park capital of Australia, The Gold Coast is an adrenaline-junkies paradise. Dreamworld features some of the tallest and fastest rides in the world, like the Tower of Terror 2, while next door WhiteWater World offers a chance to escape the Queensland heat while getting a big dose of thrills. If wildlife is more your idea of an adventure, Sea World may be your cup of tea, with marine animals on hand to amaze and delight alongside rides, attractions and shows.
- Want to feel high on life? Gold Coast has not one but two showstopping opportunities for you to get there. At 230 metres in the air, Sky Point, Australia's only beachfront observation deck, is a clear winner offering 360-degree views from the coast to the hinterland and beyond. If you decide that airborne feeling is for you, why not take it to the next level and go on a skydive? Gold Coast and the surrounding areas will leave you spoilt for choice when it comes to taking in Queensland from an unforgettable, high-octane vantage point.
- While the Gold Coast calls for relaxation, the experiences don't end there. If you’re in the mood for something a little more active, the Gold Coast has got it going on. Whether you're a beginner biker or an activewear enthusiast, there are bike trails for all levels, from an epic 42-kilometre loop through the rainforest to Mount Tamborine, to an easy peddle from Main Beach along the coast, there’s something for everyone. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground while relaxing in the region's lush surroundings, check out one of the championship courses designed by the world’s most famous golfers, or have a knock-about at one of the Gold Coast's nine-hole courses. Don’t miss out on the experience of cruising along one of the Gold Coast's famous beaches, with Go Ride a Wave surfing up a slice of seaside satisfaction no matter your level of proficiency.
- Get an insight into 60,000 years of Aboriginal culture in one sitting with the multi-award winning Spirits of the Red Sand. This cultural awakening will open your eyes to the history, beauty and vibrancy of the Aboriginal culture. Discover ancient Aboriginal rituals like playing the didgeridoo and boomerang painting by day, or take in a dinner and theatre experience spanning indigenous history from Dreamtime to the collision of Aboriginal and settler culture by night.
Tasmania’s capital is the perfect mix of heritage, scenery and culture all rolled into a great city escape. From captivating natural beauty to diverse cultural experiences, and an enviable food and drink scene, it’s a place to seek serenity, outdoor adventure or laid back luxury. Climb a mountain or view captivating modern art, eat fish and chips from a floating fish punt in the docks, or dine in the finest and freshest of restaurants. Add thriving markets, a breathtaking natural setting and a tangible sense of history, and you’ll see why Tasmania's capital city really does have it all.
- The Museum of Old and New Art is unlike any art gallery you've ever visited - and quite a contrast to historic Hobart. Make a day trip of this local icon and you’ll not be disappointed. Arriving by ferry is a bit like discovering the lair of a James Bond villain, built into a cliffside. Head inside and you'll find thought-provoking, humorous and in some cases, just plain strange artworks from around the world - all part of the collection of MONA's intriguing owner. The twisting and turning architecture of the underground gallery itself is a marvel, and the scenically-situated cafes are well worth a visit too.
- Hobart offers a variety of ways to satisfy your appetite while taking in the sights and sounds of this waterfront city. By morning, check out the satisfying selection at the much-loved Salamanca Market. At night, head to Street Eats @ Franko, which bills itself as a 'hyperactive' street food market, with eclectic live acts to boot.
- Hobart's historic waterfront has stories to tell if you take the time to listen. Once a busy, bustling port, it's expanded over time thanks to the reclamation of land in 1820 and is now home to luxurious living quarters and iconic hotels, as well as cosy local pubs, cafes and art spaces. Check out the Hunter Street Precinct and the Brooke Street Pier, both are historic sites that date back to the 1800s but have now taken on new life, becoming hives of social activity, arts and culture and dining in Hobart's historic waterfront.
- Hobart is a gateway to plenty of incredible excursions, meaning you don't have to go far to be in awe of Tasmania's remote and rugged beauty. Its unique natural curiosities make Tasmania feel worlds away from mainland Australia. The Pennicott Wilderness Tours set off daily from Hobart, offering nine different day trips, each with their own unforgettable mix of scenery, wildlife and local produce. A drive-up Mount Wellington rewards you with dramatic panoramic views of Hobart and its surroundings and perhaps a bit of inspiration about where you want to head on your next day trip in or from the city.
Voted ‘The Most Liveable City in The World’, Melbourne is Australia's mecca of all things trendy and tasty. Offering up exquisite dining, exhilarating sport and a variety of opportunities to experience art, Melbourne is a blend of bustling laneways, world-class restaurants and captivating museums. Head to a sports event, drink a cocktail on a rooftop and uncover the stories hidden within its art-filled alleyways.
- See Melbourne from a new perspective by going on a journey into Aboriginal culture, both living and ancient. From artworks and artefacts at Federation Square's Koorie Heritage Trust or feeding eels at the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre to a bushfood tour of the Botanical Gardens - let 2021 be the year that you connect with another side of Melbourne.
- What if you could walk through a storm and not get wet? While many of us may have dreamed of this in 2020, this experience is yours to immerse yourself in via the Rain Room at the Jackalope Pavilion. It's just one of the many surprising and thought-provoking experiences on offer in Melbourne's vibrant arts and cultural scene.
- Rediscover what it means to be wined, dined and caffeinated in this city of endlessly creative eats. From the characterful independent cafes that line Melbourne's Laneways, to world-famous eats at Attica; from the rolling fields of the Yarra Valley with its welcoming and varied vineyards to a breathtaking array of independent breweries - get ready for your tastebuds to take the trip of a lifetime.
Perth, Western Australia
Australia’s sunniest capital city, Perth effortlessly blends urban cool with raw natural beauty. Soft-sand beaches and scenic parks meet a thriving metropolis of small bars, creative restaurants and curated street art. From funky cafes and alleyways to world-class galleries and museums, stunning riverside sunsets to expansive parklands and so much more, soak up the vibrant culture and immerse yourself in this diverse city.
- The locals in Perth soak up more sunny days than in any other capital city, so it comes as no surprise that there are so many adventures to be had. From cycle tours through Kings Park or taking a dip in one of the beaches lining Perth's coastline, to dining in one of the city’s rooftop restaurants, there’s never a dull moment in this popular city.
- For local culture, wander the nearby city of Fremantle's winding portside streets and visit the bustling Fremantle Markets, combining fresh produce with delicious and cheap eats, art and street performances. Or check out Perth city centre's museum and gallery precinct - a place where art, community, culture and knowledge come together.
- Perth's Swan Valley, Western Australia's oldest wine-growing region and home to the Nyungar people for over 40,000 years, is bursting with possibilities. With seven themed trails, boat cruises from the city, weekend markets, arts and crafts centres, and Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm for the kids, you'll find more than one holiday's worth of excitement for the entire family.
- Indulge in some urban exploring in Perth's inner neighbourhoods and villages, ranging from Nedlands - home of natural beauty, arts and cultural events - to the idyllic riverside suburb of East Perth.
Sydney, New South Wales
A city that needs no introduction, Sydney is the first stop on many Australian itineraries, and for good reason. From its spectacular harbour to its iconic attractions, the city is filled with exciting experiences, but drive just a few kilometres and you'll hit the golden sand of famous beaches like Bondi and Manly. Plus, with endless nature at its doorstep, Sydney is the starting point for day trips serving up fresh air, unique flavours and picturesque surroundings.
- Sydney is one of the best places in the world for outdoor activities and adventure in the heart of the city. Take a tour of the Harbour with Sydney Harbour Boat Tour, paddle your way around Watsons Bay, catch a ferry for fun, climb atop the Harbour Bridge, surf an iconic set with Let's Go Surfing Bondi or simply laze the day away on one of the city's beautiful beaches.
- Culture is roaring back to life across Sydney. Whether it's the classic art collections at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art and White Rabbit Gallery, or the Indigenous exploration of the Dreamtime Southern X tour in The Rocks. There are few other cities in the world that serve up ancient and modern culture alongside coastal views and endlessly creative culinary experiences.
- From white tablecloths with Harbour views to hipster havens and much-loved pubs serving up traditional Aussie favourites and creative bistro bites, Sydney's dining scene offers options to suit all tastes, curiosities and wallets.
- Sydney Opera House remains an enduring icon for good reason - just ask the locals. Enjoy a sunset cocktail at the Opera Bar, nestled between two architectural wonders, or go inside for a tour to delve deeper into the history of this fascinating hub of culture and creativity.
While we can’t get close to each other, we can get close to nature. Sydney brings it right up close at Taronga Zoo, where the exotic residents also come with one of the best views of the Harbour. Meanwhile, the Blue Mountains, to Sydney’s west, combines adventure with spectacular views of Australia’s diverse wilderness to create an unforgettable and rewarding experience.
- A wonderland of beautiful beaches, historical sites, fantastic restaurants, stunning natural attractions and more, Sydney is brimming with memorable experiences. From the majestic Sydney Opera House on one of the world’s great natural harbours to the iconic Bondi Beach, you’ll find incredible things to do in Sydney all year round.