Despite its somewhat isolated location, Australia is often high on the bucket list for many young travellers. With thousands of kilometres of azure coastline, iconic buildings and harbours, plentiful natural wonders and man-made marvels, there is so much to do in the Great Southern Land, it’s easy to see why some backpackers struggle to leave even after months of travel.
The majestic pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House that grace many an Australian travel brochure, make these two sites unmissable attractions. Photo opportunities at both these sites are plentiful, and you can easily walk over the Harbour Bridge to take in views of the cityscape and harbourside, all without spending a cent.
The Blue Mountains, about 1.5 hours train or car ride to the West of the city, are also spectacular photo opportunities and allow an escape into nature you won’t find in the city centre. The train ride shouldn’t set you back more than $10, and is often even cheaper on the weekend with the purchase of an Opal card (Sydney’s public transport card). Once there, all hikes and routes around the mountains are free. There are paid attractions available at Scenic World Katoomba, such as a Scenic Railway and Cableway, if you have a larger budget.
The Gold Coast, on Queensland’s South coast is a backpackers paradise, with fabulous beaches, cheap food and drinks, and plentiful hostels and budget hotels on offer. Surfers Paradise, the heart of the Gold Coast tourist scene, is also a gateway for the many theme parks nearby, the main ones being Sea World, Movie World, Wet and Wild, and Dreamworld. These parks can be quite expensive for a single day entry, but if you do some research online, there are often combo passes available if you plan to visit more than one park, which can be a good deal!
The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s great natural wonders, located off the North coast of Queensland, you can base yourself in Port Douglas or any of the Whitsunday Islands to explore the reef, and of course enjoying the beaches and rainforests in the area. Cruises and trips to the reef start at about $25 for a short snorkelling excursion and can stretch well into the thousands for a multiple day cruise. For any SCUBA diving or snorkelling trips backpacker insurance is essential, as any medical attention in remote areas can be very costly.
Melbourne is the heart of café culture in Australia, with it’s laneway cafes and bars and super-cool hipster vibe. It’s a great place to grab a coffee, chill out, and absorb some culture walking along the Yarra River, where you can typically find installation art works displayed, sporting events played on big screens, or fire shows lighting up the night, all free of charge.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park encompasses most of the outback attractions you’ll want to see in the Ayres Rock region, such as Uluru itself, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. If you hire a car, the only other cost involved is the National Park entry fee of $25 per person, for a 3 day pass. Walking around Uluru, hiking Kings canyon and viewing the sunrise at Kata Tjuta are all must do experiences when visiting the Red Centre.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of Australia’s attractions, merely a good place to begin planning your Australian adventure!