Australia, also known as Oz or the land Down Under, seemingly has it all. With cosmopolitan cities like Melbourne and Sydney, magnificent beaches, virgin rainforests, over-the-top hotels, and the unforgiving wilderness of the Outback, it does not fail to impress. Famous landmarks like Sydney’s Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock (Uluru) are on every tourist’s bucket list, which – most likely – also includes spotting some of Australia’s intriguing wildlife, ranging from utterly cute (penguins, koalas and wallabies) to extremely dangerous (crocodiles, sharks, and snakes). But it’s only when you go off the beaten track in the absolute desolation of Kakadu’s wetlands and the unspoiled wilderness of Tasmania, that you will discover what Oz is really about.
Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Australia with my travel guide. Find out more about:
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
- Travel requirements
- Getting around
- Inspiration, highlights, & travel tips
- Suggested itineraries
- Recommended luxury hotels (+ reviews)
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Australia is a massive country: compared to the USA, it is only slightly smaller in land mass. As a result, there are large fluctuations in climate patterns across Australia, and the best time to visit the country depends on where exactly you plan to go. In general, one could say that the further north you travel (closer to the equator) the hotter (and wetter in summer) it gets. Also keep in mind that weather patterns in Australia are reversed as compared to the northern hemisphere: when it’s winter or summer in the northern hemisphere, the opposite season prevails in Oz.
- The southern half of Australia (which includes Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth) lies outside of the tropics and enjoys four distinct seasons. Summers are dry and hot with frequent short-term heat waves in excess of 40°C (104°F), while winters are mild but often disappointingly grey and wet (especially in Victoria and Tasmania).
- The coastal tropics (which includes Darwin and Cairns) experience two distinct seasons: the wet season and the dry season. The dry season lasts from April to November with warm, sunny days and cooler nights. In contrast, the wet monsoonal season begins to develop in November with high humidity levels, peaks in January and February with daily downpours and heavy thunderstorms, and lasts through March.
- Australia’s interior (home to Alice Springs and Uluru) is an arid semi-desert with very little rain, extremely high summer temperatures and freezing winter nights. The weather in autumn and spring is more mild, and thus more suitable for travel, unless you are able to cope with the summer and winter extremes.
In general, the best time to visit Australia’s south is during the popular summer time, from December to March, although this also means more travelers on the road and higher room rates. In the tropical north, the summer months are off-limits for travel because of torrential rains with the best months for a vacation being May to October, while the iconic Red Center is best visited during spring (October to November) or autumn (from March to May). If you want to see the whole country, I recommend to start your travel in the south at the end of summer (March), then head inland and/or further north as autumn and thus dry and cooler weather starts to prevail in these regions.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most people enter Australia via one it’s 7 main international airports:
- Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport (SYD) is the busiest airport of Australia, located 8 km (5 mi) south of Sydney’s city centre. It’s the main getaway to Australia. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Sydney.
- Melbourne Airport (MEL), also known as Tullamarine Airport, is the primary airport serving the city of Melbourne, and the second busiest airport in Australia. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Melbourne.
- Brisbane Airport (BNE) is the primary airport serving the city of Brisbane and southern Queensland. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Brisbane.
- Cairns Airport (CNS) is an international airport near the city of Cairns and the main getaway to northern Queensland. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Cairns.
- Perth Airport (PER) serves the the city of Perth, the capital and largest city of Western Australia. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Perth.
- Adelaide Airport (ADL) is the principal airport of the city of Adelaide in south Australia. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Adelaide.
- Darwin International Airport (DRW) is located near the city of Darwin and is the main entry to Australia’s Northern Territory. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Darwin.
If you want to travel the whole country, it’s best to either arrive in one airport (e.g. Sydney) and depart from another one (e.g. Brisbane), so that you don’t have to waste the last day(s) of your holiday by backtracking. Most airlines offer multi-city tickets at often the same price for a round-trip ticket.
Before you buy a plane ticket, consider reading my tips & tricks for buying the cheapest plane ticket.
Requirements for entry into Australia differ from country to country, and are subject to change. Prior to departure, always check with your government and your nearest Australian embassy or consulate what documents you need for travel to Australia.
- You need a valid passport. For most overseas travelers, the passport must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry to Australia.
- You need a valid visa or authority to enter Australia (including an electronic visa). Passport holders from select European countries are eligible to apply online for an eVisitor.
Make sure you read my 10 tips to plan a worry-free trip.
Despite its massive size, it is very easy to get around in Australia and several modes of transportation are available, which are well explained on Australia’s excellent official tourism website:
- Flying is the best and most convenient way to cover Australia’s large distances in a short time. Australia has several domestic airlines that serve all state capital cities and many regional towns. There is stiff competition between carriers, meaning that great bargains are often available, especially if you book in advance. Tickets can be booked online via the airlines’ websites:
- Most travelers will rent a car for at least a part of their journey, with car rental companies present at major airports and central city locations. This is indeed the easiest and cheapest way of getting around the country. Australia has a vast network of well-maintained roads, providing some of the most beautiful drives in the world, such as the Great Ocean Road which hugs Victoria’s magnificent coastline.
- Train travel is a convenient, affordable and scenic way to explore Australia. Tickets can be booked online via the several train companies that operate in Australia:
- Trainlink connects Sydney with most cities in New South Wales but also runs long-distance services between Sydeney and Australia’s other major east coast cities, Melbourne and Brisbane.
- V-Line trains connect Melbourne with regional hubs in Victoria
- Queensland Rail covers Queensland, with the one-day journey between Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands being one of Australia’s most popular train rides.
- TransWA crisscrosses through Western Australia.
- There are also luxurious and epic rail journeys such as The Ghan and Indian Pacific, which sweep across the country’s vast desert, offering a sense of nostalgic romance. The Indian Pacific travels between Sydney and Perth, stopping at Broken Hill, Adelaide and Kalgoorlie; the legendary Ghan travels between Adelaide and Darwin, taking in Australia’s Red Centre and the tropical Top End.
- Coach and bus travel in Australia is comfortable, efficient and reasonably priced. Long-distance coaches generally have air conditioning, reading lights, adjustable seats and free wifi. Australia’s national coach operator, Greyhound, offers hop on hop off passes for popular routes, short trip passes and flexible passes based on the amount of kilometers/miles you wish to travel.
- Taking a ferry is another great way of getting around the country. The Spirit of Tasmania operates a nightly passenger and vehicle ferry service between Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, and Devonport in Tasmania with extra services during peak periods. SeaLink ferries connect Cape Jervis in South Australia (approximately 108km/67 miles south of Adelaide) and Kangaroo Island several times a day. There are also ferry services in the capital cities, connecting suburbs around Sydney Harbour, on the Swan River in Perth and on the Brisbane River.
INSPIRATION, HIGHLIGHTS & TRAVEL TIPS
There are several good reasons why you should put Australia on your bucket list:
- Sydney, one of the world’s greatest cities
- Tropical beaches and rainforest in Queensland
- The world’s largest barrier reef
- Australia’s iconic red desert center and Uluru
- Rugged wilderness and crocodiles in the Northern Territory
- Beautiful scenery along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road
- World-class hiking in Tasmania’s national parks
- A wide range of terrific luxury hotels & resorts
The following, in-depth articles may also inspire you and help you plan your trip to Australia:
- Top 10 most fabulous luxury resorts in Australia
- Top 10 best wilderness lodges in the world
- Top 10 best rainforest lodges in the world
- Top 10 best desert lodges in the world
- Tips & tricks for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel
- Tips & tricks for buying the cheapest plane ticket
Because the country is so large, it is impossible to suggest one itinerary for Australia but I hereby share with you a 3 week schedule, based on of my own holidays to Australia. However, there’s so much to see and do that four weeks are recommended if you have more time and want to travel at a more leisurely pace.
- Days 1-3: explore Sydney (recommended hotel: Park Hyatt Sydney).
- Days 4-5: relax in the Blue Mountains (recommended hotel: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley).
- Days 6-9: fly to Melbourne, explore the city & drive the Great Ocean Road (recommended hotels: The Langham Melbourne, Park Hyatt Melbourne).
- Day 10-11: fly to Uluru, and explore Australia’s iconic Red Center (recommended hotel: Longitude 131)
- Day 12-15: fly to Darwin, and explore Kakadu National Park (recommended hotel: Bamurru Plains) and Katherine George (recommended hotel: Cicada Lodge).
- Day 16-19: fly to Cairns & explore northern Queensland (recommended hotels: Silky Oak Lodge, Lizard Island, ).
- Day 20-23: fly or take train to the Whitsunday Islands & explore the Great Barrier Reef (recommended hotel: Hayman Island or Qualia)
- Day 24: Brisbane (recommended hotel: Emporium Hotel)
If you have an extra week, I suggest you either add Tasmania (best reached via Melbourne) or Western Australia to the itinerary.
RECOMMENDED LUXURY HOTELS (+ REVIEWS)
Consider visiting my top 10 list of the most fabulous luxury resorts in Australia if you are eager to know how I rank Australia’s top hotels according to my own experience.
Below, you find my reviews of hotels in Australia (with pros, cons, and tips to save money per property).
- Hotel review: Cicada Lodge, Katherine Gorge (Australia)
- Hotel review: One&Only Hayman Island (Australia)
- Hotel review: Longitude 131° (Uluru, Australia)
- Hotel review: Park Hyatt Sydney (Australia)