Here it is: The Accidental Australian’s top 50 most interesting, beautiful, and quirky places to see in Australia. While there are, of course, many more places to explore, the below is a great starting point for planning your trip, or getting an idea of the diversity of this incredible continent.
50. Woomera, SA – A tiny and somewhat desolate, quirky Outback town along the Stuart Highway, between Adelaide and Coober Pedy. It’s a former restricted area owned by the RAAF and the whole region has been a missile and rocket test range…what could go wrong?
49. Pearl Farms, Broome– Visit a pearling farm to learn about the start of the pearling industry in Australia, and take home some beautiful baubles, if your budget allows.
48. Henley on Todd Regatta, Alice Springs – The world’s only regatta on a river with no water. Entrants race their boats on a dry river bed (race is cancelled if, God forbid, water gets in the river bed). Expect a lot of beer to be consumed during this annual event in August.
47. Mount Isa Rodeo, QLD -“The Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo is where the romance of the Australian Outback meets the grit of a mining town, east meets west and man meets beast.”, according to their website. Call into the mining town of Mount Isa to see Australia’s biggest rodeo in a remote country landscape, occurs yearly.
46. Coober Pedy – An Outback town in South Australia where it’s too bloody hot, so everyone lives underground. Seriously. Check out the underground homes, and even a church, which stay pleasantly cool year-round.
45. ANZ Stadium, Sydney – Sydney’s crowning glory when it comes to stadiums, and originally built for the 2000 Summer Olympics. Check out a rugby match or concert here, especially if you’re an Olympic aficionado.
44. Kuranda, QLD – A town in the treetops, near Cairns, offers a scenic skyway through the rainforest and a fun hippie vibe.
43. The Pinnacles, WA Visit the Pinnacles Desert, near the town of Cervantes, to see bizarre limestone formations that will literally make you feel like you’re on the moon, or somewhere other-worldly.
42. Rottnest Island, WA – The home to Australia’s quokkas, little marsupials who always look like they’re smiling. This island, off the coast of Fremantle, also offers dazzling turquoise beaches and marine life.
41. Melbourne Cup – ‘The race that stops the nation’, literally. Australia’s most famous horse race, occurring every November, is a quintessential Aussie bucket list experience.
40. McLaren Vale, SA – Less popular than the nearby (and more famous) Barossa Valley, but visit for a place where the vineyards meet the sea, and kick back with a glass of red while you watch kangaroos forage amongst the vines.
39. Whale watching, Sydney Harbor – In the winter months, the southern humpback whales can be spotted frolicking in the waters near Sydney, as part of their annual migration, and often with their young in tow. A boat ride is a great way to see them, while staying a safe distance away (for their own protection).
38. Lord Howe Island, NSW – A remote island off Australia’s eastern coast, Lord Howe offers great diving, clear beaches and great hiking, not to mention an escape from the rest of the world.
37. Port Arthur, TAS – A World Heritage site, Port Arthur is a former convict penal settlement, and a visit offers a fascinating and sobering insight into Tasmania, and Australia’s, history.
36. Cape Leveque, WA – A remote peninsula where ocean meets the red rock of the Kimberley, accessible via 4WD from Broome.
35. Icebergs, Bondi Beach – Go for a swim or have a cold one at the jaw-droppingly beautiful ocean pool and restaurant, overlooking Bondi, and feel like an A-lister, at least for an afternoon.
34. Broken Hill, NSW– In far western NSW, you can find a mesmerizing Outback mining town, home to stunning views and the Living Desert Sculptures.
33. Camel ride at sunset, Cable Beach – Check out Australia’s most beautiful sunset from the back of a (sometimes) friendly dromedary. Cliché, but worth it.
32. Vivid Sydney – An annual light, sound, and futuristic, interactive experience, which hits Sydney every May and June, is a great way to explore Sydney in the winter months.
31. Overland Track, TAS – For serious hikers, this six day walk through the Tasmanian wilderness consistently ranks as one of Australia’s best trails.
30. Exmouth, WA – A resort town and the starting place for exploring Ningaloo Reef, second in size to the Great Barrier Reef, and the place to swim with whale sharks.
29. Jervis Bay, NSW- Claiming the whitest sand in Australia, the beach town offers spectacular beaches in a relaxed seaside town, just south of Sydney.
28. Salamanca Markets, Hobart – Every Saturday, explore Hobart’s most famous market for local wool crafts, fresh produce, or a drop of world-famous Tasmanian whisky (check out Sullivan’s Cove or Lark).
27. The Rocks, Sydney – Explore the oldest area of Sydney to learn about the city’s convict past on a ghost tour, check out the weekend markets, or eat/drink/pub hop to your heart’s content.
26. Jenolan Caves – A favourite spot of John Denver’s, these cave formations in the Blue Mountains area can’t be missed. Look for platypus in the lake near the caves.
25. Manly Beach – This nearly perfect beach is just a short ferry ride from Sydney. Snorkelers can also check out nearby Shelly Beach for great swimming and diving- check out the water dragons along the path between the two beaches.
24. Darwin, NT – This quirky capital city is a great place to relax, see crocs, and party, thanks to a plethora of backpackers (and Navy bases)- also a good jumping off point for exploring Kakadu and Litchfield (see #7).
23. West MacDonnell Ranges, outside Alice Springs – The ‘WestMacs’, to locals, are a mountain range in the Northern Territory, and will get you a feel for the quintessential Australian Outback of red ochre, mountain vistas, and swimming holes, and are a photographer’s dream.
22. Port Douglas, QLD – Come for the laid back resort town vibes and access to the Reef and the Daintree, stay for the cane toad races.
21. Fraser Island, QLD – Visit the world’s largest sand island to truly get off the beaten path, and enjoy the unspoiled beaches, but watch out for dingos.
20. Port Stephens, NSW– Sweeping sand dunes, frolicking dolphins, and great seafood are a few reasons to stop off here for a few days.
19. MONA, Hobart – Museum of Old and New Art. Owned by an eccentric billionaire, features a wall of vaginas and a death room. Enough said.
18. The Bungle Bungles, the Kimberley – Worth the visit just for the name, but also for the rugged and inspiring beauty of northern Western Australia.
17. Cape Tribulation, QLD – Visit this pristine beach in the northern Daintree to see the only place in the world where two World Heritage Sites meet- the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Also, the name evokes danger, which is kind of cool.
16. Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Kings Canyon – Often skipped over as the ‘other two’ sites near Uluru, both are equally spectacular in their own way and a quintessential Outback experience.
15. Kangaroo Island, SA– A large island reached by ferry, it’s a wildlife lover’s dream, as kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and sea birds make their home here. Local produce and honey also makes for a delicious few days.
14. Blue Mountains National Park/The Three Sisters – The World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park is most famous for the Three Sisters natural formation, but is a bush walker’s paradise and a great place to spend a few days, just two hours’ west of Sydney. The town of Katoomba is a good jumping off point.
13. Byron Bay, NSW – The backpacker’s utopia, and for good reason. Come for a day, stay for a month and get lost in yoga, surfing, or finding inner peace.
12. Daintree Rainforest, QLD – A stunning rainforest and World Heritage Site, home to dense jungle, crocs, and cassowaries, a bird you don’t want to mess with.
11. Cradle Mountain, TAS – Visit Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park for incredible scenery, hiking, and for the fresh Tasmanian seafood and produce from the area.
10. Airlie Beach, Whitsundays – The Whitsundays are an island chain and are a dream for sailing, swimming, or relaxing amongst the crystal clear waters. Airlie Beach often ranks as Australia’s most-loved beach.
9. War Memorial and Parliament House, Canberra – Pay tribute to Australia’s heros, past and present, at the well-presented and dignified War Memorial, then gaze across the Australia’s Parliament House, which is open for tours.
8. Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park, TAS – It may be too cold for swimming most of the year, but don’t let this put you off- Tassie’s most well-known beach boasts sparkling blue water wrapped around a cove, and is a great spot for photography.
7. Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks – Two national parks covering a large expanse of land to the south and east of Darwin, are easily worth a week, or more, of exploring. Waterfalls and swimming holes, wildlife and plants, wetlands, and places of Aboriginal importance make both parks high on the list.
6. Cable Beach, Broome – The most beautiful beach in Australia, full stop. Worth the danger of crocodiles.
5. 12 Apostles, the Great Ocean Road – A drive along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is something everyone should experience. There are actually only eight Apostles left, or eroded limestone arches, keeping watch over surf, but don’t let that put you off.
4. Uluru – Uluru, previously referred to as Ayer’s Rock, is a place of spiritual significance to the Anangu people of the area. Spend several days there to truly understand its importance.
3. Sydney Harbor Bridge – Walk, climb, or drive across this famous bridge to get the best views of Sydney. If you’re really adventurous, you can even climb to the top.
2. Sydney Opera House – A worldwide icon that literally needs no introduction. The first time you see it is seriously awe-inspiring. (Admittedly, as someone who lives in Sydney, I’m biased.)
1. Great Barrier Reef – The world’s largest coral reef is a majestic place, and home to thousands of species of coral, fish, and sea life. Deservedly coming in at number one, the Reef is deserved of our attention as it is critically in danger, and is a place that needs to be protected both for the health of our planet, and for the special and unique place that it is.
Have I missed your favourite spot? If so, please let me know!