A wealthy country with a high quality of life, Australia ranked second in the UN’s 2016 Human Development Index. With the eighth-largest immigrant population in the world, the nation offers a truly international community for you to join, full of racial and ethnic diversity. The “island continent” is full of wonderful cities and towns, each with its own distinct personality and appeal. For a big city with European vibes, look no further than Melbourne, where the country’s biggest sports fanatics live alongside some of Australia’s most important cultural institutions. Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, attracts over two million tourists a year with its gorgeous cityscape and endless number of things to do. Brisbane, with its year-round warm weather, the biggest Australian modern art gallery, and a smattering of cultural venues housed in converted buildings, is a vibrant city sharing the country’s eastern coast with Sydney. Perth, Australia’s capital and one of the most isolated major cities in the world, offers urban life at an easygoing pace on the western coast. Want a break from the hustle and bustle? Escape to Australia’s small towns. Central Tilba, a period village nestled at the base of Mt. Dromedary, offers several shops, restaurants, and cafes in colorful old buildings. Esperance is a surreal coastal fixture in southwestern Australia with a bright pink lake not far from the ocean, some of the whitest sand beaches in the country, and the world’s only full-size replica of Stonehenge. Go fishing in the coastal town of Yamba, where you can see dolphins jumping in the sea and give surfing a try at Angourie. Once a gold rush mining town in the 19th century, Kalgoorlie still offers an Old West feel, with historic buildings and mine tours set against a desert backdrop. Australia has the perfect spot for you, whatever your style and speed.
If you love the outdoors, Australia is your ultimate playground, with a wide array of natural wonders and landscapes to explore. Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef off Australia’s western coast or grab a snorkel mask to explore the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, home to sea turtles and colorful fish among other marine species. Sail through the Whitsunday Islands, where the warm water and quiet beaches create a gorgeous getaway destination. For a completely different experience, visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to see one of the continent’s most impressive natural features: the Uluru sandstone monolith, a rusty red rock formation standing over a thousand feet tall. If you’re looking for a greener spot, roam the Daintree Rainforest on the northeastern coast, where most of the country’s bats and butterflies live alongside frogs, reptiles, and marsupials. Fly over the Outback in a small plane for an aerial view of Australia’s most remote and iconic region, or hike into the area on foot for unmatched star gazing, sunset watching, and other special experiences like waterhole swimming. Visit Kangaroo Island to get up close and personal to Australia’s most famous native animal and stop by the island’s southern coast walk amongst endangered sea lions too. No matter what you like to do outside or what kind of ecosystem you prefer, Australia has you covered.
Thanks to its huge immigrant population, Australia offers every kind of food imaginable, from Thai to Middle Eastern to Italian and everything in between. But if you’re looking for traditional Australian dishes, the country has plenty of options worth trying. Take your pick of meat pies, lamb roast, fish and chips, or dim sim, a Chinese-inspired meat and vegetable dumpling. For an Australian spin on an American favorite, order a cheeseburger with beet root, or better yet, try it homemade at a barbecue, a favorite Australian pastime. Two classic Australian cakes, lamingtons and pavlova, will vie for a spot on your list of favorite desserts. Whichever one you prefer, indulge your sweet tooth a little.