Australia is a huge country, the sixth-largest in the world by land area. It offers a remarkable climate, friendly culture and plenty to see and do. Yet it’s not exactly compact, as there can be vast distances between cities.
Take Perth in Western Australia, known as one of the most isolated cities in the world. The nearest neighbouring town is 1,300 miles away. Darwin in the Northern Territory is similarly isolated. Of course, these cities are well connected, and internal flights offer the best option to reach them unless you are up for a serious road trip.
For those on short trips to Australia, exploring the East coast is a great option. Major cities like Sydney and Melbourne, as well as tourist destinations and nature lover’s paradises, are all tucked along the coast, making it possible to see plenty of sites, take outback adventures, and surf until you drop.
Melbourne or Sydney
There’s a debate that rages on about whether Melbourne is better than Sydney. Between them, they are home to 40% of the population of Australia. Thankfully, they are only 9 hours drive, or a one hour flight apart. That’s not very far in Australia.
The Economist has ranked Melbourne as the best place in the world to live for a number of years, yet the general word on the travel scene is that Sydney makes for a better destination. In truth, both have their charms and drawbacks, as anywhere, and it will depend on your preferences.
Sydney is a beating pulse of activity. It has world-class beaches, unforgettable nightlife, dining, one of the most epic skylines in the world, and there’s always something going on. You can see a live performance at the iconic Sydney Opera House, check out the harbour and Harbour Bridge, and surf on the Bondi beach. One of the most enjoyable and luxurious ways to see Sydney is by boat.
In terms of sports, Sydney is known for the rugby league at Stadium Australia, horse racing such as the recent Rosehill racing event, and cricket, which is also a popular spectator sport. If you want to get physical yourself, head to the nearby Blue Mountains for hiking, rock climbing and abseiling.
Melbourne is not as flashy as Sydney, but it is very cosmopolitan. You can embrace the arts, from the very fine to the street art of Hosier Lane and Block Arcade. You can dine out at some of the best restaurants in the country, visit the wineries of the Yarra Valley and enjoy a vibrant sports scene, from F1 to cricket and tennis.
The nightlife is not as hectic in Melbourne, which is a blessing for some people when compared to the ‘always something happening’ vibes of Sydney. Of course, you can still find plenty of bars, and when it comes to casino and poker life in Australia, the Crown in Melbourne is the grandest of all.
Melbourne is also the perfect place to set out on the Great Ocean Road, 243km of stunning views, considered one of the best road trips in the world.
Heading Further North
If you are willing and able to head further north along Australia’s East Coast, you will come across gems such as Brisbane and Gold Coast. Brisbane is a relaxed place to spend time and has a rich Aboriginal history. Check out the South Bank beaches and market, and visit the Lona Pine koala sanctuary.
The Gold Coast is a hotspot for tourists and party-goers, both Australian and international. If you go out for a ‘couple of beers’ here, expect to come home late and wake up in pain. Gold Coast is sunny and surfy. It has theme parks, watersports and 52km of golden sands.
A whopping 20-hour drive from Gold Coast up to the north, but still on the same coast, is Cairns in Queensland. This is also a bit of a party town, and an adrenaline junky’s ideal destination. Here you can go skydiving, bungee jumping, hang-gliding and more. It’s also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem.
Australia is massive. If you want to see it all, you will need months or years to get around. So as a tourist, the East Coast is a great place to start.