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13 Breathtaking Places in Australia You Can Still Visit

How can you help Australia? By visiting. These amazing spots are untouched by the bushfires, and your tourism dollars will do a lot of good.

The city skyline of Sydney, Australia. Circular Quay and Opera House.Irina Sokolovskaya/Shutterstock

Why you should visit Australia now

Yes, you read that right—now is the time to head Down Under. There are a number of reasons you should still visit Australia, but the bottom line is that the country needs our support and our tourism dollars as it attempts to combat the intense, awful, and heartbreaking bushfires and eventually rebuild. We know what you’re thinking: But what about those fires? Aren’t they everywhere? The short answer is no, despite what you may have read on social media. While they are still raging in a number of areas, Australia is a massive country and large portions of it haven’t been affected. The fires are mainly in Southeast Australia, with New South Wales taking most of the heat. And while Melbourne and Sydney have been affected, the fires there have mainly been in the outer suburbs, according to CNN.

So, where should you go? We’re so glad you asked! We rounded up more than a dozen bucket-list-level-awesome (and safe) spots that will make you understand why people go so crazy for Australia.

Alice Springs, NTkwest/Shutterstock

Alice Springs

You may have heard of the outback, but this is the real deal. We’re talking about the spot in Central Australia that acts as a muse for poets, the place that’s on just about every travel bucket list, the area that inspires artists and makes people write beautiful quotes about nature. This is it. Alice Springs is a desert region where there’s a vast space filled with desert oak trees, red kangaroos, and small animals. It’s currently open during its normal business hours, according to Nt.gov.au. (You can also check this site for information on all other national parks in Australia). While you’re here, check out the local art galleries, hop on a camel for a desert safari, or cuddle with a kangaroo at the Kangaroo Sanctuary.

The beautiful Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park, with cool swimming hole at base. Northern Territory, AustraliaAshley Whitworth/Shutterstock

Litchfield National Park

Our advice: Don’t go to Australia without embarking on an outback experience. They offer these throughout the country, and it really is a must-do—especially in Litchfield National Park, which is in the Northern Territory of Australia. It’s all about the untamed wilderness, the native animals, the free-flying bird demos, the camel rides, and more. Each outback experience is a little different, but all will include the desert, the animals, and the open spaces only found in Australia. Here are more one-of-a-kind adventures to add to your bucket list.

uluru australia national parkbmphotographer/Shutterstock

Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Watarrka National Parks

If you want to be truly blown away and experience something completely new, wake before the sun rises to see the Field of Light art installation in the Northern Territory, where 50,000 solar spheres light a massive area. Continue your wondrous journey by booking a reservation for the Sounds of Silence four-hour outdoor dinner (which starts at $225 per person) at Uluru, where you’ll dine on a red desert dune as the sun sets. After dinner, an astronomer will tell you all about the planets and galaxies you see above. It’s truly magical.

An aerial view of Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, AustraliaDarren Tierney/Shutterstock

Gold Coast

This is a surfer’s dream. They even have a mantra here in Queensland: Surf above all else. From the first light, you’ll find people chasing the waves and waxing their boards—from novices to experts. There are plenty of surf schools for beginners (hey, everyone needs to start somewhere!). While some of Queensland has been affected by the fires, much of it is still safe. The Gold Coast has about 57 km of coastline, and its beaches are some of the best in the world. In the world, no joke. Our fave is Currumbin Beach, which has a swimming area, parks, and an area that’s ideal for (you guessed it) surfers. But really, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Here are another 11 amazing beaches around the world to add to your bucket list ASAP.

ingehogenbijl/Shutterstock

Adelaide to Brisbane via the Ghan train

Traveling by Ghan train is an experience unlike any other. The Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions is a brand-new service from Adelaide to Brisbane (they also have other itineraries, but we particularly love this one) that takes three days and two nights, bringing you through awe-inspiring areas that aren’t affected by the bushfires. You’ll travel through the Grampians region, through the coastal town of Coffs Harbour, through New South Wales, and into Brisbane. It’s a lovely, luxurious way to travel (the cabins are spacious, the beds are real, and you’ll eat on tables with tablecloths and real cutlery) and to experience Australia, though it doesn’t operate in December and January. If you love this idea, you won’t want to miss these other luxurious train rides around the world.

Kakadu national park lilyJulien DESTRES/Shutterstock

Kakadu National Park

The largest national park in Australia, located in the Northern Territory far from the fires, this is a swoon-worthy location to explore. The wildlife here is like nothing you’ve ever imagined—plus, there are waterfalls, lakes (jump in and swim all by yourself), forests and more. It’s essentially a massive spot for meditation, but you don’t need to sit cross-legged because you’ll be thrown into a meditative state just by entering this park, smelling the fresh air, and breathing in nature.

While you’re here, take an organized boat trip to see some of the estimated 10,000 crocodiles. You’ll get up close and personal with them, and some tours even include swimming with them (don’t worry—you’ll be in a protected enclosure). This is something you’ll most likely only get to do here, so don’t miss your chance! Find out about the animals that could be extinct after the bushfires, and what you can do to help them.

Rainbow Cliffs - Nhulunbuy, Arnhem Land AustraliaCraig R_AU/Shutterstock

Arnhem Land

This is quite possibly the only place anywhere that you can check out ancient aboriginal rock art. Some of the pieces in the Northern Territory are 50,000 years old, and they’re nestled within Arnhem Land. It’s essentially an art gallery on a hill, and it’s also an education: You’ll learn all about indigenous culture—and having a local Yolngu guide to explain more about the art is key to your journey. Just FYI, you need a permit to travel here. You can get one from the Northern Land Council or Central Land Council, or you can join a tour from Darwin or Jabiru.

Eternal flame and State memorial at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens in Perth, Western Australia located on Mount Eliza overlooking opailin/Shutterstock

Kings Park and Botanic Garden

Head to one of the largest inner-city gardens in the world, located in the central business district of Perth, Western Australia. It’s been around for more than a century, and in its 44 acres, there are walkways, ponds, grassy open spaces, a view of the city—they literally thought of everything when designing this oasis. There are new flowers to discover in every corner of the garden, and there’s a stunning war memorial and eternal flame. Many people cite this as their favorite place in Oz, and it’s easy to see why. Here are more of the most popular travel destinations in Australia.

Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Range reflected in a pool of water.Chris Watson/Shutterstock

The Ilparpa Valley

Australia may be famous for its koalas and its kangaroos, but it’s actually got the largest camel herd in the world. In fact, there are more than 750,000 camels living on the continent. (They’re not native to Australia, in case you were wondering. They were imported in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to explore and carry heavy loads.) You can (and should) take a camel ride through many of the white-sand deserts. There are plenty of tours around Uluru, Alice Springs, and through the Ilparpa Valley in the Northern Territory, and they’re beautiful. Find out how many koalas are left in the world, especially in light of the bushfires.

Katherine waterfalls, AustraliaStanislav Fosenbauer/Shutterstock

Katherine

If you imagine paradise, then most likely you’re picturing Katherine. It’s three hours south of Darwin, in the Northern Territory, and it sits on the Katherine River. As a result, Katherine is a lush spot filled with hidden waterfalls, cliffs, freshwater beaches, and rainforests. It’s the place where movies are made featuring couples falling in love and jumping in swimming holes before napping under the sun until they need to scamper away and hide when the rain gently hits. During your visit, make sure you check out the Katherine Hot Springs. When you’re ready to plan another getaway with that special someone, try these 10 romantic island destinations in the United States.

Whitehaven beach AustraliaTanya Puntti/Shutterstock

The Whitsunday Islands

On the Queensland coast sits 74 islands. And while most are uninhabited national-park islands, there are four that you may visit. Hayman Island is the most popular, but Daydream Island, Hamilton Island, and Whitsunday Island are also stunning. This is where the locals head for their vacations, and we are dripping with envy. They have all-inclusive resorts, luxury resorts, wine-focused resorts, and even family-friendly resorts. The common theme: They’re accessible only by air or water, and they’re surrounded by turquoise water and a ton of varied marine life. BYO snorkeling gear or you’ll regret it! Don’t miss these other 10 gorgeous beaches with the clearest water in the world.

Panoramic view of Kings Canyon, Central Australia, Northern Territory, AustraliaMaurizio De Mattei/Shutterstock

Kings Canyon

Drive down into Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory and keep your camera at the ready. The views are stunning, and they only get better as you approach the river at the bottom. It’s one of the most awe-inspiring spots on Earth. At the top, you can look down onto the canyon, and as you drive down, you’ll want to pull over and stop at every turn. (A word to the wise: Do it.) Definitely take a break at Lake Hume, which will make anyone feel tranquil. There are many places to stay in the area, ranging from glamping options to safari cabins, and there are tons of tours and activities to keep you occupied.

limmen national park, northern territory, australiaMarc Witte/Shutterstock

Butterfly Springs in Limmen National Park

Even if you’re not normally into camping, you’ll want to try it here. After all, you’re not camping just anywhere. You’re camping in the outback in the Northern Territory. And since the entire outback is so thinly populated, you’re very likely to see all the stars in the night sky because there’s very little light pollution. This is why camping and stargazing are such popular activities in Australia, as opposed to elsewhere in the world. Bring a swag with you (this is a waterproof canvas bed that you can sleep on and roll up when you’re done): No one will blink an eye. Learn about some of the truly amazing animal rescue stories coming out of Australia.

australia bush fire 2020Rick Rycroft/AP/Shutterstock

Other ways you can help Australia

In addition to visiting and helping Australia’s economy, you can donate to a number of worthy and reputable organizations. Each provides much-needed assistance and relief in a different way—from helping affected communities and rescuing koalas to supporting the volunteer firefighters, many of whom are unpaid and have put their own lives on hold to help.

As they say, every little bit helps—and it truly does. Now, learn what the Australian bushfires mean for the rest of the world.

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff regularly covers travel, health and lifestyle for Reader's Digest. Her articles have also been published in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master's degree in musicology from Oxford University in England. Danielle is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. See her recent articles at www.Daniellebraff.com. You can follow her on Facebook @Danielle.Karpinos, Twitter @daniellebraff, and Instagram at danikarp.