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The Most Popular Travel Destinations in Australia

Contrary to myth, toilets in Oz do not flush the opposite way. That said, other tales about Australia—namely its fairytale terrain and fantastical beasts—are totally true.

Sydney opera house with ferrys in foregournd, taken from harbor bridgeJiri Foltyn/Shutterstock

Sydney

The “Harbour City” is a hub of creativity and striking sights. Carve out some time to explore the extraordinary, waterfront Sydney Opera House. Buy tickets for a live performance or book a backstage tour. On second thought, why not do both? Sydney’s speakeasies are perfect for a nightcap—that is if you can find ’em. The next day, lace up your sneaks for the Bondi to Coogee walk that stretches 3.7 miles along the coast. Animal lovers will go crazy for the cute koalas and kangaroos at the Taronga Zoo. Find out the best time to visit Sydney—and other major cities.

skyline of Perth with city central business district at the noonLev Kropotov/Shutterstock

Perth

Perth impresses with its sprawling parks, beautiful beaches, and lively bars. You could spend hours traversing Kings Park, a 1,003-acre expanse of grassy patches, native bush, trails, and botanical gardens. Tranquil waters make Leighton Beach ideal for swimming, while Mettams Pool offers excellent snorkeling. Imbibe in local revelry at the happening drinking dens in Perth city center and Northbridge.

Cairns waterfront skyline in Queensland Australia at high tide.ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

Cairns

Cairns is known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest (just a two-hour drive north, it can be done as a day trip). And while its proximity to the coral cays, colorful fish, and tropical flora makes it a convenient home base, this laid-back city is more than just a stopover. With a vibrant food scene, thriving weekend market, and a wealth of outdoor activities, from whitewater rafting and bungee jumping to cliff jumping and horseback riding, Cairns is a destination on its own. Looking for heart-racing travel ideas? Check out these adventurous getaways.

The docklands waterfront of Melbourne, Australia at nightScottt13/Shutterstock

Melbourne

Melbourne may be Australia’s java capital, but it has more to offer than just a caffeine jolt. Wander the city’s 19th-century “laneways,” lined with coffee shops, cafés, galleries, and boutiques. Indulge in mouth-watering cuisine at Attica and Flower Drum. Afterwards, head over to Naked in the Sky or Madame Brussels for a rooftop tipple. Get your green fix at the riverside Royal Botanic Gardens and Yarra Park. Need help choosing your next trip? Here’s how to pick the best vacation based on your personality type.

Aerial view of Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australiazstock/Shutterstock

Gold Coast

Few places compare to Australia’s Gold Coast. This 44-mile stretch of white-sand beaches and turquoise waters with epic breaks at Snapper Rocks and Burleigh Heads draw surfers from near and far. But its appeal isn’t limited to swells. Wave Break Island is a top pick for and snorkeling and scuba diving. Its theme parks cater to adrenaline-junkies and families alike. Make a splash at Wet’n’Wild or bring the kiddos to Warner Bros. Movie World. Take a peek at these breathtaking beaches.

Brisbane city skyline and Brisbane river viewing from Kangaroo PointMaythee Voran/Shutterstock

Brisbane

Urban sophistication meets scenic splendor in Queensland’s cosmopolitan capital. Marvel at modern and historical art at the myriad museums. Head to Fortitude Valley, Brisbane’s main shopping district, for some retail therapy. Catch a concert at The Triffid. Hungry? Grab a pre- or post-show bite at the adjacent Feedback Café. Make the two-hour trek to the top of the Story Bridge, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the cityscape, river, and mountains.

Downtown area of Adelaide city in Australia in daytimeymgerman/Shutterstock

Adelaide

Clean, green, and safe, Adelaide wins major points for livability. Bonus: The beach and hills just 30 minutes away. And it’s an equally awesome vacation spot. Sample fresh fruit, artisan cheeses, and sweet treats at the Adelaide Central Market. And wash it down with small-batch gin or a glass of vino from the many nearby vineyards. Brush up on these essential wine terms before you go.

Scenic spot of Darwin Waterfront which is a popular place for restaurants, shops, water sports and cruise ships. Capital city of the Northern Territory.frenchiestravel/Shutterstock

Darwin

Whether you’re looking for romance, adventure, or a bit of both, you’ll find it in Darwin. Traveling with your better half? Plan an impromptu date with a double feature under the stars at Deckchair Cinema or coordinate a sunset cruise around the harbor with bubbly and canapes. For something more wild, schedule a boat ride through croc-infested waters. Thrill seekers can even go cage swimming with crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove. And don’t miss these extreme escapes around the world.

The National Carillon located on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, AustraliaLiv Falvey/Shutterstock

Canberra

Australia’s cultural capital is a mecca of restaurants, wineries, monuments, and galleries. In the past decade, Canberra has come into its own as a culinary power player with a mix of upscale modern fare, fine-dining establishments, and casual eateries. Marvel at aboriginal art at the National Gallery of Australia. Sleep in style at design-focused digs such as Hotel Hotel or QT Canberra. Foodies will want to take a bite out of these unexpected gourmet getaways.

Beach view at Byron Bay, Australiacovenant/Shutterstock

Byron Bay

Fans of boho-beachy aesthetics may be familiar with Byron Bay, mainland Australia’s easternmost town. This charming coastal hamlet is a haven of sandy shores, surfable waves, hip hotels, juice bars, oceanfront yoga classes, and chic boutiques filled with everything from macrame coverups and handmade leather goods to woven hammocks and rustic wooden furniture. If you’re looking to relax with a good book (by the way, these are some of our favorite vacation reads)—or step up your Instagram game with incredible photos—this is the place to do it.

Sail boat at sunset in the port of Hobart, TasmaniaJulian Peters Photography/Shutterstock

Hobart

Hobart may be small but it has a litany of activities that put cities twice its size to shame. Savor Tasmanian produce and fresh-caught seafood at the waterfront restaurants in North Hobart or historic Salamanca. While you’re there, why not hit up the weekend markets? Lose yourself in art at the MONA, the largest privately-owned museum in Australia. Commune with nature on a hike up Mount Wellington.

No passport? No problem. Try these stateside treks instead.