Tourist Places in Tasmania

For those who haven’t visited Australia’s smallest state, Tasmania or “Tassie,” seems shrouded in mystique. Perhaps it’s the state’s far-flung location some 300 kilometers south of the Australian mainland across the stormy Bass Strait. Maybe it’s the vast expanses of windswept wilderness — almost half of Tasmania’s landmass lies in national parks and World Heritage Areas, with sparkling alpine lakes, wild rivers, and mist-cloaked peaks. Perhaps it’s the bizarre wildlife — from real-life Tasmanian devils to the extinct thylacine, the Tasmanian tiger. Or is it the haunting convict history and beautifully preserved heritage towns, which seem frozen in time? Today, this mystique lures more and more tourists who are discovering the island’s many jewels.

Shaped appropriately like a heart, Tasmania is also a foodie’s delight. Gloriously creamy cheeses, crisp fruits, and succulent seafood are just some of the mouthwatering local treats on offer, and hanging out at a waterfront cafe or restaurant is one of the top things to do in the port city of Hobart. Explore the state with our list of the top attractions in Tasmania.

1. Explore Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park

In the north of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is the jewel in the crown of the state’s many natural wonders. Glacier-carved crags; glittering lakes; beech forests; alpine heathland; and jagged dolerite peaks, including 1,616-meter-high Mount Ossa (the highest point on the island), are some of its most breathtaking features. Hiking here is legendary. Favorite day walks include the Lake Dove Walk, with magnificent views of Cradle Mountain (1,545 meters), and the Weindorfer Walk, a six-kilometer circuit through dense forests.

The northern part of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, is particularly beautiful. From the summit of Cradle Mountain, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the central highlands. The famous 80-kilometer Overland Track runs south from Cradle Valley to stunning Lake St. Clair, the deepest lake in Australia.

If you’re based in Hobart and want to explore this magnificent national park, as well as some of the state’s other top natural attractions, the budget-priced five-day Best of Tasmania tour from Hobart takes care of all the details. As well as Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, you’ll experience the wonders of Wineglass Bay, the Tarkine rain forest, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Bay of Fires, with optional add-ons, like a cruise on the Gordon River.

2. Hobart

In a beautiful setting between the sea and the soaring peak of kunanyi/Mount Wellington, Tasmania’s capital has transformed itself from a sleepy backwater with a turbulent convict history to a hub of cutting-edge culture. Opened in 2011, MONA: Museum of Old and New Art pushes the art world envelope with its provocative and confronting exhibits, while the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery takes a more traditional look at the country’s art, as well as its natural history. Foodies will also find plenty to smile about. The city’s waterfront precinct buzzes with hip cafes and restaurants, and you can eat around the world on the restaurant strip in North Hobart.

For a glimpse at the city’s convict history, visit the Hobart Convict Penitentiary and explore the historic sandstone warehouses at Salamanca Place, now filled with shops, cafes, and antique dealers. From here, you can also follow the Battery Point Sculpture Trail to see elegant convict-built architecture.

Natural attractions are also never far away from the city buzz. Climb kunanyi/Mount Wellington to really appreciate Hobart’s picturesque setting and gaze out at the World Heritage wilderness in the distance.

3. Port Arthur Historic Site

The old convict settlement of Port Arthur, about an hour’s drive southeast of Hobart offers a sobering look at Tasmania’s turbulent past. The ruins are part of the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. Here, in 1830, Governor Sir George Arthur established a brutal penal settlement where convicts were forced to hew coal in the mines and fell timber.

In spite of a devastating fire in 1897, the remains of many buildings still stand, including the guard tower, church, model prison, and hospital. You can also browse fascinating documents and relics of the penal settlement in the museum, visit the nearby Coal Mines Historic Site, or join an evening lantern-lit “ghost tour” of the ruins. After touring Port Arthur, take a drive along the coast to explore the soaring sea cliffs and sheltered coves of the spectacular Tasman peninsula.

4. Freycinet National Park

World Heritage-listed Freycinet National Park, on Tasmania’s relatively sunny east coast, is one of Australia’s oldest nature reserves and one of its most beautiful. The star of this picturesque peninsula is the perfect curve of powder-white sand and azure sea at Wineglass Bay — one of the top beaches in Australia. A lookout provides the best views. Take the 20-minute walk from the lookout to the southern end of Wineglass Bay to admire beautiful views of the Hazards, three striking pink granite crags rising out of the sea. The peaks are best photographed at sunrise and sunset when their color deepens in the golden light.

Throughout the park, hiking trails wind through pristine bushland to secluded bays and lookouts, and birding is fantastic — black cockatoos, kookaburras, and sea birds are just some of the resident species. At the entrance to Freycinet National Park, the little beach resort of Coles Bay is a good base for walks and climbs in the surrounding hills, and you can also explore the entire region on the East Coast Escape scenic drive.

5. See the Views from kunanyi/Mount Wellington

Undulating to the west of Hobart, the comforting presence of 1,270-meter-high kunanyi/Mount Wellington is a constant reminder of the unspoiled wilderness that lies on the doorstep of this waterfront capital. Follow a winding 21-kilometer mountain road to the Pinnacle, often sprinkled with snow, for breathtaking views over Hobart, the Derwent Valley, and the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. At the summit, boardwalks lead to panoramic viewpoints, and a pavilion displays old photographs of Hobart and Mount Wellington.

The mountain is a popular spot for biking and hiking through the temperate rain forests, and the distinctive Organ Pipes, a dolerite cliff, is renowned for its excellent rock climbing. Standing atop the summit and admiring the sweeping views is one of the best free things to do in Tasmania, but dress warmly as the weather here is notoriously fickle.

6. Tasman National Park

On the wind-lashed Tasman Peninsula, 56 kilometers east of Hobart, Tasman National Park protects some of Australia’s most spectacular coastal scenery. If you look at a map of Tasmania, this park cloaks the far southeast tip of the state, with nothing but ocean between here and Antarctica. It’s a place of raw beauty. Towering dolerite cliffs plunge 300 meters to the sea, islands shimmer just offshore, waterfalls tumble to the sea, and contorted rock formations bear witness to the relentless forces of wind and water.

The Blowhole and Tasman Arch are two of the park’s most famous features. Other top sites include Remarkable Cave, Waterfall Bay, and the Devil’s Kitchen — a collapsed rock arch.

Wildlife also scores top billing here. Apart from many species of rare birds, the area plays host to Australian fur seals, dolphins, whales, fairy penguins, and possums. A popular way to explore this stunning national park is by hiking the Three Capes Track (see below).

You can also explore some of the top attractions by car or hop aboard a boat to glimpse the soaring cliffs from sea level, or cast a line — fishing can be excellent here. In the southern end of the park, climbers scale the dolerite cliffs, and Pirate’s Bay is popular with hang-gliders. Nearby lies the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur, one of Australia’s most poignant historic sites.

7. Hike the Three Capes Track

Starting and ending in World Heritage-listed Port Arthur, the stunningly scenic Three Capes Track slices through more than 48 kilometers of awe-inspiring wilderness in Tasman National Park. A boat delivers you to the trailhead from Port Arthur, where you’ll walk along the edge of the continent, with breathtaking views of the Tasman Sea from the cliff-top trail.

Along the way, you’ll walk through pristine eucalyptus forests and windswept heathland; see spectacular dolerite columns rising from the sea; encounter wildlife like wombats, wallabies, and echidnas; and stay in comfy eco-friendly cabins.

Every hiker receives a guidebook with maps and notes about the journey, as well as stories to read as they sit on strategically placed benches along the track. This four-day, three-night hike is suitable for all levels of hikers — even children — and is one of the best things to do in Tasmania in spring, fall, or summer, although hardy hikers could also tackle it in winter if they dress appropriately.

8. Cataract Gorge, Launceston

A mere 15-minute stroll along the river from Launceston’s city center, the wild and romantic Cataract Gorge is a deep chasm carved over many centuries by the South Esk River. Precipitous walking paths, first built in the 1890s, cut into the cliff face on both sides of the gorge, offering heart-stopping views of the river far below.

The less adventurous can hop aboard the world’s longest single-span chairlift, while the Kings Bridge and Gorge Restaurant also afford fine views. On the south side, you can relax at a café and paddle in the bush-fringed swimming pool. At Cliff Grounds on the northern side, lies a beautiful Victorian garden replete with ferns, strutting peacocks, and wallabies. River cruises offer another perspective of this popular attraction.

9. Salamanca Place

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Salamanca Place, with its lovingly restored sandstone buildings, is a tourist hub in the heart of Hobart’s historic waterfront. Built by convicts between 1835 and 1860, these beautiful Georgian buildings were once warehouses along the commercial center of old Hobart. Today, they house art galleries, cafés, restaurants, and shops.

You can dine alfresco along this cobblestone strip; shop for antiques and souvenirs; or visit the galleries, performing arts venues, and ateliers of the Salamanca Arts Centre. Every Saturday, tourists and locals alike flock to the Salamanca Markets, where more than 300 vendors sell everything from handcrafted jewelry and woodwork to fresh produce.

Nearby Constitution Dock is a favorite spot to buy fresh seafood, and one of the most popular things to do in December here is watching the yachts cruise in after the iconic Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. From Salamanca Place, you can also descend Kelly Steps to Battery Point, a picturesque seaside suburb with heritage houses.

10. Bruny Island

About 55 minutes from Hobart by car and ferry, Bruny Island is a popular day trip from the city for foodies and nature buffs. The island lies across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel from the seaside town of Kettering. It’s famous for its delectable gastronomic treats, such as handmade chocolates, local berries, artisan cheeses, and succulent seafood, which you can sample on island tasting tours. South Bruny National Park, on the island’s southern tip, offers beautiful coastal scenery with soaring green sea cliffs, sheltered beaches, and challenging surf breaks.

You can explore the park on an eco-cruise or hike the many nature trails. Keep an eye out for wildlife. Fur seals and fairy penguins swim offshore, and wombats, wallabies, and echidnas are some of the more charismatic land animals. Built by convicts between 1836 and 1838, Cape Bruny Lighthouse offers beautiful views of the surging Southern Ocean.

11. Mona Museum and Art Gallery

Cutting edge and controversial, the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart has made a splash on the Aussie art scene since it opened in 2011. Its Tasmanian owner, David Walsh, described the thought-provoking collection of art and antiquities as a “subversive adult Disneyland.”

After entering the museum’s foyer at ground level, art lovers descend a spiral staircase to a subterranean gallery, where exhibits range from Sidney Nolan’s Snake to an Egyptian sarcophagus and a machine that turns food into brown sludge. Portable touch screen devices provide commentary on the works.

Also on-site are entertainment venues, a trendy restaurant, library, cinema, and accommodation pavilions. The most popular way to travel to MONA is a 30-minute ferry ride along the Derwent River, which drops you off directly at the museum’s steps.

12. Mount Field National Park

About 80 kilometers from Hobart, Mount Field is one of Australia’s oldest national parks, with magnificent rainforests, tall swamp gums, alpine moorland, and stunning waterfalls. Beautiful walking trails wind throughout the park, which is often dusted with snow in the high moorlands until summer. The short Russell Falls Nature Walk to these triple-tiered cascades is suitable even for wheelchair-users. You can also hike around Lake Dobson, and experienced bushwalkers have a choice of more challenging routes.

One of the popular things to do in winter in Tasmania is cross-country skiing, and this is an ideal place to indulge, only a 90-minute drive from Hobart. In the fall, the spark ignites with yellow, orange, and red-leafed trees. This is also the site where the last Tasmanian tiger was captured in 1930.

13. Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the spectacular Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park has become a symbol of one of Australia’s most famous conservation victories. In the 1970s and 80s, this majestic mountain region of the primeval rainforest, steep gorges, and wild rivers was the subject of bitter controversy over a proposal to dam the Franklin River. The opponents of the scheme, with their battle cry “No dams!” were victorious, and the wild beauty of the Franklin River and its surrounding wilderness remains.

Today, the national park is the nucleus of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which also includes the rocky 1,443-meter peak of Frenchman’s Cap. Its aboriginal sites are evidence of a rich indigenous heritage stretching back more than 36,000 years. White-water rafting enthusiasts come here to tackle the tumultuous Franklin River, one of the top outdoor adventures in Australia, while hikers enjoy the short walks. A highlight is Donaghys Lookout Walk. You can also explore the park by car on the Lyell Highway. Better still, hop aboard a river cruise from the west coast village of Strahan.

14. Richmond

About 25 kilometers northeast of Hobart, Richmond is a kind of living open-air museum. Of all the early settlements in Tasmania, it presents the most complete and homogeneous picture of a Georgian colonial town. It was founded soon after the landing of the first settlers in Risdon Cove in 1803 and soon developed into the commercial center of a very fertile grain-growing district. Richmond was also an important military post, and inmates from the town’s penal colony constructed many of the buildings, as well as the Richmond Bridge, which dates from 1825 and is the oldest bridge in Australia.

Often seen in the background of bridge photos is the timber-topped St. Luke’s Church with beautiful stained-glass windows. It was so well constructed that the convict carpenter responsible was pardoned. A short distance to the north, the neo-Gothic St. John’s Church, dating from 1837-59 is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Australia.

Other historic highlights include Richmond Gaol and the well-preserved heritage buildings of Bridge Street. A favorite family attraction, the Old Hobart Town model village recreates life in the 1820s. Many day trips to Richmond from Hobart also include a visit to Bonorong Wildlife Park in Brighton, where you can get up close to favorite Aussie animals like kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and Tasmanian devils.

15. Climb The Nut

On Tasmania’s northwest coast, the Nut is a 143-meter-high volcanic plug, which looms over the picturesque heritage town of Stanley. Matthew Flinders, who viewed it in 1798, thought it was reminiscent of a Christmas cake with its steep, rounded sides and flat top. You can climb the steep path to the Pinnacle, which takes about 15 minutes, or hop aboard a chairlift for fantastic photo opportunities. At the top, trails of varying lengths lead visitors through fern-fringed forests and to scenic lookouts with 360-degree views of the curving coastline, the quaint hamlet of Stanley, and surrounding farmland. Look for pademelons and wallabies along the trails, and take a jacket as the top can be quite windy.

Tourist Places in South Australia

The sprawling wilderness, stunning coastline, and stark desert beauty of South Australia have captured the imagination of artists and adventurers for centuries. The state capital, Adelaide, sits on the brink of all these natural wonders, boasting a lively agenda of festivals and things to do. But this sparsely populated state has a trove of other tourist attractions.

Quaint country villages steeped in European charm, emerald hills, and cobalt crater lakes are some of the top inland sites. Along the coast, you can bask on beautiful beaches; picnic in secluded coves; or commune with wildlife on Kangaroo Island, one of the country’s much-loved tourist gems.

South Australia is also a haven for foodies. The state’s wild seas and picturesque pastoral land, fed by the mighty Murray River, produce a bounty of fresh produce—from citrus fruits and hand-made cheeses to some of the country’s best seafood.

Further afield, in the west and northwest, the arid wilderness meets the pink-tinged peaks of the Flinders Ranges, the opal mines of Coober Pedy, vast deserts crossed by famous 4WD tracks, and the legendary Nullarbor Plain. Find the best places to visit in this diverse Aussie state with our list of the top attractions in South Australia.

1. Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island off the Fleurieu Peninsula is the third largest island in Australia and one of the country’s top natural jewels. This beautiful island is a must-do on your South Australia itinerary.

Sparkling cerulean seas, pristine beaches, rugged coastal scenery, fascinating rock formations, caves, and close-up encounters with charismatic wildlife are the prime attractions. Besides its namesake marsupial, you can see koalas, seals, penguins, sea lions, and a diversity of birds in their natural habitat. Scuba divers frequently spot sea dragons in the crystal-clear temperate waters, and many wrecks lie sunken offshore.

In Flinders Chase National Park, the wind-sculpted boulders of the Remarkable Rocks and the eroded curve of Admiral’s Arch are striking geographical features. The island is also known for its bounty of fresh produce including fresh seafood, free-range eggs, and Ligurian honey. To get here, you can fly direct to the island from Adelaide, or hop aboard a ferry from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

2. Adelaide

Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is Australia’s fifth-largest city and one of its most charming. Parks and gardens punctuate the city, and venerable 19th-century buildings stand proud amid the burgeoning high-rises in the city center.

Popular Adelaide attractions include the cultural precinct of North Terrace with its museums, galleries, and carefully preserved historic gems; the Adelaide Central Market, a shopping institution; and the impressive line-up of performances and events at the Adelaide Festival Centre.

If you have time during your visit, try to catch a cricket match or AFL game at Adelaide Oval, which has played host to a wide range of Aussie sports since the late 1800s.

For a change of scenery, hop aboard the tram to Glenelg from Victoria Square to swim, sail, and soak up the seaside ambiance, or venture into the beautiful bush-covered hills of the Mount Lofty Ranges (Adelaide Hills).

3. Barossa Valley

The Barossa Valley, about an hour’s drive from Adelaide, is a favorite day trip from the capital. Blessed with fertile soils, this verdant valley is one of Australia’s oldest grape-growing regions and a haven for foodies, who are lured by the high-quality fresh produce and artisan foods. German and English immigrants originally settled the valley, and their history and culture are still palpable today in the historic buildings, heritage trails, museums, and European-style cuisine.

In addition to all the historic attractions, the region offers plenty of other diversions. You can shop at the popular farmer’s markets, attend cookery schools, feast at the fabulous restaurants, relax at the day spas, and browse the many gift shops and art galleries.

4. Clare Valley

Along with the Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley is another famous Australian grape-growing region, about 136 kilometers north of Adelaide. Picturesque pastoral landscapes provide a perfect setting for romantic weekend retreats, and the region is known for its flourishing gourmet food culture. Polish, English, and Irish immigrants originally settled the valley, and their culture and customs are still evident in the charming heritage towns and historic bluestone buildings.

In the main town of Clare, named after County Clare in Ireland, you can explore the region’s history in the town’s museum, housed in a mid-19th century courthouse, or visit nearby Sevenhill, named for its rolling countryside reminiscent of the hills around Rome. From here, you can take the scenic drive to Polish Hills River Valley, explore the region’s history in the Polish Church Museum, or bike the old railway route.

From 1845 to 1877 copper mining brought prosperity to the area around Burra, which has preserved its rich history in mine buildings, stone dwellings, and museums along Burra’s Heritage Passport Trail. The English-style heritage town of Mintaro is home to Martindale Hall, a Neoclassical mansion that is now a hotel.

Popular things to do in the Clare Valley include exploring the beautiful Skilly Hills; dining at the excellent cafés and restaurants; and browsing the local markets, gift shops, and art galleries. Each year in May, foodies flocks here for the annual Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend, a celebration of the region’s abundant fresh produce.

5. Flinders Ranges

Named for famous explorer Matthew Flinders, the Flinders Ranges are a delight for nature lovers, photographers, and artists. In the shifting light of day, the arid landscapes provide a striking play of colors—from pale pink and gold to burnt orange. Despite the dry conditions, the area is home to a surprising abundance of wildlife (emus, yellow-footed rock wallabies, and flocks of brilliantly colored parrots inhabit the region).

The mountains run from north to south through the eastern part of South Australia, stretching northward for 400 kilometers into the scorched Outback. In Flinders Ranges National Park, the most scenic area of the region, a rich growth of vegetation cloaks the sheltered valleys, and wildflowers carpet the parched earth in spring. Top attractions here include the natural amphitheater of Wilpena Pound with St. Mary’s Peak at its highest point, Aboriginal art at Arkaroo Rock, fossils, and part of the long-distance Heysen Trail named for the famous German-born Australian artist, Hans Heysen.

6. Fleurieu Peninsula

The picturesque Fleurieu Peninsula, a spur of land projecting southwest from the Mount Lofty Ranges, is a playground for many activities such as fishing, boating, bushwalking, whale watching, surfing, and swimming—just to name a few. Top tourist attractions include the beautiful scenery, wildlife reserves, and superb beaches like the sheltered sandy inlets in Gulf St. Vincent. Victor Harbor is one of the most popular beach resorts on the peninsula. Connected by a long causeway, Granite Island, protects it from the turbulent Southern Ocean and is a haven for kangaroos and penguins.

On the narrow channel at the outlet of Lake Alexandrina, into which the Murray River flows, the rapidly growing resort of Goolwa was known as the New Orleans of Australia in its heyday because of the numerous paddle steamers plying the river. Off Goolwa, Hindmarsh Island is a favorite haunt of birdwatchers.

Other popular stops on the peninsula include the surfing hotspot of Port Elliot and the vine-draped hills of McLaren Vale, a prime grape-growing region. From Cape Jervis, at the tip of the peninsula, tourists can hop aboard a ferry service to Kangaroo Island.

7. Eyre Peninsula

Rimmed by a rugged and ravishing coastline of cliffs and sheltered beaches, the triangular-shaped Eyre Peninsula is one of Australia’s least crowded coastal stretches, and one of its most beautiful. It is located east of the Great Australian Bight, and cage diving with great white sharks scores top billing on the list of tourist adventures. You can also snorkel with giant cuttlefish near Whyalla, or swim with balletic sea lions at Baird Bay. Whale watching is another popular activity from May through October when southern right whales migrate along the Great Australian Bight Marine Park.

Coffin Bay is known for its superb seafood and stunning national park. Occupying the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula, Lincoln National Park offers spectacular scenery with rugged cliffs and abundant birds, while Port Lincoln is becoming an increasingly popular holiday resort. Its fishing fleet, the largest in Australia, produces some of the country’s best seafood.

Inland, you can explore the bushland and wildlife of the Gawler Ranges or venture into the outback across the legendary Nullarbor Plain for a serious 4WD adventure through the scorched desert.

8. Murray River

Australia’s longest river, the mighty Murray flows from its source in the New South Wales Alps to the Southern Ocean in South Australia. Sandstone cliffs and tall eucalyptus trees fringe the river, and its wetlands are important habitats for many water birds. Once home to the Ngarrindjeri and Nganguraku people, today the river irrigates a vast citrus-growing industry and agricultural region and provides a wealth of water-based activities, from fishing, boating, water-skiing, and swimming to gliding along on a paddle steamer.

Peppered with colorful gardens and fragrant roses, the riverside town of Renmark lies at the point where the states of South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria meet and is home to huge plantations of citrus fruits. From here, you can tour the Olivewood Historic Homestead and Museum, organize a river cruise, or hire a houseboat.

Another popular place to visit is Loxton, the “garden city” of the Riverland region, with galleries and historical sites. Here, on the banks of the river, the Historical Village takes visitors back in time with its faithfully recreated late-19th century buildings and artifacts. Northwest of Loxton, the little town of Waikerie is a popular spot for gliding and offers a pretty cliff-top walk.

9. Mount Gambier

Along the Limestone Coast, Mount Gambier is an extinct volcano with four beautiful crater lakes, as well as sinkholes and gardens. A curious natural phenomenon occurs on the Blue Lake annually in November, when the color of the lake transforms from dull gray to a brilliant cobalt blue. A scenic drive with spectacular views runs around the crater.

While you’re in the area, stop by the Umpherston Sinkhole. Created when the roof of a cave collapsed, this popular tourist attraction was transformed into a beautiful “sunken garden” by James Umpherston in the 1880s. Ferns, hot pink hydrangeas, and calla lilies flourish in the gardens, and lush plants cascade over the lip of the sinkhole, imbuing the space with a magical feel. In the evenings, lights illuminate the gardens, and friendly possums congregate here looking for a meal.

South of Mount Gambier, you can explore South Australia’s only World Heritage Site, Naracoorte Caves, with fascinating fossils, colonies of bats, and haunting subterranean scenery. Other attractions on the Limestone Coast include the bird-rich lagoons and coastal dunes of the Coorong, a chain of lagoons and salt lakes between Lake Alexandrina and the sea; the grape-growing region of Coonawarra; pretty Beachport, a former whaling station; and the historic beach resort of Robe.

10. Innes National Park, Yorke Peninsula

Sitting at the tip of the spectacular Yorke Peninsula, about a three-hour drive from Adelaide, remote Innes National Park is an under-rated and refreshingly uncrowded raw slice of nature. If you look at a South Australia map, the Yorke Peninsula is the boot-shaped claw of land jutting out to the west of Adelaide, and it makes a wonderful weekend getaway from the capital.

Rugged seascapes, wildlife, and windswept white-sand beaches lapped by dazzling blue seas are the prime attractions. You can explore the park on hiking trails or by car, stopping at the empty beaches along the way. Popular things to do include surfing the remote breaks, camping, boating, fishing off the ravishing beaches, and scuba diving the many wrecks scattered along this tempestuous stretch of coast. To learn more about the region’s fascinating shipwreck history, visit the rusted hull of the Ethel, and follow the maritime interpretive trail along the coast.

Wildlife is abundant. Emus and kangaroos are among the most frequently spotted animals in the park, and you might also spot southern right whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions off the coast. The park is also home to more than 150 species of birds, including ospreys, malleefowl, and hooded plovers.

11. Coober Pedy

The opal mining town of Coober Pedy lies in the heart of the South Australian outback. The name of the town comes from an Aboriginal phrase meaning “white fellows in a hole,” since most of the inhabitants live in underground dwellings (dugouts) to escape the fierce heat of summer and the extreme cold of winter.

In 1911, gold miners found valuable white opals here. Since then, opal mining has converted the desolate countryside around Coober Pedy into a lunar-like landscape. You can still try your luck looking for these pearlescent beauties after obtaining a prospecting permit from the Mines Department in Coober Pedy. The Old Timers Mine and Museum display exhibit on the history of prospecting for precious stones. Sightseers can also tour underground homes and the subterranean Catacomb Church.

Tourist Places in Queensland

Queensland, “the Sunshine State,” is Australia’s most popular vacation destination. Golden beaches, idyllic tropical islands, fantastic surf breaks, World Heritage-listed rainforests, rivers, reefs, and waterfalls are just some of the state’s natural jewels. And all of these sun-soaked settings offer exhilarating outdoor adventures. The dazzling Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef offer superb diving and snorkeling. Fraser Island is a favorite four-wheel-driving adventure, and the wilderness areas along the Queensland coast are excellent for hiking, biking, boating, and fishing.

For a change of pace, Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, delivers big-city attractions with a small-town feel. South of Brisbane lies the glitzy Gold Coast with its hedonism and high rises. Traveling north along the coast from the capital, you can explore a string of holiday resorts, from sleepy beach towns and rainforest villages to picturesque Port Douglas, and the tropical tourist-magnet of Cairns. Find the best places to visit in this sunny state with our list of top attractions in Queensland.

1. Great Barrier Reef

It’s difficult to overstate the beauty and ecological importance of this World Heritage-listed natural wonder. This is the planet’s largest living structure, and it’s so vast, you can see it from space. Much of the reef lies within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which extends off the northern coast of Queensland, from Mackay to the northeastern corner of Australia. The park itself is about half the size of Texas and protects more than 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays, and a patchwork of mangrove islands.

The reef’s astounding diversity of marine life lures divers and snorkelers from around the world. More than 1,600 species of tropical fish inhabit the reef, as well as sharks, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, giant clams, and kaleidoscopic soft and hard corals. Underwater viewing stations and glass bottom boats also offer a window into this underwater wonderland.

On the mainland, Cairns, Port Douglas, and Airlie Beach are the main launching points for tours. Alternatively, you can stay at one of the resort islands within the marine park. The Whitsunday Islands offer many popular attractions and accommodation options and make a great base to explore the reef. Remote Lizard Island, the park’s most northerly island, is famous for its exclusive resort, and Lady Elliot Island, the reef’s southernmost coral cay, is home to a popular eco-resort.

Accommodation: Where to Stay near the Great Barrier Reef

2. Cairns

In a superb location, between the Great Barrier Reef and the dark hills of the Atherton Tableland, Cairns is one of the most popular tourist towns in Far North Queensland and makes a great base to explore the best of Queensland. It’s a friendly, laid-back town, with palm-fringed streets, large parks, and colorful gardens. Beautiful beaches radiate out along the coast from Trinity Bay and Palm Cove to Port Douglas, and the five-kilometer-long Cairns Esplanade runs along the bay, with a saltwater swimming lagoon and free water-themed playground for young children.

Cairns is an excellent base for day trips. It’s one of the most popular launching points for excursions to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as tropical islands such as Green Island and Fitzroy Island. The Atherton Tableland to the southwest is another popular day trip destination, where you can explore rainforest reserves, waterfalls, and the charming attractions in the mountain village of Kuranda. The Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Skyrail cableway offers spectacular views over the surrounding countryside and the World Heritage-listed rainforests of Barron Gorge National Park.

Other top things to do in Cairns include visiting the Flecker Botanic Gardens, with more than 100 species of palms, and learning about the region’s history at Cairns Museum.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cairns

3. Take a Safari through Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation

A Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Daintree National Park is the planet’s oldest surviving rainforest and harbors one of the world’s highest concentrations of threatened and endangered species. Located in Far North Queensland, the two main sections of the park include the crystal-clear waters and lush forests of Mossman Gorge, as well as Cape Tribulation, where tropical rainforest fringes the reef-splotched shores of the Coral Sea. More than 18,000 plant species, as well as a fascinating array of wildlife, live within the park, including the flightless southern cassowaries (ostrich-sized birds); crocodiles; Boyd’s rainforest dragons; brightly hued azure kingfishers; spotted cuscuses; and musky rat-kangaroos.

The best way to explore this area is on a guided safari. Many companies offer tours on amphibious vehicles and include rain forest hikes and tropical fruit tastings. However, you can also take a self-drive tour. Other popular things to do include ziplining through the rainforest, horseback riding, swimming at Mossman Gorge, looking for cassowaries along the Jindalba Boardwalk, and hiking the many other rain forest trails.

Just south of the park, the resort town of Port Douglas is a popular base for arranging rainforest wilderness safaris. This area is one of the best places to visit in Queensland in winter, during the dry season.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Port Douglas

4. Go Four-Wheel-Driving on Fraser Island

Between Bundaberg and Brisbane, World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Four-wheel drive adventures here explore wide windswept beaches, crystal-clear lakes and streams, dingoes, dense forests, sacred aboriginal sites, and multi-hued rock formations. Seventy-Five Mile Beach is the island’s main thoroughfare and provides access to attractions such as the rusted hull of the Maheno shipwreck, the bubbling rock pools of Champagne Pools, Eli Creek, and the colored sandstone cliffs of The Pinnacles. Tiger sharks, dolphins, and whales swim in the wind-whipped waters, and the island’s fauna includes Australia’s purest strain of dingo and more than 300 species of birds.

Top things to do inland include swimming in the aquamarine Lake McKenzie; exploring the rainforest trails of Central Station; and visiting Lake Wabby, backed by a towering sand dune.

The most popular access point for tours to Fraser Island in Hervey Bay, where car and passenger ferries, as well as organized 4WD Fraser Island Tours, depart daily. Hervey Bay is also one of Australia’s best fishing destinations, and it’s a fantastic place for whale watching cruises during the winter months when humpback whales come here to give birth and nurse their young.

Accommodation: Where to Stay on Fraser Island

5. Whitsunday Islands

Off the coast of central Queensland, the Whitsunday group encompasses 74 stunning islands strung along the Great Barrier Reef. The Whitsundays are continental islands, the summits of a coastal range emerging from the sea. All but five of them have been declared national parks, and about eight are home to popular resorts.

The most famous resorts include luxurious Hayman Island; tiny Daydream Resort & Spa; Palm Bay Resort on beautiful Long Island, with access to 13 kilometers of walking tracks; and well-developed Hamilton, the largest of the island resorts. In 2019, both Daydream Resort and Hayman Island will re-open after massive renovations following Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

On uninhabited Whitsunday Island, Whitehaven Beach, with its powdery white sands and turquoise water, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Airlie Beach and Shute Harbor are the main launching points for island excursions.

6. Editor’s PickPort Douglas

Dotted with palms and mango trees, the once-sleepy village of Port Douglas is now a charming holiday resort and a popular base for wilderness safaris and reef trips. This picturesque town lies about an hour’s drive north of Cairns, along a scenic coastal road, which winds between beaches and rainforest-cloaked hills. It’s the closest mainland town to the Great Barrier Reef.

Skirting the beautiful blond sweep of Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas has a relaxed tropical vibe, with cute cafes, shops, and art galleries. From the Flagstaff Hill Lookout enjoy breathtaking views of the palm-fringed beach merging with the turquoise Coral Sea.

Top tourist attractions include the Wildlife Habitat and the Bally Hooley Sugar Train, an old steam engine chugging through the cane fields to the sugar mill at Mossman. Other adventures on offer include safaris in all-terrain vehicles to Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation, fishing trips, northbound expeditions through the rugged landscape of the Cape York Peninsula, and boat trips to Cooktown and the Great Barrier Reef.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Port Douglas

7. Kuranda

A trip to Kuranda, a charming rainforest village on the Atherton Tableland, is as much about the journey as the destination. From just outside of Cairns, you can take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and fly over World Heritage-listed rainforests and the beautiful Barron River and Gorge. Alternatively, the Kuranda Scenic -Railway chugs through the rainforest past rugged peaks and waterfalls. The journey ends in the little station at Kuranda, about 25 kilometers northwest of Cairns, which is almost hidden by tropical plants and palms.

Kuranda’s main attractions are its artsy shops and colorful market selling souvenirs and local crafts, as well as several nature parks and animal sanctuaries, including the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld, Kuranda Koala Gardens, and Rainforestation Nature Park.

Walks can be arranged on request from Kuranda to the wildly romantic Barron Gorge National Park. At Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park by the Caravonic Lakes, you can learn about Aboriginal culture and enjoy frequent native dance performances. Travelers wishing to take the scenic self-drive route to Kuranda will also enjoy the journey.

8. Noosa Heads and the Sunshine Coast

Stretching from Caloundra to Noosa Heads, the Sunshine Coast is one of the most popular places to visit on vacation in Southeast Queensland. It’s also a popular holiday spot for Aussies, only about two hours north of the glittery Gold Coast but seemingly a world away. The scenery here ranges from peaceful, cliff-fringed bays and quiet coastal rivers to beautiful bushland laced with hiking trails.

Noosa Heads is one of the most popular resort areas, with plenty of attractions for the whole family. Make sure you save time to bask on Main Beach and hike the trails of Noosa National Park, where sleepy koalas slouch in the eucalyptus trees. Surfing is also one of the most popular things to do in Southeast Queensland, and almost all of the Sunshine Coast beach towns have their own excellent surf breaks.

A short drive from Noosa, you can shop at the popular Saturday Eumundi Markets, and south of Noosa lie the smaller beach resorts of Coolum Beach, Peregian Beach, and Sunshine Beach, all with fantastic swimming and surfing. In the hinterland, you can explore Glass House Mountains National Park, a cluster of volcanic plugs rising out of the coastal plain, as well as the charming mountain villages of Montville and Maleny. Maroochydore is the region’s bustling commercial center and the location of the Sunshine Coast airport.

Accommodation: Where to Stay along the Sunshine Coast

9. The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s best-known holiday regions. During the last few decades, a building boom transformed the coast into a kind of tropical Las Vegas, with skyscrapers and shopping malls stretching from Southport in the north to Coolangatta in the south. Packed with attractions and high-rise hotels, Surfers Paradise — “Surfers” for short — is a tourist magnet, legendary for its alliterative assets: sun, surf, and sand. But it’s easy to escape the crowds in the surrounding wilderness areas or on the outlying beaches.

Despite Surfers Paradise’s reputation for hedonism, you’ll find plenty of Queensland attractions for families in the region. South of Surfers Paradise, kids love Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and Movie World, where old film sets have been recreated by Warner Bros. To the north, in Southport, you can see your favorite marine creatures at Sea World. Not surprisingly, swimming, sunbathing, and surfing are popular things to do on Queensland’s Gold Coast, and nature lovers will find plenty of attractions to explore.

Excellent networks of roads lead to scenic lookouts in the hinterland, where many wilderness areas are within easy reach, including popular Lamington National Park. To visit the Gold Coast, you can fly into Coolangatta airport, near the Queensland-New South Wales border.

Accommodation: Where to Stay along the Gold Coast

10. Lamington National Park

Heritage Area and one of the state’s most popular national parks. Located on the Lamington Plateau of the McPherson Range, amid the remnants of an ancient volcano, the park contains spectacular scenery, with steep gorges, more than 500 waterfalls, tropical and subtropical rainforests, and beech forests in the higher elevations.

Nature buffs will be in heaven here. More than 190 species of birds live in the park, including bowerbirds and colorful flocks of parrots. Red-necked pademelons, a small kangaroo-like marsupial, frolic at the rainforest fringes, and the shy platypus swims in the park’s river rock pools. Lamington National Park is also a haven for hikers with more than 150 kilometers of walking trails.

11. Townsville and Magnetic Island

Townsville, the largest tropical town in Australia, is an excellent base for excursions and tours, particularly to beautiful Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef. The town lies on Cleveland Bay at the foot of Castle Hill, a 300-meter-high granite crag. Walking tracks lead to its peak with panoramic views over the town and sea. But perhaps the best place to start exploring the city is the Strand. Strolling along this scenic waterfront promenade, you can take a dip at one of the swimming areas, soak up some of the region’s history at Jezzine Barracks, enjoy a picnic in a park, or dine at a nearby cafe.

Apart from the picturesque waterfront, Townsville owes much of its charm to its many parks and private gardens filled with luxuriant tropical flowers. While you’re here, be sure to take a stroll through the Queen’s Gardens, Townsville’s oldest botanical garden, and Townsville Palmetum, with the world’s largest collection of palms. Families will find plenty of kid-friendly attractions. Pack a picnic and head to Riverway, with its pretty riverfront parkland, walking and biking trails, art exhibits, and free swimming pools, and if you’re interested in the local aquatic life, Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium features an underwater tunnel where you can view the coral reef and marine life up close. Other popular things to do include visiting the Museum of Tropical Queensland and diving the SS Yongala wreck.

12. Brisbane

Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city and the capital of Queensland, offers a more relaxed pace than the larger capitals in the country’s southeast and makes a great base to explore Queensland. The city straddles the Brisbane River and is bounded on the east by the sea and on the west by the Great Dividing Range. Visitors love the city’s sunny climate and its luxuriant parks and gardens. Top things to do in Brisbane include strolling around the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha, with more than 2,000 species of plants, and visiting Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, one of the few places where you can touch and feed koalas.

Family-friendly South Bank Parklands features riverside walking and biking trails, lush gardens, shops, and restaurants. River cruises are also popular. One of Brisbane’s best-known tourist attractions is the Kookaburra Queen, an old paddle steamer, which cruises down the Brisbane River, and the River Life Adventure Centre offers adrenalin-fueled water sports on the river. Other things to see and do include shopping at the Queen Street Mall, climbing the Story Bridge, exploring the exhibits at the kid-friendly Queensland Museum, browsing the Gallery of Modern Art, and enjoying beautiful city views from Mt Coot-tha Lookout.

Brisbane is also a great jumping-off point for a range of rewarding day trips that showcase the best of Queensland, from island getaways to wildlife-rich national parks, the famous Australia Zoo, and family-friendly theme parks.

13. Australia Zoo

Made famous by the late Steve Irwin, the charismatic croc-loving Aussie conservationist, Australia Zoo is one of Queensland’s best loved family attractions. An easy day trip from Brisbane, the zoo has a strong focus on education and conservation. As well as Aussie favorites like kangaroos, koalas, emus, dingoes, and, yes, crocs, you can also see exotic animal species, including Sumatran tigers, rhinos, meerkats, zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, and elephants.

Crocoseum performances are a great way to learn more about some of the fascinating creatures that call the zoo home, including birds of prey, snakes, and the venue’s namesake crocodiles. You can also ride a camel, feed a kangaroo or red panda, and cuddle a koala. The zoo is spread out over 110 acres, so make sure you wear your walking sh

14. Explore the Cape York Peninsula & the Torres Strait Islands

Remote, rugged, and rich in aboriginal history, the “trip to the tip” of the Cape York Peninsula is one of Australia’s epic road-trips. You can reach some of the top Cape York destinations on a day trip from Cairns, including the historic settlement of Cooktown and the wildlife-rich wetlands of Lakefield National Park, but to hit the northernmost tip of Australia, excellent planning and an off-road vehicle are essential. River crossings are part of the adventure, and in the far north, wet season deluges wash out the rudimentary roads, so travel must be tackled during the dry season, from May to October. Along the way, you’ll see jungly rain forests, wild mangrove-fringed beaches, sprawling savannah, croc-filled rivers, ancient rock art, and fascinating aboriginal communities. North of Weipa, it’s usually necessary to camp, and satellite phones are highly recommended.

If you’re not up for the planning and logistics of a self-drive tour of this wild, relatively unspoiled region, you can always take an organized tour or fly directly into one of the 274 Torres Strait Islands north of Cape York’s tip. Thursday Island is the main administrative center and a great place to learn about the culture of the Torres Strait islanders, while Horn Island reveals a fascinating military history. Private Roko Island offers a unique glamping experience, and you can tour a pearl farm here and on Friday Island. Fishing charters off Weipa are another popular way to explore this untamed coast.

Tourist Places in Australian Capital Territory

Crammed with cultural treasures, Canberra, in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory), is the carefully crafted capital of Australia. It’s no accident that the city lies between Sydney and Melbourne. The site of the capital was chosen as a compromise between these two rival cities in 1908. American architects, Walter Burley Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, won an international competition for the city’s design, which incorporates vast greenbelts and geometric shapes.

Lake Burley Griffin, in the city center, is Canberra’s sparkling jewel, and many of the city’s top tourist attractions and things to do lie along its shores, including the National Gallery of Australia, Questacon, and the National Library. The parliament buildings, as well as some of the city’s other main attractions, lie within the Parliamentary Triangle, formed by Kings Avenue, Commonwealth Avenue, and Lake Burley Griffin. Canberra is also known for its fantastic festivals, including the famous Floriade, a celebration of the city’s many spring blooms.

1 Australian War Memorial

Inaugurated in the middle of WWII, the massive Byzantine-style monument commemorating Australia’s war fatalities is Canberra’s most poignant attraction. More than just a war memorial, the site combines an excellent museum, archives, art gallery, and library. The Commemorative Courtyard at the entrance to the memorial is a haunting introduction. Inscribed in bronze on the walls of the colonnades are the names of every Australian who has died in war since 1885, and the length of the list is spine chilling.

Beyond the entrance, different galleries retrace the stories of Australia’s armed conflicts from colonial days to the present. The exhibits are constantly evolving, but highlights include the collection of old aircraft and the child-friendly Discovery Zone packed with interactive displays. If possible, you should set aside several hours to appreciate this thought-provoking memorial, and if you’re visiting near the end of the day, try to stay for the Last Post, a moving tribute to the fallen played at 4:55 pm daily. Visiting the memorial is one of the best free things to do in Canberra, and the 90-minute tours are highly recommended.

2 New Parliament House

The final fulfillment of architect Walter Burley Griffin’s vision for Canberra in 1912, New Parliament House is a marvel of modern architecture. The boomerang-shaped structure nestles comfortably into Capital Hill and was designed to replace the Provisional Parliament House at the base of the hill, now known as Old Parliament House. A New York-based architect won an international competition for the design of the new building, and on May 9, 1988, the Queen officially opened Parliament House. The date in May was chosen to commemorate the first meeting of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne in 1901 and the first meeting of Parliament in the Old Parliament House in 1927.

From the expansive grassed walkway, which forms the roof, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Canberra and see how Parliament forms the central focus of the city’s street layout. Architectural highlights of the building include the two huge circular walls composed of granite, which mirror the curves of the hill; the towering 81-meter flagpole; and the Ceremonial Pool. In the foyer, 48 columns of illuminated greenish-gray marble create the impression of a eucalyptus forest. Throughout the public spaces, exhibits display important documents (the Magna Carta is a highlight) and retrace important events in Australian history. From the gallery running around the first floor, you can gain admission to the public galleries of the green-hued House of Representatives, and the Senate, traditionally dressed in red. A visit during sitting times is a great way to view first-hand how parliament functions and the free guided tours offer fascinating details about the building.

After visiting, you can take the 3.5-kilometer Parliament House Walk to the city center and learn about the Parliamentary Triangle along the way through interpretive signs.

3 Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

A short walk from the New Parliament House at the base of Capitol Hill, Old Parliament House is now home to the Museum of Australian Democracy. Opened by the Duke of York (later King George VI) in 1927, the building is designed in the “stripped classical” style and was occupied by the Australian Parliament until 1988 when New Parliament House was officially opened. It was formerly called Provisional Parliament House and was only standing in until a permanent structure could be designed and built – a feat finally realized 61 years later.

In the museum, you can learn about past Australian Prime Ministers; sit in the old Prime Minister’s Office, a relatively humble affair; visit the Press Room, and read important historical documents. The chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate are modeled on the British House of Commons and House of Lords with paneling and furnishings made of Australian woods and wall hangings displaying Australian flora. Parents will appreciate the child-friendly exhibits. After a visit to the building, you stroll among the National Rose Gardens. Free, guided tours help you get the most out of your time here.

4 Lake Burley Griffin

Beautiful Lake Burley Griffin is the centerpiece of Canberra. Named for the city’s architect, this artificial lake was included in his original plan of 1912 but didn’t come to fruition until 1958. Tourists and locals alike come here to bike and stroll along the waterfront paths; picnic along its park-fringed shores; and fish, sail, or paddle the glistening waters. Six islands lie at its center, the largest of which is Aspen Island, home to the National Carillon, a gift from the British government with 55 bronze bells.

Sprinkled around the lake are some of Canberra’s top things to see and do, including the National Gallery, National Library, Questacon, and National Museum. Standing on the shores of the central basin, you can see the Captain Cook Memorial Jet, a 147-meter-high fountain inaugurated in 1970 on the 200th anniversary of Cook’s discovery of Australia. A globe sculpture depicting the path of Cook’s voyages lies on the shores of the lake at Regatta Point. On the north side of the lake, Commonwealth Park contains play areas, paddling pools, waterfalls, an amphitheater, and a path around the park. In spring, the park is the venue for the famous Floriade festival, a celebration of spring when more than a million flowers are in bloom.

5 National Gallery of Australia

On the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, the National Gallery of Australia contains Australia’s largest collection of art. The cubic concrete structure was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 1982 and consists of 11 main galleries on three levels as well as a large sculpture garden laid out according to the four seasons. The purchase of the extensive collection began in 1968 and includes works from Australia, Asia, Europe, America, and the Pacific, as well as the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the world. Mediums range from oil paintings and watercolors to sculpture, decorative art, drawings, book illustrations, sketchbooks, photographs, films, ceramics, costumes, and textiles. Locals and tourists alike will also enjoy many special exhibitions. After exploring the gallery, you explore the adjoining High Court of Australia, with its fountains, Carrara marble-paved floors, and murals.

6 Question: The National Science and Technology Centre

Between the High Court and the National Library on Lake Burley Griffin, Questacon is an interactive National Science and Technology Centre opened in 1988. Parents and children alike will enjoy the interactive science displays and do-it-yourself experiments designed to delight and inspire. The exhibits seek to promote understanding of the importance of science and technology in everyday life. Science shows, special events, and guest lectures complement the 200 hands-on exhibits. In the Technology Learning Centre, budding innovators can participate in workshops and build and play with technology. Highlights of the permanent exhibits include the H2O-Soak up the Science room with water-related fun, the Free Fall slide, and Earthquake House.

7 National Portrait Gallery of Australia

Near the High Court of Australia and the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia displays some 400 portraits of the nation’s most influential people. You can easily spend an hour or two coming face to face with Australia’s movers and shakers, brought to life through paintings, photography, and sculpture. Multimedia presentations divulge fascinating details about the lives of the people who helped shape the nation, and special exhibitions provide new things to see. Visiting the gallery is a breeze: parking is free, and the café and bookshop are a great way to top off a tour.

8 National Library of Australia

Opened in 1968, the National Library of Australia is a treasure trove of Australian books, manuscripts, newspapers, historic documents, oral history, music, and pictures. Its most valuable possessions are Captain Cook’s journal (1768-71) and Wills’ diary of his expedition with Burke in 1860-61. Architecturally, the building is a dramatic contrast from the National Gallery and High Court. Built-in the style of a Greek temple, its classical effect is underscored by the lavish use of marble and travertine on the columns and walls, and marble from Greece, Italy, and Australia used in the decoration of the interior.

In the foyer are superb stained glass windows by Leonard French and three Aubusson tapestries woven from Australian wool. The lower floor displays treasures from the library’s collection, and the Exhibitions Gallery hosts special visiting displays, which often require advance booking.

9 Mount Ainslie Lookout

To really appreciate the layout of this carefully planned capital, head to the lookout of 843-meter Mount Ainslie, one of the city’s most popular vantage points. A well-paved walking/biking trail winds for just over two kilometers from the rear of the Australian War Memorial. Along the way, you can pause at the commemorative plaques to learn about historic Australian battles. It’s also possible to drive up to the lookout. Thanks to Walter Burley Griffin’s vision, the lookout aligns perfectly with Anzac Parade, Lake Burley Griffin, Old Parliament House, and, in the background, the sleek lines of New Parliament House. On breezy days, be sure to bring a jacket. Other popular lookout points include Red Hill, to the south of here, and Black Hill, to the west.

10 Australian National Botanic Gardens

About a kilometer west of the city center, the 50-hectare National Botanic Gardens are spread across the slopes of Black Mountain. In the carefully tended collections, you can admire representatives of all the important species of Australian flora. The Rain Forest Gully is particularly impressive. Look for water dragons among the lush foliage.

Other highlights include the Red Centre garden, with its red earth and spinifex grassland, as well as the Children’s Discovery Walk. The gardens are also a haven for birds and butterflies. From the gardens, you can access Black Mountain Nature Park and hike to the summit for glorious city views.

Garden lovers will also enjoy a visit to the National Arboretum Canberra, about a six-minute drive away. This 250-hectare nature area encompasses forests of rare native and exotic trees, the National Bonsai and Penjing collection, a Gallery of Gardens, picnic areas with panoramic viewpoints, and a fantastic children’s playground.

11 National Zoo and Aquarium

Australia’s only combined zoo and aquarium, this privately owned venture is a hit with families and anyone who loves animals. The National Aquarium displays a wide range of marine life, from the tiny denizens of the reefs to huge sharks. In the neighboring zoo, visitors can view all the important species of Australian fauna as well as exotic species as such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, bears, and more. The animal encounters are extremely popular and allow visitors to go behind the scenes and interact with cheetah, giraffes, sun bears, and red pandas, among other creatures. It’s located five minutes from the city center.

12 National Museum of Australia

On a peninsular jutting into Lake Burley Griffin, the National Museum of Australia spotlights the nation’s social history in a contemporary space with beautiful lake views. The building itself is a work of art. Inspired by a jigsaw, it was intended to underscore the interconnected stories that helped shape the nation. A major theme of the exhibits is the cultural history of the Aborigines. Other highlights include exhibits on the Gold Rush, Australian industry, clothing, and migration. Children will also find a few interactive displays to keep them busy.

13 National Carillon

On Aspen Island in Lake Burley Griffin, the white Carillon Tower was a gift from the British government on Canberra’s 50th birthday in 1963. The 50-meter-high tower incorporates three sleek columns clad in opal chip and quartz. Within the towers are 55 bronze bells ranging from seven kilograms to six metric tons. You can bring a picnic and relax on the surrounding lawns. Better still, visit during a recital (Wednesdays and Sundays from 12:30 to 1:20 pm), when the music of the bells wafts across the lake. The tower looks especially beautiful when it’s lit at night.

14 Black Mountain Nature Park

Black Mountain Nature Park, to the west of the city center, is a great wilderness experience to combine with a visit to the adjacent Australian National Botanic Gardens. Walking trails wind through the bushland, where you can see many species of native birds and other wildlife. Black Mountain Tower (formerly the Telstra Tower) provides panoramic views of the city. For a fee, you can zoom to the top and sip coffee at the revolving restaurant while gazing out over the city. At the foot of Black Mountain, the Australian Institute of Sport is the training center for Australia’s top sportsmen and women, with a swimming stadium and tennis center.

15 Royal Australian Mint

The Royal Australian Mint is a great place to spend an hour or so and learn about the heritage of Australia’s currency. All Australian coins are minted here. You can watch the manufacture of coins from a gallery, learn about the history of Australian coins through a video presentation and displays, and mint your own $1 coins. In the foyer of the Mint is a small museum with a souvenir shop. Take advantage of the free tour.

Tourist Places in Northern Territory

A land of stark beauty, sacred aboriginal sites-and space, the Northern Territory has always stood apart from the rest of Australia. Vast deserts, wetlands, monsoonal rains, red-rock gorges, and raging rivers spark the spirit of adventure in those who visit, and these same natural features enabled the local aboriginal people to preserve their traditional way of life. Today, travelers flock here from around the world to see these spectacular sites and learn about the fascinating culture of the tribes who have thrived on this rugged land for thousands of years.

The Red Centre, in the south of the territory, is a land of parched deserts and striking rock formations. Uluru, the iconic red monolith, is one of the region’s most famous attractions. Northwest from here lies the legendary Outback town of Alice Springs, a popular base for wilderness safaris.

The tropical Top End, or northern part of the state, encompasses the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, famed for its Crocodile Dundee scenes; beautiful Litchfield National Park; Katherine Gorge; and the aboriginal settlements of Arnhem Land. Also in the Top End, is multicultural Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory.

Find the best places to visit in this rugged Outback region with our list of the top tourist attractions in the Northern Territory.

1. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

In the Red Centre, World Heritage-listed Uluru National Park is one of Australia’s most famous tourist attractions. The park’s main features include Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), the 348-meter-high red monolith rising from the desert, and the dome-shaped rocks called Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), which lie 40 kilometers away from Uluru. Oxidation or rusting of iron in the rock gives the structures their beautiful red coloring.

Both sites hold deep spiritual significance to the traditional owners, the Anangu people, who manage the park jointly with Parks Australia. Around dusk, visitors gather at sunset viewing areas to photograph these impressive structures, when the play of color is at its finest. To really appreciate these sacred sites join a tour led by an aboriginal guide.

2. Kakadu National Park

World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, in the Top End, is Australia’s largest national park and one of the world’s most spectacular wilderness areas. On the north coast lies the tidal zone, with river estuaries, mangrove swamps, and tall monsoon rain forests. Inland are the flood plains through which rivers pursue a winding course to the sea. The escarpment of the Arnhem Land plateau runs diagonally through the park from southwest to northeast. After heavy rain, water pours over its bare rocks and down the escarpment in magnificent waterfalls-Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are two of the most famous.

Further inland lies the gently undulating upland country crossed by the main access roads and excellent hiking trails. The amazing variety of wildlife includes more than 70 different species of reptiles, the largest and most dangerous of which is the saltwater crocodile, as well as a vast array of fish, mammals, and birds. In addition to all these natural attractions, the park is home to many sacred aboriginal sites and rock paintings.

You can explore the park by car, on foot, and on cruises through the waterways, but note that seasonal flooding may close some sections of the park, especially during the wet season. For comprehensive information on the natural history and culture of this unique area stop by the National Park’s Visitors Centre in Jabiru.

3. Darwin

Lying on the Indian Ocean within easy reach of Southeast Asia, multicultural Darwin is the youngest of the Australian state capitals and the Northern Territory’s only seaport. On Christmas Day 1974, Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin with wind speeds of up to 280 kilometers per hour, almost destroying the entire town. Not surprisingly, rebuilding efforts enforced strict cyclone safety regulations.

Every year about half a million visitors pour into this tropical Top End town-especially during the dry season. Shoppers love the famous sunset Mindil Beach Markets with souvenirs, art, and Asian-style snacks. Other highlights include the Darwin Botanic Gardens, the open-air Deckchair Cinema, the shops and restaurants of the Darwin Wharf Precinct, and the city’s museums. Don’t miss the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory with a giant stuffed crocodile and exhibits on Cyclone Tracy.

Darwin is also a great base for outback adventures into Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, and Katherine Gorge, and the town is a launching point for tours to the Tiwi Islands and the Cobourg Peninsula, though access is restricted.

4. Nitmiluk National Park

Formerly known as Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk National Park is one of the most famous Top End tourist attractions. The main must-see site is the series of gorges, up to 100 meters deep, carved by the Katherine River through the soft sandstone of the southern Arnhem Land plateau. During the dry months, the river carries little water, leaving a series of pools separated by rocks and boulders. During the wet season, the river is at its most impressive as it surges tumultuously through the narrow gorges.

In contrast to the arid Arnhem Land plateau, the perennial flow of the Katherine River nourishes luxuriant vegetation and diverse wildlife, including freshwater crocodiles and more than 160 species of birds.

Boat trips through the gorges are one of the most popular things to do, but you can also explore the park on foot, with trails ranging from a two-hour hike to the viewpoint above the first gorge to a five-day hike to Edith Falls in the park’s northwest. Kayak rentals and helicopter flights are other popular ways to experience the park.

5. Litchfield National Park

About a 90-minute drive from Darwin, beautiful Litchfield National Park is a popular day trip from the capital and a great way to experience the Top End wilderness without traveling all the way to Kakadu. The main attractions are the waterfalls and springs on the escarpment of the Table Top Range. Park scenery varies from patches of tropical monsoon forest around the waterfalls and ponds to open woodland and giant termite mounds.

The Lost City is a formation of large sandstone columns near the Tolmer Falls in the park’s west. This large protected area offers ample scope for bushwalking. You can also enjoy a dip in the park’s plunge pools and swimming holes; explore the ruins of the Blythe Homestead; and visit Wangi Falls, one of the most popular swimming and picnicking spots. Sealed roads lead to most of the major attractions, but four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended to access some of the park’s more remote features.

6. Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park)

Part of Watarrka National Park and located about midway between Alice Springs and Uluru, Kings Canyon has the deepest gorge in the Red Centre. Rising to heights of 100 meters, its sandstone walls sometimes look as if they were cut with a knife. On the bottom of the canyon are perennial waterholes, while the upper part of the gorge, with lush ferns and palm forests, is called the Garden of Eden. To the Luritja Aboriginal people, this area was sacred, and their dwellings and places of assembly are decorated with rock paintings.

On the plateau above the canyon lies the Lost City, an area of red sandstone rocks weathered into the semblance of ruined houses and streets. The area is rich in flora and fauna. More than 600 species of native plants and animals live in the region.

To explore the gorge, you can hike the steep six-kilometer Kings Canyon Rim Walk, which takes around three to four hours or take a shorter hike through the bottom of the gorge to a viewing platform. Scenic flights and camel safaris are also available.

7. Finke Gorge National Park

Finke Gorge National Park is known for its prehistoric red cabbage palms, which grow in the valley of Palm Creek, a tributary of the Finke River. Extinct elsewhere, the palms are relics of a much wetter period. The imposing rock formations in the park are also of ritual significance to the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people.

Because of its inaccessibility, Finke Gorge National Park drew few visitors until a camping ground was established on Palm Creek, near Palm Valley. For visitors without an all-terrain vehicle, organized tours depart from Alice Springs.

8. Alice Springs

An oasis in the red-earthed desert, Alice Springs, affectionately called “the Alice” by Aussies, is one of Australia’s most famous outback towns. It’s also an important base camp for tours to Red Centre sightseeing attractions including Uluru, Kata Tjuta, the MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon, and the boundless expanses of the outback.

Neville Shute’s novel, A Town like Alice, and its film version nudged this unassuming town into the international spotlight. Once a dusty outback settlement, today Alice Springs is packed with restaurants, luxury hotels, caravan parks, entertainment venues, shops, and galleries brimming with aboriginal art. At the Araluen Cultural Precinct, you can learn about the region’s history and aboriginal culture in the complex of museums and galleries.

Other top attractions include the Alice Springs Desert Park and Alice Springs Reptile Park, as well as the annual camel races at the end of April and the beginning of May. The greatest event of the year, however, is the Henley on Todd Regatta at the beginning of October, when locals trundle boats along the dry riverbed and top off the day with a festival.

Adventures abound in the surrounding countryside. Travelers can hike the Larapinta Trail, one of Australia’s most challenging walks, and drive the Red Centre Way from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon. Desert safaris on quad bikes, hot air balloon rides, and camel rides are other popular things to do.

9. Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles Conservation Reserve)

These huge granite boulders, worn down and split by weathering, are striking landmarks in a flat sandy plain. In Aboriginal mythology, these massive rocks, lying tumbled on the ground or piled on top of one another, are the eggs of the rainbow serpent and are called Karlu Karlu. Their shade and the dew that settles around them provide habitat for low-growing plants and many birds. Karlu Karlu is a favorite subject for photographers; they are seen at their best just before sunset.

10. Simpsons Gap, West MacDonnell National Park

A visit to Simpsons Gap, near Alice Springs, is a great way to experience the rugged topography of the Western MacDonnell Ranges. Deep gorges carved by prehistoric watercourses form a striking contrast to the wide desert-like plains and dunes. Areas of white sand, huge river eucalyptus trees, and white-barked ghost gums lead to a permanent waterhole in the shelter of rugged cliffs, which are particularly impressive in the slanting sun of late afternoon.

To the Aranda tribes who live here, the gorge is the home of their giant goanna ancestors. Walking trails lead to quiet spots where rock wallabies appear in the early morning and late afternoon, and Cassia Hill offers excellent views of the Larapinta valley. A 24-kilometer hike from Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Simpsons Gap marks the first section of the famous Larapinta Trail, one of Australia’s most famous outback walks.

11. Tiwi Islands

Aptly called the “Islands of Smiles,” the Tiwi islands, about 80 kilometers north of Darwin, are among the top Northern Territory cultural attractions. If you look at a Northern Territory map, these unsung tropical islands sit just north of Darwin and offer a fascinating dose of indigenous culture, as well as white-sand beaches, dense jungles, and fantastic fishing. Bathurst and Melville Islands are the only two inhabited islands and are the top destinations for visitors, but the group also encompasses nine small uninhabited islands.

A popular way to visit the Tiwi Islands is on an organized day tour, which starts with a 2.5-hour ferry ride from Darwin. Famous for their vibrant art, the warm and friendly Tiwi people welcome visitors with a traditional song and dance ceremony and demonstrate artistic techniques like painting, screen printing, and carving in the islands’ galleries. Australian Rules Football is also a favorite pastime, and many footie fans visit during March to attend the annual grand final and local celebrations.

Besides aboriginal cultural and art tours, another way to experience the islands is on a fishing trip based out of either Melville Island Lodge, Johnson River Camp, or Clearwater Island Lodge. Barramundi, giant trevally, golden snapper, and jewfish are some of the species found in the rivers and coral reefs. If you prefer to skip the ferry, flights to the islands take about 25 minutes, but you need to organize a permit well in advance for overnight stays.

Tourist Places in Western Australia

Western Australia is a land of superlatives and extremes. Occupying a third of the continent’s total area, it’s the largest of the Australian states with less than 10 percent of the country’s total population. The state’s capital, Perth, exudes a vibrant, sophisticated feel, with glitzy shops, galleries, and gourmet restaurants, but the beating hot heart of the vast desert and a wild and rugged coastline beckon just beyond. Endless stretches of white-sand beach, rugged red gorges, sweeping fields of wildflowers, and bizarre rock formations are just some of the stunning natural attractions, and the state is also famous for its distinctive flora and fauna.

Wilderness adventures are a top draw. You can four-wheel-drive along the Kimberley’s Gibb River Road, surf big-wave breaks at the Margaret River, bask on the beach with a kangaroo, hand-feed wild dolphins, and swim with whale sharks at the planet’s largest fringing coral reef. Plan your trip with our list of the top tourist attractions in Western Australia.

1. Perth

Perhaps no Australian capital has changed as much in recent decades as Perth. Thanks to a mining boom, it’s now the fourth largest city in Australia, flaunting its wealth with shiny skyscrapers, hip boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and buzzing entertainment venues. Bounded on the west by the Indian Ocean and set on the banks of the winding Swan River, Perth is a hot spot for water sports. Surfing, swimming, and sailing are part of everyday life, and enjoying the city’s beautiful beaches is among the top fun things to do in Perth.

Other Perth attractions include Kings Park and Botanic Garden, where you can admire more than 1,200 species of native plants and a spectacular display of wildflowers in the spring. The poignant Kings’ Park War Memorial here is worth a stop as well. Among the city’s most popular museums are the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Scitech, and gamers can play their favorite 80s video games at The Nostalgia Box museum, one of the more unusual things to do in Perth. The city also makes a great base for rewarding day trip adventures, including picturesque Rottnest Island and the port city of Fremantle.

2. The Margaret River

Home to galleries and gourmet restaurants, Margaret River is a much-loved holiday resort and a popular spot for surfers. This pretty town lies in the state’s southwest, about a 3.5-hour drive south of Perth, making it a favorite weekend escape from the city. Surfers flock here for the consistent big-wave breaks, as well as more than 40 surf spots, sprinkled along the coast.

Tourists love the region’s beautiful scenery, with tall timber forests and sparkling white-sand beaches. The area is also noted for its impressive limestone caves, such as Lake Cave, Jewel Cave, and Mammoth Cave, with glittering stalactites and prehistoric fossils. Other popular things to do include rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, and whale watching tours.

3. Broome

The thriving tourist town of Broome is one of the most popular Western Australian destinations and a gateway to the magnificent Kimberley region. One of the town’s main attractions is Cable Beach. Backed by striking red cliffs, this impressive shoreline stretches for 22 kilometers, with sweeping white sands and turquoise waters. Sunset camel rides are a popular way to soak up the scenery.

Broome is also Australia’s pearling capital, and you can learn about this fascinating history at The Broome Historical Museum. Other things to see and do include the Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Wildlife Park; watching a movie at Sun Pictures, a quirky outdoor movie theater; and touring local pearl farms. Broome is also famous for a natural phenomenon called the Staircase to the Moon. When the full moon rises over the bay, locals and tourists gather to admire the rays of light gleaming on the water, creating an optical illusion of steps leading to the moon.

Broome is also a popular base for Kimberley adventures, such as the Horizontal Waterfall, Cape Leveque, the Gibb River Road, Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, and Mitchell Falls.

4. Ningaloo Reef Marine Park

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest fringing reef. The Ningaloo Reef Marine Park extends for about 260 kilometers and harbors an astounding diversity of marine life, but unlike the Great Barrier Reef, it’s easily accessible from shore. Marine life includes manta rays, dugongs, whale sharks, humpback whales, turtles, and more than 500 species of fish and 300 species of coral.

One of the top beaches for snorkeling is beautiful Turquoise Bay, a sublime stretch of blinding white sand and crystal-clear water laced with coral. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can swim with whale sharks, an experience which graces the bucket lists of countless animal lovers.

The town of Exmouth is the main gateway to Ningaloo Reef and a popular launching point for reef trips. It’s also one of the top fishing destinations in Australia. Coral Bay is also a great base, with long, white-sand beaches and ideal conditions for swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and boating. Off the coast are ample opportunities for scuba divers, with numerous wrecks around Point Coates. Ningaloo Reef Marine Park also includes the coastal area of spectacular Cape Range National Park, where you can explore rugged limestone cliffs, dunes, and canyons.

5. Cruise on a Jet Boat through the Horizontal Falls

Viewing the Horizontal Falls from a jet boat is one of the most popular things to do up north in the rugged Kimberley region. Powerful tides of up to 11 meters squeeze through two narrow gorges to form this curious natural phenomenon, which is also one of the top outdoor adventures in Australia. The only way to experience this remote attraction is on an organized tour by seaplane and/or jet boat. Tours usually depart from Broome or Derby and include a scenic flight over the jaw-droppingly beautiful Buccaneer peninsula, a wild stretch of red, cliff-fringed coast washed by turquoise water and dotted with hundreds of tiny uninhabited islands. Tours usually involve water landing on Talbot Bay; a lunch of fresh-caught seafood; an exhilarating jet boat ride through the falls; and, for the more adventurous, an optional shark swim. Others also include a stop in nearby Cape Leveque, an achingly gorgeous area of wild beaches, blue sea, and vermilion-hued cliffs.

6. Relax on Rottnest Island

A ferry ride from Perth or Fremantle, Rottnest Island is a car-free nature reserve and a popular spot for a city escape. The Dutch navigator Willem de Vlamingh landed on the island in 1696 and pronounced it an earthly paradise. Mistaking the small marsupials, called quokkas, for rats, he named the island Rottnest (‘rats’ nest’). Today, the adorable quokkas still inhabit the island and are only found in Western Australia. Sparkling bays, white-sand beaches, and coral reefs fringe the island’s shores, providing excellent opportunities for snorkeling and swimming.

Top attractions on the island include the Rottnest Museum, housed in an 1857-era barn and threshing mill, with collections of historical material and relics of shipwrecks; the Parker Point Marine Trail; and Vlamingh Lookout. Most of the little limestone houses around the harbor were built by convict labor and are among the oldest buildings in Western Australia. Other things to do include hiking the trails, tennis, golf, cycling, and boating.

7. Explore Esperance Bay and Cape Le Grand National Park

Ravishing beaches, turquoise lagoons, wildflowers, wildlife, and easy accessibility to spectacular national parks make Esperance Bay a haven for nature lovers. One of the region’s top attractions is Lucky Bay in spectacular Cape le Grand National Park. Set against the islands of the Recherche Archipelago, this dazzling stretch of sand is one of Australia’s best beaches, and lounging along its sublime shores with wild kangaroos is one of the top free things to do in Western Australia. Other popular activities along this unspoiled coast include snorkeling, surfing, fishing, and beach safaris.

Hikers and bikers love the Great Ocean Drive, which runs from Esperance to beautiful Twilight Beach. Strangely, the region even offers its own mini replica of Stonehenge. Also in the area, Cape Arid, Fitzgerald River, and Stokes National Parks are popular excursions, famed for their stunning coastal scenery, diverse flora and fauna, and fantastic hiking trails.

8. Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, The Kimberley

One of Western Australia’s hidden gems, the remote and spectacular rock formations of Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park in the Kimberley remained unknown to the outside world until 1983. Today, the park graces both the National and UNESCO World Heritage lists. Despite its relatively recent discovery, the Bungle Bungle hills and surrounding area were home to Aboriginal tribes for thousands of years and hold remains of their culture, including ceremonial sites, rock paintings, and a burial ground. Violent summer monsoon rains carved the park’s deep gorges and chasms, and the bee-hived shaped rock domes of the Bungle Bungle are made of soft sandstone.

You can explore the main sites on walking trails of varying difficulty. Cathedral Gorge, Piccaninny Gorge, and Echidna Chasm are some of the most popular sites. But perhaps the best way to appreciate the massive scope of these magnificent structures in on a sightseeing flight. Departing from Halls Creek and Kununurra, the flights usually include a visit to the Argyle diamond mine. Longer tours in all-terrain vehicles are also available.

9. Karijini National Park

Karijini National Park is one of the largest and most rewarding national parks in Western Australia. Over many millions of years, erosion created steep gorges, up to 100 meters deep, with waterfalls and rock pools bordered by lush foliage. A track running through the Vampire Gorge leads to most of the scenic highlights of the park. The Fortescue Falls, fed by a groundwater river, do not dry up even in the heat of summer. You can explore the Kalamina Gorge and its deep waterholes on foot, while it’s possible to drive through the Wittenoom Gorge for about 30 kilometers, with shady picnic spots beside natural swimming pools.

The park is home to the second-highest peak in Western Australia, Mount Bruce, but the best views are from Oxer Lookout, perched over four red-walled gorges. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended.

10. Feed the dolphins at Monkey Mia

Shark Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, shelters some of the world’s largest and richest seagrass beds. But the most famous tourist attractions in Shark Bay are the dolphins of Monkey Mia, about 25 kilometers from Denham. Every morning, rangers select a few visitors to hand-feed these friendly dolphins in their natural habitat. The dolphins became accustomed to human beings in the 1960s when fishermen began throwing the remains of their catch into the sea.

Apart from dolphin watching, you can also enjoy swimming in the beautiful bays, fishing, kayaking, four-wheel-drive adventures, Aboriginal cultural tours, and camel rides here. Shark Bay is also known for its population of dugongs and stromatolites, mats of algae, which are among the oldest life forms on earth.

11. The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park

In Nambung National Park, about a two-hour drive from Perth, the Pinnacles are thousands of limestone pillars rising from a lunar-like landscape of yellow sand. These bizarre rock formations range in height from between a few centimeters to four meters. Controversy persists over their origin, but it seems that a process of chemical change caused by wind and water erosion led to the softer sandstones being washed away, leaving the harder limestone exposed. You can explore these strange-looking rock spires via a scenic drive or walking trail. The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre displays exhibits on the park.

12. Drive the Gibb River Road in The Kimberley

Slicing through the heart of the Kimberley, Gibb River Road is legendary among outback adventures. “The Gibb,” as it’s called, is an old cattle-droving route running northeast for 600 kilometers from Derby to just short of Wyndham. Recommended for 4WD vehicles, the road threads past rugged red-rock gorges, outback cattle stations, aboriginal communities, croc-filled rivers, savannah, and magnificent mountain ranges. Travelers along this route can camp or stay at one of the remote stations in the region. El Questro is one of the most famous. During the rainy season, from November through March, the road is usually closed due to flooding.

13. Wave Rock

The famous Wave Rock is an extraordinary rock formation of banded granite, 15 meters high, in the form of a wave about to break. Rainwater reacting with different chemical substances in the rock has created a series of vertical stripes in shades of gray, red, and ochre. In the spring, look for wildflowers growing around its base. From Wave Rock, you can also walk the one-kilometer loop to see Hippo’s Yawn, another distinctive rock feature shaped just like a gaping hippo’s mouth. Other curious granite outcrops lie in the surrounding area, including the Humps, the King Rocks, and the Gnamma Hole, and you can explore them on an 80-kilometer driving circuit from Hyden. Bates Cave, to the north of Hyden, has Aboriginal rock paintings and handprints.

14. Cape to Cape Track

Stretching for 135 kilometers from Cape Naturaliste south to Cape Leeuwin through the Margaret River, the Cape to Cape Track is one of the top hikes in Australia. Stunning beaches, secluded bays, steep sea cliffs, deep caves, rugged headlands, and fields of wildflowers are some of the highlights, and you’ll see plenty of wildlife along the way. In areas, the track loops inland, weaving through woodland and dense forests.

Walking through these diverse ecosystems is a rewarding way to explore some of the top natural attractions in southwest Western Australia. Highlights include the beautiful Boranup karri forest, Quininup Falls, and the Wilyabrup sea cliffs. You can also break up the hike into smaller sections depending on your interests, skill level, and time constraints. Tackling the entire walk typically takes between five and seven days. Guided tours are also available, with camping along the way or, if you don’t want to rough it, you can stay in nearby hotels and lodges and rest your weary limbs in a plush bed.

Tourist Places in Victoria

At the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is sheltered by mountains and influenced by the warm North Pacific current – creating the mildest climate in the whole of Canada. Parks and gardens in this pretty city are festooned with foliage and flowers throughout the year. Only the narrow Juan de Fuca Strait separates this (the largest island on North America’s Pacific coast) from the USA’s Olympic Peninsula with its often snow-covered peaks.

The capital of British Columbia, Victoria is quiet, skyscraper-free and largely administrative and residential. To these charms is added a downtown area set around the beautiful Inner Harbour, which retains its Victorian heritage buildings and atmosphere. In the Empress Hotel, people still gather for afternoon tea throughout the day.

1 Royal British Columbia Museum

British Columbia’s provincial museum is situated midway between the Parliament Buildings and the Fairmont Empress Hotel. It is by far the best museum of natural and cultural history in Canada, with many three-dimensional displays offering a feast of sights, smells, and sounds. Walkthrough a rainforest, view animals on West Coast beaches and in tidal wetlands, sit among aboriginal ceremonial poles and masks, walk through a big house, and learn of First Nations people’s struggles after European settlement. Other interactive features include a replica HMS Discovery – the ship that brought Captain Vancouver to these shores, and a street of shops in Old Town.

Outside, Thunderbird Park is home to the traditionally carved memorial and house poles. Nearby, the small mid-19th century, Helmcken House is the oldest residence in British Columbia still standing on its original site. The house once belonged to J.S. Helmcken, a practicing doctor and local politician. He campaigned vigorously for the then British colony of Victoria and British Columbia to join the newly established confederation of Canada.

2 Fairmont Empress Hotel

Built-in 1908 for Canadian Pacific, like the Château Frontenac in Québec City, the Fairmont Empress Hotel on the Inner Harbour is one of Victoria’s best-loved landmarks. Architect Francis M. Rattenbury designed the Empress, and entering the vast lobby of this luxurious hotel is like journeying back in time to before the First World War. Afternoon tea, served with great style, is an experience for any visitor. An extension on the north side of the Empress Hotel houses a collection of several dozen scenes in miniature at Miniature World. The models of historical events, castles, and dollhouses captivate young and old alike.

3 Butchart Gardens

For a visit to one of the area’s premier tourist attractions, follow Highway 17A north for 22 kilometers to the magical Butchart Gardens at Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula. Here, in 1904, Jennie Butchart, wife of a wealthy quarry owner, started to layout a fragrant garden in abandoned limestone workings. Flourishing, not least because of the mild climate, the gardens have since been developed into a 20-hectare horticultural tour de force without rival in Canada.

The Italian garden, rose garden, Japanese garden, and sunken garden are among the loveliest. Open spaces among the pools, fountains, and the many exotic plants are used for artistic and musical performances.

4 Parliament Buildings

Dominating the south side of the Inner Harbour is the imposing seat of British Columbia’s provincial government, the Parliament Buildings. Designed by Yorkshire architect Francis M. Rattenbury and erected in 1897, the imposing stone buildings have neat, orderly gardens and are very attractive in appearance – especially in the evening when lit by festoons of lights.

Perched high above the massive dome is a gilded statue of Captain George Vancouver (1757-98), who accomplished the first circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. Figures of famous personalities from the province embellish the façade. A large statue of Queen Victoria surveys the Inner Harbour from the terrace. Tours of the town center by horse-drawn carriage leave from nearby.

5 Chinatown

Adjoining the Old Town is Victoria’s small, but nevertheless charming, Chinatown. Entered through a conspicuous gate, it occupies just two blocks close to Government Street and Fisgard Street. A century ago, 8000 people lived in the Chinese quarter. In 1971, it became a designated historic district. One of the favorite sightseeing stops is the exceedingly narrow Fan Tan Alley.

6 Beacon Hill Park

Green and well-tended, Beacon Hill Park is a favorite recreation area close to the town center. From its highest point, there are lovely views across Juan de Fuca Strait to the snowy peaks of the Olympic Peninsula. A milestone on the southwest edge of the park marks the western end of the Trans-Canada Highway.

7 Craigdarroch Castle

Victoria’s fairy-tale mansion, Craigdarroch Castle, is considered a gem of Victorian architecture. Immigrant Scottish entrepreneur Robert Dunsmuir commissioned the home for his wife in the 1880s. Dunsmuir made his fortune in coal mining but died before his mansion was completed.

The house is situated in a particularly affluent area of Victoria. Elegant Rockland centers on Rockland Avenue, which is lined with grand heritage homes including Government House – the official residence of Her Majesty’s representative in British Columbia. The house itself is closed to the public but the beautifully kept gardens are a delight.

8 Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site

The gun batteries at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, about 13 kilometers west of Victoria, used to guard the sheltered waters of Esquimalt Harbour, once a British naval base. The guns were in service from 1895 to 1956. Today, the well-preserved fortress can be visited. Nearby, the point’s Fisgard Lighthouse was the first on the west coast of Canada and is a definitive local landmark.

9 Maritime Museum Of British Columbia

The former Court House (1869) in Bastion Square is now the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, displaying a host of items from the age of sail. A centerpiece to the museum is the “Tilikum”, a large Indian canoe in which, at the beginning of the century, some fearless souls voyaged to England. Also commemorated – appropriately enough in the old Court House – is the legendary Richard Matthew Begbie, whose administration of justice at the end of the 19th century led to his being christened “the Hanging Judge.”

Surrounding Bastion Square are the principal thoroughfares of Victoria’s Old Town – Wharf Street, Government Street, and Douglas Street running north-south, and Johnson Street, Yates Street, and Fort Street crossing them. A lovely area to stroll, Old Town boasts some historic buildings and old-fashioned shops such as Roger’s Chocolate and the tobacconist E.A. Morris.

10 Hatley Park National Historic Site

Hatley Park National Historic Site consists of a castle built in 1908 by former British Columbia Premier and coal baron, James Dunsmuir, and an Edwardian estate with Japanese, Italian, and rose gardens. Visitors can choose to walk through the gardens or take a guided tour of the castle – now the base of Royal Roads University.

11 Victoria Butterfly Gardens

Located near Butchart Gardens, the Victoria Butterfly Gardens are indoor tropical gardens designed to house up to 75 species of exotic butterflies and moths, plus some birds, fish, and reptiles. An interesting indoor landscape incorporates waterfalls, trees, and flowers.

12 Victoria Bug Zoo

Enter a world of insects and spiders at the Victoria Bug Zoo. The facility has a range of bugs from all over the world, many of which visitors can hold. The critter-focused attraction is located near Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

Tourist Places in Coral Sea Islands

Australia’s top tourism treasure, the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system on the planet. The reef stretches for more than 2,300 kilometers, from the northern tip of Queensland south to the coastal town of Bundaberg, and comprises one of the world’s richest ecosystems. So vast is this complex of reefs, islands, coral cays, seagrass beds, and mangroves, it is the only living structure visible from space.

Experiencing the Great Barrier Reef is a top Australian outdoor adventure. Some of the most popular things to do include SCUBA diving and snorkeling along the shimmering coral reefs, sailing around idyllic tropical islands, fishing in designated zones, peering at the abundant marine life from a glass-bottomed boat, and soaring over this magnificent natural wonder on a scenic flight.

Thanks to its vast size, you can access the Great Barrier Reef from various points along the Queensland coast. One of the most popular launching points for reef adventures is the thriving tourist town of Cairns in Far North Queensland. About an hour’s drive north of Cairns, picturesque Port Douglas, is a smaller and more peaceful base for reef trips. It’s also the closest mainland port to the Great Barrier Reef.

Try to see this magnificent spectacle sooner rather than later, as warming ocean temperatures are causing the large-scale coral die-off, especially along the reef’s far northern stretches. The Australian Government recently introduced a long-term sustainability plan to help combat the effects of climate change and pollution with the hope of conserving this important resource for future generations.

1 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Covering more than 344,000 square kilometers (half the size of Texas), the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established in 1975 to protect the reef’s fragile ecosystems. Within its borders lie more than 2,900 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays, seagrass beds, and many mangrove islands. The park also protects an astonishing variety of marine life. More than 600 species of hard and soft corals range from bulbous spheres of brain coral to craggy staghorn and graceful gorgonian sea fans. These thriving underwater jungles are also home to mollusks such as giant clams and more than 1,625 species of fish. In the surrounding waters, you can spot sharks, rays, sea snakes, dugongs, turtles, dolphins, and whales.

Unlike some other marine reserves, the park operates as a mixed-use protected area and allows sustainable fishing in designated zones. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority administers the park in consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, whose heritage is closely linked with the region. Together, they work to protect this rich patchwork of fragile ecosystems and astounding biodiversity.

2 Whitsunday Islands

Strung along the Great Barrier Reef, the 74 tropical islands of the Whitsunday Group are great bases for exploring the wonders of the reef. Six national parks protect their fragile ecosystems, and several are home to eco retreats, campsites, and luxury resorts. To explore the reef from these sun-splashed shores, you can sign up for a snorkel or SCUBA diving trip, enjoy a cruise, or hop aboard a sailboat.

Sightseeing cruises often visit top sites such as sublime Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, as well as fish-rich reefs for snorkeling excursions. Of all the Whitsunday Islands, Heron boasts some of the best diving, while Hamilton Island offers plenty of accommodation, from the mid-range Whitsunday Apartments to the exclusive Qualia Resort, and is the only Whitsunday Island with an airport catering to large jets. Luxury-seekers head to Hayman Island, home to an exclusive five-star nature resort, One&Only, and families love Daydream Island and Long Island. If you plan on camping, national park campsites are available on Whitsunday and Hook Islands. Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour are the main gateways for Whitsunday sightseeing. From here, ferries, luxury yachts, helicopters, and seaplanes can transport you to the island of your dreams.

3 Whitehaven Beach

Frequently ranked as one of the world’s top ten beaches, Whitehaven Beach, on Whitsunday Island, is a stunning seven-kilometer stretch of dazzling white silica sand and vivid blue sea. You can visit the beach on day trips aboard luxury yachts, ferries, powerboats, or sailboats, and Tongue Bay is a favorite anchorage for bareboat. Walking trails thread through the island. One of the most popular is the 10- to 15-minute hike from the beach up to Hill Inlet lookout for spectacular views of the swirling white sands, turquoise water, and lushly-cloaked hills. If you don’t have time to step foot on the soft sands, you can book a scenic flight and soar over the marbled seascape on a plane. Camping is allowed on the southern end of the beach.

4 SCUBA Diving & Snorkeling

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most desirable dive destinations. This underwater wonderland is home to more than 2,900 separate reefs featuring kaleidoscopic walls, spectacular coral canyons, swim-throughs, and pinnacles. Gliding off the edge of the continental shelf over 90-meter drop-offs can feel like flying over an underwater jungle.

Other diving highlights include the shark-feeding frenzy of North Horn; the Cod Hole, near Lizard Island, with its giant potato cod; the drift dives of Osprey Reef; the chance to spot migrating minke whales at Lighthouse Bommie; the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs, easily accessible from Cairns; and the coral gardens at Flynn Reef.

In the Whitsunday Islands, Heron Island offers some of the best diving of all the islands, including a manta ray cleaning station at Heron Island bommie.

Wreck diving is also possible along the reef. From Townsville or Magnetic Island, visitors can explore the SS Yongala, a steel and timber steamship that met its fate during a cyclone in 1911 and claimed 121 lives.

Day trips are a great way to experience a taste of the reef, while liveaboard dive trips maximize underwater time and offer a chance to see some of the more remote and less-visited reefs.

If you are staying in Cairns, an easy way to experience the spectacular underwater scenery is on the Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns. This full-day trip includes transportation on a comfortable boat, barbecue lunch, snorkeling stops, and optional upgrades for SCUBA diving and helicopter flights.

5 Reef Cruises and Sailing Adventures

Great Barrier Reef cruises and sailing trips are one of the best ways to explore the top attractions of the reef. Full- or half-day cruises zip passengers out to well-equipped reef pontoons for easy access to the water. Freshwater showers, change rooms, and underwater observatories are some of the facilities available here.

From Cairns, you can join a Great Barrier Reef Cruise, which whisks you out by catamaran to a pontoon for snorkeling as well as glass-bottom boat and semi-submersible tours. This full-day tour includes a buffet lunch, and you can choose an upgrade such as a Seawalker Helmet dive and SCUBA dive.

If you prefer to experience the reef on a sailing adventure, the Low Isles Great Barrier Reef Sailing Cruise from Port Douglas includes a full-day sailing catamaran cruise to Low Isles, where you can snorkel straight off the white sand beach guided by a marine biologist with the chance to see green sea turtles. The trip also includes a glass-bottom boat coral viewing, a guided beach walk, and a tropical buffet lunch.

Quicksilver operates popular cruises aboard high-speed catamarans from Port Douglas with coach transfers from Cairns. Trips typically include presentations by marine biologists, dive or snorkel experiences, and coral viewing in a semi-submersible. Multi-day luxury cruises and whale-watching trips are other popular water-based options.

For a more intimate and peaceful experience, you can charter a sailboat. Idyllic mooring spots include dazzling Whitehaven Beach and Butterfly Bay. Bareboat charters are also available from Cairns or Airlie Beach to the outer Great Barrier Reef and are especially popular around the Whitsunday Islands. You can learn the ropes with a qualified instructor or charter vessels with an experienced crew.

6 Scenic Flights

A scenic flight is a great way to appreciate the awe-inspiring magnitude of this natural wonder. Helicopter and seaplanes soar over the mottled expanses of coral reefs and palm-fringed islands. Options range from 15-minute flights to full-day flying trips, with water sports and lunch included. One of the best features to see from the air is Heart Reef. This naturally formed heart-shaped coral reef is a favorite venue for romantic flyover proposals.

If you want to see the reef from more than one perspective, the Great Barrier Reef Scenic Helicopter Tour and Cruise from Cairns is an excellent option. This full-day tour includes a 25-minute flight with informative commentary and a chance to snorkel, swim, or dive along the reef.

7 Day Trips to Fitzroy and Green Islands

If you’re based in Cairns, you can take a day trip to one of these nearby tropical islands. Green Island, about a 45-minute cruise by high-speed catamaran from Cairns, is the most popular but also the most crowded of the two. Popular things to do here include snorkeling, glass-bottomed boat tours, and seeing the world’s largest captive croc at Marineland Crocodile Park. You can also stay overnight at Green Island Resort.

If you prefer a more peaceful, low-key island escape, Fitzroy Island is a great choice, with better snorkeling opportunities, scenic hiking trails, and lovely white-sand and crushed-coral beaches.

A fun way to experience these islands is on the Green Island Day Trip from Cairns and the Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns. Both these trips include return transport to the islands, and you can tailor your itinerary to include other activities such as snorkeling, glass-bottom boat tours, and more.

8 Magnetic Island

About a 20-minute ferry ride from Townsville on the Australian mainland, Magnetic Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and is famous for its beautiful beaches, secluded bays, and resident koalas. Magnetic Island National Park covers more than half of the island and protects these loveable creatures as well as the other species that make their home here, including many nesting sea turtles. You can access the island, affectionately known as “Maggie Island” by the locals, via the 20-minute Magnetic Island Round-Trip Ferry From Townsville, or you can take your own vehicle across on the car ferry.

Once you arrive, popular things to do include hiking along the 24 kilometers of walking tracks, exploring historic World War II forts, kayaking, snorkeling, wreck and reef diving, horseback riding, spa treatments, and shopping at local markets and galleries. Big-game fishing is also excellent in the surrounding waters, with the chance to catch coveted species such as marlin, sailfish, tuna, and mahimahi. Accommodations on the island range from campsites and the mid-range Island Leisure Resort to the upscale Peppers Blue On Blue Resort.

9 Lizard Island

In the far north of the Great Barrier Reef, about 250 kilometers northeast of Cairns, Lizard Island is a tropical escapist’s fantasy, with 24 secluded beaches and coral reefs just offshore in a luminous blue lagoon. Lizard Island National Park protects the rich wildlife here, which includes the island’s abundant namesake monitor lizards, as well as flying foxes, snakes, and prolific birdlife. Some of the other islands in the national park are popular nesting sites for seabirds -,, particularly terns.

On Lizard Island’s northwestern side, the exclusive 40-villa Lizard Island Resort is a favorite haunt of honeymooners and couples. This luxury all-inclusive retreat offers five-star service, gourmet meals, day trips to deserted beaches and top dive sites such as the famous nearby Cod Hole, and snorkeling in the flourishing fringing reefs right off the beach. Campsites are also available on the northwest side of Lizard Island at Watsons Bay. You can access the island on a private boat or commercial charter boats from Cairns, Port Douglas, and Cooktown. Flights also depart from Cairns and Cooktown.

10 Orpheus Island

About 110 kilometers north of Townsville, Orpheus Island is a peaceful island retreat within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Tranquil bays and fringing reefs provide the perfect playground for nature lovers, and a national park protects the local flora and fauna. The island is only about 12 kilometers long and one to 2.5 kilometers wide and lacks roads or formal hiking trails. The only way to access the island is by charter or private boat, keeping visitors to a minimum.

If you want to stay overnight, camping is available at Yanks Jetty, South Beach, and Pioneer Bay. The only other accommodation on the island is the beautiful Orpheus Island Resort, an exclusive retreat with a maximum of only 28 guests at a time who arrive by helicopter from Townsville (30 minutes) or Cairns (1.5 hours). Popular things to do at the resort include picnics on secluded beaches, fishing, snorkeling, dive trips, and spa treatments. You can also borrow a dinghy and explore the island’s beautiful bays on your own.

11 Day Trips to Lady Musgrave, Lady Elliot, and Hinchinbrook Islands

You can explore the Great Barrier Reef’s southernmost islands on day trips. Protected by national parks, these three islands are all popular destinations for nature lovers, with the chance to sea turtles, manta rays, and whales in typically crystal-clear waters with excellent visibility.

About eight kilometers from the town of Cardwell, Hinchinbrook Island is Australia’s largest island national park and is known for its dramatic topography, with craggy headlands, rainforests, waterfalls, pristine beaches, and mangrove-fringed estuaries. You can access the island, by private vessel or commercial ferries from Cardwell.

About 80 kilometers from Bundaberg, Lady Elliot Island sits in a Green Zone, the reef’s highest protection zone, with superb diving and snorkel opportunities. Turtles, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, and whales are among the abundant marine life in these waters, and the island is also home to a popular, no-frills eco-resort. You can access the island on a scenic flight from Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Brisbane, or the Gold Coast.

Lady Musgrave Island is also a top spot for wilderness lovers. Camping is a popular pastime here, thanks to the island’s beautiful lagoon, sheltered anchorage, and regular ferry service. Green and leatherback turtles, rays, and seabirds are among the rich wildlife found on the island and in its reef-dappled waters. The island is best accessed by passenger ferry from the town of 1770, five hours north of Brisbane, and you can also hop aboard a sightseeing cruise from the Bundaberg port in Burnett Heads. An organized tour such as the 3-Day Southern Great Barrier Reef Tour Including Lady Musgrave Island is also a great way to experience this island and the surrounding reefs. It includes eco-friendly beachside accommodation and round-trip transportation from the Gold Coast, Brisbane, or the Sunshine Coast.

Tourist Places in Australian Antarctic Territory

As Antarctica rises in popularity among discerning travelers, we take a look at the impact that scientific study and tourism have on this vital, pristine and immensely fragile part of the world.

Take but a single step of your expedition vessel in Antarctica, and set foot on the pristine wild ice cover of some insanely stunning landing site, and don’t be surprised if the first thing which pops into your mind is the question ‘Should I even be here?’

Introspective guilt is not exactly a rare phenomenon among passionate travelers who love to visit the most spectacular places on earth. I personally felt it very much when visiting the Galapagos, a wildlife haven of untold proportions. The overwhelming feeling that I was intruding on an earthly paradise I had no business visiting, didn’t really leave me for the entire week I was there

These extraordinary places, so wild, beautiful, and untouched…until we go there and see them for ourselves, perhaps.

Is our passionate love for Antarctica sustainable? And, more importantly, is it doing the White Continent more harm than good? Those are the questions that have been plaguing experts for the last decade, and particularly since 2009 when mega cruise liners – the kind that accommodates 1,000 passengers – were banned from entering Antarctic waters. Back then, experts envisaged the kind of environmental disaster which would occur as a result of an accident, an oil spill, or any major incident involving a sea vessel of such gargantuan proportions. They decided it just wasn’t worth the risk (especially after the Bahia Paraiso grounding and consequential oil spill in 1989) and, it’s safe to say, it was probably a very good decision.

The last thing Antarctica needs is an environmental disaster from which it cannot recover.

Antarctica – what’s not to love?

There’s no denying that Antarctica is a spellbinding place of immense appeal. This is the last true ‘wild west’ destination left on earth, an entire continent that’s never been tamed and one which is considered an absolute gold-mine by scientists. Not literally speaking, of course, but in terms of what it can teach us. Everything from sea currents to marine wildlife migration, global warming, and past environmental issues. In Antarctica, glaciologists can extract tubes of ice from deposits made thousands of years ago and retrace environmental patterns on our planet, to better predict future challenges. It absolutely boggles the mind to understand how this is done, but just knowing it can be done is enough to understand the importance of maintaining this unspoiled environment, well…unspoiled.

The Population of Antarctica

Antarctica’s scientific appeal is undebatable and that is why about 30 countries have worked tirelessly establishing research stations all over the place. There are about 40 permanent stations and 30 summer-only centers. At the peak of summer – let’s call that the bearable-climate season – there are a total of 4,000 people living in Antarctica. In winter, the number dwindles down to only about 1,000 people, many of whom are tradies and engineers who are granted the privilege of keeping research stations from freezing over. By all accounts, it’s not glamorous work, but nevertheless, positions are hard to come by and greatly coveted.

Antarctica is famous for being the only continent without a permanent population, yet if you ask us, this is very much just a tedious technicality. There are people living in Antarctica constantly, they just happen to be different people at different times, that’s all. The environmental impact of this kind of presence, especially when coupled with permanent stations that must accommodate thousands of people, is surely not inconsequential.

Tourism in Antarctica

The first tourists to visit Antarctica are believed to have been taken here aboard the SS Fleurus, a mail ship that used to ply the route between the Falklands and South Shetland Islands in the 1920s. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that bona fide cruise liners were launched, with the sole purpose of bringing visitors to the southernmost continent on earth. Popularity of these cruises has increased exponentially over the last 50 years, and Antarctica welcomes, on average, between 35 and 38,000 visitors a year. This is quite a substantial number, especially when you consider the brevity of the Antarctic tourist season. Cruises to the White Continent run between November and March, during the austral summer. Although tourists are only allowed to set foot on a few restricted landing sites, their impact on wildlife and the environment is consistently monitored.

At first thought, it may seem only logical to simply ban all visitors to Antarctica in order to safeguard its future, yet even the most avid scientists admit that the world’s love for this incredible place, and people’s desire to see it, is arguably one of the things which keep it so fiercely protected. Banning people altogether from visiting, may cause Antarctica to become a far-away forgotten land. And that would be the biggest travesty of all.

The yin and yang of all this love

Experts believe that carefully controlled tourism can actually be beneficial to Antarctica, a land with no native inhabitants who can advocate for its preservation. Passionate nature-loving adventurers are arguably the best promoters for the region, and if there’s one way, to sum up, the passengers on expedition ships to Antarctica, it would have to be ‘passionate nature-loving adventurers’. Moreover, there is a high level of commitment among Antarctica cruise operators to adhere to strict environmental guidelines, something which is unseen anywhere else on earth. The IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) sets out very stringent guidelines that must be followed if a tour operator wishes to gain, and retain an Antarctica tour license. This is part of the 1961 Antarctic Treaty, which was set up to safeguard this immaculate continent.

Ironically enough, whilst all eyes have been on the environmental impact of tourism in Antarctica, it’s actually the scientific researchers which have, so far, caused the most damage. They have even inadvertently introduced non-native species to the continent – mostly as unsuspecting stowaways in fresh produce cargo. Of course, there’s a plausible reason – or rather argument – for all of this. Permanent scientific stations may be more impactful than short and heavily controlled tourist visits, yet one can also argue that their work is substantially more beneficial in the long run. On the other hand, the reason 35,000-odd tourists don’t seem to be making much of an impact is because they can only set foot on Antarctica in very specific and restricted areas.

Concern about the influence of colonies of penguins and sea lions in these regions seems, so far, to be unfounded. When studied, creatures in areas where tourists regularly visit are doing the same, better or worse than those living in colonies far from the prying eyes and footsteps of tourists. But just because our impact on Antarctica is not yet crystal clear, it doesn’t mean we should be lax about our behaviour when visiting. The preservation of this incredible natural resource must always be at the forefront of all our Antarctic activities, whether tourist or science-based. Studies on human impact in Antarctica are nowadays concerned not only about current safeguarding guidelines, but also undoing past damage.

Become an ambassador for Antarctica!

Chimu Adventures is a proud member of IAATO and, as such, we take our job – of guiding you to explore the magnificent world of Antarctica – extremely seriously. We endeavour to minimize your impact on this treasured land when you visit, just as you can endeavour to become a vocal ambassador for what is the most spellbinding place on earth. Together, we can help spread the word about how important this last true natural untouched wonder really is.

Tourist Places in Vanderbijlpark

Lounging on the banks of the northern meander of the Vaal River, Vereeniging, which translates to ‘uniting’ in Afrikaans, can be found in what is now known as the Vaal Triangle about 60 kilometers from Johannesburg. The Vaal is a triangular area, mostly composed of the local population, bounded by Vereeniging, Vanderbijlpark, and Sasolburg. This part of the world is home to many industries and Vereeniging itself is responsible for manufacturing cables, farm equipment, bricks, tiles, and processed lime. You must have heard of a lot of Afrikaans in Vereeniging, a community that makes its major part of living from farming and the nearby coal mines, among other places to visit in Vereeniging.

1. Orange Farm Park

The Orange Farm Township can be found approximately 42 kilometers from the heart of Johannesburg. It is famous for being one of the chief familiar settlements in the country. It is also said to be one of Johannesburg’s most remote communities, in terms of the geography, and has high levels both of joblessness, and poverty. But the city has carried numerous initiatives within the community to help with the current problems that include a contemporary library, tarring of quite a few roads, cheap houses, clinics, and Regional Park of the orange farm, a farm which has many swings and even an outdoor gym.

2. Sharpeville Township and Memoria

Sharpeville Township has many miserable memories and is home to the eternal memorial at the human rights precinct. The story is that in 1960 during apartheid a large weapon less group headed to the police station with the resolve of dissenting against having to carry around passbooks. The police were intimidated by the number of people and out of paranoia and irrational behavior, opened fire on the people, injuring 180 and killing 69 of them. This ridiculous act was known as the Sharpeville massacre. Many protests were initiated around the country and this caused international rage and revulsion. Sharpeville day falls on the same day as Human Rights Day in South Africa and was declared as International Day by the United Nations for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

3. De Kraal Antiques and Collectables

Hooked on collecting ostentatious collectibles and antiques? De Kraal Antiques presents to you a large selection of both fascinating and rare farm antiques. The collection includes an exquisite, old engine. The De Kraal owner is known to travel throughout the country participating in sales and guaranteeing that there is always a good selection for sale.

4. Jabulani Butterfly Garden

School holidays seemed lucrative. The days just seem to laze by, don’t they? Why not visit the Jabulani Butterfly Garden? It is a wonderful place for both adults and children to fawn over the captivating butterflies and makes for a great outing. A stroll through the flight house will enable you to view these exotic butterflies in their colorful glory. The garden also displays other smaller animals.

5. Vaal Dam

It is the country’s biggest dam. The Vaal Dam is a host to all forms of water sports and events. Every year there is the round the island yacht race, the Keelboat Week, the Bayshore jet ski race and the Marina Vaal Dam treasure hunt, and there are also more keelboats for the number of coral harbors. There are numerous fishermen, water surfers, 10 sailing clubs and canoe enthusiasts who visit the dam over weekends.

6. Maccauvlei Golf Club

This is a parkland golf course that e found on the banks of the Vaal, at a quarter-hour drive out of the heart of Johannesburg’s hubbub. It is soaked in history and even though it was established in 1926, it still holds its own in the top 50 South African courses. The club has since then made a lot of changes in its course. George Peck was the original architect upon whose work Major S.V Hotchkin put some finishing touches.

7. Riviera on Vaal Country Club

Vereeniging may perhaps be best recognized for its manufacturing industries, but it certainly has some surprises for visitors wanting to enjoy the unblemished beauty of the Gauteng countryside. The Riviera on Vaal Country Club is can be found in this historic coal mining city, right beside the gurgling Vaal river and is known for its tranquil course. The bar and social area are a comfortable area to converse with fellow sportsmen and share tales of the past.

8. Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve

It is located near Johannesburg, one of the more dense areas of South Africa, and plays a very substantial part in open-air recreation, environmental education. It covers approximately 13,337 hectares of ridges and plains and supports a large variety of Flora and Fauna. There are also different types of vegetation, ranging from open grassland on hillsides and plains to wooded gorges, marshland and even heath.

9. Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Marievale forms the southern half of Blesbokspruit RAMSAR site (an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands), and is one the most significant and protected bird reserves in South Africa. About 10 square kilometers vast, during the summer months, it accommodates around 3500 birds along with 65 different bird species. You can also witness other species like the reed cormorant, Ethiopian snipe, yellow-billed duck and African spoonbill.

10. Tapimanzi Adventures

Vaal and Tapimanzi Adventures in Vereeniging offers white-water rafting, snorkeling, river rafting, kayaking, fishing trips, paintball, bungee jumping, tubing and quad biking. For the adrenaline junkie, a bungee jump from a height of 55m, and for Bass and Kurper, snorkeling. Non-swimmers are welcome to snorkel in life jackets.

11. Barnyard Theatre

It is one of twelve theatres in the Country. The first-rate Barnyard Theatre in Vereeniging not only presents musicals and satires in a relaxed, pastoral atmosphere but live, local luminary bands too. It gets better. The theatre is set in a timber barn, with a domestic bistro and bar. Make sure to stop by here.