New South Wales
New South Wales may not be the biggest state, but you’re still not going to see everything in one trip. Sydney, Australia’s largest city, is the state capital and the arrival point for most international visitors. The beaches are one of New South Wales’s best-known features, but the state boasts more than sun, sand, and surf. Whether it be schussing down snow-covered slopes, fishing and boating on magnificent river systems, sampling world-class wines, or hiking through lush rainforests, New South Wales has something for everyone.
Queensland’s best known attraction is the Great Barrier Reef, an underwater wonderland topped by hundreds of tropical islands. Unpretentious Brisbane is the state capital and gateway to the well-known beaches of the Gold Coast. North of Brisbane is the aptly named Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. If you manage to drag yourself away from the ocean, there are many other destinations worth seeing, none more impressive than the rainforests of the tropical north.
The diversity of Australia’s southernmost mainland state will astound you. The focus for most visitors is Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city and a melting pot of cultures. Beyond city limits are over 30 national parks, a rugged coastline, tranquil vineyards, gold rush towns, snow-covered mountains, and even a spot of desert. One of the best things about Victoria is that it is not that touristy, meaning you’ll find empty hiking trails and well-priced lodging wherever you go.
Separated from the mainland by Bass Strait, the island state of Tasmania is filled with history and natural wonders. Walking the friendly streets of Hobart or the tranquil grounds of Port Arthur, it’s hard to picture the island’s tumultuous and notorious past. Reminders of the days the island was a penal colony abound in historic sites, museums, and entire towns. Tasmania is an outdoor person’s dream, with an undeveloped coastline and untracked interior wilderness preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
South Australia is probably the least known of Australia’s states. But what it does have, it does well, and, as any oenophile will tell you, wines from the Barossa Valley are world-class. Adelaide thrives on its reputation as a demure city and almost pastoral spaciousness making this state capital unique. Kangaroo Island is undoubtedly the best place in Australia to see native animals in the wild. Another natural highlight is the Flinders Ranges, an ancient landscape laced with hiking trails and filled with colorful birdlife.
An adventure like no other awaits visitors to the Northern Territory, home to Uluru, one of Australia’s most recognizable landmarks; the capital of Darwin, which is closer to Indonesia than Sydney; and some of the country’s most remote national parks. Despite inevitable infiltration by the 20th century, the Northern Territory, with its ancient lands, eerie geological formations, and 40,000 years of Aboriginal history is an Australian destination like no other.
Western Australia is a long way from the rest of the country, and the locals wouldn’t have it any other way. Australia’s largest state (twice the size of Texas) is ringed on three sides by a rugged yet beautiful coastline and an ocean that is alive with underwater creatures that are as large (whale sharks), as friendly (dolphins), and as old (stromatolites) as you can imagine. Add to the mix the stylish city of Perth, the vast outback, and spectacular national parks, and you have no reason not to visit.