One of the first big decisions I had to make before starting my journey Down Under was where to start. To which city should I book my flight? Even though spontaneous travel is great, it always serves you good to do a bit of research before heading off to a new place. Here follows a brief guide to 6 of the most famous big cities in Australia and what you can expect from them.
With some of the world’s most renowned landmarks, including the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge, Sidney gives off a vibe of big, bright and fashionable. A myriad of galleries, churches, theatres and museums guarantees that you’ll get your culture fix. Colonization and Asian migration has left its unmistakable imprint on the city and the variety and quality of restaurants is almost certainly the best in the country. The coastline offers great beaches, like the famed Bondi Beach, and a short drive away the Blue Mountains tower up in the clouds.
Melbourne is also known as the culture and sports capital of Australia. Art, music and sport is an integral part of the Melbournian spirit and day to day life. Captivating street art and graffiti in the city center, bars that promote an alternative, independent music scene, hipster coffee culture and sport events like Australia Open reflects the essence of the city. A city with an edge and intimate atmosphere. Just on the outskirts of Melbourne you can embark on one of the world’s most beautiful coastal drives along the Great Ocean Road or you can catch a cheap flight to the serene island of Tasmania.
Compared to Sidney and Melbourne Cairns feels very small with a CBD (center) that clearly caters for tourists. Everything you need is within walking distance: Restaurants, bars, shops and supermarkets. Yet, the most prominent, appealing part of the center is the Esplanade, where you can take a relaxing stroll along the beachside. The waters are croc-infected but Cairns has made up for this by creating a purpose built lagoon, where you can take a refreshing swim. With the Daintree Rainforest to the north and the Great Barrier Reef to the east, the city is an ideal base for hiking, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Brisbane, a big brother version of Cairns, is the sunny, refined capital city of Queensland, surrounded by vibrant urban villages. Each suburb has its own distinct range of restaurants, cafés and bars. It’s the perfect place to combine art and outdoor adventures like kayaking and rock climbing. The unique, man-made riverside Streets Beach, Australia’s only inner city beach, offers an escape from the heat. Brisbane is the perfect gateway to venture into the fun of the Sunshine Coast to the north and the Gold Coast to the south with its theme parks, lively nightlife, breathtaking beaches and surf culture.
Perth is Australia’s sunniest capital, a relaxed city with a perfectly balanced mix between urban cool and raw natural splendor. The compact CBD (center) with its great selection of restaurants, bars, shopping and cultural spaces gives it an intimate ambience and makes it seem a lot smaller than it is. Romantic Kings Park, one of the world’s largest inner city parks, offers stunning views of the city. The peaceful, car-free paradise of Rottnest Island, famed for its local population of Quokkas, is just a short ferry ride away and south of Perth you’ll find Margaret River where you can embrace the good things in life like wine, cheese and chocolate.
Darwin is a laid-back, charismatic city situated on the edge of a harbor in the tropical north of Australia with a stunningly lush, surrounding landscape. Travelers will rejoice in the variety of hip street-side restaurants and bars, exceptional, vibrant outdoor markets, innovative museums that celebrate a city with a (in Australian terms) long, bitter past and galleries which showcase the region’s rich indigenous art. Besides being within reasonable distance to the breathtaking Kakadu National Park, Darwin is also the perfect gateway to Asia, which makes it tempting to book a cheap, short getaway to Indonesia.
One last thing you need to keep in mind before booking your flight is the weather. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just hot Down Under! Australia’s seasons are at opposite times to the northern hemisphere, meaning Summer is from December to February and Winter from June to August. As a rule of thumb the south is a lot cooler than the north and characterized by 4 seasons, with the exception of Perth, whereas the tropical north only has a wet and dry season. The wet season occurs between November and April, and the dry season between May and October.
Wherever you choose to go, each city is unique and special in its own way. But the best advice I can give you is to go and explore places beyond the big cities – there is so much more to this vast, epic continent.