If you’re an international travel buff, it’s likely that Australia is on your list of places to see. But here’s the thing: it’s not usually near the top.
It should be. For Americans especially, Australia may seem too far away to prioritize with the lures of Europe so close at hand. Along with the attractions you already know about, like the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour, here are ten reasons Down Under should move up the list.
10. Australia is easy to get to
No, really. Granted, it’s a long flight, but for most Americans, your likely point of egress from the contiguous U.S. will be Los Angeles International Airport or Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, both of which feature nonstop flights over the Pacific.
If you plan ahead, like we did, you could wind up with a two-leg trip on your way there or back, which is ideal when traveling such a long distance. The fewer flights you’re on, the less your total travel time and the sooner you make it to your amazing international destination.
9. Australian visas are the simplest on Earth
Travel fans everywhere have likely heard about the potential for new regulations for visas in Europe. It’s worth noting that the process to apply for a visitor visa to Australia is ridiculously easy.
Visit the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection website, fill out a form that takes 10 minutes, pay A$20 (about $15), wait a day, and you’re done. Wait times could vary depending on the time of year, but information on the website states that at most, you would be waiting 28 days, which is great for a visa.
8. Virgin Australia is amazing
As someone who has literally been on the longest Delta Air Lines flight in the world, I could not have been happier with our flights on Virgin Australia.
The flight crew were top-notch, the seats recline quite a ways, the in-flight movie selection was excellent, the food was not the typical subpar airline fare, the list goes on. I would not hesitate to fly on this airline again.
7. The U.S. dollar is strong against the Australian dollar
Of course, one of the biggest concerns when you travel internationally is the exchange rate. Because the U.S. dollar has been doing so well against its Australian counterpart since 2013, the trinkets and cosmetics we purchased Down Under were a good price.
We also found great prices for lodging. This was our view in Brisbane from an amazing 37th floor apartment we booked through Airbnb.com:
For lodging that’s simple but clean, try caravan parks. Similar to RV parks, there are hundreds of them across Australia. Along with spaces for travel trailers, they also have cabins for rent. Most offer basic amenities like shampoo, plates and silverware, pool access and limited Wi-Fi.
If you’re going to be in Sydney but still want to be close to nature, try Lane Cove River Tourist Park. Situated next to a national park with hiking trails and wildlife, you will be a mere 10 kilometers (a little more than six miles) from Sydney Harbour.
Since the U.S. dollar is projected to continue to outpace the Australian one, this summer could be an affordable time to visit.
6. Australia is green and gorgeous
It seems everyone I’ve spoken with is surprised to learn that Australia is really green. I imagine our collective consciousness focuses on the Outback and paints the country as mostly desert.
But Australia also features a lush subtropical region and beautiful tree-covered mountains. There are over 500 national parks and 14 World Heritage sites. One of my favorite parks was the fog-shrouded Budawang National Park just a few hours south of Sydney.
And for a lush city park, you can’t beat Fitzroy Gardens in downtown Melbourne.
5. Australia has wildlife you won’t see anywhere else
Kangaroos and koalas may seem exotic to us, but they’re commonplace to those living Down Under. There are kangaroo crossing signs everywhere.
Even so, if you’re an animal lover like I am, you’ll want to visit an animal reserve or zoo so you have a chance to see all the unique animals Australia has to offer. I recommend Maru Koala and Animal Park, where you’ll see wombats, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, and you can even pet a koala or kangaroo.
If you like penguins, then the Phillip Island Penguin Parade is a must. Hundreds of the smallest species of penguins on Earth congregate here. Each night, they make their way from the sea to their nests, waddling out of the ocean and trundling to their beds.
4. Australian beaches are to die for
If you love the beach, book your flight today. Australia features thousands of miles of coastline, and it is heavenly. We stayed one night in Jervis Bay, which is purported to be the whitest sand beach in the world. The sand is soft too, making a sunburn likely because you’ll never want to leave.
Most of the population lives near the water, and it’s not hard to understand why. If you enjoy people-watching, visit Batemans Bay south of Sydney. For a more secluded beach, try the golden sands of Spoon Bay, which is a couple of hours north of Sydney.
3. The food, especially the coffee, is delicious
When I travel, I’m never sure what caliber of coffee I’m going to get. I was not disappointed by the coffee Down Under though. Two of our favorite cafés were Madcowes on Phillip Island and The Coffee Club in Sandgate, north of Brisbane.
If you’re looking for specifically Australian fare, then you’ll have to try an Aussie pizza while you’re there. Part breakfast, part dinner but fully divine, this style of pizza typically features an egg, bacon and barbecue sauce.
More than one person told us that major cities like Melbourne are swiftly becoming hubs for foodies, as more world-renowned chefs move to Australia. And there are multiple wineries Down Under as well.
This does make the cost of eating out higher than we expected, but eating great food on vacation is good for the soul, if not the pocketbook.
2. The people are so friendly
Everywhere we went, the Australian people were so kind. At restaurants, gas stations, at tourist attractions. They’re polite drivers too. We never got cut off in traffic, and we drove a total of about 1,800 miles!
Australians love to talk about their home country. And yes, the accent is just what you want it to be, but thankfully, it’s not hard to understand what they’re saying. The people we met didn’t mind sharing advice about places to eat or historic things to see. If you enjoy lighthouses, be sure to check out the Cape Byron Lighthouse, the easternmost point on the continent.
1. Australia is a wild and wonderful place
If you’re looking to visit somewhere exotic, but relatively safe and endlessly interesting, then Australia is the place to go. Since it boasts large cities, sandy beaches and a sprawling countryside, it has a little something for everybody. Its diverse flora, fauna and food mean you will never forget it and are likely to go back.
There’s really only one thing wrong with traveling to Australia: They no longer stamp your passport. But the beauty of the country, and all the photos you’re likely to take, will more than make up for it.