Reader's top spots in Australia
With cheap flights, incredible wildlife and stunning coastline, Australia is an attractive holiday destination throughout the year.
Our readers love to share their smart travel tips, and with more than one million New Zealanders travelling to Australia each year, who better to ask for some insider knowledge?
Here are some of our reader's favourite places to visit in Australia, and tips to help you enjoy them to the fullest.
1. Wisemans Ferry, NSW
“A sleepy one-street town on the banks of the Hawkesbury River with excellent fishing, winding country roads and a pub fresh out of 1827. Wisemans Ferry is the perfect day trip from Sydney - just don’t forget the picnic basket!”
Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or just love relaxing on the riverbank, the historic town of Wisemans Ferry offers the perfect day trip from Sydney. Located around 60km north-west of Sydney, Wisemans Ferry is perched on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, with national parkland on all sides.
The expansive Dharug, Yengo and Cattai national parks are significant for their Indigenous heritage and convict sites - like the Old Great North Road that once connected Sydney to Newcastle.
Much of the waterfront along the Hawkesbury River is privately owned, so if you're planning a fishing trip and don't mind staying overnight, it may be best to find accommodation with water access. There are publicly accessible fishing areas, but these can become crowded on weekends. Don’t forget to apply for a recreational fishing license from the Service NSW website. A 3-day license only costs $7, which beats risking a hefty fine from park rangers.
Wiseman’s Ferry is popular with motorbike riders and car clubs, who aren’t afraid to push the limits on the narrow roads. Unfortunately, there have been several road accidents in the area so drive carefully.
2. Degraves Street, Melbourne
"I like the small, slightly grubby coffee shops, especially the one at the end of the lane where customers sit back to back at a series of minuscule tables.”
Nothing says Melbourne quite like the scent of artisan micro-brewed coffee wafting through winding inner-city laneways. Degraves Street is Melbourne’s original and favourite collection of trendy cafes, independent fashion retailers and cobblestone charm.
Degraves Street, along with some of Melbourne’s other well-known laneways, like Manchester Lane, Alfred Place, Howie Place and Meyers Place, are taking part in the annual Melbourne Christmas Festival. If you’re in town during the festive season, you can wash down your micro-brew espresso with a cup of Christmas cheer.
Melbourne is known as a safe and welcoming city for tourists, but like anywhere in the world, it’s always good to keep your guard up for pickpockets. To avoid becoming an easy target, make sure you don’t hang your bag on the back of your chair or keep your wallet in your back pocket when travelling through the crowded laneways.
3. Mataranka Thermal Pool, Northern Territory
"Warm springs in a beautiful natural bush setting, situated in the middle of nowhere. After a day on the road in a tour bus, getting into the warm water was bliss.”
Few visitors to Australia venture as far north as Mataranka, situated in the isolated Top End region of the Northern Territory. After all, with a population of only a few hundred, you’d easily dismiss it as just another tiny country town two miles from nowhere.
But Mataranka is actually home to some of the country’s most idyllic hot springs - the Mataranka Thermal Pool, the Bitter Springs, and the Rainbow Spring Thermal Pool. Soaking in the bath-like waters under the shade of a paperbark and palm forest will feel more like a high-end coastal resort than a patch of barren desert.
It might be a slice of paradise in the middle of a harsh desert environment, but Mataranka has its fair share of dangerous critters. Freshwater crocodiles have been known to frequent the springs, so check the warning signs and notices of pool closures before swimming.
4. Palm Beach, NSW
“If I were going to live anywhere in Australia, it would have to be Palm Beach. Climbing to the top of the lighthouse was amazing - water views on both sides of a narrow strip of land and views of the Central Coast beaches to the north."
Palm Beach, affectionately known as “Palmy” to locals, is the end of the line of Sydney’s picturesque Northern Beaches. It’s equally as famous for its sweeping views of Pittwater Bay and white-sand beach as it is for its celebrity appeal.
The popular Home and Away TV drama is set and filmed in the suburb (known as ‘Summer Bay’), making the Palm Beach Surf Club an icon of Australian television. After catching a glimpse of your favourite soap star, lace up the runners and conquer the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk to see the famous twin crescent views of Pittwater and the Pacific Ocean.
Round out the day with one of the most scenic coffee stops you’ll ever enjoy at the Palm Beach Boathouse.
The bus ride from the Sydney CBD to Palm Beach, the infamous L90, is the longest bus route in Sydney (taking almost two hours depending on the time of day). The bus travels the length of the Northern Beaches, which each have something to offer to travellers. Why not break up the ride and visit the orange sands of Long Reef or the cafés of Mona Vale?
5. Margaret River, Western Australia
“As far as relaxed Australian beach towns go, it doesn’t get much more scenic than Margaret River. Watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean after a full day of exploring the beautiful coast was a moment we’ll never forget."
Wineries, winding caves and world-class waves - it’s no surprise that Western Australia’s Margaret River region is an instant hit with everyone who makes the journey. The town boasts some heavy-hitting tourist attractions, like the Boranup Karri Forest, Mammoth Caves, and signature wineries like Cape Mentelle.
But above all, Margaret River is a haven for the ocean lovers, with whale watching, sea kayaking, deep sea fishing and surfing, all popular activities in the region.
If you’re travelling to Margaret River in the summer months, be prepared to swelter through temperatures that regularly top 40 degrees. With scorching heat and strong winds come bushfires, which are a common threat in Western Australia. If you’re caught in an affected area, always follow the instructions of the local authorities.
6. Jervis Bay, NSW
“Jervis Bay was the highlight of our trip. It’s only a two-hour drive south of Sydney, but it truly feels like you’re in another world."
From one coastal oasis to the next, Jervis Bay in New South Wales is often called the state’s queen of the coast. But there’s more than untarnished coastal beauty to the area - the Jervis Bay Territory is one of Australia’s most significant Aboriginal sites, with settlements like Wreck Bay Village owned and managed by the local Aboriginal Koori community.
Cave Beach, Greenfield Beach and Hyams Beach make up a few of the stunning beaches in the area, and are also key stops on the popular White Sands Walk. Jervis Bay is also teeming with local wildlife, from kangaroos and echidnas on land to stingrays, whales and sharks in the water.
All vehicles need to pay an entry fee to the Booderee National Park, where Jervis Bay is located. A two-day pass costs about $11, and the booth only takes cash. Also note that some areas of the Jervis Bay Territory, like Wreck Bay Village, are off-access to the public.
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