Australia is one of the world’s best countries when it comes to famous natural scenery. First of all, being surrounded by sea, you have the extensive coastlines, home to Australia’s biggest cities and some of its most famous beaches. Then there is the extensive areas of bush to explore, complete with a vast array of incredible flora and fauna. In the center of this enormous landmass, you have the sprawling wilderness of The Outback.
With sights ranging from the very dry Uluru in the center of the country to the very wet Great Barrier Reef stretching along a huge section of the west coast, Australia also comprises tropics in the north and snow-capped mountain ranges in the southeast, for some extremely varied landscapes.
In this post, we'll cover:
New South Wales & ACT
The most populous Australian state of New South Wales is home to what is probably the country’s most famous city – Sydney. Established in 1788, the New South Wales capital is home to iconic landmarks like the curving sails of the Sydney Opera House and the impressive Sydney Harbor Bridge.
There’s also Victorian architecture to admire, especially in the oldest part of the city, named The Rocks. Walkers can amble along the coastal path from Central Sydney to Manly, complete with its rambling beach and good surf.
Along the New South Wales coast are famous shoreside locations like Coffs Harbour, Port Macquire, and Byron Bay, known for its whale watching.
Embedded in the south of the state is the Australian Capital Territory, named so because it plays host to Australia’s capital Canberra. Grand government buildings, wide boulevards, and good hiking trails in the nearby hills characterize the city.
Inland, the Blue Mountains boast majestic scenery and a relatively tranquil, alternative mode of life.
South of New South Wales and north across the sea from Tasmania lies the state of Victoria. Expect picturesque surf beaches on its central and southwestern coasts, verdant fields, and a host of rugged national parks.
One such park is Alpine National Park, aptly named for its rolling alpine valleys and home to the state’s highest peak, Mount Bogong (1,986m).
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, is also the state’s urban hub. This hipster-friendly city boasts vegan cafes, music venues, and quirky boutiques away from its skyscrapers; it’s also something of a foodie mecca.
There’s also Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest stadium in Australia as well as in the entire southern hemisphere.
Nearby is the Yarra Valley. This is the number one wine-growing region in Australia and a must-visit for wine connoisseurs.
Prime road trip territory, The Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometer-long highway between Torquay in the East and Allansford in the West of Victoria.
Queensland is the closest Australia gets to Asia, with its northernmost tropical islands located just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. To the desert-covered west lies the Northern Territory and South Australia, to the south, New South Wales, and all along its eastern coast is stunning, varied shoreline.
This ranges from the coastal capital of Brisbane to the famous beach (and party) destination of Gold Coast, but nowhere in Queensland is as well-known as the Great Barrier Reef. This is the world’s most extensive reef system and stretches for most of the Queensland coastline.
Explore this incredible wonder of the world from the tropical far north of Queensland, with the city of Cairns as a good jumping-off point. Further south, you’ll also be able to island-hop around the laid-back Whitsunday Islands, or even further along the coast you could visit large Fraser Island – the only place on Earth where a rainforest grows on coral sand.
Northern Territory is outback country. The capital of the state and its most populous city, Darwin, can be found in the north, while in the south is one of Australia’s quintessential sights: Uluru.
Also known as Ayers Rock, this sandstone monolith is part of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (one of the Northern Territory’s 52 national parks), home to dozens of other sandstone domes and outcrops. It’s not there to be climbed; this ancient rock is sacred for Aboriginal people. There’s much Aboriginal artwork to be admired in the area, in fact.
The nearest town to Uluru is Alice Springs, still some 450 kilometers away. This outback outpost is the main settlement in the ‘Red Centre’ region of Australia, known for remote Aboriginal communities and desert landscapes.
In the state’s Top End is the stunning Kakadu National Park. This is the largest national park in Australia and is home to Aboriginal history, stories, and rock art as much as amazing natural scenery, like the dramatic Jim Jim Falls. It’s also known for its biodiversity.
Extending from the scrubby outback of the north down to the pretty city of Adelaide, there’s yet more wine country to be found in South Australia. Head to Barossa Valley to discover wineries and tasting opportunities with a picturesque backdrop.
Those interested in a more active lifestyle will enjoy the Flinders Ranges, South Australia’s largest mountain range and filled with ample opportunities for hiking. The Wilpena Pound, for instance, is a beautiful, natural amphitheater that surrounds the range’s highest peak – St. Mary Peak (1,189m).
Though Adelaide is the largest city in the region, there are more interesting settlements to explore in South Australia. Coober Pedy is one of them. This opal-mining town boasts underground houses, including churches.
For something less desert-based, the Yorke Peninsula boasts a rugged coastline and beaches. Here you can find Innes National Park which, though picturesque and covered in bushland, is a famous spot for birdwatchers.
The largest state in the country, Western Australia is home to only around 11% of the country’s total population, the majority of which lives in and around the state capital of Perth. To give you an idea of its vastness, only the wilds of Russia’s Sakhala Republic is a larger national subdivision than Western Australia.
Perth is relatively remote. The nearest city with a population of over a million people is Adelaide, over 2000 kilometers away. It’s consistently ranked as a very livable city, but it’s the surrounding areas like laid-back Fremantle and the quokka-populated Rottnest Island that make it such a pleasant place to live.
For more coastal goodness, Gascoyne – located roughly on the central Western Australia coast – is an excellent gateway for exploring the Ningaloo Reef. Not as big as the Great Barrier Reef, it’s on par in terms of beauty levels. Margaret River, south of Perth, is a beautiful getaway destination that’s equally good for its wines.
Heading inland, Pinnacles Desert is home to an eerie landscape that’s asking to be explored.
South across the Bass Strait from Victoria, the island state of Tasmania has it all: mountains in the west, beaches in the east, and wild landscapes in the south. The southeast, however, is home to Hobart, the Tasmanian capital and Australia’s second-oldest city.
Architecture and history fans should head to Hobart for its well preserved Victorian buildings; there’s also the subterranean Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), the historic Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, and nearby Mount Wellington to ramble around.
Beach bums should head to the east coast, which actually boasts slices of sand and sea that have been voted as some of the best beaches in the world once upon a time; places like Wine Glass Bay and Bay Of Fires are must-visit.
In the west coast, you’ll find Cradle Mountain, which abounds with stunning, lake-flanked scenery. It’s located in Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park, home to diverse flora from alpine heath to primeval rainforests.