Australia – The basics
Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, roughly 3M square miles, or 7.7M square KM. Distances are vast — from Sydney to Perth is roughly the same distance as from New York City to Phoenix AZ. Australia is slightly smaller than Brazil, and it is the flattest and the driest inhabited continent. Although Australia is quite large, the population is very small, only about 25M people, 90% of whom live in cities. Let me put it to you this way – If you took the population of greater New York City and spread it out over an area the size of the continental USA, that’s Australia. There are parts of the country where you can drive through the Outback for hours and never see another person.
Australia – The Seasons
The country is in the Southern Hemisphere, so seasons are reversed from North America. Having said this, it all depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. In general, a few guidelines:
- December to February/March is ‘high season’ in Southern Australia. Peak summer season in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Kangaroo Island, and Tasmania. Rainier in the North of the country, very hot and humid in the ‘red centre’ (Ayers Rock/Uluru region).
- June to August is winter in Australia. This is peak season for the desert/red centre (low temperatures at night at or below freezing, but comfortable daytime temps) and drier in the Northern Part of the country. Cooler in Tasmania, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide
- March to May and September to November are your ‘shoulder’ seasons, not as crowded as either summer/winter, and also good times to visit.
Why visit Australia Now?
There are a hundred reasons to visit Australia, one of the most sought after destinations in the world at the moment. Based on all my research and travels, here is my personal ‘top 10’ list:
#1: Beautiful Scenery
Australia offers just about every climate and every terrain possible, from tropical rainforests in the North to endless deserts; from rocky outcrops and snow-capped mountains to the largest coral reef in the world; from stunning beaches to green valleys and large plains of red sands. Australia is a wild, untamed continent, and you do not have to travel far to experience breathtaking scenery.
#2 Unique Wildlife
One the biggest reasons to visit Australia is to see wildlife found nowhere else in the world. In fact, 80% of Australian wildlife is endemic, including 700 bird species, kangaroos, Koalas, wallabies, platypus, echidnas (spiny anteaters – I had to look them up in a book after seeing one in the wild), wombats, over 500 varieties of eucalyptus trees, and — if you are lucky – you will spot a Tasmanian Devil.
In the last twenty years, Australian cuisine has taken its place among the best and most sophisticated dining in the world and launched a whole new movement in fine dining called “MOD OZ”, or modern Australian. Along with fine dining and Michelin chefs, Australian wines have also stepped up their quality and reputation, and today you can visit a number of notable wine regions. The best known is the Barossa Valley in South Australia, but if you are a wine enthusiast, visit the McLaren (SA) and Yarra (VIC) valleys, as well as Hunter Valley (NSW), Tasmania’s Tamar Valley, or Western Australia’s Margaret River region.
#5 Indigenous Culture
Most countries are proud to showcase civilizations that are 3,000, 5,000, or maybe 10,000 years old. Australia tops them all, with a continuous indigenous culture that goes back over 60,000 years. Get a taste of Australian aboriginal culture still alive and best seen in places like Ayers Rock/Uluru and The Olgas/Kata Tjuta in Australia’s ‘Red Centre” region, as well as Arnhem Land and Kakadu in the Northern part of the country.
For train buffs, nirvana is a seat on either the GHAN long-haul train running between Adelaide in the South and Darwin in the North (42 hours, with sleeper coaches), or on the Indian Pacific, which takes 4 days between Sydney and Perth.
#7 Active / Adventure options
Australia offers a wide range of options. If you like to hike, swim, climb, kayak, scuba, snorkel, drive, camp, surf, ride a camel, swim with whale sharks, go hunting for salt-water crocodiles (called ‘salties’), skydive, fish, float in a balloon, birdwatch, fly in a helicopter or small aircraft, sail, skim over swamps in a fast airboat, or scream and shout at the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge (as I did!) – Australia has your number.
#8 Great Places to Stay
Australia offers great city hotels with drop-dead gorgeous views, like the Park Hyatt and Shangri-La Sydney, as well as a superb collection of luxury lodges that are right up there with the ‘best of the best’ anywhere in the world – including Kangaroo Island (SA), Lizard Island (QLD), and Longitude 131 (NT), which I will cover in-depth in my next articles.
I loved spending time with new and old friends I made on my last trip. I find Australians are fun to be with, sports-crazy, informal, down to earth, funny, egalitarian, and an open, friendly people. When you jump into a taxi, you sit in the front seat next to the driver and start chatting away. There is something wrong with you if you do not leave Australia with names and email addresses of new friends you met along the way.
#10 – Value
Australia is more affordable now that 1USD equals $1.32 in AUD/Australian Dollars.