Australia is home to some areas of the most outstanding natural features in the world at Uluru and Cairns, as well as, the lively cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
Uluru is located in Australia’s heart, the Red Centre. This deserted landscape and deep red sand could almost resemble Mars, however planted in the centre of this desolate environment is Uluru, the Earth’s largest rock. It is no wonder that this monolith forms one of most sacred sites to certain Aboriginal cultures. The Aboriginal Culture Centre has fascinating artwork, tools, dreamtime stories and the chequered history of these peoples. There are over 200 different tribes in Australia and it is the oldest continuing culture in the world having lasted 40,000 years. It is important to remember the appalling discrimination shown by European settlers, as before the 1967 referendum, the locals were not recognised as humans, but instead part of the fauna. Although, attitudes towards Aborigines have improved, there are still huge inequalities in regards to education, healthcare and job opportunities.
The city of Cairns located in Tropical Queensland has sheer natural beauty, as it is the only place in the world where two UNESCO sites meet, boasting the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. The dense rainforest has more species of trees in one hectare than in the whole of Europe. The Daintree River Cruise is a highlight, as it is home to crocodiles, snakes and kingfishers in their natural habitat. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest structure made by living organisms. It is easy to lose yourself in the labyrinthine undersea world with its spectacular abundance of coral reefs and array of sea life. However, a caveat to visiting is that as a result of the effects of climate change through coral bleaching, it is less colourful than is popularly believed. Restaurants in Cairns live up to the Australian stereotype with barbeques all year round, perfect to sample some of the national delicacies, including Kangaroo, Camel, Crocodile and Emu.
Melbourne is the capital of culture with a plethora of museums, including The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, which is wonderfully interactive featuring the world of film, TV and digital culture. Australians are sport fanatics and Melbourne has the colossal 100,000 seater MCG, which hosts cricket and the quirky sport of Aussie Rules.
Sydney’s harbour is a picture postcard with its iconic sights of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Bondi Beach is well worth a visit, as it personifies Australia’s sun, sand and surf culture and you may also catch a glimpse of whales. The Maritime Museum is impressive; as it not only housed the fastest ever boat the ‘Spirit of Australia’ and the HMS Endeavour which was Captain Cook boat in which he discovered the continent.
Before packing your bags, here are some key travel tips. Firstly, avoid travelling in Australia’s summer (December – February), as the flights are much more expensive and the weather is scorching. Secondly, book flights well in advance to capitalise on the cheaper fares, which are approximately £650 return from the UK in Australia’s winter (June-August). Thirdly, you will need at least three weeks, as there is a plenty to see and the country is huge. Finally, in terms of accommodation, Australia is very well set up for backpackers with lots of friendly youth hostels at less than £10 per night in most cities.
On first thoughts, Australia may seem a far-flung and expensive destination, however through careful planning, being selective and some saving up, a dream holiday destination could become a reality!