G'day! Australia is such a fantastic place, known for its abundant natural and cultural treasures that cater to just about everyone. It's a great place to go as a solo traveler, digital nomad or take part in an organised excursion.
Relax on the sunny beaches along its extensive coastline, learn how to surf in Byron Bay, or dive into the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the best cities on Earth are here: shopping, fine dining and art abound in Sydney and Melbourne; comedy and wine in Adelaide; amazing excursions from Darwin; history and natural beauty galore in Perth. Visit the Outback's red centre to witness the majesty of Uluru and learn about Aboriginal culture and history.
I've written this Australia Travel Guide to help you plan what to do, where to stay and what to budget for your next Australian vacation. You might want to bookmark this one!
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN AUSTRALIA
1. Take a Harbour Cruise in Sydney
Sydney Harbour is undeniably one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world. Book a cruise to fully appreciate the stunning views of the Sydney Opera House (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Most cruises are suitable for solo travelers, are wheelchair accessible, and I got the impression Australia imposes pretty safe load limits. Don't forget to slather on the sunscreen to protect from the Australian sun!
2. Delve into the Underwater World of the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage site located off the coast of Queensland, and it's a must-visit for nature lovers. There are multiple ways to explore the world’s largest coral reef system – snorkeling, scuba diving, or even an underwater scooter if you're feeling adventurous! This premium catamaran cruise might be worth splashing out on, as you won't want to skimp on a reef experience. When you're there, be mindful of marine life to avoid causing accidental harm.
3. Hike in the Blue Mountains
Just a two-hour drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains offer scenic walks, impressive waterfalls, and stunning panoramas. Believe me, it's worth the trip. If you're a solo traveler, consider joining a group hike to ensure safety, especially on longer or more challenging trails. This Blue Mountains hike is a small group and includes a picnic. You can do this on a budget too: public transport from Sydney is available, making the mountains easily accessible.
4. Explore Melbourne's Street Art Scene
Get lost in Melbourne’s vibrant alleyways, home to world-class street art and over 2000 murals. This activity is perfect for a solo traveler and is free and easily accessible in the city center. Melbourne is pretty safe, as always, stay aware and you'll be fine.
5. Visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a sacred Aboriginal site located in the heart of Australia. You can choose to walk or cycle around the base of Uluru, or take a guided tour to learn more about its cultural significance. Remember, climbing Uluru is prohibited out of respect for Indigenous traditions.
6. Wine Tasting in the Barossa Valley
For wine enthusiasts, a trip to the Barossa Valley near Adelaide, is a must. I had the best fun exploring a number of vineyards on my day trip which included lunch. Many vineyards are also “solo traveler” friendly, although I chose a group excursion. I noticed that the places we visited were mostly accessible (worth checking in advance if you have specific requirements).
7. Wildlife Watching on Kangaroo Island
Australia has such a diverse range of wildlife, including wallabies to platypuses. And spiders! Just off the coast of South Australia, Kangaroo Island is home to a diverse selection of wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas, and sea lions. It's really worth joining a guided tour for the best chance of spotting the animals.
8. Surf at Byron Bay
Byron Bay, located in New South Wales, is known for its surfing culture. This is an excellent spot for solo travelers to take surf lessons, with many surf schools available. Ocean conditions can be unpredictable, so do listen carefully to water safety advice. And bring the waterproof sunscreen!
9. Visit the Historic Port Arthur Site in Tasmania
Port Arthur is a former convict settlement and is now an open-air museum. It's an easy day trip from Hobart and you can use this Port Arthur site entry. The site could be a little challenging in terms of accessibility due to the historic nature of the buildings.
10. Explore the Daintree Rainforest
I'm saving a good one for last. I loved every moment in the Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland so much that I went back twice. This is the oldest surviving tropical rainforest in the world. There's a lot of tours going from different starting points. Consider this 8 hour 4WD Daintree tour leaving from Cairns; a one-day Daintree Rainforest outing from Port Douglas; or, this fascinating 3-day small-group tour of North Queensland from Cairns. The tropical climate can be intense, so ensure you stay hydrated and wear appropriate clothing.
For further details on cities to visit in Australia, check out my city travel guides:
GETTING HERE & GETTING AROUND
Most international visitors will fly direct to Australia from the US West Coast, or from Europe via a major stopover hub like Dubai or Singapore. Having flown all of these routes, I think how you get to Australia sets you up for major jet lag, or gets your boots straight on the ground. These articles go into further depth.
Australia is an enormous country and distances are FAR. Getting between some cities may require a flight, but you do have options.
Lots of people know about the famous (but expensive) train journeys in Australia: the Ghan and Indian Pacific. However, there are some excellent rail links in Australia. The XPT Service runs between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, while Queensland Railways links Brisbane with Townsville and Cairns. There are additional city public transportation rail services that are very well worth using.
Some people love to drive, even if it means Car Rental & huge distances. A small economy car from Sydney Airport costs from $35 AUD per day excluding extras.
Grabbing your own slice of #vanlife is hugely popular, particularly one way trips between Melbourne and Sydney. Or you could Buy a Van. Yes, it may give you the ultimate in freedom and budget control, but save time for resale (and prepare for devaluation).
Greyhound Australia is the biggest coach company in Australia. I've used them for a 3-4 hour trip in the Outback, but flights make most sense for longer trips. Also, Australian cities may have local bus services. Check the city guides on this site for details.
In most Aussie cities, taxis are widely available between airports and city centres. However, keep costs down by using public transport if you're headed outside of the city limits. Uber is around in busier locations: I found Uber competitive in Melbourne and Sydney.
AUSTRALIA DAILY EXPENSES & BUDGETING
Daily Expenses: Travel Costs
Daily expenses split out into accommodation, food, excursions & transport.
Accommodation: prices really vary from city to city. A mid-priced Sydney hotel rate will buy you a 4* luxury room in Darwin. For a basic hotel, expect to pay $100-150 AUD; mid-priced 3* from $150-250 AUD; higher-end $250+. Airbnb is widely used and a basic solo ‘entire place' will cost from $100 AUD per night (inc wifi) in Sydney. More details in each city guide.
Make sure you're comparing apples with apples and look at the “whole cost” of a room (room + amenities + breakfast). In general, Australian hotel room prices include free wi-fi and pool/gym access, but exclude breakfast which tends to run $20-25 per person.
Food: Food in Australia can be great, from a fusion of Pacific Ring cuisines to traditional bites associated with each city and territory. You'll also find food from around the world, reflecting the cosmopolitan make-up of modern Australian culture. Look out for barbie specials (meat-heavy, but vegan options coming through), food in the pubs/hotels (chicken parmigiana is worth trying), amazing barramundi in Western Australia and much much more.
For an evening meal, you can expect to pay from $20 for a main course in any mainstream restaurant and a little less in takeout places. If you're cooking, I found the cost of groceries much more expensive than in Europe, but the quality is great, especially of fresh produce.
As a solo traveler, I plan my outgoings as a “smart budget”. Each day I allow for a mid-priced hotel, one main meal in a proper restaurant and 1-2 excursions in a city stay of a few days. The “smart” part is that my flexible budgeting approach leaves some money over to splash out on more memorable luxuries. One night out of my itinerary in a super fancy hotel? No problem, I adjust the other nights to be a little less expensive. There's a Michelin-starred restaurant that everyone raves about? I adjust my food budget to have some cash over for that.
For Australia, I would allow a ‘smart budget‘ of $240 AUD per day for a typical 2 week itinerary. That's enough to include a mid-priced hotel and one meal daily in a good restaurant as well as a self-made breakfast of oatmeal and fruit and snacks. That amount also includes mid-priced excursions based on 1-2 excursions a week. You should have enough in the budget for up to 2 short flights within Australia.
Many people visit Australia as backpackers and you can manage on a budget of $80-90 AUD per day. That will include a shared dorm in a hostel, buying and cooking your own food, making the most of free excursions and taking the bus.
If you're on the trip of a lifetime, and have a lot more cash in the pot, Australia has everything you need for a luxurious trip. There are wonderful 5* hotels, unique experiences in the Outback and restaurants and wines to titillate the most exacting palates. Expect to budget from $500 AUD per day (and up) for a Luxury Budget.
- Local currency: Australian Dollar $AUD
- Exchange Rates: $1 USD = $1.45 AUD | £1 GPB = $1.86 AUD | €1 = $1.59 AUD
- SIM Cards: it can be cheaper to buy a local SIM and load it with data. Suppliers include Telstra, Boost, amaysim, Lebara and are widely available.
- Emergency Services: 000
- Power voltage: 230 V 50 Hz. Power sockets are Type I.
AUSTRALIA ACCOMMODATION & FOOD
If you're looking for well-priced hotels in Australia, these are places that I've stayed on some of my last 3 visits that balance price, amenities and location.
- Meriton Suites Sussex Street (Sydney)
- The Capitol Hotel (Sydney)
- Causeway 353 Hotel (Melbourne)
- Quincy Hotel (Melbourne)
- Anchorage Guest House (Perth)
- Ingot Hotel (Perth)
- Rydges Darwin Central (Darwin)
- Vibe Darwin Waterfront (Darwin)
- Desert Gardens Hotel (Uluru)
More detailed accommodation options and specific food recommendations are available in each City Travel Guide.
BEST TIME TO GO TO AUSTRALIA
Let's discuss the best times to visit. Australia's vastness means its climate varies significantly across the country, but in general, their seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere. While we might be donning scarves in December, Aussies are hitting the beach.
- Summer – to avoid the intense summer heat and bustling tourist season, you might want to skip visiting from December to February. LGBTQIA+ travelers might catch the tail end of the heat if visiting Sydney for Mardi Gras.
- Autumn (March to May) is the perfect time to explore – the temperatures are comfortable, and the autumnal colors are breathtaking, particularly in places like the Blue Mountains.
- Winter (June to August) can be a bit chilly, particularly in southern areas like Melbourne and Tasmania, but it's the perfect time for a ski trip to the Australian Alps or for exploring the Outback without the scorching heat.
- Spring (September to November) is a fabulous time to visit the wildflower-filled landscapes of Western Australia.
So, while there's really no ‘bad' time to visit Australia, there might be a ‘best' time, depending on what you're looking to do!
SOLO TRAVEL TO AUSTRALIA
Solo Travel in Australia is a bit of a treat. Australia is one of the friendliest and safest countries for solo travelers. It's pretty easy to navigate on your own, simply because the tourist industry is well-established, there's lots of public transport options (see above), and everyone speaks English. Plus, Aussies are renowned for their laid-back and helpful nature – if you want to, this is an easy place to make friends.
However, Australia is huge, and traveling between cities or attractions can take longer than you might expect, especially if you're venturing into the Outback. From time to time, I'd advise taking part in a group adventure as a solo traveler. Great options here include joining a surf school for a few hours in Byron Bay, or jumping on an organised wine tasting tour of the Barossa valley. Step into a new way of seeing: why not consider participating in an Aboriginal-led tour to learn about Australia's rich indigenous culture, available in Melbourne or Uluru.
DIGITAL NOMADS IN AUSTRALIA
Alright, fellow nomads, Australia could just be your next perfect base! The landscapes are sensational and the cities cosmopolitan and lively.
Most cities, particularly Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, have a thriving cafe culture with free Wi-Fi pretty much everywhere, perfect for setting up your mobile office. However, keep in mind that the cost of living can be high, especially in these major cities. The upside is the high standard of living and easy access to nature and outdoor activities for your downtime. If you're looking for a less hectic pace, smaller cities like Adelaide, Hobart, and the Gold Coast are worth keeping in mind. Or travel from one to the other. That's what I did!
Australia Digital Nomad Visa
Sadly, Australia does not have a dedicated Digital Nomad Visa. If you're passing through and checking your emails, most people would not consider that ‘work'. However, earning your main income in Australia would require a work visa and Australia is strict with its visa regulations.
Internet speed can vary: great in cities, but it can be slow in rural areas. Plus don't forget the ‘Nomad' part of Digital Nomad: get away from the screen and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle that Australia is famous for!
LGBTQ+ TRAVEL TO AUSTRALIA
Australia is widely known for its open and accepting atmosphere towards the LGBTQ+ community. Sydney, in particular, is a rainbow-filled haven. The city hosts the iconic Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, one of the largest LGBTQ+ celebrations in the world, and its LGBTQ+ scene, especially around Oxford Street and Newtown, is vibrant and diverse. Melbourne, too, has an active LGBTQ+ community, with many gay-friendly suburbs like Fitzroy and St Kilda. There are heaps of inclusive bars, clubs, and events to explore.
Mostly, things have moved on since Priscilla, Queen of the Desert! However, like anywhere, acceptance can waver in more conservative areas. Research where you want to visit carefully.
Same-sex marriage was legalized on 9 December 2017 and there are anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ+ people. While it's fantastic all those legalities are in place, experiences can vary from person to person and place to place. However, you'll find warm and welcoming Aussies wherever you go, with local support and community wherever you land.
HOW SAFE IS AUSTRALIA?
Overall, Australia is a very safe country with low crime rates. Cities are well-lit and generally busy, including late into the evening, and police are helpful and trustworthy.
There are a few unique things to keep in mind. If you're heading for a swim, remember that Australia's beautiful oceans can sometimes be a bit wild. Authorities recommend you swim between the red and yellow flags at beaches – these areas are patrolled by lifesavers. Beware of riptides and, in some areas, jellyfish or sharks.
Bushwalking is a must-do in Australia, but you MUST always let someone know where you're going, especially if you're trekking solo. Carry plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat to combat the Aussie heat.
When it comes to the local wildlife, it's best to admire from a distance. Though it's unlikely you'll come into direct contact with spiders and snakes, take precautions, including closed-toe shoes when in the bush. And if you get a little too close, don't hesitate to call for medical help as soon as something happens.
Lastly, please respect the local customs and the indigenous culture. This includes following any signage or directions at cultural or sacred sites.
AUSTRALIA TRAVEL GUIDE: BOOKING RESOURCES
These are the companies that I use to make bookings when I travel.
- Expedia – this is the website I use most for looking at hotels. They've really worked on their ‘Filters' and I can set everything to look for options within my Smart Budget.
- Skyscanner – this is where I start every search for flights. Skyscanner searches the main airlines and a bunch of alternatives so you can find the best deal for your trip.
- Get Your Guide – this website is all about tours and excursions. I've used them a lot; GYG has multiple options for each place I'm visiting so I can usually find a short or longer excursion depending on my budget and wants.
- Viator – Viator is a big central marketplace for tours and outings. Using Viator gives you access to everything from tours to food tastings, group walking tours, history and culture.
- VRBO – I've used VRBO in the US and Mexico to book ‘whole properties' (no risk of accidentally booking a room in someone's house!). The pricing is very sensible and it's clear what you will get in terms of amenities.
- G Adventures – this travel group organises small group travel for solo travelers to some amazing places. Check out their regular discounts.
- Peak Design – I use Peak Design products for camera accessories and bags. Everything I've used is strongly constructed and hard-wearing.