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Australia — the Ultimate Backpacker’s Paradise

If you’re looking for the outdoor life, wild countryside, beaches and delicious food and wine, then you’re considering Australia. In a country surrounded by the Pacific and Indian oceans, with their endless beaches, your most difficult planning decision is going to be what to leave out.

Visit an island off Queensland known as Koala HQ
Magnetic island just off the Townsville (QLD) coast is one of the most visited places by backpackers and home to Northern Australia’s largest colonies of koalas living in the wild. It was given its name in 1770 by Captain Cook, when the island appeared to affect the magnetic compass on his ship. It’s sunny all year round, making it ideal for outdoor activities and water sports. Horseshoe Bay, Arcadia Bay, Nelly Bay and Picnic Bay can all be explored by kayak and there are many dive sites, including the wreck of HMAS Yongala, renowned as the best wreck dive in Australia and one of the best in the world. Magnetic island is also the place to party. Once a month 3000 people gather at the Full Moon Party, to dance on the beach until sunrise.

What a dive
Picnic bay is one of many Australian diving destinations, where you can learn, practice and enjoy access to the Great Barrier reef from shallow waters, ideal for beginners. You can get the basics in the pool back home but if you really want to experience underwater heaven then you should head for Exmouth, on the North West cape, the gateway to the extraordinary Ningaloo Reef, where true diving adventures await. You’ll explore the coral and keep your eyes open for sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, turtles and even the odd humpback whale.

Dive Adventures is a good start for prices and group discounts.

Surf’s up – Manly beach, Sydney
Surfing is undoubtedly the name of the game in Australia and it’s something that will give you hours of fun for years to come – not to mention a few laughs as you watch your travel buddies trying to catch a wave. If you’re in Sydney then there’s no better place than Manly Beach, where the first World Surfing Championship were held in 1964. Get some lessons in the best place to learn and tell your friends where you learnt to surf. For more details including discounts for travel groups contact the Manly Surf school: www.manlysurfschool.com and don’t forget your towel.

Hit the road Jack… or is it Bruce?
What better way to explore Australia’s scenic beauty than to take a road trip. Pick up your travel buddies and head off up the Sydney coast road, where in addition to the beautiful ocean and endless beaches there are some otherworldly views to be had. Don’t miss the ‘Twelve Apostles’… huge pillars of rock made prominent by the erosion of limestone and in Western Australia you wouldn’t want to miss the drive along Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste. They give the perfect taste of Australia’s diversity; the lush vineyards, rugged coastline and stunning National Parks. Spring, when the wild flowers have the whole place carpeted in colour, is a great time to drive the coast roads.

Enjoy all there is to see at the Opera House
We can all identify the Opera House in Sydney by its unique design. One of the most famous buildings of the 20th century is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and host to over 8 million people a year. In addition to musical theatre, opera and cabaret, you can experience dance, classical music and comedy. You can also venture under the sails and into the heart of Australia’s greatest building on a Sydney Opera House tour. Best to book before you go at: www.sydneyoperahouse.com

They say West is best
Western Australia, covers a third of the country and is made up mostly of the arid Outback. They say that there is only one season, summer and Perth is the sunniest capital city in the world. People live mainly in the fertile southwest corner and vast empty beaches (that towel thing again) are to be found along its 12,000 km coral coastline. Desert landscapes make Western Australia the Australia you imagine.

Visit Karijini National Park in Pilbara and especially Oxer Lookout, Weano Gorge and Fortescue Falls. You have to camp out, go canyoning, and take a dip in the fresh water swimming holes. The Bungle Bungles, in the Purnululu National Park, must be experienced. Indigenous people have long lived there and the rest of the world didn’t even know it existed until the mid 1980s. The Fitzroy River is awesome and was the inspiration for the movie ‘Australia’. There’s also Lake Argyle, which is big enough to be an inland sea and you might fancy the ‘Tingle Trees sky-walk’. Kimberley, in Western Australia is one of the last truly ‘wild’ spots on the globe.

Go Bush – A journey into the wilderness
The remote Kimberly coast, thanks largely to its inaccessibility, is one of the world’s last great wildernesses. Beyond the towns of Broome, with its famous beaches (still got your towel?) and Wyndham, there are no roads, other than a few remote farm tracks, that lead to the coast and there are parts of this spectacular coastline that can only be reached by boat. Take a boat journey up the King George river to Bigge island and see the mysterious Bradshaw (Gwion) paintings, along the way you will see Montgomery reef, King cascades and the amazing Horizontal falls. This is an area steeped in ancient Aboriginal ways, spiritual significance, unique wildlife and legends of Australia’s pioneering past.

…and so to the beach
No Kimberly region visit is complete without joining film makers, writers, poets, artists and dancers in gaining inspiration from Broome. The tropical Broome beaches, fringed by the turquoise waters of the Indian are stunningly beautiful. Cable Beach, known as one of the world’s best beaches, is a 22 kilometre long stretch of sugar white sand, set against a backdrop of striking red cliffs and Town Beach is home to the ‘Staircase to the Moon’ a famous natural phenomenon that occurs when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats. If you enjoy, relaxing in the sun, swimming, fishing, an Indian Ocean sunset or just watching the ebb and flow of the tide, then it must be Broome .

Food and drink
Food from all over the world has been given a uniquely Australian twist. Dishes like ‘Salt and Pepper Squid’, traditionally Vietnamese, can now be found in pubs, gardens and beachside takeaways. A good breakfast is, an ‘Avo Smash’, avocado on toast, usually with a poached egg on top and you won’t get away without trying ‘Lamington’, a square of sponge cake soaked in chocolate sauce and rolled in coconut. The sum is truly greater than the parts.

You’ll be grabbing a beer at some stage, a Cascade, a Tooheys or a VB, but wines and gins are also top tipples. While Chardonnay and Shiraz remain top contenders for Australia’s favourite drop, flavoured gins are on the rise. Try Dasher + Fisher’s from the Sothern Wild distillery in Tasmania or Brookie’s from Cape Byron Distillery in New South Wales. You won’t be disappointed.

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