Getting to Australia requires a lot of patience – and a good neck pillow! The most common flight path is from LAX with a flight lasting up to 14 hours. However, once you land, there are tons of great places to live, study or just visit for the weekend! Here are some “can’t miss” places in Australia that most study abroad students explore.
Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and is the most populous city in Australia. “Sydney is similar to any other major city in the sense that you’ll most certainly always find an activity going on; whether it be a new band playing, a new bar to met up with friends, or a new market to explore,” says Aussie abroad-er Jess Shoflick. Sydney is also home to the iconic Sydney Opera House and surrounding botanical gardens, Sydney Harbour, and access to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world- particularly Bondi Beach. Similar to a mini-NYC, Sydney is home to different neighborhoods, such as Surrey Hills for a more hipster crowd or The Rocks if you’re more modern or traditional. Weekend trips to and from Sydney are very possible (and encouraged!) so take advantage of the various beaches, go surfing, kayaking, or even snorkeling!
2. The Rocks
A very important part of immersing yourself in a new place is getting to know the local social scene, so be sure to check out The Rocks while in Sydney. This borough of Australia’s most populous city is also the oldest part, where settlers first landed on the continent. The streets are made of cobblestones and the buildings are over 200 years old! On the weekends, street fairs and markets flood The Rocks with live music, fresh food, and gregarious Aussies and tourists alike looking to socialize and enjoy the atmosphere. Historic walks, souvenir shops, and plenty of themed pubs make The Rocks a must-see place in Sydney.
3. Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is about a 10-minute walk from Sydney city center, and home to one of Sydney’s largest dining and entertainment districts. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other shopping centers to enjoy any night of the week, and Cockle Bay Wharf has waterfront promenades with open-air dining. You’ll probably see a good amount of tourists, but it’s definitely a fun place to spend a night out.
4. Coogee Beach
Imagine yourself relaxing on a picturesque Australian beach, the fresh Harbour air cooling you down as you observe fellow beachgoers picnicking, playing Frisbee, and enjoying the historic “ocean baths.” All that could be a reality if you choose to “study” abroad in Australia. While Coogee is notorious for jagged shores that form “Wedding Cake Island” and responsible for destroying the 180-meter Coogee Pier in 1934, the area is also the perfect access to parks, cliffs, and other smaller beaches. Aussie abroad-er Maci Katz lived in the heart of Coogee Beach and recalls afternoons of grilling out with her housemates and taking the three to five-mile walk to Bondi Beach as some of her favorite Aussie memories. She says, “When my roommates and I would come back from a long weekend away, we would always say how happy we were to come home.”
5. Cairns & The Great Barrier Reef
All countries have their magical spots, like the Canary Islands of Spain and the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, but the Great Barrier Reef is on a whole other level. The largest coral reef system in the world, as well as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef is definitely a must-see while studying abroad in Australia. Activities like snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, and white water rafting are all potential adventures just waiting to be embraced. Aussie expert Maci Katz describes her “life-changing” snorkeling and boating adventure with her best friend to the reef, saying “we dove down to look at giant clams, saw an array of beautiful, bright colored fish, and lightly touched the coral beneath us. When I try and explain this experience to others, I’m always at a loss for words. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.” Sounds like a place we want to see!
The second most populous Australian city of Melbourne is located farther south on the Eastern coast than Sydney and has been consistently ranked among the world’s “most livable” and “most expensive” cities. Melbourne is a haven for arts and culture, and offers a more “European” vibe than other Australian cities, and is even comparable to Boston with narrow streets and a nearby river. Spend your days exploring the little nooks and crannies of the area, enjoying festivals and live theater performances, and be on the lookout for the famous graffiti alleyways!
7. Whitsunday Islands
Nestled along the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays are comprised of 74 tropical islands in Australia’s Coral Sea. While most of the islands are deserted, eight of the Whitsundays offer various resorts from family-friendly to all-inclusive, the perfect getaway when parents come to visit! If you have limited money and time but still want to visit the Whitsundays while studying abroad, at least try to make it to Whitehaven Beach– one of the top-rated beaches in the world and the most photographed beach in Australia. It’s easy to see how the transparent sparkling ocean water has become world famous, and the fusion of colors from Tongue Point and Hill Inlet is definitely worth the trip.
Don’t let the cartoon character fool you- Tasmania is brimming with tons of outdoor adventures, ruggedly beautiful landscapes, and wonderful wine and food! The most geographically diverse state of Australia, Tasmania is perfect if you’re looking for a more active itinerary that might include visiting thermal springs, ocean kayaking, river cruises and so much more.
9. Featherdale Wildlife Park
If you’ve been waiting your entire life to play with koala bears, kangaroos, and other Australian creatures, LOOK NO FURTHER. Featherdale hosts birthday parties, corporate events, and even allows you to hand-feed some of the animals! Get in touch with your wild side and make sure to take pictures!
10. Great Ocean Road
Built by veteran soldiers between 1919 and 1932, Great Ocean Road is actually the largest war memorial dedicated to the soldiers killed in World War I, stretching 243 kilometers (151 miles) along the southeastern coast of Australia. If you have a few hours to kill and want to experience the coastline, rent a car and get driving! Comparable to California’s Pacific Coast Highway, Great Ocean Road makes a perfect day trip, with large cliffs on one side and the sweeping ocean on the other. Along the way, stop at beaches, famous lighthouses, and rock formations, especially the Twelve Apostles– large rock structures that broke off the shore and moved out to sea.
It’s impossible to list all the incredible places to visit in a country as big and diverse as Australia, so hurry up and get on your way! Australia is a place for the adventurous, the daring, the bold, and those looking to find a new appreciation for the vibrant life and beauty that makes up this truly astounding place. So whether you’re here for a whole semester or just passing through, be sure to hit up some of these Aussie hot spots, and even seek out some of your own!
(ATMC CRICOS CODE: 03013D)