All-Out Australia

Experience Australia’s spectacular seas, cities and landscapes via road, rail or cruise.

Australia is home to beautiful beaches, friendly people and the world’s most famous coral reef. Varied climates and topographies define the land down under; Australia is surrounded by some of the clearest water and whitest sands you’ll ever see, but its picturesque palette also includes pops of jungle green, radiant yellows and the rich, rusty red that marks the revered sandstone monolith Uluru. There’s much to explore, and the vibrant cities, creature-stuffed seas and otherworldly landscapes and just a few of the reasons to visit Australia.

Twelve Apostles

Photo: eStock


Sydney, Australia’s largest city, should be at the top of your list. The metropolis marries many of the country’s best attributes. Take a walk around its center and suburbs, like Surry Hills, and discover charming architecture, boutique shopping and a glut of creatively prepared dishes starring slightly exotic seafood or kangaroo. Or embark on a clifftop journey on the Bondi to Coogee walk for breathtaking beach scenes.

To get the full picture, take to the Pacific. During the day and evening, water vessels of all stripes—like 1850s-style tall ships and extravagant yachts—sail or motor around Sydney Harbour, providing gorgeous views of not only the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the iconic Sydney Opera House but possibly of breeching humpback whales. (Animal aficionados shouldn’t miss the ferry to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.)

Hop a train heading west to the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the range’s fabled Three Sisters sandstone formation. Or hit the road; driving affords the opportunity to explore outside the city at your own pace. Head north past tony Palm Beach to sip wine in bucolic Hunter Valley, or grab a snorkel and journey south to play on beaches in Jervis Bay.

Sydney is a major hub for cruise lines and a prime departure point for journeys to Tasmania, the wild, unspoiled island off the southeastern tip. From Sydney (or Melbourne), you can set sail for New Zealand for a full itinerary that showcases the neighboring nation’s lush fringes and dramatic fjords.

Sydney Opera House

Photo: eStock


In Melbourne, expect to hear the name Yarra a lot. The Yarra River flows through the city center and hosts memorable sunset boat cruises. South Yarra is a happening neighborhood full of hip shops and eateries. The celebrated Yarra Valley wine country, a 50-minute drive away, is known for cool-climate chardonnays and pinot noirs, grand mountain landscapes and microbreweries, markets and hiking trails.

In Melbourne, tour the narrow laneways, with walls featuring the Technicolor work of street artists. Or discover the city’s famed culinary scene, which boasts exquisite Asian cuisine.

Ride along the Great Ocean Road by bus tour or by car. The breathtaking drive follows 150 miles of pristine coastline past must-stop sites like the Twelve Apostles rock formation in Victoria. While there, view limestone cliffs that hug turquoise waters and intrepid surfers mastering the waves at world-famous breaks. You can even search for koalas in the trees that line the roadside.

Wine tasting in the Yarra Valley

Photo: eStock


The star of the show in the northeastern state of Queensland is the Great Barrier Reef. The endangered UNESCO World Heritage site stretches across nearly 133,000 square miles and comprises countless coral, mollusk and fish species. It’s the planet’s largest living organism—it’s so expansive, it can be seen from space. For true immersion, snorkel or dive; the next-best option is to cruise on a glass-bottom boat, which offers a peek into the diverse under-water ecosystem.

If you can tear yourself away from the powdery sands of the Whitsunday Islands between the reef and the coast, head to Cairns or the Daintree Rainforest for scenic walks. Or choose a journey by train. The Kundara Scenic Railway, a vintage wooden train, travels through hand-hewn tunnels and jungle, while the 1960s-era Savannahlander train chugs its way inland to the Outback town of Forsayth.

The entire coast of Queensland and much of northern Australia is on view when you’re aboard a cruise ship. Choose an itinerary that includes ports such as Cairns, Hamilton Island and Darwin before detouring to Bali. If the opportunity presents itself, don’t miss an excursion to Airlie Beach for unforgettable snorkeling above the exotic corals.


Photo: iStock

Western Australia

If you think Sydney is a faraway land, then Perth will feel truly wild. The capital of Western Australia is an up-and-coming city; its many beaches are among the most gorgeous in the world, and its marinas are launch pads for satisfying humpback whale-watching and sunset cruises. Drive to world-famous Margaret River for access to more than 150 wineries, plus microbreweries, cideries and distilleries. Watch surfers in action, or see migrating whales between June and November.

For more adventure, take the southern route to Melbourne beginning at Fremantle Harbour that takes you first to Adelaide, a gateway to world-class wine, and then to Kangaroo Island, where you might be greeted by kangaroos, of course, or maybe koalas, sea lions or one of countless bird species.

Photo: Kate Francis

For even more reasons to visit Australia, check out two of the world’s best rail journeys that travel through the heart of the country.

Ready to explore the land down under? Call 877-396-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor.

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Janice Yip-Hudson, AAA Travel Counselor, Daly City, Calif.

Today, people's lives are so busy. We're thinking three days ahead just to get through our to-do lists. I love helping my clients plan vacations where they have nothing to do but relax; where time stands still, and you're just on vacation.

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