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.