If you've never been before it's easy to picture Australia as a bigger, hotter version of Britain, where the locals enjoy the familiar pleasures of warm pies, cold beer, and a good game of cricket.
While it's true that Australia and the UK are similar in many ways, Australia is also truly unique. The first mistake many first-time visitors make is to try to do too much in a single trip. Australia is a country best enjoyed in manageable, bite-sized chunks.
"The classic error is that people often aim to 'do' Australia in two or three weeks," says Flight Centre consultant Georgie Jenkins. "Australia, remember, is bigger than continental Europe."
With that in mind, a two or three-week Australian adventure needs to be carefully planned. But it's perfectly possible to create itineraries that include iconic sights and unmissable experiences without forgetting that other key ingredient of an unforgettable trip: having some time to do just whatever you fancy.
Just don't expect to fit the full bucket list of iconic Australian sites into a single holiday. "If you only have a couple of weeks in Australia, the best thing to do is to pick a couple of areas and really explore them," says Georgie.
From opera to ocean
That's easy to do in Australia, because every region has a wealth of things to do and see. Sydney has its Opera House and Harbour Bridge and also acts as a gateway to both the Blue Mountains and the legendary Pacific Coast, which boasts 48 national parks and 12 state forests along its route.
Melbourne, meanwhile, has the wonderful Flinders Street Station, and can act as a base to explore the rolling countryside of the Yarra Valley wine producing region, or the spectacular sites of the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Barrier Reef is the key destination for many visitors, but a two-week holiday can also take in the friendly towns of the sunshine coast, the remote bays, islets and sands of the stunning Whitsunday National Park and the lively seaside city of Cairns.
"What it means is that, wherever you go in Australia, you can stick to one or two areas, or follow an itinerary that leaves plenty of time for relaxation, and never feel like you're missing out," Georgie adds. "Every region has so much to offer, whether you enjoy city life, sightseeing, adventure, wildlife or a combination of them all."
A network of national parks
One easy way for first timers to enjoy the best of Australia is to pick a city and then explore national parks in its vicinity. Australia is a nation of national parks, with 500 of them dotted across the country. Exploring a couple on a two or three-week trip is a manageable and memorable way to enjoy a real taste of the Australian outdoors.
"For example, after less than an hour's drive from Sydney's Central Business District you'll be stepping into the Royal National Park where you can have a day of outdoor action and adventure," says Georgie. "Wherever you are you're unlikely to be far from a national park, and many of them are absolutely spectacular."
And wherever you are, every first-time visitor should an enjoy at least one iconic Australian activity, whether that's swimming in the sea or enjoying a barbie. In fact, many towns, beaches and cities have free to use public barbeques. "You just bring the food and drink," says Georgie.
Whichever part of Australia you choose to visit, and whatever you hope to do, Georgie says that the key is to plan ahead. Ask yourselves what you want to see, what you want to do, and how much time you want to spend travelling, and make sure you factor in plenty of time for relaxation. The great thing about planning your first Australian holiday is that, whichever area you choose, you can't really go wrong.
Flight Centre's Travel Experts have the in-depth knowledge and experience to put together your dream holiday. With access to in-destination specialists all around the globe, they can tap into the very best tours, activities and travel trends to create your perfect Journey itinerary. With 24-hour customer assistance, ABTA and ATOL protection and an exclusive concierge service called Travel Butler, a Flight Centre Journey is the perfect way to see Australia.
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