Australia was home for us for four years and this enormous country-continent holds a very special place in our hearts.
Australia is HUGE, absolutely enormous and comprises six different states. Click here if you want to see some maps on how many other countries can fit into it.
It’s so big that it has three different time zones and is so immensely diverse in geography that its nature ranges from red soils to white beaches and tropical rain-forests to deserts. The country has some of the deadliest animals in the world but have no fear, they’re probably more scared of you than you are of them!
Many people think its capital city is Sydney but it’s actually Canberra which was specifically planned and designed. For me Canberra holds no charm and there is nothing of huge significance to see which is why many travellers opt to avoid it.
Given Australia’s landmass, it is actually one of the least densely populated countries in the world with a total population of just twenty-five million. It’s colonial history makes it a contentious issue as currently just 3% of the population is Indigenous Aborigine. The country suffers from systemic and institutional racism and the treatment of its Indigenous population is always being called into question.
Australia is the most expensive country we’ve ever lived in and it’s extortionate charges make it a challenging country to visit.
Top Ten Cities in Australia
- Sydney – 5.029m
- Melbourne – 4.725m
- Brisbane – 2.36m
- Perth – 2.022m
- Adelaide – 1.324m
- Gold Coast – 646,000
- Newcastle – 436,000
- Canberra – 435,000
- Sunshine Coast – 317,000
- Wollongong – 295,000
What to Know about Australia
Australia doesn’t hold an official language however 72.7% of the population speak Australian-English. Only twenty from two-hundred and fifty Indigenous Australian languages are thought to still be spoken.
- Australia’s currency is the Australian dollar $. It is not the same as the US$.
- ATM’s can be found in every town and city – although these can be located miles from each other. Nearly all businesses accept bank card or some form of online pay like google or apple.
- The pay-wave (contactless) limit is $50.
- Australia has some of the strictest visa conditions in the world and there are far too many to list here. Most visitors should be able to apply online (for free) for an e-visa which allows them to visit for up to 90 days at a time.
- For short term visa information head here.
- A bed in a hostel costs around $20 per night whereas private rooms in hostels might cost $100 per night. Free WiFi is usually included in hostel stays and some include breakfast.
- Guesthouse rooms usually cost $80 per night.
- Airbnb is widely available with prices generally starting at $80 per night. (see below for where you can stay)
- Booking.com offers a comprehensive list of hotels, hostels, guest rooms and private villas/houses. Hotel prices can start at roughly $130 per night
- Official camp sites can cost $30 per night for a tent pitch but start from $60 if you have an RV or trailer and require electricity.
- Camping in natural parks can cost as little as $10 per night but you’ll require a permit and have no access to water. You must agree to take all of your rubbish away with you.
- Free camping is available and there are dedicated websites geared to helping you find legitimate spots.
- Australian food can be VERY expensive. A basic fast food meal can cost about $10-15.
- Plant based food restaurants are easy and plentiful to find within main cities. Outside main cities, plant-based choice becomes more limited.
- If you plan on buying and cooking your own food, supermarkets can be found in all large towns and cities. The bigger chains are Woolworths, Coles, IGA as well as Aldi. Expect to pay at least $200-400 for a family week shop if shopping in supermarkets.
- Search for fresh food markets and bulk-buy markets to purchase fruit and veggies at a slightly discounted rate in comparison to supermarkets.
- Farmers markets are popping up everywhere but they can be quite pricey.
- Internal flights are extortionately expensive. The budget airlines are TigerAir & Jetstar are the main budget airlines.
- Train fares vary from city to city however short distance trip starts at about $4. If you’re planning on spending a while in one city, consider getting a travel card (such as GO card) to discount frequent trips.
- Bus fares are cheaper but they can be much more limited especially in rural areas. Consider using Greyhound for long distance coach travels as they offer passes, hop on-hop off services and experiences. Brisbane to Sydney starts at $109 and takes 16-20 hours.
- Car hire can be made cheaper by shopping around but expect to spend about $400 a week. Petrol is about $1.20-1.50 a litre and rising.
- Camper van hire and purchase is the most common method of traveller transport in Australia. Prices start at about $60 a night but you can certainly try and negotiate discounts for longer rental periods. Purchasing prices for a high mileage van in not so great condition, you should expect to spend about $10,000 and upwards.
- Hitch hiking is not as commonly seen as in Europe but it is an option.
Internet & Phone
- Kill me now because the internet is expensive and slow. The bane of our lives!
- Cheap phone SIM cards can be purchased from Optus and LycaMobile
- Free internet is given in many restaurants and coffee shops but don’t expect anything too good.
- Co-working spaces are becoming more common but spaces are limited and costs start at $140 per week although expect to pay up to $450 per week.
Places of Interest
- Gold Coast – A bustling and ultra busy area with exceptional beaches for everyone. Surfers Paradise has near constant waves of varying heights. Our favourite beach is Snapper Rocks. It’s also home to a ton of yoga and health food shops which we adore!
- Brisbane – Home for two years we love Brisbane. The newly built city boardwalks and the wonky bridge over to Southbank were our go to spots. The Story Bridge is the iconic landmark of Brisbane and Kangaroo Point gives wonderful views over the river and the city. You can even rock-climb the cliffs there. Brisbane also has two large botanic parks and don’t forget to pop to Roma Street parklands too. Our favourite area is Paddington with its boutique shops and colonial architecture.
- Fremantle – With a huge market on the weekends and loads of little boutique style shops to explore, Freo is a bustling, multi-cultural mix of people. Always lively, keep an eye out for the hawkers food market in the summer months on a Saturday.
- Townsville – Townsville has a bad reputation but I cannot understand why. It’s the gateway to Queensland’s tropical north and a lively but very small town.
- Port Douglas – Port Douglas is a small and quaint little town north of Cairns but with a hippie, laid back vibe it attracts an eclectic mix of like-minded travellers.
- The Barossa Valley – The Barossa Valley is an Italian look-a-like valley in South Australia located 37 miles northeast of Adelaide’s city centre. It is one of the world’s great wine regions, renowned for its food and wine cultural experiences and easy-going lifestyle.
- Sydney Opera house & bridge – You cannot go to Australia and not visit this iconic landmark. Watch the sunset fall behind it from Mrs Macquaries chair and walk back into Sydney through the Botanical Garden. Enjoy an expensive beer in the bars underneath the bridge and catch a ferry over to Manly.
Areas of natural beauty
- The Margaret River – The Margaret River is a relaxed, surfer town in western Australia. The area around it is known for its breweries, wineries and eateries. World-class beaches and surf breaks line the coast whose waters host dolphins, migratory whales, sharks and rays.
- Denmark – On western Australia’s southern coast, Denmark is a tiny town where they knit sleeves for their trees. It’s part of the Wilson Inlet and home to the famous Elephant rocks and Greens Pool which are exquisite parts of the coast line.
- Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park – Uluru with its spectacular red rocks and domes rising out of the Central Australian desert is protected by World Heritage. It is a sacred part of the Northern Territories and you can see rock art, hear bush stories, eat bush foods, birdwatch, watch the sunrise and meet local people. Please do not climb on Uluru.
- The Great Barrier Reef – The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs, 900 islands and stretching for over 2,300km. Airlie beach gives the easiest and cheapest access but this is through organised and busy tours. It’s nicer to do your own but does require more research.
- Moreton Island – My favourite island in Australia but you’ll need a 4×4 to conquer this one as there are no roads. The island is a big sand dune and whilst there’s lots to do you cannot do it without a 4×4.
- Bribie Island – Just off the coast of Brisbane’s northern suburbs, Bribie has a reputation for ‘newly wed or nearly dead’ but it also houses an amazing set of long and sandy beaches.
- Shark Bay world heritage area – Around the area of Denham in Western Australia lies an amazing natural area. Too spectacular to put into a sentence, you’ll need to visit it to see for yourself.
- Lancelin sand dunes and coast – Lancelin is about an hour north of Perth’s suburbs. It is a sleepy town which has giant sand dunes and super long beaches. During the winter months when the wind picks up it’s a haven for kite and wind surfers but during the summer months the beaches are calm and great for kids. It also has a colony of seals which must be avoided during pup season.
- Great Ocean Road – Stretching 244km from Torquay to Allansford in Victoria you’ll be able to what is left of the Twelve Apostles, Teddy’s Lookout, Loch Ard Gorge, The Grotto and London Arch.
- Lord Howe Island – Somewhere between Australia and New Zealand lies this crescent shaped island. If you’re into hiking mountains, snorkeling clear waters, visiting sandy beaches and subtropical forests then this is the place for you.
- Philip Island – Phillip Island is a popular day trip from Melbourne due to the Penguin Parade. The Nobbies outcrop is the viewing site for Seal Rocks, home to a large colony of Australian fur seals.
- Karijini National Park – Located in Western Australia the park is over 2 million years old. In the park’s north, Oxer Lookout has views of the Weano, Red, Hancock and Joffre gorges. At the edge of Weano Gorge, a trail leads to Handrail Pool. To the east are the red rocks of Dales Gorge and the cascades of Fortescue Falls. Indigenous wildlife includes Australian goshawks, ring-tailed dragons and desert tree frogs.
Paid Activities & Tours
Where To Stay In Australia
These sites offer you the chance to swap homes with other people which significantly reduces all costs. Some homes also offer car swapping too. You might need to pay an annual fee of up to £70 but this is small change in comparision to forking out for accommodation.
How About Working For A Free Stay
Have you thught about exchanging work hours for free accommodation, some meals and time off to explore a new country?
Sign Up For Membership Discounts
Many (non-hotel/booking site) memberships provide discounts on hotels and hostels worldwide. Often you simply type the membership/discount code in a coupon box when booking online. Some programs that offer discounts include:
- Hostelling International (HI) (provides discounts at HI membership hostels worldwide)
- CAA/AAA (provides members-only discounts on international hotel chains and car rentals)
- International Student Identity Card (ISIC) card (provides discounts on accommodation, transport, and attractions worldwide)
Booking Platforms That We Use
These are the platforms that we use the most. They each have benefits and it takes time to compare the deals on them but always look for good & honest reviews and look at the booking conditions.
- Holiday Lettings
- Holiday Cottages
- Hotels Combined