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IN PICS: 18 AMAZING travel destinations in Australia

Last updated on: August 11, 2012 10:13 IST

IN PICS: 18 AMAZING travel destinations in Australia

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Tourism Australia lists out some of the best places to travel to Down Under!

1. The Great Barrier Reef

You can swim, snorkel, dive and sail the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, a living masterpiece so big it can be seen from outer space.

It stretches more than 2,000 kilometres along the Queensland coast, from the mainland towns of Port Douglas to Bundaberg. Hop between the pristine, palm-fringed islands on top, then explore the rainbow-coloured coral islands and marine life below. Soar over the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef on a scenic helicopter flight to Green Island. Spectacular Heart Reef is located on Hardy Reef in the Whitsundays and is best experienced from a seaplane or helicopter. Combine a snorkelling day trip to the reef from Cairns with a hot air balloon ride over the Atherton Tablelands.

Capture some of Queensland's biggest coastal attractions -- from the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef to the pristine islands and rainforest national parks. Four wheel drive Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island and see manta rays and turtles at Mon Repos, near Bundaberg.

How to travel

By train: From Sydney you have to take a 14-hour journey to Brisbane, where you'll spend part of a day and then change to a 3 times per week departure for Cairns, which takes about another full day, so the entire journey takes about 2 days, including half a day waiting in Brisbane.

By bus: The method for getting from Sydney to Cairns by bus is pretty much identical to the instructions by train, although the part from Brisbane to Cairns takes at least a few hours longer. You can buy a bus pass that allows unlimited travel between Sydney and Cairns on these buses.

Accommodations

Cairns Queens Court: Staying in the heart of Australia's premier holiday destination, Cairns Queens Court presents a convenient location as you brace yourself for the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation region. Consisting of 81 rooms, Cairns Queens Court is a boutique hotel that offers a wide choice of room styles at exceptional value.

BreakFree Royal Harbour: Cairns is the primary gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and Tropical North Queensland's outback. From a great waterfront location overlooking Trinity Bay and the spectacular Cairns Lagoon, BreakFree Royal Harbour is perfectly positioned for guests to enjoy the best of this vibrant tropical city. The resort is within walking distance of Cairns Central Business District and the bustling hub of the Esplanade's restaurants and cafes.




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2. Adelaide

Discover Adelaide, South Australia's elegant and cultured capital.

Get up close to kangaroos, koalas, seals, penguins and pelicans on the wildlife wonderland of Kangaroo Island. Fly over Wilpena Pound in the rugged, timeworn Flinders Ranges. See the Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island, as well as the Barossa Valley and Fleurieu Peninsula driving the South Australian Loop. 

Skip from cultural attractions to the coast in Adelaide, where restaurants, parklands and wine regions are also within easy reach. Explore the city's past in the grand stone buildings along North Terrace. Discover the youthful energy humming beneath the city's elegant exterior along Rundle Street and Gouger Street's popular dining strip. Lose yourself in parklands, which sprawl around more than half the city. Swim with dolphins in Glenelg and enjoy summer festivities in beachside Henley.

How to travel

By rail: There are major trains in this region like the Overland (Melbourne-Adelaide) which runs three times weekly during daylight hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Adelaide to Melbourne and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the other direction; 'The Ghan' twice weekly (Adelaide-Darwin) and one additional weekly service Adelaide-Alice Springs, and the 'Indian Pacific' (Sydney-Adelaide-Perth) which runs twice weekly.

Accommodations

Rendezvous Grand Hotel Adelaide: The Rendezvous Grand Hotel Adelaide is one of Adelaide's leading deluxe hotels located in the heart of the city, offering a superb range of opulent rooms and suites.

The Regal Park Motor Inn: The Regal Park Motor Inn is the perfect place to stay when visiting Adelaide. It is situated on a quiet tree lined terrace of North Adelaide, only two kilometers from the city centre and 50 meters from the cafes, shops and restaurants of O'Connell Street.




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3. Adelaide Hills

From the South Australian gateway city, and gourmet paradise, Adelaide, it's only a short drive to a number of world-class wine regions, including the Adelaide Hills. Just 20 minutes drive from the city, Adelaide Hills is a popular destination with locals and international visitors alike who come to kick back and enjoy the region's fantastic food and wine. The heart of the Adelaide Hills is Hahndorf, a German settlement which continues to retain a strong German flavour in its architecture, food and art and craft offerings.

How to travel

By road: It is best to hire a car as it's a 20 min drive from the city of Adelaide.

Accommodation

Woodhouse Activity Centre: Woodhouse Activity Centre is situated in the picturesque Adelaide Hills at 37 Spring Gully Road Piccadilly. These 54 hectares of undulating gum tree studded countryside offers several large self contained group accommodation buildings and some smaller rustic cabins and campgrounds only 20 minutes drive from Adelaide city centre.

SunnyBrook Bed and Breakfast: SunnyBrook Bed and Breakfast is situated at Tungkillo in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, about an hour's drive from Adelaide city. Choose from Thirsk (one bedroom) or Heswall (two bedroom) which overlooks the Baker Creek and provides spectacular views across the valley with majestic river gums and abundant wildlife.




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4. Sydney

Soak up Sydney's gorgeous harbour, seductive outdoor lifestyle and great natural beauty. Kayak under the Sydney Harbour Bridge or wave at the Opera House as you ride a ferry across the harbour to Manly. Learn to surf at Bondi Beach or swim in the calm waters of Coogee. Lose yourself in the cobblestone cul-de-sacs of The Rocks or in the markets, boutiques, cafes and pubs of Paddington. As well as a world-famous harbour and more than 70 sparkling beaches. Sydney offers fabulous food, festivals and 24x7 fun.

Accommodations

Vibe Hotel North Sydney: Vibe Hotel North Sydney is superbly located just a few minutes' walk from Luna Park, North Sydney's central business district, fine restaurants, entertainment and bars

Blue Sydney- A Taj Hotel: Blue Sydney at Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo provides guests with a complete hotel experience. Blue is a boutique hotel in the heart of a luxury marina, entertainment and apartment complex; you are also within walking distance of the central business and shopping district, Sydney Opera House and adjacent to the Royal Botanical Gardens.




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5. Barossa Valley

South Australia's Barossa Valley is a world-class wine region. They've been producing wine here for generations. Just over an hour's drive from Adelaide, this picturesque region was settled in 1842 by European immigrants and still retains its charming old-world character. Visit gracious heritage towns, century-old cellars and some of the world's oldest shiraz vineyards.

Follow a food and wine trail between boutique producers or take a scenic drive through the rolling countryside. Beyond the stone churches and world-renowned wineries there's a thriving arts scene and spas for relaxation. With 150 wineries and more than 70 cellar doors, there is certainly a lot to see, sip and taste in the Barossa Valley.

Like fine wine, it seems the Barossa just gets better with time.

How to travel

By road: From Adelaide take Main North Road (A20) to Sturt Highway and enter via Gawler and the Barossa Valley Way. Or, from Adelaide take Lower North East Road (A10) out of Adelaide and travel through Chain of Ponds in the Adelaide Hills to Williamstown in the southern Barossa. From Melbourne via Eden Valley, turn off at Murray Bridge and travel to Palmer and Tungkillo and enter at Mount Pleasant. Or travel via the South Eastern Freeway (M1) exit at Hahndorf and travel through the Adelaide Hills via Birdwood to Williamstown.

From Sydney and Mildura, take the A20 via Renmark and enter at Truro and Nuriootpa.

By air: Adelaide is well serviced by regular domestic and international flights with hire cars available at the airport. For private charters there is a light-plane airport at Parafield, just 45 minutes south of the Barossa in metropolitan Adelaide.

By coach or chauffeured vehicle: Tour Barossa offers a door-to-door service from Adelaide airport from $150 AUD in luxury Chrysler 300C or an 11-seat mini bus for groups larger than 4 people.

Public transport:A daily bus service makes regular stops at townships along the route from both Adelaide to the Barossa, ideal for either a day-trip or a longer stay.

Accommodations

Blickinstal Barossa Valley Retreat: Blickinstal which means 'view into the valley' is a beautiful rural bed and breakfast nestled into the foothills amongst vineyards, five minutes from the heart of the Barossa Valley.

Barossa Vista: This four and a half star three bedroom, two bathrooms, home is uniquely located at the start of Murray Street in Tanunda, the main street at the heart of the Barossa Valley.




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6. Kangaroo Island

See native wildlife in the wild in the ecological haven of Kangaroo Island.

Feed pelicans and see giant cuttlefish, seahorses and little penguins at Kingscote Wharf. Meet wallabies, brush-tailed possums and kangaroos on a nocturnal tour along American River. Cuddle koalas and hand-feed lorikeets, hold a possum or get wrapped by a snake at Stokes Bay. Observe Australian sea lions at Seal Bay and over 7,000 New Zealand fur seals playfully interacting in and around Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park, also home to hundreds of docile kangaroos. You'll spot koalas pretty much everywhere, but some of their most popular hangouts are in the trees of Hanson Bay Sanctuary and Western KI Caravan Park.

Discover quiet country lanes, picturesque towns and national parks on a cycling tour from Penneshaw. Follow the Dudley Peninsula drive to the lighthouse of Cape Willoughby and visit honey makers and lobster, lavender and dairy farms on a journey through the Kingscote District.

How to travel

Kangaroo Island lies 15 kilometers off the mainland of South Australia, and is easily accessed by air or sea.

By air: The flight is a short 30 minutes from Adelaide Airport to Kangaroo Island Airport. The airport is located 13 km from Kingscote but Kangaroo Island has no public transport and no taxi services. Visitors are welcome to hire a car or arrange a tour with one of the island's tour providers in order to ensure you see as many of the Island's attractions as possible.

By boat: Sealink operates from Cape Jervis on the mainland to Penneshaw. Coach connections are available between Adelaide and Cape Jervis and Penneshaw, American River and Kingscote. Ferry travelling time is a comfortable 40 minutes.

Accommodations

Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat: Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat is a eco-friendly retreat discreetly nestled in a natural bushland setting offering visitors to Kangaroo Island a true Australian wilderness experience combined with intimate accommodation, superb food and wine and unsurpassed levels of personalised service.




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7. Melbourne

Find all you need to know about Melbourne in Australia, the capital of Victoria and a vibrant hub of style, sport, culture and dining. Drive the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles and Victoria's world-class surf beaches. Challenge yourself on the mountainous Great Alpine Walk or drive the Great Alpine Road through the Australian Alps and Gippsland.

Melbourne is a maze of hidden laneways, opulent bars, exclusive restaurants and off-the-beaten-track boutiques. Here you can soak up culture, hit the sporting grounds, taste the dynamic food and wine scene, dance till dawn or wander the parks and leafy boulevards. There's no time for sleep in Melbourne, a city where culture buffs, sport nuts, fashion lovers and foodies all have their niche. Discover cafes, bars and boutiques in city laneways sprawling secretly off ordered streets. Australia might stop for the Melbourne Cup, but for the rest of the Spring Racing Carnival no one in Melbourne sits still. Flemington Racecourse is the stage for big-name race days such as Derby Day, the Melbourne Cup, Oaks Day but all tracks across the state are part of the action.

Accommodations

Clarion Suites Gateway: Wake up in the morning with the best Melbourne has to offer right at your doorstep. It is just a short stroll to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne Aquarium and the shopping at Southbank and Bourke Street Mall. Melbourne Tram's make it easy to get to places like Bridge Road, Queen Victoria Market and Melbourne Museum.

Langham Hotel: Langham Hotel in Melbourne reflects the cultural and historical essence of Melbourne life. On the south bank of the Yarra River, the hotel is within easy access of the city's business district, fashion, shopping, sport, parks and gardens, al fresco restaurants, cafes and nightlife, and the centerpiece of its art precinct close to the Arts Centre, National Art Gallery of Victoria and Federation Square.




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8. Yarra Valley

In today's manic world, a trip to the Yarra Valley is a magical, time-stopping escape. Taste wine in Yarra Glen and drink Devonshire tea high in the Dandenong Ranges. Linger over a long lunch in a winery restaurant or picnic next to waterfalls on fresh local produce. Puff through Sherbrook Forest on a steam train or float over the countryside in a hot air balloon.

The Yarra Valley is home to 40 wineries, ranging from small, family-owned operations to sprawling big-name estates. They grow some of Australia's finest pinot noir and sparkling wine here, along with a huge range of other cool-climate wines. Pick up expert tasting tips on a luxury food and wine tour. You can even visit the vineyards in a Clydesdale-drawn carriage, classic Chevrolet convertible or chauffeured limousine.

How to travel

By car: It's less than an hour from Melbourne to the region's vineyards.

Accommodations

Eltham Garden Retreat: Established in 1997, Eltham Garden Retreat comprises a three-roomed mud brick cottage and a loft, both with garden access, this property sits in a beautiful, private, water wise garden.

Chateau Yering Historic House Hotel: A sweeping rose-bordered driveway takes you to the beautifully restored Chateau Yering Hotel.




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9. Phillip Island

Stop for a coffee at Fish Creek, a small quirky township lined with galleries, bookstores and cafes or wait till you reach the popular seaside town of Inver Loch for lunch. Drive through the fishing and pelican haven of San Remo and over the bridge to Phillip Island. See koalas and waterbirds in the wild at Rhyll and watch fairy penguins waddle home at dusk on Summerland Beach.

For a different kind of wild life, visit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, home to the Australian Motor Cycle Grand Prix and V8 Supercar 500. Cruise past Australia's largest seal colony of fur seals at Seal Rocks and see thousands of short-tailed shearwaters on the rugged bluffs of Cape Woolami. Spend the night in Cowes or the sheltered port of Rhyll.

See koalas and waterbirds in the wild at Rhyll and witness little penguins as they parade home at dusk on Summerland Beach. Marvel at Australia's largest fur seal colony as you cruise amongst Seal Rocks and stay overnight in an array of beachside accommodation.

How to travel

By car: Just 90 minutes drive from Melbourne one arrives in the gateway of San Remo -- also a fishing and pelican haven.

Accommodation

Silverwater Resort: The stunning Silverwater Resort is the region's newest family-friendly, 4.5 Star lifestyle resort -- unlike anything else seen in Victoria. Located on the rolling hills of San Remo, the gateway to Phillip Island, the 170 room resort with its laid back coastal holiday atmosphere and all inclusive facilities is the perfect base for those wanting to stay and play on the picturesque south-east coastline of Victoria.

The Island: Brand spanking new eco-friendly accommodation complex is specially designed for you. State of the art facilities, comfortable and friendly services. Staying away will no longer be difficult to meet people. The staff at The Island knows the importance of meeting people. The complex has been designed with this in mind.




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10. Brisbane

Brisbane is a city with some serious cultural credentials. This is where you'll find the sprawling Queensland Cultural Centre on South Bank, which hosts every manner of artistic endeavour and a growing number of world-class exhibitions. But this national treasure trove of galleries, museums, theatres and arts spaces is just the start.

Laze in the lush riverside gardens of South Bank, then browse the markets and swim in its lagoon. Bike-ride in the City Botanic Gardens and abseil the cliffs of Kangaroo Point. Glide down the river on a majestic paddle-steamer or take a high-speed ferry to vibrant inner-city villages like Bulimba and New Farm. With a laidback vibe and no buildings higher than the trees, the sub-tropical paradise of Noosa is a place where you can really relax. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to do here. Noosa brings international resort glamour to its pristine beaches, national park and lush hinterland.

How to travel

By rail: Brisbane is well connected by train to Sydney, Rockhampton, Cairns and other places in Queensland. Central railway station is the main railway station of Brisbane. Intercity trains, including trains from the airport, regularly arrive at the station.

By bus: Drive yourself to Brisbane along the scenic coastal roads from Sydney, Melbourne or Cairns. Exhausting, but worth the effort if you have time to spare, for it is a truly picturesque drive.

Accommodations

Novotel Brisbane: This hotel offers guests newly refurbished contemporary accommodations with comprehensive business and leisure facilities in the heart of Brisbane city. Located next to Central Station, you can venture out to enjoy all the wonders Brisbane has to offer. Novotel Brisbane is only a short walk to the Central Business District, Queens Street Mall and Riverside Boardwalk.

Aspley Motor Inn: When visiting Brisbane, stay at Aspley Motor Inn for holidays, business, sporting or entertainment occasions, professional visits, hospital visits or to meet up with family or friends. They are an excellent Brisbane location easily accessible by road, air or rail transport. Aspley Motor Inn is within easy distance to the Brisbane Airport, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane Central Business District, north Brisbane hospitals, RNA Showgrounds (Ekka), South Bank, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and major shopping facilities.




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11. Gold Coast

Australia's Gold Coast is a modern city of glittering high-rise buildings, built around superb beaches, including the world renowned 'Surfers Paradise'.

Australia's sixth largest city, and the second largest in the state of Queensland, the Gold Coast is where the 'bikini' was born. Along with endless stretches of golden beaches, there are international theme parks, designer boutiques, luxurious spa retreats, world-class golf courses, award-winning restaurants, up-market bars and lively nightclubs.

Tackle the huge waves off Broadbeach, snorkel through a shipwreck off Main Beach or walk on golden sand fringed by high rises in Surfers Paradise. Explore the waterfalls, rainforest, lookouts and scenic bush walks of the lush Gold Coast hinterland. Shop till you drop in art and craft markets, huge airy malls and high-end boutiques. Then get into the Gold Cost's glitz, glamour and fun at its bars, nightclubs and events.

How to travel

By bus/coach: There are a number of coach services that pass through the Gold Coast. There are regular services from Brisbane, Byron Bay, Sydney and other major centres. There are bus transit centres in Coolangatta, Surfers Paradise and Southport. Travel time from Brisbane is around 90 minutes and from Sydney an express coach service takes around 14 hours.

By train: The Gold Coast is connected by rail to Brisbane's Roma Street and central stations. The closets railway stations servicing the Gold Coast include Nerang, Helensvale and Robina -- there are connecting shuttle bus services available from the station to Surfers Paradise and other Gold Coast centres. Airtrain also operate regular rail services from Brisbane airport to the Gold Coast which takes approximately 90 minutes.

By car: Self drive, the major route from Sydney to the Gold Coast is via the Pacific Highway which is currently undergoing major upgrades and conditions vary.

Accommodations

Contessa Holiday Apartments: If food, wine, music, design, fashion and art are your thing, QT Gold Coast is the place for you. Walk in to this Surfers Paradise accommodation and be welcomed by an inspiring open-spaced setting with beautiful artist-crafted features and bold custom lighting.

Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach: Located in the heart of Broadbeach, just 200 metres from patrolled beaches, Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach is a luxurious hotel, featuring 296 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, all with breathtaking Pacific Ocean or hinterland views.




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12. Mornington Peninsula

Life really is a breeze on the Mornington Peninsula, a summer paradise dotted with seaside villages, vineyards, beaches, national parks, galleries, golf courses, day spas and restaurants. Offering romance, relaxation, indulgence and adventure, it's easy to see why Melbournians love this place for a week or weekend escape.

There's no shortage of things to do along this enchanting coastline.

If walking tops your list, see staggering coastal views and kangaroos on a cliff-top walk through Mornington Peninsula National Park. During summer, the Mornington Peninsula is abuzz with all nature of events. See boats sail past the peninsula in the Melbourne to Hobart yacht race in late December. Cheer from the beach for the Portsea Swim Classic or the Rye Pole to Pier Swim.

How to travel

By road: From Queenscliff, take the car and passenger ferry to Sorrento and link with Point Nepean Road.

By rail: Jump on a metropolitan train service (running every 15-20 minutes) from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne to Frankston; then connect through Hastings to Stony Point on Westernport Bay. 

By ferry: The Sorrento Car and Passenger Ferry departs daily from Sorrento Pier and Queenscliff Harbour, every hour on the hour from 7 am until 6 pm, all year round. Foot passengers, bicycles, cars, towed caravans and trailers, motor homes, motorcycles and truck are all welcome. You can also take the ferry between the Mornington Peninsula and French Island and Phillip Island.

Accommodations

Mirador, McCrae: Tranquil, private accommodation, which is only 140m from the beach, restaurants and cafes. Walk to McCrae yacht club, McCrae historic homestead, shops and eateries.

Pirate's Cove: Situated on the beach road at Safety Beach; it is superior accommodation, with a big house with bay views and excellent entertaining deck.




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13. Lizard Island

Lizard Island is a ruggedly beautiful island in the clear blue ocean where you will feel truly secluded from the rest of the world. Set against the backdrop of a vast national park and fringed by powdery white private beaches where clear turquoise waters lap the shore, Lizard Island lies at the northern tip of Australia's World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

Lizard Island is world-renowned for scuba diving and snorkelling. Coral reef gardens encircle the island where giant clams laze on the seabed and dazzling, coloured tropical fish keep watch. Lizard Island is also the closest point to Cod Hole, one of the best-known diving sites on the Great Barrier Reef. The nearby ribbon reefs have some of the most exciting big game fishing in the world. Whether you're a seasoned big game fisherman, or it's your first time in the chair, big game fishing for massive Black Marlin is an unforgettable experience.

How to travel

By sea: Cruise Whitsundays Resort Connections offers the most extensive Island Resort transfer service in the Whitsundays connecting Hamilton Island Airport to Daydream Island Resort and Spa, Long Island and the mainland, Airlie Beach.

By road: Whitsunday Transit is the mainland's major passenger transport service in the Whitsunday Region. Providing over 70 services per day in the Whitsunday area, the local bus timetable operates seven days a week.

Accommodation

Palm View Holiday Apartments: Palm View is a small, high-quality holiday apartment complex located in a lush, tropical garden setting. Perfectly positioned, 100 metres to beach and close to all of Bowen's delights.

Portside Whitsunday Apartments: Portside Whitsunday couldn't be better located with views overlooking the new five star Port of Airlie out to the Coral Sea from most of its apartments and only a 50 metre walk to heart of Airlie Beach restaurants and shops




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14. Fraser Island

Four wheel drive next to the coloured sand cliffs of The Cathedrals or planes making joy flights on Seventy-Five Mile Beach. Bushwalk through rainforest growing from the sand and heathlands full of wild flowers and swim in mirrored lakes ringed with gold. Visit Lake McKenzie, picnic next to turtles at Lake Allom and spot whales from Indian Head. Discover the historic Maheno shipwreck in Happy Valley and see kangaroos, wallabies and possums on a bushwalk into the interior. It's easy to see why the Aboriginal owners called Fraser Island 'K'gari' or paradise.

Spot raptors and stingrays on a canoe tour and some of the islands 354 species of birds on a ranger guided walk. Keep an eye out for migrating humpback whales between August and October. Go nocturnal and shine your torch on bats, flying foxes, sugar gliders and frogs. Get up close to the island's kangaroos, wallabies, possums, flying foxes, echidnas and Australia's purest breed of dingo.

How to travel

By ferry: Vehicular ferries depart on a regular basis from both location, tide conditions and barge timetable should be checked whilst planning your trip. Due to the sandy conditions on Fraser Island it is recommended that a four-wheel drive should be used to access the Island.

Accommodations

Fraser Island Beach Houses: Fraser Island Beach Houses let you enjoy a luxury lifestyle set in the splendour and tranquility of this magnificent island. These unique houses are situated amongst eco environment and on beach frontage to Eurong Beach.

Alexander Lakeside Bed and Breakfast: Relax, refresh and revitalise at Alexander Lakeside Bed and Breakfast, the most awarded luxury boutique accommodation in Hervey Bay. This Bed and Breakfast is nestled beside a tranquil, fresh water lake, teeming with native bird and aquatic life.


Photographs: Sensenmann/Wikimedia Commons

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15. Whitsundays, Queensland

It's hard to beat the romance of sailing through the Whitsundays -- 74 idyllic, mostly uninhabited islands tucked inside the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Think clear moonlit nights, spectacular sunsets, secluded beaches and pure air. You can sail, swim, snorkel and dive at sheltered anchorages such as Blue Pearl, Butterfly and Hook Island Bays. Soak up the resort atmosphere of Hamilton Island, bushwalk through national park on South Molle and relax in Hayman Island's five star luxury. Visit Whitsunday Island and walk the pure white, silica sands of Whitehaven Beach.

Head off to Blue Pearl Bay on the northwestern corner of Hayman Island. For the best tides, arrive by mid-morning and snorkel the clear, warm waters around to Castle Rock in the southern bay. This is one of the best diving spots. As an anchorage it offers protection from south-easterlies but other winds can create swell overnight. Head to Butterfly Bay for a public mooring and squeeze in some snorkelling if you have time before the tide turns around 5 pm.

Return to Abel Point Marina for a debriefing. Radio the charter operator when you pass Pioneer Point and you'll be met by a member of the charter company. The boat may have docked, but your romantic memories will keep you afloat for a long time to come.

How to travel

By air: Getting to the Whitsundays from overseas is best done by flying into Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney or Melbourne, and then booking a domestic flight into one of the Whitsundays' two airports. Brisbane offers the best range of connecting flights into the region.

The two airports that service the Whitsundays daily are:

  • Great Barrier Reef Airport, Hamilton Island (HTI)
  • Whitsunday Coast Airport, Proserpine (PPP)

Accommodation

Portside Whitsunday Apartments: Portside Whitsunday couldn't be better located, with views overlooking the new five star Port of Airlie out to the Coral Sea from most of its apartments and only a 50 metre walk to heart of Airlie Beach restaurants and shops.

Beach Court Holiday Villas: Beach Court Holiday villas are perfect for your Whitsunday accommodation. The self-contained apartments are only 150 metre away from the beach, playground and parklands.




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16. Hayman Island

Hayman Island is a private sanctuary of astonishing natural beauty, tranquility and indulgence on the doorstep of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Lying at the northern end of the Whitsunday Islands, the only way to reach this idyllic haven is by seaplane, helicopter or luxury boat transfer.  Experience an exclusive realm of total relaxation and leisurely island activities. Although tiny, the island features a wide range of terrain, from dense rainforest and mangroves to rocky inlets, secluded beaches and lush tropical gardens.

Dive or snorkel and immerse yourself in a kaleidoscope of coloured coral and tropical fish. Swim, sail and windsurf or go exploring with one of the island's experienced kayaking guides. Or take time out to have an indulgent spa treatment and lounge by the pool.

How to travel

By air: The most convenient way of travelling to Hayman is via Great Barrier Reef Airport (Hamilton Island) where Hayman's launches, seaplanes and helicopters connect with all incoming and outgoing commercial flights.

Accommodation

Toscana Village Resort: Ideally situated 200 metres above the heart of Airlie Beach, Toscana Village Resort is a Tuscan styled retreat.


Photographs: Ed Yourdon/Wikimedia Commons

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17. Hunter Valley

Spring in the Hunter Valley is when the wineries and rolling hills are the backdrop for outdoor opera, jazz, blues and sculpture. Relax with a gourmet picnic hamper at Bimbadgen Blues. See world-renowned tenors perform at Opera in the Vineyards. Savour saxophone riffs and fine wine at Jazz in the Vines. Follow an art trail at Sculpture in the Vineyards or wind through exuberant blooms at the Festival of the Flowers.

See spring flowers riot in their hundreds and thousands at the Festival of Flowers, which takes over the Hunter Valley Gardens in September and October. Wander through themed spaces such as the Children's Storybook Garden, Rose Garden and Oriental Garden. Check out the displays, giggle at the roving entertainers and get gardening tips on talks and tours. Both art and wine lovers will adore Sculpture in the Vineyards, a free outdoor exhibition held across five boutique wineries on the Wollombi Valley Wine Trail.

How to travel

By car: The Hunter Valley is an easy drive from Sydney. Head north on the freeway and National Highway 1 towards Newcastle and then turn onto Route 82 to Cessnock. It's approximately a two-hour drive but, as the Hunter Valley is spread out, you will need a good map to find your way around when you are there. Continue on the New England Highway to Singleton and the Upper Hunter region.

By air: Cessnock has a light aircraft airport available for charter and scenic flights.

By train: Take the train from Sydney Central to Maitland or Singleton. Or take a train from Central to Newcastle and a bus/coach to Cessnock.

By bus/coach: There are day tours from Sydney to the Hunter Valley, but the area warrants at least a few days to take in some wineries, adventure and food experiences; not to mention the superb scenery.

Accommodation

Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens: Set in the historic district of Pokolbin, Hunter Valley Gardens is nestled amongst the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges in the heart of the Hunter vineyards.

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley: Surrounded by picturesque vineyards and golf course greens and framed by the rugged Brokenback Ranges, Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, epitomises the best of award winning hospitality and deluxe accommodation.




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IN PICS: 18 AMAZING travel destinations in Australia

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18. Cairns

The gateway to Queensland's tropical north, Cairns is a stylish city, which is also renowned for its relaxed, tropical climate and laid back ambience. With islands, rainforests and reefs on its doorstep, from Cairns you can swim, snorkel, dive and sail the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Don't miss staying in an eco-lodge in the magical Daintree Rainforest, the planet's oldest surviving tropical rainforest, which the local Aboriginal people have named 'Wawu-karrba', or 'healing of the spirit'. A cruise along the mangrove-lined Daintree River will reveal crocodiles and turtles in clear, sparkling streams.

If you are seeking thrilling adventures, looking to connect with aboriginal experiences or simply want to immerse yourself in an exotic tropical rainforest, Cairns has it all within easy reach. From this stylish international city, the islands, rainforest and reef of tropical North Queensland are on your doorstep. Trek the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, four wheel drive to Cape Tribulation or raft the raging rapids of Tully River.

How to travel

By road: The distance to Cairns by the most practicable direct route is 1,700 km from Brisbane, 2,700 km from Sydney, 2,800 km from Darwin, 3,100 km from Melbourne. You could hire a car from another city and depending on whether the facilities are available you can drop it off to the same provider when you arrive in Cairns. Otherwise, get an airport transfer from the nearest airport to where you are staying.

By boat: Cairns is well serviced with marinas for boating enthusiasts. A rising number of overseas cruise ships call at the Cairns Seaport regularly.

By coach: Coach travel is an efficient and pleasurable way to see the countryside. Major coach companies operate luxury, air conditioned vehicles with express services between major Australian cities and Cairns.

Accommodation

Holiday Inn Cairns: After a multi-million dollar revitalisation in 2010, Holiday Inn Cairns offers you modern facilities in the ideal location. Located on the Cairns esplanade, you can walk to restaurants, cafes, markets and the Cairns city centre. In just a few blocks you'll be at the Cairns wharf; the step off point to the Great Barrier Reef. Or a 15-minute drive will land you at the Skyrail cableway, taking you through the rainforest to the historic town of Kuranda.

Cairns Reef Apartments And Motel: Offering self-contained holiday units, Cairns Reef Apartments and Motel is an accommodation property on the southern side of Cairns. There is a bus stop outside the gate and it is just six kilometres to the Esplanade.




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