Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 10 places to visit in Australia

So, you want to go on a trip to some place that offers you not just the run-of-the-mill water activities, sightseeing opportunities, wonderful cities, but also a tryst with some exotic animals, snow-capped mountains, rainforests, and maybe even a desert? In this case, Australia would be the perfect destination for you. This country in the Southern hemisphere has something for everyone. Nature lover, sportsperson, and outdoor person, no matter who you are or what interests you the most, you'll be at home here.

1. Great Barrier Reef is one of the must-do activities in Australia. The variety of bio-diversity that this reef supports is seen to be believed. The Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin, dwarf mink whale, flat back turtle, olive ridley turtle and salt water crocodiles are some of the species found here. There is a wide variety of birds in this reef. It's one of the heritage sites in this continent country. Located off the Queensland coast, the Great Barrier Reef is in the Coral Sea and is the largest coral reef in the world. 'Live aboard' is a floating guest facility that is offered by many places along the coast. A scuba diver would find this reef really fascinating. You could also try snorkeling and diving.

2. Sydney Harbor is a natural harbor and it provides the backdrop for the breathtaking Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. At the Opera House, you've performances by local music groups as well as foreign productions. The architecture is really modern with its typical 'shells' forming the roof. 'The Coat hanger' or the Harbor Bridge is another image that represents Australia to most of the world. The pyrotechnics on New Year's Eve is splendid. If you are willing to take the risk, you could climb the bridge. Of course, there are enough safety precautions in place!

3. The 'Natural State' Tasmania has an endearing air to it, all thanks to its as yet unspoiled natural beauty. The 'Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race', the 'Road rally in Tasmania' and the music events make it a popular destination. 'Falls Festival' has drawn crowds for many years now. Around the time of Christmas, 'Carols in the candlelight' is another well-known event. The food festival has food and wine that attracts people in thousands. Wines such as 'Cascade' and 'Boags' are popular both in mainland Australia and also across the world. The cheese and dairy products are also a hit with the tourists. Cradle Mountain is another place in this state whose scenic beauty is seen to be felt. This mountain in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is made of dolerite columns. The vegetation in this area is mostly alpine. At the Cradle Mountain, you could even be start off on the 'Overland track' that would take you across the mountain terrain over six days. You could take walks around the bushes and with the Lake Dove in the vicinity, the place must be visited. On a nocturnal visit, you could even run into animals such as pademelons, wallabies and possums.

4. Kimberley in Western Australia is sure to have you perplexed. The cruise around this region is splendid as it offers views of waterfalls, red cliffs, rivers and some rainforest as well. King George Falls and Mitchell Falls have some of the most breathtaking views. This region also has some art centers. While the works of many foreign artists are on display, the local artists are also encouraged and these art shows are internationally recognized. Kimberley is also famous for its diamonds. The Bungle Bungles or Purnululu National Park is another attraction. However, this is closed for some months every year. You can start off on your Kimberley cruise either at Broome, Darwin or Derby. If you are planning to drive down to this place during the wet months, you need to check if the roads are closed.

5. In the Snowy Mountains there is the Mount Kosciuszko which could be explored either by foot or by skiing if you are going in winter. There are guided tours for different age groups and depending on how fit you are, you could opt for any of these hikes. This highest mountain in Australia has Alpine flowers which could be blooming if you go at the right time of the year. Ningaloo Reef, another reef in the West Coast off Australia is a white sandy lagoon. You can actually walk to this coral reef. Swim along with the many species of fish and other water creatures. You could also see the reef in a half submerged cruise. Also, make time to visit the Ningaloo Marine Park. Glen Helen with its Ormiston Gorge and Pound National Park in Australia's Outback Northern Territory is along the legendary Finke River. The walks in the park could anywhere from a thirty minute walk right up to a three day walk. You'll find that the accommodation is more than decent and the presence of other attractions makes this place that is close to Alice Springs very tourist friendly.

6. No holiday can be truly complete without a fair amount of shopping thrown in. In Melbourne, go to the Chapel Street or Greenville Street for some chic clothes and leather goods. (Try Melbourne City Shops for a list of shops around Melbourne) The fancy bistros and the designer boutiques make for a compelling reason to check out this city. Chapel Street alone has more than a thousand shops along a two kilometer stretch. Between July and August, the city also plays host to Melbourne Film Festival and screens some of the finest movies, both local and foreign. There are shops scattered all over the city from where you could get souvenirs. St James Old Cathedral takes you back to the Victorian times with its quaint architecture.

7. The lovely grape-growing valley of Barossa is proud of itself. It is located less than 50 km northeast of Adelaide and offers everything you'd expect from a famous wine region in Australia. In 1850, English immigrants and European farmers came to the valley and began to turn it into one of the worlds most renowned, for its wine, good food, and European architecture. The valley offers unique food, many festivals, events all year long, historical architecture, art galleries, and antique shops.

8. If there is a paradise, it doubtlessly looks like Whitsunday's islands in Queensland. Most trips to the island start from the town of Airlie Beach, known mainly for cheap alcohol and its pubs and discos. You can go on an organized cruise from Early Beach to Whitsunday's and choose different packages. Some sleep on board, while others stay at vacation villages near the island, where you can also find 5 star hotels. During the cruise, you can take part in various activities, such as snorkeling, diving, swimming or lazing around on deck with a cold drink and staring at the amazing view. The island's most famous beach is Whitehaven Beach, 7 km of white beach, one of the most photographed beaches in the world.

9. The height of a visit in the middle of the Australian desert is doubtlessly a visit of Uluru (or Ayers Rock). It is 348 meters high with a 9 km circumference. It is the world's largest monolith, made of sand stone whose shades of color change in the course of the day from light brown to deep red. It is especially beautiful at sunset and sunrise. Uluru is also called "The Heart of Australia" and is one of its most famous symbols. The giant rock is of supreme importance to the Aborigines, who have marked its holiness by many rock drawings, for 10,000 years.

10. The Great Ocean Road, one hour drive east of Melbourne, runs along the southern coast of Australia and is one of the most beautiful roads on earth. Its length is 250 km, and it starts at the Trecky surf resort, 90 km from Melbourne. The road was built in 1930 in memory of soldiers who fell in WWI; it passes by magnificent cliffs and lonely beaches. Main attractions include the resort towns of Loren, Apollo Bay, and picturesque Port Fairy. Otway National Park offers hiking paths through rain forests, rivers, and amazing waterfalls. Campbell National Park, on the western side of the road, is located in an area famous for its rocks jutting out of the ocean, the most famous ones being called "Twelve Apostles."

A place can truly be experienced only by visiting it. The culture, people, and cuisine are best "lived" and not just read about. Australia is a lot more than what this article has to say. Check out Australia and be mesmerized by its mélange of the old and the modern.

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