Australia's chief draw is its natural beauty. The landscape varies from sunny beaches to tropical rainforests to the rugged outback of the Northern Territory. Its cities combine a European gusto for art and fine dining with a blithe love of sport and nightlife. Visitors expecting to see an opera in Sydney one evening and go gold prospecting the next day should study the topography. It is its sheer authenticity that gives Australia - and its diverse population - a distinct personality.
Sydney may resemble a British colonial town at the first impression, but as you approach the harbor, the region boasts a vibrant nightlife, beaches, parklands, skyscrapers, restaurants, and halls. The rugged cliffs and stunning Bondi beach are popular haunts. Interestingly, gay venues make up a sizeable chunk of Sydney's nightlife. While the Opera House is a key attraction, exploring the hidden coves is a good option, too. The harbor features a myriad of aqua sports including snorkeling, parasailing, jet jaunts, water skiing, and motorized paddle boating.
Tourists flock to cosmopolitan Melbourne on the banks of the Yarra River for its discount shopping, fine restaurants, and sporting calendar. An hour's drive out of Melbourne, Yarra Valley is Australia's finest wine-growing region. It is the country's foremost producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Picnics and jazz shows, fueled by wine tasting, are key tourist attractions here.
Brisbane, too, is a progressive city at the center of the South-East Queensland corridor, which runs from the Sunshine Coast to the New South Wales limits. Known as Bris Vegas (coined when a dilapidated building was transformed into a glitzy casino), the region is also the arts capital of Queensland, characterized by a myriad of theaters, concert halls, galleries, and museums.
Perth, Western Australia's capital, is popular for its sunny climate and immaculate coastline. Sadly, sterile skyscrapers lord over the quaint riverside locality. Note: a visit to Perth is incomplete without a trip to The Berndt Museum of Anthropology, which features contemporary Aboriginal art and artifacts.
In Hobart, Australia's second largest city, shopping, nightlife, art galleries, and fine dining are popular, yet rainforests and secluded beaches are within easy reach. Hundreds of stallholders gather on Saturdays in the Sullivans Cove precinct for the celebrated Salamanca Market, which hawks diverse goodies, including sushi trays, organic vegetables, sand sculptures, and salmon! The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which displays a Tasmanian Aboriginal display and relics from the state's colonial heritage and Tasmanian colonial art, forms an important part of the riverside precinct.
Amongst other tourist options, Adelaide is a tranquil city characterized by magnificent churches, botanic gardens, cycling paths and fabulous markets; while Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, is a multicultural community with an exotic mix of Asian, European, and Aboriginal cultures, with a distinctly Australian feel.