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The Basin, Rottnest Island
Photograph: Tourism Western Australia | The Basin, Rottnest Island

The 25 most incredible places to see in Australia

Not sure where to begin with the Great Southern Land? Here are the must-sees for 2024

Maya Skidmore
Written by
Time Out editors
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Maya Skidmore
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Call us biased, but we reckon Australia is one of the most astonishing and varied places to explore on Earth. A sizeable place – (you know, continent-sized), it can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to working out how to tackle the Great Southern Land – but that's where we come in.

From turquoise beaches with sugar white sand, to ancient tropical rainforests, to flaming red deserts, to buzzy metropolitan cities, we've picked out the 25 most incredible places you should visit in Australia. 

No matter who you are, or what you like, rest assured – there's something on this list for everyone. 

RECOMMENDED: Follow the rainbow to Australia's most colourful landmarks.

Stay in the loop: sign up for our free Time Out Australia newsletter for more news, travel inspo and activity ideas, straight to your inbox. 

25 best places in Australia in 2024

The red centre in the Northern Territory is truly Australia's sacred heart, and nothing is quite so sacred or spectacular as Uluru, in Kata Tjuta National Park. On the ancestral lands of the Anangu people, Uluru has had immense spiritual importance for Australia's First Nations people. In all types of light, weather and seasons, Uluru is magnificent. You can walk around its immense red base and hear stories from Indigenous guides – but climbing is very much not allowed. While you're there, drive 40 minutes to Kata Tjuta (formerly known as The Olgas) for another remarkable and magnificent red rock formation that's imbued with ancient secrets and deep spiritual meaning. Considered a living, breathing landscape, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are places that will stay with you long after you've left.

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Maya Skidmore
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A hop, skip and a jump west of Sydney lies the Blue Mountains region. Named for the mysterious blue mist (generated from the thousands of gum trees, actually) that hugs this immense landscape, this remarkably special spot manages to combine incredible nature with cosy eateries, impeccable accomodation and delightful boutique shops. In summer, explore the region's many pristine waterholes and waterfalls, and in winter, rug up for cosy walks, followed by a meal out at one of these incredible restaurants. Whether you like glow-worm grottos or day spas, this perfect weekend away from Sydney can be whatever you want it to be. 

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The sleepy coastal town of Exmouth is adjacent to the Cape Range National Park and the 300 kilometre Ningaloo Reef – a region that is drop-dead gorgeous and brimming with vitality. Located about 1,270 kilometres north of Perth (around a 15-hour drive or two-hour flight to nearby Learmouth), Exmouth is a nature lover’s playground with one of the longest fringing reefs on the planet, meaning in many places the coral comes right up to the beach. You can swim with whale sharks (don’t worry, they’re harmless filter feeders that can grow up to 18 metres in length), spot a black-footed rock wallaby at Yardie Creek or take a guided walk through the fossil-crusted Mandu Mandu Gorge, which has been inhabited by humans for about 30,000 years.

Recently named as the world's second-best 'must visit' region by Lonely Planet, Kangaroo Island (also known as Karta Pintingga) is pretty special. Full of pristine beaches, this open-air wildlife sanctuary is perfect for all those keen on seeing native Aussie animals at their happiest in the wild. With perfect beaches, seal colonies, cuddly koalas and a seriously delicious local food and wine scene, this third-largest island in Australia is a fail-safe place for good times. Plus, its home to a beach that took out Tourism Australia's prize for best beach in the nation in 2023.

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A certified UNESCO World Heritage site, Kakadu National Park is certainly one of Australia’s most incredible national parks. The fringe of the park is about a two-hour drive from Darwin, where it sits on the traditional lands of the Bininj/Mungguy people. Pro tip: Kakadu is best explored at your own pace by car. It’s actually Australia’s largest national park (it covers more than 20,000 square kilometres), so you’ll need some time to discover it all properly. Take a peek at the 200 metre Jim Jim Falls waterfall; go for a swim at Gunlom, the crystal-clear infinity rock pool made famous in Crocodile Dundee; hike your way through the 30-odd walking trails that sweep across Kakadu; or take your 4WD out for a spin towards the crown of the park, Jarrangbarnmi (also known as the stunning Koolpin Gorge).

Think you have to go to the Maldives for a slice of paradise? Australia’s got its very own paradise ready and waiting in the Whitsundays. This collection of 74 islands is located right next to the northeast coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the islands are uninhabited, and you’ve probably seen secluded, long white stretches of beach and gorgeous landmarks like Heart Reef on your Instagram feed. If that’s not enough to entice you to pay a visit, the average daily temperature is 27 degrees Celsius. Enough said.

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Lord Howe Island, NSW
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Lord Howe Island, NSW

Rugged, tropical and seriously beautiful, Lord Howe is a destination that we all want to try at least once in our lives. With just 400 visitors allowed at any one time and no mobile reception here, you’ll have space to breathe as you visit incredible natural attractions and mingle with the hundreds of animal species that call this island home. Whether it's exploring secret beaches, swimming with rainbow fish or eating incredible food, this is paradise – in all senses of the word.

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Eyre Peninsula, SA
Photograph: South Australia Media | _roamingaus_

8. Eyre Peninsula, SA

Considering a whopping 65 per cent of Australia's seafood comes from this pristine bit of coastline that lines the Great Australian Bight in Southern Australia, you can bet your bottom dollar that if you like fish, this should be on your Australia travel list. From swimming with sea lions, to exploring pristine beaches, to foraging for your own oysters, Eyre has it all. You can fly into one of the region's three airports from Adelaide, and then hire a car to explore the long stretches of remote and stunning coastline on the way. You'll just need a roadworthy vehicle, and a ravenous appetite for good times – and even better seafood.

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The Kimberley, WA
Photograph: Tourism Australia | True North

9. The Kimberley, WA

If adventure is your favourite thing, look no further than the wild reaches of the Kimberley in Western Australia. Whether you do it by roadtrip, cruise or helicopter, this vast and incredible region is full of ancient Indigenous and geological history, glorious waterways and towering red rocks. A particular highlight is the shocking pink waters of Lake Hillier. Three times bigger than England, this is an absolutely huge area of land, so we recommend doing it either with a tour, or with someone who knows what they're doing.

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Considered one of the most epic hikes in the world, this surprising oasis in the middle of the Central Australian desert is bound to astound you. Towering red rocks, a magenta-hued moonscape and a secret waterhole in the middle of hundreds of kilometres of orange sand await you at this very sacred place. The six kilometre walk around the rim of this incredibly impressive place is fairly easy for a range of fitness levels – but just beware of the steep stair scramble at the very beginning.

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Just a zippy 30-minute ferry ride from Fremantle (or 90 minutes from the Perth CBD), Rottnest Island is one of Western Australia's greatest gems. Also known by its local Aboriginal name, Wadjemup, and ‘Rotto’ by locals, it’s an essential addition to any WA itinerary. Out of towners may know Rottnest for its friendly population of quokkas, but the island is also home to the most incredible azure blue waters you’ll come across, and nowadays, it has a selection of top-notch eateries and luxe accommodation, as well as camping grounds, cafés and low-key restaurants for the budget-conscious

With its incredibly pure air and unspoilt wilderness, Bruny Island is reachable via a 20-minute ferry journey from the town of Kettering. With just a few hundred human residents, it’s also home to an abundance of wildlife, including fairy penguins, white wallabies and swift parrots. Frolic on remote beaches, do incredible hikes and spot dolphins and wales jumping in the clear waters of the Tasman Sea. On top of that, you eat. Whether it's fresh oysters from Get Shucked or oozing cheeses and chilled glasses of vino from the Bruny Island Cheese Company, it's guaranteed you will not leave empty (stomach, or soul). 

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This ancient rainforest is the traditional country of the Kuku Yalanji people. For an estimated 5,000 years, the Indigenous people of the Daintree have been coexisting with the environment and imbuing the land with dreaming. Referring to the rainforest as ‘Madja’ (elder), the Kuku Yalanji are the custodians of invaluable knowledge of the prehistoric flora and fauna. The Daintree is full of sacred sites and you can experience some of these with permission. This verdant paradise features movie-cool waterfalls, clear blue lakes, sunlight shimmering through the trees, tropical vegetation and exotic wildlife. 

Whether you know for its hippie days of old, or for being home to Chris Hemsworth, Byron Bay in the Northern Rivers region of NSW is inarguably stunningly beautiful. A barefoot, beachside town that is also a whale and dolphin sanctuary, Byron offers up stunning beaches, gorgeous green rolling hills and epic coastal walks galore. On top of all the astounding nature is world-class food, incredible coffee, an abundance of boutique shops, and a year-round holiday feel. Although now more gentrified and expensive than it's ever been, Bryon has a particular kind of magic that even the most cashed-up influencers cannot take away. 

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All the stereotypes about Melbourne are true: everyone wears black, everyone is coffee obsessed, and there are far too many rooftop bars for a city with such temperamental weather. But the best thing about Melbourne is that it’s full of secrets to discover. Whether it’s a hidden laneway bar, a ten-storey shopping adventure or an underground theatre space, most things worth visiting are within easy reach (and cheap as chips to get to, thanks to the city-wide free tram zone).

If glittering blue waters are your shtick, the Sapphire Coast on NSW's southern coastal border should be on your Australia travel list. Not a known tourist hot spot (probably because it takes up to five hours to drive down here from Sydney), this stretch of oceanic paradise and rugged, unspoilt nature is what postcard dreams are made of. Whether it's guzzling fresh oysters and swimming with seals in Narooma, walking on the world's whitest sand at Hyams, eating just-caught seafood in Eden and succulent cheeses from dairies in Bega and Tilba, or just swimming in crystal clear waters at pretty much every beach along the way, you can best believe that this trip is pretty priceless.

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Everyone knows Sydney packs a punch when it comes to spectacular views and thrilling activities. A blue-water city through and through, this buzzing metropolis is a one-stop holiday destination that has something for pretty much everyone. From incredible beaches, to hot and happening new bars, cafés, and restaurants, to colourful cultural happenings, to secluded bushwalks, this city has it all, no matter your poison. 

 

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It’s easy to understand the allure of Australia’s southernmost state. For one thing, 40 per cent of Tasmania is preserved as national parks and world heritage wilderness. Drive 20 minutes outside the state’s major cities (Hobart and Launceston) and you can walk in emerald bushlands, discover hidden waterfalls, or lounge on an exquisite and remote beach. But Tasmania isn’t just for nature fans. There’s extraordinary food, gin and whisky distilleries, wildlife sanctuaries (where you’ll meet endangered Tasmanian devils), cool-climate wineries, wild festivals, and a world-class art museum in the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

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If impossibly lush, emerald hills, ancient rainforests and sparkling freshwater swimming holes are your idea of a good time, look no further than exploring the hidden wonders of inland Northern NSW. The Dorrigo rainforest is a World Heritage-listed pocket of wilderness left over from Gondwana. Packed with oodles of accessible day walks, this is a remarkable place to see rainforest birds, dip into water holes and even walk through the tree canopy. Drive 30 minutes away to Bellingen, an artistic country town that's packed full of incredible local food, buzzy bars and some of the most perfect swimming spots you've ever seen. 

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Justifiably one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road snakes all along the southwest coast of the state, starting in Torquay (1.5 hours from the CBD) and finishing up just before Warrnambool. This winding stretch of road provides ample opportunity to reconnect with the ocean, the bush and the sounds and sights of nature whether driving, walking, horseriding, surfing, sailing or cycling. From stunning beaches, to cascading waterfalls, to upmarket dining, to the wonders of the Twelve Apostles, there are plenty of adventures to be had. 

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If you're a snow bunny and are keen to come Down Under and hit the slopes, you're in luck (so long as it's winter, and there's been snow). Up high in the Australian Alps is the aptly named 'Snowy Mountain' region of NSW. Also accessible from Canberra and Melbourne, this rugged and mountainous region has a special beauty, no matter the season. In winter, ski at one of the many snow resorts up high, and in summer, head up for cool climate hikes, freezing swims and cosy eats.

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The Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Photograph: Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree | Darren Jew

22. The Great Barrier Reef, QLD

It's a classic for a reason. A UNESCO world heritage icon, people come from all over the world to witness the rainbow wonders of the biggest coral reef on Earth. Although threatened by climate change, the Great Barrier Reef continues to offer up a watery magic that has to be swum in to be believed. Whether you’re a hardcore scuba diver, novice snorkeller or want to see the GBR via a fancy glass-bottomed boat, there are multiple ways to explore it. Just make sure you wear reef-safe sunscreen. The turtles will thank you. 

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There are few places in Australia, or indeed the world, as fascinating, complex and unexpected as Broken Hill. Founded on the richest lead, zinc and silver orebody ever discovered, a mining rush in the 1880s made it one of the most prosperous settlements in Australia’s early colonial days. In more recent years, blockbuster movies have been filmed here, including Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Mad Max 2, making it a tourism hotspot for a diverse range of travellers, from dystopian movie buffs to drag aficionados. 

The Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s premier wine-producing regions, so if you’re a fan of vino, this is the place to visit. You’ll find it 50 minutes northeast of Adelaide, and there are more than 150 wineries and 80 or so cellar doors to explore. The region primarily focuses on big reds (mostly shiraz and cab sav), but you’ll also find a healthy selection of grenache, riesling and chardonnay. Big Australian wineries like Penfolds, Yalumba and Jacob’s Creek are located here, but we’d recommend visiting smaller producers like Charles Melton and Rockford Wines if you’re after true Aussie hospitality. 

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Feel like harking back to simpler times? The Southern Highlands is the ultimate genteel getaway: full of quaint villages, winding walking trails, and Federation-era pubs for a drink along the way. Explore the lush idyllic hills of Kangaroo Valley, and take in the sprawling Minnamurra rainforest centre on the way. For lunch, the village of Bowral punches well above its weight when it comes to the region's culinary scene. For country coziness just a stone's throw from Sydney, wander up to the Highlands for a cuppa. 

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