Take a poll among your family and friends and you’ll find that Australia is on most Hoosiers’ travel bucket lists. It’s easy to see why: the huge country Down Under offers something for everyone.
Nature lovers will enjoy the Great Barrier Reef. Located on Australia’s east coast, it is the world’s largest reef, stretching 1,240 miles. The Cairns area is a popular starting point for the reef. Numerous tour operators offer day trips (about 90 minutes from shore). Snorkelers and divers will be amazed by the colorful coral and fish, turtles, sharks and sting rays. Find a ship with submersible boats so non-swimmers can also enjoy the natural wonders. The beaches near Cairns and other northern cities are often closed from October to May due to deadly jellyfish. While these species are less frequent in the reef area, if your tour operator rents “stinger suits,” opt in.
Cairns is home to many zoos and wildlife conservation centers. Here you can “cuddle” a koala and find tame kangaroos eagerly awaiting hand feedings (don’t try this in the wild, though).
If you love the arts, fine cuisine or shopping, Sydney is a necessary stop. The most populous city in Australia, Sydney is famous for its harbor and one of the country’s most recognizable landmarks, the Sydney Opera House. Kids will love Bondi Beach and its strong surfing culture.
Another can’t miss attraction is Ayers Rock (Aboriginal name, Uluru). The red sandstone formation in the outback is a sacred Aboriginal site. Massive in size (1,142 feet high and nearly six miles in circumference), you can find watering holes, ancient cave paintings and dingoes in the area. Ayers Rock and its magnificent neighbor, The Olgas (Kata Tjuta), are popular sunrise and sunset destinations. The nearest town, Alice Springs, is five hours away, though many fly into Yulara, a nearby resort area.
Given its large size, the best way to travel Australia is via the air. U.S. travelers need two weeks to cover the main destinations. Also keep in mind that the U.S. dollar is weak versus the Australian dollar, so things are quite pricey. Despite this, Australia is well worth the effort.