Diversity is part and parcel of the Australian culture – whether you long for lazy beaches or great surfing, dream of sunny vineyards or bustling shopping centers, Australia can give you any experience you desire.

Here are the top places to see and things to do in Australia, as recommended by Gail Kavanagh (Eons member gailkav) who started her life’s journey in Ireland, and traveled round the world one and a half times before settling in Australia.

Uluru

The monolith formerly known as Ayers Rock still stands in the red centre of the continent, but it’s under new management. Now owned by the descendants of Aboriginals for whom it is a sacred site, tourism is carefully managed so as to leave the least impact.

The area in which Uluru stands is called the Red Center. This unique landscape is about 800 million years old, and has been home to the Aborigines for at least 30,000 years. Their ancient rock paintings can still be seen here.

In spite of its age, Uluru is one of the most modern and comfortable resorts in the world. You arrive at Ayers Rock Airport, and right away you are made to feel at home with a personal tour guide. During your stay at the Rock you can enjoy the ultimate in camping luxury, in a five star tented resort that offers en suite bathrooms, air conditioning and a swimming pool. The Rock changes color with the changing patterns of the day, and you will have a spectacular view from your tent. You can also visit Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) another stunning rock formation just 50 kilometers away.

Dive the Great Barrier Reef

The World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef stretches for 2300 kilometers from Papua New Guinea to the north coast of Queensland. The pristine waters offer dazzling views of the reef, and its breathtaking marine life, from the surface, but actually diving down and seeing the reef close up is an unforgettable experience. There are 1500 species of tropical fish and 400 hundred species of coral to see and many diving opportunities available. The best area to plan your scuba trip is between Port Douglas and Townsville on the far north coast of Queensland. There are many scuba operators in this region, but you can also go further north to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands, where you will find luxurious island resorts as well as scuba tours.

Sydney

This fabulous city has so much to offer, no wonder it is the first port of call for many visitors. Set in a sheltered bay of unequalled beauty, Sydney has parks, gardens, art galleries, museums, shopping, and of course, unique attractions such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Even public transport in Sydney offers a unique experience, for one of the best ways to get around is by commuter ferry – it’s also the cheapest way. A private cruise on the water can cost hundred of dollars, but on the ferries, you can travel for a few bucks. Don’t forget to visit Darling Harbour with its magnificent shopping center and the glorious Chinese, or walk up from the ferry station at Circular Key to The Rocks, one of the oldest and most historic parts of Sydney. Check out the Argyle Center at the Rocks for unique and beautiful souvenirs of your trip. Then there is Bondi Beach – what trip to Australia would be complete without a trip to this famous Sydney icon?

Kakadu National Park

Remember Crocodile Dundee? Walk in the footsteps of Australia’s beloved larrikin in one of the most breathtaking settings on the planet. Kakadu National Park covers an area of almost 20,000 square kilometers in the Northern Territory, its vastness takes your breath away. The natural scenery comprises cliffs, rivers, waterfalls and rock pools, rocky plateaus and vistas unchanged for thousands of years. The best way to see the glories of this World Heritage listed wonderland is on a 4WD adventure safari that will take you deep into the Dreamtime. This is a real adventure, where you can eat bush tucker (wild food), learn to play the didgeridoo and even get up close and personal with one of Dundee’s famous crocs! Most tours are small and intimate, giving you a chance to get to know your companions as well as the magnificent scenery.

Surfer’s Paradise

The name sums it up – surfers came here and discovered paradise, with rolling breakers and long pristine beaches. Of course, it’s changed since then, but even though it is one of Australia’s top ten tourist attractions, it remains paradise, especially if you are a surfer. With more than 30 kilometers of golden beaches, the whole area of the Gold Coast, of which Surfer’s Paradise is just one part, is a playground where the fun never ends. If surfing is not your thing, there are plenty of other attractions, such as the Lexmark Surfers Paradise Indy Carnival, held in October, which turns the streets of Surfers into a high powered race track. If you love the nightlife, Surfers has plenty to offer, from the opulence of Jupiter’s Casino, to the many clubs and pubs adjacent to Surfer’s Paradise main beach. If you feel like something completely different, visit Ripley’s Believe or Not display of oddities on the Cavill Mall. The mall leads straight down to the beach and features many cafes and restaurants, some familiar (like Starbucks) and many from all over the world, offering Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Mexican cuisine. [Aspire Down Under; The World Outdoors; Mount Travel Sobek]

Experience the outback on a sheep farm

When Colleen McCulloch’s The Thorn Birds became a TV mini series in the 80s, it made the Australian outback sheep farm seem like the most romantic place on earth – and you will believe it, when you are sitting on a spacious verandah, sipping wine and gazing up at the star filled night sky.

With Australian Farmstays, you can experience a unique Australian lifestyle with all the comforts of home. Australian farming families have made their homes available to visitors for an overnight stay or longer. Experience the daily work of the farm, with sheep shearing, fencing patrols and caring for livestock. Enjoy real Australian country cooking, and meander along specially prepared nature trails. The Australian bush is a fascinating place, with an in credible variety of birdlife, flora and fauna. This is the best way to experience Australia and its people and to steep yourself in its history at farms like Brindabella Station. This famous farm outside Canberra was founded in 1861, and is now owned by the Barlin family, who have opened it to visitors. Accommodation at Farmstay farms ranges from five to three stars, but is never less than excellent. There are a variety of activities to choose from, such as fishing, canoeing, bird spotting and bushwalking.

Tour the vineyards

When Europeans came to Australia, they brought their cultural heritage with them, and foremost in this is wine. They soon found regions of Australia that welcomed the grape vine, and today, we have a very creditable wine industry producing excellent varieties. If you love wine, Australia’s wine growing regions offer hospitality, beautiful scenery, and as the Aussies say, `a good drop’! South Australia is a popular wine destination, with wineries like Fox Creek Wines welcoming visitors. The family owned vineyard, which can be found in the McLaren Vale wine region, was established in 1984 by Jim and Helen Watts. It features a delightful 19th century stone cottage with a log fire, slate floors and a delicious selection of wines on the doorstep. The vineyard now produces fifteen wines, including shiraz and merlot varieties among the red, classic whites like chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. In NSW the Hunter Valley beckoned wine growers with its lush pastures and sheltering hills. Visit the Blueberry Hill Vineyard at Pokolbin to taste the wines produced from its six grape varieties and enjoy the warm Hunter Valley hospitality. In Victoria, the Hanging Rock Winery is in the Macedon Ranges wine making region, just an hour’s drive from the Hanging Rock of movie fame. You can see this remarkable landmark from the hill on which the winery stands. Established in 1983, the Hanging Rock Winery produces many wines, including Macedon, a sparkling Champagne style.

Canberra

A visit to the national capital city is more than just a glimpse of the workings of the political heart of Australia. Designed by American architect Walter Burley Griffin in the early 1900s, Canberra is the repository of the country’s national identity in art, literature and history. One of its most famous attractions is the Australian War Memorial, where the eternal flame burns in memory of those who gave their lives for Australia’s future. At dignified and moving place, the Memorial leaves a deep impression on all who visit. The War Museum nearby traces the history of Australia through the world conflicts in which ANZACs (Australia and New Zealand troops) has been engaged. But Canberra is also a place where some of Australia’s finest art treasures and acquisitions are gathered at art galleries and museums. You will find evidence of Australia’s reputation as a competitive sporting nation at the Australian Institute of Sport, where sporting stars of the future are groomed, and its passion for knowledge at the Questacon – National Science and Technology Center, and the CSIRO Discovery Center. As well, you will find five star hotels, shopping malls and street markets, and, of course, Parliament House.

Ride the Ghan train

This is Australia’s most spectacular journey, made famous by Neville Shute’s novel, A Town Like Alice. Ride the legendary Ghan train across Australia, coast to coast, from Adelaide to Darwin. Experience one of the most fascinating train journeys in the world, 3,000 kilometers through the great Red Centre of Australia, viewing the legendary Outback from the comfort of your railway carriage. For a modest fee, include some “whistle stop” tours from Alice Springs and Katherine along the way. This is truly the way to travel across and savor this extraordinary continent.

Port Arthur, Tasmania

For history buffs, the atmospheric site of the Port Arthur Penal Colony is a must-see. Built by convict labor in the early 1800s, the restored site features impressive architecture and a reminder of the harsh conditions suffered by prisoners sent from the UK in Australia’s formative years. As the custodians say, every feature of Port Arthur has a story to tell. But it’s not all grim reminders – today the penal colony also features beautiful gardens planted with English trees. Originally a timber camp that made use of the deeply forested surrounds of the harbor as well as the convict labor, the gardens of Port Arthur have been restored to Colonial glory. While you are there, you can further explore what Australians call the `Apple Isle’ for it was here that the English found a climate most like home.