A single tree in a barren landscape in Australialia  

A huge country of great diversity and a real laid back attitude on life. Possibly the easiest people on earth to get along with, the Australians will make you feel right at home down under. The language is English, dating back to 1776 when Captain Cook from England first anchored up off the east coast, just north of what is now Brisbane.

A vast country, most of it remains uninhabited and it takes over three hours to fly across the whole country. The diversity in life and experience is huge, with the bustling cities like Sydney and Melbourne contrasted with the famous backpacker route of natural beauty up the east coast. The cities worth visiting are spread round the coastline of the country but are all easily accessible by internal flights or buses.

Australia is the only country that is also an entire continent and it is the flattest and driest continent in the world. Almost 75% of the land cannot support agriculture of any kind and as a result 70% of the population live in the ten largest cities. From Darwin in the north, which is closer to Singapore than any Australian city, to Adelaide in the South, Perth in the West and Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in the east, there is so much to take in during a trip to this incredible country. It’s home to the world’s largest sand island, rainforests in the north, Ayres Rock in the middle and beautiful beaches everywhere…

Fraser Island

The Capital: Canberra

Canberra is the capital of Australia purely by default. With Melbourne and Sydney squabbling over the title in the early 1900s, Canberra was build as a compromise in 1908. It lies in its own state, the Australia Capital Territory, and has a population of only 300,000.

There is not a great deal to do here but can be a useful stop off to break up the journey between Melbourne and Sydney for a day or two. If you do find yourself in Canberra, the YHA is the best place to stay and the government buildings in the north of the city are well worth a visit. It is also home to Brumbies rugby union side and the Canberra Raiders rugby league side who both play at the Canberra Stadium, which is a great place to catch a game.

  • Visit Parliament House
  • Take a look at the Australian War Memorial
  • Visit the national portrait museum of Australia
  • Watch a game of rugby at the Canberra Stadium

The Backpacker Capital: Sydney

Bangkok to Sydney – 9hrs 15mins

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The one city that every traveller must visit on a trip to Australia, with a bustling central business district and chilled out beaches just a short ferry ride away, Sydney is an incredible city for all ages. George Street is the main shopping street and most of the hostels are situated around the top of George Street. Base Backpackers on Kent Street is an excellent and cheap option and they have a great bar, which runs special nights most days of the week. Wake Up! also provides very good service as does Maze. A lot of Australian nightlife is centered around hotels in the city so be sure to look out for them, whilst Scubar, underneath the YHA is great fun and packed with likeminded travellers.

Popular Sydney hangouts

  • Bondi Beach – a classic for anybody interested in surfing or just a chilled out day on the beach.
  • Manly – another beautiful beach just a ten minute ferry ride from central harbor, check out the Bavarian Beer Café on the port side.
  • Harbour Bridge – spectacular views of the city as you take a walk across the world famous bridge. Luna Park on the other side of the bridge is worth a trip in the evenings.
  • Darling Harbour – home to the fantastic aquarium and worth a walk around to check out the huge cruise ships that come into Sydney.
  • Olympic village – take a short train trip out to the Olympic Park, home of the 2000 Games. If you’re lucky you might even be able to watch a rugby game, or take a tour of the stadium.
  • Opera House – always worth a visit to the world famous structure and the Botanical Gardens just next to it are stunning.
  • SCG and Aussie Rules stadium – if you are into your sport then a trip here is always good fun.
  • Blue Mountains – Take a day trip for some stunning views of natural beauty.

Top 10 Backpacker Adventures in OZ:

1. Fraser Island – Hire a 4×4 and camp out for two/three nights on the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island. Arguably the most beautiful place on earth, with crystal clear water at Lake Mckenzie. Make sure you get up early to take in the sunrise.

2. Sail the Whitsundays – Sit back with a cold beer and sail around the stunning islands for a couple of days, before returning to enjoy the lively nightlife of Airlie Beach.


3. Sydney Harbour Bridge – Walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge at night and witness the spectacular cityscape under the stars.

4. Cairns – A backpacker must. Explore the Daintree Rainforest, go whitewater rafting on the Tully River, dive on the Great Barrier Reef or dance on the tables of the Woolshed – you must visit this place!

5. The Great Ocean Road -Drive the Great Ocean Road. The road stretches across the south coast of Australia from Melbourne to Adelaide. Whether you just do a day trip out of Melbourne or the full three day trip make sure you do it. You’ll get the chance to take in one of the world’s most attractive pieces of coastline.

Great Ocean Road Australia

6. Uluru – Head inland and visit the one of the world’s natural wonders – Ayres Rock or Uluru. Sacred to the Aboriginal people, this giant sandstone is 450km from the nearest town, Alice Springs, but worth the trip for its collection of springs, water holes and collections of ancient drawings.

7. Sport in Melbourne – Watch sport in Melbourne. The Victorians love their sport and Melbourne is the home of sport in Australia, whether to get to the Rod Laver Arena for some tennis, The Etihad Stadium for rugby, the MCG for cricket/Aussie rules or Albert Park for the F1 make sure you take in some action.

Melbourne sport

8. Brisbane nightlife – Experience a night out in the Valley of Brisbane. World renowned for its nightlife, Brisbane is home to the best clubs in Australia. The Valley is the place to go on the weekend but if you’re there in the week then be sure to check out the Down Under Bar, a backpacker’s heaven.

9. Kangaroo Island – Head off the beaten path. Once you’ve travelled the Great Ocean Road take a well-earned rest on Kangaroo Island. South of Adelaide it is a pristine paradise with stunning beaches and incredible food.

Kangaroo Island Australia

10. Fremantle – Take a boat trip out of Fremantle Harbour, Perth. Make sure you avoid those sharks!


For many a young traveller, it’s almost a rite of passage. Fly to South East Asia, spend all your money, then head Down Under to earn it all back again! From mining, to fruit picking, WWOOFING, office temp work or bar and restaurant work – what are your opportunities?

Find out more and read interviews with 5 backpackers about their experiences in Australia & New Zealand…

Working Down Under Fruit picking

By Will Aitkenhead 

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