Even if you haven’t been, you probably think that you’ve got a good idea of Australia. Whether it’s prawns on the Barbie, “G’day mate”, sun-bleached surfers or sun hats with dangling corks, everyone’s pretty familiar with the Aussies. But these stereotypes don’t really scratch the surface of what a natural beauty this country is, nor the depth of culture.
So whether you’re contemplating a trip Down Under or you still think it’s all Crocodile Dundee, here are 10 things you should know before a trip to Australia.
10 things you should know before a trip to Australia
1. It’s freaking big. Like, really big
Spanning an enormous 7.692 million km2, Australia is actually its own continent. It’s hard to fathom how big Australia is but it’s pretty useful to know so you can understand why it has such a degree of varying landscapes. Hopefully this will give you some kind of scale that will blow your mind:
The U.K. could fit into Australia 31 times, the USA could fit in 1 1/4 times, Germany nearly 10 times. With the main cities tucked near to the coast, a huge red desert splays throughout the center (known as the red center funnily enough) with the famous Ayers Rock standing tall, and only 2% of the population residing out there.
If you’re planning a trip to Aus, it might be an idea to familiarize yourself with how long journeys could take: A flight from Melbourne to Perth would be 4 hours. A flight from Melbourne to Darwin would be 4 hours 20 mins hours. A road trip from Melbourne to Byron bay, could take easily over 4 days. A greyhound coach from Melbourne to Sydney would be 11 hours. A drive from Melbourne to Perth would be 1.5 days without stopping. A drive from Sydney to Perth would 1 day and 18 hours without stopping for a break – phew!
The main cities hold the majority of the country’s population, and in 2016, there were 24.3 million living in Australia. Just compare that to 8.6 million living in London or 8.1 million in New York – this country may be big but it’s got less people jammed in on top of each other. You’ve got the space to explore, escape and breath.
2. It can be expensive in the main cities
Visiting Australia and backpacking your way around can give a bit of a hit to your wallet. The Australian wage is a lot higher than in the U.K. or the US (currently set at around $16 an hour) so prices are relative to the average wage.
When I lived in Melbourne, I was earning an average of $20 an hour, almost double the wage of being a bar tender in the U.K, so I could cope better with the prices than when I backpacked the country. Also, that wage meant I could have a life and save money – a feat that proves pretty hard in the U.K. – giving a sense of ‘working to live’, rather than ‘living to work’ to scrape rent together.
Life in Australia is easy-going, mate, when living there and working, but as a tourist, you may need to save up some dollar in order to fully get involved in it.
3. The deep history
I loathe when people write Australia off as being ‘too done’ just because it has a well-trodden backpacker route. This land is stocked full of a deep history that stretches back 45,000 years before Europeans settled. The aboriginal culture is stocked full of incredible wall art and magical legends – a culture that spanned such a length of time before it was ‘discovered’.
Be sure to learn as much as you can about Australia’s history, including the painful parts such as the Stolen Generation – an awful occurrence that saw aboriginal mixed-race children taken from their families by the government to be ‘assimilated’ into white culture. Don’t ignore the history, don’t just head straight for the beach.
4. Natural wonders
The Australian landscape is amazing: From coast to desert, from rainforests to countryside. Sail to the beautiful Fraser Island and drive to the majestic Ayers Rock, wander the expansive rainforests of Queensland and marvel at the stunning 12 Apostles – the natural beauties will really dwarf you and give you a new perspective.
Unfortunately, time is nearly up for the Great Barrier Reef as it’s been killed off by us humans, but it demonstrates that not all of this will be around forever – catch it while you can.
5. The beautifully dangerous wildlife
In the cities you’re likely to see beautiful birds, flitting bats and cute possums, but out in the countryside, you best be careful! Well, it’s not like you have to be on constant high alert but there are great white sharks cruising the coastlines, big crocodiles up north, and snakes and spiders throughout. Brown snakes, Box jellyfish, Black Widows and Funnel Web spiders are among some deadly creatures, but it’s unlikely you’ll encounter a large amount of them.
You’ll also spy cockatoos and wonderfully colourful parrots, and you’ll hear the curious chatter of a Kukerburro in the trees. Wallabies and kangaroos bound in the country, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a snoozing koala.
Ignore the rumours of ‘drop bears’ – a made-up animal that locals like to tease tourists about – and enjoy Australia’s strange and beautiful creatures!
6. It’s a fantastic place to backpack or road trip
With greyhound buses, trains, planes and vans, you can pretty much travel Australia however you wish. Just sling a pack of your belongings on your back and take off to a variety of secluded beaches, small towns, castaway islands or buzzing cities!
The backpacker vibes are strong up the east coast – brunch in Melbourne, surf in Sydney, embrace hippie life in Byron bay, get lost in exotic forests in Queensland. Or simply hire a van and live the van lifestyle! Camp in the desert, find places where not another soul wanders, wake up to brilliant dawns and stargaze at incredible skies at night.
Australia is easy to get around without having to hustle onto a tourist bus or being herded by guides – travel your own way!
7. Melbourne street art will blow your socks off
The streets of Melbourne will wow you with its graffiti. From the backstreets of the artsy suburb of Fitzroy to the laneway cobwebs of the city center, you’ll continuously find awesome art adoring the walls. Back in the day, the council tried to control and limit the art, until they realized that it actually added to the allure of the city.
The council now moderates the graffiti, but there are some lanes, like Hoosier Lane, where it’s a free for all – take your time wandering and exploring, keep a camera at hand and don’t forget to look up for art where you’d least expect it!
8. White sand beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see!
The world is full of beautiful beaches, and Australia contains some of the most stunning stretches of coastline. If you ever grew up watching Home & Away, you would be familiar with their expansive beaches – it feels like a dream when you finally get to run across their soft sand, fresh off the plane.
Ride a camel on Western Australia’s Cable Beach, catch some waves off the coast of Lennox Head, spy on surfers off Victoria’s Bell’s Beach, walk the squeaky white sands of New South Wales Hungry Head beach – duck into manmade driftwood huts for shelter from the wind or sun.
9. Coffee and brunches
It’s not all shrimp on the Barbie or stubbies! Although the seafood in Aus is delish, you’ll be missing a treat if you don’t explore all the modern day dishes. And brunch time is a time to get excited. Explore the inventive brunches that Melbourne does: eggs anyway with avocado is a classic, but this metropolitan city in Victoria does a plethora of other tasty treats.
Try De Clieu’s tossed smoked trout on sourdough, South of Johnston’s courgette and sweetcorn fritters, Small Victories’ house smoked salmon with pickled apple, Proud Mary’s wild mushrooms with soft Parmesan pudding. And each place won’t do ‘good’ coffee, they’ll know their brews inside and out, ready to serve a cup that’s totally on point. Brunch will be the highlight of your day so make sure you’re hungry!
10. Meet the friendly locals!
The people of Australia are friendly and very easy-going. Striking up conversations aren’t frowned upon, and people aren’t unnerved by randoms talking on public transport.
When freshly moving over to Australia to live, if you put yourself out there you can meet great people who are really welcoming – be prepared for lots of summer BBQ’s and al fresco bevvies! Although I missed the dry sarcasm and self-deprecating wit of the British, the Aussies make up for it with a fun-loving outlook on life.
Have I tantalized your tastebuds for a journey to Australia? If so, get excited and start planning your trip. Or maybe grab that working holiday visa, if you can, and explore for longer…. you’ll never want to leave.