In Australia, you can enjoy the comforts of a modern, throbbing city nestled right next to the great outdoors. And see some kangaroos!
Most travelers start off in Sydney, which is often mistaken for the capital of the country because of its popularity (for the record, it’s Canberra); but while you’re here, play tourist, don a sunhat and snap photos with the world-famous Opera House or the Harbour Bridge. You can also go on a short trip to the Blue Mountains, a gorgeous wilderness that strikes a contrast to Sydney.
From there, head to Byron Bay for a dose of Aussie hippie-living; kayak your days away in or around Cape Byron Marine Park, see the dolphins or just surf the Byron Bay waves with a couple of your mates.
If you haven’t quenched your thirst for the ocean, the Surfers' Paradise is a common suggestion while you’re in Queensland. Surfers’ Paradise is the party hotspot for Australia, and you’re better off enjoying the nightlife before crashing on the beach the next morning.
Then, head to Fraser Island (though stay in Hervey Bay). The island got its name from James and Eliza Fraser who were shipwrecked – he died, while she survived thanks to the Aboriginals. While you’re there, you’ll have the opportunity to spot sharks, manta rays, dolphins and whales, among other sea creatures, frolicking in the ocean.
The Whitsunday Islands are another not-to-miss destination: from their gorgeous, picturesque beaches, to the setting for the Best Job In The World contest (Hamilton Island). This is the unadulterated personification of fun in the sun.
Take a bus to Magnetic Island, also along the coast, and rent a bicycle to ride around the island, or just go on foot and trek along the available walking tracks of the island. Plenty of koalas here, so definitely keep your eyes peeled for them.
From there, go over to the famous Cairns – admittedly not interesting as a city, but it has a good party atmosphere and great diving opportunities. In fact, most people go here primarily for the diving. The Great Barrier Reef is a daytrip away, and so is Cape Tribulation.
Way over in Uluru in the Northern Territory is the world famous Ayers Rock – a dramatic outback icon of Australia (though nothing else in particular). Once you’re done staring in awe at the colossal rock which the Aborigines consider a sacred site, go to the Olgas and view the massive pile of rock domes which dates back 500 million years.
Hop on one of Australia’s affordable domestic flights and end your trip in Melbourne; a city known for its art scene, its style-setting and festivals. Kick back with a cuppa and enjoy the city’s strong coffee culture, and when the weather permits, head to St Kilda’s beach – though this one would be a massive downgrade from the various beach islands that litter the east coast of the country. Also don't forget to visit the Twelve Apostles on a daytrip.
While not a budget getaway country per se, Australia is still fairly affordable in Western standards, and a myriad of travelers head here and fall in love with the laid-back Aussie vibe.
(This itinerary is based on our Australia Backpacker CheatSheet, a visual guide available for free download. We offer Backpacker CheatSheets for many more countries.)