An incredible country with a lot of desert/outback, Kangaroos, hot weather, nice nature, aboriginals and impressive cities
The existence of the landmass has long been unknown and it was Captain James Cook who discovered it on April 20, 1770. The continent has later been named Australia and became a dream destination for many Europeans. I had the unique opportunity to discover Australia during my undergraduate exchange in Melbourne as well as my postgraduate studies in Sydney. I find it very difficult to not fall in love with the country and I will use this page to share my excitement for the country.
OVERVIEW OF AUSTRALIA
Australia consists of six territories: Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. Australia has a low population density compared to European countries of only 3.3/km2 (Germany has for instance 232/km2 - more than 70 (!) times as much). The lowest population density can be found in the middle of Australia in the Northern Territory and South Australia. In contrast, the highest population density can be found in and around major cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide and Perth. So, Australia is pretty much a country of cities. This finding also correlates strongly with the income distribution in Australia: The highest income can be found in cities while remote areas have a significantly lower average household income (Source: National Rural Health Alliance). The highest gross household income can be found in New South Wales (major city Sydney) followed by Victoria (major city Melbourne). There is a strong income inequality experienced by people living in rural or remote Australia. The highest population density can be found along the East Coast of Australia with the major cities Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns.
SOME FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIA
Capital city: Canberra
Largest city: Sydney
Government: Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Total area: 7,692,024 km2
Population: 25,721,900 (2020 estimate)
Polulation density: 3.3/km2
Currency: Australian dollar (AUD); 1€ = $1.66
Time zone: UTC+8 (8 hours ahead of Germany)
Driving side: Left
THE AUSTRALIAN SLANG
Becoming a true ‚Aussie‘
FOUR THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE KNOWN ABOUT AUSTRALIA
World‘s largest coal exporter, 90% of Australians live on the coast, Tasmania has the world‘s cleanest air and the Great Barrier Reef has the largest eco-system in the world
WORLD‘S LARGEST EXPORTER IN COAL
Coal accounts for more than half of Australia‘s energy exports and they still mainly rely on coal in their energy mix. I find this puzzling as they have the perfect climate for renewable energy such as energy from the sun but so far haven‘t really made use of it.
90% OF AUSTRALIANS LIVE ON THE COAST
The large deserts in the middle of Australia mean that the vast majority of Australians live on the shores of the country. Australia is full of beautiful beach towns that wait to be discovered by you. Large cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Perth also feature many famous beaches (i.e. Bondi Beach in Sydney).
TASMANIA HAS THE CLEANEST AIR IN THE WORLD
Tasmania is one of the states of Australia and has air that is as clean as in Antarctica. Tasmania is famous for its outdoor activities and unique animals that can‘t be found anywhere else (i.e. the Tasmanian devil).
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF IS THE LARGEST ECO-SYSTEM IN THE WORLD
Cairns is the most famous town to start a tour out with the boat to the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is made up of more than 2,500 individual reefs that together create a unique eco-system. Unfortunately, a lot of coral reefs experienced mass die-offs due to the rising temperatures in the ocean caused by the climate change.
Capital of the state Victoria
Melbourne is consistently ranked as the world‘s most livable city. The city is famous for its coffee culture and old Victorian buildings. Melbourne is today the leading financial centre in the Asian-Pacific region and many international banks have a branch in Melbourne. The city is well-known for the Melbourne Cricket Ground, National Gallery of Victoria (art museum), Royal Exhibition Building and Flinders Street Station (central station). Melbourne is rich in culture and considered a global centre for street art, live music and theatre. Melbourne is often described as having ‚four seasons‘ a day which refers to the unstable weather conditions that can change very fast: I experienced first hand what Australians mean by that phrase and always regretted when I forgot to take an umbrella with me...don‘t make the same mistake please.
NINE THINGS TO DO IN MELBOURNE
GRAB A CUP OF COFFEE
Melbourne has a well-established coffee culture and Melburnians are obsessed with good coffee. Melbourne turned into the epicenter of world coffee culture which also goes back to the influence of Italian immigrants. Today, all sorts of coffee variations can be found and Melburnians pay close attention to the origin of the beans. Please be prepared to wait up to 45 minutes and to pay up to $10 for a coffee at the most popular places. The first thing that I would do when I am back in Melbourne would be to grab a cup of coffee in the city centre (i.e. in their largest shopping centre the Emporium Melbourne).
ENJOY THE ARCHITECTURE OF OLD VICTORIAN BUILDINGS
Melbourne is characterized by an extensive juxtaposition of old and new architecture. The city centre is full of examples where you will find old buildings such as churches in front of modern skyscrapers. Melbourne also preserved a significant amount of Victorian architecture that is worth checking out. Victorian buildings usually have a wood or stone exterior, textured wall surfaces and steep roofs.
EUREKA SKYDECK (EUREKA TOWER)
The Eureka Tower is 297.3 m high and located in the Southbank precinct of Melbourne. The building was officially opened on 11th of October 2006 and offers a stunning view over Melbourne both during the day and at night. I particularly liked to see Melbourne at night and can highly recommend it. It will give you a good impression of the city :)
FLINDERS STREET RAILWAY STATION (CENTRAL STATION)
Flinders Street Railway Station is a railway station on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets in Melbourne. It was the first railway station in an Australian city and the world‘s busiest passenger station in the late 1920s. The station is famous for the row of clocks above the main entrance where Melburnians like to meet up. Make sure to check it out!
ROYAL EXHIBITION BUILDING
The Royal Exhibition Building is a world-heritage building in Melbourne and was built in 1879-1980. The building is 150 meters long and surrounded by four city streets. The building is used to host various exhibitions and other events and is closely tied with events at the Melbourne Museum (located adjacent to the museum). The University of Melbourne hosts all its final examinations in the building and I remember that my Statistics Professor called the fountain in front of the building „The fountain of Statistics knowledge“ in anticipation of the exams 😂. So, my associations with the building are maybe not the most pleasant ones but the building is beautiful inside and outside 👌👍🔝
MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is a sport stadium located in Yarra Park. The stadium is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and the 11th largest globally. The Melbourne Cricket Ground was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2005 and is home of Australia‘s favorite sport - cricket. I watched the cricket match between Collingwood CC and Geelong and it was an incredible athmosphere in the stadium. I still don‘t understand the exact cricket rules but that doesn‘t matter - it is an experience in any regard. My tip: Sometimes cheap tickets become available last minute in an attempt to fill up the stadium.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF VICTORIA
The National Gallery of Victoria was founded in 1861 and is Australia‘s oldest, largest and most visited art museum. The museum hosts various contemporary art exhibitions and has many impressive installations. A visit will definitely be worth it!
MELBOURNE CENTRAL SHOPPING CENTRE
The shopping centre is the largest shopping mall in Melbourne and located in the city centre. The mall has more than 290 shops, a nice food court and is famous for its Shot Tower and the Marionette Watch. Today, R.M. Williams is in the Shot Tower and every hour a marionette display drops down from the bottom of the watch with Australian galahs, cockatoos and two minstrels performing Waltzing Matilda. Melbourne Central is one of my favorite places in Melbourne as it offers a very nice atmosphere.
ST KILDA BEACH
The beach is located in St Kilda which is 6 kilometers away from the Melbourne city centre. You can easily get there by tram (multiple lines go to the beach). The pier has a long breakwater which shelters St Kilda Harbour and hosts a little penguin colony. From the beach you have a stunning view over the Skyline of Melbourne.
MY OWN IMPRESSIONS OF MELBOURNE
The state capital of New South Wales
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and is located on Australia‘s east coast. The city is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as „Sydneysiders“ and Sydney frequently ranks in the top ten of the world‘s most livable cities. The city is well-known for the Sydney Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the Royal National Park. Sydney is also home to the oldest library in Australia, the State Library of New South Wales and Australia‘s first university, the University of Sydney. The city is a paradise for surfers with famous beaches such as Bondi Beach or Manly Beach.
ELEVEN THINGS TO DO IN SYDNEY
Circular Quay is a harbour, former working port and now international passenger shipping port, tourism precinct and transport node. It is a popular neighborhood for tourism as it has views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House and is a common location for viewing the New Year‘s Eve fireworks. Circular Quay is often referred to as the ‚heart of Sydney‘ as it is the central transportation node in Sydney. It‘s one of the best ways to start exploring Sydney.
THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre and is one of the 20th century‘s most famous buildings. It was designed by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed by an Australian architectural team around Peter Hall. The venue was officially opened on 20 October 1973. Today many performances can be found in the Opera House especially from the following three companies: Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The Opera Bar is an excellent place to go to for drinks with friends and to enjoy the stunning view over the harbour. My tip: Last minute tickets are often available and can be purchased for a fraction of the original price. Just ask at the information desk inside for special offers.
THE SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE
The Sydney Harbour Bridge connects the central business district (CBD) and North Shore. It carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic and makes up part of an iconic image of Sydney. The bridge has a total length of 1,149 m and is 134 m high. The company BridgeClimb Sydney offers guided tours to climb until the top of the bridge for breathtaking views. I strongly suggest to only do it if you don‘t have fear of heights as the bridge is pretty high (even though it doesn‘t look like this from the ground...). A single ticket for the bridge climb costs $198 for adults and $126 for children.
GLENMORE HOTEL - ROOFTOP BAR
The Rooftop Bar of the Glenmore Hotel is one of my favorite places in Sydney to have a drink. Prices are fairly reasonable and I haven‘t found a place yet that offers better views over the harbour and Opera House. The place can get very crowded in the evening and especially during the weekend so it makes sense to reserve a place beforehand. I can highly recommend it!
Hyde Park is a 40-acre urban park located in the central business district of Sydney. The park is the oldest public parkland in Australia and some very noteworthy buildings can be found around the boundaries of the park: The Supreme Court of New South Wales, St. James Church, Sydney Hospital and St Mary‘s Cathedral. The park is the perfect place to unwind from an exhausting day.
Cockatoo Island is a bit hidden in Sydney and maybe not on the bucket list of every tourist but it is a place worth checking out. The island is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and from 1839 to 1869, Cockatoo Island operated as a convict penal establishment. The island was also the site of one of Australia‘s biggest shipyards, operating between 1857 to 1991. You can still feel part of this past on the island today and Cockatoo Island also features a very nice small Cafe. My tip: You can have a picknick on the hill in front of the old Officer‘s house with breathtaking views over the harbour and Harbour Bridge.
THE STATE LIBRARY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
The State Library of New South Wales is located close to Hyde Park and is the oldest library in Australia. The library was designed by Walter Liberty Vernon and built between 1905 to 1910. The library features many old, ancient books and very impressive study areas with a remarkable architecture. The entrance is free so make sure to check it out :)
QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING
The Queen Victoria Building is a heritage-listed late-nineteenth-century building located in the Sydney central business district. The building was designed as a marketplace and underwent remodeling. Today the building is a shopping mall with fashion and luxury brands. The mall is famous for the Great Australian Clock that weights four tones and stands ten meters tall. My tip: You can find cute, small cafes upstairs that offer the traditional British tea time with views to the clock.
Bondi Beach is a very popular beach in Sydney and located 7 km east of the Sydney central business district. The beach is one of the most visited tourist sites in Australia and a great place for surfing in summer. You will also find a myriad of restaurants and bars there. My tip: Do the Bondi to Coogee Walk which is a 3.7 mile oceanfront walk taking in beaches, cliffs and parks with stop-offs at cafes and viewpoints. Don‘t forget to bring your camera 📸
BONDI ICEBERGS CLUB - SWIMMING POOL
The swimming pool of the Bondi Icebergs Club is located at the southern end of Bondi Beach and swimming in the pool is a unique, memorable experience: The waves of the ocean clash against the pool and visitors can enjoy views over Bondi Beach. The pool entry fee is $9 for an adult and $6 for a child.
Manly Beach is the other popular beach besides Bondi Beach in Sydney. From north to south, the three main sections of the beach are Queenscliff, North Steyne and South Steyne. Make to sure to check it out. 👓🩳⛱🏖
SOME MORE IMPRESSIONS ABOUT SYDNEY
The state capital of Queensland
Brisbane in the largest city in the sunshine state Queensland and smaller than Melbourne and Sydney. The metropolitan area has a population of over 2.5 million and is situated inside a peninsula of the Brisbane river. Australians often call the city „Brissie“, „Brissy“ or „River City“. The city is classified as a global city with 32.2% of its metropolitan population being foreign born. Brisbane is well-known for its Story Bridge, South Bank, Central Business District and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The city also serves as a gateway to the state of Queensland, particularly the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast (with the famous Surfers Paradise). Brisbane also has with the University of Queensland a top 50 university worldwide. I like the city a lot as it is less crowded than Melbourne and Sydney and always has good weather! ☀️🍦
FOUR THINGS TO DO IN BRISBANE
RELAX AROUND SOUTH BANK
South Bank is a versatile place and offers many different activities: Relax, eat, swim and walk. Once you are there you can‘t miss the Wheel of Brisbane with a panoramic view over Brisbane and the so-called ‚fake beaches‘ which are artificial beaches next to the Brisbane river. My tip: There is always something going on in South Bank as the city hosts most of its events there. Check out the website of the City of Brisbane to get an overview of the different events they are hosting (they are usually free!).
ENJOY THE VIEW FROM THE STORY BRIDGE
The Story Bridge is a stell cantilever bridge spanning the Brisbane River that carries vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the northern and southern suburbs of Brisbane. The bridge was opened in 1940 and is a fixed part of the iconic skyline of Brisbane. The bridge lights up at night and creates the best conditions for impressive Instagram photos 📸. Don‘t miss it out! :)
GO SHOPPING AT BRISBANE‘S CBD
The Central Business District (CBD) with the Brisbane Town Hall is where most happens in Brisbane. It is the perfect place to go for shopping and a lively atmosphere is guaranteed. My tip: Go there on a weekday around lunchtime to enjoy some life music along the way.
CHECK OUT LONE PINE KOALA SANCTUARY
What do you usually associate with Australia? Of course, Koalas! You have the perfect occasion to see lots of them in the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Brisbane. You also have the opportunity to take a selfie with a koala but you‘ll notice that they will most likely be asleep (they sleep most of the time).
Gateway to the tropical rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is a city in the sunshine state Queensland and is the 5th-most-populous city in the state. The city was founded in 1876 and today is a popular tourist destination: Cairns is well-known for its tropical climate with access to a tropical rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
TWO THINGS TO DO IN CAIRNS
Kuranda Rainforest has a lot to offer: You can bock an Army Duck tour on land and water, an Aboriginal experience and you can see Australian animals in the Koala & Wildlife Park. You can get to the small village Kuranda either by the Kuranda Scenic Railway (see image) or the Skyrail. I have done both (chose the railway upwards and the Skyrail downwards) and each offers a different perspective on the rainforest. I personally found the Kurands Rainforest experience quite touristic and less authentic. However, it is a nice trip and adventure - especially for families with small children.
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
The Great Barrier Reef was the main attraction for me personally while I was in Cairns. There are many different providers available who offer tours to the reef. They all charge more or less the same price so it doesn‘t matter too much which provider you choose. I was surprised to realize that the reef is actually quite far away from the city: The shortest distance between Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef is 83.76 miles (134.80 km) and it takes roughly 1.5 hours by boat one-way to get there. The reef itself is impressive but you will also see that part of the reef is already dead due to the consequences of the climate change. My tip: If you are a bit sensitive to speed I wouldn‘t go with the very fast speed boats: I chose one of them and all on board felt sick afterwards, because we had strong waves and the boat was going very fast. Have this in mind when deciding which tour you want to book :)
I AM SURE YOU‘LL LOVE AUSTRALIA AS MUCH AS I DO!
Picture below was taken at Shelly Beach in New South Wales, Australia