When I was 18 years old, I embarked on my first solo journey. Circumstance brought me to Australia – the perfect place for a newbie backpacker. With chilled-out locals, stunning sights, and a common culture and language, the main difference between my homeland of Canada and Oz was the blistering temperatures. Coming from Alberta’s freezing winter, I was not complaining.
Whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned vet, these 10 tips will help make your Aussie adventure one to remember.
1. Save your skin from the sun
When I arrived in Sydney, I was beyond keen to begin exploring. I had heard that Australia had a depleting ozone layer, but I didn’t take the warnings of skin cancer too seriously. I had never burned before, but after one day walking around the harbour, my cheeks fried the colour of a boiled lobster.
Save yourself the trouble and follow Oz’s motto: slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, and slap on a hat.
(Then head to the beach and get yourself a tan!)
2. Get wet
Australians are world-class athletes. From Aussie Rules Footie to the Australian Open, locals love to show off their natural skills. It must be something in the water – where most Aussies themselves excel. With 25,000 km of coastline to play off of, Australia is home to some of the best water-sports in the world.
3. Beware of Bites
Australia is infamous for containing thousands of things that can kill you. The saltwater crocodile (found in the Northern Territory) has the strongest bite of any animal on earth. The blue-lined octopus that hangs out in Sydney Harbour has some of the most deadly venom in the world. Walking through the bush, I stumbled upon a dead brown snake – responsible for the most snake-related deaths in Australia. The Sydney funnel-web spider produces venom that is especially toxic to humans. The list goes on and on.
The good news is, despite all of these terrifying creatures, the #1 killer in Australia is not an animal at all – it’s skin cancer. (Refer to my first tip!)
4. Find yourself some Freebies
Australia is awfully expensive – but somehow, the country retains the image of a backpacker’s paradise. There are plenty of ways to travel for less (or for nothing!) around Oz. Couchsurfing is a great option for extroverts. I WOOFed my way through Australia. There’s free wifi to scam, lukewarm water fountains to stay hydrated, discount bus fares, and even free walking tours. Keep your eyes open and you’ll find a wealth of Freebies all around Aussie!
5. West Coast is the Best Coast
When you get tired of the tourist-infested East Coast beaches, fly to the world’s most isolated city, Perth. With 40 degree days and clear blue skies, the sun sets over the ocean every evening, making for some fantastic scenery. I stayed at Backpackers on the Bay on Cottesloe Beach to get away from the hustling big city. 10 minutes south by train lingers the adorable town of Fremantle (and gateway to Rottnest Island). If I had my way, I never would’ve left Western Australia.
6. Try the local specialties
While spreading salty condensed veggies on my toast isn’t my idea of a delicious breakfast, Australia has other treats to indulge in. Aussies are obsessed with their meat pies – cheap, delicious, and definitely not nutritious, pick up a fresh-baked pie nearly anywhere in Oz. If you really can’t handle it, there’s always a Mackers around.
I fell in love with Australia’s coffee culture. While Gloria Jeans makes a mean White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Latte, independent coffee shops have more character and better coffee.
If you haven’t tried a Tim Tam slam, you haven’t been to Australia. Grab yourself a cup of coco, bite into both sides of the tasty wafer, and slurp up your bevvie with your homemade cookie straw. The real challenge? Fling the half-melted wafer back into your mouth before it drops off – no hands allowed.
7. Take off to Tassie
Most tourist maps of Australia forget to include the South-Eastern island of Tasmania. Colonized as a prison for the “really bad” criminals, Tassie is a tiny, remote island off the coast of a large, remote island. Prisoners at Port Arthur must have felt awfully pessimistic staring past the Tasman Sea to Antarctica.
Tassie was my favorite spot in all of Oz. Most easily toured by campervan, the Bay of Fires, Wineglass Bay, and tree-top canopies are widely untouched by tourists (probably because they don’t even know it exists.) If you’re looking for wild, off-the-beaten-path beauty, Tassie is the place to be.
8. Leave your hairdryer at home
Australia seemed so similar to Canada, I didn’t take the time to consider voltage differences in electronics. While my converters and adapters worked fine, my primping products fizzled and died when I plugged them in. Lucky for us females, the salty ocean spray scrunches long hair into that mess of lusted beach-side waves.
9. Stay away from YHA
While HI’s maintain world-wide standards, independent and family-run hostels are often friendlier, cheaper, and have more character than chain hostels. If you get the chance, live with a local, or take an overnight sailing trip around the Whitsundays. Do anything but the norm!
10. Just dive in!
The great barrier reef is the largest living thing on earth. Composed of nearly 3,000 individual reefs, the area off the East Coast is teeming with underwater life. Why not throw on a wetsuit and join the fish? Even if you’re only comfortable snorkeling, the unfathomable colours and abundance of life will astound you. Dive in to Oz and fall in love!
There’s so much more to my favourite country in the world than could ever fit into one blog post – Goon, hoons, utes, and bogans, for starters. While I love sharing stories about Oz, the best way to experience it is to go there yourself.
Fun!!! You sure make me want to go there!
Nice post, Alison. I love the pics. We’ve been to Aus four times now, but haven’t got to Perth. Next time, for sure!
Thanks Bill! You’ve been to Tassie then? What did you think?
Thanks for the great tips Alison! Always travel light. My top tip would be to buy a camper. If you’re here in Oz for a long stretch, it will work out a great investment. Your home and transport in one! It will mean you can get off the tourist track and see and experience much more too.