Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific
Although costly flights and long travel times can deter some from visiting Australia and its South Pacific neighbors, should you decide to travel to the region, it's useful to know the best locales to explore – that's where we come in. U.S. News ranked the best places to visit in Australia and the Pacific based on user votes, expert opinions and factors like tourist-friendly accommodations and variety of attractions. Help us determine next year's ranking by voting for your favorite destinations below. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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South Island, New Zealand#1 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific
New Zealand's largest island is a haven for outdoorsy types keen on soaking up the country's jaw-dropping scenery. Whether you're hiking around Lake Tekapo, bird-watching on the Otago Peninsula, stargazing from the Mount John Observatory, diving in Milford Sound or kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park, you'll enjoy impressive panoramas. When you need a break from nature, check out Christchurch's eclectic street art or Dunedin's 19th-century Larnach Castle.
- View 28 PhotosBelongs on List?#2 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
Visitors travel from around the world to catch a glimpse of Tahiti's beautiful natural landscape, which features everything from tumbling waterfalls to soaring mountains. This French Polynesian island in the South Pacific is also home to unique stretches of sand, such as La Plage de Maui (with proximity to a shallow lagoon ideal for swimming and snorkeling) and Papenoo Beach (a black sand beach that attracts surfers in droves).
- View 40 PhotosBelongs on List?#3 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
Part fast-paced metropolis, part laid-back beach town, Sydney welcomes travelers who want to spend their days sunbathing at Bondi and Coogee beaches, visiting the museums of Darling Harbour or climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. What's more, Sydney features cool neighborhoods like The Rocks and fun events, such as Vivid Sydney and the Festival of the Winds. Plan ahead to catch a concert or performance at the world-renowned Sydney Opera House.
- View 27 PhotosBelongs on List?#4 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
The Great Barrier Reef is easily one of the world's top natural wonders. Its sheer size and diversity of life continuously impress visitors. Even though you won't be able to see the entire reef, an air or boat tour or snorkeling or diving excursion of this underwater marvel makes for an unforgettable vacation. For easy access to the reef and the world's oldest living tropical rainforest, base yourself in Cairns.
- View 27 PhotosBelongs on List?#5 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
Travelers searching for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation head to this doubly named French Polynesian island for its romantic overwater bungalows, luxe spas and scenic surroundings. Here, you can spend your vacation exploring animal-filled coral reefs, an aquamarine lagoon, lush jungles and towering mountains. Some tour operators even offer excursions that include shark and stingray encounters. To save money, book a vacation package that combines your flight and hotel room.
- View 23 PhotosBelongs on List?#6 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
This island south of mainland Australia draws adventurous travelers in droves. Hikers can trek challenging paths at Wellington Park and Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park while water lovers snorkel, kayak and swim at Freycinet National Park. Tasmania is also home to unique critters, such as platypuses, wombats and Tasmanian devils, which vacationers can see during wilderness hikes or visits to animal havens like Brighton's Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. After a busy day outdoors, unwind with a locally made cider, wine or whiskey in Hobart or Launceston.
- View 24 PhotosBelongs on List?#7 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
Made up of a collection of roughly 300 South Pacific islands, Fiji is known for being an exotic beach destination. Adventurous travelers can spend the day hiking mountains or sand dunes, snorkeling around coral reefs, hitting the links at one of 14 golf courses or learning about firewalking, drinking kava and other native customs. Plus, Fijians are known for being welcoming to foreigners and will help you relax like a local.
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Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park#8 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific
When you think of Australia's Outback, chances are you imagine this UNESCO World Heritage-listed national park. At the center of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park lies Uluru (or Ayers Rock, a massive sandstone formation with a red hue) and Kata Tjuta (red geological domes also known as the Olgas), two sites with cultural ties to the local indigenous Australian community. Though both locales are breathtaking no matter when you visit, for phenomenal photo-ops, visit at sunrise or sunset.
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Whitsunday Islands#9 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific
Within view of Australia's northeastern coast, the Whitsunday Islands' 74 islands are the place to go to enjoy water sports like sailing, snorkeling and Jet Skiing. Hamilton Island (the largest inhabited island of Queensland's Whitsundays) is one of the island chain's most popular vacation spots thanks to its plethora of eateries, upscale accommodations and sprawling beaches, such as world-renowned Whitehaven Beach. If you'd rather stay active during your visit, check out Long Island, which features more than 10 miles of hiking trails.
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Sunshine Coast#10 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific
Queensland's Sunshine Coast, which stretches between Caloundra and the Great Sandy National Park, appeals to everyone from foodies to animal lovers to beach bums. In the heart of the region sits Noosa, a popular beach destination known for its food and wine festival, its Steve Irwin-affiliated zoo and its migrating humpback whales, which you can swim with from July to October. Meanwhile, Coolum Beach offers stunning views of Mount Coolum and excellent surfing conditions.
- View 18 PhotosBelongs on List?#11 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
Melbourne is Australia's events capital, hosting annual activities like the Australian Open and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Even if you can't visit for a major event, the city offers a variety of can't-miss attractions, including highly regarded museums, Australia's oldest zoo and a public library filled with rare books and historical artifacts. For a more leisurely vacation, ride on the free City Circle Tram or sip a flat white – an espresso drink with steamed milk – at one of Melbourne's many street cafes.
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A trip to the adventure capital of New Zealand – and arguably, the world – offers plenty of opportunities to unleash your inner daredevil. Spend your vacation bungee jumping, skiing, paragliding and skydiving, among other activities. Or, check out the Queenstown and Central Otago wineries that comprise the Queenstown Wine Trail. No visit would be complete without taking a dip in the Onsen Hot Pools and touring the Kiwi Birdlife Park.
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Gold Coast#13 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific
A Gold Coast vacation offers travelers the perfect blend of a laid-back beach community and a thriving city. Visitors can explore everything from glowworm caves to wildlife sanctuaries to theme parks – all are located within the city's limits. But the main reason to check out this coastal locale is to ride its top-notch waves. Surfers travel from around the world to hang 10 at beaches like Surfers Paradise and Burleigh Heads.
- View 58 PhotosBelongs on List?#14 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
The cosmopolitan city of Auckland boasts a diverse population that brings unique flavors and traditions to the local culture. Add Auckland's love for sports (think: rugby and bungee jumping) and natural allure – black sand beaches, clear blue waters and volcanic peaks – and you've got a great destination. Save time for a visit to Rangitoto Island: Hikes on this offshore island include treks through lava fields and the world's largest pohutukawa forest, as well as phenomenal city panoramas.
- View 20 PhotosBelongs on List?#15 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
Adelaide beckons to nature lovers, culture hounds and foodies. Considered the wine capital of the country, this South Australia city boasts more than 200 wineries, including world-famous vineyards like Penfolds and Jacob's Creek. Plus, gourmands can sample local meats, cheeses, baked goods and more at the Adelaide Central Market before perusing the exhibits at highly regarded museums like the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum. Before leaving, venture to Waterfall Gully to admire its gushing waterfalls and spectacular city views.
- View 18 PhotosBelongs on List?#16 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
Brisbane is perhaps the best place to get acquainted with Aussie culture. It's a humble city with a modest skyline, quaint neighborhoods and a friendly populace. Yet Brisbane possesses the urban allure of a large metropolis with a substantial music scene and numerous world-class museums. Plus, it offers all kinds of kid-friendly attractions, including Roma Street Parkland's trackless passenger train and the world's first and largest koala sanctuary.
- View 12 PhotosBelongs on List?#17 in Best Places to Visit in Australia and The PacificRead More
When Perth comes up in conversation, the first thing usually mentioned is its exceptional weather. The city enjoys a not-too-hot, not-too-cold climate. You could easily spend your entire vacation enjoying the pristine shoreline and sprawling green spaces around Perth, but for even more fun in the sun, take a Rottnest Express ferry west to Rottnest Island. The offshore oasis is home to wild quokkas (small wallabies) and offers excellent snorkeling conditions at many of its 63 beaches and 20 bays.
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