Two final questions about Australia
December 24, 2015 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Before my wife and I leave for Australia on Jan 2...

...Please fill in the (blank):

1. (Blank) is popular with tourists but overrated. If visitors really want to (blank), they should (blank).

2. My favorite small town in Australia is (blank)

It's great if you only want to fill in the blanks, but even better if you could explain/expand on your answers.

Many thanks to the many Aussies that have given such good advice over the past couple months.
posted by BadgerDoctor to Travel & Transportation around Australia (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I personally loved all of it. We went up the east coast from Sydney to Bundaberg. Byron Bay, Frasier Island, and Bundaberg were my favorites. Didn't go out to Ayers Rock though.
posted by PJMoore at 3:59 PM on December 24, 2015

1. Uluru Is popular with tourists but overrated.

If it were more centrally located it'd be a fine attraction, but it is remote, therefore costly to visit.

2. Byron Bay is my favourite small town in Australia
posted by backwards guitar at 4:41 PM on December 24, 2015

Sydney meetups are better than any other in the world.

The Blue Mountains are lovely. Manly and Bondi beaches are over rated. Taronga Zoo is expensive but worth it.

The best coffee outside of Italy is in Melbourne or Sydney's inner west.

The Great Barrier Reef is worth it.

The opera house is really just an odd shaped building. The botanic gardens beside it are pretty special though.

I've never been, but Kakadu is bloody brilliant, I hear.

(And I'm of the school that says if you don't touch base with the original owners of the land when visiting , it's kinda disrespectful.)
posted by taff at 4:51 PM on December 24, 2015

Uluru isn't so much over rated as (IMO) but takes so much money & effort & time to get there a lot of visitors really underestimate the distances & the amount of nothing between it & the rest of Australia so that on a trip with a limited time frame it means you miss so many other amazing things to go & see it, so I'd really only suggest seeing it if you are staying for months not weeks.

I would like to recommend a whole Island instead of a small town (but it has the population of a town). Go see Kangaroo Island. Yes it's a long way from the east coast but the drive to it along the Great Ocean road takes you past some breath taking coastal scenery with lots of fun small towns to stop at along the way. To an amazing island. The heat the time of year you are travelling won't be so much of an issue as you get great sea breezes.

Oh & if you are in South Australia you might want to hit up the Flinders Ranges, specifically Wilpena Pound. Amazing vistas & bushwalks, aboriginal art to blow your mind & some of the worlds oldest fossils. Though it will be bloody hot the time of year you are going.

Seconding Kakadu, I think January is wet season up there, so getting around might be harder though as a lot of it floods so I'd check that if you want to go.

Oh & considering the time of year you are travelling be very careful of the heat. I've worked in various tourist destinations around Australia & it always takes visitors by surprise. Don't fight the heat, it will win, do things in the cool of the day & drink plenty of fluids. Better to take it too seriously & not need the water than to be caught short.

Google images for any of the places recommended if in doubt.
posted by wwax at 5:03 PM on December 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Will nth that I think the Opera House, Bridge, The Rocks, Bondi Beach and such are overrated. Also, it's school holidays here so some things might be crowded! If you really want a similar but *ahem* better experience I would:

Check out the Sydney Living History museums.
Go to a farmer's market - there's one at Bondi Beach, if you must go. Excellent coffee. Everleigh and Marrickville are also very popular local markets, the former being super easy to get to on the train.
I really loved Berry (small town - cute, great food, would be a great place to stop overnight).
I also really really love the Blue Mountains - Katoomba is slightly hippy/outdoorsy, Leura is more up-market - you could hike between the two. You can walk from the Katoomba train station through town to the escarpment (more hiking from there, if you like). You can do it as a day trip from Sydney if you're pinched for time, but staying a night would be better.
I would also make a point of learning a bit about Aboriginal culture and art.
Something like Symbio is totally cheesy - but I take all my visitors there once and everyone loves it. You can feed kangaroos!
If you're into hiking and in Sydney, you can hike to Manly (obligatory fish and chips), and take the ferry back.

Most meat pies and sausage rolls are overrated. If you want a meat pie, get one a nice one in a fancy pub! The cheap ones are... *cheap*. Don't do it.

Wear sunscreen and diligently re-apply at regular intervals. Drink lots of water. Dress in layers.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:20 PM on December 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

My favourite "small town" (~2million) is Perth.
A four hour flight (yes we know...) from Sydney; only 3 1/2 hours from Melbourne!
But the best beaches and friendliest people on Earth...
Shhh don't tell everyone. We like it like this...
posted by sconbie at 5:30 PM on December 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Three Sisters are popular but the walks at Wentworth Falls are equally amazing and less visited.

If visitors really want to go for a swim, they should take a leisurely walk between Coogee and Bondi (or the reverse), with lots of stops on the way.

My favourite small town is Exmouth WA, in order to go swimming with the whale sharks in April-June (how long have you got?). Runners up: Beechworth in Victoria, Maleny in Queensland (and if you're in the area on a Weds or Saturday, take a trip to the Eumundi markets). Yerranderie (in the Blue Mountains) isn't so much a small town as a ghost town, but is pretty unique if you can get there.
posted by superfish at 6:57 PM on December 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

1. Byron Bay is popular with tourists but overrated for staying in. If visitors really want beach, rainforest, waterfalls, colourful hippy village atmosphere and good local food, they should stay in nearby Mullumbimby instead with a hire car and plan your days with:
~ 10min east - Brunswick Heads - river-mouth town with great seafood and calm beaches;
~30min - south east - Byron Bay and all its glory;
~ 90min - south east - the coast road to Ballina via Byron with stops at Broken Head and Lennox Head. Add another 6 hours (including lots of stops and lunch) and head west inland to do a lovely village tour into the hinterland via Lismore and Nimbin including at least one waterfall with a lush swimming hole, returning through the rainforest hills to Mullumbimby.
~ 30min - 1.30hr north - the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

Mullumbimby itself is a lovely little town with some excellent Airbnb options. Also see for accommodation. Note: it is peak season up that region but it will calm down a bit once the New Year is over.

2. My favorite small town in Australia is Warrandyte, about 45min east-north-east of Melbourne city via the Eastern Freeway to Doncaster. At Warrandyte State Park you can swim in the river, spot koalas up trees, spy wombats or at least their cubic art work atop rocks, discern big grey kangaroos in the grasslands and take a lovely private walk along the river bank. Head into the village to the pub for local character or eat at one of the cafes in town. Warrandyte is a place that only local Melbournians know, and it is a great respite from the hot flat city and suburbs in summer.

2.1 My second favourite small town is Tasmania.
posted by Thella at 7:01 PM on December 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you're in Tassie:

Favourite small town is Cygnet and the drive down the Huon, especially summer fruit; depending on timing this time of year you can see the Sydney to Hobart race arrive and the Taste of Tasmania.

It's summer. You will get sunburnt far faster than you expect. There are - depending on where you are - fire warnings, the risk of bushfire including along major roads, and water restrictions.
posted by quercus23 at 8:55 PM on December 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Byron Bay is (alas) now overrated, as is the Gold Coast. Try Lennox Head, Bangalow or Evans Head around that way instead.

My favourite small towns are Yamba on the north coast of NSW; and Milton on the south coast. They are both nice little coastal towns with great beaches, good places to eat, and a chilled-out atmosphere.
posted by girlgenius at 10:17 PM on December 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bondi Beach is overrated. It's long, golden, full of tourists and loud, drunk locals, but pretty much still just a beach. If you are a woman, go to Coogee instead and visit the McIvers Baths (known locally as the women's pool - sorry, no dudes allowed). It is a peaceful haven with gardens and a seawater pool carved into the rocks at the shore. If you are not a woman, try one of the many other rock pools along the Sydney coast. Other delightful beaches include Watamolla (in a national park not far from Sydney, complete with lagoon and cliffs you can jump from) and Palm Beach, a wild surf beach up the coast.
posted by embrangled at 1:48 AM on December 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and one overtly touristy thing which I am always a bit embarrassed to recommend (mostly because the name is so terrible) but which every visiting friend and relative has LOVED: Scenic World! It's a series of cablecars in the Blue Mountains that will take you across the valleys and down the mountainside to the valley floor. (The Blue Mountains are not so much individual peaks, as a huge high plain divided by deep winding valleys). If you want to get some exercise, take the cable car down into the valley, walk for half an hour or so to the Giant Staircase and make your way up a dizzying set of stairs carved into the cliffs. (You can also do it the other way round, but exertion aside, going up actually feels less precarious than going down).
posted by embrangled at 1:56 AM on December 25, 2015

North Queensland (Cairns, specifically) is really popular with tourists, but it's overrated. If they really want to see Australia's best beaches and rainforests, they should head to the south coast of NSW.

My favourite small town is Orange, NSW. It gets four seasons (autumn colour is amazing), has good restaurants, apple stuff is great, Mt Canobolas and the lake are gorgeous spots.

The best coffee outside of Italy is in Melbourne or Sydney's inner west.

No, it's in Canberra.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:07 AM on December 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved Tasmania. Seeing the penguins at Bruny Island was a highlight. Another great place is Treachery Cove/Seal Rocks area of NSW.
posted by vunder at 1:56 PM on December 25, 2015

1. The East Coast is popular with tourists but overrated. If visitors really want to have a good time, they should go to Perth.

But the best beaches

Yep. I don't care where you come from. Nothing in the world beats Cottesloe Beach.
posted by Talez at 3:56 PM on December 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hmmm I've got two! Sydney and Melbourne are overrated, come to South Australia! The wine is amazing (Barossa, Clare, McLarenvale, the Coonawarra), food is incredible (all the wine areas and Adelaide too) the people are way friendlier (everywhere), everything is cheaper too. You can have the quintessential outback experience in the Flinders Ranges (check out Wilpena Pound or Lake Eyre) or go all out and go to Coober Pedy. Maybe travel through the centre to Darwin on the Ghan. There are extraordinary beaches on the Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula and the Limestone Coast. With many many fewer tourists and much much friendlier people. I've lived and travelled all over Australia and SA is like this crazy hidden world the rest of the country knows nothing about. Sydney and Melbourne talk it down as slow and dull and it's true it doesn't have the 24-hour vibe happening. But it also doesn't have the dirty, overpriced tourist trap thing, so, there's that. If you must do Qld, Cairns is popular with tourists but overrated. If visitors really want to see the reef , the tropics, and the outback, they should go to Port Douglas, check out the reef from there, then 4WD up the Daintree, taking the Bloomfield track to Cooktown. Maybe not in the rainy season though! And if you're not experienced 4WD'ers go with a group or in a tour! (You can still do Port and the Daintree, no 4WD needed, but the Bloomfield track floods, there are landslides , and it closes. )

My favorite small town in Australia is too hard to pin down to one. Mossman in FNQ; Malaney outside Brisbane; Port Elliot or Robe or Penola in South Australia.
posted by t0astie at 7:03 PM on December 25, 2015

Fraser Island is really lovely - sand filtered streams so clear you can barely see the water; fresh water lakes; gorgeous beaches; and whale-watching at some times of year...

Margaret River
is great if you like pretty limestone caves full of stalactites that you can explore with a guide (some caves are also solo tours, bring your on torches), beaches, forested landscapes, and wineries.
posted by A sock, a sock! My kingdom for a sock! at 11:59 PM on December 25, 2015

Totally agree that Bondi Beach is over-rated.

If you're in Sydney, Tamarama Beach (very close to Bondi) is more beautiful and less crowded. It also has a small sheltered rock swimming-pool for children.
posted by A sock, a sock! My kingdom for a sock! at 12:02 AM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

The SW of Australia has been in Lonely Planet's Top 10 Regions of the world. I am an Airbnb host and Couchsurfer host in Perth, and all the feedback from my guests is that 'holy shit, we had no idea!'

Hardly anyone comes to our side of the country, but the South West is incredible for beaches, friendly people, wineries, glorious forests. Last week at my old stomping ground of Augusta/ Margaret River I stood in the shallows of Hamelin Bay and had three sting rays swoon around kissing my feet in the shallows. Three other people were on the beach. Five minutes drive from there is Boranup Forest and the Karri trees are magnificent. The caves are outstanding, with the ancient roots of the canopy above visible, and excellent guides. There are farm stays and winery stays, or backpackers accommodation.

Today I was surfing an hour south of Perth and five dolphins frolicked around and surfed the waves with us. Fremantle, just south of Perth is a great place to explore, probably my favourite place in Australia.

You can take a short ferry from Perth to Rottnest, no cars allowed, just bicycles. Little quokkas populate the island and they are friendly, and the snorkelling is super great. Perth is derided by east coasters for expense (hmmph, cough, Sydney prices!) and that we are undeveloped, blue collar mining nuts, but we get out in the splendid nature all the time, and there are no beaches to compare with those down south - Meelup, Bunker Bay, Eagle Bay, Yallingup etc. Kangaroos everywhere, gourmet foods, cheese/chocolate/ice cream factories using local produce.

buuuuuutttt ... If you are set on the east coast, I second the recommendation for Mullumbimby. Organic produce, great bands, mountains, friendly people, cheap and close to Byron Bay. Best beaches in my opinion (I love bodyboarding) in that area are Cabarita, Broken Head and Yamba. You could also climb Mount Warning and enjoy rainforest-y times too.
posted by honey-barbara at 2:19 AM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Australian beer is popular with tourists but wildly overrated. The cheap stuff is terrible, and what is good is likely to be expensive. Australian wine, however, is excellent.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:47 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

1. Bondi Beach is popular with tourists but overrated. It's so touristy, the shops are godawful chains and there's a general dirty feel along the shopping/cafe strip. The beach itself is nothing to write home about. If visitors really want to experience an Aussie beach, they should pick any of the other beaches mentioned here. I'd never go back to Bondi again except for Sculpture by the Sea.

2. My favorite small town in Australia is Robe in South Australia. At least it was when I went quite a few years ago. It was completely uncommercialised and had an authentic peaceful little seaside village vibe. YMMV after all this time though.
posted by Zaire at 7:50 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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