For better or worse, the postcard – as your parents knew it anyway – is dead and buried. Sure, you can still buy them at crappy news agencies and in the places where they sell cheap, lime green Australia bucket hats with hanging plastic corks and nylon kangaroos with boxing gloves, but who actually spends their hard earned coppers on them? I mean, really?
The Internet may have ruined some things (like the humble pub trivia night) but it has certainly improved the way we human beings stay in touch with one another. Now, instead of drunkenly scrawling some illegible missive on the back of a ‘wish you were here’ piece of cardboard by the stark light of a bare bulb in an Airlie Beach 12-person dorm, you can put down a dollar or two and tell your best friend back in rainy Stoke-on-Trent just what they’re missing out on, all in real time.
You don’t even need an expensive camera now to capture all your adventures for posterity. Even the most humble of backpackers will likely have some sort of smart phone, or cheap, point-and-shoot digital camera. Facebook in a sense then becomes a travel diary and digital scrapbook all in one. Not to mention that it’s all – nominally anyway – free.
That’s not say however that just because the physical postcard itself has become superfluous that your friends and family back home don’t want to see your smiley face standing in front of the iconic landmarks around Australia. With that in mind we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 best spots to get your photograph taken in front (or perhaps just to the right) of.
Think of this as a photographic bucket list of places you must have on your ‘Down Under’ Facebook travelling album before you die… Or leave, whichever comes first.
Sydney Harbour: Harbour Bridge and Opera House
Ah, where better place to start than this most iconic of Australian urban landscapes, Circular Quay. On clear days, when the sun’s light gleams off of the elegant white sails of the Opera House, the mirror like surface of the water and the cars streaming across the Harbour Bridge there are few sights more beautiful.
The effect at night is, obviously, slightly different but no less enchanting. The Quay shines like a star if you’re coming towards it on the ferry from Manly. Glinting yellows, blues, greens and red lights stand out at points along the water’s edge and the manically smiling face of the Lunar Park entrance lit up in bright neon on the northern side leering across the water. It’s a sight that few who’ve seen will forget in a hurry.
It’s hard to pick just one spot where best to capture all this loveliness into one photo: so why not visit a couple? As mentioned above, a 30-minute ferry trip between Circular Quay and Manly will give you plenty of time to take it all in as well as providing ample opportunity for a few selfies.
Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb conduct guided climbs of the iconic coat hangar. While it can be a little bit pricey, the view from the top of the climb is spectacular and it really is a must do activity when in Sydney.
After you’ve climbed the bridge why not celebrate with a beverage or two at Opera bar? It offers a great vantage point for a photograph of the very bridge you’ve just climbed.
Forever sparkling flirtatiously in the sunshine, displaying the sleek and sexy lines that have made it famous across the world, Sydney is truly a supermodel of cities and if your camera isn’t getting a work out while you’re here then you are going to make her feel very neglected.
Three Sisters Blue Mountains
Only about 50 minutes drive from the centre of Sydney, beautiful Katoomba in the heart of the Blue Mountains is another must visit location while in New South Wales. It is also home to one of the most famous of Australia’s natural rock formations – The Tree Sisters.
Towering out of Echo Point and the beautiful undulating landscape of the Blue Mountains, The Three Sisters stand at 922, 918 & 906 metres respectively and attract millions of visitors to the area every year.
According to Indigenous cultural legend, the formations take their name from three beautiful sisters from the Katoomba Tribe who fell in love with three brothers from the neighbouring Nepean tribes. Tribal law at the time forbade them to marry however, so the brothers started a war with the sister’s tribe and a witchdoctor turned them to stone in order to protect them.
There are a number of viewing platforms dotted around the rocks where you can take some quality photographs and the mineral composition of the sandstone means that, depending on the time of day, the colours in the rock will alter and change. They also floodlight them at night so no matter what time of the day you get there; you’ll still get a great photo or two out of it.
Great Ocean Road
If you’re keen to undertake a big road trip while you’re in Australia, there’s nowhere better than The Great Ocean Road. This 243 kilometre ribbon of tarmac winds its way between Torquay near Geelong and Allansford taking in some of the most striking and scenic coastline to be found anywhere in Australia.
The strip of road between Torquay and Cape Otway is known as the ‘Surf Coast’ and takes in some of Victoria’s best known surf breaks, including Bells Beach which plays host annually to the Rip Curl Pro surfing event.
This area also has some of the regions most iconic rock formations like the London Arch and the magnificent Twelve Apostles, which jut out of the sandy shoreline near the breakers. The Twelve Apostles in particular is one of those natural landmarks that simply have to be seen to be believed – although, quite why the formations are known as the Twelve Apostles when there are only nine (actually eight since 2009) limestone stacks has never quite been explained.
The Great Ocean Road also has some of the more tranquil, laid-back and pretty coastal towns in the whole state. Places like Torquay and Lorne are magnificent year round, but are definitely top spots to visit during the summer.
They say that Melbourne is the ‘most European’ cities in Australia. Don’t ask me who ‘they’ necessarily are, but I’m sure somebody, somewhere has said it. The fact that it’s true is often a source of gall for Sydneysiders but no one would deny that Melbourne has a bustling, cosmopolitan feel to it and its sprawling web of inner-city laneways are littered with fantastic shops, bars, cafes and restaurants.
Melbourne’s laneways are also tattooed in a vibrant, colourful mosaic of street art. No mere ‘graffiti’ here, as artists from all over the world have come to brighten up certain sections of the city’s laneways with fantastical designs.
Most Melbourne information centres will provide you with a free map so you can explore the web of interlocking laneways that snake through the CBD. This walk should take you between half an hour to an hour and will take you passed Federation Square, Majorca Building, the Royal Arcade and many more. It’s the wonderful sites you’ll see in between these landmarks that ought to capture your imagination though.
Or of course you could just grab a coffee at one of the many beautiful little cafes and take a few happy snaps of some young artist laying down a fresh mural on a, yet unadorned piece of wall.
Despite being only 110km from the South Australian capital of Adelaide, Kangaroo Island could well be on a different planet. 150 km long and around 90km wide, it is Australia’s third largest island – after Tasmania and Melville Islands and has one of the most diverse selection of native fauna and flora to be found anywhere on Australia.
For one thing a quarter of the Island has been conserved as National Park land and/or wilderness protection areas. This, combined with its isolation from the mainland has prevented introduced pests and predators like foxes and rabbits from entering the Island. As a result bandicoots, wallabies, possums, echidnas and seals all flourish on the island, as well as the iconic kangaroo which gives the place its name.
A large colony of koalas – who were introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1920s – have also flourished in the rich eucalypt forests of the island’s interior. Combine that with the rich native birdlife of the place and you have one of the greatest concentrations of native animals to be found anywhere in Australia.
In other words, Kangaroo Island is definitely the place to get a few snaps of some lovely marsupials for your ‘Cuddly Aussie Animals’ album.
Ningaloo Reef, Whale Sharks
Perhaps the jewel in Western Australia’s tourism crown, Ningaloo is home to one of the world’s largest fringing reefs. It’s also one of the best spots anywhere on Earth to get up close and personal with nature’s largest fish: the whale shark.
Migratory whale sharks swim passed the beautiful reefs off Ningaloo between late March and mid-July and the biggest of these gentle giants can grow to 16 metres long. There are numerous companies who run whale shark swims and dives so pick one and get yourself out there!
Obviously to best capture the size and magnificence of the whale sharks in their natural habitat you’re going to need to get yourself an underwater camera and a snorkel, the latter will be provided for in your tour while the former can be easily purchased.
While whale sharks are often the biggest draw card for the 230km reef, there are plenty of other marine creatures around to excite the eye and enliven the soul. Manta rays, turtles, dolphins, whales and even dugongs can be sighted at any point during your cruise.
Since you’ve come all this way to remote WA you may as well explore the nearby towns. Situated on the North West Cape, a measly 13 hour drive from Perth, Exmouth feels like a world away. Barren, red, dusty earth meets the shallow turquoise water. Locals are friendly and fun, and thongs are all you need.
Exmouth began in 1964 as a naval base, when the Americans came in to set up huge submarine communication towers (which are still active) and flew 3,000 servicemen in to work on the now disused base. Your Instagram filters will have a field day here.
Tasmania is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Australia’s many states and territories. So much of Australia’s mainland is covered by semi-arid scrub or proper desert – which is striking in its own way, but certainly not classically ‘beautiful’. Tasmania however is full of lush forests, rolling green pastures and towering, snow capped peaks. Nowhere captures the pristine beauty of Tasmania better than Cradle Mountain though.
There are two options available to you if you wish to visit Cradle Mountain. The first (if you’ve got the time) is to tackle the famous Overland Track – a 65 km, six-day trek through the heart of the beautiful Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, which is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
If you can, we’d recommend you do it this way as you’ll get the best possible experience, taking in not just the splendour of Cradle Mountain itself but also a number of other exquisite peaks before finally coming to the amazing Lake St Clair – Australia’s deepest lake.
If you don’t have six or seven days to devote to hiking through the glories of Tasmania’s wilderness, don’t despair! You can take day trips to Cradle Mountain, which leave from such idyllic towns as Sheffield. This way you’ll still get to enjoy all of the glorious, Lord of the Rings style scenery without the prospect of getting wet or suffering from blisters.
Cradle Mountain and the surrounding park is truly one of the most awe–inspiring and beautiful parts of Australia, no trip to Oz would be complete without a visit.
Great Barrier Reef / Whitsundays
From the jewel of the Western/Indian Ocean to one of the best known and most celebrated reefs in not just Australia, but possibly the world. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world and is, quite simply, an absolute must visit destination while in Australia.
It helps that some of the most famous parts of the reef are located a (relatively speaking) stone throw away from one of Queensland’s most backpacker friendly spots in Airlie Beach. On clear, sunny days the water around the reef seems impossibly clean and blue and the coral formations stand out proudly just below the waterline in a myriad patchwork of white and yellows.
The best way to see the Great Barrier Reef is obviously to just get out there on a boat, grab a snorkel and go for a dip. There are, much like Ningaloo, a number of companies who run boat cruises out to the best parts of the reef. On some all you’ll need to do is relax in the sun, with a cool drink in hand while on others you can get a little more hands on with the whole experience.
If you want to see the reef, but don’t fancy getting wet (for whatever reason) you can book a plane tour out of Airlie Beach. You and a small crew can be flown out over the beautiful Whitsunday island chain and out over some of the most beautiful parts of the reef – including the world famous heart reef. This bird’s eye view means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to capture some truly spectacular photographs.
Great white sharks: I’m terrified of them, but apparently I shouldn’t be. If marine biologists and the people who run Port Lincoln’s world famous shark cage dives are to be believed, these streamlined lions of the ocean are nothing to be feared.
For those of you not fully aware of what a ‘shark cage dive’ consists of, I shall explain (even if it is really in the title). One or two daring souls are placed in an upright cage constructed of many bars – spaced just far enough apart to give you the impression that a shark’s jaws might be able to sneak through and take a chunk out of you – which is then dropped into the water, which has been chummed. You can then float there and watch a giant shark attacking the bits of dead fish and, if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your definition) bash into the cage itself.
Sure the great white’s aren’t as gentle or majestic as the their whale shark cousins, but they are certainly more fearsome and impressive to behold, certainly up close anyway. If you dare you can even stick your camera and hand out through the bars to get a really close up shot. Although, if you lose your hand, don’t come complaining to us!
Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park
This is the big one, the holy grail of all things Australian ‘postcard’ worthy. Uluru, Ayer’s Rock – whatever you wish to call it – is perhaps the most iconic photograph spot in all of Australia.
What is it about this big, red lump of rock way out in the middle of nowhere that so captures the imagination? It’s something that’s rather hard to put into words, to capture in a few paltry sentences. You really need to experience it yourself: to physically watch the colour of the rock change with the going down of the sun, to walk and stand in its monolithic shadow at dawn, to hear the voices and stories of the indigenous people who have lived alongside it for millennia. Then maybe you’ll understand.
Nearby Kata Juta – a knobby mass of 36 sandstone domes, which bubble out of the flat desert landscape like alien spacecraft is slightly less well known amongst international travellers than Uluru, but it is no less spectacular.
As it is a more sprawling site than Uluru, it is slightly harder to get a photograph of all the domes in one photograph (unless you’re in an aeroplane) so you might as well plunge straight into them.
The Valley of the Winds walk is a fairly gentle jaunt through a well-worn walking track, surrounded on all sides by the amazing sandstone formations of Kata Juta stretching up into the sky around you. It’s an experience you’ll never forget and you’ll wind up with some photographs that will make everyone you know absolutely green with envy.
Photos: Kathryn Joanna Sim, Tourism Australia