Five underrated aspects of travelling in Australia



Yeah, Australia’s got the beaches, the reef, the Outback and the wine regions. But there’s plenty that people don’t tend to expect, as David Whitley explains.

The light

Australia has the reputation of being sunny, but it’s not just the warmth that counts – it’s the brightness. The vividness of the light in Australia is hard to explain to someone from Northern Europe who has never been. Skies are bright, ferocious blues, not tepidly toned down like they are on even the most glorious British summer’s day. And somehow, that feels more energy-giving. There’s a sense of alertness and perkiness this brightness lends to people. 

The history

Australia’s history is both very long (looking at sites such as Kakadu and Mungo National Park, it’s tens of thousands of years of continuous civilisation) and very short (from the European perspective). But it tends to be pretty riveting whenever you start digging into the stories. Even in the four centuries since the Europeans turned up, the tales of exploration, forging a new nation and adjusting to totally alien conditions tend to lend themselves to high adventure, farce and entertaining rogues. Three starters should be the stories of the Batavia, Burke and Wills and John Macarthur.

The bush

It tends to be the coasts and the outback that make Australia stand out, but there is something in between that may not be quite as immediately attention-grabbing, though utterly captivating once you start exploring it. Green Australia, the inland chunks that are full of eucalypt forests, scarcely-visited National Parks, rocky outcrops and mountains, has its own distinct character. Most country areas are full of checked shirts, leather boots and horse riders, but there’s often a crossover (especially in the south-west, inland from the Great Ocean Road and around the New South Wales – Queensland border) with a distinctly hippyish back-to-nature scene. 

The wildness

Kinda related to the bush, but something bigger than that, Australia does a remarkably good line in keeping things wild. In the UK, even National Parks will have farmers’ fields and grazing sheep. But in Oz, you’re never too far away from forest with only the most rudimentary of tracks through it, or vast swathes of land that have no road through. This applies even on the coast, where there can be the most remarkable beaches with no infrastructure next to them. They’re just left for the ocean to pound and dunes to grow at the back of.

The multiculturalism

It’s tempting to think of Australia as a very white Anglo place – and in parts (particularly country areas) it is. But spend time in the cities, and you’ll find that vision doesn’t hold true at all. Successive waves of immigrants – whether from Italy, Greece and the Balkans, or Turkey and the Middle East, or South East Asia, China and India – have all added to the internationalist feel of Australia’s cities. This is most obviously reflected in the food scene – the variety available is superb – but also in attitudes too. Urban Australia (largely) sees itself as of the world, not separate from it.



by David Whitley




You can get the Australia included as a stopover on a Navigator round the world