When people ask the inevitable question “what was the best year of your life?” I usually respond “24”: the year that I went backpacking in Australia. Good god, was that an amazing time.
The memories that I have from the 7-8 months that I spent both working and backpacking in Australia are some of the fondest that I have. It was such a positive experience for me both as a traveler and as a maturing adult. I learned how to succeed in a foreign nation and, most importantly, more about myself.
Choosing to go backpacking in Australia is a brilliant idea as there is so much to do and see. Learn how to surf on some the finest beaches in the world. Work and play in the bush or one of the many eclectic cities. See what all the fuss is about the Outback. All this and more is possible when you travel to Australia.
With this travel guide for Australia, you’ll have everything that you could need to start your adventure. We’ll cover topics ranging from “backpacking Australia on a budget” to “finding a backpacker job.” You’ll be right, ya filthy animals.
Where to Go Backpacking in Australia
Australia is a massive country with tons of things to do and see! From sailing around the Whitsundays to diving in the Great Barrier Reef to road-tripping just about anywhere, Australia’s got it all. It’s the goal of this Australia travel guide to help travelers get the most out of their backpacking trip by giving them plenty of ideas and tips on what to do and, especially, where to stay in Australia.
Below you will find a fully interactive Google map containing a number of backpacking routes for Australia. Just CLICK the image and you’ll be taken to the map. Take lots of notes!
Some Sample Backpacking Itineraries for Australia
- Duration: 10 days
- Suggested route: Hobart > Freycinet > St Helens > Devenport > Cradle Mountain > Strahan > Hobar
- Best time: December – March
- Best place to stay: Pickled Frog (Hobart)
- Length: 2 weeks
- Suggested route: Sydney > Canberra > Melbourne > Great Ocean Road > Adelaide
- Best time: October – November, March – April
- Best place to stay: The Village (Melbourne)
- Length: 3 weeks
- Suggested route: Sydney > Byron Bay > Noosa > Fraser Island > Whitsundays > Townsville > Cairns
- Best time: May – November
- Best place to stay: Nomads Byron Bay
- Duration: 1 month
- Suggested route: Adelaide > Alice Springs > Darwin > Broome > Exmouth > Perth > Adelaide
- Best time: April – October
- Best place to stay: Beaches of Broome
- Duration: 2-3 months
- Suggested route: Cairns > Brisbane > Syndey > Melbourne > Adelaide > Alice Springs > Darwin > Exmouth > Perth
- Best time: September – December, May – July
- Best place to stay: The Outback
Places to Visit in Australia
Let’s take a look at the absolute must-see places in Australia!
Backpacking the East Coast of Australia
The East Coast of Australia, consisting of the states of New South Wales and Queensland, is the most popular backpacking route in Australia! The East Coast has some of the best infrastructure, greatest thrills, and most beautiful places in Australia. No trip to Australia is complete without a stop in this amazing part of the country.
Traveling the 1500 miles from the ever-enchanting Sydney to Cairns will afford travelers lots of adventurous opportunities. You’ll navigate ancient jungles, go walking in the bush, and (of course) visit some damn fine beaches. Some other highlights of backpacking the East Coast of Australia include camping on Fraser Island, sailing among the picturesque Whitsunday Islands, and diving at the Great Barrier Reef.
There is so much to do and see on the East Coast of Australia that we at Broke Backpacker had to create a separate budget backpacking travel guide to do it justice! Those interested in backpacking around this part of Australia should best refer to our informative guide where we break down heaps pertaining to New South Wales, Queensland, and everything in between. This includes the usual subjects like Accommodation, Itineraries, and How to Get Around.
Note that this guide will also cover locations that are not bound to the coast including the Atherton Tablelands and the Outback. You gotta see the desert while backpacking Australia even if you intend on being a beach bum 99% of the time.
Canberra is the federal capital of Australia and has a bit of rap for being boring as hell. Famously, one former prime minister wouldn’t even live there when he was in office (though he denied any feeling any revulsion to the place). Truthfully, Canberra really isn’t that bad so long as you know what you’re getting yourself in to.
Canberra is a planned community that was designed to be a “garden city.” For this reason, Canberra has an extensive amount of parkland, national monuments, and cultural centers. At the center of everything is the large and artificial Lake Burley Griffin, which acts as a sort of reference point.
Around the lake are Canberra’s most prominent landmarks including both Parliament Houses (the old and new ones), the hallowed Australian War Memorial, and several museums and galleries. The National Museum of Australia, National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery are all fine cultural centers worth visiting.
The best way to get around Canberra is by walking or biking. Thanks in part to abundant greenery and lack of traffic, these modes of getting around can be quite enjoyable. Take note that Canberra is still quite spread out so getting around on foot may take longer than anticipated.
If you find Canberra’s parklands insufficient, then there are plenty more pastoral sights outside of the city. Namadgi National Park is the northernmost section of the Australian Alps and has lots of outdoor activities. Mountain biking, in particular, is very popular around Namadgi and the highlands of Canberra.
Ultimately, Canberra is a fine city to visit for a weekend. Those backpacking around Australia should come here for the bucolic scenery and small-townish lifestyle.
Sydney’s greatest rival is the super dynamic and culturally superior Melbourne. Melbourne is the former federal capital and, for this reason, was once the center of all things Australian. Melbourne lead the way in economics, art, sports, you name it until Sydney rose and began to challenge it. Backpacking Melbourne is an incredible and interesting experience.
Melbourne is a huge city with multiple districts. Most of the top things to do in Melbourne are found around the city center – in the CBD and Southbank. The CBD is buzzing constantly with action as here are some of the best cafes, bars, restaurants, and cultural sites in the city.
Flinders Street Station acts as the central nervous system of Melbourne and provides transport to any and all of the metropolitan area. Very close to the CBD are St. Paul’s Cathedral and Collins Street, the latter of which is very fucking cool. Other notable attractions, like the Shrine of Remembrance, Queen Victoria Market, and Federation Square, are all a short walk away from the CBD.
Further outside of the city center are many more districts that make for great day trips. Carlton is a neighborhood rich with Italian heritage and home to the impressive Museum of Melbourne. St Kilda is the premier beach hangout and has a nightlife that is comparable to debaucherous King’s Cross in Sydney. Brighton is where you’ll find the iconic beach huts. Finally, Collingwood and Fitzroy are the favorite hipster hideouts in an already hipster city.
Melbourne’s pedigree cannot be understated – this is one of the coolest places in Australia. You just have to visit this city and wander amongst its laneways all the while sampling as much music, food, and drink as possible. Looking for an epic place to stay in Melbourne? You can book our favorite hostel, the Village.
Backpacking the Great Ocean Road
Driving on the Great Ocean Road is a must-do while backpacking in Australia! It’s one of many Great Australian Road Trips, however, it’s one of the best.
Extending from Geelong to Portland – both of which are in Victoria – the Great Ocean Road offers some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the country. Driving along this route, around the many bends and on the edge of sheer coastal cliffs, is a truly amazing experience.
You’ll see several prominent landmarks and attractions while driving along the 150 miles of the Great Ocean Road. The most famous of landmarks here are the Twelves Apostles, which are a group of limestone sea stacks that rise stunningly out of the ocean. There are, unfortunately, only eight now as several have collapsed in recent years. Other notable sites along the Great Ocean Road include The Grotto and Loch Ard Gorge.
Driving along the Great Ocean Road isn’t just about the coast though; between Apollo Bay and Glenaire is Great Otway National Park, which is a wonderfully lush forest. Inside, you’ll find a staggering array of plant-life and a number of picturesque waterfalls that make for great photographs.
For those who want to spend several days driving the Great Ocean Road – which is a reasonable choice – there are several towns to lay your head down in. Apollo Bay is the most desirable, though Princetown and Port Campbell also make for great overnights.
Backpacking Adelaide has had to deal with a somewhat dull and undeserving reputation. Just hearing its nickname, “The City of Churches,” leads one to assume that Adelaide is an overly-strict and boring place to be. What many don’t realize is that this nickname was never a reference to the city’s piety – conversely, as an ultra-liberal city, Adelaide was a place of many churches and ideologies. In lies Adelaide’s true self: a forward thinking and supremely eclectic city.
Adelaide or Radelaide has quietly been one of the best cities in Australia. Here is an amazing art scene, a thriving nightlife, and some of the best city beaches in Australia. Oh, did we mention that this is the wine capital of Australia? You can’t throw a boomerang and not hit a winery in this part of the country.
Adelaide is a planned city – the first founded by freemen – and is extremely easy to get around. One could easily walk across the whole city proper in an hour or two. A tour of Adelaide should definitely include a walk around one of the many surroundings parklands, which includes lovely sights like the River Torres and the Botanic Gardens. For the best food and drink, one needs look around the likes of Rundle Street, South Hutt Street, and O’Connell Street.
Adelaide has some of the best city beaches in Australia. Glenelg is the glitzy beach with lots of clubs and cafes. The most beautiful beaches though are found in the southerly suburbs around Brighton, Port Noarlunga, and Aldinga.
There is wine country everywhere outside of Adelaide. The Clare Valley, McLaren Vale, and Barossa Valley are the most prestigious regions and, between the three of them, produce the majority of Australia’s wine. Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills is another popular pastoral town, known more for its beer and German heritage.
Backpacking Kangaroo Island and the Yorke Peninsula
Within a day’s drive from Adelaide are the seaside getaways of the Yorke Peninsula, The Fleurieu Peninsula, and Kangaroo Island. Between the three areas, there’s over six hundred miles of coastline. Most of these beachs are hardly visited or even touched by any sort of tourist.
The Yorke Peninsula is to the north of Adelaide. On a map, the Peninsula is easily recognizable due to its distinct shape – like a large tail or a leg. Economically, agriculture – not tourism – is the region’s leading enterprise. This has, for the most part, lead to the development of several small rural communities, many of which make for great backpacker bases.
Popular activities on the Yorke Peninsula include surfing, diving, fishing, and sampling the local produce. The surfing here, in particular, is some of the best in the state. Must-see locations on the Peninsula are Pondalowie Bay, Innes National Park, and Berry Bay.
Kangaroo Island is one of the most popular holiday spots for South Australians and is fairly unknown outside of the state. Located across from the Fleurieu Peninsula, Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island and an important refuge for several threatened ecosystems.
With highlands, rugged coastline, and a number of pristine beaches, the natural setting of Kangaroo Island is some of the prettiest in South Australia. Flinders Chase Park, Admirals Arch, and the Remarkable Rocks are among the most splendid sights on the islands and shouldn’t be missed.
Arriving at Kangaroo Island is a simple matter of taking a short ferry from Cape Jervis. Upon arriving, backpackers will have many lodging options. You’ll find most of the hostels in the largest settlement on the island, Kingscote. Utilizing a local farmstay is becoming increasingly popular and many resemble hostels in their offerings.
Backpacking Uluru and Alice Springs
Smack dab in the “Red Center” of Australia, leagues away from any other city is Alice Springs; never before has the term “middle of fucking nowhere” been more applicable than with this place. Originally an outpost and then a military refuel base, Alice Springs now serves as a hub for visiting the many desert wonders of the region, including the famous Ayers Rock, which is locally referred to as Uluru.
Uluru is probably the most recognizable sight in the whole of Australia and for good reason: it’s magnificent. Honestly, words don’t really do this massive red rock justice and the pictures do little either. Uluru is meant to be seen and felt in person; only then will you understand it significance. As one local told me: “you stand there staring at (it) and then it begins to pulse; Uluru is the heartbeat of Australia.”
Tourists can climb Uluru but the local Aboriginal peoples, who hold the mountain sacred, adamantly request that visitors not take part in this practice. Many White Australians are now choosing to respect these wishes and you should too; walking around the base of the rock is still plenty enough. NOTE that Uluru isn’t actually very near to Alice Springs either – you’ll have to drive another 6 hours to reach it.
There are a number of other hikes around Alice Springs aside from Ayers Rock. Kata Tjuta aka the Olgas and Kings Canyon are both definitely worth visiting as well.
The actual city of Alice Springs isn’t much to write home about. Those expecting a weathered and rustic outpost in the middle of the harsh Outback will be upset to hear that the Springs is quite developed. This infrastructure comes with a number of positives and negatives too including plenty of awesome Alice Springs hostels, swimming pools and rampant racial tension, to name an unrelated few.
Darwin is the capital and largest city of the vast and empty Northern Territory. In an otherwise desolate place, Darwin exists today thanks to a booming mining industry and the need to create Asian shipping routes. More so than Alice Springs, Darwin has a distinctly frontier-like vibe, with a uniquely independent government and a population that really is one-of-a-kind.
By most standards, Darwin is a small city with very few areas and attractions. The Wharf Precinct, Bicentennial Park, and/or one of the few museums may be worthwhile but that’s about all. If we’re being honest here, my impression of Darwin is that it serves primarily as a weekend getaway for pent-up miners and a base for backpackers who are trying to find work. The parties are, predictably, over the top in Darwin as both worker and traveler alike just let loose.
The best part about backpacking Darwin is that it’s very close to some of the Outback’s best locations. Should you journey into the bush, bring lots of sunscreen and bug repellent though! You’ll be miserable without them.
Kakadu National Park is widely considered a staple of the region and is a must visit for those backpacking Australia. Ubirr, Jim Jim Falls, and the Gunlom Plunge Pool are among the best of Kakadu. Also worth visiting is Litchfield National Park, which is a lovely place full of waterfalls and swimming holes that the locals love to cool off in.
Farther south is the small town of Katherine. Here is the impressive Katherine Gorge, located within the Nitmiluk National Park. Travelers can experience the gorge in many ways from chartering a boat to paddling in a kayak to hiking along the rim on Jatbula Trail. That final option is a 4-5 day one-way hike.
Backpacking Broome and the Kimberly
The Kimberly is a vast and wild section of Western Australia that borders the Northern Territory – many believe that this region contains the best of Australia’s Outback. With an area roughly equivalent to California and a huge array of natural sites, the Kimberly is a grand adventure.
Though the paved Great Northern Highway runs through the Kimberley, the best way to explore this region is on the un-sealed Gibbs River Road, for which you’ll need a 4×4. Along the Gibbs, you’ll see the best of Kimberley, including Windjana Gorge, Bell Gorge, and Mitchell Falls. Much-loved Purnululu National Park is technically located off the Northern Highway though you’ll still need a 4×4 to access it.
At the western end of the Kimberley is Broome, which is the most visited destination in the region. This resort town, renowned for its pristine desert beaches, is immensely popular amongst Australians. During the pleasant dry season (May-September) the population of the town almost triples.
Cable Beach is a massive stretch of near-perfect sand and is one of Broome’s most popular attractions. Many people enjoy this beach at sunset from the backs of camels, who were introduced after one man went searching for Mecca.
Town Beach is another favorite among locals. Equally as beautiful as Cable, this beach is particularly noteworthy because of its “Staircase to the Moon.” This phenomenon occurs when the tides recede and the moon rises at the same time, creating the illusion of a walkway to the heavens. A night market is held when the staircase is visible.
Other attractions in Broome include the red cliffs of Gantheaume Point and one of many historical sites concerning the aging pearling industry. The latter in particular is an interesting case study of race and exploitation in both old and new Australia.
Backpacking Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef
Of a similar vein to Broome is the small community of Exmouth, located on the remote North West Cape. Here are some stunning beaches, awesomely rugged terrain, and, most importantly, one of the most precious ecosystems in Australia: the Ningaloo Reef.
Like Broome, Exmouth is a quiet beach town that swells in population during the four-month-long tourist season. There are the usual civilized amenities here i.e. hotels, restaurants, bars, markets, etc. Exmouth also has a couple of city beaches – Town Beach and Mauritius Beach – but these are kind of lackluster. Eager backpackers ought to head directly to Cape Range and the Ningaloo Reef.
Cape Range National Park has some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia as well as some great hiking opportunities. All of the beaches of the Cape Range are seemingly perfect with brilliant white sand and crystal clear waters. Some superlative beaches include Turquoise Bay and Sandy Beach.
Further inland, Cape Range has some wonderful canyons and gorges that make for great trekking spots. For the most popular hiking trails in the area, visit Charlie Knife Canyon, Yardie Creek Gorge, and Mandu Mandu Gorge.
Should you go snorkeling around Cape Range, chances are that you’ll stumble upon the beginnings of the majestic Ningaloo Reef. The Ningaloo Reef is home to some amazing marine life including whale sharks! The coolest part about this reef though is that it’s very close to the mainland. Unlike the Great Barrier, which is 150 miles from Cairns, you can literally swim (safely) to the Ningaloo Reef from the beach in some places i.e. Coral Bay.
Having a watercraft will, of course, unlock, more of the Ningaloo Reef. There are a number of sailing companies around Exmouth and Coral Bay though a kayak may be sufficient enough.
Halfway between Exmouth and Perth is the coastal town of Kalbarri and the national park of the same name. Offering classic Australian landscapes, Kalbarri makes for a great stopover when making the long drive up and down the western coast.
The town of Kalbarri is expectedly tiny – even more so than Broome or Exmouth. Not much to do here besides grabbing a quick bite to eat and sleeping. Kalbarri National Park, which surrounds the town, is the real reason to visit.
Composed of mostly sandstone, Kalbarri NP is full of awesome gorges and arches. The Z Bend is one of the most iconic tracks in the area as is the Hawks Head and Nature’s Window; all offer excellent views of the Murchison River Gorge and the surrounding landscape.
The coastline around Kalbarri is stunning as well and very similar to the Great Ocean Road. Though shorter and less high than the GOR, the cliffs of Kalbarri are equally as dramatic and have their own Apostles in a sense. Island Rock and the Natural Bridge are notable sights along the coast and can be seen from various viewpoints, which are accessible by car.
Should the 6-8 hour drive from either Perth or Exmouth to Kalbarri still prove too long, there are a couple more stops along both routes. Between Exmouth and Kalbarri is Shark Bay, renowned for its amazing beaches, for the dolphins of Monkey Mia, and for some rare fauna. Found here are stromatolites, which are considered one of the oldest and most important lifeforms on Earth.
On the way to Perth, you’ll pass by Nambung National Park. The most noteworthy attraction here is The Pinnacles, which are surreal, finger-like rock formations that rise prominently from the desert sands.
Perth‘s primary claim to fame is that it is considered one of if not the most isolated major cities in the world. It’s probably a good thing though; if Perth were any more accessible then it would definitely be overrun by now. With a booming economy, an extremely pleasant climate, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole country, Perth is certainly in the running for “best city to visit in Australia.”
Aesthetically, Perth is great for backpacking since it’s a very attractive city. The CBD, with its ever-growing skyscrapers, rises elegantly on the banks of the Swan River. From King’s Park, which is very charming in its own right, the cityscape is totally laid out before you and yours to take in.
Inside of the city itself, there are a few tourist sites of note. London Court is a lovely street built in Elizabethan fashion complete with Tudor-style homes and coat-of-arms on the doors; obviously, not the most authentic of attractions but pretty nonetheless! Also worth seeing is the redeveloped Elizabeth Quay, which is Perth’s answer to the Sydney Harbor.
For all its beauty, Perth is worth a weekend visit but, to be honest, the best parts are outside of the city anyways. To the north is Northbridge where you’ll find the best eats and nightlife in Perth. Adjacent Fremantle is a separate destination in its own right (see section below) and definitely somewhere worth checking out. From Fremantle, you can book a ferry to the idyllic Rottnest Island for the chance to see the unique quokka and some gorgeous beaches.
Speaking of beaches, Perth has some of the best in Australia. Scarborough and Cottesloe are the city’s most famous strips of sand. Mullaloo Beach and Pinnaroo Point are lesser-known but absolutely breathtaking.
Though only a dozen or so miles from Perth, Fremantle considers itself its own city. Once the gritty, neglected port of Perth, Fremantle has grown into a culturally unique and independent commune. With a very cosmopolitan history and a thriving art scene, Fremantle is certainly distinct from its larger neighbor.
Fremantle is a small community of 20,000 people. You could certainly get around by just walking here but, remember, this is still an Australian destination; distances are (always) much longer than travelers think. It would behoove most to have some sort of transport, either in the form of a car, scooter, bike, or even a bus ticket. The local CTA (Central Area Transit) is usually free.
The top attractions in Fremantle are the old Fremantle Prison, Roundhouse, and Arts Centre. All of these are historical sites that have either been preserved or renovated to suit other means. The Arts Centre, once the old Fremantle Hospital, is now a public space. The Roundhouse was Western Australia’s first permanent building that served (appropriately) as a prison; now it’s a museum.
Being a port city, Fremantle has a great selection of food that harks from all over the world. Italian cuisine is particularly good in Fremantle, as the city has hosted a large community of Italian immigrants over the years. The much loved Cappuccino Strip is where you’ll find the majority of these Mediterranean establishments. This strip is also famous for its exciting and diverse street performances.
Top off your time in Fremantle with a drink at one of its many after-hours spots. The nightlife in Fremantle is very strong and some Perthians even prefer it to their own city’s.
Tasmania is Australia’s forgotten state – a bit of an afterthought that only evokes images of Looney Toon characters or barbarous locals it would seem. This probably is for the best though as backpacking Tasmania is a true hidden gem. This is a paradise, with fantastic landscapes, eccentric people, and some world-class cuisine. Tasmania is one of the best places in Australia and no one knows about it!
Tasmania is an island state, separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait. The majority of the population (40%) lives in the Greater Hobart precinct, which serves as the state’s capital.
Despite it’s seaparation from the rest of mainland Australia, Hobart is awesome city carrying a similar vibe to Melbourne. Though not as big, there’s a lively undercurrent of culture to be found in its art and music scenes. There are also heaps of awesome backpacker hostels in Hobart, and you’ll definitely meet some likeminded travelers for the onward adventures in Tassie.
Other settlements of note include Launceston, Bicheno, and Strahan, among other communes of varying size. Outside of these urban areas, Tasmania is mostly pristine wilderness, a good chunk of which is protected parkland or heritage site.
Tasmania is home to some very diverse geography. The interior of the island is very rugged, composed of jagged mountains and thick rainforests. The coastline doesn’t disappoint either as there are some beaches and bays here that could easily rival those of the mainland. So varied and stunning are the landscapes here that Tasmania is often referred to as Little New Zealand!
Backpacking the Outback
The Outback. The Bush. The Fuck-all Middle of Straya. The reason why most who want to go backpacking in Australia visit in the first place. Many have little clue though has to how large and how imposing this region actually is.
Few actually comprehend the Outback’s size or its conditions. Though the exact number isn’t agreed upon, the Outback constitutes at least 70% of Australia’s landmass and is around 2-3 million square miles. The whole of India is 1.5 million square miles – that’s a lot of fuck-all!
Water is extremely sparse in the Outback. Temperatures vary widely depending on the season and time of year, from sub-zero to over 110 Fahrenheit. People die out here from exposure all the time. If you plan to venture out into the desert, you must be prepared.
The Outback isn’t a singular destination that you just include in an itinerary – it’s a collection of several desert regions that form an unfathomably large ecosystem. You can visit parts of the Outback but there’s no way that you could visit the whole thing; there are huge swathes of the Outback that haven’t even been charted yet.
A few of the Outback’s top destinations have already been covered in this guide, like Alice Springs, the Kimberly, and the Nullarbor Plain. This section is for outlining some of the last remaining portions of the Outback that are relatively accessible. These places are, of course, minuscule in the grand scheme of things. By referring to the table below though, you may get some good ideas about where and how to properly experience the epic and humbling Outback.
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Getting Off the Beaten Path in Australia
There’s a lot of nowhere in Australia, which means that there are lots of opportunities to get off the beaten path. With the proper vehicle and supplies, you’ll be able make your own expeditions into the lesser-visited places of Australia. Get ready for some of the longest, bumpiest rides of your life as you go exploring the Australian nowhere!
|Destination||Location||Why Visit Here?!|
|Mungo National Park||New South Wales||Alien rock formations and large dunes.|
|Lake Eyre||South Australia||Largest and lowest lake in Australia that changes color depending on the water level and salinity.|
|Flinders Ranges||South Australia||Home of the Wilpena Pound - a huge, natural amphitheater that has to be seen.|
|Coober Pedy||South Australia||Old mining town that is famous for its underground dwellings called "dugouts."|
|Karijini National Park||Western Australia||Elegant gorges and breathtakingly vibrant rock makes this one of the most beautiful places in the Outback.|
|Mount Augustus||Western Australia||A real competitor for Uluru; larger but less prominent.|
|Simpson Desert||South Australia/ Western Australia/Northern Territory||A vast desert full of red sand dunes. Picturesque Outback.|
|Victorian Great Dividing Range||Victoria/NSW/Queensland||A huge collection of highlands and low-mountains that stretches from Central Victoria all the way up to the northern tip of Queensland. Can be walked in their entirety.|
|The Nullarbor Plain||South Australia/Western Australia||The longest, straightest, and flattest route in all of Australia. The ultimate Australian Outback adventure!|
Backpacker Accommodation in Australia
Australia is absolutely chalked full of backpacker lodges and hostels! These are among the best and most entertaining hostels in the entire world. People from every corner of the globe flock to Australia to party and have one of the grandest adventures of their life, be it in a city, on a beach or in the Outback.
Australian hostels are of a very high quality and are often the recipients of numerous backpacking awards. Most organize lots of events from pub crawls to game nights to communal dinners. There are very few hostels in Australia that I can really speak poorly of (feel free to ask me though).
Couchsurfing is, of course, a very legitimate means of staying in the Australian cities and is a great way to save some cash. Australians are an extremely welcoming bunch and have no problem inviting you over to their place for chicken parmy and a beer or ten.
At the end of the day though, the best way to sleep in Australia is by camping, either in a tent or in a campervan. Australia has some of the most pristine and wonderful nature in the world and it needs to be experienced in the purest way possible. There’s nothing else like sitting next to a fire in the bush and sleeping under the stars.
The Best Places to Stay in Australia
|Location||Destination||Why Stay Here?!|
|East Coast of Australia||Wake Up! Sydney||An award winning hostel based in the center of Sydney. Very large facility w/ a pool, computer, area, restaurant, bar, and then some. A mini-community unto itself.|
|Canberra||Canberra City YHA||Centrally located hostel w/ bike rentals, city tours, and even a pool/spa!|
|Melbourne||The Village Melbourne||Located next to the CBD the design of this hostel creates a boisterous atmosphere that will make your stay in Melbourne a memorable one. The Village Melbourne is full of amenities including, on-site bar, chill-out areas, game room, and a well-stocked communal kitchen.|
|Great Ocean Road||Surfside Backpackers||Very homey hostel located right next to the surfer's beach!|
|Adelaide||Backpack Oz||Very clean and affordable hostel w/ some amazing happy hour specials.|
|Kangaroo Island and Yorke Peninsula||Kangaroo Island Backpackers||Low-key lodge in Kingscote. Only "hostel" on the island.|
|Alice Springs and Uluru||Alice's Secret Traveler Inn||Small, intimate hostel w/ a big ol' garden, a pool, and a BBQ.|
|Darwin||Melaleuca on Mitchell||Large hostel that has a huge second floor terrace complete w/ a full bar and two pools.|
|Broome||Beaches of Broome||Luxurious hostel that is more of a "budget resort." Located very close to the main beaches.|
|Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef||Potshot Resort||Hostel w/ a large patio area for drinking and dining. Bar and pool onsite.|
|Kalbarri||Kalbarri Backpackers YHA||Pretty standard hostel that offers free boogie board rentals and sometime snorkeling gear. BBQ and pool on site.|
|Perth||Hay Street Traveler's Inn||Excellent location and all the amenities a backpacker could need.|
|Fremantle||Fremantle Old Fire Station Hostel||Beautiful brick hostel that was formally a fire house. Has its own outdoor cinema, job board, and a jukebox!|
|Tasmania||Pickled Frog||Free Mt Wellington trips, MONA shuttles, WIFI, and car park. Located in a central location and recently refurbished.|
Unmissable Australian Experiences
1. Visit the Outback
No backpacking trip to Australia would really be authentic without visiting the Outback. This is one of the harshest, most inhospitable landscapes in the world, and one of the defining features of the nation. Rent a 4×4 and go mobbing in the desert!
2. Witness Uluru
Uluru is a true natural wonder and has to be seen in person. Make the long journey to this shrine of a rock and feel the power that it emits.
3. Go Sailing in the Whitsundays
The Whitsundays are absolutely drop dead gorgeous and are one of the best places in Australia! Sail around the islands and be sure to visit Whitehaven Beach, which is one of the finest in the world.
4. Drink wine in South Australia
South Australia is the wine capital of Australia and produces some of the country’s most highly regarded vintages. Visit one of the many wine regions surrounding Adelaide and try as much as you can!
5. Dive in the Great Barrier or Ningaloo Reef
Both the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef are among the most impressive ecosystems known to man. Diving in either one is sure to be an amazing experience. Enter an alien, underwater world and be sure to have a waterproof camera!
6. Explore Melbourne
Melbourne is overflowing with culture. The food, the nightlife, the art, everything here is arguably the best of Australia!
7. Go surfing
Surfing is one of Australia’s favorite pastimes and is practically the national sport! Anyone planning on backpacking around Australia simply has to try and get on a board. There’s a beach for every skill level and plenty of Aussie mates who’d love to give a lesson.
8. Camp on Fraser Island
Fraser Island is a must-see place in Australia and the best way to do so is by camping! Charter a boat to this idyllic island and set up shop. More intrepid sorts can walk the entire length of Fraser Island via a multi-day hike as well!
9. Attend a footie or rugby game
Australians are some of the biggest sports fans in the entire world! They go crazy for cricket, rugby, and footie. Fooite or Australian Rules Football is a strange mix of football, rugby, and basketball and is 100% unique to Australia.
10. Discover Tasmania
Tasmania is one of the most beautiful places in Australia! This island is far more rugged than the mainland and is full of spectacular mountains, forests, and coastline. Journey here to see a different side of Australia.
When to Go Backpacking in Australia
Australia has two distinct climate zones: a tropical one in the north and a more temperate one in the south. There are several microclimates found in each of these zones but, broadly speaking, they are still subject to the same sort of seasons. Note that because Australia is in the southern hemisphere, its summers are from December-February and its winters are June-August.
The south of Australia – composed of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and (south)Western Australia – has a more temperate climate and usually has four seasons. In some places, like Perth and Sydney, these seasons can appear very similar to one another as the weather is pleasant year round. In other areas, like Melbourne or Tasmania, the weather is more unpredictable and even harsh at times, especially in the mountains. Melbourne famously gets “four seasons in one day.”
The north of Australia, including Queensland, the Northern Territory, and (north)Western Australia is tropical and only has two distinct seasons: a hot, wet summer and a cool, dry winter. Summers – referred to as the big wet – can be oppressively hot and some places can receive biblical amounts of rainfall. The deadly box jellyfish also comes closer ashore in the summer resulting in near complete beach closures.
Summer really isn’t a good time to visit the north of Australia. It’s much better to visit in the winter – referred to as the big dry – when it’s slightly cooler, drier, and devoid of deadly jellies.
Since the north is almost always visited in the winter, demand is very high during this time. Prices will be much higher because of short supply so be sure to keep this in mind before finalizing your itinerary.
Festivals in Australia
Aside from a few public holidays that are absolutely mandatory to celebrate, like Anzac Day, Australia Day, and New Year’s Eve, the majority of festivals in Australia are musical. Having lived in the nation for some time, I can confidently say that are very few countries that have as many music festivals per capita as Australia! There seems to be a different one nearly every weekend in this country.
There are other cultural celebrations in Australia that showcase other forms of expression but they sometimes feel buried by the musical ones. I’ve included several prominent ones in the list below. They, in addition to the public holidays and the music festivals, make for a thrilling time.
- Australia Day (January 26) – Australian Independence Day. One of the most important holidays in the country w/ lots of celebrations. The super popular Rainbow Serpent Festival is held on this weekend as well.
- Fringe Adelaide (February-March) – Second largest arts festival in the world after Edinburgh’s Fringe.
- Anzac Day (April 25) – Day of remembrance for fallen soldiers. Usually a very somber and ceremonial day.
- Gold Coast Film Festival (April) – Film festival in Australia’s premier filmmaking city.
- The Byron Bay Bluesfest (April) – One of the world’s largest contemporary music festivals. Features blues, roots, alternative, and more musical styles.
- Groovin’ the Moo (April-May) – Popular touring festival w/ a diverse showcase of musical groups.
- Wide Open Space (May) – Cultural festival that celebrates desert life. Music is very trancy and underground.
- Splendour in the Grass (July) – Perhaps Australia’s most famous music festival that attracts acts of all fame and varieties.
- Melbourne Cup (November 5) – The most prestigious horse racing event in Australia. Lots of silly hats.
- Falls Festival (December/January) – Another touring festival that is similar to Groovin’ the Moo.
What to Pack for Australia
If you’re not careful, Australia’s wilderness will smack ya to next Monday. Get your packing for Australia right! On every adventure, there are six things I never go traveling without:
Active Roots Money Belt
This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off.
Active Roots Water Bottle
AR bottles are tough, lightweight, and maintain the temperature of your beverage. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
Active Roots Microfiber Towel
Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must.
Active Roots Camping Hammock
Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks), and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
I always travel with a hanging toiletry bag as it’s a super-efficient way to organize your bathroom stuff. Well worth having as it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
Staying Safe in Australia
Australia has a nasty reputation for being full of deadly creatures that are out to get you at every turn. Killer snakes, spiders, crocodiles, jellyfish, hell even the kangaroos can really ruin your day here. It’s important to remember though that death at the hands of these animals is usually very sensationalized and that statistics don’t back up any sort of hysteria. Believe it or not, the common bee and wasp, not spiders, are actually the number one killers in Australia. Truth is this: Australia and it’s wildlife isn’t nearly as terrifying as one might think it is.
That being said, it is extremely important to take all cautionary advice and notices with the utmost seriousness. If a sign or a local says that an area is dangerous, either because of sharks or crocs or whatever, then, for fuck’s sake, listen to them! Australians have become day-to-day experts on what can kill you and how to avoid it. At the end of the day, just follow this easy advice: if you don’t see any Australians doing it, then don’t do it yourself.
The elements should probably be your biggest concern while backpacking in Australia. Drowning is perhaps the #1 cause of death in Australia as the ocean currents can be very strong. The water may seem calm but, get caught in a wild rip, and you can quickly get submerged or pushed out to sea. Swim in designated areas and check signs for ocean conditions.
As mentioned before, heat is a major problem in Australia. Temperatures can soar to unthinkable heights and atmospheric radiation is a serious threat here. Forest fires caused by dry conditions are a serious problem as well, but usually only occur in the backcountry.
Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Australia
Australians love to party; a lot. At least once, we’ve all that group of Australians who were constantly getting drunk and looking to score. Some observers may have even thought to themselves: “how the hell are they still doing this?” or “for what possible reason would you do that?” Well, there is one, I assure you.
Drugs and alcohol in Australian are astronomically expensive. On average, a pint of beer is $7-$8 and a spirit is a couple of bucks more maybe. Cigarettes cost somewhere in the late teens; and don’t even get me started on the drugs. A pill or pinger is $20 each and a gram of coke will run you about $300; the white stuff is, expectedly, not very good either as it’s been shipped a long way from South America and probably been cut a few times.
These ridiculous prices are why you see Australians partying all the time outside of their country: everything is just so much cheaper abroad and so they go crazy.
Prices be damned though, Australians still like to have a good time in their native land. Many go out in groups and buy rounds or shouts for one another. If you plan on drinking with the locals while backpacking Australia, it’s very important to keep up with the shouts. Drinking a beer that someone has bought for you and not contributing to the shout is a dick move.
Be careful when drinking and driving as well. Australia has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drunk driving and any BAC over 0.05% will be met with harsh punishment. Random checkpoints are commonly set up and at all times of the day to pull over drivers and check their sobriety.
Travel Insurance for Australia
A wise man once said that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t really afford to travel – so do consider backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Traveling without insurance would be risky. I highly recommend World Nomads.
I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, offer the widest coverage, and are affordable. Also, this is the only company I know of that lets you buy travel insurance after leaving on a trip.
If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
A message from Will, the OG Broke Backpacker
“Once upon a time, I almost lost my leg in a sweltering jungle…
I battled a seriously nasty infection that snaked up past my knee and by the time I made it to a local hospital they wanted to amputate. I was delirious, unable to walk, and in a lot of pain but I managed to call my insurance provider – they moved me to a much better private hospital where the doctors were able to save my leg.
I wracked up $15,000 in hospital bills, but these were completely covered by my travel insurance. Luckily, I still have my leg today, and whilst it is permanently damaged, I’m grateful every day it’s still attached!
Moral of the story: invest in travel insurance before you head out into the wilds, people!“
How to Travel to Australia
Getting to and around Australia can be a long and arduous affair. Travel to Australia from the USA is a 13-hour plane ride and it seems that every Australian city is at least 8 hours drive away from each other – Perth to Adelaide is a 1.5 day journey by car. Should you decide to travel to Australia, you’ll be staring at the back of seat or an empty road very often but the moments in between make the whole trip worthwhile.
Getting an Australian Visa
There several different types of tourist visas available to those who wish to go backpacking in Australia. The three primary tourist visa types are:
- Visitor visa (subclass 600)
- Electronic Travel Authority Visa (ETA) (subclass 601)
- eVisitor (subclass 651)
The 601 and 651 visas essentially function in the same way albeit with different application processes. The 600 is for those who want to stay in Australia for longer than 3 months at a time and for those who don’t qualify for either a 601 or 651. The grand majority of nationalities can apply for all of these visas online.
The ETA (601) and eVisitors (651) are the simplest and easiest visas to acquire. Both enable unlimited entries into Australia within the span of a year – the duration of stay cannot exceed 3 months at a time. The biggest difference between these two types of visas is that they are only available to specific countries. Americans and Canadians, in addition to several other nations, must apply for an ETA. British, as well as most European citizens, must apply for an eVisitors visa.
The Visitor visa (600) is the most expensive of Australian visas but can grant the most time. Applicants can apply for a 3, 6, or 12-month duration at rates that vary from AUD140 to AUD1020. For any nation that doesn’t qualify for a 601 or 651, the 600 visa is the only means of entering Australia.
Upon arriving at customs, your visa will be checked and you’ll be subject to search. Australian customs takes declared items very seriously so you must be sure to do so. Also, note that criminal offenses and felonies may bar you from entering the country.
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Working Holiday Visas in Australia
Several nationalities have the option of applying for an Australian working holiday visa, which authorizes travelers to work legally in the country. This visa is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to stay and go backpacking in Australia for a longer term.
There are two types of working holiday visas in Australia:
- A Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)
- A Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)
(If you’re thinking to yourself how stupidly similar these visa titles are, I’m right there with ya.)
Both visas entitle visitors the ability to work in Australia for a period of 12 months. Note that the possessor of a 417 or 462 can only hold a single job for a period of 6 months. Certain countries can only apply for a 417 or 462 i.e. the English can qualify a 417 but Americans must apply for a 462.
To apply for either visa, applicants will need to show that you have at least AUD 5,000 in their bank account. Both visas will also require a bill of clean health and clean criminal record.
Applicants of a 462 visa will need to provide some key additional details. With the exception of the United States, those applying for a 462 must provide a letter of support from their government. 462 applicants will also have to pass a character test in which they’ll need to prove that they’re of good moral quality. Usually, a certificate of excellence, like a diploma or special certification, will suffice for this.
The most important difference between a 417 and 462 is that possessors of the former can apply for a second year given they’ve met some criteria. Unfortunately, American citizens and other 462 applicants can only have a working holiday in Australia for up to a year.
How to Get Around Australia
There are two ways of traveling in Australia and both offer widely different experiences. The first is by public transport i.e buses, trains, and planes and the other is with your own vehicle in the form of a rental car or campervan. The latter option is the vastly superior method.
Using public transport to travel outside and in between the major cities can be a tedious affair. Traveling by bus can be convenient and cheap so long as you’re staying on the East Coast where there are frequent stops. Bus travel in the bush, which pretty much includes all of South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia, can be long and, in turn, pricey.
Greyhound does offer hop-on-hop-off travel passes that can certainly be convenient. Check the rates at the official website and weigh the pros and cons of purchasing a pass.
Train travel is possible but this is a more luxurious form of travel i.e. more expensive. Taking the train in Australia is an experience in itself though and some long-distance routes, like the Ghan, can be very rewarding.
Flying is the primary means of getting around Australia due in part to the country’s size. Flights are relatively cheap and actually quite convenient.
Hitchhiking in Australia is a common and very safe practice. Make sure to follow the usual rules of the trade though and, as always, use common sense. Be wary of hitchhiking in the Outback – cars may be far and few in between and you could be in real trouble if you’re stuck out there in the baking sun. Always be prepared and treat hitchhiking like a wilderness situation.
In some cases, you can actually make reservations online for transport in and out of Australia. By using an online resource, like 12Go, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and maybe even some cash. Check it out!
Traveling by Campervan in Australia
By far the best way to get around Australia is by having your own vehicle. There are many car rental companies in Australia that offer long-term contracts. Each has a wide variety of vehicle types from sedans to 4x4s to campervans.
Campervans are definitely the most popular way of getting around Australia as they provide both transport and lodging at the same time. Living out of a campervan can be convenient, fun, and cheaper than conventional travel. By having the ability to sleep anywhere you want, you’ll save money and get more out of your Australian adventure.
Thanks to the plethora of rental companies available, it’s a breeze to hire a campervan while backpacking Australia. Most offer good rates especially for longer periods of time.
I recommend going with Wicked Campers if you plan on renting a campervan in Australia. Make sure to check the contract though – many rental companies impose certain restrictions on going offroading and over a certain amount of miles per day, and charge extra fees for not following these parameters.
If you plan on staying in Australia for a long time (more than 6 months) try buying your own campervan. Doing this will allow you more flexibility and, if you took care of the car, the chance to sell it when you’re done. You can find adds for used campers in many hostels and on the online boards like gumtree.com.au.
When buying a camper, be sure to take the vehicle to the shop to get it checked before actually committing. Most auto shops are used to this kind of request and will charge a competitive fee.
Australia Backpacking Costs
Traveling to Australia on a budget is doable if you know a couple frugal tricks. If you can stick to a regiment, a comfortablebackpacker budget in Australia should be around $60-$80 per day. Doing so means sticking to hostels, cooking at home, and drinking goon, among other things.
A bunk bed will cost between $15-$30 per night depending on where you are. More popular destinations, like Melbourne and Sydney, will be more expensive while most of Queensland and parts of Western Australia will be cheaper.
Australian restaurants are usually pretty expensive with the average meal costing around $10-$25 sans booze. I strongly advise those backpacking around Australia to limit how much they dine out – the food is overpriced and, quite often, bland. Much better to buy cheaper groceries and cook at the hostel.
Partying is EXTREMELY expensive in Australia. Seriously, there’s a reason Australians do all the drugs when they travel: they’re too fucking expensive back home. Cigarette prices are ridiculous and a beer is $7 minimum. If you must drink, buy the cheap and ubiquitous boxed wines aka goon – these will be your only saving grace.
If you plan on participating in any of the classic Australian adventures, like diving at the Great Barrier Reef or sailing in the Whitsundays, you will definitely be paying a pretty penny. The only thing to do is just save up as much as possible and then pick one or two of your favorites to participate in.
A Daily Budget in Australia
|Expense||Broke Backpacker||Frugal Traveler||Creature of Comfort|
|Total per day:||$33-$84||$85-$135||$165+|
Money in Australia
The official currency of Australia is the Australian dollar or AUD. As of May 2018, the official conversion rate for the Australian dollar is 1 AUD=0.76 USD. The value of the Australian dollar has fallen in recent years due to economic changes but the country is still prosperous and expensive by international standards.
ATMs are widely available and pulling out cash via a foreign card is an effortless affair. Most ATMs will charge a withdrawal fee on top of whatever international charges your bank imposes. Best to take out lots of cash at once to avoid paying too much in fees.
Should you be working in Australia, it’s very easy to set up a bank account. All of the major banking corporations – Commonwealth, Westpac, NAB, ANZ – have basic savings accounts that are very convenient and easy to use for those who are on a working holiday in Australia. Drop by any bank and inquire about how to start your account.
If you had a job while backpacking Australia, definitely make sure to do your taxes at the end of the fiscal year! Backpackers are usually entitled to a huge tax return (for reasons that are hard to explain) and it would be a real shame to walk away from a big payday!
Travel Tips – Australia on a Budget
- Camp: With plenty of gorgeous places to camp, Australia can be a great place to camp in the rural areas. You can also ask to pitch a tent in people’s yards. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking. If you’re feeling real adventurous and want to save some cash, consider picking up a backpacking hammock.
- Cook your own food: If you are on a tight budget, you can save money by cooking your own food – I recommend bringing a portable backpacking stove.
- Book your transportation early: Both plane and train tickets are much cheaper if you purchase them in advance. This rule does not apply to buses, which you can often book within the day or even hour.
- Couchsurf: Australians are awesome, but I would be cautious if you are a woman travelling alone. Check for reviews. That being said, Couch surfing to make some real friendships and see this country from the perspective of locals.
- Pack a travel water bottle: Save money – and the planet – every day!
Why Should You Travel to Australia with a Water Bottle?
Backpacker Work in Australia
Most backpackers end up with fruit picking jobs in Australia. The work can be hard and life can be boring at times but the cost of living is quite low and those with a 417 visa will earn an extra year on their visa. If you can manage it, this is one of the best ways to have a working holiday in Australia!
Backpackers are so established in the fruit picking industry and businessmen are in turn so reliant upon them that it’s usually very easy to find a job. There are dozens of online boards with postings for farm jobs in Australia. Some popular websites are:
When you arrive at your farmstay, you’ll probably be surprised. Many of these farms look like hostels complete with bunk rooms, communal areas, and recreations. You’ll have to pay for a bed but the prices are very cheap. Sometimes you may have to sleep off-premises, in which case a car really comes in handy; otherwise, there’s always the bus.
You can make a decent living working on a farm. Most clear $600/week on average but a hard worker can definitely make more. Make no mistake though: this is difficult work. Farming in Australia isn’t pretty but it can certainly be rewarding. You’ll become quite close to both the land and to your fellow working backpackers.
Farm work isn’t the only means of making money in Australia. Some of the best jobs for a working visa in Australia include serving, nannying, cooking, and cleaning. If you’re really lucky, you’ll may even find a job in mining. If you decide to work in the city, know that costs of living will be much higher.
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Australians are some of the most welcoming, exciting, and unabashed people that I’ve ever met. They have so little worries and give so little fucks that life just seems easier in their presence. Even immediate dangers, like an impending tidal wave or the jaws of a killer croc, are made insignificant by an Australian’s devil-may-care attitude. 100%, these are some the coolest people that I’ve come across in my travels.
It can be argued that the Australian attitude derives from their inhospitable environment. An Australian is threatened on a near day-to-day basis either from deadly creatures, ridiculous climate patterns or from people that constantly need to remind them of these last two points. After a while, danger itself just becomes commonplace and desensitizing.
The fact that Australia is so geographically remote as well means that hardly any international presence notices or really holds Australia very accountable. Combine this with the Australian’s grit and you have a people that just do whatever makes them feel good.
To be fair, Australians who live in their home country are a little different from the ones that you see traveling so much. Rooted Australians are still hard workers and seemingly proficient at any trade involving blue collar work. The country didn’t become so prosperous and the people so rich because they constantly didn’t give a shit; so let’s not go so far as to say that they are good-for-nothings.
We mustn’t forget either that Australia is inhabited by more than just White people and immigrants. Aboriginal people, the original Australians, are also present in modern Australian society, though to a smaller degree. Odds are you won’t encounter many Aboriginal folk while backpacking through Australia; if you do though, just be respectful, open, and treat them the same as any other Ozzie. Refer to the Closing Thoughts section for more info.
Useful Travel Phrases for Australia: “That’s Not a Knife” Edition
The Australian accent is infamous by now having been the subject of a million pop culture references. When asked to impersonate an Australian accent, most foreigners emulate characticatures like Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin. Hate to break it to you but the way in which many of these icons speak is either over-exaggerated or very demographically specific. Most Australians speak in a fairly neutral accent and with proper diction. Not every Australian yells “G’DAY MATE!” or puts so much twang into their voice when saying things like “like” or “right” or “fight.” These are cultural stereotypes and pretty unfair.
The Australian accent can be pretty diverse. As you travel south – towards Adelaide and Melbourne – the manner of speech becomes more subdued and may sound more similar to that of an Englishman. Conversely, the farther north you go, the more the accent begins to sound like that stereotype. Let’s be honest: many people from Queensland and the Northern Territory tend to sound very similar to the Crocodile Hunter.
Australians use a lot of slang; so much so that sometimes it can be hard to understand them. There is a lot of word chopping and sometimes it seems as if a random vowel is stuck at the end of every word to complete it. You’ll catch on to the colloquialisms fairly quickly but, for a little extra help, I’ve included a list of some popular Australian slang.
- Ta – thank you
- Arvo – afternoon
- Bottle-O – liquor store
- Mozzie – mosquito
- Servo – petrol station/gas station
- Ute – pickup truck
- Bathers – swimsuit
- Sheila – woman
- Chunder – vomit
- She’ll Be Right – everything will be fine
- Stubby – can of beer
- How ya goin? – a friendly greeting
Books to Read About Australia
These are some of my favorite travel reads and books set in Australia, which you should consider picking up before you begin your backpacking adventure…
- The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
- Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence – Aboriginal siblings, stolen from their families, run away from their captors and begin a journey almost a thousand miles long back to home. A leading account of the Stolen Generation.
- In a Sunburned Country – A quick-witted and very informative piece of travel writing from Bill Bryson. Written over the course of several trips to the Land Down Under.
- Tree of Man – A man and his wife try and make something out of nothing, as they cultivate a little patch of land in the bush.
- My Brilliant Career – The first of one of Australia’s greatest epics. Tells the tale of a young woman yearning for life and adventure in the Outback. Written by Miles Franklin when she was 16 and, at the time, considered “culturally inappropriate” by the state.
What to Eat in Australia
Australian cuisine is heavily influenced by its colonial roots. English, Italian, Asian, and Greek styles are all present in modern day Australian cooking to varying degrees.
Being a colony of the British Empire first and foremost, Australian cuisine resembles most that of the English variety. Many staples like fish ‘n’ chips and meat pies are present in both. When dining out in Australia, expect a similar experience to as if you were dining out in the UK. The food will be hearty, heavy, and, at times, somewhat basic.
Being a nation of immigrants though, there is plenty more than the usual English fair. Asian cuisines of every shade are present in Australia and are actually some of the best you’ll outside of the Asian continent. Several Mediterranean cultures call Australia home as well and have brought their cuisines with them. Thank the Italians for introducing a strong cafe culture in Australia – coffee in Australia is surprisingly delicious and taken seriously.
Barbecuing is a very important custom in Australia and is perhaps the highlight of the nation’s culinary scene. Aside from the usual BBQ’d meats, Australians also enjoy various grilled game. Kangaroo is healthy and cheap. Other more exotic meats like emu, alligator, and even grubs are available in specialty markets.
Below is a list of Australia’s most popular dishes.
- Meat Pie – ubiquitous pastries w/ various meats
- Chicken Schnitzel – breaded fried chicken w/ toppings
- Kangaroo – very lean red meat
- Vegemite – a rite of passage – no spoilers
- Pavlova – light dessert that is sweet and zesty
- Anzac Biscuits – hardy cookies w/ simple ingredients
- Lamingtons – cake coated w/ chocolate and coconut
- Tim Tams – chocolate biscuits
- Barramundi – bass-like fish
- Emu – lean red poultry
Closing Thoughts – Be Good to Australia
It would take a lot of effort to really piss off an Australian. These are among the toughest and yet most easy going people that I’ve ever met. Time after time, Australians just roll with the punches (quite literally sometimes) and then proceed to take a piss and forget about whatever may have had a chance of bothering them.
That being said, it’s still important to act like a decent human being and to show respect. No one likes an asshole coming into their country and stirring shit up. Backpackers especially have been the recipients of much criticism in recent years as some of their behavior has really been causing trouble. I hate to imagine a future where backpackers are ostracized because of a few dumbasses.
For the sake of all backpackers, be a good sort. Show respect to the locals and keep your wits about you. If you go out partying or drinking, do have fun and get rowdy (Australians love to do it too) but please don’t get sloppy and act like an idiot.
On a different note, be sure to tread lightly when it comes to interacting with Aboriginal Australians. This group of people has been subject to unthinkable horrors in the past and are still treating the racial scars that are leftover. Though some White Australians still wallow in ignorance, Australia as a whole is becoming more aware of these people’s struggles and is trying to mend the gap.
Should you encounter an Aboriginal Australian and they’re open to conversation, be very mindful of their customs. Don’t take pictures or enter Aboriginal land without asking first. Be sure to speak using respectful language as well. For more information on the subject of talking with an about Aboriginal natives, refer to this webpage.
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