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Cheap car hire in Australia
Today, Australia is a highly industrialised and economically prosperous country. Nearly 26 million people strong, the country is multicultural and multiracial, owing to immigrants from many different parts of the world, and this is reflected in the nation’s cuisine, cultural practices, and lifestyle. Although the number of indigenous (Aboriginal) peoples is quite low, they are respected as the original owners of the land.
Australia also has a thriving tourism industry, thanks to indescribably spectacular landscapes, from the splendid Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands which offer powder-like white sand coupled with resplendent marine life in azure blue waters; to botanically magnificent wilds like Daintree Rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world and home to thousands of species, including some found nowhere else in the world; and highly recognisable landmarks like the mammoth red sandstone mountain, Uluru, which is spiritually significant to the local Aboriginal peoples.
Australia is a vast country, so to explore it you’ll likely take a mixture of flights, public transport and cars. Driving in Australia is a once-in-a lifetime experience - you’ll drive along coastal roads, through vibrant cities, rainforests, mountains and the Outback desert. You can plan your Australia road trip route in advance when booking with Enjoy Travel at multiple locations across the country.
A useful guide to Australia
Popularly known as “Down Under”, Australia is the smallest continent on Earth but it still encompasses an impressive 7.692 million km² in terms of area, making it the 6th largest country in the world. The country is bordered by the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the east and west, respectfully, and the distance from coast to coast is approximately 4000 km. Across the Coral Sea and the Torres Strait is Papua New Guinea to the north, and beyond the Bass Strait is Tasmania to the south. New Zealand is a few hours’ boat ride southeast on the Tasman Sea.
The largest commercial centers are Sydney and Melbourne, which also subsequently happen to be the two most populous cities, followed by Brisbane and Perth. Canberra is located somewhat at the midpoint between these two major cities. The rest of the population is concentrated along the coastal regions. The interiors of Australia are relatively sparsely populated.
Climate & temperature
Australia is a large country that spans several latitudes and longitudes. Therefore, it has various climate zones too. For starters, as it is situated in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are opposite to that of countries in the northern hemisphere. So the peak summer months are December and January, while the coldest winter months are typically July and August. That being said, there are regional differences too. The southern part of the country experiences more temperate weather, with balmy days that range between 25 to 30°C during the summer and 5 and 10°C during the winter.
You may be surprised to know that Australia even has an alpine region! The Snowy Mountains, also known as the Australian Alps, are said to receive more snow than even Switzerland! The northern part of the continent has slightly more sub-tropical weather, with very warm and dry summers along with mild and rainy winters. As you head extreme north towards Darwin, you’ll find a tropical savanna-like climate with two distinct seasons: dry (from May to September) and wet (October to April). Queensland, on the northeastern coast, experiences more sub-tropical weather which supports ecosystems like Daintree and The Great Barrier Reef. The central regions surprise you with a completely different climate. Predominantly covered in desert, the Australian outbacks see summer temperatures surpass 50°C at times, and barely any rain.
Long before the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip of the Royal British Navy in 1788, the land was occupied by over 250,000 Aboriginal peoples. It is estimated that they had been living there for at least 60,000 years before first contact with the European settlers, and had thriving cultures and semi-permanent settlements. The arrival of the Europeans brought about the establishment of penal colonies on the continent. However, within a few decades, the number of free settlers started rapidly rising and the use of Australia for penal purposes was gradually abolished between 1852 and 1868.
Once a part of the British Empire, the now sovereign Commonwealth of Australia gained its independence in 1901. It is a federal system with six individual state governments: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. Melbourne originally used to be the capital, until the title was bestowed upon Canberra in 1913.
Due to Australia’s geographic isolation from the rest of the world, it has led to the evolution of unique flora and fauna unlike anywhere else in the world. The most well-known animals that are native to Australia include kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian devils, wombats, and wallabies. It is also home to the only two egg-laying mammals on the planet- the duck-billed platypus and the spiny anteater (echidna). As for flora, the arid climate has given rise to over 1200 varieties of Acacia (wattle trees) and over 2800 species of Eucalypts (gum trees), as well as lesser-known ones like Bull Kauri, Lilly pilly and Sturt’s Desert Rose.
Top places to visit in Australia
Fun in the sun at Bondi Beach
When people talk of Australia, one of the first things that come to find are the bronze sands and bronzer bodies at the iconic Bondi Beach, near Sydney. Bondi is synonymous with beach activities so whether that’s sunbathing, swimming, or surfing, you’ll be in good company. Do be wary of the strong currents and riptides of the South Pacific Ocean, and stay within the parameters of the flags to be safe. Take a stroll along the scenic Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, pausing every so often to check out the cafes, restaurants, and shops lining the beach walk. On the way, you’ll pass Bondi Icebergs swimming club which also serves as a viewing point to spot humpback whales during the winter months. After you pass Bronte, a popular lunch stop, you’ll reach Gordon’s Bay where you can spend the late afternoon diving or snorkelling. After working up an appetite, arrive at Coogee by early evening, where you can enjoy a relaxed dinner and dessert along the promenade.
Drive along the Great Ocean Road
There’s no better way to experience the world’s largest island continent than by taking an epic road trip, specifically on the Great Ocean Road. A spectacularly scenic 300-kilometer road that snakes along the southern coastline, it’s an opportunity to experience some of the best landscapes that Australia has to offer. Start at Torquay and head to Anglesea for some of the best waves for surfing in the world, before bushwalking through a giant eucalyptus forest at Otway Rainforest. In addition to taking in deep breaths to enjoy the fresh smell, keep keen eyes out for the koalas hugging the native gum trees. If you’re ready to go chasing waterfalls the next day, head to Beauchamp Falls in nearby Beech Forest. If you add just one more thing to your itinerary, let it be the Port Campbell National Park for its resplendent views of Loch Ard Gorge and panoramic vistas of the Twelve Apostles from the Gibson Steps.
Natural scenery in Nambung National Park
On the western coast of Australia, situated within Nambung National Park, lies the otherworldly Pinnacles Desert, a massive exhibit of limestone spires believed to have formed about 30,000 years ago. An interesting fact about these rugged yet striking limestone columns is that it is still a mystery how they were formed, especially since traces of seashells have been found within the spires. Make sure to take some epic photos! On your way back to Perth, make a quick pit stop at Lancelin, Australia’s largest sand dunes, for adrenaline-inducing activities like sandboarding, dune buggy racing and desert biking. Alternately, you can squeeze in a quick detour to Lake Thetis to see some of the oldest living life forms - stromatolites (“layered rocks”) – in the world.
Experience the Great Barrier Reef
This list would be incomplete without a mention of the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, spanning over 2,300 kilometres wide and composed of over 3,000 coral reefs, 760 fringe reefs, 600 tropical islands, and 300 coral cays. It supports an incredibly complex and diverse marine ecosystem. The azure waters contain an astounding variety of fish, corals, and mammals, including endangered species such as the dugong and turtle. This World Heritage-listed destination can be experienced through diving, snorkeling, aerial views from helicopters, sailing, or glass-bottomed boats. The Reef is as phenomenal as it is fragile so make sure to enjoy it responsibly by choosing reputed tour companies and staying at eco-conscious resorts that work to minimize their carbon footprint on marine life. The Great Barrier Reef can be reached from a number of towns and cities on the eastern coast, including Cairns, Mackay, Townsville, Port Douglas, and Airlie Beach.
Explore Daintree National Park
A short hop from the Great Barrier Reef is the equally world-famous and majestic Daintree National Park, the world’s oldest surviving rainforest – yes, older than the Amazon Rainforest. This rainforest is stupendously bio-diverse, and it houses exotic creatures, including the Southern cassowary, Boyd’s Forest Dragon, giant blue Ulysses butterfly, Musky Rat-Kangaroo and more. The traditional home of the Eastern
Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, the expansive Daintree is broadly split into two sections: Mossman and Cape Tribulation. At Mossman, request an Aborigine guide who will not only safely take you through the demanding 4km Rainforest Circuit but also be able to teach you about the native plants and medicinal herbs along the way. From Cape Tribulation, embark on the Madja Boardwalk to reach a unique ecosystem where tree roots, mangroves and fish live in symbiosis. Alternatively, you can zip-line through the jungle canopies from here. In addition to the above, you also have the option to soak in swimming holes, take a river cruise, or join an ocean safari where Daintree meets the Great Barrier Reef. Once again, Port Douglas and Cairns both serve as your base or midway point to reach Daintree.
Learn about Aboriginal history & culture
Australia was inhabited by various Aboriginal tribes for several thousand millennia before the arrival of the first European settler. If you’re interested in learning more about the land’s history, head to Kakadu National Park, the site of indigenous rock art at least 50,000 years old. Across the nation is Mungo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to three Aboriginal tribes - the Paakantji, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi. Together, they are the oldest surviving culture in the world. Archaeological research has shown that the oldest human in Australia, named ‘The Mungo Man’, was from here, and artefacts from this region carbon date more than 50,000 years. Another notable sacred site is Uluru-Kata Tjuta, a massive monolith made of red sandstone and a spiritual centre of immense significance for the Anangu peoples.
What about eating out in Australia?
No list, no matter how long, would be able to do justice to Australia’s astounding culinary diversity. Every state and city boasts exceptional eateries and it’s extremely hard to choose just a handful to share. We recommend that you use the compilation of unique and top-rated restaurants below as a starting point for your gastronomic exploration through the city.
Dig into indigenous delicacies prepared by Chef Ben Shewry at Attica in Melbourne, a modern-day recreation of the meals of the first Australians. For a whimsical yet slow dining experience, book a 3-hour meal at Brae in Birregura, a small coastal town along the Great Ocean Road. Most of the food is organically grown on the attached farmland and your degustation experience is designed to be a treat for all your senses. You may not notice the time passing. If you liked this whimsical experience, you might want to take a step further and confuse your senses for the fun of it. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Melbourne is famed for their ‘meat fruit’, a block of chicken liver pâté fashioned to look exactly like a juicy, orange mandarin.
New South Wales
For an elevated, distinctly-Australian take on the humble meat and potatoes, order the kangaroo tartare paired with crisped sweet potatoes at Sixpenny in Sydney. This tiny spot packs a mighty flavor punch. If something simple yet sophisticated is more your style, then Chefs Mat Lindsay and Nathan Brindle’s ability to take simple ingredients and transform them into unforgettable meals at Ester cannot be overstated enough. Fleet is another restaurant that is worth every mile out of your way to visit. Located in Brunswick Heads, this 14-seat space offers an unforgettably intimate and personalized experience. Because of the small number of patrons, you can customize your dish to perfectly suit your palate, a luxury scant restaurants offer.
Treat yourself to a poetic medley of Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African flavors at Africola in Adelaide. Whether it’s the salted cabbage tossed in spicy peanut pickle, or freshly caught marine delicacies paired with tear-inducing yet lip-smacking harissa, you’ll find something to write home about. Next up is Orana. A longtime researcher of indigenous cuisine, Jock Zonfrillo curates unique dishes using ingredients unheard of. Orana’s 18-dish degustation menu features elements like buttermilk paired with strawberry eucalyptus oil, and seafood blessed with ruby salt bush berries. If you have a special occasion to celebrate, then Magill Estate Restaurant will set you up with an utterly opulent dining experience. Imagine your meal of trout roe with chives served on a fluffy melt-in-your-mouth crumpet and smoked celeriac with a sliver of crunchy tart apple, set to a backdrop of glass-walled pavilions and a picture-perfect panorama of vineyards.
Located in the vibrant Fortitude valley of Brisbane is Gerard’s Bistro, an irreverent and modern take on traditional Middle Eastern cuisine. If you go, you cannot miss ordering their magnum opus: lamb tartare served with garlic-infused yoghurt, crispy roti, and slivers of pickled fennel. For Japanese food that stays true to tradition, visit Wasabi. Chef Zeb Gilbert uses ingredients sourced from their own farm to make comforting dishes. We recommend the Omakase option on their Kohaku menu for a delectable array of Tsukidashi seasonal amuses, including Pacific oysters, tartare made from local reef fish, macadamia-smoked cod roe, and black kinako milk gelee.
Getting around in Australia
Airports in Australia
The largest airports in the country are Melbourne Airport, Sydney Airport and Brisbane Airport and this is where you’re most likely to arrive if you’re traveling to Australia for the first time from abroad. You may catch a connecting flight to some of the smaller airports, like Cairns Airport and Mackay Airport, to reach tourist destinations situated further out. The three major Australian airlines serving the continent are: Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar. However, you’ll also find international carriers like British Airways, Air Canada, and Emirates.
To travel between cities, you can rely on the massive rail network or take long-haul buses. The most popular rail services providers are Indian Pacific (which connects Sydney to Perth), NSW TrainLink (which connects Brisbane to Melbourne) and The Ghan (which connects Adelaide to Darwin). If you’re traveling a relatively short distance, a bus or coach may be an attractive option. Tickets can be booked online at Greyhound, Transport Network Australia, and Bus Charter. Most newer coaches have WiFi and USB charging points.
You’ll typically have some form of public transportation available to get around all the larger cities. Look up the website of the relevant state’s transport authorities. For instance, Queensland has TRANSLink and New South Wales has NSW Transport Info. However, some of the smaller cities may only have a few bus lines running through the central commercial or entertainment districts. Do consider getting a reusable smart card, like the Opal Card for Sydney or Myki ticket for Melbourne, to access the public transit systems with ease. Biking is also a popular option among the younger generation, with inexpensive bike share schemes like Brisbane City Cycle and Share a Bike Canberra.
Driving in Australia
Those looking for the flexibility and convenience of traveling around Australia on their own schedule and being able to make stops wherever desired along the way should consider hiring a car. There’s some epic road trips to discover here, from sea views on the Great Ocean Road to desert vibes in the Outback. The most popular car hire agencies include Hertz, Budget, Avis, Enterprise, Thrifty, Alamo, National, and East Coast Car Rentals.
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