The Green behind the Gold
What's there to do outside of Australia's cosmopolitan cities?
When you think of Australia, you automatically think of cities such as Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, and with reason. They're hives of activity - a popular blend of culture, each with its own unique cosmopolitan vibe, and each with its own unique brand of hustle and bustle. However, it's easy to forget that there's something outside these cities. In fact, find any town or city in Australia, drive and hour or two in any direction, and you'll find yourself in a different Australia, sometimes almost in a different world.
It's easy to get caught up in city life - it's fast-paced, hectic, and often frenetic. But relax. You're in good hands here. There's a way to chillax - all you have to do is see the green behind the gold...
Sydney Vs. The Blue Mountains
The majority of backpackers and travellers fly into Sydney on their gap year. It's big, it's bright, and many people think it's the capital of Australia (it's not...) Sydney is a great place to start your Australian adventure as there are so many other backpackers to meet – it really doesn't take long to find your feet Down Under.
A lot of people travel to Sydney to find work and often the job market can be saturated with the same people looking for the same types of jobs. What do you need? A weekend away.
The Blue Mountains are only an hour and a half west of Sydney. As the name would suggest, the Blue Mountains are a mountainous region in New South Wales and they're a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot. It's famous for the ‘Three Sisters', a cool rock formation that is a mecca for hikers. If you're a fan of adventure activities, then this is one of the places to go in Australia. While in the 'Blueies' you can hike, go rock climbing and abseiling, and a number of other activities too.
It's hard to believe that the quiet mountain town of Katoomba, a town of approximate 10,000 people, is so close to the sprawling metropolis of Sydney. The Blue Mountains are great for a day trip, or even better, for a weekend away...
Melbourne Vs. Wilsons Promontory National Park
Melbourne is Australia's second biggest city with a population of 4.2 million people, though you wouldn't think it when you're there. It's small enough to walk around yet big enough to feel lost in.
Melbourne is a huge hit with backpackers and travellers due to its multicultural vibe. If you're into your arts & crafts, cafes, cuisine, fashion, music, performance, then Melbourne is the only place you'll want to be. However, you're going to want to get out of the city from time to time. And what's better than Wilsons Promontory National Park.
Wilsons Promontory National Park, otherwise known as ‘the Prom', is the most southerly part of Australia's mainland, and it was once connected to Tasmania. It's known for its beautiful rainforests, unspoiled beaches, and abundant wildlife.
It's Victoria's most popular national park and it's an amazing place for hiking and camping. There's nothing quite like walking around for the day and then waking up in the bush the next morning. It's so easy to forget about Melbourne when you're in ‘the Prom'; in fact, it's easy to forget you're in Australia when you're here...
Adelaide Vs. Kangaroo Island
Adelaide often gets overlooked by backpackers and travellers on a gap year in Australia, but there's still plenty to see and do, both in the city, and outside it.
Adelaide is popular for its architecture - its wide streets, open squares and city parks give Adelaide a very laid back and relaxed feel to it (not that Australian cities need it mind you). Add in events such as the Adelaide Fringe Festival and WOMADdelaide, and you'll start to wonder why it wasn't on your list of places to see in the first place.
Three hours outside Adelaide is Kangaroo Island, a hugely popular hot-spot. You may have guessed it, but the island is covered with kangaroos – the fact that the island is so isolated means that it's as rural and raw as any place in Australia.
Expect to see some of Australia's most beautiful landscapes; the colours are so vivid and its easy to get caught up in the moment. Cap it all off with some of the freshest fresh produce you can find in the world, (the seafood is to die for), chuck in a few beaches and wineries, and you can see why Kangaroo Island is so popular...
Perth Vs. The Pinnacles
Perth is one of the most up-and-coming cities in Australia and it seems to get more and more popular each year. The city is booming at the moment due to local mining, and again, it's an extremely popular place to find work. With your time off you've got cafes to explore by day and clubs to explore by night.
However, the thing about Perth is it's easy to see the $$$ sign. Also, there's not that much around. Perth is the world's remotest capital, so what's there to do outside the city?
No trip to Western Australia would be complete without seeing the Pinnacles. They're strange, eerie rock formations protruding from the ground, and they attract hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. The landscape looks a lot like Mars and it's one of the world's most stunning sceneries.
You can see the Pinnacles on a 4WD day trip, taking in some of the surroundings before seeing the Pinnacles themselves. Not only will you meet like-minded people but you'll have someone else holding the camera too...
Darwin Vs. Kakadu National Park
Darwin is the big city up in the north. In fact, it's the capital of the Northern Territory. Darwin is incredibly cosmopolitan with over 50 different nationalities and that makes it a bit of a social hub with plenty of pubs and clubs to choose from. But be careful, Darwin is a really chilled out place and city life seems a little slower paced than most of Australia's other cities.
One of the big draws to Darwin is Kakadu National Park. Think of Jurassic Park, a land before time, and you'll have Kakadu National Park. It's hard to think man has ever set foot here despite rock drawings going back 20,000 years, and when you see crocodile after crocodile, it completes the picture of one of the remotest parts of Australia.
Kakadu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it covers hundreds of square kilometres. Instead of seeing the green behind the gold, you might be tempted just to see the green instead. After all, the secret of discovering Kakadu National Park is taking your time...
Cairns Vs. Daintree National Park
Cairns is a bit of a backpackers paradise. A lot of people in Cairns are either just starting their Australian adventure or are just ending it, meaning Cairns is always buzzing with activity.
If you're looking for adventure and adrenaline activities in Australia, then Cairns is the place to be. You've got bungee jumping, scuba diving, sky diving, white-water rafting, and a whole host of other activities too!
When it comes to activities outside of Cairns, it's easy to look no further than the Great Barrier Reef, which is why you need to go a little further north to Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation for some with a little je ne sais quoi.
Daintree National Park is gorgeous and green, and one of the draws to the national park is Cape Tribulation. With a population of about 101, it's hard to find a more tranquil and peaceful place to spend a few days. There's nothing nicer than just sitting on a beach and taking in the surroundings, especially if you're about to leave the country...
Brisbane Vs. Noosa
Brisbane's nickname is Brisvegas due to its glitzy and glamorous reputation. Even though it's a pretty cool city, it's one of those cities that every now and then you just need to escape. Luckily, just up the coast is Noosa.
Noosa, two hours north of Brisbane, represents everything great about Australia. It's a small little surfing town with some brilliant barrels to catch and a bustling nightlife. It's got the sun, the sand, the sea, and everything else that one could possible need. When you're here, those inner-city worries ebb away in hours...
So, there you have it, the green behind the gold of Australia. If you're thinking of living and working Down Under make sure you get your work / life balance in order by spending some time in the slow lane.
And of course, make sure you read our article on working in Australia which is packed full of useful advice and information.
Qantas flies daily to Sydney from London Heathrow and return economy fares start from about £899 - for the lastest fares and deals head to Qantas.com.au.
About the Author: Macca Sherifi
Macca is gapyear.com's travel editor and writes on a myriad of topics, giving the best travel advice in an easy-to-read style that he would describe as ‘cutesy'. His two passions are travelling and writing, which is lucky, because he's a travel writer. Macca travelled for 20 months non-stop, never settling in one place for more than a week or two, living to travel and travelling to live. In his spare time, he reads about travelling, thinks about travelling, and then travels. If that fails he still harbours hopes of being a professional rugby player...
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