Last Updated on December 10, 2021
Australia has so many cool cities, it’s impossible to visit them all, but depending on your preferences, you want to make sure to hit the right places on a trip to Down Under. I put together my list of top five urban experiences in Australia – check out the best cities for coffee, surfing, street art, adventure, culinary experiences and beaches!
The five best cities to visit in Australia
1 Sydney for extraordinary events and beaches
Sydney shouldn’t be missed by anyone who is visiting Australia, but in addition to its famous sights, the city is particularly great for special event and the fantastic beaches nearby. Nothing beats New Year’s Eve in Australia with a spectacular firework display over the iconic Sydney Harbour for example, but also events such as the Chinese New Year (the biggest Chinese New Year celebration outside of China), Australia Day in January, Mardi Gras in February/March, the Sydney Harbour Regatta and the City 2 Surf festival are unforgettable experiences.
But Sydney doesn’t only have exceptionally great events, it is also known for its outstanding beaches. Especially Bondi and Manly are to be named here, which are perfect for a lazy beach day after a few days of sightseeing in the city. And if you surf, Bondi Beach is an absolute must!
2 Melbourne for coffee and street art
Melbournians love their coffee, and there are more world-class coffee shops in the city than you could probably try during your visit, but I recommend you try as many as possible if you love coffee as much as I do. Melbourne has actually beaten cities known for their longstanding coffee cultures, like Vienna and Rome, to have the best coffee. These days, the quality of Melbourne’s specialty coffee roasters is known worldwide and the number of Melbourne-style coffee bars around the globe is increasing steadily. The coffee culture is definitely unique to Melbourne and you shouldn’t leave the city without trying at least one Flat White! I created a self-guided coffee walk through the center of Melbourne.
Another thing unique to Melbourne is its extensive street art culture. Over the past few years, the city has evolved into one of the world’s street art capitals and you can find terrific pieces all over Melbourne. Hosier Lane is probably the best known spot for amazing murals and stencil art, resembling an ever-changing outdoor street art gallery. The best way to get to know the city’s street art scene is to take a street art tour.
3 Cairns for Adventure
Cairns is undoubtedly the adventure capital of Australia, offering the largest range of activities for thrill-seekers. From snorkeling and scuba diving to bungee jumping and sky-diving, there’s something for everyone. Rock-climbing? Check. White-water rafting? Check. Rainforest hiking? Check. Cairns is a city where rainforest and beaches meet, making for a myriad of water and jungle-related activities, and you could spend weeks here trying out all the fabulous outdoor activities that make Cairns a true adventure destination.
4 Perth for culinary delights
Perth is the city that has more restaurants per capita than any other capital city in Australia, and not only that – many of Perth’s restaurants have been recognized and awarded for their culinary excellence. Perth is home to a great number of ethnic restaurants, fine dining establishments and within an hour of four different wine regions, it is also the perfect place to sample some of Australia’s best wines. For foodies, Perth is a must-visit place in Australia – there are even food and wine tours in the city and the region around it! The city’s bar scene is just as good, by the way, with its famous small bars hidden in the city’s many alleyways and lanes, and fancier places alike.
And while Melbourne is wearing the crown for the best coffee culture in Down Under, that doesn’t mean that other places have bad coffee: Perth is also known for its great coffee culture and you’ll love the many coffee shops here just as much as the ones in Melbourne.
5 Noosa for surfing
There are many surf towns in Australia, and it is hard to pick the best one, because they all have different vibes and different things that speak for them. Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is a great pick simply for its breathtaking surf, with one of the largest long-board breaks in the world. In Noosa, you can get a good 200 meter ride and if you aren’t surfing yourself, you’ll enjoy watching the daredevils who are brave enough to take on these killer waves.
The town itself is not the hippie paradise it once was, with upscale shopping and dining along Hastings Street, the main street, but while the town has been well developed since the 1960s, when surfers discovered the then sleepy town for themselves, development has been done in a way to preserve the surfer vibe rather than piling up condominium towers along the shore. Other great surf spots include Port Macquarie, Torquay, Byron Bay, Snapper Rocks and Margaret River.
What is your favorite city in Australia and why? Share in the comments below!
Monday 23rd of February 2015
Cairns!! Cairns! Is the place to be. I have travelled to everyplace except Perth and don't intend to go there in near future. But Cairns is the heaven for me. The beach, the casinos, the weather, everything is superb for me. The road to Mareeba and from Mareeba to Cairns the scenic drive is a must visit place.
Tuesday 23rd of December 2014
Yes, way to put Perth on the list. Most people don't make it out West.