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If you’re flying to Australia to visit family, add on some time to get to see more of this remote country. From the desert outback to tropical rainforests, there’s so much to explore. And it’s just a connecting flight away.

By: Leanne Feris

With the direct flight between Johannesburg and Perth just 9 hours 25 minutes long, the rest of Australia seems much closer. 

Western Australia 

Western Australia is the country’s largest state, so beyond Perth and surrounds there are plenty to explore. Turquoise lagoons beckon you to the Ningaloo Reef about 1 200 kilometres north of Perth. The reef is right on the coast and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are lots of outdoor adventure offerings, but swimming with whale sharks (the world’s biggest fish, and harmless) trumps all. If you go for the whale sharks, plan your trip between late March to late July. 

Northern Territory 

The Red Centre in the Northern Territory sits right in the heart of Australia and comprises the outback town of Alice Springs (the gateway to this territory’s outback), World Heritage Site Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and Kings Canyon.  

Uluru is a magnificent red monolith, the largest sandstone monolith in the world – and measures 348 metres and 9.5 kilometres in circumference. Kata Tjuta is 30 kilometres from Uluru and is made up of 36 massive domes spread over more than 20 kilometres. The Anangu people have called the area where the National Park sits now home for over 30 000 years, and these ancient rock formations remain deeply spiritual and sacred to them. Visitors can learn more in the Cultural Centre in the park where you will find everything from art galleries to cultural presentations. 

Don’t miss out on the Field of Light Uluru art installation at the base of Uluru. It is made of over 50 000 glowing solar-powered stems. Visit at sunrise or sunset for an unforgettable sight. 

There are many trails to explore Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park is a three-hour drive from Uluru, where you have two options for exploring. Take the easier walk through the canyon floor, or the more challenging rim walk.  

Queensland 

Here is where you will find the Great Barrier Reef (another World Heritage site) and the Daintree Rainforest. The reef spans 2 300 kilometres and is a natural wonder that many have on their bucket list. It has the world’s largest coral reef system and is brimming with biodiversity. The reef is incredibly fragile, so to prevent damage, avoid contact with the reef (even with your snorkelling or scuba fins), and also do not take any souvenirs (including shells on the beach). Even ingredients found in sunscreen can damage coral, so use a natural sunscreen. 

At 180 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. Here visitors can spot saltwater crocodiles, do some spear fishing, walk along the canopy on an aerial walkway at the Daintree Discovery Centre, or do an all-day tour with an Aboriginal custodian for Kuku Yalanji perspective. With many walking trails to choose from, there are hikes for all ages and fitness levels. 

New South Wales 

Sydney is the capital of this state, but don’t miss out on The Blue Mountains with its sandstone ridges and quaint mountain towns in the wilderness. Some highlights include exploring the world’s oldest cave system at Jenolan, bush walks down to the valley floor and up again for stunning views, visit the Three Sisters rock formation at Echo Point lookout,  a scenic cable car ride, and picking apples in an orchard. 

Australian Capital Territory 

In and around Canberra, the capital of Australia, you’ll find not only museums, galleries and historical sites, but also breweries, wine region, a lake, wildlife and adventure in a nature reserve, and even ski slopes or touring Parliament House. 

Victoria  

Melbourne is Victoria’s capital city and has a vibrant food, cultural and sports scene. Don’t miss out on the scenic Great Ocean Road to take in the views along the Southern Ocean. Or drive a couple of hours out of Melbourne to the seaside haven of Phillip Island. There you can catch the Penguin Parade, taste wine at one of the wineries, spot koalas, catch a wave in the National Surfing Reserve, to fishing or even watch one of the major motor racing events. 

Tasmania 

This beautiful island state’s capital is Hobart. It’s worth a visit for its apple cider, cheeses, wine and oysters, powder-white beaches and laid-back luxury.  Tasmania is also one of the few places in the world to see the elusive Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis.   

South Australia 

Explore beyond Adelaide, the state’s capital. Visit the Flinder Ranges, Australia’s largest outback mountain range, and expect vast desert landscapes, towering mountains, deep craters, stunning gorges and even an oasis, the Dalhousie Springs. If rolling vines and blue waters are more your vibe, you will love sipping wine in a giant Rubik’s cube in McLaren Vale. The d’Arenberg Cube is a five-storey building on the d’Arenberg wine estate. 

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