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8 Best Cities in Australia to Visit on Vacation

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Hot air balloons over Melbourne in Australia.

Melbourne, Australia

Cities create a vibrant ambiance, providing a microcosm for regional culture, and the eight best cities in Australia can give you fabulous insight into local life, regional atmosphere, and the unique beauty of their surrounding areas.

Whether you wish to be at the foot of a mountain escape or stand on the brink of the warm Coral Sea, eager to touch the northern edge of the continent, or find comfort in a remote urban landscape, famous Australian cities are distinct.

Find iconic architecture or feel a connection with the edging countryside as you discover how the top cities in Australia create their own dynamic character.

  1. 1. Sydney
  2. 2. Melbourne
  3. 3. Cairns
  4. 4. Perth
  5. 5. Adelaide
  6. 6. Canberra
  7. 7. Darwin
  8. 8. Hobart
  9. Explore the Best Cities in Australia

1. Sydney

Sydney Opera House with high rise buildings at night in Australia.

Sydney Opera House, Australia

Sydney and its greater metropolitan area embody the entire country and it is one of the best places in all of Australia to visit on vacation. The city boasts art galleries and museums, a business center crowned by high-rises, sensational beaches, a sparkling harbor, and sophisticated cosmopolitan culture.

Whether interested in enjoying the glittering beaches or the easy access to the fabled Blue Mountains National Park and its miles of pristine trails, you can find endless sun and golden sands, bohemian, artistic, and youthful movements, or a magnificent two-and-a-half-mile path that connects Bondi to Coogee along the coast.

Sydney represents the best of Australia, and it only gets better as you discover endless possibilities in New South Wales’ capital city during Sydney, Australia tours and vacations.

Highlights: The Rocks • Art Gallery of New South Wales • Barangaroo Reserve • George Street • International Cricket Hall of Fame • Sydney Opera House

2. Melbourne

Jacaranda tree in bloom at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia

Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia

The multicultural and elegant city of Melbourne, where travelers can embrace many top experiences in Australia, demonstrates refinement, from fashion to business, football to rugby.

Melbourne remains the most European of Australia’s cities, boasting lush landscaped gardens and stunning public parks. High-rises create an elegant skyline along the central business district, contrasting the facades of Victorian-era homes shaded by the tree-lined boulevards.

Counterculture flourishes on the walls of a city known for its street art, highbrow displays during art festivals, and independent artistic self-expression, while also hosting distinctive neighborhoods, each with its own personality.

Highlights: Royal Botanical Gardens • National Gallery of Victoria • Melbourne Museum and Royal Exhibition Building • Queen Victoria Market

3. Cairns

The Cairns Esplanade Lagoon at dusk in Australia.

The Esplanade Lagoon in Australia

Cairns has become famous as Australia’s premier gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and travelers often stop here during custom Great Barrier Reef tours and vacations.

Since the 1970s, the city has developed around its tourism industry, growing along the coast and into hills of the Great Dividing Range that’s smothered with jungle. Local efforts have produced great rewards in the form of elegant palm-lined streets, playgrounds, cafes, and idyllic beaches.

The strength and prestige of the city derive from Cairns’ central position between the Great Barrier Reef, its islands, the Atherton Tablelands, coastal adventures, the unspoiled waters of the Crystal Cascades, and access to the rainforest village of Kuranda.

Highlights: Esplanade • Botanic Gardens • Reef Teach • Crystal Cascades

4. Perth

Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, Australia.

Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, Australia

The secluded capital of Western Australia is also the largest city in the state, with a reputation for endless sunshine and a relaxed pace that stems from the typical sights of locals surfing, sailing, swimming, or barbecuing on the banks of the Swan River.

Perth effortlessly combines the attractions of the big city with informal surroundings and a cosmopolitan lifestyle, parkland, pristine river, and beaches, as well as easy access to Western Australia’s unfettered nature, ranking Perth frequently among the world’s most livable cities.

As a gateway to many of Australia’s best adventure destinations, Perth is a traveler's dream start for trips that focus on exploring the country’s wondrous outdoors and natural landscapes.

Highlights: Kings Park Botanical Garden • Art Gallery of Western Australia • Cottesloe • Aquarium of Western Australia • The Perth Mint

5. Adelaide

Downtown area of Adelaide with Torrens River in Australia.

Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide provides a different perspective of Australian colonization as a place of free settlements set apart from the country’s famous “penal-colony” connection.

The city, around the corner from one of Australia’s best wine regions, the Barossa Valley, has a quiet introspection that never feels crowded, with gorgeous architecture that spans either side of the Torrens River, amid the glowing rings of green parks that lead to the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges.

Mediterranean settlers inspired the famous food and wine of the region, and continue to support cellars, restaurants, and cafes, as well as modern high-rises, celebrated museums, elegant galleries, and opulent gardens.

Highlights: Adelaide Botanic Gardens • Adelaide Zoo • Art Gallery of South Australia • Central Market • State Library of South Australia

6. Canberra

Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia.

War Memorial in Canberra, Australia

The carefully crafted city of Canberra boasts shady, tree-lined avenues and modernist architecture, incorporating geometric shapes contrasting the rounded landscape surrounding the Australian Capital Territory.

Lake Burley Griffin shimmers at the center of the city, with lakeshores lined by museums displaying Australia’s cultural treasures. The urban planning movement of self-contained communities surrounded by undeveloped wild or green space influenced the capital’s design, resulting in a cosmopolitan ambiance decorated with accessible parks, broad boulevards, and 19th-century artwork.

Despite being Australia’s capital city, Canberra is one of the lesser-known tourist destinations in Australia, making it a worthy addition to senior tours of Australia to escape the crowds.

Highlights: Australian War Memorial • Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House • Lake Burley Griffin • National Gallery of Australia • Mount Ainslie Lookout

7. Darwin

Mindil Beach at sunset in Darwin, Australia.

Mindil Beach in Darwin, Australia

Darwin, home to one of Australia’s best cycling routes, maintains a youthful ambiance amidst a cosmopolitan population that’s represented in the bustling life on Mitchell Street and by joggers or cyclists rushing around the tropical parks, then traveling down the waterfront.

The city maintains a relaxed mood, with low-rise buildings and residents deriving from a plethora of backgrounds, whether indigenous to Australia, part of a colonial heritage movement, or having traveled across one of three different oceans that separate the continent from the greater world.

Heritage buildings and wildlife attractions create captivating layers, accentuated by the gleaming waterfront and ample nightlife that travelers can enjoy during their vacation in the Australian city.

Highlights: Mindil Beach Sunset Market • Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory • Stokes Hill Wharf • Crocosaurus Cove • Territory Wildlife Park

8. Hobart

Mount Wellington scenic platform overlooking Hobart in Australia.

Mount Wellington Park in Hobart, Australia

The charming streets and architecture of Hobart spread from the bent shores of the Derwent River to the foothills of Mount Wellington.

The small but mighty state capital has a remote ambiance, like many of Australia’s best remote destinations, yet is distinct from other large cities in the country. Visitors quickly fall for the historic stone warehouses, craft shops, and relaxed ambiance.

The gloss of refurbished neighborhoods at the heart of the city juxtapose antique structures along the streets, and the deep-water harbor has inspired a tradition of sailing that remains a popular pastime. Visitors and locals enjoy the waterfront for its fresh seafood or fantastic views across the water.

Highlights: Kunanyi (Mount Wellington) • Salamanca Place • Battery Point • MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) • Cascade Female Factory Historic Site

Explore the Best Cities in Australia

Elizabeth Quay city skyline at dusk in Perth, Australia.

Perth, Australia

Whether embracing the classic beach scenery or wandering along the thriving riverbanks, noticing active wildlife at the city’s edges or indulging in artistic marvels, Australia’s top cities can easily seduce you as you explore the neighborhoods and vibrant cosmopolitan cultures for new travel experiences during Australia tours and vacations.

From iconic architecture to charming arcades, greenery to shoreline views, you can uncover the best of the country’s famous cities during your trip with more inspiration from our Australia travel guide.

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