Australia is a nature-lovers paradise- being an enormous country made up of bush, wildlife, desert, sandy coastlines and coral reef, but it also offers many excellent modern and vibrant urban cities too.
The main capitals are very different from each other, but what they share is a warm welcome, easy precincts, great food, wine and events as well as plenty of access to nature and wildlife.
As mentioned in my Adapting to the Aussie way of life tips post, Australia is incredibly large- and not one that you can fully explore over a few weeks, not even a few months!
If you are heading here just for a short time, here are the five biggest and best cities to choose from if you need some help deciding!
Sydney is Australia’s largest city- with a population of 4.5 million people. It’s the capital of the state New South Wales and it offers many delightful activities and things to do.
It is most well-known for its sparkling harbour-front where you can find the iconic Sydney Opera House with its distinctive sail-like design.
Sydney offers great surf beaches, beautiful public gardens, fine dining, opera, coastal walks and plenty of history. It’s also home to the most high-rise buildings in the country.
Check out the Sydney Travel Guide for more information.
|Sydney Opera House with the bridge in the background.|
Top 10 things to do:
- Talk to the animals at Taronga Zoo, with 2,900 exotic and native species.
- Take a tour and go backstage at the Sydney Opera House.
- Climb the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge at dawn or at dusk.
- Walk the Bondi to Coogee beach coastal trail.
- Dine at Sydney’s finest restaurants- some of the best in the world.
- Enjoy shopping in the city with many large malls and boutique stores.
- Discover a convict past by taking The Rocks walking tour.
- Sail on the beautiful harbour- one of Sydney’s best travel experiences.
- Explore the Royal Botanic Gardens.
- Take a day trip to the famous Blue Mountains.
|My partner in crime and I visiting Sydney in 2012.|
The second largest city in Australia with a population of 4.3 million people, Melbourne is the coastal capital of the southeastern state of Victoria.
Famed for its trendy vibe, cafe culture and graffitied laneways, it’s a popular spot for young professionals and students alike.
Head to hip St Kilda for a taste of the seaside or base yourself in the heart of the city to enjoy plenty of street markets, gigs, shops and museums.
It is a very multicultural city, with 40% of the population born overseas. It has the highest Greek population in the world outside of Athens! The city is overflowing with many delicious choices of cuisine and offers great foodie experiences.
If you stay in Melbourne holiday apartments, you can explore the South Bank and take a tour of the galleries. Melbourne is home to the most skyscrapers in the country.
For incredible city skyline views, head to the Eureka Skydeck 88, especially at dusk.
I made a YouTube video from my time there if you’re interested: Melbourne Travel Vlog.
|Looking across the Yarra River|
Top 10 things to do:
- Explore Melbourne’s arty laneways and beautiful architecture.
- Experience life at the bohemian St Kilda Esplanade.
- Get cultured at Melbourne’s iconic museums.
- Shop designer boutiques and cool local labels.
- Cheer at world-famous sporting events at legendary sports grounds.
- Sip on a cocktail at a trendy rooftop bar.
- Dine at Melbourne’s best restaurants, again some of the world’s best.
- Take a day-trip to nearby wineries, surf beaches and forests.
- Head outdoors to plenty of beautiful parks and gardens.
- Shop local at Melbourne’s amazing markets.
|Exploring the famous graffitied laneway Hosier Land|
The third largest city in Australia is Brisbane, with a population of 2.2 million.
It is the capital of sunny Queensland and it’s a place I always enjoy visiting.
The climate is subtropical and offers a modern and pretty riverside city. Head to the cultural precinct of South Bank where you can find museums, theatres and galleries along with great food spots, markets and a man-made beach.
Looming over the city is Mt. Cootha, the site of the beautiful botanic gardens.
The shopping, nightlife and restaurant scene in Brisbane is excellent and there are countless fun things to do.
|The view from Kangaroo Point|
Top 10 things to do:
- Climb Brisbane’s iconic story bridge and abseil down.
- Walk through the popular and entertaining South Bank.
- Head to the (man-made) beach in the middle of the city.
- Go on a chocolate or craft-beer walking tour.
- Dine at Brisbane’s best restaurants with stunning riverside views.
- Soak up the art at GoMA and the Queensland art gallery.
- Enjoy a “Paddle & Prawns” experience on the Brisbane River.
- Shop at Brisbane’s The Collective Markets.
- Relax at Nightfall’s luxury wilderness camp.
- Go 4W-Driving and dolphin watching at North Stradbroke Island.
|Brisbane’s Story Bridge|
The fourth biggest city in Australia with a population of 2 million, Perth is the capital of Western Australia, and the only one located on the Indian Ocean.
The city sits where the Swan River meets the southwest coast and sandy beaches line its suburbs. The large riverside Kings Park and Botanic Garden on Mt. Eliza offers sweeping views over the city.
Perth oozes confidence and has an abundance of hip wine bars, sunny beaches, spectacular green parks and glittering skyscrapers, funky neighbourhoods and beautiful colonial architecture.
If you’re wanting to head to the Western side of Australia, Perth is a must-see city that has it all. Check out the Lonely Planet Perth guide for more information.
Top 10 things to do:
- Wander and enjoy the views of Kings Park- one of the world’s biggest city parks.
- Visit the historic seaside port of Fremantle.
- Hit Perth’s small bars and enjoy the craft-beer and wine.
- Discover Perth’s museum, gallery and zoo.
- Explore the diverse precincts with hip cafes and cutting-edge restaurants.
- Chill out or surf at Perth’s best beaches.
- Feel an adrenaline rush with the many adventure activities on offer.
- Catch a ferry to Rottnest Island and meet Quokkas- a cute marsupial only in WA.
- Sail Perth’s beautiful river and coastline.
- Take a day trip to the Swan Valley winery.
I know the 5th largest city is Adelaide, but for my final top city I just had to choose the Gold Coast- because that’s where I live! Also it’s a very popular holiday destination, for Australians and especially for New Zealanders.
Gold Coast is the 6th largest city with a population of over 600,000. It’s a metropolitan region on the east coast, one hour south of Brisbane.
It is famed for its long sandy beaches, surfing spots and elaborate system of inland canals and waterways. It’s also home to Australia’s best theme parks including Dreamworld, Movie World, Wet n Wild and many more.
Inland are plenty of beautiful rainforest hiking trails and waterfalls found in Lamington National Park’s mountain ridges and valleys, home to rare birds and plenty of native wildlife.
Along with the fun parks, warm weather and beaches the Gold Coast has a great restaurant scene, hip bars and excellent shopping, making it the perfect holiday destination.
Top 10 things to do:
- Spend the day tanning and swimming at the pristine sandy beaches.
- Take up a surfing lesson and have a go at one of best surfing spots.
- Go thrill-seeking at one of the world-class theme parks.
- Explore the Gold Coast’s lush World Heritage rainforests.
- Get up close with a croc or cuddle a koala at the many wildlife sanctuaries.
- Jet ski, surf and scuba dive in the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
- Shop at the best boutiques, markets and outlet shopping centres.
- Graze at the best restaurants and cafes overlooking the crashing waves.
- Head to the top of the Q1- the tallest building in Australia for incredible views.
- Spot some humpbacks and dolphins on a whale watching tour (May-Nov).
I hope you’ve now got some good information on Australia’s best cities! Let me know in the comments if you’re heading here sometime soon- or if you’ve already been!
All of Australia’s cities are incredible and unique and if you’re heading Down Under you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading,
|Pin it! 🙂|
*This post contains affiliate links and some images that are not my own.