It's easy to divide Australia into six neat states and two mainland territories. But when you're travelling around in a country this massive, political boundaries sometimes lose their significance. Rainforests and deserts don't pay much attention to state lines – and often exist side by side within the same state! So we've dug a bit deeper to describe 38 distinct regions within Australia's states and territories, defined as much by climate, landscape and culture as they are by governmental jurisdiction.
ACT & Canberra
History & Culture
Canberra offers the National Gallery of Australia, with its magnificent collections of Australian, Asian and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art; the National Museum of Australia, whose imaginative exhibits provide insights into the Australian heart and soul; the moving and fascinating Australian War Memorial; and the entirely impressive National Portrait Gallery.
Canberra's wine industry is relatively new, but it is winning admirers with a consistent crop of fine cool-climate wines. The Canberra vineyards are an easy and picturesque drive from downtown.
The National Debate
Politics is what really makes Canberra tick: find out for yourself at a rigorous session of Question Time at Parliament House, or visit Old Parliament House and check out the Museum of Australian Democracy.
Australia's Best Wines
We challenge you to visit South Australia (SA) without inadvertently driving through a wine region. You may have heard of the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale, but what about the lesser-known Langhorne Creek, Mt Benson, Currency Creek or the Adelaide Hills regions? All top drops worth pulling over for.
A Full Summer Calendar
At the end of every summer Adelaide erupts with festivals: visual arts, world music, theatre, busking and the growl of V8 engines. The only question is, why do it all at the same time?
Coorong to Flinders Ranges
The dunes and lagoons of Coorong National Park are amazing, but for sheer geologic majesty visit Ikara (Wilpena Pound), part of the craggy, russet-red Flinders Ranges National Park in central South Australia.
Walk the boom-town streets of 1850s gold-rush towns. With their handsome, lace-fringed buildings, Melbourne, Bendigo and Ballarat are rich reminders of how good Victoria had it in those days.
Footy & Cricket
Melbourne is the spiritual home of Australian Rules football: grab some friends and boot a ball around a wintry city park. Summer means cricket: local kids are either watching it on TV, talking about it or out in the streets playing it.
The Surf Coast
With relentless Southern Ocean swells surging in, there’s plenty of quality (if chilly) surf along Victoria's Great Ocean Road. Bells Beach is Australia's most famous break, and home to the Rip Curl Pro surf comp every Easter.
Diving & Snorkelling
Beaches & Islands
Great Barrier Reef
Blessed with the fish-rich, Technicolor Great Barrier Reef, Queensland is the place for world-class diving and snorkelling. Take a day trip, bob around in a glass-bottom boat, or just paddle out from the beach on a reef-fringed island.
Explore the Coast
There's great surf along Queensland's south coast, and reefs and rainforest-cloaked islands further north, but for picture-perfect white-sand beaches and turquoise seas, the Whitsundays are unmissable: get on a yacht and enjoy.
Watch out Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane is on the rise! Hip bars, fab restaurants, a vibrant arts culture and good coffee everywhere: 'Australia's new world city' is an ambitious, edgy, progressive place to be.
New South Wales
Bondi & Beyond
Sydney's surf beaches can't be beaten. Bondi is the name on everyone's lips, but the waves here get crowded. Head south to Maroubra or Cronulla, or north to Manly, for more elbow room.
Modern Australian (aka Mod Oz) is the name of the culinary game here – a pan-Pacific fusion of styles and ingredients with plenty of Sydney seafood. Serve it up with a harbour view and you've got a winning combo.
Sydney's Hinterland Parks
New South Wales (NSW) has some of the best national parks in Australia. Around Sydney there's the Royal National Park, with fab walks and beaches; waterways and wildlife in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park; and vast tracts of native forest in Wollemi National Park in the Blue Mountains.
Tasmania produces larders full of fine food and drink. Chefs from all over Australia are increasingly besotted with Tasmania’s excellent fresh produce, including briny fresh salmon and oysters, cool-climate wines, hoppy craft beers and plump fruit and vegetables.
Wombats, Whales & Devils
You might not spy a thylacine, but on a Tassie bushwalk you can see wallabies, possums, pademelons, iconic Tasmanian devils and possibly a snake or two. There's also whale-, seal- and penguin-spotting along the coast.
Tasmania’s bleak colonial history is on display in Port Arthur and along the Heritage Hwy, made all the more potent by dramatic landscapes seemingly out of proportion with the state’s compact footprint.
A Beautiful Coast
There are boundless beaches along Western Australia's spectacular 12,500km-long coastline. But for sheer sandy delight, visit the isolated beaches leading down to the shallow lagoons and reefs of the World Heritage–listed Ningaloo Marine Park.
Explore the Wild
Bring it on: take the ride of your life along the bone-shaking Gibb River Road, to the exceptional Mitchell Falls and remote Kalumburu. Jump on a speedboat and head full throttle for the Horizontal Waterfalls, then grab a canoe and paddle down the mighty Ord River.
You can spy sharks, rays, turtles and migrating whales along WA's central west coast. Inland, birds flock to the oasis pools of Millstream-Chichester National Park, and pythons and rock wallabies hide in the shadows of Karijini National Park.
Mammals, Birds & Crocs
The Northern Territory outback is brilliant for wildlife, from dingoes to kangaroos, wallabies to emus, while up north Kakadu has brilliant wildlife (crocs!) and even better birding.
Indigenous Meeting Places
Nowhere in Australia can you get quite this connected to Australia's Indigenous people and their culture, from wonderful community art centres to festivals and Indigenous guides.
Brisbane & Around
Watch out Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane is rising! Sassy bars, classy restaurants, vibrant arts and good coffee: 'Australia's new world city' is ambitious, edgy and progressive. Beyond the city are laid-back island escapes and an unexpected wine region.
Uluru & Outback Northern Territory
Uluru and Kata Tjuta are truly enormous red rocks. Watarrka is the inverse – a dazzlingly deep desert canyon. Join an Aboriginal cultural tour for a deeper insight, and encounter outback wildlife at the excellent Alice Springs Desert Park.