Throughout the year, thousands of like-minded backpackers set off to that mysterious land down-under, with whom we somehow share a Queen.
Australia has become the ‘go-to’ place for young travellers. It is often a starting point for an even more epic adventure, or a more permanent residence thanks to working-holiday visas (I was surprised to discover that these cost just £299, for 12 months). But just how has Australia maintained its top spot for gap year travellers?
For starters, Australia is pretty safe. I know this may not be something you initially think about when planning your round the world adventure, but if you’re a solo traveller (and, like me, female) questions of safety do eventually come creeping in. Many South American, African and Asian countries can’t offer the protection that English speaking Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific does. The culture is similar enough to our own, in regards to dealing with crime and welfare, to feel safe – but then it also has amazing beaches and scenery, a win-win situation.
Secondly, the diversity of the country cannot be challenged. You have major cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne on the East Coast; they ooze metropolitan sights whilst also offering edgy artsy neighbourhoods and bucket-list surfing destinations such as Byron Bay and Bondi Beach. The West Coast, on the other hand, maintains a calm and laid-back attitude, although it can be argued that Australia overall embodies this feel generally. However, thanks to its quirky restaurants and cultural attractions, Perth has been ranked ninth in the world’s most liveable cities list.
For the more adventurous and experienced traveller, the outback of Australia offers serene surroundings. Alice Springs is full of history, humour and colourful characters, whilst Uluru (Ayers Rock), when visited at dusk, shows you why it still remains a sacred place for the Aborigines. Whilst venturing to the middle of the country requires preparation, what awaits you there is the perfect reward for a potentially treacherous trip. It makes for a nice change to the faster paced city life too, and you experience the origins of this diverse land.
As previously mentioned, Australia also makes for a perfect ‘base’ or starting point from which to explore the rest of the globe. Many do the classic London-Dubai-Sydney flight, spend a while immersing themselves in Aussie life, then are off again. And they need not venture far. Staying very ‘close to home’, the Whitsunday Islands sit at the tip of the Great Barrier Reef, 74 in total, and proudly boast ‘the best beaches in the world’. However, venture just a little further afield and that claim is sure to be challenged. For roughly £200 and a short plane ride, you can find yourself in Fiji. Slightly further than this are the Samoan Islands and the Cook Islands, again popular with island hoppers of the South Pacific. And of course, there’s Australia’s friendly neighbour, New Zealand – offering snow-capped mountains as well as cities and beach action.
Australia has been, and will continue to be for many years, popular with Western travellers looking for an idealistic safe-haven – an escape from dreary English weather and pebble beaches. It’s pretty obvious why it’s on nearly everybody’s bucket-list and provides a nice ease into globe-trotting. Its popularity certainly won’t be diminishing anytime soon.