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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Australia & the Pacific

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Great Barrier Reef
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The Great Barrier Reef is Australia's greatest natural treasure, and the world’s largest coral reef. This underwater wonderland stretches for 2,300 km (1,426 miles) from Bundaberg to Australia's northernmost tip. At its closest, it's only 30 km (18.5 miles) away from the Queensland coast.

The Great Barrier Reef encompasses almost 3,000 individual reefs. Their multicoloured beauty is made up of 400 types of living and dead coral polyps, home to around 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 breeds of clams, 500 types of seaweed, 200 species of birds, 1,500 different sponges and half a dozen varieties of turtles.

The Great Barrier Reef is also dotted with around 900 islands, including coral cays such as Green Island and Heron Island, along with the Whitsundays sand islands. Fringing reefs surround the islands, while the outer reef faces away from the mainland and islands and out to sea.

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Sydney Harbour
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Its sparkling waters and iconic sights draw visitors from all over the world who wish to enjoy the beauty and excitement of the harbor. On any day, Sydney Harbour is dotted with sail boats and ferries which stand out on the vibrant blue waters. With nearly 150 miles (240 kilometers) of shoreline, the harbor is a breathtaking expanse awaiting the exploration of its visitors.

A visit to Sydney Harbour will not disappoint, as the area is home to many of Sydney’s top attractions and offers some of the city’s best activities. A must-see (and impossible to miss) structure of Sydney Harbour is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which you can cross or climb for stunning views. Within walking distance are the Taronga Zoo, the historic Rocks area, Circular Quay, and the famous Sydney Opera House.

To get the best views of the harbor it is recommended that you enjoy a cruise through its waterways, and perhaps stop off at one of the many islands that Sydney Harbour embraces.

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Yarra River
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The Yarra River flows west for more than 240 km (148 miles) from its source in the Yarra Ranges, through rural and suburban Melbourne to the city center and Docklands, where it empties into Port Phillip Bay. Transport and pedestrian bridges cross the river, and you’ll find some of Melbourne’s most popular golf courses and parklands along its length.

Melbourne was established on the banks of the Yarra River in 1835, and it was a vital source of water and transport for the city's settlers. Today the Yarra River flows past the pedestrian Yarra Promenade and Flinders Street Station in the heart of Melbourne.

Rowers stroke past from the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, and pleasure boats cruise up and down the river. Cycling and walking trails also mirror its path, and there are popular picnic grounds on the suburban fringe at Yarra Bend and Warrandyte.

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Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge National Park)
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Nitmiluk (also called Katherine Gorge) is the deep path cut through the sandstone by the Katherine River, and the Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge National Park is where you can go to lap up the luscious experience of the Gorge, whether that be swimming in it (sometimes with harmless freshwater crocodiles), canoeing in it, hiking around it, gazing it from an observation deck, flying over it on a helicopter...or any combination of the above.

The park is run by the traditional owners, the Jawoyn, in conjunction with the Australian government. It's a well-appointed place with lots of visitor facilities (and lots of visitors, especially in the dry season). You can choose your level of activity, from lounging around at your campsite or the visitor center café to strenuous canoeing trips or hikes. But make sure you take at least one long hike, perhaps to see the Aboriginal rock art, or at least to get sticky enough to make cooling off in the river a delight.

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Sydney Harbour Bridge
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Located in the beautiful and iconic Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge overlooks the magnificent blue waters that help to make the Harbour a spectacular sight.

Nicknamed "The Coathanger" because of it's steel arch-based design, the Harbour Bridge boasts 8 traffic lanes, 2 railways and a pedestrian and bicycle lane, transporting both locals and tourists from the Central Business District (CBD) to the North Shore.

Visitors interested in getting the best view from the bridge can do so with the help of the BridgeClimb. Climbers can choose to climb either the outer arch or the inner arch of the bridge for spectacular views and an unforgettable experience.

The bridge also plays a special part in the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, where hundreds of spectators travel from near and far to gather on the shore and on the water to watch the festivities each year.

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Sydney Opera House
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The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s preeminent cultural center. Famous for its cutting-edge architecture, the building’s series of white-tiled sails jut into the harbor at Bennelong Point, perched on a platform of pink granite. The iconic structure was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, and Australians have been divided about its design ever since it opened way over-budget in 1973. Recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the opera house has a range of venues under its sails.
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Green Island
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Lapped by the sea 27 km (16.5 miles) from the mainland, Green Island is one of the most popular island day-trip destinations from Cairns. A true coral cay, the island is covered in rainforest and surrounded by coral reefs for snorkeling adventures. The island's luxury resort has a swimming pool for day visitors' use, along with a restaurant, snack kiosk and several bars.

While you're on Green Island you can visit the tropical aquarium, follow the self-guided island walking track, take a short stroll along nature boardwalks leading through the rainforest, and spot turtles swimming in the sea off the island's patrolled beach.

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Lake Wakatipu
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Dazzling Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand's longest lake. Shaped like an inverted "n" it is a highlight of a trip to Queenstown, which nestles against a curve near the middle of the lake. During the last ice age a huge glacier carved out the lake, which sinks to a depth of 1,300 feet (400 meters).The surrounding mountains that fed the glacier provide a dramatic backdrop to the crystal waters.

Atmospheric pressures cause the lake to rise and fall about 5 inches (12 centimeters) every 5 minutes. This gave rise to the Maori legend that the rise and fall of the water is the heartbeat of a giant who lies slumbering under the water.

The magnificent lake was the location for the Lothlorein scenes in The Lord of the Rings movie. If you’d like to get out on the water the most genteel way is to climb aboard the refurbished vintage steamship the TSS Earnslaw. Cruises across the lake will take you to Walter Peak where you can see a working high-country farm.

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Agincourt Reefs
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The Great Barrier Reef is the Earth’s largest structure built entirely by living organisms. It runs for over 1,200 miles from its northern to southern tip, and is almost the size of the state of Montana when its various reefs are combined. One of the reefs—the Agincourt Reef—is a distant section along the reef’s northern tip where stunning biodiversity creates one of the most pristine ecosystems found anywhere along the reef.

Known as a type of “Ribbon Reef,” the Agincourt Reef runs parallel to the line with the Continental Shelf. Exotic species such as the Maori wrasse are commonly found along the reef, and sharks, rays—and even whales—can be seen when scuba diving the reef. Even for travelers who are just snorkeling, however, there are sections of the reef only a few feet below the clear, turquoise waters. Here, in the shallow lagoons, thousands of fish inhabit a reef that bursts with vibrancy and color.

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More Things to Do in Australia & the Pacific

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

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One of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, the Franz Josef Glacier is a spectacular river of ice. It is one of the world's steepest glaciers descending 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) over its 7.5 mile (12 kilometer) path through the valley, ending in lush temperate rainforest. As it flows it travels over bumpy steps which forces ice upwards to create dramatic ice cliffs and sharp crevasses. Over 2,700 people visit the ice a day during peak season. Some spend their time exploring the terminal face while others take helicopters to take advantage of the views and get access to higher icefalls, so they can clamor over the less-populated ice and carve out an adventure in the stunning and challenging terrain.
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Lake McKenzie

Lake McKenzie

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Awe-inspiring Lake McKenzie is possibly one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. It is also one of the world’s least polluted and a swim in the crystal-clear freshwater will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

The lake is a “perched lake,” meaning it sits atop a sand dune where the sand and humus underneath have bonded into a concrete-like base. The lake isn't connected to streams or the ocean, which means all the water is pure rainwater. The sand also acts as a filter keeping the water clear, and makes for an amazing experience when relaxing in the lake.

Fraser Island is home to forty of the world’s eighty perched lakes, and like the many other freshwater lakes on the island, Lake McKenzie relies solely on rain for replenishment.

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Eli Creek

Eli Creek

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A popular tourist attraction, Eli Creek features a serene beauty with its crystal clear fresh waters and pearly white sand bottom. With over four million liters of water pouring from its mouth every hour, it is one of Fraser Island’s largest freshwater streams. Along with its beautiful beach location people enjoy visiting Eli Creek for a relaxing float down its pure waters. Its gentle current makes it a safe option for both adults and children. For those not interested in getting wet a scenic boardwalk allows you to walk around the creek on land.

As Eli Creek is located along Seventy-Five Mile Beach, visitors to Eli Creek can enjoy other attractions onsite. Along with off-roading, fishing and sunbathing there’s the onshore Maheno wreck, which was once one of the fastest ships in the world and was used by the Australian Airforce for target practice during WWII. Additionally, the Champagne Pools provide safe saltwater swimming in an enclosed natural rock pool.

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75 Mile Beach

75 Mile Beach

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This stretch of soft white sand is aptly named Seventy-Five Mile Beach due to the fact that it’s 75 miles (121 kilometers) long. Running along majority of Fraser Island’s east coast, the beach offers a number of experiences, although swimming is not advised due to the high number of tiger sharks. That being said off-roading and fishing are popular pastimes on the beach, as is visiting its many attractions. If you are wanting to swim safely there are the Champagne Pools, natural rock pools that feature frothy Champagne-like bubbles when waves crash over the rocks.

Additionally, Indian Head is a rocky outcrop popular for watching stingrays, fish, turtles, dolphins and sharks in the surf. Visitors can also visit the Maheno Wreck, once one of the world’s fastest ships and used for target practice by the Australian Airforce in WWII.

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Central Station Rainforest

Central Station Rainforest

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Central Station Rainforest, once the central hub for the forestry department on Fraser Island, is a stunning and lush forest located on Wanggoolba Creek of Fraser Island - one of the most scenic areas on the island!

Since the logging industry's departure in the late 1950s, Central Station is a popular picnic and camping spot for tourists with an information center which provides a history of the island and tips on the flora and fauna in the area.

Home to many specifies of plants, Central Station rainforest houses the massive Angiopteris ferns, which has the largest fern fronds in the world. Giant satinay and kauri trees also grow around the forest.

The massive kauris have a soaring trunk and branches only start at the very top; these trees were prized as masts in the days of sailing boats. Satinay trees are regarded as biological marvels since the sand they grow in contain very little nutrients.

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Wanggoolba Creek

Wanggoolba Creek

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The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

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The rainbow layers of sand that make up The Pinnacles are a spectacular site on the east coast of Fraser Island. They are one of the reasons why Fraser Island has UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Over the last 2 million years sand has been blowing onto the island and formed fascinating geological sites such as the “perched” lakes, the remarkable dunes and these colorful cliffs. The cliffs change in color throughout the day and are particularly startling early morning and sunset when the reds become beautifully vibrant. The Pinnacles get their color from the iron compounds in the silica sands that are blown across the island.

The traditional owners of the land tell a story about a wife running away with the rainbow man and her hunter husband deciding to kill her with a boomerang.

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Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings

Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings

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The unique art and handicrafts produced by New Zealand’s Maori population are among the country’s most vibrant and celebrated art works. There are few better examples of the Maori Rock carvings at Mine Bay. One of the most striking attractions of Lake Taupo, the immense carvings adorn the cliff faces of the bay, towering over 10 meters high.

Although the designs appear like the remains of an ancient Maori settlement, they were in fact carved by artist Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell in the 1970s, taking three summers to complete. The dramatic works are some of the largest rock art of their kind in the world, depicting Ngatoroirangi – the Maori visionary who guided the Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to Lake Taupo over a thousand years before. Flanking Ngatoroirangi are two smaller carvings depicting the south wind and a mermaid, and utilizing traditional Maori stone-carving techniques.

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Abrolhos Islands

Abrolhos Islands

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Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island

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Hamilton Island is the second largest inhabited island in the Whitsunday group and one of the region's star attractions. It's the largest island resort in the South Pacific and boasts an exciting mix of things to see and do. Seven pools, boutiques, galleries, bars, a number of restaurants, over 40 optional activities, walking trails and a koala and wildlife gallery are just a few of its features. Those Whitsunday-white beaches may lure you to do not much more than pick up a book or a cocktail, but if you're in the mood for something more active there's plenty to keep you busy. Snorkel, jetski, play beach games, sail, play golf, sea kayak, race go karts or even do an art class.
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Swan River

Swan River

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Swan River carves its way through the middle of the city of Perth before joining with the sea.

Fed by the Avon, Canning and Helena Rivers, the Swan River itself is only around 60km long. Over 130 species of fish inhabit the Swan River, including bull sharks, catfish, rays and bream. Bottlenose dolphins are also regularly seen in the estuary.

One of the easiest ways to appreciate the beauty of the Swan River is simply to take a walk along its banks. Cycling and walking paths line the foreshore, and parklands along the water’s edge keep things interesting. Circuiting the river by the Narrows Bridge and the Causeway is a casual 10km walk well worth undertaking.

Cruises along the Swan River are also popular, often lasting a few hours – or simply take the ferry across the harbour for a cheaper option. Jet boating and parasailing are activities less suited to appreciating the quiet beauty of the river, but guaranteed to get your heart pumping.

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Te Mata Peak

Te Mata Peak

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Main Beach

Main Beach

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Suitably named, Byron Bay's Main Beach stretches along the front of the town and is the go-to destination for beach lounging, swimming or catching a wave. On a sunny day in Byron Bay, expect locals and visitors alike to be making the most at Main Beach – the town's closest beach outlet.

Main Beach is known for its beautiful surroundings, with views of the Julian Rocks, Cape Byron Light and grassy hills meeting the horizon line of white sandy beach and enticing water. Besides swimming and beach lounging, a popular activity is to snorkel out to the old shipwreck of the Tassie II just off-shore.

The reliable right and left-hand breaks at Main Beach make it a popular place for beginners to learn to surf. Several surf schools operate directly at Main Beach, but make sure to research this fact before making a booking. Surf schools must be authorized to operate at the beaches of Byron Bay or else they travel several minutes outside of the region for their lessons.

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Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

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Located in northern Sydney, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is the second-oldest national park in the country and a favorite among campers, hikers and nature lovers. Its lush rainforest landscape, quiet creeks and mountain passes lead visitors to forget Ku-ring-gai Chase is still within Sydney city limits, but its incredible views, thick mangroves and scenic drives make it the perfect escape from center city hustle.

The park is on the Australian National Heritage List, and travelers often wander its well-kept walking paths that wind through the Australian jungle. Driving may prove the easiest way to navigate the area, but many visitors prefer to call upon bicycles and horses to explore. An ideal day trip, Ku-ring-gai Chase offers public picnic spaces, paddle and sailboats and scenic overlooks like the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.

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