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Australia's biggest attraction is its natural beauty. The landscape varies from endless sunbaked horizons to dense tropical rain forest to chilly southern beaches. Scattered along the coasts, its cities blend a European enthusiasm for art and food with a laid-back love of sport and the outdoors.
Visitors expecting to see an opera in Sydney one night and meet Crocodile Dundee the next will have to rethink their grasp of geography in this huge country. It is this sheer vastness that gives Australia much of its character.
AUSTRALIA TOURS AND TRAVEL:
SYDNEY Tours, Travel and Activities
Sydney is Australia's oldest city, the economic powerhouse of the nation and the country's capital in everything but name. It's blessed with sun-drenched natural attractions, dizzy skyscrapers, delicious and daring restaurants, superb shopping and friendly folk.
Although it's come a long way from its convict beginnings, it still has a rough and ready energy, and offers an invigorating blend of the old and the new, the raw and the refined.
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ALICE SPRINGS Tours, Travel and Activities
In its 125-year history, Alice Springs - the Alice - has gone from a simple telegraph station on the Overland Telegraph Line to central Australia's key town.
The Alice Springs area is known as Mparntwe to its traditional residents, the Arrernte Aboriginal people. All the topographical features of the town were formed by the creative ancestral beings as they crawled across the landscape from Emily Gap (Anthwerrke), in the East MacDonnell Ranges.
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AYERS ROCK Tours, Travel and Activities
Nothing in Australia is as readily identifiable as Uluru (Ayers Rock). If your first sight of Uluru is during the afternoon, it appears as an ocher-brown color, scored and pitted by dark shadows.
As the sun sets, it illuminates the rock in burnished orange, then a series of deeper and darker reds before it fades into charcoal. Don't assume, however, that a distant glimpse of this geological marvel will suffice - a close-up, extended viewing of the rock's contours is a must.
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DARWIN Tours, Travel and Activities
The capital of northern Australia is closer to Jakarta than it is to Sydney, and closer to Singapore than it is to Melbourne, so it should come as no surprise that it looks outward to Asia as much as it looks inland to the rest of Australia.
This proximity and familiarity with Australia's northern neighbors is reflected in the town's relaxed, cosmopolitan, tropical atmosphere. In a country that prides itself on its ethnic diversity, Darwin may be the most multicultural city of all.
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BRISBANE Tours, Travel and Activities
Brisbane has shucked its reputation as a backwater and emerged as one of the country's most progressive centers. It has several interesting districts, a good street cafe scene, a great riverside park, a busy cultural calendar and a thriving nightlife.
Known locally as Bris Vegas, the city is renowned for its sun and the brash, glitzy hordes that follow it, but it's also a thriving arts capital, with dozens of theatres, cinemas, concert halls, galleries and museums. A climate this good and culture too? It must be paradise.
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CAIRNS Tours, Travel and Activities
Tropical, wild and rugged, Queensland's Far North proves the theory that size doesn't matter. Although small geographically, this stunning destination contains the richest pockets of biodiversity in Australia, if not the world.
The dense and ancient rain forests of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area coat the landscape, spilling out onto gorgeous beaches. Offshore lies the spectacular Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
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PORT DOUGLAS Tours, Travel and Activities
Port Douglas certainly outclasses Cairns in the hip stakes. It's a genuine reef resort with a long stretch of beach backed by palm trees, and an atmosphere far different from its southern rival Cairns. Its streets are lined with expensive eateries and clothes shops, and exclusive resorts.
Despite its development and upmarket allegiances, the town has a relaxed village feel about it, especially on the weekend when the down-at-heel beer gardens of its pubs fill up with drinkers and its outdoor Sunday markets take over Anzac Park,
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ADELAIDE Tours, Travel and Activities
When the early colonists arrived and began building Adelaide
they used stone. They wanted to build a solid, dignified city, a civilized and calm place, with a manner no other state capital in the country could match. Nowadays, much to the wowsers' chagrin, pubs and nightclubs outnumber the churches.
The solidity goes further than architecture, for Adelaide was once regarded as a city of wowsers (read: puritan spoilsports) and was chiefly renowned for its disproportionately large number of churches.
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HOBART Tours, Travel and Activities
Hobart is Australia's southernmost capital city. The fact that it is also the smallest is the key to its particular charm. A riverside city with a busy harbor, its mountain backdrop offers fine views over the beautiful Georgian buildings, numerous parks and compact suburbs below.
The city's conservative and provincial reputation among some mainlanders is undeserved. Hobart town has a thriving arts and crafts scene and a real sense of history, and for walking, eating and just soaking in the atmosphere it can't be bettered.
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LAUNCESTON Tours, Travel and Activities
Launceston serves as the commercial hub for the north of the state and, like many parts of Tasmania, is a major tourist centre. Some points of attraction include the Cataract Gorge, a natural wonder of Tasmania and only five minutes walk from the city and the City Park, which includes an enclosure for Japanese Macaque monkeys, a gift from the sister-city of Ikeda, Japan
The city is home to a large collection of magnificently preserved Victorian architecture, the Boags Brewery, which produces one of Australia's premium beers and the Aurora Stadium - The State's only venue for Australian Football League matches.
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MELBOURNE Tours, Travel and Activities
Melbourne is dubbed 'marvelous' for a reason. Healthy hedonism masquerades as high art: Melburnians are equally passionate about football and ballet, fashion and restaurants. They are ravenous for music and hot for theater.
A leafy bayside community on the upside-down brown Yarra River, Melbourne is, in turns, cosmopolitan, suburban, cultivated, conservative and a haven for the avant-garde.
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BROOME Tours, Travel and Activities
Although a mere pinprick on the colossal north Western Australian coast, Broome
looms large in the Australian psyche. Broome is synonymous with exotic, tropical beaches and the outdoors.
Western Australia's isolation has served it well in the case of the north's largest town, helping to preserve Broome's frontier feel despite a well-developed local tourist industry. Gourmet restaurants, all-star resorts and the nouveau riche have detracted from its outback appeal, but instead you'll find a unique culture unlike anywhere else in the state.
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PERTH Tours, Travel and Activities
Perth is a vibrant and modern city sitting between the cerulean Indian Ocean and the ancient Darling Ranges. It claims to be the sunniest state capital in Australia, though more striking is its isolation from the rest of the country - Perth is over 2,750 miles (4,400km) from Sydney by road.
Every year in February or March the Festival of Perth offers entertainment in the form of music, drama, dance, visual art and films. The alternative Northbridge Festival is hosted at the same time.
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