Between the beaches and that harbor, the Outback and the cute (and sometimes terrifying) wildlife, it’s little wonder that Australia dominates so many couples’ dream honeymoon destination. Dig a little deeper than those postcard-worthy Grams, though, and you’ll find even more reasons to take, most likely, the single longest plane ride of your life. We’re talking about world-class food and wine, an infectious laid-back atmosphere, and locals who are as mad about sports and a joke well told as they are about an ice-cold beer at the pub.
This is one honeymoon destination that demands a lot of your time—it can take two days to get there (you read that right, hello International Dateline!), and the jet-lag is real—but the effort is worth it. The Aussie lifestyle is just foreign enough to be exotic, while still being familiar (re: English speaking), warm, and welcoming—especially to anyone who considers himself a good bloke (this also means don’t act like some loud, stereotypical American on holiday, please).
Do your homework in advance (or cheat off of ours, just make sure of change the answers a bit), plan with military precision and, “no worries, mate,” the perfect honeymoon in Australia will be yours.
The Pros & Cons of a Honeymoon in Australia
The only country that is also a continent is well and truly in the Southern Hemisphere, so seasons are the opposite of those in the U.S. While the weather varies across Australia, the good news is that it’s fairly temperate in most of the places you’re likely to visit, and while there is a winter, it’s rare for temperatures to dip below the mid-40s. Summers are hot and glorious in Sydney and Melbourne, but can be brutal in the Northern Territory; wet and swampy in tropical north Queensland. You’ll get plenty of sunshine through most of the spring (September to November) and fall (March to May), and these shoulder seasons can be ideal times for a honeymoon if you want to avoid fighting for the best spot on the beach with the majority of Aussies who take a month-long summer vacation in January, when school is out.
Planning the perfect Australian honeymoon itinerary relies heavily on zeroing in on those must-do activities and having enough time to do it all. The country is huge and some of its most famous landmarks and getaway spots are thousands of miles apart. Flying from one Aussie city to another is fairly inexpensive, while driving can be adventurous and romantic but time-consuming. If you have less than two weeks to spend on the ground, it’s often best to stick to one or two main areas—say, Sydney plus a trip to Uluru and the Outback; or Melbourne plus a beach getaway in Queensland.
Remind Me: Why Australia?
In short: Sydney and Melbourne are your boldfaced gotta-visit cities, with incredible restaurants, pubs and bars—and beaches! Other smaller, more quirky cities like Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Perth are usually best paired with another regional attraction, such as the Barossa Valley or Kangaroo Island in South Australia (in the case of Adelaide).
For a traditional island-escape style honeymoon, you’ll find the best resorts in Queensland—where you can also hike tropical rainforests and dive the Great Barrier Reef. The Northern Territory is home to Uluru and some of the most remote, dusty towns in the country, and if you want to ramble along rugged coastlines and countryside, consider time in Western Australia, South Australia or Tasmania.
Honeymoon Packages to Australia
Given its abundance of options, Australia is one honeymoon destination where a travel agent or a honeymoon package may help you make some difficult decisions. Australia’s official tourism website has a directory of agents they consider Aussie Specialists, and you can also find a good range of honeymoon packages ranging in length and price via Qantas Vacations. Sample itineraries include a 6-day Great Barrier Reef Cruise with a stop in Carins from $1,699 per person and a 4-day “Discover Adelaide and Kangaroo Island” trip from $799 per person. Feeling flush? There’s also a high-end 13-day “Inspiring Australia” trip that takes in Uluru and the Olgas, the Daintree Rainforest, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, wine tasting in the Hunter Valley, sailing on Sydney Harbour and dinner at the Sydney Opera House—priced from $7,225 per person.
Where to Stay in Australia
There’s no shortage of solid accommodation options in Australia, even if you don’t know one of the Hemsworth boys well enough to crash on his mum’s couch. Once you get outside of the cities, be aware that Aussies tend to be more casual than Americans, so hotels, motels, and vacation rentals may be more basic than you expect. (Don’t worry, “basic” means clean, but no frills.) Camping and staying in caravans is popular in low-key beach towns and in the bush, and yes, there is also glamping near Uluru—at Longitude 131 which features 15 fancy tents set on dramatic red sand dunes beneath endless desert skies.
For Instagram photos that will annoy everyone back home—including your accountant—island resorts like Qualia, Lizard Island and Hayman Island are the way to go. These all put you in the crystal-clear waters of Queensland, whose tourism slogan of the 1980s says it all: “Beautiful one day, perfect the next.” These are tropical beaches, best for diving, snorkeling and sailing. If you’re looking for a true-blue Aussie surfing beach getaway, look at places like Noosa, the Gold Coast, and Bryon Bay—where The Atlantic feels like staying at your most stylish beach bum mate’s place. You could also easily carve out some time to take a board out when in Sydney or Melbourne.
The best city hotels in those capitals include the Park Hyatt Sydney, which has unobstructed views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and in Melbourne, The Cullen, a boutique hotel inspired by Aussie artist Adam Cullen that lets you live like a local in the heat of one of the city’s stylish neighborhoods.
To make friends with koalas, kangaroos and other strangely cute Australian marsupials, head to the Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. This remote location checks off two classic Aussie experiences—the ocean and the bush—but you’ll be seeing it from one of the most luxurious resorts in the country. Fancy kicking back at a lodge in the state’s Barossa Valley wine region instead? The Louise is the way to do it in style.
Down in Tasmania, the most impressive place to lay your head is Saffire Freycient, a modern temple to the good life. As its location on Great Oyster Bay—not far from the similarly named Wineglass Bay—might suggest, the food and wine here is legit.
Best Attractions and Activities in Australia
New Zealand may be known for action sports and activities that get your heart racing, but Australia wins for best all-round good-time pursuits—especially the ones that involve water. Surfing, diving, snorkeling, sailing, water-skiing—there are hundreds of bays and beaches where you can try it all, including calmer coves and inlets for a leisurely swim. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by choice, the answer still lies at the beach. Simply do as the locals do and head to the nearest pub. Find a beer garden or pub patio with an ocean view and you’re halfway to nailing the country’s favorite pastime.
To work up a sweat first, you could climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or take a hike in the majestic Blue Mountains, just outside the city. Hot-air ballooning over vineyards is a romantic way to see the Barossa Valley and wine regions closer to Sydney like the Hunter Valley. For something windswept and dramatic, head south to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. If you’re brave enough to drive on the other side of the car and road, you’ll be rewarded with views of the almost prehistoric-looking 12 Apostles, stacks of limestone rock that rise up from the sea. Just make sure to pack accordingly for adventure.
Dusty outback towns can be found across the country, and it’s worth seeking one out for a visit, to savor a little Mad Max flavor and meet the locals (human and otherwise). The most remote versions are in the far-flung deserts of Western Australia or the Northern Territory—which are attractions unto themselves. You can see them via horseback on guided outback rides, by rugged off-road vehicles or by a comfortable berth on a train. If Uluru, the sacred monolith in the Red Centre, is on your list (and it should be), pencil in enough time to get there and back. The nearest town, Alice Springs, is almost 300 miles away so not surprisingly tours are often the easiest way to see the sandstone landmark and learn of its history and significance to the Aboriginal people, Australia’s first inhabitants.
Best Restaurants & Bars in Australia
Good news for your taste buds: Aussies love food and they use some of the freshest ingredients in the world to whip up dishes that are as unfussy as they are delicious. The cities are also multicultural melting pots so you’ll be able to sample food from other continents, too. For honeymoon-worthy restaurants, check out Quay in Sydney—award-winning cuisine in a Harbour-front setting—or Rockpool Bar & Grill in Melbourne, Sydney or Perth. These will give you a taste of the simple, bold way Aussie chefs do high-end. But make sure to savor some of the more humble dining experiences down under as well; breakfast with some of the world’s best coffee at a local café (look for one with the most locals); fish and chips wrapped in paper and enjoyed on the beach; a meat pie on the go; and an authentic Aussie “barbie” or “sausage sizzle,” where sausages wrapped in plain white buttered bread are the main attraction.
If you’re feeling brave, try the local spread Vegemite (it’s best on toast with lots of butter), or if you just can’t get your head around eating a yeast extract that is the very definition of an acquired taste, look for sweeter Aussie treats, like lamingtons (sponge cake covered in chocolate and coconut) and Tim Tams, chocolate malted cookies that melt in your mouth.
Bars abound in Australia, in many different forms, and Aussies were big wine aficionados years ago, so there’s almost always a good selection on offer. Beer-wise, no one drinks Foster’s but there are plenty of local beers on tap—just know that they tend to be stronger than your average domestic brew in the States. The best recommendation when it comes to drinking, however, is quite simple: get yourself to the pub. There are some beautifully maintained historic ones in Sydney, Melbourne and even in far-flung towns, so when you think about it, happy hour here counts as cultural immersion. Is it any wonder Aussies call their home “the lucky country?”