Australia is an enormous country – bigger than all the countries of Western Europe combined. How on earth do you choose what to see and do? From drinking a Melbourne flat white (coffee) to watching the sun set over Uluṟu, these 15 experiences offer a taste of modern Australian culture (and in many cases a taste of delicious food, too). Consider it your essential starter kit for experiencing Australia.
The capital of the state of Victoria is also the coffee capital of Australia, if not the world. This is the birthplace of Australia's gift to coffee drinkers: the flat white (espresso coffee and steamed milk without the foam of a cappuccino). The flat white is Melbourne's signature drink, but Melbourne leads the world in coffee trends, and the city's baristas, café owners and coffee roasters are always seeking new ways to consume caffeine. You might try a deconstructed coffee (served in separate glasses of milk, coffee and hot water), a bulletproof coffee (served with organic butter) or an espresso with fresh lime juice (surprisingly tasty). Look out for cafés in Art Deco shopfronts in the fashionable suburb of Fitzroy, in secret laneways in the centre of the city, or in converted warehouses in the neighbourhood of Brunswick. Some, like Code Black, roast their own beans.
Australia is home to one of the world's oldest Aboriginal cultures, and experiencing the art and culture of Aboriginal Australians should be top of everyone's list. You may never fully understand the Aboriginal connection with the Australian land, but you can visit Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. It's home to some of the country's best examples of Aboriginal rock art, more than 20,000 years old. The rock art gives an important insight into Aboriginal life at different times in history, and when you visit the main galleries at Ubirr and Nourlangie you will see something that no other country has. Kakadu is also home to picturesque floodplains, billabongs and a diverse selection of birdlife.
Most travellers know what the Sydney Harbour Bridge looks like, but when you walk across it, as many Sydney commuters do each day, you'll not only get amazing harbour views but a sense of how integral the bridge is to Sydney life. It connects the city's skyscraper-filled city centre with the neighbourhood of Kirribilli, an under-the-radar suburb with some of the city's best views. Stop at the historic suburb of The Rocks, home to convict-made buildings and markets, before walking over the bridge from the city to explore Kirribilli's many cafés (Bay 10 Espresso, hidden in a shipping container inside a warehouse, is a favourite) and restaurants (try Stir Crazy for a great, inexpensive dinner of Thai food). If you're feeling more adventurous you can also climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb to see unrivalled views of the sparkling harbour.
It's highly unusual for a world city to have so many stunning beaches just minutes from its centre, but in Sydney you can find yourself swimming at a famous stretch of sand such as Bondi Beach or Manly Beach within 25 minutes of leaving your city hotel. Beaches are an integral part of life here: many Sydneysiders wake up, grab a coffee and have a swim in the ocean before going to work in the morning. If you're heading to Bondi, try a post-swim coffee at Speedos Café, so named after the popular Australian swimwear brand that originated here in 1914.