Hug the coast when you visit Australia to explore of some of the world's top beaches and cities offering the finest in dining, entertainment and architecture. Head inland to the vast Outback, the country's lonely heart, for ecological wonders, breathtaking vistas and ancient Aborigine rock drawings. With 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef, LGBTQ-welcoming Australia is a destination like no other whether you're a city slicker or a nature lover. But don't expect to see it all on one trip unless you plan to stay awhile. Remember you're visiting not just a country but a continent.
The Great Ocean Road (B100) begins at Torquay, a 90-minute drive southwest of Melbourne, and hugs the coast of the windswept Southern Ocean for 249 miles (400 km) to Nelson. The drive swings past the surfing waves of Bells Beach, fishing villages, whale lookouts, koalas in the wild in Great Otway National Park and the dramatic limestone stacks called the 12 Apostles. Cool climate wineries and seafood restaurants are all along the highway.
Sydney, Australia - Feb 17 to Mar 5, 2018
Born from a night of protest on June 24, 1978, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras takes over the city with an annual three-week celebration of equality and pride that culminates with a wildly-attired and dazzling parade along Oxford and Flinders Streets. Conde Nast has named it one of the world's top 10 costume parades.
Gascoyne, Western Australia
Shark Bay on Australia's far-west Coral Coast is over 5 million acres (2,200,902 ha) of islands, peninsulas and waters, including one of the world's largest and most diverse seagrass beds where about 10,000 dugongs (sea cows) graze. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991, it is an important refuge for bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and 26 threatened Australian mammal species. It's worth the 500-mile (800 km) trip from Perth to visit the friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia, the ancient domed stromatolites at Hamelin Pool and Shell Beach, made of millions and millions of tiny coquina shells. Best time to visit: June to October (winter into spring down under).
Hyde Park, Sydney, Australia
The oldest museum in Australia dates from the early 19th century and has earned an international reputation in natural history and anthropology, including the Indigenous Australians Gallery and displays of the continent-country's unique wildlife. Walkable distance from the city center (Hyde Park station), it has a rooftop café and 10 complete dinosaur skeletons. It offers behind-the-scenes tours and activities for children.
Wangetti, Port Douglas, Australia
Set on a magnificent clothing-optional beach just 15 minutes from Port Douglas, Turtle Cove is said to be Australia's only all-inclusive gay adults resort. Here the pool and sauna never close and the cocktails - whether stirred or shaken - are served beachside. The events calendar includes Mardi Gras Week (and recovery), Turtle Easter Weekend, an annual nude week and spring break pool parties, Everything needed for a relaxing getaway is on site, but should you be able to pull yourself away, Turtle Cove hosts can arrange dives on the Great Barrier Reef, sailing off Port Douglas or a tour of the Daintree Rainforest.
The old Ghan and Indian Pacific routes, operated privately by Great Southern Rail since 1997, are leisurely scenic journeys crossing the continent north/south and east/west with options of off-train excursions and outback experiences. The Ghan - short for The Afghan Express honoring 19th century Afghan camel drivers who traveled the outback - runs weekly between Adelaide and Darwin, covering the 1,851 miles (2,979 km) in 54 hours. The Indian Pacific takes four days for the 2,704 miles (4,352 km) between Sydney and Perth. Want a shorter scenic trip? Choose the daytime Overland between Melbourne and Adelaide.
Sacred to Australia's Aborigines, the great red sandstone formations of Uluru and Kata Tjuta are iconic symbols and chief attractions of the 512-square-mile (c. 1,300 km2) national park. In the heart of the outback, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is about 227 miles (365 km) from Alice Springs, the nearest city. Remote as it is, it is hardly a day trip yet accessible by plane, car, tour bus, hot air balloon, helicopter, motorcycle or camel. Best visit the ancient landscape between May and September when weather is cooler and colors more vibrant.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on the planet. And it is dying, which is all the more reason to visit it today. A slew of coral reefs and islands stretch some 1,400 miles (2,300 km) along the northeast coast of Australia off Queensland. One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the paradise can be explored in a variety of ways from snorkeling to seaplane tours. Cairns and island resorts make convenient bases.
Famous for its boutique shopping, diverse nightlife and the Darlinghurst gayborhood, Sydney's Oxford Street stretches from the southeast corner of Hyde Park in the Central Business District all the way to Bondi Junction in the eastern suburbs. The section running through Darlinghurst is closed off each year for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Late-night partying has been somewhat curtailed by the 2014 lock out and late drink regulations.
Protected by hunky lifeguards in Speedos, North Bondi Beach just up from the main famed Bondi Beach is where gays, lesbians and the locals hang out. Alcohol is prohibited on the white sands, but pubs line the beach. Tip: the farther north you go, the gayer the beach. Four miles (7 km) from downtown, it can be reached by tram from Circular Quay or Railway Square.