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Australia’s third-largest city, Brisbane is the hub of Queensland culture, offering a peek at the past and a glimpse into the future. Visit the historic Windmill and Old Commissariat Store, built by convicts in 1828, or fast-forward to the present (and beyond) with a trip to the new Gallery of Modern Art. Mingle with locals atop Mount Coot-tha, cruise the Brisbane River to South Bank’s sandy beach on the City Cat and make sure to fill the cuteness quota at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, home to koalas and kangaroos.
The aptly-named Surfers Paradise is just that—a haven for those who pay homage to the gods of the sea by attempting to become one with the waves. The beach here is a golden stretch of soft sand that provides the perfect ambiance for a day of catching waves, catching a Frisbee or just catching some rays. Refuel at one of Surfers Paradise's 150 restaurants and cafes, or hit a Northside day spa to soothe your surf-weary muscles and smooth your sun-kissed skin.
Not far from the vibrant Surfers Paradise is the calm and collected Broadbeach, a refuge of honey-coloured sands. The Gold Coast town boasts incredible dining, thumping nightclubs, homey taverns and impressive shopping. Risk-takers and thrill-seekers can press their luck at the Conrad Jupiters Casino.
In Pokolbin, wine lovers can drink in the beauty of the Lower Hunter Valley, one of the most important wine regions in Australia. Sip your way through a guided vineyard tour as you sample the best reds, whites and bubblies that New South Wales has to offer. The lush vineyard landscapes are breathtaking, setting the mood for a romantic getaway.
City slickers, culture vultures and beach bums alike fall in love with Sydney. Hang ten at famed Bondi Beach or stroll the calmer sands of Coogee. Cash burning a hole in your pocket? You’ll find great shopping in the Rocks district and along George and Pitt Streets. Climb to the top of the Harbour Bridge or take a skywalk on Sydney Tower for a 360-degree view of the city. But whatever you do, don’t leave town without cuddling the koalas in the Taronga Park Zoo—they’re ridiculously adorable.
Lovely, laid-back Melbourne has something for everyone: family fare, local and international art, haute boutiques, multicultural dining, Australian and Aboriginal history, spectator sports, and pulsing, swanky nightlife. Cruise on the free City Circle Tram loop to check out unique attractions like the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Healesville Sanctuary, which buzzes with local animal species.
Cairns is the perfect city for merry revelers, passionate divers and adrenaline junkies, offering booming nightlife and heart-pounding adventure amid a vibrant, tropical setting. This friendly Queensland city of 130,000 is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation, Cooktown and the rest of Cape York Peninsula. Embark on an eco-adventure or take a dip in a lagoon pool before hitting the town to unwind and shake what you’ve got Down Under.
Staggering beauty and heart-pumping thrills await in the resort town of Queenstown, which is also known for its Hobbits—much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in the area. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Queenstown for the kayaking, bungee jumping, jetboating, white-water rafting, hiking and skiing. More mild-mannered adventurers can take a quiet cruise through nearby Milford Sound, part of the Fjordland National Park World Heritage area, or sample South Island pinot noir from one of the region's 75 wineries.
Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.
Vietnam's bustling largest city sets the cultural and economic pace for the country. The former Saigon boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards, usually thronged and choked with traffic. Taxis are an option for seeing the sprawling city. The War Remnants Museum shows the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes. Don't miss the impressive Jade Emperor Pagoda. Go to the frenetic Ben Thanh Market for food, flowers or frogs. Tour through the Mekong Delta, past rice paddies and houseboats.
Shanghai is the cool, confident face of modern China, and its energy is infectious. Go to the Bund to watch ships on the river and marvel at the huge variety of architectural styles on display, or watch the crowds go by in People’s Square. Shoppers should make a beeline for the Fabric Market, where you can have a suit or dress tailor-made for you at bargain prices. At night, explore all manner of fashionable restaurants, bars and nightclubs or just stroll through the city enjoying the spectacular neon lights.