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Sun-drenched and built for fun, Australia's Gold Coast hugs Queensland's southeast coastline with beaches, shimmering high rises, and epic surf breaks. Though it's hedonistic at heart, there's also plenty of opportunities for adventure and family-friendly attractions beyond its well-known party scene.
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.
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.
The village cluster of Ubud is the ideal place to try a famed Balinese massage and soak up the ambiance of one of Asia’s top spa destinations. Acupressure, reflexology, stretching and aromatherapy star in the island's distinctively firm massage treatments. Ubud is also the vivacious centre of Bali’s arts scene, home to a small treasure trove of museums and galleries. Monkey around at nearby nature reserve Monkey Forest Park, home to hundreds of mischievous long-tailed macaques. Don’t miss the valley of tomb cloisters at Gunung Kawi.
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.
Singapore is known as a bustling metropolis that also happens to be one of the cleanest and safest cities of its size in the world. (Just make sure you heed the local laws—something like spitting in the street might merely be considered rude in your hometown, but here, it carries a severe penalty.) You'll find historic sites like the Thian Hock Keng temple, superlative shopping (including gargantuan malls) and numerous beaches.
Colorful Phuket is a mélange of lifestyles, a place where tranquil monks navigate the same streets as pumped up nightclubbers. The ornate temples and lively cafes of Old Town are prime spots for exploration. Check out the Shrine of the Serene Light and the aromatic Nguan Choon Tong herb shop. Browse and bargain for pretty trinkets at the nearby Thai Amulet Market. Don’t miss an opportunity to take in a performance at the epic Siam Niramit Phuket theater, a true cultural extravaganza.
A visit to Pattaya is a wonderful way to explore the beaches along the Gulf of Thailand. Relaxed and family-friendly Jomtien Beach is a hot spot for watersports and seaside massages. The giant Buddha of Wat Khao Phra Bat keeps watch over the city, and the wooden Wang Boran Sanctuary of Truth pays homage to Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture. At night, tons of bars and strip clubs attract an adults-only crowd.