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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.
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.
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.
Noosa is a world-famous surfing destination, known for its expansive beaches and colourful bays. Hike across Noosa National Park's cliffs and forests, canoe through the Noosa River Everglades, kayak across the open sea or just bask in the sunshine on golden sand that stretches and sparkles for miles. A day trip to nearby Fraser Island, a World Heritage Site where lush rainforests mingle with dry sand dunes, is a unique experience not to be missed.
Byron Bay's beaches are dotted with lighthouses and surrounded by bottlenose dolphins, rays, whales and sea turtles. This former New South Wales whaling station turned tourist town is still strongly influenced by its recent bohemian past, when hippie lifestyles flourished. Bongos and didgeridoos sound in parks, sarongs and dreadlocks are common, and vegetarian restaurants abound. Give in to the casual vibe and stroll between beaches and bars for a low-key and happy day.
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.
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.
Nelson’s thriving arts and music scene has helped to establish it as a destination for free spirits and art-lovers. Festivals, studios, galleries, craft markets… Every cranny of this South Island city seems to buzz with artistic energy. Lord of the Rings fans will flip for the Jens Hansen workshop in Trafalgar Square—Hansen is the goldsmith who designed the “precious” guarded by Frodo in the LOTR films.
Go from the 13th century to the 21st in one day in Naha. Its ancient Ryukyu Kingdom centrepiece, Shuri Castle, has been restored and is the city's top tourist attraction. Meanwhile, on Kokusai-dori (International Boulevard), the pace never lets up as locals and tourists hop from restaurants to bars to nightclubs.
Budget-minded travelers will appreciate Phnom Penh's reasonably priced hotel rooms (several top-rated hotels on TripAdvisor offer rooms around $40/night). Explore the city's temples, palaces, and the remnants of its French colonial history. Just outside the city, the The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) are a reminder of Cambodia's tragic past-- a somber contrast to the booming city of today.