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The Blue Mountains are named for the delicate azure haze that lingers along the region, which is actually a fine cloud of oil emitted by eucalyptus trees. The mystical mountains are a labyrinth of plateaus, gorges and gum trees. Check out the Katoomba Scenic Railway (the steepest railway in the world), the Jenolan Caves and the Giant Staircase nature walk.
Nestled in the fertile Hunter Valley, Cessnock’s wine region is one of the oldest and most diverse in the world, making it a terrific destination for oenophiles. There are over 100 wineries in the area, and vineyard and cellar tours are among Cessnock’s most popular attractions. World-class golf courses, gourmet eateries, lush gardens and blissful spas round out the local appeal.
Bordering Australia’s New South Wales' coast, just north of Sydney, sunny-natured Newcastle is anchored in indigenous and convict history. Surfing beaches, hand-cut sea pools, a coastal fort, and contemporary bars skirt the city’s harbour, while museums, artisanal restaurants, and microbreweries lie at its heart.
You can fit a lot into a visit to Australia’s capital city. Surrounded by nature parks, Canberra is best known for a vast collection of history and culture that provides a snapshot of the nation. Discover precincts housing, thriving local arts and foodie scenes, family friendly attractions, outdoor experiences and the acclaimed cool-climate wineries that dot the surrounding area.
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.
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.
Perched on Tasmania’s southeastern coast, the lively city of Hobart is a unique mash-up of the 19th and 21st centuries. The waterfront cafes, restaurants and studios of the largest city in Tasmania are housed in centuries-old converted warehouses that overlook a harbour bustling with yachts and fishing boats. An active arts scene, vibrant nightlife and leisurely daytime pace add to the city’s charm.
Perched on the banks of the wide Swan River, between the Indian Ocean and the sands of the Nullarbour Desert, Perth is one of the world's most isolated cities, yet still boasts an active beach scene and smokin’ nightlife. Family-friendly Cottesloe is brimming with swimmers, surfers and snorkelers. Head north to Scarbourough for a spirited beachside club scene. Coo at cute marsupials on ferry-accessible Rottnest Island, and don’t miss the views from King's Park and Botanic Gardens.
Fremantle (Freo), Perth’s maritime center, offers a pleasant change of pace from the nearby state capital. From the Victorian Fremantle Markets to the convict-built History Museum to the strikingly modern Maritime Museum, Fremantle is an elegant and energetic spot. Head south and enjoy patio dining on the Cappuccino Strip, famous for its great beaches and boisterous nightlife.
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.
Bangkok is full of exquisitely decorated Buddhist temples—as you go from one to the next you’ll be continually blown away by the craftsmanship and elabourate details. But if you’d rather seek enlightenment in a gourmet meal, or dance the night away, you’ll also enjoy Bangkok—the restaurant and nightclub scenes here are among the best in the world.
Tradition collides with pop culture in Tokyo, where you can reverently wander ancient temples before rocking out at a karaoke bar. Wake up before the sun to catch the lively fish auction at the Toyosu Market, then refresh with a walk beneath the cherry blossom trees that line the Sumida River. Spend some time in the beautiful East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, then brush up on your Japanese history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Don’t forget to eat as much sushi, udon noodles, and wagashi (Japanese sweets) as your belly can handle.