Sensational countries near Australia with fantastic food, culture, adventure and natural wonders.
Tourist hotspots such as Thailand, Japan, Europe and the US are often the first destinations that come to mind when Australians think about international holidays. However, an overseas vacation needn’t require a multi-flight journey. There’s an abundance of tropical retreats and thrilling cities less than five hours from Australian shores. These destinations are quick, convenient and affordable to reach, making them fantastic options for shorter stays and last-minute escapes. We asked travel expert Anna McMurtrie, managing director at Wentworth Travel, to share the best countries near Australia to visit, and what to do while you’re there.
Five countries near Australia
Located in the South Pacific, Fiji is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. Located south of the equator, Fiji is typically a warm and comfortable sub-tropical climate with average temperatures ranging between 26°C and 31°C. The summer season is known as the wet season here and it runs from November to April. The winter season is from May to October and while the days a shorter, they’re sunnier and drier, with temperatures still pushing up to 28°C. Palm-fringed beaches, lush rainforests, crystalline lagoons and coral reefs can all be found in Fiji. A flight from Sydney to Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu is just four and a half hours, one of the closest countries near Australia.
“If you’re not moving around, six nights is enough time to relax and explore the area surrounding you,” says Anna. “There’s something for everyone in Fiji, including young families, teenagers or people seeking a relaxing holiday to switch off from the daily grind. The islands offer amazing snorkelling, scuba diving, amazing fishing, and motorised and non-motorised water sports. When I was on the main island of Viti Levu, the jet boat ride down the river to a local village and eating lunch with the locals was the highlight,” adds Anna.
The islands of the South Pacific are wondrous and Tonga is no exception. This cluster of islands is unique in that it’s home to active volcanoes, barrier reefs, aquamarine lagoons, coral shoals and verdant forests. Tonga is one of the Polynesian countries near Australia and has a semi-tropical climate – although the northern islands are considered tropical – with the wet season spanning the months of November to April, and the cooler dry season from May to October. Visitors typically land on the main island of Tongatapu where the Fua’amotu International Airport can be found, which is around a four-hour, 40-minute flight from Sydney.
“Tonga is a fabulous place for whale watching, sailing, scuba diving and fishing, and I loved visiting as I don’t feel like it has been affected by over-tourism,” says Anna. “Get out of the cities and visit the villages by boat. The locals love to welcome you for lunches and dinners. A truly immersive and authentic experience.”
A flight from Sydney to Auckland International Airport will have you in New Zealand in just three hours. While Australia and New Zealand share some climate commonalities, New Zealand typically has milder temperatures and is a little cooler. Comprised of the North and South Islands, New Zealand is famous for its breathtaking landscapes, adventure activities, rich culture, delicious wine and thriving gastronomic scene. Although Australia and New Zealand are often heaped together, as New Zealand is one of the closest countries near Australia, the two island nations have very different characters.
“There is so much to do and see in New Zealand you could spend months travelling around. However, don’t try and do too much at once, just focus on one area and go back for another trip on your next holiday,” says Anna. “Hire a car to explore the islands (go slow to take in the scenery!) and be sure to pre-plan your trip with nightly accommodation and a rough itinerary of what you would like to do as some activities require pre-booking.”
New Zealand is where you’ll find the self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world: Queenstown. However, wherever you are in New Zealand, there’s something to please even the bravest of thrillseekers. “Be adventurous with hiking, skiing, cycling, jet boating, bungy jumping and so much more,” says Anna. “For wine and food lovers, wine tasting can be enjoyed with a fabulous high-quality meal and a winery tour.”
The Indonesian province of Bali is a hotspot for Australian holidaymakers for a good reason. With a rich cultural heritage, tropical climate, flavourful food and unbelievable landscapes, Bali caters to every type of traveller. The dry season stretches from April to October and is typically sunny, and the best months to visit are May, June and September. Expect warm and humid days of temperatures up to 32°C. The landscape is diverse with mountains, active volcanoes, waterfalls, lakes and forests, and the main city of Denpasar is a bustling hub of activity with temples, palaces, shopping, restaurants and museums. A flight from Sydney to Denpasar is six and a half hours, so while Bali is one of the countries near Australia, the journey is a little longer.
“There are beautiful and unusual hotels dotted all over the mainland, ranging from family accommodation such as villas, to luxury resorts, boutique and international hotels,” says Anna. “Bali is great value for money as our dollar is fairly high against the Indonesian rupee, the culture is peaceful, and people love children here – there’s also fantastic nightlife.”
Anna recommends venturing further afield from Denpasar onto Ubud. “A one-and-a-half-hour drive will take you into the mountain area of Ubud, which is known for the scenery, relaxed vibe, good health retreats, and adventure activities like white-water rafting.”
Vanuatu is one of the South Pacific countries near Australia and is made up of islands with landscapes ranging from coastal terraces and reefs to rugged mountains, rolling hills and high plateaus. The climate varies across the islands, with the northern isles hot, humid and rainy throughout the year, while the central and southern islands experience a hot and wet climate from December to March, and a cooler dry season from May to October. Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu and is found on Efate Island. A flight from Sydney to Port Vila is around three and a half hours.
“While six nights will give you a taste of Vanuatu, you could certainly stay for longer. I recommend visiting the islands, enjoying the great snorkelling and relaxing in a lovely resort,” says Anna. “A day tour with a visit to the Blue Lagoon and the Eden River is part of the experience for a trip to Vanuatu. A local guide will be happy to drive you around for the day. Meeting the local children at the school was very memorable. They’re so grateful to have an education and love the opportunity to practise their English,” says Anna.
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