Lots of business travelers head to Australiathese days. And if you make it that far, it's usually worth it to stay an extra day or two to take in the sights.
For example, if you end up in Sydney for business, you have a few good options after your business is done. To the south is Melbourne, another popular and culturally distinctive city. A bit to the North is the Gold Coast, which has incredible beaches and is a great place for surfing. Way up north is Cairns, home of the famous Great Barrier Reef. Depending on what you’re looking for, all three of these places, or another, are great options. However, if I had to pick one that business travelers should visit, I would recommend going to Cairns, since it gives visitors such an amazing slice of the natural wonders of Australia.
Catch Up with Nature in Cairns
Cairns (pronounced “Cans” by the locals--I love Australian accents) is a beach town whose economy predominantly depends on tourists visiting the reef. It is packed with great restaurants, bars, accommodation, and a casino. There are many companies that give tours to the reef for varying lengths and prices. I would recommend doing one that includes both snorkeling and scuba diving. Depending on the amount of time you have and your interest level, you can book one that goes to more than one reef location and/or spends more than one day on the reef.
The locals will tell you that the reef is deteriorating fast, so I can’t recommend going enough. Out of all that I did while in Australia, the 30-minute scuba was definitely the highlight.
Another great thing to do while in Cairns is to take a plane ride over the reef. It gives new perspective on the natural beauty of the area that can only be accomplished in the air. While there are many companies that offer this service, I had a great flight with Fly Sea Eagle. They offer a full-service trip that includes pickup and delivery to your hotel, a safety and informational briefing, and either a 30 or 45-minute tour over the reef, including over an island that looks like a Koala (it really does!), an expansive view of the reef and incredibly blue waters around it, and the city of Cairns itself.
The company has been flying for almost 25 years and has flown thousands of passengers. I found the staff to be warm and accommodating and the trip itself was breathtaking. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget. Prices for 30-minute flight start at $175 AUD.
Other attractions to consider while in Cairns are tours of the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, the Kuranda Scenic Railway, and visiting Port Douglas. Tours of Cairns can be booked via the Cairns Attractions website.
Find Your Way to the Blue Mountains
While Cairns is great, some may find that for monetary or time reasons that it is not a practical trip to take while in Sydney. For people like these, I would recommend the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are reachable via a $12 AUD roundtrip train ticket from Sydney. No place near Sydney is better to get a breath of fresh air and a great hike. A two-hour train ride from Central Station in Sydney to Katoomba, the Blue Mountains stop, the area offers great trails and mountain views. Known for sheer rock cliffs, waterfalls, rainforest walks, and bushwalking, the Blue Mountains has something for every type of traveler.
Among other things, you can take a guided tour, visit the Jenolan Caves, Abseil, immerse yourself in Aboriginal Culture, visit the museums nearby, or just hike by yourself. I would recommend Scenic World, a collection of activities including the Cableway, Railway, the steepest one in the world, Skyway, and Walkway. Tickets cost around $40 for an unlimited daily pass that includes all four of the attractions.
The relaxed nature of the area makes it a great way to spend a full day taking in the natural beauty of Eastern Australia. Take time the beginning of the day to stop by the visitor’s center to see what’s on for the day and ask for recommendations based on what you’re interested in doing. There are also some great little villages around the Blue Mountains that are fun to explore and offer comfortable lodging and some pretty good food. Overall, I enjoyed my time in the Blue Mountains. It offered a good break from the city and a great view of scenic Eastern Australia.
(As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with some discounted services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.)