First-time visitors come to Australia in search of the three B’s: beaches, “barbies” and the beauty of the rugged Outback. But beyond the storied surf of Bondi Beach lies one of the most versatile destinations imaginable, where cosmopolitan cities with their own symphonies, museums and world-class dining districts are just a boat ride away from the untamed natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.
Australia, above all, is a continent with a thirst for adventure. Sydney’s soaring Harbour Bridge often is covered with people who actually pay for the privilege of scaling its peak. Rock climbing is popular in Tasmania, where sheer cliff faces overlooking red-rock deserts draw thrill seekers. There’s also the walkabout, the world-famous tradition that sends those seeking enlightenment on an extended trek through Australia’s most treacherous territories. And the longest coral reef in the world offers a number of lures, from relaxing afternoons of kayaking and snorkeling among clownfish to scuba diving with darting sharks.
But this destination also honors its heritage. This wasn’t always the case -- Australia’s Aboriginal ancestors clashed with invading European settlers for nearly three centuries -- but recent years have seen indigenous cultures honored with large-scale museums and cultural education projects. The National Gallery of Victoria, for instance, was an early leader in the collection of aboriginal art and textiles. Bands with aboriginal influences also are played on radio stations throughout the country.