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Solo Female Travel to Australia: A Guide to Oz for the First-Timer
by Michela Fantinel

Australia is my preferred destination for my solo travel escapades. It all started with a two-month backpacking trip on a gap year in 2004 and it was love at first sight!

That experience has hooked me for over a decade by now. With a total of 23 months spread over 12 years of trips to Australia, I haven’t yet seen it all. 

travel to Australia - koala and babyAustralia - unforgettable

Down Under is a remote country that I highly recommend to the adventurous solo traveller. It is twice the size of Europe and has a population of only 24 million people, but more than 50 million kangaroos, 100,000 sheep, cattle stations the size of Belgium and national parks that are as big as half of Switzerland. You'll soon get the picture of how big the country is.

A few random facts you might want to know about Australia
- It is HUGE, as large as the continental USA. The 6th largest in the world, in fact. 
- Australia has more than 10,000 beaches and you'll need some serious sunblock.
- Don't be fooled. It can be hot - but also very cold in some parts, especially at night.
- Australian English can be hard to understand as it has plenty of slang.
- 75% of local species are still unknown (and the 10 deadliest snakes live in Australia).
- Most animals aren't deadly. But if you need to, dial 000 for emergency services.
- Australia is not cheap. On the other hand, you don't tip.
- Wifi is slow and expensive. Enjoy going offline.

The major draw for the solo traveler is its amazing nature, along with the abundance of outdoor and off-the-beaten path adventures. It’s a country that offers endless possibilities for road trippers across a vast, fascinating landscape.

travel to Australia - The PinnaclesThe Pinnacles, in Nambung National Park north of Perth
travel to Australia - Great Barrier ReefAustralia's Great Barrier Reef - glorious but endangered. The country's stunning landscape isn't only on land

Australia is a safe and women-friendly country. As a woman you can safely travel at night on buses, trains and public transportation with no fear.

First, travel at night is quite common in Australia, and second, people are easygoing and respectful. I have travelled alone to different countries and Australia to me is the safest place that I have experienced so far.

The locals are welcoming towards solo travellers and generously offer help (even when you don’t to ask for it) by giving advice, tips and also offering to host you at their homes. At the same time Australia is a country of extremes with huge contrasts and challenges too. So you definitely need to know what you can and can’t do while travelling around the country on your own.

A well planned itinerary and good organization is key.

How to get around Australia

Getting around Australia is probably the biggest challenge all travellers face when touring the country.

To cover long distances, flying is the most cost-effective. However, domestic flights are not cheap and you must book ahead of time. If you have enough time, train travel can also be a great way to see the country.

While you can travel safely anywhere and with a wide range of transportation, the best way to explore the country is by going on a road trip, either with a car or a campervan.

Most remote areas are only accessible by limited public transportation, so there are two main options for the solo traveller: either joining a tour or self-driving.

For a solo woman, driving around the country on her own may sound daunting. Yes, it can be quite challenging. It took me a while to get familiar with self-driving and I can tell you that it’s easier than I thought. You will not need to hire a 4WD car. The majority of road trips are on sealed roads. Certainly any road trip requires good preparation and the awareness that you will be alone on the road for a long time. I always recommend you combine as many ways of transportation as possible. 

Best Australian destinations for the first-time solo traveller

If you are embarking on a trip, these are the safest and easiest to explore destinations I would recommend for the first-time solo traveller to Australia.

travel to Australia - MelbourneMelbourne's South Wharf

Melbourne and its surroundings offer an insight into the great Aussie food and coffee culture plus the opportunity to discover Melbourne’s surroundings with easy day-trips. You can see striking coastal landmarks, ancient fern tree gully and eucalyptus forest, go hiking and enjoy the great outdoors in Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. Take stroll or bike along the beach from Melbourne to Brighton. You can taste the local specialties and great variety of wines, see native animals at Wilson Promontory, one of the top locations for nature and wildlife in the region.

travel to Australia - CairnsNorth Tropical Queensland is known for its fabulous beaches by Rob and Stephanie Levy via Flickr CC BY 2.0

North Tropical Queensland is known for its fabulous beaches and heaven for aquatic sports from snorkeling to surfing and scuba-diving. Although it's a bit touristy you will love the variety of things to do and see, which go beyond the Great Barrier Reef. The rich vegetation of the Daintree Forest (the most ancient rainforest in the world) north of Cairns is a striking landscape with unique native animals. The inland wetlands with heritage sites offers great food tours (organic tropical fruits and veggie, dairy products and more), picturesque landscape with lakes, hills, vast coffee and tea plantations. You can easily tour the region by car and everything is within 250 km of Cairns.

travel to Australia - Ayers RockAyers Rock, or Uluru, is more than 500 million years old and sits in the middle of Australia. The massive sandstone formation is sacred to the country's indigenous people by Michela Fantinel

Uluru and The Red Centre may be a tourist destination but it must be on your list. I have toured the Red Centre a couple of times and could go back tomorrow. This is one of the seven wonders of the world and thinking of the Uluru gives me shivers. The huge red rock can be experienced at sunrise and sunset and by walking around the 9 km base walk. Moreover aboriginal guides offer free guided tours and an insight into the significance of the Uluru to the local Aboriginal population.

travel to Australia - Sydney Harbour BridgeSydney Harbour Bridge by Michela Fantinel

Sydney is a must-see destination, what so many call "London in the Sun". Sydney Harbour is one of the city's highlights but the city, next to the famous city beaches of Bondi and Manly, is also a gateway to many more destinations like Royal National Parks and the Blue Mountains. You can also start a once-in-a-lifetime train journey across the country aboard the Indian Pacific, and go west.

Off-the-beaten path adventures in Australia

If you are looking for more adventurous experiences, the country offers plenty - but there are more challenges too.

Driving on your own in remote areas can a be challenge if you are not used to it. You may find yourself driving for hours and rarely meet any cars or humans. There are many Outback destinations worth visiting if you are prepared to embark on a solo trip adventure, such as the Kimberley in Western Australia, with the Purnululu National Parks.

Kangaroo Island and Flinders Ranges in South Australia are great destinations with some of the most striking outback landscapes and top places to see native Australian wildlife in the wild.

travel to Australia - BroomeMichela Fantinel in Broome, Western Australia

What to pack for Australia

Australia is a sunny country and sun is one the main harzards for your travel health. Unfortunately too many travellers don’t know or simply forget about this and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of choosing your clothing wisely in Australia.

My best tips: pack +50°C sun protection, a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts and hiking trousers to avoid sunburn in Oz. Prefer good quality functional travel wear and only pack casual clothes, Australia is not really a country for formal or fancy dresses. Good walking shoes or lightweight hiking boots are a must if you plan outdoor adventures.

What to eat in Australia

Not many people know that Australia has some of the finest local produce you can imagine. The best food areas are from South Australia and Western Australia to the Yarra Valley in Victoria to North Tropical Queensland. The best local produce can be found at the farmers’ market in any city, town and village and tested in food tours or local restaurants.

I don’t have a typical dish, but love fish and Australia boasts some excellent fish. You can try the Tasmanian salmon, the huge blue crabs from South Australia and the famous oysters, Barramundi in Northern Australia, prawns from Queensland. And of course the best fish & chips I have ever had are from Australia! 

travel to Australia - fresh seafoodExtraordinary seafood, irresistibly fresh by Guy Dickinson via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

What to buy in Australia

One thing I would recommend is aboriginal art. Alice Springs is top place where to buy indigenous art that comes in any form: from paintings, wooden and glass art, clothes, gadget and accessories. The UGG boots made of sheep wool are another Australian shopping icon. Australian essential oils like Tea Tree Oil, Eucalyptus, as well as merino wool products are worth buying.

If money is no object then go straight to the Broome South-Sea pearls and the pink and brown diamonds of the Kimberley, for which Western Australia is a top world producer of the finest quality.

Australia's amazing aboriginal art

Michela Fantinel is the founder and writer behind Rocky Travel Guide, a website and a blog for the smart, independent and solo traveller in Australia.  She is also the author of Your Australia Itinerary, the most comprehensive guidebook to help you create your solo trip around Australia.    

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