WESTERN AUSTRALIA (WA)
Australia’s western province; Western Australia (WA), is a laid back state with huge expanses of untouched nature and quite a few good farmstays; even near Perth. In particular you’ll have a choice between what some would regard as two of the best regions in Australia for rural tourism; Swan Valley & Margaret River. Swan Valley farmstays are rightly popular, being for the most part only a half an hour from the centre of Perth, while a few hours south of the city, you’ll find more quality farmstays in Margaret River, one of Australia’s premier vineyard regions.
South again down the coast around the city of Albany there is some really beautiful coastline and indeed most of Western Australia’s coast is truly spectacular including the Coral Coast, and its Ningaloo Reef, a rival to the much more visited Great Barrier Reef. There’s a lot of other coastline too that can rival some of the best in the world but which is in many cases not only less visited, but totally deserted.
Deserted too, except for some remote Aboriginal villages and some of the mines that make Western Australia such a wealthy place, is the vast interior. Though Western Australia takes up one third of the entire country its population is only just over two million.
Way up to the north on The Gibb River Road lies The Kimberley, often described as Australia’s last frontier. It’s a stunning, wild land of canyons, deserts and rivers with only a few hardy cattle farms and Aboriginal settlements dotted here and there. Despite its reputation it does get a few visitors, and tours of the area can be organized from other areas of Western Australia.
Other areas of note, especially for hiking in untouched nature, are the Karijini National Park and the giant Eucalyptus forests of the Pemberton.
The great state of Queensland (QLD), home of many travellers favourite city; Brisbane, is also home to some of the world’s most exciting and iconic landscapes and a good amount of rural tourism, farmstays included even near Brisbane. Its huge coast line is its main attraction though; the Gold coast particularly, is Australia’s premier holiday destination but those who venture beyond will find much to see and experience.
Moving north from laid back, prosperous Brisbane there is the gentle Sunshine Coast, inland from which you’ll find fertile agricultural land, many fruit and vegetable farms, and some very nice farmstays too, overlooked by the Glass House Mountains.
Farther up, north of Fraser, you can feel the heat and humidity start to rise as you enter the tropics and eventually up around Cairns much of the land becomes steamy jungle.
Off the tropical coast there is the Great Barrier Reef, probably the most extensive coral reef in the world, but sadly very much under threat it seems. Throughout the entire state of Queensland there is a wealth of wildlife filled national parks and a huge variety of landscapes, from jungles to deserts and everything in between.
NEW SOUTH WALES (NSW)
New South Wales is obviously dominated by the city of Sydney, Australia’s most visited city, and the beach towns of its coast are rightly popular too. But, though with seven and a half million people it is Australia’s most populated state, this being Australia, there’s more than enough space for everyone.
And the space it offers is beautiful, with a great variety of rural landscapes, from the towering Snowy Mountains in the south, the sub tropical forests up where it meets Queensland in the north and of course there’s the great red plains of the Outback, one of the world’s most iconic landscapes, which starts to spread out past the rich sheep farming land to the west of the Great Dividing Range, and takes up two thirds of New South Wales, and the vast majority of Australia.
Tasmania, once synonymous with some of the worst prison colonies of the British Empire, has come a long way since and is now a relaxed, quaint island with an old world feel and has in recent years become a popular tourist destination for mainland Aussies.
It differs quite a lot from mainland Australia, especially in terms of the environment. There’s no brooding vast Outback here, its climate is cooler and wetter and most of the island is beautifully green and fertile.
The beaches of the east coast are popular in summer but what defines Tasmania is its wilderness; forty percent of its area is given to natural parks and especially in the South West it has some of the be hiking in the country. Being so isolated and so full of untouched nature, it has also been rated as having some of the cleanest air in the world.
There is a strong agricultural tradition here too but with less of the enormous ranches that you find on the mainland. A farmstay here will resemble more that of one in its old colonizer Britain, with small farmhouses, rolling green fields and hedgerows producing abundant good food.
And its northern vineyards are well regarded too, with the Tamar Valley producing some of Australia’s favorite wines.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA (SA)
South Australia has two distinct halves; the south, where the capital Adelaide is located, is where most people live. It has a Mediterranean climate, a lot of rich fertile farmland and produces some of Australia’s best wine, the vineyards of Clare Valley in the mid north, and the Barossa Valley, being the most famous.
There are many great beaches in South Australia especially along the Fleurleu Peninsula, and Kangaroo Island nearby is a wonderfully wild place brimming with wildlife. And of course the south of the state is home to the great Murray River.
Up in the north it is classic Outback country. Red hot, and dry as hell, it looks more like the surface of Mars, and it’s a place where very few people live, though it does have a few small settlements among it eerie, other worldly terrain.
NORTHERN TERRITORY (NT)
Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) is genuine frontier territory. It’s hard to overestimate just how distant, isolated and very different it is from the main urban centers of the south, with its rugged, harsh interior, its throbbing rain forests and its rich Aboriginal heritage.
The capital Darwin is usually the first stop for visitors here and it’s a slow paced town with a very tropical feel at the coastal edge of what is known as the Top End, the mainly flat northern part of the state that mixes vast grasslands with the floodplains of the Alligator, Mary and Glyde Rivers, rainforest, gorges and rocky canyons.
One of the most notable areas here is the huge Kakadu National Park, famous for its ancient Aboriginal rock art and vast array of wildlife, including crocodiles. To the east of there is the Arnhem Land, protected Aboriginal land and home to many settlements. It requires a permit to enter the territory but that can be arranged through various tour companies.
To the south of the Northern Territory is pure dusty desert Outback. There you’ll find the surprisingly large town of Alice Springs and the absolutely stunning Uluru or Ayre’s rock, undoubtedly one of the world’s natural wonders. Around it is harsh and difficult terrain but still home to scatterings of Aboriginal tribes.
Australia’s second smallest state and its most densely populated, Victoria is a world away from the dusty Outback up north and has a comfortable temperate climate with rich farmland producing a lot of Australia’s wheat, wool and wine, and with that, some of its best farmstays.
Though the very pleasant city of Melbourne is well visited by outside tourists a lot of people don’t get too adventurous until they reach the north or west of the country but despite its small size there is plenty of great countryside around. The Grampian mountains marking the end of the Great Dividing Range, are home to numerous ancient Aboriginal rock paintings and are great for hiking and horse riding. The Victorian Alps to the north east also, and in winter they have a few good ski slopes.
It is a very agricultural state, with areas like Wimmera, with its great wheat fields, and the sheep ranches of the Western district containing quite a few farmstays. So too does the famous vineyard regions around the foothills of the Victorian Alps, the oasis area of Mildura, and the fertile dairy region of Gippsland.