Australia survival guide

Photo of an Australian koala

As an Australia expat living in the UK, I often get asked by friends and colleagues “how did you survive?!” to which I respond: if my dog Jack can handle it, I’m sure you can!

We may be home to some of the world’s most venomous snakes and spiders, but you’re much more likely to be stung by a “bloody mozzie” or by a random breath test. πŸš“

That being said, there is a thing or two to know before you go. πŸ‘‡

Beachgoer basics

Photo of swimmers between the red and yellow flags

Australia is known for its sandy beaches, sunshine and surf for good reason! β˜€οΈ

To make the most of your time at our world famous beaches, keep these tips in mind and you won’t find yourself thrown into the deep end.

  • Swim between the flags at beaches patrolled by Surf Life Savers. The flag system protects us from rips (powerful currents)
  • Shark attacks are rare, so to keep it that way by swimming at patrolled beaches alongside other swimmers and avoid sunrise and sunset when sharks are most active
  • Box jellyfish and the blue ringed octopus are the ones to watch out for in the water
  • The ozone layer is thin over Australia, so remember to slip, slop, slap to avoid getting sunburnt in a “sunburnt country”
  • Temperatures can soar, especially in summer, so always keep hydrated and seek shade where possible.

Wrestling reptiles

Photo of an Australian saltwater

Crikey! If you’ve ever enjoyed the famous Crocodile Hunter series, you’ll recall the take home message that when you respect nature it respects you back. 🦎

  • Crocodiles inhabit the northernmost part of Australia. Attacks are rare, but when in croc country follow steps to be crocwise and only swim where there are designated safe swimming signs
  • Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them and only strike when they feel threatened. Stick to the path when bushwalking, and keep your distance if you spot one at home and call a professional
  • Of Australia’s 10,000 spider species, only two types should be of concern: the Sydney funnel-web and redback spider. If you encounter one, call a professional to have it safely removed: pest control, the Australian Reptile Park or the Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26).

Cute critters

Teeth and scales aside, Australia is home to some of the most unique and adorable critters on the planet; koalas, kangaroos and smiley quokkas come to mind. Cute, yes, but looks can kill:

  • Kangaroos are colour coded! Grey kangaroos are smaller and mild-tempered compared to their red cousins, so keep this in mind when approaching one for a photo 🦘
  • Tasmanian devils appear cute and cuddly but are skittish and feisty, so heed their guttural growls and keep your fingers out of reach
  • Dingoes may look like a family pet but respect this rust-coloured wild canine like you would a wolf
  • You’re unlikely to spot a duck-billed platypus in the wild, but if you do admire it from afar as their toxic stingers can be painful.

What Australians actually fear

Photo of a kookaburra and a magpie in an Australian backyard

While crocodiles and sharks won’t really bother you, magpies in swooping season certainly do. And nothing is worse than the sting of a bluebottle at the beach, or the sight of a huntsman spider scurrying up the wall. 😨

If you’ve ever wondered what Aussies actually fear, it’s the dreaded email alert from MyGov in your inbox signalling tax return time…

So now that you know the basics, enjoy your time Down Under!


Ever heard of the infamous drop bear? Share some of the “scariest” things you’ve heard about Australia in the comments! πŸ‘‡


More in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

Sightseeing in Sydney

Hotspots around Sydney that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. ⛴️

Sightseeing in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

I spent six years living in Sydney before I moved to London. From postcard destinations to uncovering local gems, I savoured every minute of this harbourside city. ⛴️

Visitors often experience choice overload when it comes to exploring, and trust me its the same story for Sydneysiders when it comes to weekend planning.

Here ‘s my shortlist of hubs around the city that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. Each area boasts stunning scenery, good transport connections and great food options. πŸ˜‹

Circular Quay

Photo of a Sydney Ferry

Circular Quay epitomises a Sydney postcard and it hosts the most spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks in the country. πŸ₯³

Within walking distance, you can easily access the iconic Sydney Opera House, view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

A day in Circular Quay will keep you busy, but food options tend to be overpriced. The Rocks is just a stone’s throw away and has better dining options, or you can organise a picnic in the gardens with a view.

Transport: Circular Quay is well connected and serviced by rail, light rail, buses and of course the classic green and yellow Sydney Ferries.

The Rocks

Photo of people walking at The Rocks in Sydney

A short stroll from Circular Quay and at the doorstep of Sydney Harbour Bridge is The Rocks – a heritage district from the settlement days with cobbled lanes and home to one of Australia’s oldest pubs.

Enjoy the famous markets at the weekend; this is where you’ll find the perfect souvenir! Christmas in July is a particularly fun time to visit. 🎁

Weather is pleasant year round, but if you’re after something special then check out Vivid Sydney in May and June when the city becomes a festival of light and sound where art meets technology.

Transport: a short walk from Circular Quay and its many transport connections, and the area is also directly serviced by buses.

Lavender Bay

Photo of the North Sydney Olympic Pool

Cross the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Lower North Shore home to Lavender Bay! There area is much more than just getting your adrenaline rush at Luna Park Sydney. 🎑

Easily spend a whole day exploring this peaceful paradise. You can enjoy scenic walks from Lavender Bay to Milson’s Point, stop by Wendy’s Secret Garden, and swim at the North Sydney Olympic Pool by sunset. If you have energy to spare, return back to the city via the pedestrian walk across the bridge.

Also be sure to check whether the Kirribilli Markets happening this weekend – you never know what you might find! πŸ’Ž

Transport: the area is serviced by buses and ferry or a short walk from Milson’s Point train station.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach isn’t for surfers. It’s actually one of Sydney’s quieter beaches in terms of crowds and the waves. 🌊

Situated in the harbour, Balmoral Beach offers leisure activities like swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling or strolling down the boardwalk with gelato in hand.

Rocky Point Island is the perfect picnic spot which is accessible via an idyllic bridge, and there are plenty of eateries around to satisfy everyone’s tastes and budget. Personally I recommend getting fish ‘n’ chips takeaway from the famous Bottom of the Harbour.

Transport: the area is serviced by buses, or you can drive but parking prices can be steep.

Spit to Manly walk

Photo of a water dragon lizard

This 10km bush walk offers stunning coastal views and the opportunity to spot some wildlife (the non venomous variety, if you stick to the trail!). You can take your time or power walk your way through, so it’s perfect for all fitness levels.

Technically you can start from either end, but most people start from The Spit Bridge in Mosman and finish up in Manly. This is probably due to the variety of food options awaiting you at the finish line.

Along the route you’ll come across ancient Aboriginal rock carvings, sub-tropical bushland, secret beaches and more. The path itself consists of paved walkways, boardwalks, bush trails and stretches of sand to cross. 🐚

Transport: buses to The Spit Bridge in Mosman, and both buses and ferries to and from Manly.

Manly

Speaking of Manly… While Bondi is more widely known across the globe, Manly is frequented more by locals and visitors alike.

Its tree-limed promenade is perfect for watching surfers and beach volleyball players, and off to the side is its quieter counterpart Shelly Beach which is perfect for snorkelling. 🐟

If you don’t fancy getting your hair wet, you can also explore its many eateries and bars as well as retail stores, boutiques and markets. It’s also a hub of thriving nightlife, so don’t be in a rush to leave.

Transport: ferries from Circular Quay or frequent bus services.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach – aka “Summer Bay” from Home and Away – is situated at the farthest reaches of the Northern Beaches. Its stunning scenery and quiet privacy often attracts celebrities as their choice location for a Sydney getaway.

Its other claim to fame is the iconic view from Barrenjoey Headland. Standing alongside a picturesque lighthouse, you can take in sweeping views of the peninsula flanked by beaches on both sides. If you can turn your gaze to the opposite direction, you can see as far as the Central Coast region!

There’s two pathways to the summits; a long winding trail and a short steep path. I recommend taking the short route uphill for a bit of exercise and taking it easy on the way down.

Transport: regular buses or accessible by ferry from the Central Coast.

Bondi Beach

Photo of Bondi Beach in Sydney

No Sydney sightseeing listicle would be complete without covering Bondi Beach, home to Bondi Rescue, Bondi Vet and my favourite Italian pasticceria!

Bondi Beach is where you’ll show off your Sydney holiday on Instagram: gelato in one hand, a cocktail in the other, sand between your toes and saltwater in your hair. 🀳

Top sights and activities in Bondi are the graffiti wall, Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, weekend markets, open air cinema in summer, and Sculptures by the Sea outdoor exhibition during every October.

Transport: the area is serviced by buses, or you can walk 15min from Bondi Junction train station.


Know a secret spot or local gem that everyone should experience in Sydney? Share your insider tips in the comments! πŸ‘‡


More in Sydney

Photo of an Australian koala

Australia survival guide

From crocodiles and sharks to a nasty sunburn, here’s how to survive a visit Down Under. 🐨