Extract from The Rough Guide to East Coast Australia

Introduction to East Coast Australia

Fascinatingly diverse,
Australia’s East Coast hogs a high proportion of the country’s finest features – from Sydney’s iconic Opera House and Melbourne’s sophisticated restaurant scene, to natural wonders such as the Daintree Rainforest, the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.

Best of all, perhaps, are the staggeringly beautiful
beaches that dot the coast all the way from southeast Victoria to Far North Queensland and the islands beyond. Here, you’ll find dozens of different ways to enjoy the Pacific breezes: swimming and surfing are the classic East Coast pastimes, but with sailing, snorkelling, kayaking, kitesurfing, scuba diving and skydiving on offer, too, there’s really no excuse for just snoozing in the shade.

Those with an appreciation for
nature will want to explore the coast’s dramatic backdrop of hills, gullies and escarpments, crisscrossed by ancient Aboriginal walking tracks. While all too many coastal Aboriginal people now live in disadvantaged urban communities, those who work as national park guides willingly share something of their traditions with visitors, explaining their time-honoured relationship with the land and its native flora and fauna.

The first European to take an active interest in the coast and its potential was
Captain Cook, who set about charting its salient features in 1770; within twenty years, the British had capitalized on his discoveries by founding a penal colony on the coast’s most spectacular bay, and naming it Sydney. The harsh conditions of the Australian interior forced the young colony to grow along the seaboard, seeking out fresh water and safe harbours; even now, the vast majority of Australians live within a couple of hours’ drive of the Pacific.

Still barely two centuries old, Sydney and the other
East Coast cities are dynamic and ambitious. Urban Australians embrace the New World values of material self-improvement through hard work and hard play with an easy-going, outdoorsy vitality that visitors, especially Europeans, often find refreshingly hedonistic. Away from the cities, the pace is gentler and opportunities abound to enjoy the towering forests, tumbling waterfalls, pristine islands and spotless sands of the coastal wilderness.

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