Sydney’s International Airport is serviced by many international airlines, making it an easy gateway to arrive in the country from overseas. Flights arrive from many cities in Asia, the Middle East, North America, South America, and the Pacific.
Sydney Harbour, Sydney, New South Wales © Destination NSW
How to get to Australia’s most iconic cities & destinations
Australia is an expansive country with plenty of iconic destinations to visit. Getting to each of them can seem intimidating, but it’s easier than you might think.
By Ashlea Wheeler
Optimise your time in Australia with information on how to easily reach the unforgettable landmarks and attractions on every traveller's bucket list.
Getting to Sydney
Domestic flights will take you to Sydney from nearly everywhere in Australia. It’s a great city to use as a base for your trip. From Brisbane or Melbourne, it's a short 1.5-hour flight, while flights from Perth take just over four hours.
The closest capital cities to Sydney are Canberra (three-hour drive), Melbourne (nine-hour drive), and Brisbane (10-hour drive). The National Highway system will take you between these cities.
There are buses that will take you to Sydney from Melbourne (12.5 hours) or Brisbane (around 17-21 hours).
Getting to Canberra
Although Canberra is not a common entry point for international travellers arriving in Australia, Canberra Airport does receive flights from Singapore and Qatar (via Sydney).
There are flights to Canberra from many capital cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth. From Sydney and Melbourne the journey takes just over an hour, while flights from Perth take just under four hours.
From Sydney, Canberra is an easy three-hour drive through the Australian countryside. You can also drive to Canberra from Melbourne, which takes around seven hours.
There are frequent bus services between Sydney and Canberra. The journey takes around three to four hours.
Getting to Melbourne
As Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne has a great selection of international flights. Most of the airlines that fly into Sydney’s International Airport will also fly into Melbourne Airport.
Flying to Melbourne is easy within Australia, as there are direct flights from all capital cities. From Brisbane, flights take about 2.5 hours, while flights from Perth take about 3.5 hours.
You can drive between Melbourne and Sydney in around nine hours. Adelaide is also close at an eight-hour drive, or a 13-hour drive if you take the iconic Great Ocean Road.
Getting to Tasmania
Tasmania is an island detached from mainland Australia, so flying into Hobart or Launceston is considered the easiest way to get there. There are multiple daily flights into Hobart Airport from Sydney (about two hours) and Melbourne (just over an hour), as well as a few flights per week from Brisbane and Adelaide.
Driving to Tasmania is possible with the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, which departs from Geelong and takes around 10 hours to cross the Bass Strait. Once the ferry arrives in Devonport, it’s just over an hour's drive to Launceston or around a three-hour drive south to Hobart.
Getting to Adelaide
There are direct flights to Adelaide from every capital city in Australia. It takes just two hours from Sydney or three hours from Perth.
Melbourne is the closest capital city and is an eight-hour drive. If you choose to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide, consider taking the longer route along the iconic Great Ocean Road. It extends the driving time to around 13 hours but it's well worth it!
Getting to Perth
Qantas has launched a new route from Perth to London, making it the only Australian city with a direct flight to Europe. This route takes 16 hours and 45 minutes. Perth also receives flights from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and New Zealand.
There are direct flights to Perth from every capital city in Australia, except Tasmania's Hobart. From Sydney, it takes about five hours, while from Brisbane it takes about 5.5 hours.
Perth is located on the west coast of Australia, and while it is accessible by road from other capital cities, it is a long drive. The closest capital city is Adelaide at 28 hours drive.
Getting to Darwin
There are direct flights to Darwin from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. From Melbourne, it takes about 4.5 hours, while from Perth it takes 3.5 hours.
Like Perth, Darwin is a long drive from other capital cities in Australia. Adelaide is the closest at 32 hours away.
Getting to Brisbane
It’s easy to get to Brisbane from overseas. Brisbane’s International Airport receives flights from North America, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific.
There are direct flights to Brisbane from every capital city in Australia. From Sydney, it takes 1.5 hours, while from Adelaide it takes 2.5 hours.
Driving to Brisbane is easiest from Sydney; the drive takes 10 hours along the Pacific Highway. Stop along the way at one of the many friendly coastal towns, including the beloved Byron Bay.
Getting to the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef stretches along much of Queensland's coast, so there are multiple ways to get there. If you're flying from abroad, you can fly directly to Cairns from New Zealand, as well as many hubs in Asia.
Cairns, Townsville, Airlie Beach (Proserpine), and Hamilton Island are gateways to the Great Barrier Reef, all of which are accessible via domestic flights from many of Australia’s capital cities. Flights from Sydney to Cairns take about three hours, while flights from Perth to Cairns take about six hours.
One of the best ways to travel to the reef is by driving; Australia’s east coast provides beautiful scenery for a road trip. If you drive between Cairns and the Gold Coast (about 20 hours), there will be plenty of opportunities to experience the best of the reef along the way.
The quickest way to get to the reef via bus is travelling from Brisbane to Airlie Beach. The trip takes around 19-20 hours.
Getting to the Red Centre
Alice Springs is the gateway to Australia’s Red Centre where you'll find the ancient monolith Uluru. This area is remote, but not difficult to get to. You can fly to Alice Springs from all capital cities except Canberra and Hobart, or fly directly to Uluṟu from Melbourne or Sydney (three to 3.5 hours) if you’re short on time.
Plenty of travellers drive to Australia’s Red Centre from Adelaide or Darwin. If you choose this option, be aware that the distances are great at around 16-17 hours each way, so these journeys should be done over a few days on a road trip.
Buses will take you from Adelaide or Darwin to Alice Springs. The journey time is around 20-21 hours from either city.
Getting to the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is accessible from either Melbourne or Adelaide. Avalon Airport, located an hour outside of Melbourne, is the closest domestic airport to the beginning of the Great Ocean Road.
Driving along Victoria’s scenic coastline is what the Great Ocean Road is all about. The Great Ocean Road officially starts at Torquay and ends at Nelson, near the South Australian border. The drive takes around six hours to complete, though you should account for plenty of stops along the way.