You probably recognize Australia from images of the iconic Sydney Opera House and snapshots of creepy critters you can only find in the Outback. But there's so much more to Australia than their scary beasts and the fires that have caused havoc all over the country.

Here are 11 things to know about when planning your Aussie vacation.

Things To Do In Australia & At The Barrier Reef

When visiting Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the spots you must plan to explore. It's over 2,300km long and stretches around the coast of Queensland. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a gorgeous place to visit. Just make sure to follow all the rules for ecological protection (like no touching!).

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Apart from the Reef, there's a ton to see in Australia. Numerous nature reserves showcase everything wild in the country, famous beaches attract tourists from all over the globe, and you can catch amazing vistas from tons of hiking points and seaside cliffs.

When To Visit Australia

Unfortunately, recent wildfires in Australia have made visiting a challenge. But in general, the best times to head over are September and October, says Frommers. It's warm enough for beaches in many places, but it's not yet rainy and humid in Cairns.

Best Places To Stay In Australia: Sydney Or Cairns

Sydney is one of the most recognizable destinations in Australia. The coastal city rests in a picturesque harbor, and the Opera House is an easy trip away. There are city beaches (like Bondi and Manly), local zoos, and ferry rides for viewing the sunset. You can even take an excursion to the mountains that are only two hours away.

On the other hand, while Sydney is a great urban spot from which to explore, Cairns is where the Reef is. You can hop on a short flight and be there in less than three hours, or take a ferry trip. But staying in Cairns means quicker access to the beaches and beautiful reef views. Feeling extravagant? Travel over to Lizard Island literally on the Great Barrier Reef and stay at a resort and check out the National Park.

Amazing Hotels Around Australia

Want an epic view near Sydney Harbour Bridge (more on that attraction later)? Stay at Hotel Palisade, an upscale venue that will run you around $110 per night, says Global Grasshopper. It's a nautical-meets-industrial hotel that is sure to charm travelers. Want something more hip yet retro-chic? Try 1831 Boutique Hotel right across from Chinatown. It'll cost you less than $100 per night!

Opting for a Reef-central spot in Cairns? TripAdvisor recommends the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, which offers both breathtaking views of the water and onsite entertainment. Rates are typically under $200 per night, but you might nab a great deal via TripAdvisor. Taking our advice and heading to Lizard Island? Expect to shell out about $1,500 per night for all-inclusive luxury accommodations at Lizard Island Resort.

No, Not Shrimp On The Barbie: Australia's Food

Americans, at least, tend to perceive Australia as the barbecue capital of the world. Maybe it's because we have a restaurant that's literally called "Outback" and offers lots of charred meats. Anyway, the good news is that Australia's food is much more diverse than BBQ, though an Aussie barbecue is rich with seafood, sausages, and more.

Plus, dishes like chicken parmigiana, meat pies, fish and chips, and barramundi grace menus all over AU. You'll often find beetroot as a topping on your food (even on burgers), and the omnipresent vegemite is a staple in the country (try it at least once!). For dessert, you can enjoy dishes like pavlova (a meringue cake with fruit and cream, says Nomad's World), Tim Tams (a packaged, chocolate bar type sweet), and lamingtons (sponge cake with chocolate or fruit sauce and coconut).

Check out Sydney Tower Buffet for 360 views and all you can eat. Oh, and don't forget to try kangaroo or emu meat!

How To Get Around AU

If you're visiting the reef, a ferry will be on your itinerary. But getting around in Australia can be difficult because so many ideal destinations are far-flung. Flying domestically is a quick way to get from Sydney to Cairns, for example, but you can also take a coach bus or the train.

Public bus, tram, and subway systems are pretty reliable (and cheap) throughout Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and more. Nomadic Matt says fares range between 3-4AU.

Australia's Biggest Attractions

In Sydney, you've got to visit the Opera House in the harbor. There are tons of shows happening each week, so you can actually go inside. Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge is another must-do while in the city, and the views are stunning.

Other checklist items for travelers include visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens (peep the view of the Opera House from there!), and Taronga Zoo Sydney. You can also see the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (to the north) and Royal National park (just south of Sydney).

Bring Lots Of Cash (In AU Dollars)

One of the drawbacks of visiting this amazing country is that it can be more expensive than other destinations. While it's not necessarily a budget trip, you can still save with flight deals and pre-planning. But you will want to bring some cash, exchanged into Australian dollars, and expect to pay premium prices when eating out. Currently, one US dollar equals $1.49A, while $1CAD equals $1.13A. One helpful tip is that tipping is not standard etiquette for Aussies, so you don't have to shell out after your meal.

Flight Deals Are Awesome In AU Winter

The cheapest flights are available during Aussie late-autumn/winter, which is April to June, says Telegraph. For northern AU destinations, that might not be an issue. But ideally, you'll want to visit closer to September for springlike weather (their summer runs from December to February). In February, a ticket from California could cost about $1,500, while in April, tickets can drop to around $700, says Cheap Flights.

History Hasn't Been Forgotten In Australia

Australia has a thriving economy and lots of diversity, and it's home to over 23 million people. But around 40k years ago, Aboriginal Australians arrived via Asia, says Wikipedia. The arrival of Europeans was disruptive to the Aborigines, and the unfortunate aspects of Australia's history involve similar events to the wiping out of indigenous Americans in the US.

Today, the country is focused on forwarding progress, which includes honest conversations about the history of Aboriginal people and their impact on modern-day life in Australia. The people there are typically friendly and easygoing, so you can expect to make friends easily while visiting.

Hit Up Australia For World-Famous Beaches

Australia is home to the world-famous Bondi Beach, which is dangerous but still a huge tourist draw. If you visit, be careful of the rough waves and stay safe! Another option is Manly Beach, where surfing is king. It's also said to be safe enough to frolic and swim in. Of course, we wouldn't say no to some aid from Aussie lifeguards!