Never try to impress an Australian with a beach. It won't work. You're on a hiding to nothing.
I've seen beautiful beaches in Thailand, in Brazil, in Tanzania and in Mexico, but none are better than what Australia has to offer. Western Australia alone could claim the world's finest: just close your eyes and point at any random spot on that coast and I guarantee it will be a stunner.
That's one of the travel experiences Australia does best. There are plenty of justifiable reasons for people to head overseas on their holidays instead of exploring this sunburnt country, but you could never say you were going to find better beaches. The most beautiful are right here.
And there are other travel experiences, other attractions, too, that Australia does best in the world. To mark our national holiday, it's worth celebrating them.
Whitehaven Beach. Photo: iStock
Let's start with the most obvious. In the long stretches of sand at places like Whitehaven, or Turquoise Bay, or Cable Beach, or Greens Pool, or even Bondi, we have the world's finest. It's something of a cliche, but true. This is a country almost completely encircled by beautiful, unspoilt beaches that are free to access, and often free of any other soul.
The world has discovered smashed avo on toast – there are cafes in London that serve it; places in New York that are copying it. Australian-style brunches are becoming a bit of a thing, and you can't blame other countries for jumping on board. From the quality of our coffee to the diversity of the food, there's no better place to shuffle out of your house at 11am and look for something good to eat.
In a country that's about the same size as mainland USA but with only 23 million inhabitants, you're always bound to find vast swaths of nothingness, and Australia delivers. There's not much out there – just gum trees and kangaroos, big rocks and sand. People who crave isolation wouldn't need to go any further than their own backyard.
Crayfishing off the Limestone Coast in South Australia.
You could argue that other countries have better seafood than us – say, Japan, with its ridiculous array, or Spain, with its preserved produce. But you'd do well to find a country that does the casual seafood meal as well as Australia. This is a place where you can get a whole bucket of prawns; where salt and pepper squid is a national dish; where oysters appear on every menu.
Heron Island Photo: Tourism Queensland
There's great scuba-diving in Thailand, in PNG, and even in Egypt. But there are few countries that could compete with the Great Barrier Reef as their main underwater attraction, particularly with sites like the Cod Hole and the Heron Island Bommie. Then you can add in Ningaloo Reef and the whale shark migration; you can chuck in the Yongala wreck off Townsville; you can mention Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea. That's hard to beat.
NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM
The Bungle Bungles or Purnululu National Park in Western Australia. Photo: iStock
With more than 500 national parks covering over 28 million hectares of land, plus 13 marine parks, there aren't many countries that come close to Australia in terms of protected land. From Kakadu to Litchfield, Wilsons Prom to Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers, this is a country filled with easily accessible, protected wilderness areas.
Victoria's Yarra Valley. Photo: Rob Blackburn
Australia doesn't have the best wine in the world. It does, however, have some extremely good wine, and it's produced by an industry that's tuned in to the tourism market. Most wineries do free tastings at their cellar doors (try getting that in, say, California); they put on concerts in their front gardens (not something you'll see too often in France); and they serve high-quality food in their restaurants (a rarity in, say, Germany).
For a good road trip, one of the most important things is to have a lot of road, and Australia has a lot of road. Some of it may be monotonous, but there is a lot of it. It's in good condition, too, and it makes you wonder why more of us don't go on the grand road adventures that so many backpackers travel all the way over here to undertake.
If you explored Uluru one day and the Kimberley the next, then the Great Barrier Reef the day after and Coober Pedy the one after that, followed closely by Freycinet and then Monkey Mia, you'd hardly believe you'd been in the same country the entire time. There's a lot going on here – we have native animals, we have natural wonders, we have beaches, forests, deserts and plains.
Shark diving with Calypso Star Charters, Eyre Peninsula. Photo: Calypso Star Charters
This is maybe not Australia's most attractive feature, but come on, who can challenge us for poisonous beasties per capita? Some people are into that sort of thing, surely.