Best places to experience multicultural Australia: The parts of Australia that don't feel Aussie


Byron Bay. Scenes from The Pass, a beach at Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast. 15 December 2005. AFR Photo by Andrew Quilty. Generic beach, summer, vacation, byron bay, youth, surf, surfing, melanoma, skin cancer, sun, grommet, billabong, quiksilver, girl, woman, holiday. SPECIALX 45345

Photo: Andrew Quilty

As you sit at a pavement cafe on Jonson Street on a humid, sweltering evening, listening to the foreign accents, checking out the artsy hippie shops next door, watching barefooted tourists wandering past, there's a distinct feeling that you've suddenly been transported to Thailand. Byron Bay could easily be Koh Pha-Ngan, or Koh Phi-Phi. The people are the same. The fashion is the same. And that laidback holiday atmosphere can't be mistaken.  


Deep in the northern Queensland rainforest lies a very surprising slice of Spanish culture: Paronella Park, an Iberian-style castle built by Jose Paronella in the 1930s. Though it's little more than a ruin these days, tourists can still visit the estate at Mena Creek Falls and experience the unmistakable feeling that you're now in Spain as you wander the grand home and its gardens. 


MODERN MELBOURNE #14 A rainbow over a shopping strip in Springvale. 29th of June 2012. SUNDAY AGE Picture by JOE ARMAO

Photo: Joe Armao

Those wanting to get a hit of Vietnamese or Chinese culture without leaving their own shores should head directly to Springvale, in Melbourne's south-east. About 69 per cent of Springvale's residents were born overseas, including 21 per cent from Vietnam, and that ethnicity is reflected in everything from the street signage to the smells of exotic, delicious food that waft through the air. 


Snowfall at Thredbo.

As soon as snow starts falling anywhere in Australia, it's not difficult to imagine you must be somewhere else. This country doesn't really do snow, and it definitely doesn't do quaint little alpine villages. Except, of course, for Thredbo. Despite the telltale eucalypts that surround it, this Snowy Mountains ski town retains the feel of a European resort – a legacy that owes much to the Austrian ski bums who created it.


The Age, News 19/07/2016, photo by Justin McManus. Start of the day at Queen Victoria Market.

Photo: Justin McManus

Stand in the middle of Melbourne's Queen Victoria Markets on a weekday morning and close your eyes – bang, you're in Europe. The shouts of vendors, the bustle of shoppers, the distant moving of machinery; all are reminiscent of a market in France, or Italy, or Germany. Stroll the seven hectares that this market takes up and you're sure to meet plenty of people who hail from those very places. 



Slaughter Bay, Norfolk Island tra29-norfolkisland Norfolk Island Supplied by NORFOLK ISLAND TOURISM


When even the locals are quick to label themselves Norfolk Islanders before admitting any connection to Australia, it's easy to believe you've departed the country we call home. Norfolk is a world apart, not only in a geographic sense, but in the island's unique history, which runs all the way from the first Polynesian settlers to the European colonists and the Pitcairn Islanders.


Save for the mangled pronunciation – in Italy it's "Nor-chee-a"; in WA it's "nor-see-a" – this could easily be a chunk of Europe that's been dumped about an hour north of Perth. New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia, a hub that began life as a Benedictine mission back in 1846. These days it's still notable for the Spanish-style architecture reflected in its numerous churches and colleges.


Driving through the countryside around Darra, in south Brisbane, you do a double-take the first time you see all of the conical hats bobbing up and down in the fields. Is this Vietnam? It's not, but with 16 per cent of the population hailing from that south-east Asian country, bringing with them great restaurants, good coffee, and those conical straw hats, you could very easily believe that it is. 


Generic pictures of main street, Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, Monday April 5, 2016. AFR Picture By David Mariuz

Photo: David Mariuz

Australia's oldest surviving German settlement still retains plenty of its Teutonic charm, particularly in the architecture of some of its oldest buildings, like the Hahndorf Inn. There are also plenty of restaurants serving pork knuckles and schnitzels, and of course where there's German heritage, there's great beer – here courtesy of local microbreweries Gulf and Grumpy's.


The hot weather should lead to crowds flocking to Bondi Beach this week.

Photo: Ben Rushton

It's amazing that somewhere so iconically Australian can sometimes feel like it doesn't belong here at all. It's not just the foreign languages or the accents you hear floating across the sea breeze in Bondi. The popularity of the beach makes it seem more European than Australian, crowded as it is with sun-worshippers as far as the eye can see. Most Australians are used to a little more space.

See also: 20 things that shock first-time visitors to Australia

See also: 11 things Australians get wrong about Australia

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