It’s in Australia’s cities that our relaxed outdoor lifestyle meets a melting pot of cultures and a whirlwind of theatre, restaurants, nightlife and events. From beach barbeques and ballet to open-air cinemas, jazz in the park and alfresco dining, Australians make the most of warm nights and sunny days. And our skyscrapers and shopping locales are just a short drive from mountains, ocean, river and bush. Come, stay and celebrate, then start the rest of your Australian adventure.

Here are our picks:

Sydney, NSW

You’ll love Sydney’s spectacular harbor, seductive outdoor lifestyle and great natural beauty. Catch an opera, ballet or theatre performance at the iconic Opera House. Wander the cobblestone streets of The Rocks, the harborside quarter where modern Australian settlement began, or kayak under the Harbour Bridge. Walk the winding, sea-sculpted cliffs from Bondi to Bronte or visit Manly’s beaches, bars and restaurants by ferry. Sydney also offers fabulous fusion food, world-class shopping and a lively nightlife. For a day trip, the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley vineyards lie just beyond the city fringes.

Photo Credit: Jes

Melbourne, VIC

Melbourne boasts famous shopping precincts, a passion for food and wine and a fabulous arts scene. In the maze of hidden laneways you’ll find cute cafes, swanky bars, secret art spaces and off-the-beaten-track boutiques. Shop till you drop from Chapel to Brunswick Streets, watch the sun set over the St. Kilda promenade and dance till dawn in Fitzroy. Soak up the aroma of good coffee in gothic cobblestone laneways or indulge in a multicultural cosmos of cuisines.

Photo Credit: Prescott Pym

Canberra, ACT

Learn about Australia’s culture, history and way of life right here in our nation’s capital. Explore our political past and modern democracy at Old Parliament House and Parliament House. Find out more about our sporting heroes at the National Institute of Sport and Science and see lightning being made at Questacon. Once you’ve exhausted the monuments and galleries, get into the great outdoors. This planned city - one of the few in the world - is famous for its lake, parklands and native bushland surrounds. Beneath the foliage, Canberra offers stylish restaurants, hip bars, boutique shopping and a non-stop calendar of festivals and events.

Brisbane, QLD

Discover the gardens, sandstone cathedrals, classic Queenslander houses on stilts and skyscrapers that make Brisbane such a fascinating mix of old and new. Cruise down the Brisbane River, ride a bike through the City Botanic Gardens and abseil the cliffs of Kangaroo Point. Laze in the lush riverside gardens or swim in the lagoon of South Bank. When culture cravings hit, head to the nearby Queensland Cultural Centre or the Powerhouse arts centre. Explore the boutiques and bars of urban villages such as Fortitude Valley and Paddington. Just on Brisbane’s doorstep, Moreton Bay beckons with all kinds of water-based adventure.

Adelaide, SA

This elegant city is known for its colonial stone architecture, expansive parklands, lively festivals and incredible sense of space. Explore the museums and libraries of North Terrace, dine on dedicated “eat streets” or picnic in gardens that sprawl over almost half the city. Go bike riding in Botanic Park or row past rose gardens in Rymill Park. Swim with dolphins or learn to sail in Glenelg or fish from the jetty in Henley. Just beyond the city centre you’ll find the picturesque Adelaide Hills and the world-class wineries of the Barossa Valley.

Photo Credit: Richard Giles

Perth, WA

Bask in the sunshine in Perth’s alfresco restaurants, friendly pubs and clean and uncrowded beaches. Cruise the Swan River past parks and skyscrapers to Swan Valley vineyards or the Perth Zoo. Explore the bushland, landscaped gardens, lakes and lookouts of huge Kings Park. Then bike ride or kayak to Rottnest Island’s secluded beaches and bays. Feast on seafood and soak up the carnival atmosphere in historic Fremantle. Swim, surf, fish, windsurf and sail at Cottlesloe or Scarborough Beach, then skip between the boardwalks, beaches and marinas of the Sunset Coast.

Photo Credit: Geoff Whalan

Darwin, NT

Soak up Darwin’s balmy weather and melting pot of food and cultures in the many outdoor festivals and markets. Then learn about the city’s Aboriginal heritage and dramatic history - from World War II air raids to Cyclone Tracey - in the museums and galleries. Sail Darwin harbor at sunset, cruise next to crocodiles and bushwalk through monsoon forest. Swim in the crystal-clear waterholes of Litchfield National Park and visit the colorful communities of the Tiwi Islands. Darwin is also the gateway to World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, Nitmiluk National Park and Arnhem Land.

Hobart, TAS

Don’t miss this small, scenic capital, famous for its Georgian buildings and crisp air. Browse bustling Salamanca Markets and run your hands over the sandstone buildings in Salamanca Place. Climb craggy Mount Wellington for sweeping views over Hobart and the wide Derwent River. Do a ghost tour in Battery Point, walk across Australia’s oldest bridge in Richmond and visit the cute coastal hamlet of Kettering. Wind past forest and farmland to the cool-climate wineries of the Coal Valley. See bright spinnakers on the water and dine on fresh seafood from one of Hobart’s waterside restaurants.