The Top 10 Best Cities in Australia

By Daniel Colasimone
31st Aug 2014

Here at TUL, we love taking something that is completely subjective and turning it into a definitive and legitimate-sounding list.

In that spirit, we are going to power rank Australia's top ten cities.

The process at which we arrived at this authoritative list is so incredibly complex that it cannot be explained here. Hundreds of elements came into consideration as every city in Australia was visited and appraised by our Urban List team of judges before being awarded an overall score.

This is in no way a product of the author's personal beliefs, prejudices and random whims, and there is absolutely nothing willy nilly happening here.

Here then, are the top ten cities in Australia.

10. Fremantle (894 points)

The west coast's one true jewel, Fremantle is a smaller, much more charming version of Perth. Perched atop the limestone hills at the mouth of the Swan River, Freo is surrounded by blue-green waters which lap against golden beaches to the north and to the south. This natural beauty is complemented by the town's elegant heritage buildings, many of which date back to the convict era. The Gateway to the West is just a 25 minute ferry ride to Rottnest Island, where you can find the cutest animal in the world, the quokka, and is also the home of the mighty Fremantle Dockers.

9. Ballina (940 points)

Just up the road from Byron Bay lies lovely Ballina, which is less crowded, less touristy and less wanky. Yes, Byron deserves its reputation for being awesome, but next time you're keen for a quick getaway, base yourself in Ballina instead. Byron is so close that you can still hang out there, but it is nice to be able to get away from the custodial townies and wispy haired new agers to somewhere a bit more grounded. Go for a dip in the tea tree-infused waters of Lake Ainsworth, sample some of the delicious local produce and check out the famous breaks of Lennox Head. If you're anything like me, though, you will just end up spending hours in the Bunnings carpark staring up at the magnificent Big Prawn.

8. Sydney (948 points)

Edging out Ballina into the number eight spot is Sydney, which boasts a world-renowned bridge and harbour. If you have time, don't forget to have a gander at the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach as well. Home of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

7. Darwin (1037 points)

Having withstood Japanese bombs during World War II, Cyclone Tracy and the constant threat of croc attacks, Darwin has evolved (geddit?) into a pretty quirky place. All-year-round tropical heat ensures the locals are intensely relaxed about just about every aspect of life. Sweating is the most popular pastime in the Northern Territory capital, where there is certainly no hustle and bustle going on. The only time you might see someone break into a slow gait is if they are being charged by a 20-foot crocodile. On the doorstep of Asia, Darwin has a surprisingly rich and eclectic food culture and it can also lay claim to the country's best newspaper, the NT News.

6. Wangaratta (1110 points)

On the fertile lands where the Ovens and King rivers meet lies Wangaratta, the birthplace of Nick Cave and Weary Dunlop and the Jazz Capital of Australia. The quintessential pretty little Victorian town, 'Wang,' as the locals call it, is at the hub of region that produces top quality wines and fantastic gourmet food. The word for it, I believe, is idyllic. 

5. Adelaide (1325 points)

It is easy to make fun of Adelaide. Very easy. But really, although the residents can be quite peculiar, it is actually one of Australia's cutest capital cities. The cultural attractions, the madcap festivals, the gorgeous old stone buildings (including those famous churches) and the amazing variety of food and wine available is all the more impressive when you consider the locals are all hillbilly nutjobs. 

4. Canberra (1380 points)

More than just our nation's capital, Canberra is also its heartbeat. While most Australians have never been there, the city towers over our cultural landscape with its well-planned streets, grandiose galleries and museums, and European-style frosty weather. Canberrans are a heady mix of Australia's smarmy political powerbrokers and Ugg boot-wearing, Datsun-driving bogans, so when the two groups frequently combine for binge drinking sessions at popular local pubs, the results can be a fascinating insight into human intercommunication. Seat of the always-controversial Archibald Prize and home to Australia's national mint, Canberra can say with pride that 'the buck starts here.'

3. Melbourne (1400 points)

The heartland for AFL football and hirsute hipsters, Melbourne may not have a sexy harbour like Sydney, but it does boast a shedload of quaint laneways, funky bars, and world-class restaurants. Birthplace of the high-rating Channel Nine crime drama, Underbelly.

2. Brisbane (1589 points)

Australia's third-largest city is also its most stunningly beautiful. Since it surpassed Sydney in Melbourne by hosting World Expo '88, Brisbane has been regarded as both a cultural hotspot and international business hub. It is the nation's gateway to Asia. The breeding ground of such internationally famous pop acts as Regurgitator and Savage Garden (via Logan), Brisbane is also known for its world-class beer gardens and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. 

1. Bundaberg (1860 points)

If you only know Bundaberg because it produces Australia's most popular spirit, top-quality sugar products and delicious ginger beer, you only know a small fraction of the story. 'Bundy,' or 'Fun-daberg,' has some of Queensland's loveliest beaches, including Kelly's Beach and Nielson Park Beach and a low-lying volcanic remnant known as The Hummock, from which you can overlook the rolling canefields and see the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean on the horizon. Bundaberg's Burnett River is home to the lungfish, a Gondwana-era throwback beast which many believe to hold the true secrets of evolution. Bundaberg has not flooded in over a year, and also hosts the Mon Repos Turtle Rookery. It is a short, choppy ferry ride from Fraser Island, where dingoes and humans live together in occasional harmony, and it is where the Barrier Reef begins. Bundaberg is known as the 'Paris of the South' because of the high proportion of luminaries who grew up there, including 'Australia's Queen of Song,' Gladys Moncrieff, legendary aviator Bert Hinkler, 'Big' Mal Meninga, Ingo Rademacher from General Hospital (and Paradise Beach), Mark Callaghan of Gang Gajang, and Mike Dorman from Wonderland. 

TUL Note: Hailing from the 'Paris of the South,' Bundaberg, Dan Colasimone is back in Brisbane after spending the better part of a decade living overseas. He also writes about sport. He once completed an Arts degree. Twitter: @DanColasimone

Image credit: Jean Fearnside

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