Australia is an enormous country that offers the perfect blend of urban sophistication, natural wonder, and rugged, rural beauty. In your reviewer's humble opinion, it is the world's best country. I love it. Always have. Always will.
Australia is endlessly fascinating, as the authors of this book readily explain on multiple occasions. But all this Aussie lovliness also makes a good travel guide that much more difficult to prepare. As the authors of this book have said, they've been writing about Australia for 30 years, and they could spend another 30 and still not cover it all. A single-volume encyclopedia of all things Aussie, which this books attempts to be, is a very tall order. Any such book will be necessarily summarized, and this one is no exception.
It's a good book, but its coverage of urban and suburban areas outside the major cities is thin. For example, Melbourne gets the kind of feature attention you would expect for a city of its size and importance, but the fascinating Victorian gold-rush towns of Ballarat and Bendigo get only the most summary review. Also, the authors do appeal to certain stale stereotypes when describing the cities in social context. Sydney is the easy-going beach town. Melbourne is the artsy London wannabe. Then there's progressive and snobby Adelaide; isolated, Mod-Oz boomtown Perth; sleepy Canberra, etc... While there's some truth to these observations, they become less obvious with each passing year, and few tourists are likely to understand, or even recognize these cultural traits.
Areas that stand out in this book are its treatment of outdoor activities, natural exploration and indigenous culture. Australia is an absolute playground of all things natural, and this book is sure to bring your attention to that fact. There's excellent content featuring, for example, the Great Barrier Reef, the Snowy Mountains, the Atherton Tablelands, Uluru, the fantastic national parks around Sydney, and (literally) hundreds of other beautiful natural locations. The first time I saw the Blue Mountains, I was absolutely floored. Not-to-be-missed locations like this feature prominently in the guide.
This is a brand new book, so listings are right up to date (as of late 2013). Hotel and restaurant listings are selective since it would be impossible to include everything, even everything good. What IS included runs the full range of most rustic to most luxurious lodgings, from bushtucker to ultra-refined Mod-Oz cuisine, and includes many listings that offer a unique and authentic experience. The listings of tour operators are particularly helpful, especially in tropical Queensland.
Pragmatic information gives way to physical content in this book since Australia is an easy country to travel in. There are some nice suggestions on how to survive extended treks in the bush and outback. Historical and cultural contexts, likewise, are only there by necessity, and offer few real insights into the history and multi-ethnic culture of the country. Anyone looking for a meaningful history of Australia should consult other sources such as Robert Hughes' superb colonial history, "The Fatal Shore" or Bruce Chatwin's "The Songlines."
This is a big, general guide book that covers the country well, particularly its natural wonders.