Australia has earned a reputation as one of the world’s safest countries. The tourist hotspots of Sydney and Melbourne are among the safest cities in the world, and the low levels of crime and high standard of safety is consistent throughout most of the nation.
While some tourists are apprehensive about coming to Australia because of concerns about the local wildlife (as a local I can confirm that I have never been bitten by a snake or eaten by a shark!), the tight border control, strict gun laws, and strong police presence make a lot of visitors feel safe. Overall, Australia ranks at number 22 on the list of safest countries in the world for 2023.
That said, there are still some cities in Australia that have a significantly higher crime rate. The list of most dangerous cities in Australia is small, but it’s worth knowing which cities are statistically the most unsafe before you plan your next trip Down Under.
Note that tourists can and do still visit all of the below destinations, and often, following general safety precautions is all you need in order to stay safe in these cities. Even in safer cities, it’s advisable to avoid walking alone at night or in poorly lit areas. It’s also a good idea to always keep your valuables close, trust your gut instincts, and remain aware of your surroundings.
The 8 Most Dangerous Cities in Australia
1. Alice Springs
Located in the hot red desert of central Australia, Alice Springs is what many people think of when they imagine the Land Down Under. The remote town is located between Darwin in the Northern Territory and Adelaide in South Australia, and is around a five-hour drive from Uluru, one of the country’s greatest natural landmarks.
Unfortunately, Alice Springs is statistically the most dangerous city in Australia and one of the most dangerous cities in the world. According to statistics site Numbeo, Alice Springs is the 19th most dangerous city on the planet, with a crime index of 71.7.
This makes it technically more dangerous than Bogota, Colombia, São Paulo, Brazil, and Damascus, Syria.
The city has higher levels of theft, breaking and entering, and violent crimes than other destinations in Australia, and this comes down to several social issues that plague the area. Alcohol addiction is one factor contributing to the crime wave.
In 2012, legislation was put in place to restrict the amount of alcohol that could legally be purchased in Alice Springs, but that expired in 2022 and was not reinstated, which may be to blame for the surge in alcohol-related crime in 2023.
Conditions have reportedly become so bad in Alice Springs that Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a visit to the town in January 2023 to announce that new funding would be put towards local police operations, First Nations justice measures, health infrastructure, and Indigenous housing (via Nine News).
Following Alice Springs, the next most dangerous city in Australia is Rockhampton. The city is located in Queensland, in Australia’s north-east. While Queensland is known for its many tourist destinations, from the Gold Coast to the Whitsundays, Rockhampton itself is dealing with high levels of crime compared to the rest of Australia.
Per Numbeo’s list of most dangerous cities, Rockhampton comes in at number 36 with an index of 67.1, and is considered to be more dangerous than Philadelphia, Chicago, and Atlanta in the United States.
Further, there is a high level of concern in Rockhampton over mugging, car theft, breaking and entering, and other violent crimes.
Despite these statistics, locals took to this Reddit forum to give an insider’s view, with many of them confirming that the city is safe, even for a solo female traveler, as long as you take the right precautions.
“Female here,” wrote one user in the forum. “Rocky is safe. Safer than the Gold Coast … It’s the kind of place where if you’re walking around in the burbs, you say g’day to people and smile.”
Some of the particular problems and threats outlined in the forum include things being stolen from your car, a lack of public transport, violent brawls at bars, and sexual harassment in public places.
The next most dangerous city in Australia is also in Queensland, this time in the far north of the state. Cairns comes in at number 54 on Numbeo’s list, with a crime index of 62.8. It has statistically higher levels of crime than Nairobi, Kenya, Delhi, India, and Baghdad, Iraq.
Cairns is thought of as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and is a close distance to the major tourist destinations of tropical Far North Queensland, like Palm Cove and Port Douglas. It’s marketed as a family-friendly destination and has lots of attractions to explore, from the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park to the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon.
The high crime rate in Cairns is mainly related to drug problems, car theft, and vandalism. However, despite these statistics, locals still view Cairns as a safe city overall (via Cairns Connect).
The normal safety precautions apply, which include not walking alone at night, not leaving valuables unattended, and not hitchhiking (which is actually illegal in Queensland).
While muggings do occur in Cairns, the good news is the area has a high level of police presence, particularly in the city center. Other than crime, the other threat to watch out for in Cairns is dangerous wildlife. Poisonous jellyfish are known to roam the local waters, as are crocodiles (via Smarter Travel).
A coastal city in the Northern Territory, right at the top of Australia, Darwin offers a multicultural community with balmy nights, museums and art galleries, and a gateway point to the mesmerizing Kakadu National Park.
While Darwin is a tourist destination, Numbeo lists it as the 62nd most dangerous city, with a crime index of 62. Particular concerns in Darwin include a high level of fear relating to vandalism, car theft, drug dealing, and breaking and entering.
Most people in Darwin reported feeling safe when walking during the day, but few felt safe walking at night.
Darwin’s position at 62nd on the list makes it statistically less safe than Paris, France, Los Angeles, U.S.A., and Beirut, Lebanon.
Like other areas in the north of Australia, Darwin is home to some potentially dangerous wildlife. The beaches are home to box jellyfish between November and May, which can cause death with their poison (via Darwin Tour).
There are also saltwater crocodiles in Darwin, so it’s vital to pay attention to all safety signs and keep aware when around any body of water.
Back in 2019, Darwin was considered Australia’s most dangerous city and ranked at number 50 on Numbeo’s list. There’s is a medium risk of scams, mugging, and pickpockets, but there’s a lower chance of terrorism.
Townsville is another city located in Queensland that Numbeo has categorized as being one of the world’s most dangerous cities. In fact, it was listed with Darwin back in 2019 as being one of the top few dangerous cities in Australia. Now, it sits at number 67, with a crime index of 61.1.
The coastal city is popular among tourists who love the outdoors, as it has an abundance of rainforest walks and swimming areas. It’s also a great destination for wildlife lovers as there’s a sea turtle hospital at the Reef HQ Aquarium, along with the Billabong Sanctuary Wildlife Park where you can find wombats and koalas.
The main concerns in Townsville as far as safety goes relate to mugging, armed robberies, and drug crime. There is also a medium risk of being scammed or facing a natural disaster.
News.com reports that Townsville also has an issue with rising youth crime, detailing an incident where a shopkeeper was threatened by a young adult with a knife. This has prompted locals to start taking the law into their own hands and fighting back against perpetrators, as many feel that not enough is being done by law enforcement to protect them.
After Townsville, Geelong comes in at 76 on Numbeo’s list. With a crime index of 59.3, it’s safer than the Australian cities already mentioned in this article, but still more dangerous than destinations like Tehran, Iran, Turin, Italy, and Manchester, U.K.
Geelong is situated in Victoria, a state on the eastern side of Australia which is home to the bustling city of Melbourne. With an array of historic and cultural landmarks, Geelong is the second-largest city in Victoria and also serves as a gateway to the Great Ocean Road, which is one of Australia’s most popular attractions.
The high levels of crime in Geelong are mainly related to breaking and entering, vandalism, theft, and drug dealing. According to AU Crime Rate, another common crime in Geelong relates to domestic violence, with significant levels of breaching family violence orders taking place.
Locals took to a Reddit forum to confirm that the city is actually safe as long as you exercise regular safety precautions, including not engaging with loiterers when walking alone at night.
One user pointed out that Australian safety standards are incredibly high when compared to the rest of the world:
“Look, most Australians are incredibly sheltered. As in, they have zero idea just how safe this city is … most paramedics in this country will never see a murder victim …”
Tying with Geelong on Numbeo’s list is Toowoomba. The southern Queensland city also has a crime index of 59.3, with reports that local crime has increased significantly in the last three years. Locals reported being worried about people breaking into their homes, being mugged or robbed, drug crime, and vandalism and theft.
However, the good news is that few people worried about hate crimes and discrimination based on their race, gender, or religion.
Toowoomba is the largest inland city in Queensland and is known for its impressive gardens, street art, and historic architecture. It’s a particularly popular destination in September, the beginning of the Australian spring, when the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers takes place.
Locals on Homely advise avoiding the north, west, and eastern parts of the area, and confirm that in addition to an increase in break-ins and car theft, there is also an issue relating to drug crime.
ABC News reports that other recent incidents have also contributed to Toowoomba’s damaged reputation, including a terrorist attack during which two police officers and a civilian were killed, and an arson-fueled bushfire that led to 18 homes being destroyed.
The local community is now working on a positive media campaign to highlight the assets of Toowoomba in the hopes that tourists will return in their droves.
Coming in at number 151 on Numbeo’s list of highest-crime cities in Australia is Wollongong. The website reports that drug-related crime is one of the biggest problems in Wollongong, and locals have noticed an increase in crime levels over the last three years.
While many people feel safe walking in Wollongong during the day, few feel safe walking there at night. Despite Wollongong making the list, locals report low levels of fear that their car will be stolen, and there is relatively little discrimination based on ethnicity, skin color, gender, or religion.
Wollongong is situated in New South Wales, on the Grand Pacific Drive to the south of Sydney. The port city is home to the third-largest university in the state, and the community prides itself on pristine beaches, dog-friendly parks, and a variety of cafes and recreation areas (Visit Wollongong).
Despite these statistics, several locals on Homely argue that Wollongong is a great place to live, particularly considering it’s only an hour away from the metropolis of Sydney. However, one local commented that the area is “too unsafe to walk around alone” and that there are “junkies everywhere.”
Suggested Reading: The Safest Cities In Australia