The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding. By Robert Hughes
This eye-opener will make you realize how much you would have missed if you had visited Australia without the deep knowledge you’ll gain from this book. Not a breezy read, but captivating.
In a Sunburned Country. By Bill Bryson.
A fun read, sometimes exaggerating (like the “dangers” from wildlife - hilarious and way over the top), more often nailing things in a perceptive and humorous way.
Between the serious historical (Hughes) and the humorous sort-of-up-to-date (Bryson) you’ll get a good “education” in what’s awaiting you in Australia.
If the history appeals to you, here are just a few places where you might look in:
The Rocks in Sydney where it all began:
Port Arthur, the penal colony outside of Hobart, Tasmania (an island-state you should consider incorporating in your trip anyway!):
The Australian War Memorial, a fascinating museum in Canberra, a city that was purpose-built from scratch to become the Capital of Australia - unique in its design and layout, and an easy daytrip from Sydney: