The Off the Beaten Path
Looking to do something that not everybody has done? Australia is a sprawling country with so many attractions that even the most experienced Aussie traveler won’t have ticked all of the below off of their Australian bucket list.
33. Climb Mt. Kosciuszko (NSW/ACT)
Australia is not an especially mountainous continent, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some worthwhile mountains to tackle. Part of the famous Seven Summits, Kosciuszko is far and away the most achievable of a list that includes Mt. Everest, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Mt. Elbrus.
Achievable in just a day of hiking, Mt. Kosciuszko is a moderately challenging day trip through some of Australia’s most spectacular alpine terrain.
Sections of the hike (between Rawson Pass and Charlotte Pass) can be tackled on a mountain bike, but the actual summit can only be reached on foot.
During the winter months (June through October), the track is buried by snow. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing is possible at this time of the year, although the path is not marked.
While it is an ‘easy’ hike, you’ll still want to be adequately prepared for hiking Mt. Kosciuszko.
Where: Kosciuszko National Park is a six-hour drive from Sydney, an eight-hour drive from Melbourne, and a three-hour drive from Canberra.
Cost: Climbing the mountain is free, but a $28 AUD car fee applies to every vehicle entering Kosciuszko National Park.
34. Visit the Australia Zoo (QLD)
Visiting a zoo might not seem off-the-beaten-path, but the Australia Zoo on the Queensland Sunshine Coast is a zoo with a bit of a difference.
The creation of ‘The Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, the Australia Zoo offers a far more interactive and conservation-minded wildlife experience than you’ll find in conventional zoos.
While the zoo has a focus on Australia’s fascinating wildlife, you’ll also see tigers, lemurs, and other famous faces from around the globe. The highlight? The opportunity to participate in a huge variety of animal encounters, photo opportunities, and educational experiences.
If you’re traveling with kids and want to blow their tiny minds, a day at the Australia Zoo is a good way to go about it!
Where: The Australia Zoo is on the Sunshine Coast – about an hour’s drive from Brisbane. You can also fly to Maroochydore Airport and then make the 30-minute drive.
Cost: Tickets are $59 per adult and $35 per child, with family tickets available for $172. Animal experiences range in cost.
35. Cruise through the Kimberleys (WA)
The idea of taking a luxurious cruise through some of Australia’s most spectacular desert terrain might seem a little surreal. How is it that you can enjoy the comforts of a cruise while also being surrounded by ochre earth, towering rocky outcroppings, and the great emptiness of the Australian interior?
At three times the size of the United Kingdom, the Kimberleys region of Western Australia is one of Australia’s most breathtaking areas and one just begging to be explored.
Cruises between Darwin and Broome make their way along the coast, occasionally heading ‘upriver’ into the arid interior for a totally different cruise experience. Activities include canoeing, hiking, snorkeling, and a variety of other ways to engage with the region you’re exploring.
It’s a big-ticket item, but a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Where: Cruises typically depart from either Darwin in the Northern Territory or Broome in Western Australia.
Cost: Cruises start at around $3,500 per person and climb exponentially from there.
36. Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef (WA)
Oslob in the Philippines may be more famous as a place to swim with whale sharks, but unless you’ve got a hard-on for animal cruelty, you’re going to want to give it a miss.
Instead, why not participate in a sustainable whale shark experience in one of Australia’s most gorgeous areas? Hell, you might even get up close and personal with a humpback!
With strict regulations on the number of tourists and how close you’re able to get, you can enjoy your whale shark or humpback whale experience without feeling guilty that you’re negatively impacting on the animals.
Isn’t that whale shark selfie worth a little more if you know it’s not hurting the sharks?
Where: It’s a 13 hour + drive from Perth, so you’ll want to fly to Learmonth Airport.
Cost: Tours start at around $350 per person.
37. Get a quokka selfie on Rottnest Island (WA)
Are quokkas the most photogenic animals on God’s green earth? I couldn’t say but damned if they don’t take a mean selfie.
Rottnest Island is located off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia and has become a hugely popular tourist destination due to its grinning quokkas. Rottnest Island is home to almost 12,000 of the protected marsupials, but visitors are reminded that it is illegal to harm or feed the adorable critters.
Instead, pack your selfie-stick and wait until the cool evening air brings them out of hiding. If you’re patient, you’ll be able to get that quokka selfie you’ve traveled so far to acquire.
Things to do on Rottnest Island
Don’t forget to explore the rest of Rottnest Island during your stay!
Rent a bike and cycle around and/or take a dip in the crystal-clear waters. Make a day out of your hunt for a quokka selfie and you won’t be disappointed.
Where: You can reach Rottnest Island by taking a ferry from Fremantle, Western Australia.
Cost: Ferry tickets to Rottnest Island are $68 per adult and $4 for children.
38. Dive with Great Whites off Port Lincoln (SA)
Quokkas and whale sharks too tame for your tastes?
Why not take a dip with the most feared oceanic predator: the Great White Shark?
Port Lincoln in South Australia is the only place in Australia where you can experience the abject terror of cage-diving with Great White Sharks. With a focus on sustainability and conservation, tours are conducted by Calypso Star Charters in the nearby Neptune Islands Marine Park.
If you’re looking to do something balls-to-the-wall insane during your Australian trip, this just might be the ticket!
Where: Port Lincoln is an eight-hour drive from Adelaide, but can be reached in under an hour by air.
Cost: Tickets are $395 per person + a $37 per person visitor use fee for the Neptune Islands Marine Park.
39. Go wine tasting in the Hunter Valley (NSW)
An oft-overlooked gem in New South Wales, the Hunter Valley is right on Sydney’s doorstep and offers up some of the best wine you’ll find in the world.
Less crowded than popular spots such as South Australia’s Barossa Valley, the Hunter Valley is awash with rural charm and some of the most passionate wine-makers in the world. With a huge number of cellar doors to visit, wine-lovers and wine-rookies alike are going to be spoiled for choice.
The best bit? The Hunter Valley is a more affordable alternative to pricier tourist hotspots, with a variety of affordable Hunter Valley wine tours from both Newcastle and Sydney.
But I don’t like wine!
You don’t need to be a fine wine connoisseur to appreciate the idyllic rural charm of the Hunter Valley.
Quaint B&Bs and homestays give you a chance to experience a different side of modern Australia, while the fine-dining scene in the region is sure to tantalize even the most ardent teetotaller.
Where: The Hunter Valley is a scenic two-hour drive from Sydney or a one-hour drive from Newcastle. You can also reach Newcastle via train or plane.
Cost: Cellar doors don’t charge a cent, but you’ll want to budget for transport, tours, food, and accommodation.
40. Rough it in Kakadu (NT)
Roughing it is probably a bit of a stretch, but Kakadu National Park is one of Australia’s most rugged and untamed tracts of wilderness.
A tropical park with a dizzying array of bird, animal, and plant-life, Kakadu National Park boasts huge environmental and cultural significance. Visitors can expect to see a totally unique side of Australia while also immersing themselves more fully in indigenous Australian culture.
Things to do in Kakadu
The size of Slovenia, Kakadu National Park is a truly massive area of wilderness with a huge variety of activities to keep visitors occupied.
Bird-watching, hikes, ancient Aboriginal rock art, stunning waterfalls, crocodile spotting, and more await!
Where to Stay
Kakadu has a number of hotels and resorts, but it’s totally possible to camp or caravan in Kakadu as well. This makes it a really accessible option for all budgets, although you’re obviously going to need to invest a bit of coin in getting there and then getting around.
At almost half the size of Switzerland, Kakadu is truly massive. Many of the roads are unsealed, which means you’re going to want a 4WD vehicle to get you around.
While many of the more popular attractions can be reached using sealed roads in a regular vehicle, do you really want to be restricted in your explorations of the park?
If you aren’t comfortable driving on rough roads, it might be worth booking a Kakadu tour instead.
Where: Kakadu National Park is approximately 250km from Darwin. You can also drive from Alice Springs.
Cost: 14-day passes are $25 per person.
41. Climb Cradle Mountain (Tasmania)
For those looking for a more challenging hike, Cradle Mountain in Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania offers a rigorous day-hike that rewards climbers with an unparalleled view of Tasmania’s breathtaking natural beauty.
Located within the gorgeous Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Cradle Mountain is the highlight in a park full of hikes for all ages and levels of fitness. It’s not an easy day stroll, as Claire’s Footsteps found out, so you’ll want to do your research ahead of time and make sure you’re prepared for a bit of light rock-climbing along the way.
At six to eight hours, it’s a full day adventure that will leave you thirsty to explore more of the stunning Tasmanian wilderness.
Where: Cradle Mountain is located in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, which is a 2-3 hour drive from cities such as Launceston and Devonport.
Cost: Entry to the park requires a Parks Pass, which range in cost from $12 for a single day to $60 to an eight-week, vehicle entry permit. This covers all parks in Tasmania.
42. See Wineglass Bay from Above (Tasmania)
One of Australia’s most spectacular regions, Wineglass Bay is named for both its wineglass shape and the crystal clear clarity of the waters within it.
Some say it also takes its name from the whaling operations that once dyed its waters red, but these days, it’s just about the most gorgeous beach in Australia.
There are a number of walks that allow you to take in the breathtaking beauty of Wineglass Bay from above, ranging from hour-long rambles to overnight hikes into the nearby wilderness of Freycinet National Park.
Exploring the Freycinet Area
As I mentioned in my reasons to visit Tasmania article, there is more to do in the Wineglass Bay and Freycinet region than just snap a few photos of the iconic bay from above. It’s a visually stunning corner of the world that packs lazy beach days, beautiful day hikes, and a thriving foodie culture into one fascinating region.
Don’t make the mistake of simply breezing through on your way somewhere else!
Where: Wineglass Bay is located a 2-3 hour drive from Hobart, Launceston, and Devonport.
Cost: Free, but you’ll want to research accommodation costs. There are also fees to enter Freycinet National Park.
43. Visit the Museum of Old and New Art (Tasmania)
Listed by Lonely Planet as one of the top attractions in the world, the deliciously quirky Museum of Old and New Art (MONA for short) is a must-see while you’re in Tasmania.
Even if your first reaction upon hearing the words ‘art gallery’ is to roll your eyes and say “that’s not my scene”, MONA might just change your mind.
The museum is carved into ancient sandstone and boasts an astonishing collection of modern art.
MONA aims to confront and confound its visitors with collections depicting everything from vaginas to global politics to (I’m not kidding) poop.
Oh yeah, and there’s a winery, restaurants, a brewery, and two annual music festivals: MONA FOMA and Dark MOFO.
MONA FOMA and Dark MOFO
If you time your trip to Tasmania right, you might be able to catch one of the two annual music festivals that take place at MONA.
MONA FOMA (Museum of Old and New Art Festival of Arts & Music) is a summertime celebration of art and music that features artists both musical and otherwise from around Australia and the world, while Dark Mofo does the same thing in the winter months.
Where: MONA can be reached via a ferry from Hobart.
Cost: The ferry to Mona costs is $22, although you can splash out on the Posh Pit for $55 and enjoy drinks and a private deck en route. Tickets to the museum are $28.
44. Attend an Anzac Day Dawn Service (ACT)
There are few experiences more solemn or iconically Australian than standing in the half-light at dawn and paying tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives for Australia in wars gone by.
While you may not have a personal connection to the heroics of the ANZACs or those who came after them, the annual commemoration of their sacrifices is one of Australia’s most beloved holidays and a unique cultural experience.
Attending a Dawn Service
Towns of all shapes and sizes arrange their own dawn services all across Australia on April 25th. Check with your local RSL (Returned and Services League) club for the timing and location of the service nearest you.
If you happen to be in Canberra for the occasion, the dawn service at the National War Memorial is second only to the Gallipoli dawn service when it comes to the sheer emotional weight of the occasion.
Celebrating the ANZACs
Once the somber reflection is done, ANZAC Day is typically a day of celebration that extends throughout the day.
While many people simply take advantage of the fact it is a public holiday, there are a number of traditions you can participate in such as the Gunfire Breakfast, the Anzac Day march, playing two-up, laying a wreath, or witnessing the Ode to Remembrance and the Last Post.
The Gunfire Breakfast usually follows immediately after a dawn service and is usually a cup of tea or coffee and breakfast foods ranging from stew, sausage sandwiches, or bacon and eggs.
Anzac Day marches are a national event, with even the smallest of towns generally having a march through town made up of veterans and their descendants. You can then head to a local pub or venue to play two-up, a game that is only legal one day a year.
For me, the Ode to Remembrance and the haunting Last Post most epitomize Anzac Day, and I’ll never forget how it felt to recite the Ode to Remembrance in a little pub in China as my friend played the Last Post to the confusion of the locals.
Where: Anzac Day celebrations take place across Australia.
45. Walk the Bondi to Coogee (NSW)
Any tourist can spend a day getting burned to a crisp and paying overs for flat whites on Bondi, so why not do something a little bit different and take one of Sydney’s most picturesque walks?
Coming in at a shade under 4.5km, the Bondi to Coogee is a short walk that packs in a lot of visual splendor along the way. While it’s achievable in two hours or so, the best way to experience the Bondi to Coogee is with a few stops along the way to take in the scenery, enjoy a coffee or bite to eat, and soak in the sun.
You can even extend your day’s explorations by continuing on to Maroubra Beach, making it a full-day excursion.
Just be sure to slip, slop, slap!
Where: Bondi Beach can be reached easily from the Sydney CBD by train and bus.
46. See Sydney come alive during Vivid (NSW)
From late May through until mid-June, Sydney comes alive with a liberal dash of colour and life as Vivid Sydney transforms Australia’s largest city.
Light installations and projections paint some of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks and buildings in vivid (haha) colours each and every night of the festival, lending the city a really vibrant atmosphere.
The festival isn’t just about lights and colour, however, as there is also a music programme and the Vivid Ideas forum featuring talks on a variety of subjects ranging from youth issues to Asia-Pacific development to the arts.
Where: Vivid takes place across Sydney for three weeks in late May-early June.
Cost: Free, but accommodation tends to jump up in price during the festival.
47. Attend the Australian Open (Victoria)
You’ve attended the iconically Australian sports: rugby league, Aussie rules, and cricket, but the Australian Open is one of Australia’s most beloved sporting traditions and a must-see for anybody with even a passing interest in the sport of tennis.
Taking place every January in Melbourne, the Australian Open is one of the four Grand-Slam tennis events, the largest sports event in the entire Southern Hemisphere, and holds the record for the most attended Grand Slam.
Put simply: it’s one of tennis’ most prestigious events.
Whether you’re keen to experience the pageantry and festival atmosphere of the full Australian Open programme over a few days or just want to see one of your heroes play, there are plenty of different packages available.
Where: The Australian Open takes place at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena in the last two weeks of January.
Cost: Ticket prices for 2019 have not yet been released.
48. Visit Kangaroo Island (SA)
With a name like ‘Kangaroo Island’, it’s got to be awesome, right?
Despite its name, Kangaroo Island is not an island populated by kangaroos of all shapes and sizes. Instead, it’s one of the premier destinations to spot sea lions in the wild. Oh, and they have koalas too!
Why isn’t it called Sea Lion & Koala Island? Who f***ing knows!?
Located off the coast of South Australia, Kangaroo Island is immensely popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s an island of breathtaking views, verdant forests, and a huge variety of wildlife that can be explored as a short 2-day trip or an extended city break.
What to do on Kangaroo Island
Beyond the obvious photo opportunities with koalas, kangaroos, and sea lions – there’s plenty to do on Kangaroo Island.
It’s a place of diverse landscapes, scenic walks, beautiful beaches, and unspoiled wilderness – the kind of thing that is getting harder and harder to find in a rapidly developing world.
Where: You can fly to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide or drive two hours to take the scenic ferry.
Cost: There is no charge to visit Kangaroo Island, but you’ll need to factor in flights or ferry fees. Ferry fees start at $98 for adults and $50 for children on a return basis, while flights will be more.
49. Attend the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (NSW)
One of the world’s largest celebrations of love, the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras transforms Sydney into a whirlwind of colour, glitter, and pageantry.
Most famous for its vibrant and debaucherous parade, the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras actually extends over more than two weeks with a packed 16-day programme including parties, performances, educational seminars, family picnics, and much more.
The main attraction is obviously the massive Mardi Gras Parade that concludes the whole festival, and people from all walks of life come out to take in the wild outfits and show their support.
Thinking of visiting? Check out Sydney Expert’s guide to Mardi Gras.
Where: The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras take place in Sydney from mid-February until early March.
Cost: Festival packages start at $225, but you can attend the Mardi Gras Parade for free.
50. Escape to the Mornington Peninsula
New South Wales and Queensland might get the lion’s share of love for their beaches, but Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula stakes a solid claim to being one of Australia’s most gorgeous beach destinations.
Wineries, quaint seaside towns, delicious food, stunning beaches, and scenic hikes all combine to make the Mornington Peninsula an increasingly popular destination with Australians and international visitors alike.
Just over an hour’s drive from the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a world apart from the metropolis. It’s a land of Mediterranean climate, rural charm, and stunning coastline just begging to be explored.
Whether you want to do some camping or spend a weekend in a romantic-as-hell B&B, you’re covered.
Want to spend the weekend at the beach or on an extended boozy wine tour? You can!
Its proximity to Melbourne makes the Mornington Peninsula an obvious must-see while you’re in Australia, and it can be experienced as a day-trip or an extended vacation.
Where: The Mornington Peninsula is just an hour’s drive from Melbourne.
Cost: Free to visit, but accommodation and the like will obviously cost you.
51. Swim with sea lions at Baird Bay (SA)
I’m usually loathe to recommend animal interaction activities, but the sea lion experience in Baird Bay, South Australia, leans pretty heavily into the fact that their activity aims to have a minimal impact on the behaviour and lives of the magnificent sea lions and sleek dolphins that call the waters home.
The chance to swim with two of the ocean’s most adorable residents should provide a pretty good incentive to take the one-hour flight, but you can also combine this corner of South Australia with the aforementioned Kangaroo Island as an extended South Australian road trip.
Where: Baird Bay is serviced by an airport with multiple flights from Adelaide each day. It is an eight-hour drive from Adelaide.
Cost: $180 for adults and $90 for children for the combined dolphin/sea lion swimming tour.
52. Visit the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island (QLD)
World Heritage Listed Fraser Island is a truly stunning natural wonder. Where else in the world can you find a tropical rainforest growing on massive sand dunes?
As the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island is a world removed from the hustle and bustle of nearby Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
One of Queensland’s most popular outdoor playgrounds, Fraser Island is a popular spot for hiking, fishing, 4WDing, and whale-watching.
In fact, if whale watching is your thing, Fraser Island is considered the ‘whale watching capital of the world‘ by some.
Staying on Fraser Island
It’s perfectly possible to enjoy Fraser Island as a day-trip from the Australian mainland, but some choose to extend their stay by spending a few days at one of the two luxurious resorts on the island.
If your time and budget allow, it’s a great way to soak in some serenity and explore one of Australia’s most beloved landscapes.
53. Go Hiking in the Daintree (QLD)
A primordial jungle that puts visitors more in mind of Africa or South America, the steamy Daintree Rainforest in Northern Queensland is a stunning example of what Australia might have looked like hundreds of thousands of years ago.
The most diverse and complex ecosystem on the entire continent, the Daintree is home to wildlife such as crocodiles, the intimidating cassowary, gigantic butterflies, sugar gliders, bandicoots, wild pigs, gigantic goannas, and much more.
It’s a veritable lost world that you wouldn’t expect to exist on a continent as dry as Australia.
Visiting the Daintree
If you’d like a taste of the ancient wilderness, it’s perfectly possible to make a short visit to the Daintree National Park to go on a hike, enjoy a self-guided audio tour, or learn more about the local wildlife.
The rainforest is absolutely huge, but it’s easy to get a taste for it with a visit to the popular Daintree Rainforest Discovery Centre.
Planning a Daintree Adventure
As a rugged and untamed wilderness that is home to some less-than-friendly animals, an extended tour of the Daintree is best arranged with an expert.
A number of half-day and full-day tours depart from nearby Port Douglas or Mossman.
Highlights of any visit to the rainforest include seeing where the reef meets the rainforest at Cape Tribulation, taking a crocodile cruise out on the river, and soaking in the weight of history that exists in the world’s oldest rainforest.
Where: The Daintree lies two and a half hours’ drive north of Cairns, which is serviced by an international airport.
Cost: The Rainforest Discovery Centre is $35 per adult and $18 per child, while tours range in price.
54. See the penguins on Phillip Island (Victoria)
Australia sure does like to pack fascinating wildlife onto tiny islands. If Kangaroo Island’s sea lions and koalas didn’t do it for you, the adorable little penguins that call the island home.
The smallest species of penguin in the world, the little penguins of Phillip Island draw tens of thousands of tourists to the island every year to witness the penguin parade as hundreds of penguins run from the beach to their shelters.
An easily arranged day-trip from Melbourne, a visit to Phillip Island to see the penguins rushing about is a must if you’re traveling with kids.
Where: Phillip Island is approximately 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne or ninety minutes’ drive from the Mornington Peninsula.
Cost: $26 per adult and $13 per child.
55. Try a Freakshake in Canberra (ACT)
You’ve probably seen a picture of a freakshake on Instagram.
They’re those massive milkshakes overflowing with donuts, candy bars, and other ingredients you wouldn’t normally expect to see piled atop the humble ‘shake.
Like many of the greatest food innovations in the world, the freakshake started its rise to international fame in Australia – with Canberra’s Patissez Manuka holding the claim to fame for inventing the calorie-rich lovechild of a milkshake and a dessert.
Trying a freakshake elsewhere
While the freakshake has its humble origins in the nation’s capital, you don’t have travel to Canberra to try one of these decadent desserts. Any hipster-friendly cafe or coffee shop worth its salt is going to offer a freakshake, and they’re especially commonplace in Melbourne and Sydney’s trendier suburbs.
Hell, I’ve even had one in sleepy Glen Innes!
56. Take a Murray River Cruise (SA)
When you think of a river cruise, Australia probably isn’t the first country to leap to mind.
You might picture a paddle-steamer making its way down the muddy Mississippi or a white-sailed dhow on the Nile.
But a few days out on the Murray River in Australia might be one of the most uniquely Australian experiences out there.
The Murray River
Australia’s longest river, the Murray-Darling stretches more than 2,500 kilometres from the Australian Alps in Victoria to South Australia along a meandering route that takes it through sleepy country towns, idyllic farmland, and even stretches of the Australian outback.
Along with the Darling River, the Murray is a vital part of providing water to Australia’s interior. That’s not super exciting for tourists, of course, but I just thought I’d share.
The Murray Princess
There’s something romantic about the image of sitting out on the sun deck of an old-timey paddle steamer with a drink in your hand as the world rolls by. Let’s pretend it’s a cup of Pimms, because Pimms is the best rich person drink that isn’t champagne.
While it’s not likely to be in the average backpacker budget, a few days out on the Murray is a window into a very different side of Australia. Not only are you cruising along the country’s longest river in a boat that represents a vital part of Australia’s early trade network, but you’re breaking it up with day trips to local communities, Australian wine country, and tracts of largely untamed bushland.
It’s one of those experiences that is all about the journey rather than the destination.
Where: Murray Princess cruises start from Mannum in South Australia. Most cruises packages include coach transfers from Adelaide.
Cost: Packages start at around $850 for a full-board three-night cruise.
57. Feed the Dolphins at Tangalooma (QLD)
Like Fraser Island to the north, Moreton Island off the Queensland coast is a large (mostly) sand island that is a popular playground with locals and foreign tourists alike.
With a ferry from Brisbane connecting the island to the mainland, it’s a popular spot for both day trips and extended beach escapes.
And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a great place to try your hand at stand-up paddling boarding or scuba diving, is right on the humpback whale migration routes, and is one of the more reliable spots in Australia to swim with wild dolphins.
Feeding the Dolphins
Like many animal interaction experiences, the chance to feed the dolphins that make daily visits to the main beach at Tangalooma Resort is not without questions over how ethical it is. I mean, is it not to the detriment of the dolphins that they now see us as a food source? What will happen when we stop feeding them?
You’ll be pleased to know that the resort practices sustainable feeding, so you can feed the dolphins without having to feel like a terrible human being. Hoorah!
In fact, I’ve stayed on Tangalooma myself in the past and participated in the feeding. I also sucked at stand-up paddle boarding, tried snorkeling on their gorgeous house reef, and struck out with every woman I approached!
Good times, precious memories.
Where: Moreton Island is a short ferry ride from Brisbane.
Cost: Day-trips to Tangalooma are $199 for adults and $149 for children. This includes return ferry transfer and full use of the resort’s facilities.
58. Take a Tour of the MCG (Victoria)
If you’re not a die-hard fan of cricket, this one might not be for you. You’ll probably want to scroll on by. The MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) is, first and foremost, a site of great sporting significance.
However, if your time in Australia has instilled in you a deep and abiding love for the national pastime, you might just jump at the chance to pay a visit to the stadium known affectionately as ‘The ‘G’.
The largest stadium in the southern hemisphere and the tenth largest stadium on earth, the startlingly large arena can hold upwards of 100,000 people.
Not only has it played host to AFL and Australian football (soccer) games of great importance, it’s also where the very first test match was played and the very first international one-dayer.
Touring the MCG
If all of that history has won you over, you’ll be pleased to know that you can pay a visit to the stadium when it’s not playing host to big games and take a tour.
You’ll not only get to set foot on the hallowed turf but explore the inner-workings of the massive cultural and sporting landmark.
Where: The MCG is located in downtown Melbourne.
Cost: Tours are $35 for adults and $29 for children, including access to the National Sports Museum.
59. Attend the Margaret River Gourmet Escape (WA)
Before I wax lyrical about one of Australia’s largest food and wine festivals, I should take a moment to point out that the Margaret River region of Western Australia should be on your itinerary anyway.
Alongside the Barossa Valley and the Hunter Valley, Margaret River is one of Australia’s premier wine growing regions. It’s also home to some gorgeous beaches and unspoiled tracts of bushland.
Eat all of the things!
With that being said, it sure would be great if your visit to the region coincided with the massive Margaret River Gourmet Escape.
World-class chefs make their signature dishes, local vendors sell local produce, musicians perform, and visitors sample a range of global cuisines and unforgettable fusions.
It’s the perfect chance to expand your waistline while also exploring a gorgeous oft-overlooked corner of Australia.
Where: You can reach the Margaret River region with a three-hour drive from Perth.
Cost: Tickets are $40 per person.
60. See Lake Eyre in Flood (SA)
When I first visited the USA, I was blown away by the sheer size and number of lakes in the country.
Growing up in Australia, lakes are more often than not muddy ponds, man-made reservoirs, or perennially dry salt-flats that have forgotten what water feels like.
Take, for example, Lake Eyre. Australia’s largest lake is also the continent’s lowest point. It is so large that its borders touch three states (and a territory). However, it’s more off-road destination than marine escape.
Seeing Lake Eyre in the Dry
Even in dry season, there’s reason to make the long dry to see Australia’s largest lake.
Its shimmering salt pan is an otherworldly sight set amidst towering red-sand dunes and the backdrop of the harsh Aussie interior.
Visitors can stand on the invisible line that marks the shore and be made humble by both their isolation and the sheer size of the ‘red centre’.
Seeing Lake Eyre in Flood
About once every decade, Lake Eyre gets enough rain to live up to its name. When it does, people travel from all across Australia to witness the transformation.
Tens of thousands of birds flock to the lake, lending its shallow waters a splash of colour and reinvigorating the entire region.
Much like the desert blooms that amaze people elsewhere in the country, the unpredictable flooding of Lake Eyre makes for a majestic sight.
It’s just a shame that it’s almost impossible to predict!
Where: Lake Eyre is a shade under 700km drive from Adelaide, which means you’ll need a full day to get there.
Cost: Entrance into Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park is $12 per vehicle.
61. Go for a dip in an ocean bath in Newcastle (NSW)
Australia’s second oldest city is home to some of its best beaches as well as being right on the doorstep of the Hunter Valley wine region. A city of its age is not without plenty of history, and one of my favourite examples of this is the city’s ocean baths.
Newcastle’s Ocean Baths
From a time before every stretch of white sand was covered in sunburnt British tourists and every square inch of beachfront property housed upmarket apartments and boutiques, ocean baths stand as a testament to a different world.
The elaborate pavilions come from a bygone era of gender-segregated swimming areas, outlandish swimming costumes, and simpler times when a day at the beach didn’t have to vie with TV, video games, and international travel for your attention.
With some of the baths dating back to the early 1800s, they offer a rare opportunity to get in some sun while also learning a little history.
Where to Go
The three most popular ocean baths in Newcastle are the Newcastle Ocean Baths, the Merewether Baths, and Bogey Hole. These are all located along or nearby the popular Bather’s Way, which is a gorgeous walk in and of itself.
Hewn from the very stone of the coastline, they’re a delightful blend of a traditional pool and the natural charm of a beach. Swim your laps or play games without having to worry about being swept away by a massive wave. It’s a winning combination!
Where: Newcastle is serviced by an international airport, but can also be reached by a two-hour drive or three-hour train from Sydney.
62. Go kayaking in the Royal National Park (NSW)
Second in age only to Yellowstone National Park in the US, Sydney’s Royal National Park is a gorgeous wilderness area located right on Sydney’s doorstep.
You can take a train from the bustling heart of Sydney to this beautiful amalgamation of beaches, freshwater swimming holes, and Aussie bushland in around an hour, transporting you to a world so far removed from Sydney you’d be forgiven for thinking you weren’t just outside Australia’s largest city.
Kayaking in Bundeena
When I visited Bundeena back in 2010, my ex and I were late for our tour and instead rented a couple of kayaks to explore the waterways.
I may or may not have taken a little kip on a sandy little strip of coastline reachable only by kayak. It may or may not have been glorious.
While it’s perfectly possible to explore the park on foot (and you should totally do this), the highlight for me is the chance to get out on the water and do some exploring. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a humpback whale!
Where: You can reach the Royal National Park by train from Sydney.
Cost: Kayak rentals start at $25 for an hour and cap out at $75 for the day. Guided tours start at $110. If you want to drive down, there is a $12 park fee per vehicle.
63. Try your hand at lawn bowls (N/A)
“It’s on for young and old”
Lawn bowls might not have the same international renown or fanatical loyalty as Australia’s other sports, but it’s undoubtedly part of the Australian cultural identity. Similar to bocce, lawn bowls is a popular lawn game played primarily by Australia’s older citizens.
I may have also played it for school sport during my less athletic days…
Not to be confused with ten-pin bowling, lawn bowls sees participants trying to get a weighted black ball as close to a tiny white ball as possible. It’s like a more refined version of shuffleboard.
The Lawn Bowls Community
More than just a simple game, lawn bowls is a part of many local communities. You’d be hard pressed to find a residential suburb or small town without a local bowling club, usually with a Chinese restaurant of dubious quality attached. I’m not yet sure why this is a thing, but they all have them!
Popular gathering places with a town’s retirees, bowls clubs usually offer cheaper drinks and meals than you’ll find elsewhere in town. I’m talking $3 beers in places where they usually go for $6!
While not the most exciting spots in town, there is a quiet charm to a local ‘bowlo’ that shouldn’t be overlooked. They represent a piece of Australiana that very few people ever get to experience or truly appreciate.
Where: Almost every small town will have a local bowling club, and they are all over major cities as well. Check Bowls Australia for more info.
Price: This varies from club to club. Some clubs do not allow walk-up bowlers, instead requiring a membership.
64. Pan for Gold at Sovereign Hill (Victoria)
Australia’s Gold Rush played an important part in establishing the nation’s identity – both in attracting people from all around the world and also in shaping the modern democracy and demand for workers rights.
While there were many gold rushes over the years, arguably the most well-known of these took place in the Victorian towns of Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo.
If you’re looking for a bit of a cliched glimpse into the heady days of Australia’s gold rush, the large outdoor museum at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is a good way to go about it. It’s an especially good option for family’s traveling with kids, as there are plenty of interactive elements to bring the period to life.
Gold Panning in Australia
Gold panning is the practice of taking a sieve-like pan out into a riverbed and exercising all of your patience in the hope you’ll spot a fleck of gold or two.
It might not sound especially exciting, but it’s surprisingly fun to spend some time out in the heat trying your luck. Trust me, I’ve done it a bunch of times.
Where: Sovereign Hill is a ninety-minute drive from Melbourne, while popular gold panning sites are all over the country.
Cost: Tickets to Sovereign Hill are $57 for adults and $25.60 for children.
65. Go rock-climbing in the Grampians (Victoria)
Run of the mill bush-walking a bit ho-hum for you?
Not content with simply snapping a few photos of a picturesque slice of wilderness?
How about you try your hand at tackling the rugged beauty of Victoria’s Grampians National Park?
Towering sandstone mountains, dense forest, and beautiful waterfalls make the Grampians one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations, and you’ll certainly find that there are plenty of hiking tracks and photo opportunities.
But if you’re looking for a bit more ‘oomph’ from your visit, you can try rock-climbing.
Rock Climbing the Grampians
The Grampians are known across Australia for having some of the best sandstone climbing conditions, making the park a perfect place for both beginners and experts to work on their palm blisters.
With climbs starting from as little as $85, it’s a great way to get active and see one of Australia’s more spectacular national parks from a unique perspective.
Where: The Grampians is an approximately three-hour drive from Melbourne.
Cost: Entering the park is free. Rock-climbing sessions start at $85 for a four-hour session.
66. Check out Australia’s many ‘big things’ (N/A)
I couldn’t tell you why, but my country of birth has an unnatural obsession with building ‘big things’.
I’m not talking about large buildings or bridges, but let’s just say that the old adage “Everything is bigger in Texas” had never met an Australian.
There’s big bananas, big pineapples, big prawns, big dogs on tucker boxes, (big) golden guitars, and many more.
And seeing the all might just be Australia’s tackiest, but most off-the-beaten-path road trip you’ll ever take!
Why Visit the Big Things?
Australia’s motley collection of big things is scattered across the country with no real rhyme or reason. Some of them, such as Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana or the Sunshine Coast’s Big Pineapple are tourist attractions unto themselves. You’ll find rides, shops, and tours centered around local industry.
Others, such as Tamworth’s Golden Guitar, are symbolic of a town’s true appeal. In Tamworth’s case, it’s their massive Country Music Festival.
Many, however, are little more than advertising for some local business. Some ambitious fool erected a gigantic beer can outside of their pub or a gigantic boxing crocodile outside of their gas station, and they’ve since become tourist attractions in their own right.
The true appeal of visiting these big things isn’t so much seeing the dubious craftsmanship as it is experiencing towns and regions you might not otherwise have stopped in.
Planning a Big Things Road Trip
If seeing these quirky slices of Australiana strikes you as something you might like to do, there is an exhaustive list of big things and their locations on Wikipedia.
Get ou a map, rent a car, and start plotting your travels through some of Australia’s oft-overlooked country towns.
You might even pass through Guyra to see the Big Lamb, which is a stone’s throw from my childhood home!
Where: Australia’s big things are scattered across the country like cheap, tacky gems.
Cost: Most are free to visit and photograph, although some are attached to tourist parks that have an entrance fee.
67. Explore the Outback (NSW)
While Australia is famous for its beaches and its bustling major cities, the image of the nation’s sun-blasted interior is every bit as popular and romantic.
Many travelers might get a taste for the Australian Outback with a visit to Uluru or the Kimberleys, but why not pay a visit to the ‘accessible Outback’ and get a real taste for life out in the red centre?
Why the NSW Outback?
With much of Australia’s interior considered desert, it’s possible to experience a little outback adventure from every state or territory except the ACT and Tasmania.
What makes NSW the ideal location to visit the outback is its accessibility, with trains running from Sydney out into the desert each and every day.
Whether your explorations are limited to the mining town of Broken Hill or you rent a car and head out to visit towns like Tibooburra and Menindee is entirely up to you, but you’d be doing yourself a favour to dedicate at least a week to explore the outback.
Highlights of Outback NSW
Where do I begin? I was lucky enough to have grown up living in the outback towns of Menindee and Tibooburra, so I’ve got a deep and abiding affection for the region.
Sleepy Tibooburra is the most remote town in NSW and regularly tops the temperature charts. It acts as the gateway to the Sturt National Park too! Nearby Milparinka is a ghost town with a pub because Australia has its priorities straight!
Want to sleep underground and look for opals? White Cliffs is something akin to more touristed Coober Pedy.
Want the desert experience without having to really rough it? Broken Hill has all of the charms of a desert city with a little more of the developed world at your doorstep, and you’re a stone’s throw from the lakes of Menindee.
Then there’s Bourke, which so inspired Australian poet Henry Lawson that he said “if you know Bourke, you know Australia”. A river town on the very fringe of the so-called ‘civilized world’, Bourke has become synonymous with the phrase ‘out the back o’ Bourke’. Anything beyond this point is a bloody long way from anything else!
Of course, you don’t have to head all the way inland to experience a bit of desert life. More central cities such as Dubbo, Coonabarabran, and Walgett let you experience a taste of desert life without driving for days.
Where: Broken Hill and Dubbo are the most accessible cities, as both are serviced by trains from Sydney. There are also domestic airports.
Cost: Free to visit, but you’ll want to rent a car if you’re doing an NSW outback road trip.
68. Sleep Underground in Coober Pedy
I touched briefly on the fact you can sleep in an underground hotel above, but Coober Pedy in the South Australian outback warrants an entry all of its own.
Ideally located between Adelaide and Alice Springs/Uluru, Coober Pedy is arguably Australia’s most famous desert town. It’s all red earth, corrugated iron, brilliant sunsets, and underground dwellings.
That’s right, underground.
In an effort to beat the brutal desert heat, the residents of Coober Pedy retreated underground.
While you don’t have to sleep underground, it’s a pretty amazing experience. I’ve done it myself in White Cliffs and it’s one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. It’s just so quiet!
There are two underground motels in town, both boasting a charming combination of outback hospitality and the kind of service you’d expect to find in a hotel anywhere else on earth.
Exploring Coober Pedy
Even if you opt not to sleep underground, you can take tours of underground dwellings, visit an underground museum, and get in a little time with Jesus at an underground Jesus.
You can try your hand at panning for opals, play a round of (somewhat dusty) golf, or even go back to a bygone era by catching a flick at the local drive-in cinema!
Where: Coober Pedy is an 8-10 hour drive from Adelaide and a 6-8 hour drive from Alice Springs. It is serviced by an airport.
Cost: Free to visit, but you’ll need a car and a place to stay.
If this isn’t your first rodeo, the previous two pages might have all seemed a bit predictable to you.
Yawn! Try harder, Chris!
Okay, here goes nothing. Some more obscure inspirations for your Australian bucket list.
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