The Definitive Australia Bucket List
I spend so much of my time pursuing bucket list items outside of Australia that I often forget just how much there is to be said for an Australian bucket list. With a huge variety of climates, landscapes, and cultures to be explored, the hardest part of preparing the following list was limiting it to just 95 things you should do while in Australia.
Australia is a huge country, so tackling all ninety-five of the items below might take a few return journeys! You might want to enlist the aid of an Australia tour specialist.
Editor’s Note: Needing to brush up on your Aussie slang? Don’t forget to check out my exhaustive Guide to Australian Slang.
As one of the more popular and safe countries in world tourism, it’s understandable that Australia has quite a few ‘must see’ items that might seem obvious to any seasoned traveler.
The below can be considered a rough guideline for planning the perfect one or two month trip to Australia.
There are some delicious food challenges, a smattering of sporting events, and some unforgettable experiences along the way.
1. Visit the Sydney Opera House (NSW)
Arguably Australia’s most recognisable piece of architecture, the stunning Sydney Opera House defines the Sydney skyline and symbolizes the largest Australian city in the same way that the Statue of Liberty defines New York City.
Completed in 1973, the distinctive white ‘shells’ of the Opera House house a number of performance venues. It’s not just opera that takes place in the Opera House, but also stand-up comedians, dance, orchestral performances, and touring speakers and performers from all around the world.
The best part? The Opera House can be experienced without having to spend a dime! If all you want to do is snap a few photos of the unique structure, you can do this from land or sea without having to pay for the privilege.
Touring the Sydney Opera House
Of course, there are also a number of guided Opera House tours for those who want a more comprehensive experience. These range in price from an affordable $37 walking tour to thelavish $295 Tastes of the Opera House food tour.
If guided tours aren’t your bag, there’s always the chance to see a show in the Sydney Opera House. I was lucky enough to see the Cirque de Soleil style La Soiree in the Opera House in 2011 and it was unforgettable.
Seeing the Opera House from a Unique Perspective
While it’s certainly possible to simply walk to the steps of the Opera House from Circular Quay Station, I’ve always found it’s most beautiful from alternate perspectives.
The Manly Ferry (mentioned later in this bucket list) affords a fantastic photo opp as you pass by the Opera House.
If you’re feeling a bit braver, the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb also affords a spectacular view of the shells from above.
Where: The Sydney Opera House is located a short walk from Circular Quay Station in Sydney’s CBD.
Cost: It’s free to visit the Opera House. Tours start from $37 AUD.
2. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge (NSW)
Sydney’s other distinctive landmark: the Sydney Harbour Bridge is right up there with the Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and Tower Bridge when it comes to iconic bridges.
A feature of the Sydney skyline since 1932 and remains a major artery in the city’s transit network to this day.
Stretching from North Sydney to the bustling CBD, the Harbour Bridge is one of the most photographed landmarks in Australia with good reason. Its distinctive look is matched only by the stunning backdrop that Sydney’s towering skyline provides.
While it’s free to walk from Milson’s Point to The Rocks (or vice versa), the bridge is best experienced by climbing to the very top and looking out over the city.
Climbs are run year-round by Bridgeclimb Sydney, with their sunset or after dark climbs being especially spectacular. Nothing quite beats the feeling of standing above everything and looking out over the glittering city lights and their reflections in Sydney Harbour.
Where: Sydney Harbour Bridge can be walked across from Wynyard or Milson’s Point Station. BridgeClimb’s office is located in The Rocks at 3 Cumberland Street.
Cost: Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. BridgeClimb experiences start at $183 and top out at $383 for the sunrise or sunset climbs.
3. Visit Bondi Beach (NSW)
Australia’s most famous beach may be a tad overrated, but it wouldn’t be a trip to Australian shores without getting some sun, sand, and surf on the country’s most famous beach.
A year-round attraction, Bondi Beach is a picturesque stretch of beach often hidden by the massive crowds of local and international tourists clambering for a precious patch of white sand.
If you’ve longed to experience the distinctly Aussie beach day complete with fish and chips, impossibly attractive lifeguards, hipster cafes, and aggressive surf, Bondi Beach is about as quintessential as an Aussie beach experience gets.
While it’s true there are definitely better beaches than Bondi in Sydney (such as Coogee, Manly, Cronulla, Shelly, and Bronte), Bondi remains the most popular and is well worth a visit if only so you can say you’ve been.
Where: Bondi Beach can be reached by train and bus from Town Hall Station in approximately 30 minutes.
Cost: Free! Australian beaches are always free!
4. Explore the Blue Mountains (NSW)
Sticking with the Sydney theme, it’s off to the neighbouring Blue Mountains to soak in the serenity of the Australian bush.
While the Blue Mountains are just a short train ride from the heart of Sydney, you couldn’t feel more removed from the hectic noise of the city. Standing at one of the lookout points or hiking through the bush, you might as well be a thousand miles from Bondi or The Rocks.
The famous Three Sisters are the most recognisable landmark in the region, but the Blue Mountains is far more than just a photo opportunity.
Dine in the quaint cafes of Leura, Blackheath, or Katoomba, venture into the Blue Mountains National Park to hike amidst the waterfalls and dense scrub, take in the lights at Jenolan Caves, or ride the death-defying rides at Scenic World. The world is your oyster!
Where: The Blue Mountains are two hours from Sydney by bus, train, or car. Major train stations include Katoomba and Wentworth Falls.
Cost: It’s free to visit the Blue Mountains National Park. Attractions such as Scenic World and Jenolan Caves do have their own entrance fees.
5. Overnight at Taronga Zoo (NSW)
Australia’s most famous zoo, Taronga might just be the most picturesque zoo in the world. With a stunning view of Sydney Harbour and its major landmarks, Taronga is an island of calm located just twelve minutes from the city.
Taronga is home to more than 4,000 animals and boasts a huge variety of activities such as ropes courses, up close animal encounters, educational courses, and much more.
For a truly unforgettable experience, however, the option is there to spend a night in the zoo. You’ll not only enjoy having the zoo to yourselves after dark, but also dine on delicious food and fall asleep to the sounds of elephants, lions, and much more. It’s as close to a safari as you’re likely to get in Australia.
Even if you can’t afford the price for the Roar and Snore experience, a visit to the zoo is a great way to see both Australian and international wildlife.
Where: Taronga Zoo is a twelve-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay Station.
Cost: Entry to the zoo starts at $27 for children and $47 for adults. The Roar and Snore overnight experience starts at $195 for children and $295 for adults.
6. Ride the Manly Ferry (NSW)
Sydney Harbour is crisscrossed by a number of ferries, but none offers a more picturesque journey than the Manly Ferry.
Taking people from Circular Quay to Manly, this half-hour ride takes you past the Opera House and past the headlands where the mighty Pacific Ocean meets the Sydney Harbour.
It’s more than just the journey too, as a day in Manly is an experience all of its own!
Grabbing a bite to eat on The Corso, swimming at Manly, Dee Why, or Freshwater Beach, swinging by 4 Pines Brewing Company, visiting the Manly Aquarium, or having a beach BBQ on Shelly Beach, there’s so much to see and do on Sydney’s North Shore.
Where: The Manly Ferry leaves every hour from Circular Quay.
Cost: Tickets on the Manly Ferry are $6.20 one way.
7. Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Sydney (NSW)
Few cities ring in the New Year quite as well as the Harbour City, with Sydney’s annual fireworks display being one of the most spectacular in the world.
Ringing in the New Year in Sydney is one of the biggest parties in Australia and an absolute must if you’re going to be in Australia over the holiday.
The city grinds to a standstill during the party, with tens of thousands of locals and visitors hitting popular vantage points such as Darling Harbour, Barangaroo Reserve, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and many more.
Be sure to check the Sydney New Year’s website for details on which areas are ticketed and which are free, where BYO alcohol is prohibited, and timing for various events and performances on the night.
Where: All over Sydney Harbour.
Cost: Free, although some areas of the city are ticketed.
8. Wander the historic Rocks district (NSW)
As Australia’s oldest city, Sydney has plenty of history if you know where to look. While it’s a bit touristic these days, the historic Rocks district is arguably the best place in the city to learn more about the area’s roots.
An intriguing collection of colonial-era buildings and historic sites, trendy brewpubs and eateries, and glitzy boutiques, The Rocks is one of my favourite parts of Sydney to just wander around.
It’s home to my absolute favourite pub in Sydney (Hart’s Pub) as well as a selection of other fantastic pubs with plenty of history such as Lord Nelson, Hero of Waterloo, and Australian Heritage Hotel.
Where: The Rocks is a short walk from multiple Sydney train stations including Wynyard and Circular Quay.
9. Attend the Royal Easter Show (NSW)
The Australian equivalent to a US State Fair, the Royal Easter Show is one of the biggest ‘agricultural exhibitions’ in Australia. This might sound a bit dry, but an Aussie show is just as much about food, alcohol, and rides as it is about who has the biggest pig and who took the best photo.
More something for families than for young travelers, there’s still a little for all tastes at the Royal Easter Show. We’re talking rides and activities for kids, bars and restaurants for adults, and performances of all varieties for the family.
Can’t make it to Sydney for the Easter weekend? Most towns in Australia have an annual agricultural show that offers up the same experience in miniature! You can find an exhaustive database of shows and dates here.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to buy a show bag!
Where: Sydney Showground in the Sydney Olympic Park.
Cost: Tickets start at $37 for adults and $22 for children.
10. Achieve peak hipster in Melbourne (Victoria)
Arguably Australia’s most popular cities when it comes to tourists and expats, ultra trendy Melbourne is more about the vibe than a set list of things to do.
While Sydney boasts obvious landmarks you need to visit, Melbourne is more about taking your time and soaking in Australia’s most cosmopolitan city.
It’s home to Australia’s best coffee and a mouth-watering cuisine scene, as well as world-class shopping, art galleries, and entertainment.
As Australia’s self-proclaimed sporting capital, it’s also one of the best places in Australia to attend one of the national sports such as Super Rugby, the National Rugby League, the A-League, the T20 Big Bash, and the AFL.
Looking for some Melbourne inspiration? Check out this insane Melbourne bucket list.
Where: Melbourne can be reached by plane, bus, train, or car. It’s serviced by a large international airport.
Cost: Free to visit. A tad more to dine, shop, or stay in.
11. Visit the Gold Coast (QLD)
Australia’s most famous beach playground, the white sand and clear waters of Queensland’s Gold Coast are a popular attraction for tourists from around the world.
Catering to international and local tourists in a way no other Australian city does, the Gold Coast can boast having something for all walks of life. From bustling theme parks to glitzy casinos to chilled surfer towns, all tastes are catered to in this southern Queensland haven.
While I won’t go so far as to say the beaches are world-class or that you can’t find a lot of what the Gold Coast offers elsewhere, nowhere else in Australia can lay claim to having all of the ingredients in such close proximity.
For shopping, night-life, and family-friendly entertainment, there are few places in Australia more perfect.
What to do on the Gold Coast
If you’re traveling with kids, theme parks such as Dream World and Movie World are always popular. I’ve even written about my own visit to Dream World. There are also wildlife experiences such as Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
For big kids, the clubs and pubs of Surfers Paradise are a haven for cashed-up tourists and budget backpackers alike, offering debauchery in spades. There’s also Jupiter’s Casino for those wanting something a bit more glitzy.
Aside from the stunning beaches, there are also a number of nearby national parks in which you can get in touch with Australia’s unique wildlife. These include parks such as Springbrook, Tamborine, and Lamington.
Where: The Gold Coast is a short drive from Brisbane, but can also be reached by its own international airport.
Cost: Free to visit.
12. Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef (QLD)
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is unquestionably one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world, but you’ll need to see it before the Australian government’s pro-mining, anti-environment policy bleaches it to oblivion.
Cynicism aside, scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is a goal worthy of any travel bucket list, let alone an Australian one.
I was lucky enough to learn to scuba dive on the Barrier Reef, but it did spoil me for all future scuba diving. Once you’ve dived the Great Barrier Reef, subpar house reefs in Southeast Asia just won’t cut it!
I Can’t Scuba Dive!
A little uncomfortable at the idea of being deep underwater with a tank of air strapped to your back?
I understand that scuba diving isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Thankfully, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is almost as good as diving on it.
There are plenty of areas where the crystal clear waters are shallow enough to allow you to experience the reef’s vibrant colours on a snorkeling tour. There are even glass-bottom boats available for those who are allergic to the ocean!
Where: The Great Barrier Reef stretches along much of the Queensland coast, but popular dive spots exist in Townsville, Cairns, and Port Douglas.
Cost: Certified dives range in price from $60 – $100 AUD per dive (including equipment). This is on top of any boat fees (often $200+ AUD).
13. Complete a Tim Tam Slam (N/A)
Here’s a nice, easy one you can do without even having to venture all the way to Australian soil.
The Tim Tam is a hugely popular chocolate biscuit (or ‘cookie’, for my American readers) that Aussies have invented a rather inventive way of eating.
See below for the how and why of it all:
So, grab a packet of Tim Tams, put the kettle on for a hot cuppa, and get a little bit sticky eating Australia’s most popular biscuit!
Cost: A packet of Tim Tams will set you back around $2 AUD in Australia, but considerably more if you’re abroad. They’re $6 a packet here in Vietnam!
14. Try Vegemite on Toast (N/A)
If Tim Tams are one of Australia’s most beloved exports, it’s safe to say that Vegemite is at the opposite of the spectrum.
This salty, yeast-rich spread has a cult following in Australia but is definitely an acquired taste. I didn’t like it at all until I was in my teens, and now I never leave home without a jar or tube of the stuff.
It’s actually unbelievably good for you too!
Many first-time Vegemiters make the mistake of spreading it onto their toast like they would peanut butter or jam (jelly). Rookie error!
Vegemite is best when you put a light spread – a dusting if you will – across your toast. It gives a delightful saltiness to an otherwise mundane bit of bread. Winning!
Cost: A jar of Vegemite is around $2 AUD in most grocery stores.
15. Chill Out in Byron Bay (NSW)
If the Gold Coast is synonymous with partying and Bondi is famous for its hordes of sun-reddened British expats, Byron Bay is Australia’s most well-known hippie get away.
If you’re all about acai bowls, drum circles, hemp clothing, reggae, and dream of a day when weed is legal in Australia, you’re probably going to love Byron Bay.
That isn’t to say that this gorgeous beachside town is a den of sin and iniquity – far from it! I grew up holidaying in nearby Ocean Shores, and Byron Bay remains a popular destination for Aussie families who can stomach the crowds.
What to do in Byron Bay
The obvious attraction in Byron Bay are its beaches. It’s a great place to work on your tan, do a little sea kayaking, or take a surf lesson.
Nearby Nimbin is a popular hippie town famous for its community market, while a number of national parks and stunning landscapes are close by for those who want to do a spot of hiking.
Seeing the sunrise at Byron Bay Lighthouse (Australia’s easternmost point) is also an experience not to be missed, and very nearly warranted a spot all of its own on this list!
For more Byron Bay inspiration, check out this post by 2Aussie Travellers!
Where: Byron Bay can be reached by bus or train, but is also close to both Gold Coast Airport and Ballina Airport for flights. It is a two-hour drive from Brisbane and a scenic nine-hour drive from Sydney.
Cost: Free to visit.
16. Learn to Surf in Torquay (Victoria)
It’s true that you could learn to surf on the Gold Coast, in Byron Bay, in Sydney, and in a dozen other places, but I’ve got to give a little love to Victoria, whose beaches are often overlooked due to the cooler climate.
Located southwest of Melbourne, Torquay and nearby surfing hubs such as Lorne and Bells Beach are hugely popular with surfers on all parts of the skill spectrum. Bells Beach’s famous breaks might be a bit much for a newcomer, but lessons in Torquay are a great way to get into the sport.
There are a number of surf schools to choose from, so do your research and get out there!
Where: Torquay is located roughly ninety minutes from Melbourne.
Cost: Lessons start at around $60 AUD, including equipment hire.
17. Experience the Barossa Valley (SA)
The days of Australia being perceived as a nation of beer-swilling colonials may never truly die, but Australia’s status as one of the world’s premier wine-growing nations has certainly helped our global stocks.
While there are a number of world-class wine regions scattered across Australia, South Australia’s Barossa Valley is arguably the most well-known.
The perfect place to sample fantastic wines, indulge your inner gourmand, and soak in the beauty of rural Australia, the Barossa Valley is an easy day-trip from Adelaide. This makes it the most accessible of Australia’s prominent wine regions.
You don’t need to be a wine expert to enjoy wine country. I found this out when I was a wine virgin in wine country. It’s hard not to have fun drinking good wine, eating all of the cheese, and soaking in a bit of sun.
Where: The Barossa Valley is a 45-minute drive from Adelaide, which is served by an international airport. While in Adelaide, I recommend staying at the Grand Chancellor Adelaide.
Cost: Cellar door tastings are free, but it’s polite to buy a little something. Guided tours range from $100 to $200 AUD per person.
18. Go sailing in The Whitsundays (QLD)
Famed for its white sand and crystal clear waters, Queensland’s Whitsundays Islands are an archipelago centered around Hamilton Island and famous for world-class sailing and picturesque, isolated beaches.
Located midway between Cairns and Brisbane, the Whitsundays are a popular (albeit expensive) stop on many an East Coast road trip. It’s arguably Australia’s most Instagrammed location, and you’ll understand why when you see that impossibly white sand and spend some time swimming in bathwater-warm seas.
Whether you sail its emerald waters, visit famous Airlie or Whitehaven Beach for a soak, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, or just soak in its unspoiled beauty – the Whitsundays is a must for any Aussie itinerary.
Sailing the Whitsundays
A visit to the Whitsundays is a must for any Australian bucket list, but sailing around the Whitsundays is a daydream all of its own.
Ranging in length from romantic sunset cruises to multiple day excursions, heading out onto the water and island-hopping is a pricey but unforgettable way to experience the Whitsundays.
Where: A long drive from either Cairns or Brisbane, so it’s best to fly to either Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island or Proserpine Airport. It’s also possible to get there by train.
Cost: Free to visit, but sailing tours start at around $350 AUD and go up in price based on length of trip and level of luxury.
19. Drive the Great Ocean Road (Victoria)
There are few more iconically Australian things to do than hit the open road and go on an Aussie road trip.
A country the size of Australia has no shortage of memorable road trips, but few are as picturesque as the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Stretching almost 250 breathtaking kilometres, it’s one of the most picturesque drives you’re ever likely to encounter.
Much like South Africa’s Garden Route, it’s every bit as much about the drive as it is about the many stops along the way. From the towering Twelve Apostles to serene bushwalks to quaint country towns to isolated beaches, there’s just so much to see and do along the way.
Where: The Great Ocean Road stretches between Torquay and Allansford in Victoria.
Cost: Free to drive, but you’ll need to factor in car hire, petrol, and any incidentals along the way.
20. Experience an Uluru Sunrise (NT)
Like something out of primal mythology, the monolith of Uluru (formerly known as Ayer’s Rock) is one of Australia’s most enchanting and isolated landmarks.
Located almost smack-dab in the heart of Australia’s sunbaked desert, the iconic red of Uluru draws people to the red centre of Australia year after year.
Spectacular at any time of day, Uluru is especially beautiful when experienced at sunrise or sunset. The reds, oranges, and purples of the sun combine wonderfully with the natural ochre of Uluru to create something positively otherworldly.
Don’t Climb It
You might be tempted to climb Uluru, but don’t. Only assholes climb Uluru, which is a sacred site to the local Anangu people.
As of 2019, this ‘no climbing’ rule changes from respectful request to outright law.
Where: Uluru can be reached by bus or overland, but the easiest way is to take a flight to Ayers Rock Airport.
Cost: It costs $25 AUD for a three-day pass to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
21. Visit the Nation’s Capital, Canberra (ACT)
What? Australia’s capital isn’t Sydney or Melbourne!?
You’d be surprised how many people not only don’t know Canberra is the national capital, but that it even exists.
While it’s true that Canberra is more oversized country town than true city, you would be remiss to visit Australia and not at least see where the business of governing is done.
Home to some of Australia’s best galleries and museums, Canberra is a must for those with an interest in Australian culture and history.
What to do in Canberra
The National Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Australia, and the National Library of Australia are just a few of the more prominent museums and galleries in the capital. When you add in kid-friendly Questacon and the CSIRO Discovery Centre, you’ve got enough culture to make yogurt.
Of course, it’s not all museums.
Parliament House is a pretty impressive bit of architecture, while man-made Lake Burley-Griffin is a popular spot for picnics and water sports.
Outdoor enthusiasts can visit Stromlo Forest Park, the National Botanical Gardens, or the National Arboretum to get their dose of greenery, but Canberra is one of Australia’s greenest and most picturesque cities.
Where: Canberra is serviced by an international airport. It is also reachable by car, train, or bus from both Sydney (3 hours) or Melbourne (eight hours).
Cost: Free to visit, but individual attractions vary.
22. Attend an Australia Day BBQ (N/A)
While it’s true that most Australian holidays end up being about beer, a BBQ, and time off from work – Australia Day is the most quintessential of Australia’s holidays.
Taking place on January 26th each year, the day celebrates Australia’s settlement by Europeans – which has caused plenty of controversy amongst both indigenous Australians and non-European immigrants in recent years.
Politics notwithstanding, the day tends to be a popular excuse to get to the beach or, failing that, have a BBQ and a few too many beers in your backyard.
Don’t have a backyard? Major cities such as Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne regularly come alive with parties and events in honour of the occasion, and even the smallest of towns is sure to have some kind of event you can attend.
Where: Just about anywhere.
23. Feed a kangaroo and hold a koala (N/A)
One that all of my female friends seem most excited about: feeding a kangaroo and giving a hug to an adorable, chlamydia-riddled koala.
The good news? It’s perfectly possible to do both of these during your trip to Australia!
The bad news? It’s open to debate how you should feel about this from a conservation standpoint.
If you’re against zoos and the like, you’re going to have to reconcile that with your desire to snuggle up to a eucalyptus-addled koala, I’m afraid.
Shut up and tell me where to go, Chris!
If you’ve got your heart set on it, you can feed kangaroos at a number of wildlife reserves and zoos around Australia. Some of these are going to be better than others when it comes to quality of life for the animals, so do your research.
Most states forbid you actually holding a koala, but you can still legally do this in South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland. Personally, I experienced this at Rainforestation Nature Park in Kuranda.
Where: Kangaroos can be fed all around Australia, but you’ll need to go to Queensland, South Australia, or Western Australia to hug a koala.
Cost: Varies from park to park, but koala experiences usually start at around $20 AUD.
24. Sample a bit of pavlova (N/A)
It’s open to debate as to how much of a claim Australia actually has to the invention of pavlova, but damned if we’re going to let New Zealanders and their accursed facts take our beloved dessert away from us!
A heavenly combination of light, fluffy meringue, fresh fruits, and whipped cream – pavlova is a popular dessert at Australian BBQs and parties.
They’re harder to make than you would think, but you can buy the meringue base at most grocery stores and take the majority of the leg-work out of the equation. Otherwise, just ask your Aussie friends if they can whip one together for you or grab some at the nearest trendy cafe.
Where: Virtually everywhere, although it takes time to prepare.
Cost: If you don’t DIY, you can expect to pay around $10 – $20 at a cafe.
25. Eat a kangaroo steak (N/A)
You’ve fed a kangaroo, so it’s only natural that you let a kangaroo feed you!
As uncomfortable as you might feel about the idea at first, kangaroo is an increasingly popular fixture on Australian tables due to the leanness of the meat and the gamey flavour. With kangaroo numbers often so high that culls are necessary, you can enjoy a guilt-free steak, stir fry, or burger!
Combine this with an Australia Day BBQ and you’ve killed two
birds roos with one stone!
Where: You’ll need to head out to a restaurant or buy your meat at a butcher, as grocery stores don’t stock kangaroo meat.
Cost: You can expect to pay a bit more than you would pay for beef or chicken.
26. Attend a State of Origin match (QLD/NSW)
Australians love their sport, but exactly which sport they love is going to vary based on where in Australia you are.
In New South Wales and Queensland, rugby league tends to be the most popular of the sporting codes. While the club competition (the National Rugby League) is well worth a look if you’re into contact sports, even somebody who doesn’t love their sports is likely to get a kick out of State of Origin.
An annual, three-game series featuring the best players from Queensland and New South Wales, the matches are played at an intensity that comes from decades of interstate rivalry.
With sell-out crowds jamming into stadiums in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne – the matches are some of Australia’s most watched television and bring entire towns to a standstill.
Getting to the Game
While you can definitely experience a taste of the passion by watching the game on the big screen at a pub or leagues club, nothing can match the experience of being surrounded by 70,000 screaming madmen and madwomen during a game.
You can check out the State of Origin schedule to see if one of the matches takes place while you’re in town, but be sure to also check out the NRL draw to see if there is a game you can catch during the winter months.
Where: State of Origin games are usually split between Brisbane, Sydney, and a neutral venue such as Melbourne or (in 2019) Perth.
Club games are played in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Townsville, Newcastle, the Gold Coast, and Auckland, New Zealand.
Cost: Tickets start at $87 AUD. Club games are much cheaper, with tickets starting at $15 – $20 AUD.
27. Attend an AFL match (Victoria/SA/WA)
Remember what I said about different sports being popular in different states?
If you’re in Western Australia, South Australia, or Victoria – that sport is likely to be Australian Rules football. Somewhat akin to a fusion between rugby, Gaelic football, and football (soccer), the sport is Australia’s most attended code and practically religion in the southern states.
With clubs scattered across the country, it’s possible to attend a match in every Australian state, but the best experience is likely to be had in sports-mad Melbourne. The Victorian capital has ten teams within spitting distance, meaning rivalries are intense and derby matches can draw crowds in excess of 100,000.
While I’m not an AFL fan myself, a lot of ‘sports neutral’ people such as my fiancee have said they loved the pageantry and atmosphere of a live AFL game. It is definitely a sport best experienced live, rather than on TV.
Getting to a Game
The AFL season runs throughout Australia’s winter months, with games taking place across the country.
You can check the AFL draw to see when there is a game in the area you’re visiting.
Where: Games are played in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide, Perth, Geelong, and occasionally in Darwin and Hobart.
28. Attend a cricket match (N/A)
This is the last sports one (for a while), I swear!
I’ve long believed that experiencing a country’s sporting culture is a great insight into the country as a whole, and that’s especially true of a sports mad country like Australia.
While rugby league, rugby union, and Aussie rules are hugely popular in Australia, no sport holds quite the same level of popularity in Australia as cricket.
Whether it’s the five-day long tests, the one-day matches between international sides, or the hugely popular T-20 Big Bash, cricket is a language unto itself.
Attending a Test Match
One for the diehard cricket fans out there, attending a five-day test match at the MCG, SCG, WACA, or GABBA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The beer, the sunburn, and the slow pace of the game are something best experienced in person, but probably won’t be for everyone.
Attending a One-Dayer
Cricket in a far more digestible form, a one-day match lasts for (surprise surprise) a single day and is typically a more exciting match as a result. The two nations each face 50 overs (made up of six-ball innings) and aim to get the highest possible score.
It’s basically a slightly faster-paced version of baseball with fewer drugs and more casual racism.
Attending a T20 Match
If you’re a newcomer to cricket, my advise would be to get out to one of the T20 Big Bash matches that take place over the summer. A league comprising teams from Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide, and Melbourne – games are fast paced, family friendly, and alive with colour and pageantry.
With games lasting a much more manageable three-hours and with plenty of effort put into appealing to both women and children, it’s far and away Australia’s most family-friendly sporting event.
Cost: Varies depending on the game, the opposition, and the venue.
29. Have a beach Christmas (N/A)
Being away from home for Christmas can be difficult, and that’s likely to be especially true if you’re not used to hot days, cold meat, and the fact snowmen, pine trees, and a fully-clothed Santa seem at odds with the 35C+ temperatures.
With that being said, there’s there’s plenty of reasons to love Christmas in Australia, so why not embrace that weirdness by celebrating the big day with a bit of a beach BBQ?
With Australia’s beaches public, it’s ridiculously easy to round up a few fellow expats and head on down to the beach for a few beers and a BBQ.
Just remember that most businesses are closed on Christmas Day, so you’ll want to stock up on Christmas Eve.
Where: Anywhere on the coast. Christmas is in summer!
30. Dress the part for Spring Carnival (Victoria)
Horse-racing might not be your thing, but there’s a reason that the annual Melbourne Cup is called “the race that stops a nation”. Places of business turn into ghost towns when the race begins, with offices and schools across the country arranging sweepstakes in celebration.
While it’s possible to experience Melbourne Cup fever anywhere in Australia, it’s best experienced in Victoria. Not only is it a public holiday for those lucky bastards, but you can also make the trek to Flemington Racecourse to experience all of the pomp and circumstance in person.
Attending the Melbourne Cup
The Spring Carnival is more than just a thoroughbred horse race. It’s a festival of food, live music, ornamental hats, and entirely too much booze.
Dressing up and over-indulging seems to be every bit as important as who wins the main attraction, so don your finest suit or frock, pick the best drinks/food package for you, and take as many obnoxious and regrettable selfies as humanly possible.
Where: The Spring Carnival and Melbourne Cup take place in and around Melbourne, with the main race at Flemington Racecourse.
Cost: Packages start from $75 AUD and go all the way up to the thousands for drinks packages.
31. Go Skiing in the Snowy Mountains (NSW)
Skiing and snowboarding are perhaps not the first things that come to mind when you think about Australia, but there’s a reason why Australia participates in the Winter Olympics.
The Australian Snowy Mountains come alive every winter, with skiers from all across Australia and around the world descending on famous Australian ski resorts like Thredbo, Perisher, and Mount Hotham to experience the closest to a true winter Australia gets.
It’s possible to find ski slopes in New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, and Tasmania, although Thredbo and Perisher are the most popular options with the most facilities available.
With ski season running from June through October (dependent on conditions and location), why not sneak a cheeky ski in on your way from Sydney to Melbourne?
Where: There are multiple ski resorts in Australia, but the most popular include Thredbo and Perisher (NSW), Mt. Buller, Mt. Hotham, and Falls Creek (Victoria), and Ben Lomond (Tasmania). In all cases, you can fly to the nearest capital city and drive from there.
Cost: Passes in Tasmania start as low as $70 AUD, while the more prominent locations are closer to $150 AUD.
32. Go Whale Watching (QLD/NSW)
Rounding out the list of the obvious inclusions on an Australian bucket list, whale watching is a thrilling way to get up close and personal with some of the largest living mammals in the world.
With humpback whale migrations taking them along the Australian coast, it’s possible to head out for a day of whale watching from countless cities and towns. In fact, pretty much the only states where whale-watching isn’t feasible are the land-locked ACT and the Northern Territory.
The best spots? Southern Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Hervey Bay as well as Byron Bay and Sydney. I’ve been whale-watching in Sydney on multiple occasions and never come back empty-handed. I’ve also been whale-watching on Moreton Island.
Where: The most popular whale-watching destinations are southern Queensland as well as Byron Bay and Sydney.
Cost: Tours are usually around $100 AUD including lunch.