35 epic Australian experiences you can have right now
Think you’ve already experienced the best of domestic travel in Australia? We’re willing to bet you haven’t considered all thirty-five of these unforgettable, often unusual and down-right incredible Australian journeys. Your epic Aussie bucket list awaits.
Sure, Norway may be a nice spot to view Aurora Borealis – but, without so much as a long-haul flight, Australians can gaze up at the Southern Hemisphere’s Aurora Australis from Tasmania. Although you can spy the ‘Southern Lights’ from many spots in Tasmania, South Arm Peninsula is the most popular viewing point. Pack a camera to view this celestial dance.
There’s something in the water at Gippsland Lakes: bioluminescence. These Raymond Island waters are lit up by ‘Noctiluca Scintillans’ – a marine species known as ‘sea sparkle’ – and it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Take a dip among the glowing beings for an inimitable Australian travel experience in Victoria.
Lord Howe Island may be a bucket-list-worthy travel destination in its own right – but take a boat ride just 23 kilometres south east of the island and a fascinating natural site awaits. The imposing Ball’s Pyramid towers 551 metres above the sea and is a must-visit for scuba divers, who can explore the caves and sea creatures below the pyramid’s surface.
Off the coast of Darwin – about 80 kilometres, to be specific – the Tiwi Islands epitomise the joy of slow travel. This quiet cluster of islands form an idyllic retreat and present a great opportunity to learn more about the indigenous artworks created by local residents here. Natural beauty abounds on the Tiwi Islands, as does an abundant wildlife.
With a little help from Instagram, Western Australia’s Pink Lake has become an iconic attraction for those visiting Australia. But how many locals have traversed to see this stunning hot-pink wonder in person? Its tint is owed to a high salt concentration, which has changed the lake’s colour over time.
There’s more than meets the eye at one of Western Australia’s most popular surfing spots. At Indjidup Beach, in the Margaret River region, visitors can soak in what looks and feels like a natural jacuzzi. Here, waves from the beach flow into rock pools to form a natural spa experience, complete with bubbles (alas, not the drinkable kind).
The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) is a recent addition to Queensland’s coastline, and is drawing art lovers and divers alike to Townsville. Underwater sculpture artist (yes, that’s a thing) Jason Decaires Taylor has created a series of artworks for divers to observe below the sea.
It may resemble something from a European period film, but Paranella Park is home to a rainforest-swathed castle set in Tropical North Queensland. The park, dreamt up by a Spanish visionary, first opened to the public in 1935. Today, visitors can take a tour by day or night, and even stay on site.
To look at it, you wouldn’t expect Western Australia’s Wave Rock to be a naturally occurring formation. And yet, the 15-metre high, 110-metre long form developed over 2,700 years. As the adage suggests, good things take time – and this one is a destination on many nature lovers’ to-see lists.
It may not be a naturally occurring phenomenon, but Australia’s first ice caves at Peninsula Hot Springs allow visitors to soak in thermal baths then cool off in these icy, cavernous spaces. The destination’s ‘fire and ice’ experience is part of its hot-cold therapy and is based in Fingal, Victoria.
12. The Ghan
In non-Covid years, visitors coming to Australia from across the globe eagerly book a seat on this famed train journey – but few Australians can say they’ve done it. Having run for more than 90 years, this leisurely trip has become an adventurers’ icon. Hop aboard to see Australia’s expansive landscapes between Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin.
Postcard-perfect Cable Beach spans 22 kilometres across Western Australia’s coastline. And, no trip to Broome would be complete without taking a guided tour of Cable Beach atop a friendly camel.
Allow a local guide to introduce you to the beauty of Arnhem Land – where incredible wildlife and 97,000 square kilometres of historically rich wilderness abounds. Join a small group tour to hear the indigenous stories of this sprawling landscape.
Ready your helmet and take a white-water rafting ride down the Mitta Mitta River in the alpine district of Victoria. Part of the Murray-Darling basin, outdoor adventure-enthusiasts flock to the gorge for an adrenaline-fuelled rush.
Get up-close and personal with humpback whales as they make their annual migration. Whether it’s your first time, or it’s time you revisited a fondly remembered childhood holiday, whale watching in Hervey Bay is an experience you’re not likely to forget.
Fear of sharks (or cold water) stopping you from hitting the waves? Hit the dunes of North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) for a dryer surfing experience that requires no less coordination than the real deal.
If it’s a good enough experience for the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Kylie Minogue, you’d better believe the famed quokka selfie is going to put Rottnest Island on the top of travellers’ wishlists. Aside from the adorable critters, the island itself presents white-sand beaches, secluded coves and stunning surf breaks to explore.
Those who’ve wondered what it might be like to be let loose on the set of Jumanji but also want to maintain a certain level of luxury, should book themselves a night’s stay at an iconic zoo. Taronga Zoo Sydney’s lavish suites allow guests to sleep among the animals (from the safety of their accommodation) and watch echidnas amble from their bedroom windows.
On the Great Barrier Reef, just over 43-kilometres from Cairns, Michaelmas Cay is known by snorkel-loving folk the world over. Here, clear waters, colourful fish and vibrant coral clusters enthral swimmers. But, if snorkelling isn’t your preference, board a glass-bottomed boat and view from above.
21. Take a wine safari
Combining two of life’s greatest pleasures – luxury lodgings and fermented grape juice – a wine safari is a chance to go glamping among the vines of an Australian vineyard. Be it the Barossa, the Hunter Valley, South East Queensland or just outside of Canberra, there’s a glamping tent and grape variety to suit all tastes.
Claustrophobic travellers, be warned: this is not the holiday for you. See the outback from a new angle (underground) in Coober Pedy – a small town in South Australia. Once an opal-mining hub, the town’s residents moved underground to escape the region’s unbearable heat. Many of these ‘dugout’ residences are now home to curious attractions, including bars, accommodation, and even a church.
The majesty of the Bungle Bungle Ranges in Purnululu National Park in The Kimberley, Western Australia, is best viewed from a bird’s vantage point. Take to the skies in a helicopter to see the ranges’ unique forms in full, panoramic view.
Far from Alice Springs (about 380 kilometres north) sits Wycliffe Wells – a town that’s been claiming UFO sightings since WWII. The town’s mysterious stories attract many travellers – and has even seen the Royal Australian Airforce stop in to investigate. Aliens aside, the surrounding landscape is adored by nature lovers seeking big-scale adventures too.
Burning Mountain Nature Reserve in New South Wales is home to Mount Wingen – a so-called burning mountain that has been emitting smoke from its sandstone surface for more than 6,000 years. What makes the misty haze especially mesmerising is that each year the coal-seam ‘fire’ moves one metre across the mountain – and has so far moved 6.5 kilometres – creating an eerie manifestation.
You may have hiked up Mount Kosciusko, but have you camped overnight on its breezy mountaintop? This epic experience tops the list of keen campers – and provides a view worth waking up to the following morning. Just be sure to pack your winter woollies (or, alternatively, book a cosy cabin nearby).
Watch the march (or waddle) of the local penguins at Philip Island as they start their parade. Just an hour-and-a-half’s trip from Melbourne, the island is home to Summerland Beach where you can watch these little monochrome fellows approach the shore. The island is also home to a society of fur seals, which gather on Seal Rocks to catch up on local gossip (or so we imagine).
What easier way to unwind away from the crowds than on a private island boasting luxurious lodgings? This small island off the south-eastern coast of Tasmania presents one distinctive Australian stay you’re destined to remember for all the right reasons.
Beyond the restaurants and boutiques of Hastings Street, and that glorious beachfront, Noosa is surrounded by diverse natural beauty. Take a guided (or self-guided) kayaking tour through one of the oldest river systems on the planet at the Noosa Everglades. Part of the Great Sandy National Park, the Everglades are home to a not-so-trivial 40 percent of the country’s bird species.
Gourmand getaways need not be confined between restaurant walls. With food at the heart of your holiday, plan a trip to an oyster farm where tastings are at the top of your to-do list. Oyster lovers would be remiss not to experience a Coffin Bay Oyster Farm and Tasting Tour at least once in their lives. This South Australian farm on the Eyre Peninsula sees guests wade through waters for their supper (and a well-earned glass of Riesling).
Nitmiluk National Park in the Northern Territory might just be the country’s most breathtaking setting for a sunset dinner cruise (you heard it here first). Restarting in 2021, Nitmiluk Tours allow explorers to sit back, wine in hand, and learn about Jawoyn culture as they take in the views of their magnificent backdrop: Nitmiluk Gorge.
For many travellers, Uluru once sat firmly fixed on the ‘we’ll get there someday’ list. And yet, this culturally significant and striking destination is at the top of many international travellers’ bucket lists. Bring it forward to 2021 and experience watching the sun set over the Red Centre’s famed monolith for yourself, pronto.
Only 20 minutes off Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast lies the world’s largest inshore reef, where coral appears to rise from the water as the tide flows out. Home to some of the most exciting marine creatures known to animal-loving humans (think dugongs, turtles, sharks, dolphins and manta rays), the reef is a must-see for those visiting The Kimberley. Better yet, take a helicopter tour as the tide changes.
Few experiences come more romantic than this: visualise taking a seaplane ride over glistening White Haven Beach before landing for a private picnic on its pristine sands. Take a dip in the world-famous waters of The Whitsundays – and photos, or it didn’t happen.
Start your morning in the Hunter Valley with a sunrise cruise through the skies in a hot air balloon – Champagne breakfast optional. Choose the next vineyard on your itinerary from your floating basket, and marvel at the mass of grapevines the region grows. Hot tip: this experience is a lot more enjoyable if you haven’t spent the previous night conducting your own, liberally poured, wine tastings.
For most, tulip-centric travels conjure images of Holland. But you need not travel far to reach hectares blanketed by these colourful blooms. Tasmania’s Table Cape Tulip Farm opens from the end of September until the end of October each year, allowing visitors to explore fields upon fields of flowers.