Best 20 things to do in Australia
From island hopping to lounging on a beach with friendly kangaroos, here are some of the best Australian experiences.
By Jessica Wilkinson
There are innumerable fantastic experiences to be enjoyed when visiting Australia, so much so it can be tough to know where to start.
Whether you’re up for adventure (think chasing crocs in the Northern Territory), keen to meet furry locals on an iconic wildlife encounter or want to delve into our culture and history with a First Nations experience, there really is something for everyone.
And you simply can’t go wrong, no matter which of these remarkable events you choose to do.
ISLAND HOP IN THE WHITSUNDAYS
The Whitsunday Islands in Queensland provide some of the world’s finest sailing, thanks to excellent winds, calm seas, breathtaking scenery and 74 islands to hop across (69 of which are uninhabited) (69 of which are uninhabited).
Whether you want to charter your own course and hire a yacht with some friends, or simply relax on a private tour and let someone else handle the navigation, you’ll find that soaking in the beauty of this tropical oasis from aboard a boat is one of the best Aussie experiences on offer.
RIDE A LUXURY TRAIN ACROSS AUSTRALIA
Known as one of the world’s largest rail excursions, this 2979-kilometre (1851-mile) voyage will take you across the country from Darwin to Adelaide (or vice versa) (or vice versa).
As you make your journey through the tropical greens of the Top End, over the red desert sands of the Red Centre and through the rocky highlands of the Flinders Ranges, you’ll get to witness some of Australia’s most diverse and magnificent landscapes.
Plus, along the route, you’ll stop for tours of Katherine and Alice Springs where you’ll learn about Australia’s deep Aboriginal heritage.
SUNBATHE WITH KANGAROOS AT LUCKY BAY
It can’t get more iconically Australian than resting on a white sandy beach next to a kangaroo. Resident roos are known to regularly sun themselves along a handful of Australian beaches, the most famous of which is Lucky Bay in Western Australia’s Cape Le Grand National Park.
This stretch of white sand and turquoise ocean in Esperance is more than a beautiful place to lay down your beach towel and get some rays with a roo or two (but don’t forget your camera).
CRUISE THE KIMBERLEY
One of the greatest ways to view the Kimberley (one of the remaining true wilderness areas on Earth) is by cruise ship.
Two billion years of natural history are on show along the secluded Kimberley coast in Western Australia and there are some wonderful cruise experiences that provide unique ways to see it all.
You’ll be able to get up close to the rocky shores, isolated beaches, ochre-coloured canyons, lush waterfalls and complicated river systems, all while you enjoy delicious meals and excellent sleeping rooms.
VISIT THE LOCALS IN CRADLE MOUNTAIN
And by locals, we mean the hairy sort. The Tasmanian devil is the world’s largest surviving marsupial carnivore and is actually very shy and hard to find in the wild.
The greatest site to meet these endangered animals is at [email protected]; a Tasmanian conservation sanctuary that’s located at the entrance to the World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain National Park.
Offering both day and night trips, you’ll also get to meet other threatened wildlife like the spotted-tail and eastern quolls when you visit.
DISCOVER FIRST NATIONS HISTORY IN THE RED CENTRE
In the Red Centre, you’ll find the spiritual heart of Australia; Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park – a location rich in Aboriginal culture. Yulara (Uluru) and the 36 domes that comprise up Kata Tjuta are sacred to the native Anangu people, who have lived there for more than 22,000 years.
Take an Aboriginal guided tour to discover more about the traditional way of life and, if you’re coming from April to mid-October, don’t miss Tali Wiru – a breathtaking experience of dining beneath the stars overlooking Uluru, complete with a meal of native delicacies and Dreamtime stories.
WATCH TURTLES HATCH IN QUEENSLAND
Watching a young turtle emerge from an egg and run into the sea has to be one of the nicest events to put to your bucket list. There are a few sites where you can catch sight of this magnificent spectacle.
Mon Repos Turtle Centre, in Bundaberg (a 4.5-hour drive north of Brisbane), is home to the biggest number of nesting loggerhead turtles on Australia’s east coast.
Time your visit for mid-January to early February, when the hatchlings start leaving their nests. Other Queensland hotspots include the islands of Lady Elliot, Heron and Lady Musgrave.
DRIVE THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Hire a car in Melbourne and be ready for a road trip loaded with some pretty stunning scenery (this is, after all, one of the world’s most scenic coastline drives).
See the iconic surf sites of Torquay and Bells Beach, the kangaroos on the Anglesea Golf Course, the laid-back village of Lorne and the stunning rock formations of the 12 Apostles.
Walk through waterfalls and lush forests in Otway National Park, or whale watch from old Warrnambool. You could drive it all in three hours non-stop but we recommend taking at least two days to soak in the various attractions.
VISIT LORD HOWE ISLAND
As one of just 400 guests at any one time on the World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, you’re guaranteed a calm bit of paradise when you visit. Less than two hours by plane from Sydney and Brisbane, this remote island is one of the greenest destinations in the world.
75 per cent of the island’s original natural vegetation is still intact and untouched, leaving spectacular geology, natural coral and a rare assortment of birds, plants and marine life living in this utopia. It’s a step away from modern life and a fairly fantastic portion of Australia that’s ready to be explored.
SWIM WITH UNIQUE MARINE LIFE
From whale sharks to turtles and sea lions, swimming with Australia’s marine life is a once in a lifetime experience. A few key experiences to get you started (all need to be done with a tour operator); swimming with humpback whales in Queensland
(Australia is among only a handful of countries where you can swim with these majestic creatures), coming mask-to-fin with a whale shark on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, splashing around with the ever-so-cute sea lions in South Australia, and snorkelling with turtles in Queensland and New South Wales.
EXPLORE MELBOURNE LANEWAYS
The many colourful laneways of Melbourne’s inner-city give up dozens of hidden little pubs, local hole-in-the-wall cafés and restaurants that provide fantastic cuisine and coffee and funky one-of-a-kind fashion businesses.
So, whether you’re looking a morning espresso fix and a little of window shopping, a night out with city views from a rooftop bar or the cool underground atmosphere of a speakeasy style saloon, a meander around the laneways will have you picking and selecting from the best the city has to offer.
HOT AIR BALLOON ABOVE AUSTRALIA’S CAPITAL
Canberra is considered as one of the best places to balloon, with calm conditions, lush surroundings and excellent views of Lake Burley Griffin.
Add in the city’s unique architecture, monuments and sculptures, and Parliament House, and you’re in for a picturesque treat.
Plus, afterwards, you get to celebrate with a champagne brunch at the Park Hyatt Hotel and then have the full day ahead of you to explore the wonders you witnessed from above.
VISIT THE TIWI ISLANDS
This is one Aussie experience that can’t be missed. The Tiwi Islands located north of Darwin and are a truly unique part of Australia.
The two largest islands are Bathurst and Melville, which sit among nine smaller, uninhabited islands. Almost 90 per cent of people are of Aboriginal descent and there is a thriving Aboriginal art tradition which you can witness on a selection of tours showing fabrics, weavings and paintings. T
he islands are also recognized for being a fishing hotspot (think enormous Barramundi) with multi-day cruises available for fishing lovers.
SEE THE QUOKKAS ON ROTTNEST ISLAND
The famed quokkas on Rottnest Island are a key drawcard for this island paradise off the coast of Western Australia.
These friendly natives are highly interested so you won’t have any trouble spotting them, in fact, they’re quite likely to come straight up to you and say hello.
Make sure you have your camera accessible but keep in mind that you’re not permitted to touch or feed them.
SNORKEL OR DIVE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
With bright coral reefs and an incredible diversity of marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most diversified ocean environments in the world. What better spot to slip on a wetsuit for a day of diving or snorkelling?
Get ready to encounter huge clams, gorgeous sea turtles, graceful stingrays, reef sharks, an incredible variety of tropical fish, and of course the spectacular coral formations.
If you travel out on an overnight tour, you can even jump in the sea for some nighttime diving.
CLIMB THE HARBOUR BRIDGE
You can’t visit Sydney without visiting one of its most renowned sights. Of course, you can see the Harbour Bridge from many various vantage points (did someone say ferry ride?), but climbing it raises the experience to a whole new level.
Climb the entire bridge from south to north, then back again and take in the breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour and the iconic sails of the Opera House (we also recommend having a guided tour of the Opera House once you’re back on firm ground).
CHASE CROCODILES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
A journey to the Northern Territory isn’t complete without witnessing the world’s largest reptiles, and the saltwater crocs surrounding this portion of Australia have to be seen to be believed.
In the safe and capable hands of Matt Wright and the Top End Safari Camp team, you can get up up and personal with some of the Territory’s biggest crocodiles.
You’ll venture out on the river for an airboat ride where you’ll have more than a few wild croc encounters as you jet across the floodplains. Day and overnight tours are provided during the wet season, November to April.
VISIT THE THREE SISTERS
The Blue Mountains, about a two-hour drive from Sydney in New South Wales, is well known for its famous natural feature; the Three Sisters.
This remarkable rock formation represents three sisters (‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and ‘Gunnedoo’) who, according to Aboriginal Dreamtime traditions, were turned to stone.
One of the greatest viewing places is Echo Point Lookout, which is also the beginning point for many fantastic walks that will give you several vantage views of the sisters as you make your way through the wilderness.
MEET WILDLIFE ON KANGAROO ISLAND
Kangaroo Island, which situated off the coast of South Australia, is recognized as a nature lover’s dream. It is one of the best spots in Australia to witness natural native wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, sea lions and seals. A must-do experience is wandering among the Australian sea lion colony at Seal Bay.
Winter and spring are the finest times to visit since the sea lions enjoy to hang out in the dunes away from the sea breeze. You can either roam around on your own or take a guided tour to learn about these endangered species.
GO WATERHOLE HOPPING IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
The desert environment of the Northern Territory is peppered with gorges, lagoons, waterfalls, thermal springs and canyons that are great for a plunge on a hot summer day.
Whether you decide for swimming under one of the beautiful waterfalls in the Top End, floating around a thermal spring in Katherine or relaxing by the calm pools deep inside old gorges, the experience will be like no other.
Topic: 20 things to do in Australia
I am arguably the most popular Australian writer of all time. I am from the town of Karrinyup in rural Western Australia. When I was young, I was fascinated by the unique landscape of Australia, and I decided to support himself by writing books about the Australian landscape.
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