|Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)||Eco-Lodges|
|Size: 7,692,024 km²/2,969,907 mi²||Favorite Restaurants|
|Landscape: rainforest, beaches, mountains, desert, wetlands|
|Activities: exploring aboriginal culture, hiking, diving, snorkeling, wildlife watching, swimming, 4-wheel driving|
Australia, or “Down Under” as people like to call it, is a land of extremes. Full of the deadliest and weirdest animals in the world, it’s about as far away as most travelers can go from home. With a vast Outback that covers the whole interior, fringed by jungle-covered coasts and some of the most stunning beaches on this planet, Australia offers something for every traveler. Whether you want to dive the world’s “largest organism” (the Great Barrier Reef), hike lush rainforests, experience the culture of the indigenous Aboriginals; or go off-road and explore the deserts or hike peaks, there’s enough to do here to fill a lifetime of outdoor adventure.
TOP SPOTS IN AUSTRALIA
Bordering the metropolitan area of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a fantastic way to enjoy nature. The name comes from blueish hues caused by vapors from eucalyptus trees. It’s actually an inside-out mountain range — a deep valley in the plateau full of stunning waterfalls, endless trails, unique wildlife and refreshing rainforest air.
Just outside of Brisbane, Lamington National Park is home to a diverse range of birds, and as such is renowned to birdwatchers worldwide. The lush rainforest is crisscrossed by hiking trails which lead you past waterfalls, fern trees and exotic wildlife. And if you look closely, you might even see a platypus in some of the rock pools!
The world’s largest all-sand island is home to many animals that have adapted to and thrive in the island’s unique ecosystems. Giant lizards, possums, echidnas, tortoises and dingoes inhabit the desert, wetlands, heath and rainforests that make up this island. Visitors should expect to rough it, as accommodations and supplies are scarce, so come well prepared. All the effort is worth it as you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking beaches, amazing fresh water lakes, rich lush jungles and many other beautiful natural wonders.
Far off the tourist trail, The Gemfields in Queensland’s outback are well worth a couple of day’s detour. Try your luck by getting a permit for your own claim, and you might go home with some beautiful sapphires — we got lucky, so why shouldn’t you?
The Whitsunday Islands are a tropical island paradise off the coast of northern Queensland. Unbelievable white sand beaches line the countless islands, which invite snorkelers, divers, hikers and sun worshippers. The best way to explore them is by sailboat.
This World Heritage Site boasts an exceptional biodiversity in its tropical rainforest. Rare species and prolific birdlife are the major draw, so look out for the endangered cassowary and saltwater crocodiles (but don’t get too close!). Cape Tribulation is a headland within the park with extensive and unspoiled beaches where Captain Cook actually almost got his ship wrecked; it’s still not too easy to reach.
This is world’s largest coral reef system, and it has actually been spotted from outer space by astronauts; it’s literally the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. Home to a myriad of marine life, it has been declared a world heritage site. Warm waters and great visibility make it a haven for divers of all levels.
This gigantic park in Northern Territory is criss-crossed by many rivers. You can find flood planes and hills, and a remarkable variety and concentration of wildlife. Home to many ancient Aboriginal tribes, you can find many rock paintings and cultural sites all across Kakadu National Park.
Litchfield National Park is famous for its termite mounds. You’ll find magnetic ones (lined up on a north-south axis) as well as some of the tallest ones in the world. Impressive rock formations, stunning waterfalls and rock holes make the Park a bushwalker’s dreamland.
This series of 13 gorges with rapids and falls is carved out by the Katherine River which comes from Kakadu National Park. There are a couple of trails to explore, but the best way to check it out is to paddle up the river in a canoe. You’ll spot many (relatively harmless) freshwater crocodiles, and enjoy the beauty of the canyon up close.
These large granite boulders in the Outback are of great cultural and spiritual significance to the traditional Aboriginal people. The various shapes are a result of the natural processes of weathering and erosion. Some of them are naturally, but dangerously, balanced atop of each other or on larger rock formations, while others have been split cleanly down the middle by nature.
This is the only place in Central Australia where Red Cabbage Palms survive. They are the remnants of prehistoric time, when dinosaurs roamed the now arid area when it was covered with tropical rainforest. A few small pockets of semi-permanent spring-fed pools remain, and the colors of the gorge make this a delightful destination for off-the-beaten path explorers. Getting there itself is an adventure, as it requires a four-wheel drive vehicle and driving through some (mostly) dry riverbeds.
Kings Canyon is a deep valley with huge walls on both sides. You can either do a loop-walk around the rim, or go into the gorge itself. There’s even a permanent waterhole called Garden of Eden which is surrounded by lush plant life in an otherwise dry area.
Probably the most iconic natural feature of the Red Continent, Uluru is a large sandstone rock formation in the center of Australia. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sacred to the local Aboriginals. You are encourage not to climb the rock, but as there’s a plethora of springs, waterholes, rock caves, and ancient paintings, you’ll have plenty to do and see.
The Kata Tjuta is a group of 26 large domed rock formations not very far from Uluru. Despite this proximity to one of the country’s most visited spots, the Olgas don’t see very many visitors. Although they offer great hiking trails and are well worth a visit , especially if you want to get away from the crowds.
The Bungle Bungles create one of the most unique landscapes in Australia. They are countless beehive-shaped domes which are visually striking with their orange and grey, horizontal stripes. The domes are separated by gorges, canyons, and chasms and can only be accessed with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
This destination is definitely not for the faint of heart. Tunnel Creek flows underground through a natural cave, which is decorated with many aboriginal rock paintings. Though not very long, hiking it might feel a lot longer due to the presence of bats and (relatively harmless) freshwater crocodiles in the large pools of water on the cave floor. You’ll definitely have a story to tell back home after this trip!
If you’re into crocodiles, but prefer a safer encounter with the milder species, head to Windjana Gorge, where dozens of fresh water crocs (freshies) bask in the sun along the pools during dry season.
Due to its remote location and hard access (four-wheel drives only), Karijini National Park is a heaven for adventurers who don’t like crowds. You can find four prominent gorges here, which are marked by waterfalls and water holes. Test your climbing skills and see how far you get squeezing along the steep canyon walls. And if you miss a step … hopefully there’s a refreshing river underneath you to break your fall!
The little known Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia has as much to offer as its better-known big brother on the east coast (The Great Barrier Reef). The abundance of marine life is simply breathtaking! You can either snorkel the protected reefs of Coral Bay; go diving with myriads of fish, sharks of all kinds and other rare critters or swim with the whale sharks when they’re in season.
Big parts of Western Australia are dry, covered in sand or low bushes, and hot. A refreshing change to this scene can be found in the country’s southwest corner. Here, in the Valley of the Giants, you can walk through the tree tops around or through gigantic tree trunks and admire the oldest and biggest eucalyptus trees still alive. A great place to take a break and take a deep, cool breath.
If you want to get a feeling of what it’s probably like on the Moon or the Mars, visit Coober Pedy. The location of some scenes from the film Mad Max, it’s so out-of-this world, you’ll ask yourself why anybody would want to live here. Especially because the heat is just unbearable. But there is a reason: there are many opals buried here that draw countless treasure hunters. Oddly enough, the large tunnels that miners have dug into the earth here are now used for churches and hotels because they provide such good shelter from the heat. If you’re lucky, you just might find some opals yourself.
Yes, there are kangaroos en masse on this large island off the coast of South Australia — but that’s not where the wildlife stops. You’ll find fury wombats as well as loads of cute koalas and tiny penguins, rare echidnas, sea lions and seals to name only a few. And besides that, the landscape offers some artsy formations like the Remarkable Rocks — well worth checking out.
This long and twisted route that winds its way along the southeast coast of Australia and has become a favorite for road-trippers. It traverses rainforests, as well as beaches and cliffs. There are plenty of opportunities and reasons to stop — like the impressive rock formations of London Arch (formerly London Bridge) and the Twelve Apostles. Take your time when driving this road, as it’s easy to be distracted admiring the koala bears climbing in the tree tops!
This National Park comprises almost half of the capital territory of Canberra and is home to a wide array of Australian wildlife, including the elusive platypus. Be sure to check out some of the many amazing Aboriginal rock paintings here.
When one first sees the natural beauty of Cradle Mountain across Dove Lake, it’s hard not to want to hike the steep 7-hour-long trail that takes you to the summit. If you have the energy, this rigorous trek will award you with even more great vistas, and maybe even some special encounters. After all, there are supposed to be some of the very rare and endangered Tasmanian devils here!
The most stunning, but probably least visited waterfall in Tasmania, Liffey Falls, is mesmerizing. Set on the Liffey River amid lush green rainforest, it’s easy to loose track of time here. This is also a great spot to catch a glimpse of the elusive platypuses that inhabit parts of the river.
Tasmania’s oldest national park is home to the secluded Wineglass Bay, which looks like French Polynesia. The best way to enjoy the view of the incredibly blue water is from the top of Mount Amos. Keep an eye out for the many whales or dolphins that frequent the bay to feed, calve or just hand out.
This park’s diverse flora includes swamp forests, tree ferns, rainforest and alpine vegetation. It’s most stunning features are the beautiful Horseshoe Falls, Lady Barron Falls and tiered-cascade Russell Falls. The last wild Tasmanian tiger was caught here, and though the species became officially extinct in the 1930s, you wouldn’t be the first one to report a sighting – so keep your eyes open!