As we wait for lockdowns to end and borders to open, our team shares their favourite Aussie travel experiences.
We’ve each had the privilege of traveling far and wide across the continent, discovering some of the most remarkable sights, landmarks and towns. But we haven’t been everywhere, so we’ve also include the incredible places at the very top of our bucket lists.
Michelle’s top 3 travel recommendations
Fishing for barramundi in the bush
I was lucky enough to spend a few days glamping at Wildman Wilderness Lodge in the Mary River National Park, on the fringes of Kakadu. During our stay the local guides took us out barramundi fishing in the billabongs, and at one stage I had a big one on the line. I was super excited as I’d never caught a barra before, and as a lover of fishing it’s one of those bucket-list things. Then a huge saltwater croc came along and took it, along with half my line! Absolutely gutting – but equally amazing.
Read more about the experience here: A journey through Kakadu National Park
Making a splash off Lizard Island
Visiting Lizard Island was a long-held dream of mine. It lies 27 kilometres off the north Queensland coast, and to get there you take a breathtaking one-hour flight from Cairns. The island isn’t tropical, rather more rugged Aussie bush with a rocky coastline dotted with palm trees. It’s home to Lizard Island Research Station (owned by the Australian Museum), the major research facility on the Great Barrier Reef which attracts marine scientists from all over the world. The island is famous for its dive sites, especially Cod Hole, where you can scuba-dive with potato cod. These friendly giants love playing with divers and are always up for a photo.
Read more about the experience here: A new level of luxury on Lizard Island
Exploring Broome & the Horizontal Falls
Tropical weather, azure ocean and rust-red cliffs, great food and an abundance of history and outdoor activities combine to make Broome one of the best destinations in Australia. I walked in dinosaur footprints, watched the staircase to the moon (which occurs when a full moon rises over exposed tidal flats at Roebuck Bay), went on a pearl tour, drank mango beer at Matso’s and rode in a hovercraft. To top it off, I flew out to the Kimberley to experience the ride of my life, shooting through the Horizontal Falls in a speedboat. Sir David Attenborough described the falls – which are caused by tidal movements between gorges – as one of the world’s great natural wonders, and he’s a man who should know.
Read more about the experience here: Dolphins, dinosaurs and sunset drinks in Broome, WA
Michelle’s bucket list pick
Hiking up Mount Gower on Lord Howe Island, NSW. At 875 metres, the mountain is Lord Howe’s highest peak, and the trek to the top is rated as one of Australia’s best day walks. It’s a challenging eight-hour return trip, complete with rope-assisted climbs and dizzying drops.
Bethany’s top 3 travel recommendations
Hiking to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko
New South Wales
Conquering Australia’s highest peak is a feat every Aussie should tick off their list. Standing at 2,228 metres above sea level, the views from the top are incredible – I could see as far as the Victorian Alps! For families with young kids or those who simply aren’t avid hikers, compared to Everest or Kilimanjaro, Mt Kosciuszko is a walk in the park. Depending on the season, you’ll find the walkways are lined with beautiful alpine wildflowers in spring, glistening rivers that snake below the raised path in summer, and snow building up as you ascend in the cooler months.
Read more about the experience here: Six refreshing destinations to enjoy a NSW hike
Wine tasting in gorgeous McLaren Vale
About an hour from Adelaide, this bountiful stretch of wine country is home to some of South Australia’s most innovative winemakers. The area has been cared for by the Kaurna people for centuries, and the respectful stewardship of the land continues today as producers place sustainability and regenerative agriculture front and centre. The Mediterranean climate and rich soil provide perfect growing conditions for Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet grapes. Head there to sample a range of boutique drops from picturesque cellar doors. The Golden Mullet Fury Limited Edition Magnum by young guns Alpha Box & Dice is my personal fave.
Read more about the experience here: Must-visit McLaren Vale vineyards
Getting off the beaten track at the Pinnacles
Two hours’ drive north of Perth, right on the edge of the Coral Coast, Nambung National Park is home to an otherworldly landscape. Formed 25,000-30,000 years ago, the desert-like expanse – which covers more than 17,000 hectares – is dotted with bizarre limestone structures. They were formed after the sea receded, leaving large deposits of seashells behind, and coastal winds began eroding and reshaping the pillars into the unique “pinnacles” we see today. Some stand more than 3.5 metres high!
Read more about the experience here: Discover the Pinnacles Desert and Nambung National Park, WA
Bethany’s bucket list pick
Hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania. This 65-kilometre trail begins at the foot of Cradle Mountain and winds through some of the most impossibly picturesque scenery before wrapping up at Lake St Clair. The journey takes six to eight days to complete, depending on how many additional side trips you choose to take.
Claire’s top 3 travel recommendations
There’s nothing else on earth like the big red rock poking vertiginously out of the Australian desert, and it has to be seen to be believed. But what you won’t believe is how much else there is to see and do in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Once you’ve watched the sun rise over the famous rock, turning it shades of crimson, vermillion and ochre, head across to Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) to hike the Valley of the Winds and see the strangely lumpen domes up close and personal. As the day wanes, find a vantage point for the more muted rust-and-scarlet display at sunset, and after dark marvel at the blanket of stars as an otherworldly silence settles across the outback.
Read more about the experience here: How to enjoy Uluru without destroying it
Camping on Gibb River Road
The allure of travel in the Kimberley region lies in the thrill of exploring untouched wilderness. Days merge into bumping along corrugated tracks as wallabies bounce left and right, hiking through a gorge to find a secret waterfall where you can wash red dirt from crevices you never knew you owned, to rolling out a swag beneath the Milky Way and falling asleep under the curling woodsmoke of a campfire. An outback Odyssey along the Gibb River Road takes in Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek, Manning Gorge, Bell Gorge, El Questro Station and Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles) – places so remote and mysterious, I never dreamed I’d be lucky enough to see them.
Read more about the experience here: The Great Gibb River Road
Loving the Whitsundays
Australia is blessed with a magnificent coast – and nowhere are the beaches whiter or the ocean bluer than the Whitsunday Islands. I honeymooned here, ticking off a wishlist of snorkelling with tropical fish in sandy-bottomed bays, marvelling at the swirls of aqua and ivory where Hill Inlet meanders across Whitehaven Beach, thrilling at the sight of Heart Reef from the air on a helicopter flight, and toasting each glorious day with sundowners at Hamilton Island’s One Tree Hill lookout. With the Great Barrier Reef just a day cruise away, and more high-end resorts and luxurious spas than you can shake a credit card at, the Whitsundays are Australia’s own patch of paradise.
Read more about the experience here: The Whitsundays: one perfect destination for two very different travellers
Claire’s bucket list pick
The road less travelled – the Savannah Way between Daly Waters, NT, and Cairns, Qld, stopping off in Karumba to see the Gulf of Carpentaria. It’s a personal goal as it would complete my circumnavigation of Australia. Now I have just 1,775 kilometres to go!
Ryan’s top 3 travel recommendations
Hanging out in Stanley
Stanley is a sleepy, historic fishing town located in the far north-west corner of Tasmania that only reveals itself once you come around the bend off the Bass Highway. The Nut – a massive volcanic plug rising staunchly out of the sea – is the town’s biggest attraction, both figuratively and literally. Standing at the top provides endless views across the Bass Strait. Squint hard enough and you might even think you can see the mainland in the distance. While you’re there, treat yourself to some of the fresh local seafood, and don’t miss an evening stroll along the beach for a spectacular dusty orange sunset.
Read more about the experience here: Discover Burnie and Tasmania’s North-West
Blissing out by the beach in Noosa
The beachy village vibe of Hastings Street, pure white sand and crystal-clear ocean, lush hinterland and the scenic trails of the national park are among the biggest drawcards of the Sunshine Coast’s perennial holiday favourite, Noosa. It’s a place that encourages nothing but lazing about by the water, leisurely strolls, and indulging in all the massages the local day spas can offer. If a spot of browsing the boutiques becomes too much, kick back and refuel with a flat white or gelato at one of the pavement cafes.
I hear Noosa is also a popular destination for proposals.
Being a culture vulture in Canberra
The nation’s capital is arguably the most underrated city in Australia. Beyond the national attractions, such as Parliament House and the excellent Australian War Memorial, Canberra is bursting with culture – it’s just a case of knowing where to find it. There’s a thriving coffee and food scene, as well as countless cocktails bars, breweries, and local wineries to keep any thirst at bay. Art lovers will be equally pleased, from the famous artworks and sculptures at the National Gallery to artisanal finds at the Old Bus Depot Markets. Plus, the city’s wide roads, cautious drivers, and impressive network of bike paths makes it a cyclist’s paradise.
Read more about the experience here: 10 art galleries in Canberra that will rouse your inner artist
Ryan’s bucket list pick
Top of the wish list: Swimming with manta rays, whale sharks and turtles on the Ningaloo Reef off the coast of Exmouth, WA. The photos and videos I’ve seen of people doing this are mind-blowing.