Australia, with its expansive coastlines, fascinating wildlife, breathtaking landscapes and rugged outback, is essentially synonymous with adventure. But this truly thrilling destination is much more than surfing, koala bears and Aussie accents. As many of the adventure-seekers who’ve been lucky enough to explore Australia (or “Oz” as some seasoned travelers like to call it) will tell you, the list of exciting expeditions you can embark on here is seemingly endless.
“It’s a multi-sport paradise where kayaking the Franklin River, mountain biking in the Elders or Flinder's Range, or hiking a trail to a remote beach on Kangaroo Island provide an experience so magical, it would have Dorothy trading in her ruby slippers for a backpack and hiking boots,” Gene Taylor of The Walking Connection says of the southern region alone.
Of course, there are many more adventures waiting to be found all across the continent. Here are just a few of the reasons you should absolutely add Australia to the top of your travel bucket list.
What’s Taylor’s number one reason to explore this continent’s expansive wilderness? The animals, of course. “It's the only place on Earth where you can hike and unexpectedly come eye-to-eye with a kangaroo,” he said. “I was walking the boardwalk along Dove Lake which, sits at the bottom of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. I literally bumped into an Eastern Grey joey. We both froze, stared at each other for a few seconds, and then to my surprise, each went about our business. Him, munching on some low lying shrubs, and me, taking a few pictures and continuing my walk along this 6.2-mile path.”
Yes, the main draw of this appropriately named island is, of course, the kangaroos (Taylor says they’re “everywhere”), but a trek along the Snake Lagoon path will eventually lead to exceptional ocean views. “A hike along the Snake Lagoon path to a spectacular remote ocean beach is spectacular,” Taylor said. “The trail winds along steep valley walls toward the beach. A sign on the trail warns of the potential for a freak wave that could emerge from the Southern Ocean and would leave you no means of escape. No matter, you continue hiking past the unusual lichen-covered rock formations and cave-like stalactites that line the hanging cliffs above toward a magical beach that you and a very few others will ever see. This is one of the more remote destinations on Earth and worth the three mile one-way hike to experience.”
Maybe you’re thinking, "So what? Australia has a lot of rocks. Can they really be that remarkable?" Yes, they can, which is exactly why this unique display of naturally sculpted rock formations on Kangaroo Island is literally called, “Remarkable Rocks.” “They are very unusual granite structures that sit atop perfectly rounded granite substructures,” Taylor explained. “There are several ways to access them. They are so close to the national park road so they do get the occasional tour bus, but the better way is to start at the lighthouse above them and walk along the cliff and roads down to the point where they sit. Once there, with the Mediterranean blue seas behind them as a backdrop, pictures literally take themselves.”
Located near Remarkable Rocks, Taylor says visitors to Seal Bay Beach—home to the continent’s third largest Australian Sea Lion colony—are treated to a “Galapagos Islands type experience.” “The huge animals line the beaches,” Taylor said. “They have no fear of human interaction, so though it is tightly regulated to avoid contact with them, you can forget the telephoto lens."
“Arkaba Station is located just north of Adelaide on the mainland on the southeastern edge of the Australian Outback at a place named Wilpena Pound,” says Taylor. “Located between the Elders and Flinders Range, there is a camp-to-camp four-day hike that is perfect for people of varied fitness levels.” He says this is special because it allows for small groups of people with varied hiking abilities to participate in the same exciting expedition.
“The series of guided day hikes begin at a luxury camp on the edge of this private sanctuary,” Taylor explained. “Hikers are put into small sub-groups and then each walk to the next camp— some along lower, flat creek beds that offer an easy hike, and some along higher mountain ridges that will challenge the most seasoned hikers. At the end of the day, everyone meets at the next camp. The evening begins with a hot shower and quickly moves to exquisite local wines, a gourmet dinner expertly prepared with super fresh ingredients supplied by local farmers, a fantastic campfire to relive the day's adventure, and a southern night sky that defies description. The night is capped off by luxury camping in specially built structures that offer privacy and comfort that belie the ‘Outback.’"
Sure Australia is best known for its cuddly koalas and cute-looking kangaroos, but the wildlife that populates this vast landmass goes far beyond what’s commonly expected. “What sets Australia apart for wildlife enthusiasts are the unique, unusual-looking animals that can only be found there,” says Sriram Srinivasan, a travel blogger for UPGRD.com. “Most people think of kangaroos and koala bears, but in the tropical rainforests at the far northern end of the country, you can find extremely rare species like the southern cassowary, an ostrich-like flightless bird, and the Boyd's forest dragon, a medium-sized lizard. We were fortunate enough to see both on a hike near the Daintree River north of Cairns. In addition to wildlife viewing, this particular area is popular for whitewater rafting, kayaking and rainforest hiking—probably not the first things people think of when considering a trip to Australia.”
One of the most popular destinations in Australia, let alone the world, no trip to Australia can be deemed complete until you’ve seen The Great Barrier Reef. “The highlight of my trip here included the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Cairns, which everyone should see,” says Stephanie De La Garza, a travel writer and blogger and co-author of Two Brauds Abroad. “I've never seen such abundance of marine life and coral species in my life.”
“[This is ] a tiny island off the coast of Hervey Bay in the Gold Coast,” says Jessica M van Dop DeJesús, a travel blogger at The Dining Traveler. “The views from the small aircraft are epic and once you get there you have the opportunity to explore by diving or snorkeling and to witness massive sting rays, sea turtles and other amazing wildlife.
“Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island,” says Lina Stock, a travel blogger at Divergent Travelers. “And one of Australia's best adventures is getting behind the wheel of a jeep and joining a sand convoy to explore the islands teal fresh water lakes, sand dunes and dramatic coastlines.” Here, you’re almost guaranteed to catch a glimpse of the wild dingo and off the coast you might even catch sight of a humpback whale or dolphins.
“As a keen adventure traveler, I especially liked day trips from Melbourne to Philip Island,” says Elizabeth Avery of SoloTrekker4U.com. “On the way there, there were koala in the wild and wallabies. Even on a slow night at sunset 1,000 to 2,000 Little Penguins come in on rafts. For an admission fee it is possible to walk along with the incoming penguins as they relocate their nests.”
Yes, Australia has a winter season (for most of the continent it lasts from June to August) and some of its rugged mountain landscapes are perfect places for hitting the slopes. “Many people wouldn't expect this, but the skiing is actually a huge draw,” says Jess Smith, an Australian by birth who now lives in the U.S. “I grew up skiing at Thredbo and Perisher in New South Wales, and Victoria also has some awesome ski hills in the way of Mount Hotham, Falls Creek and Mout Buller. Be sure to stay at Thredbo Alpine Hotel for the full historic experience while shredding it up at Thredbo Mountain.”
And when the snow melts, Smith says these mountains become the perfect setting for summertime outdoor activities. “Stunning native flora sweeps over the mountains in summer, making the ski areas of Australia also perfect for mountain biking and hiking in summer,” she said. “And Thredbo is just six hours from Sydney and easily accessed from Canberra.”