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Best things to see and do on your Australian bucket list

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Australia offers a mouthwatering array of must-do items, with coastal or marine experiences at the top of the list.

From destination dining to diving in pristine marine parks, no matter what your particular passion, there’s an outstanding Australian experience to match it. From indulging on islands to getting out of your comfort zone in the sea, here are ten exhilarating ideas dotted along Australia’s coastline to help you get inspired. 

Vivonne Bay Beach, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Indulge on Australia’s most tasteful island 

On Kangaroo Island, tour dreamlike beaches, from white-sanded crescents to seal-occupied crags and drive through rolling pastures and rugged bushland to find your own slice of heaven. On the trail, you can find organic honey made by rare bees at the Island Beehive at Kingscote, award-winning cheeses at Island Pure Sheep Dairy, local marron and oysters harvested fresh at The Oyster Farm Shop, locally distilled gin at Kangaroo Island Spirits and cellar doors such as Islander Estate – and of course, kangaroos galore. 

Stay at Southern Ocean Lodge and be dazzled by the restaurant, and ultra-comfortable surrounds with mesmerising Southern Ocean views.

Whale Shark, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo

Leap into the ocean with your snorkel and come eye-to-eye with the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, a gentle creature that can grow up to 12.6 metres (41 feet) long and weigh 19,000 kilograms (42,000 pounds). More of these fish congregate close to shore in Western Australia’s Ningaloo Marine Park than anywhere else on earth and this World Heritage-listed coast contains the planet’s largest coral fringing reef. 

Stay at luxury eco beach safari camp, Sal Salis to really experience how the outback meets the ocean.

Escape to Lord Howe Island

Unwind in an unspoiled locale, Lord Howe Island, just a two-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane. Explore this World Heritage-listed enclave’s beaches and rainforests, crystalline waters and mountains.

Do an exhilarating day walk up the 875 metres (2870 feet) of Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island’s highest peak. Bodyboard or surf at Blinky Beach on the island’s east side, where the swell is even and sizeable. Snorkel at magical Erscott’s Hole – home to 500 species of fish and 90 species of coral – and, after, eat local seafood prepared at a fine diner or go barefoot and al fresco.

Sleep in accommodation that ranges from camping to farm stays, and luxury properties such as the polished Arajilla Retreat or the consistently lauded, value-priced Lorhiti apartments. 

Snorkelling, Agincourt Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef

Kaleidoscopic colours with fish and coral swaying in harmony with the gentle ocean swell – the Great Barrier Reef is an international icon for a reason: Queensland’s prime World Heritage Area is the world’s largest coral reef system, containing some 3000 separate coral reefs and more than 900 islands. 

Stay on the reef at island resorts to suit all kinds of holidays, from the exclusive eco-credentialed luxury of Lizard Island to popular family holidaying at Hamilton Island.Or do day trips from the mainland, via charters and tours. Book through the Cairns Visitors Centre

Absorb the silence of an Uluru dawn

Follow the crowds that line up at the free viewing sites for sunrise over Uluru, or join Desert Awakenings, an exclusive permanent site set up on top of a well-placed dune within a clear view of the rock. Enjoy coffee, damper (traditional Australian camp bread) and egg and bacon rolls as you wait for first light, and then behold Uluru as it changes from dark to purple to orange to deep red. 

While at Uluru, don’t miss walking into Wolpa Gorge at Kata-Tjuta, the majestic sedimentary domes also known as the Olgas. 

Catch a Sydney seaplane to lunch

Sydney Sea Planes’ unforgettable scenic flights pair the best views of the Sydney Harbour, its Harbour Bridge and the magnificent Sydney Opera House with destination restaurants. Take to the air over the harbour’s well-known landmarks and exquisite coastline before touching down on a remote Sydney waterway, where you’re led to your chosen dining table at restaurants that include Jonah’s Whale Beach or Manfredi at Bells Restaurant. Alternatively, your pilot can pick out a secluded location for a romantic picnic with a ready-packed hamper.

Hot air ballooning, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Sail over Canberra in a hot-air balloon

Feel a hot-air balloon’s cane basket lift off the earth and after a sense of rapid elevation, look over the side. Look out at the city of Canberra below, the symmetrical design of Parliament House, the country’s War Memorial as well as mirror-like Lake Burley Griffin. Travelling with the wind, aboard a Dawn Drifters hot-air balloon, it’s three hours you’ll never forget.

While in the Australian Capital Territory, tick off another bucket list item: a visit to the remarkable National Gallery of Australia, featuring the best collection of Aboriginal art on the planet, amongst other precious displays.

Three Capes Track, Tasmania

Trace the edge of an age-old coastline

Follow the highest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere along the brand new Three Capes Track, on the edge of Tasmania’s rugged southeast. The rocky dolerite columns tower up to 300 metres (985 feet), rising from the ocean, and there’s no better way to see them than via this newly created route. Do the 46-kilometre (26 mile) cliff and bush walk over four days with extraordinary views at every turn. 

Kick the experience off with an eco-cruise, departing from the World Heritage-listed penal settlement, Port Arthur Historic Site, and spend your nights in architecturally designed track huts.

Soar over the Great Ocean Road via helicopter

Perhaps you’ve viewed the majestic limestone stacks that make up the 12 Apostles from land, but gaze at them from a helicopter – at angles seen only by a lucky few – for an altogether different experience. Join 12 Apostles Helicopters, to see a the 12 Apostles as well as a scattering of islands on Victoria’s mottled coastline, the sculpted forms of peach-hued cliffs and the wild Southern Ocean. You’ll also glimpse the Great Ocean Road as it curves along the coast, just begging you to follow it. 

Get elevated again with a visit to the atmospheric Cape Otway Light Station where you can climb the tower for its vertiginous view of the ocean.

Canoe through ancient Katherine Gorge

Paddle beside towering rock walls, so big they throw shade across Katherine River. Glimpse a 7000-year-old piece of art painted on a hidden surface. Notch up your own special moments on a spectacular canoe trip through Katherine Gorge. Deep in the outback, you barely see another soul, allowing your guide to unlock the bush and its secrets as you pass through. 

Book with operators such as Nitmiluk Tours, owned by the local Jawoyn people, delivering a truly connected perspective. Nitmiluk runs a range of other Katherine Gorge experiences, including immersive accommodation in the national park.

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