Australia has some of the world's most distinctive and diverse natural environments, with unique wildlife, and spectacular landscapes, including many national parks and World Heritage Areas.
In these areas you can get up close to our native plants and animals, explore wide open spaces and discover ancient rainforests on the fringe of modern cities. You can also climb snow-capped mountains and swim in some of the most pristine water environments on earth.
Here are just a few of Australia's iconic natural experiences you won't want to miss.
Australia's Top 10 Nature Experiences
Australia is renowned for its great outdoors, nature and wildlife experiences. From the grandeur of the remote Kimberley; to the Tasmanian wilderness; to bird-watching in Kakadu National Park; there are plenty of ways to see Australia's unique wildlife and diverse landscapes. Here's our list of Australia's Top 10 nature experiences.
Experience the transformative power of the Australian outback in the Red Centre and Western Australia's Kimberley. Snorkel with brilliant fish and coral on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef. See koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, sea lions, pelicans and penguins on Kangaroo Island, a haven for Australia wildlife. Discover the wetlands and waterfalls of Kakadu National Park, home to one third of all Australian birds. Or step back in time in the Daintree Rainforest, where some of the Australian plants date back to Gondwanaland. Between May and September, you can spot whales along Western Australia's vivid wildflower trail.
Great Barrier Reef
Explore the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, which stretches for more than 2,000 kilometres along the Queensland coastline. Snorkel, scuba dive or take a scenic flight over the reef. Sail the palm-topped Whitsundays, trek the ancient Daintree Rainforest or relax on luxurious tropical islands such as Hayman and Lizard. Island-hop or stay in one of the many coastal getaways like Cairns, Hervey Bay, Missions Beach or Port Douglas.
Discover Australia's magical, World Heritage-listed rainforests. They stretch across the country and cover every climatic type. Explore the dense tropical swathe of Queensland's Daintree Rainforest or trek through Tasmania's cool temperate wilderness. See flora dating back to the dinosaurs in the Gondwanan rainforest near Byron Bay. Or uncover dry rainforest pockets in Western Australia's Kimberley region. You'll find monsoon rainforest in Kakadu National Park and lush fern gullies in Victoria's Otway Ranges. Australia has some of the oldest and largest tracts of rainforest in the world, and they are here for you to enjoy, commune with and help conserve.
Top 5 places to see koalas in the wild
Australia's unique animals are a major drawcard for international visitors; and many zoos in Australia are among the world's best. Australia has both public and private zoos. Some Australian zoos showcase exotic species such as big cats and elephants; while others focus on Australian native animals and birds. Zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in Australia undertake vital environmental education and research for the conservation of endangered animals. Many zoos in Australia hold special events, 'behind the scenes' tours and overnight stays which include close encounters with the animals. Here is where to see koalas, kangaroos, wombats and Australia's other amazing animals. Australian Capital Territory The National Zoo and Aquarium on the outskirts of Canberra is Australia's only combined zoo and aquarium. It exhibits a wide variety of both Australian native and exotic animals and Australian marine life. There are daily talks by animal keepers, behind-the-scenes tours and times when visitors can handfeed the animals. See the collection of some of Australia's largest reptiles at the Canberra Reptile Zoo and Australian Reptile Centre at Nicholls, around 20 minutes’ from Canberra.
Great Ocean Road
Drive Victoria's Great Ocean Road, home to the world class surf at Bells Beach and the craggy limestone spires of the Twelve Apostles. This dramatic region also offers fishing villages, migrating whales, shipwrecks, golden beaches, rainforests and national parks. Tackle the Great Ocean Walk or drive the Great Southern Touring Route between Melbourne and Adelaide.
Dive the Ningaloo Marine Park, which protects a 260km fringing reef off Western Australia's mid north coast. Snorkel through coral lagoons in Coral Bay, swim with the huge whale shark, and 4WD red sand dunes in Cape Range National Park. The Indian Ocean Drive from Perth links Ningaloo with Shark Bay and the dolphins of Monkey Mia.
Kakadu National Park
Immerse yourself in World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, a natural and cultural wonder around three hours from Darwin. Discover detailed Aboriginal art galleries, hike to the top of rugged escarpments and cruise the wetlands past waterlilies, waterfalls, crocodiles and migratory birds. Drive the Nature's Way route from Darwin, or add Katherine and Arnhem Land for a longer Top End adventure.
Walking is the best way to explore the natural sanctuary of Wilsons Promontory. Known as ‘The Prom' to locals, it embraces 50,000 hectares of coastal wilderness on mainland Australia's southernmost tip. The many well-marked trails traverse empty beaches and eucalypt forest, heath and swamp, cool rainforest gullies and rocky mountain tops. Opt for short and scenic trails, like the Loo-Errn Track, ideal for families and the mobility-impaired. Do a day trek to the lighthouse or spend three days on the Wilsons Promontory Circuit Trail, which starts from the main tourist hub of Tidal River. Scale Mount Oberon or hike out to remote and beautiful Millers Landing. Stay at campsites throughout the park and get up close to the park's incredible array of native plants, birds and animals. You can also dive and snorkel with magical marine life in the clear, protected waters offshore.
The Overland Track, Tasmania
Travel through the heart of Tasmania’s World Heritage-listed wilderness on this famous 65-kilometre trek from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. Walk the entire Overland Track in six days or do short and day walks from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre and Dove Lake. Remember the end-to-end walk requires planning. You’ll need to book in advance with Tasmania’s Parks & Wildlife Service and take with you a good tent and warm sleeping bag. While the route has eight basic stove-heated huts, there’s no guarantee of space. The best time to walk the track is between November and April, when the weather is milder and days are longer for Daylight Saving. During April, you can see the spectacular changing colours of the deciduous beech. As well as a physical challenge, this walk is a true communion with nature. You’ll see lakes, forests and gorges, mountains and moors, spectacular waterfalls and steep, stony peaks.
Whale watching in Australia
Each winter, watch humpback whales gliding north past Byron Bay and Hervey Bay. Marvel at their complex acrobatic communication and listen to the males' haunting underwater song on a hydrophone. Watch the slow, graceful southern right whales sail up the Western Australian coastline from Geographe Bay, Dunsborough and Albany. Or spot these endangered creatures - once hunted almost to extinction - from the Head of Bight whale sanctuary or Victor Harbor in South Australia. See them mate and calve in the nursery waters of Warrnambool or arrive from Antarctic waters with humpback whales in Tasmania's picturesque Great Oyster Bay. From late April, southern right whales journey to temperate breeding waters off Southern Australia and Victoria. Meanwhile the energetic humpback whales continue north to warmer waters along the west and east coasts. Which means between May and November, you can spot whales from many scenic spots along Australia's coastline.
Challenge yourself in the mountainous Australian Alps in south-eastern Australia. Climb Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's tallest peak, in the Snowy Mountains. In Victoria's High Country, hit the snow slopes or visit gold-rush towns on the Great Alpine Road. Bushwalk and mountain bike in Namadgi National Park, near Canberra, or walk the alps end-to-end on the epic Australian Alps Walking Track.
Take a look at what's happening across Australia right now
Glamping in Australia
Camping is probably the best way to immerse yourself in Australia's natural splendour. But while we all love the romantic notion of sleeping beneath the stars, not all of us enjoy ‘roughing it'. If you're used to travelling in style, the idea of lugging heavy supplies, pitching a tent or cooking tinned food over a campfire can be less than appealing. Enter glamping, or glamour camping, which lets you commune with nature in the comfort of a luxury tent. We're talking fresh linen, private bathrooms, spa treatments and gourmet meals prepared for you. You can glamp in some of Australia's wildest and most remote places - from the Red Centre to the Kimberley and Kakadu.
Step into the ancient beauty of Tasmania's World Heritage wilderness and national parks. From Hobart, discover Bruny Island's wildlife and walking trails and drive the East Coast Escape to Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park. Launceston is your base for the Overland Track through Cradle-Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and the untamed rivers and rapids of the west coast.
Namadgi National Park
Explore pristine bushland and fascinating history in Namadgi National Park, a section of the Australian Alps just near Canberra. Climb or abseil the granite outcrops, bushwalk along the Great Alpine Walk, and mountain bike, fish and 4WD. See vestiges left by Aboriginal custodians, pastoralists and gold hunters, and meet emus, kangaroos, wallabies and cockatoos in nearby Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk
Walk through lush Gondwanan rainforest and along the rim of an ancient, eroded volcano on this spectacular series of day walks. The trail traverses a landscape as old as the dinosaurs, linking World Heritage-listed Lamington and Springbrook plateaux with Egg Rock and Turtle Rock in the scenic Numinbah Valley. See the Tweed Volcano which erupted around 25 million years ago and the powerful, crystal-clear streams and waterfalls that continue to erode it today. Explore Woonoongoora, known to the local Yugambeh people as ‘Queen of the Mountains'. Learn their ancient ancestral legends of how the rivers and valleys were formed. Camp in the rainforest at Green Mountains, Woonoongoora and The Settlement or in the private camping area at Binna Burra. The best time to walk this track is between March and October, when temperatures are milder.
Bundaberg's Natural Attractions
A rare colony of nesting turtles is just one of the captivating natural attractions near Bundaberg, a four hour drive north of Brisbane. This historic sugar cane city is also the southernmost gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, fringed by coral cays as well as 140km of pristine white beaches. Go diving and snorkelling on Lady Musgrave Island and Lady Elliot Islands and swim and fish from coastal national parks. Bundaberg also offers lots more traditional city drawcards, including museums, heritage buildings and lush botanic gardens.
Great Alpine Road
Travel from Melbourne through the Australian Alps to the lakes, beaches and national parks of Gippsland. Stop in Milawa for cheeses and Rutherglen for wine. Horse ride and mountain bike in Mount Buffalo National Park. Connect to gold-rush history and the legend of Ned Kelly in Glenrowan and Beechworth. Ski on Mount Hotham or walk through spring wildflowers on the Bogong High Plains. Canoe down the Mitchell River and swim, fish and surf on Ninety-Mile Beach. On Australia's highest accessible sealed road you can feast on fresh produce and fish, cycle, ski, climb or ride every step of the way.
Wind through the Adelaide and Mary River wetlands to World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. Here you can bushwalk through rugged escarpments and lush rainforest and discover a treasure trove of Aboriginal rock ark. Learn about the Territory's pioneering history in Pine Creek and swim in crystal-clear waterholes in the tarzan landscape of Litchfield National Park. You can do this dream drive on a fully sealed road in a two-wheel-drive vehicle.
Western Australia's wildflowers
Forget drab days and bleak landscapes. Winter in Western Australia breaks all the stereotypes. From June until September, more than 12,000 wildflower species explode across the state. Follow their vivid trail to Ningaloo Reef, where you can swim with whale sharks and snorkel over tropical fish and coral. Capture their life-affirming colour in rugged Kalbarri National Park, near Geraldton, or in sculpted Kings Park in Perth. Let them lead you to the waves, caves and wineries of Margaret River. Walk with them through soaring karri forests on the Bibbulmun Track or take in their dazzling diversity from Albany. Do wildflower day walks, join longer tours or celebrate the blooms with the locals at any of the many festivals.
You can spend weeks exploring the sheltered coves and bays, fishing from the secluded beaches and spotting giant whales from the towering limestone cliffs. That's before you even venture into the national parks, ancient caves and the barren and beautiful Nullarbor. In place of trees, this prehistoric plain has native animals and thousands of years of Aboriginal history. Close by you'll find the 1.5 billion year old geological wonder of the Gawler Ranges and the startlingly beautiful Lake Gairdner- a dry salt lake bounded by ancient hills.
Australia's Animal Pictures
Queensland's summer marine life spectacular
Summer in Queensland is the season to witness the birth of new marine life. See newly-hatched turtles take their very first swim on Mon Repos beach, near Bundaberg. Or witness the hyper-colour production of a mass coral spawning across the Great Barrier Reef. You can see this dazzling natural phenomenon, nicknamed by marine biologists as ‘sex on the reef', from a glass-bottomed boat or live-aboard dive tour.