Australia’s top nature experiences
Explore the great outdoors the Aussie way as you take in some of the country's most extraordinary landscapes.
In the world of cricket, you won’t find a field with no boundaries or a pitch with a 2,300-kilometre outfield. But when you’re in Australia, a boundless expanse awaits. This island continent is blessed with some truly spectacular landscapes, as well as great ways to experience them. Here’s some of the best nature experiences you’ll find Down Under.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
One of the world's most impressive natural wonders, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a must-visit. Stretching 2,300 kilometres (1,430 miles), Queensland's top attraction can be experienced from in the water and above it. Boats large and small head out from the waterfront in Cairns to see the reef daily, and you don't have to be a swimmer to get up close. Confident swimmers can scuba dive into the deep, while others can snorkel on the surface with a great view of the coral below. If you'd rather stay dry, book a trip that has an underwater viewing area so you get to be a part of the action. If you'd rather take to the skies, consider a helicopter ride over the reef for a truly unforgettable view.
Lavender fields, Tasmania
It’s no surprise that Tasmania is a favourite destination for photographers – it’s home to countless incredible landscapes. In the Australian summer (December – February), you’ll see row upon vibrant row of purple lavender on farms along Tasmania’s east coast. Some of these stretch out vastly, spanning up to 200 kilometres (124 miles). Photos of these beautiful fields are favourites on Instagram, and you can add to the collection – but that's not the only reason to visit. You’ll also be able to find lavender-scented soaps and hand creams, lavender-infused teas and even lavender ice-cream to sample. If you’re visiting Tasmania in autumn (March – May), there’s another spectacle to see. Head up to Cradle Mountain to witness what the locals call “the turning of the Fagus,” when the leaves of the Tasmanian Deciduous Beech trees turn from green to fiery reds, oranges and golds.
The Pinnacles, Western Australia
Just over two hours from Perth in Western Australia, there’s a curious attraction that might make you feel like you’re on another planet. This is the Pinnacles, a group of weathered limestone pillars that rise up from the desert-like surroundings. They make for a surreal sight, especially when you consider that this seemingly arid landscape lies just a few kilometres from the ocean. The knowledge that you’re so close to the water forms a striking contrast to the otherworldly scapes that surround you. Take a self-drive trip from Perth, or book a tour and visit as dusk begins to change the colours of the desert.
Field of Light in Uluru, Northern Territory
Australia’s Red Centre is often called the spiritual centre of the country due to the powerful nature that exists here. To experience this profound landscape in a different light, head out after dusk to the award-winning Field of Light exhibition. Aptly named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku, which means ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in the local Pitjantjatjara language, this exhibit has over 50,000 solar-powered stems that illuminate an area the size of four football fields. You can explore the Field of Light on your own, or join a tour to enjoy the twinkling lights as you sample canapés and sip on Champagne. Plan your trip to the Red Centre around the T20 World Cup for a mix of cricket and culture.
Floriade in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
No matter where in the country you are, Australia’s events calendar is full of inviting festivals and celebrations. If you’re going to be in Australia in September and October, make your way to Canberra to see the city covered in a blanket of more than a million blooms. Floriade is the largest flower festival in the Southern Hemisphere, and has an exciting mix of music, entertainment, and horticulture-themed workshops. As dusk falls, spend some time at the Floriade NightFest, which has night-time entertainment and some beautiful illuminated flowerbeds. There’s no charge to see the flowers, which makes this a great budget-friendly day out for the family.
Australia's outback is a place of awe and adventure, from the ochre sand of the Red Centre to the sheer cliffs of South Australia's Nullarbor Plain. The outback covers more than half of the country, and while it may seem quiet and remote, there's plenty to discover. From Adelaide, drive five hours to the craggy peaks and rugged gorges of the Flinders Ranges. Take a scenic flight from Wilpena Pound Resort to see the breathtaking landscape from above. A one-hour flight from the outback town of Alice Springs will bring you to Uluru, Australia's sacred – and stunning – red rock monolith. Hike around the base of the rock with an Aboriginal guide, or take a spectacular helicopter flight over the red land.
Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Venture two hours north of Sydney and you’ll arrive in the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine region. There are over 120 wineries and gourmet restaurants here, as well as unmissable spa experiences and even concerts in the vineyards. If you have an interest in wines, a tour of the Hunter Valley’s cellar doors allows you to sample the region’s offerings, or you can sign up for a masterclass and try some rare vintages. Among the vineyards, there’s the historic Audrey Wilkinson winery, which dates back to 1866, the Oakvale Wines estate and the more modern Usher Tinkler. For a break from the vines, stop by the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory for a tasting of handmade cow’s- and goat’s-milk cheeses. Round up of a day of indulgence with a treatment at one of the Hunter Valley’s many great day spas.
Wildflowers in Perth, Western Australia
When you think of Australia, the first image that pops into your head might be white sands and rolling surf. You’ll certainly see plenty of coastal beauty on a trip Down Under, but there’s much more nature to discover. Throughout winter and spring (June – November), Western Australia is an explosion of aromas and colours as 12,000 different wildflower species bloom across a 2.5 million square kilometre (1.2 million square mile) sprawl. This is the largest collection of wildflower species in the world, and close to 60 per cent of these flowers are endemic to the region, which means they are found nowhere else. You can go on a guided walk through Perth’s King Park, or take a road trip along the Coral Coast, through the plains of Pilbara or into the outback of the Goldfields.