Discover the extraordinary events, nature, wildlife and experiences you’ll find only in Australia.
By Leah Dobihal
Many of Australia’s exclusive experiences are true bucket listers.
Only in Australia can you grace the stage of the Sydney Opera House in a cameo walk-on role, explore the place where two World Heritage sites meet or visit a vault of some of the world’s most precious pearls.
There is an ‘exclusivity of access’ to some of these experiences that truly defines their luxury.
Seeing wildlife in the wild is a true privilege. Australia is highly protective of its wildlife, with strict limits to the number of people able to engage with some of the planet’s most astonishing creatures, making each of these encounters intimate and privileged. Each winter, the Great Barrier Reef is home to migrating dwarf minke whales, and only in Australia do you have the chance to swim among them. Join Mike Ball on an expedition that combines whale encounters with snorkel sessions above the incredible coral north of Cairns in Queensland. It’s a truly remarkable moment as you come eye to eye with these whales, and time seems to stand still. Your journey is all about the whales, and your interactions are dictated by them. Often, the curious whales swim slowly toward snorkellers, and have been known to glide in circles around swimmers.
Whale sharks and humpback whales
Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef, near Exmouth, isn’t the only place lucky enough to have migrating whale sharks and humpback whales each year, but here, it’s a more intimate experience with only a few people allowed in the water at any one time. Low numbers keep these gentle giants safe, and allow the experience to be a more meaningful one, intensifying your connection with nature. Stay at Sal Salis, where luxury tents stand far from civilisation. Arrange a whale shark experience with Sal Salis to share the water with the world’s biggest fish, growing up to 12 metres (39 feet) long. For an encounter with the humpback whales, book a tour with Live Ningaloo. You’ll soon realise that there are few experiences more powerful than sharing the ocean with these gentle, curious creatures. It’s a thrilling moment, and for many, life-changing.
Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge in the Northern Territory is a maze of waterways carved into the sandstone surrounds, and there’s no better way to appreciate the jaw-dropping beauty of this place than with the help of Aboriginal guides. Nitmiluk Tours invites you to experience Jawoyn country through Aboriginal eyes, with experiences ranging from sunset river cruises to waterhole hopping by way of a helicopter. On an adventure swim tour, you’ll fly above the area’s 13 gorges, then discover a remote waterfall swimming spot and rock pool hidden in the wilderness. Take a moment to reflect as you climb into the water - right now, this place is exclusively yours. After unforgettable days, spend equally unforgettable nights at Cicada Lodge, hidden within the spectacular scenery of Nitmiluk National Park.
One of the best ways to experience a destination is by walking it - feeling the ground beneath your feet as you tread along ancient and beautiful landscapes. The wukalina Walk in Tasmania’s Bay of Fires, near Launceston, is one of the most meaningful walks in Australia. Led by a palawa guide, you’ll trace the footsteps of traditional custodians on the cultural homeland of wukalina and larapuna. It’s a four-day journey into a culture that is welcoming, wise and distinct. You’ll hear palawa creation stories first-hand, participate in cultural practices passed down through generations and be moved by the blues, oranges and greens of the stunning landscape that surrounds. After the sun goes down, you’ll rest easy in beautiful wilderness huts and boutique cottages.
Vivid Sydney sees one of Australia’s liveliest cities come alive in a festival of light, music and ideas. As the sun goes down, the skyline illuminates in bright colours, the facades of waterfront venues dance with vibrant projections and the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge join in the city-wide kaleidoscope. Attend thought-provoking events, walk through artistic installations or perhaps grab the best seat in the house - a place on the water of Sydney Harbour. Charter a super yacht for a luxury experience of the dazzling cityscape.
Star at the Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognised man-made structures in the world, and the stages inside are just as iconic. Each year there are a limited number of opportunities to secure a walk-on role and star at the Sydney Opera House with Opera Australia. Your role allows you to experience not only the spotlight on stage, but behind the scenes as well, as you are fitted with a handmade costume, rehearse with the Assistant Director and finally appear on stage for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Private tour of the Museum of Old and New Art
Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) is one of the world’s most intriguing - and controversial - private collections of art. It’s become one of Tasmania’s most exciting attractions, but you can skip the queues and crowds with a customisable private tour. Enjoy a boat ride down the Derwent River arranged solely for you and your travel companions, which will bring you right to the entrance to Mona. You’ll wander through the exhibitions - both strange and spectacular - and perhaps afterwards, indulge in a tasting at the cellar door or a degustation at the onsite restaurant. For an even more in-depth experience, consider booking a Dinner with David, where you’ll not only enjoy a private museum tour by Mona’s head curator and a stay at the five-star Mona Pavilions, but also sit down to a private dinner with the man behind it all - David Walsh.
Paspaley Pearls are some of the rarest and most valuable in the world. In both Sydney and Darwin, you can experience the country’s most exquisite pearls differently. In Sydney, join The Tailor in a visit to Paspaley’s flagship boutique, where you’ll step into a highly secure elevator before being escorted to The Pearl Room. It is in this room, not open to the general public, where South Sea pearls are graded and hand-matched to create Paspaley’s unrivalled strands. You may also have the privilege of viewing the Paspaley family’s private collection before you indulge in the rare chance to try pearl meat. In Darwin, you’ll embark on a behind-the-scenes tour of The Pearl Room, enjoy a private viewing at the boutique and even have the opportunity to explore the Pearl Farms on a day trip - an experience limited to a select number of guests.
The Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef
UNESCO World Heritage status is given to select landmarks and destinations for their natural, cultural and scientific significance. In the Far North Queensland region of Australia, you’ll find the only place in the world where two natural World Heritage-listed sites meet. The Daintree is the oldest tropical rainforest on Earth, and its entangled treetops stretch all the way to the water, where it meets one of the country’s most incredible natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef. You can experience both from the utter seclusion of Silky Oaks Lodge. From these rainforest treehouses, you can explore the Daintree’s waterfalls, gorges and wildlife one day, and snorkel or dive within the reef’s colourful coral the next.