John Brewer Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland
Top 20 things to do in Australia
From up-close encounters with kangaroos to stunning island getaways, here are some of the best Australian experiences.
The Whitsunday Islands in Queensland offer some of the world's finest sailing, thanks to perfect winds, calm seas and 74 islands to hop through (69 of which are uninhabited). Whether you want to charter your own course on a hired yacht with some friends or simply relax on a tour while you let someone else do the navigating, you'll find the swirling white sands and aqua water truly unforgettable
Known as one of the world’s greatest rail journeys, a voyage on the Ghan will take you across the country from Darwin to Adelaide (or vice versa). As you make your way through the tropical greens of the Top End, over the desert sands of the Red Centre and across the rugged mountains of the Flinders Ranges, you'll see some of Australia's most diverse and beautiful landscapes.
It doesn’t get more iconically Australian than lying on a white sandy beach beside a kangaroo. Resident roos are known to regularly sun themselves at a handful of Aussie beaches, the most famous of which is Lucky Bay in Western Australia’s Esperance. This stretch of white sand and turquoise water is an idyllic place to catch some rays with a roo or two. Be sure to pack your camera to capture this iconic moment from a friendly distance.
One of the best ways to see the Kimberley (one of the last true wilderness areas on Earth) is by cruise ship. Two billion years of natural history are on show along the isolated Kimberley coast in Western Australia, and an expedition cruise lets you get up close. Marvel at the region’s spectacular rocky shores, ochre-coloured gorges, lush waterfalls and complex river systems, all while enjoying gourmet meals and luxurious sleeping quarters.
Swimming with Australia's marine life is the stuff of bucket lists. Luckily, there are experienced tour guides ready to make your dreams come true. Glide alongside humpback whales, come mask-to-fin with a whale shark, splash around with adorable sea lions and swim with a playful pod of dolphins. Adrenaline junkies can visit Darwin to cage dive in a crocodile’s enclosure, or the Eyre Peninsula for a nail-biting encounter with great white sharks.
Tasmanian devils are the world’s largest surviving marsupial carnivores. Though they’re shy and difficult to spot in the wild, Devils@Cradle gives you the chance to meet both Tassie devils and wombats at the entrance to the World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain National Park. The sanctuary offers day and night tours where you’ll see these elusive little creatures as well as other threatened wildlife like spotted-tail and eastern quolls.
In the Red Centre, you'll find the spiritual heart of Australia – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. A place steeped in Aboriginal culture, Uluru and the 36 rock domes that make up Kata Tjuta are sacred to the local Anangu people. Take an Aboriginal guided tour to learn about traditional ways of life and be sure to catch Wintjiri Wiru, an unmissable light show that shares a local Dreaming story using a fleet of drones above the red monolith.
Watching a tiny turtle emerge from its egg and scamper into the sea is a moment that will leave you speechless. There are few places where you can catch sight of this incredible event, one of which is Mon Repos Turtle Centre near Bundaberg. Time your visit for mid-January to early February when the hatchlings start leaving their sandy nests. Other turtle hotspots include Queensland’s islands of Lady Elliot, Lady Musgrave and Heron.
The many colourful laneways of Melbourne’s inner-city offer up dozens of hidden small bars, hole-in-the-wall cafés, stellar restaurants and one-of-a-kind fashion boutiques. There's always an adventure to be found, from your morning caffeine hit to an evening spent in a speakeasy saloon. Whichever way you turn, a wander through the laneways will have you picking from the best the city has to offer.
Hire a car in Melbourne and get ready for a road trip filled with incredible scenery along the Great Ocean Road – one of the world’s most stunning coastal drives. Expect famous surf breaks, kangaroos hopping in the wild and magical sunsets at the spectacular 12 Apostles. Take it slow and enjoy the drive over a few days, taking time to walk through waterfalls and lush forests in Otway National Park and whale watch from historic Warrnambool.
As one of only 400 visitors at a time on World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, you're guaranteed a peaceful slice of paradise when you visit. Less than two hours by plane from Sydney and Brisbane, this secluded island is one of the greenest spots in the world. Most of the island's original natural vegetation is still undisturbed, leaving remarkable geology, natural coral, lush plants and a rare collection of wildlife.
The Tiwi Islands (located just north of Darwin) are relatively unknown, but to get to know them is a truly special experience. Almost 90 per cent of residents are of local Tiwi descent, giving you the chance to discover a thriving culture through colourful textiles, weavings and paintings. The islands are known for being a fishing hotspot, with huge barramundi that fishing enthusiasts can seek on a multi-day tour.
Aside from boasting some of the country’s best museums and galleries, Canberra is known as one of the most beautiful places to hot air balloon. Ascend in the morning light for gorgeous views of Lake Burley Griffin and the surrounding bushland. Add in the city's interesting architecture and Parliament House, and you're in for an Instagram-worthy treat. Attend the annual Canberra Balloon Spectacular (part of the Enlighten Festival) for a colourful balloon show.
The famous quokkas on Rottnest Island are a major drawcard for this island paradise off the coast of Western Australia. These friendly locals are very curious, so you won't have any trouble spotting them. Well known for their infectious smiles, these little marsupials aren’t found anywhere outside of Western Australia, so this truly is a bucket list moment to tick off on your Aussie adventure. Have your camera handy, but keep in mind that you're not allowed to touch or feed them.
With vibrant coral reefs and an extraordinary array of marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most diverse ocean habitats on Earth. What better place to pop on a wetsuit for a day of diving or snorkelling? Get ready to encounter giant clams, majestic sea turtles, graceful stingrays, an incredible variety of tropical fish and, of course, spectacular coral formations. If you head out on an overnight tour, you can even jump in the water for some nocturnal diving.
You can't visit Sydney without experiencing one of its most iconic landmarks. You can see the Harbour Bridge from many different vantage points (did someone say ferry ride?), but climbing it brings the experience to a whole new level. Book with BridgeClimb to take in amazing views of the iconic Opera House, and choose the Burrawa Aboriginal Climb Experience to be guided by a First Nations storyteller.
The red desert landscape of the Northern Territory is dotted with pristine waterholes that are perfect for a dip on hot summer days. Escape from the heat as you swim beneath majestic waterfalls, float through thermal springs or relax in serene pools in ancient canyons. The journey to reach an oasis is just as incredible as each rejuvenating swim, with beautiful hikes and drives that will weave you through untamed landscapes.
The Blue Mountains, about a two-hour drive from Sydney, is best known for one iconic natural landmark – the Three Sisters. This unusual rock formation represents three sisters who, according to Aboriginal Dreaming stories, were turned to stone. View the sisters from Echo Point Lookout, which is also the starting point for hikes that will give you multiple vantage points of the sisters as you make your way through the bushland.
A trip to the Northern Territory isn’t complete without seeing the world's largest reptiles – the saltwater crocodile. Head out on a multi-day wilderness safari, cruise through picturesque billabongs or ride an airboat through Kakadu floodplains to spot these intriguing beasts. Trained professionals will help you get up close safely. The best time of year for croc-spotting is during the wet season (from November to April).
Off the coast of South Australia lies Kangaroo Island, a nature lover’s dream brimming with gorgeous landscapes and abundant wildlife. The island is one of the best places to spot native animals like koalas, kangaroos, sea lions and seals. Wandering among the Australian sea lion colony at Seal Bay is an experience you’ll never forget. Walk the beach at your own leisure, or join a guided tour to learn all about these “puppies of the sea”.