Us Australians are a worldly bunch, but we sometimes fall down when it comes to exploring our own backyard. “I’ll do that later,” we say as we take another long-haul flight across the world to experience the wonders of the Portuguese coastline, the Canadian ski fields or the Patagonian wilderness. Australia, though, is ripe with iconic adventures that can only be experienced here, and really should be ticked off any Aussie’s bucket list in their lifetime.
Here are a bunch of our favourite quintessential Australian experiences, all wrapped up in a quick check list for you to tick off. Bring along a healthy sense of adventure and a few Farnsy records and you’ll be set.
#1 Drive the Great Ocean Road
It’s the holy grail of road trips in this great southern land. Just look at that view! You’ll be treated to non-stop coastal views along this stretch of coast that will have you snapping away on your camera like an incessant woodpecker. Be sure to enjoy some fish and chips by the sea from a local takeaway shop, and if you’re game, try your hand at surfing in Anglesea or Lorne – it’s not as hard as it looks. There’s an array of activities for non-beachy folk too, from world class dining to soothing saunas and horse-back riding. With countless accommodation options on your way down the coast, the only real decision should be where to rest your head/pitch your tent.
#2 The Harbour Bridge Climb
Come on, you’ve got to! The Harbour Bridge Climb is a Sydney classic, and if you’re put off by the word “climb”, rest assured that this walk is neither strenuous nor scary. The climb takes you along the span of the iconic ‘ol’ coathanger’ where you can take in uninterrupted views of the harbour and its handsome surrounds. Even if you’re only doing it for the photo opportunities, it feels pretty good to know what Sydney looks like from 134 metres above sea level, from the top of one of its biggest tourist attractions. Don one of those sweet jumpsuits, pick your time of day (try night time for something completely different) and feel that rush of blood to the head.
#3 Swim with whale sharks at Exmouth
There’s an awesome phenomenon that happens off the coast of WA every winter that will delight any water baby: the picturesque town of Exmouth is inundated by whale sharks along the Ningaloo Reef. These gentle giants are nothing to be frightened of, and snorkelling alongside them is a way more ‘calming joy’ than Jaws. This is one of the only places in the world where whale sharks appear regularly, but if snorkelling with sharks isn’t your thing, the beautiful beaches of Exmouth are the perfect spot to plant your feet for a week or so anyway.
#4 See Uluru, in person
It’s really not enough to just see photos of this magnificent place – visiting it in person should be high on your priority list, too. Driving over desert plains and finally seeing that mystical huge rock in the distance is a feeling like no other. It’ll startle your senses – it’s both so familiar yet so foreign and fantastic.
Located in the heart of the Northern Territory’s Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, this massive monolith will leave you speechless with both its sheer size and 700-million-year-old history. Skip the snooze button in the morning and trek out to see Uluru cycle through a thousand hues as the sun hits the rock. There’s plenty of free lookouts around town or you can join in on a sunrise tour complete with camel rides and fresh made damper cooked on an open fire. Whichever way you choose to experience it, it’s essential Australian viewing, for sure.
#5 The Great Barrier Reef
Did you know the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living organism? Yep, our iconic reef – which spans about 2300 kilometres off the coast of Queensland – is even visible from outer space. This weird and wonderful water world is meant to be explored from below the surface, so grab that snorkel, don those flippers and get down below sea level. The colours, the coral, the fish – it’s like your very own an amusement park under the sea.
#6 Parliament House
Okay, okay – while it may not seem as exciting as the Great Barrier Reef, visiting Parliament House is way more enlightening that you’d expect. Even if you have strange memories of it from Year Six camp, it’s actually cool as a grown-up to see the beating heart of Australian politics at work. There’s dozens of memorials and signifiers of our country’s past, and you might even spot a politician on their lunch break, just fanging a burger like a regular every-day person. Once you’re brain is reeling with politics and you can’t take any more, be sure to check out the grounds outside the famed building – it’s the perfect spot for a picnic and a heated debate with your pals.
#7 Wine and dine at the Barossa Valley
If the words ‘tannins’, ‘acidity’ and ‘mouth feel’ perk you up, you’re most certainly a wine-lover, and there’s no better place for you than Adelaide’s esteemed wine region, the Barossa Valley, to settle down and wet your whistle. Known as an Australian wine utopia, the Barossa Valley is South Australia’s gourmet food capital as well. Make the Louise Hotel‘s award-winning Appellation restaurant a priority in between your cellar-door tastings, and be sure to pop past Maggie Beer’s nearby produce shop too. Your taste buds will thank you.
Australia’s newest icon MONA is radically redefining our sleepy southernmost state and giving people another reason to travel to the edge of the earth. The museum is delightfully dark in its approach and furiously captivating in its execution. Since its opening in 2011, MONA has seen 1.4 million people through its doors, each bringing with them a keen sense of curiosity about the modern art world. Tassie’s art hub will delight you, inspire you and frighten you – but all in the best way.