20 Experts Share Their Top Bucket List Adventures
Planning your backpacking in Australia can be a daunting OR AWESOME...
It’s really not a case of seeing everything - rather experiencing some of the most amazing things.
To help create a truly epic list we asked 20 of the most respected professional travellers and bloggers - people who have been here and done Australia in the biggest way.
We dare you - no we double dare you - not to add one or two of these to your own bucket list!
Enjoy and check out the blogs of some of these amazing people while you are at it.
Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere
“Almost everyone who visits Australia spends their time on the East Coast. While there is nothing wrong with the East Coast per se, I think you really need to experience the rest of the country to get a full taste of Australia.
I'd recommend renting a campervan and driving from Darwin to Perth. Along the way, visit Purnululu National Park, aka the Bungle Bungles. It is a place few Australians ever visit and one of the highlights of the country.”
Kiersten Rich of The Blonde Abroad
“When traveling Australia, venturing through the Outback is a must. Some of my fondest memories of Australia are the moment I saw the unmistakable Uluru in the distance, hiking around Kata Tjuta to Karingana Lookout, taking the Ghan Train to Darwin, and trying a Witchetty Grub for the first (and last) time!
My adventure around the Northern Territory highlighted some of the most incredible natural beauty I’ve ever seen.”
Bram Reusen of Travel. Experience. Live.
“My all-time favorite backpacking experience in Australia was sleeping on the beach in Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park, Tasmania.
What I loved most about those couple of days in nature was that you have to go on an actual hike across the Hazards, a series of coastal mountains, to reach that spectacular beach. I carried my sleeping bag and cooking gear in my backpack and simply slept under the stars. The following morning I went for a swim in the ocean (and saw a pod of dolphins!) before going on a 5-hour hike through the national park. What an epic two days that was!”
Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate
"Spend time exploring the Top End -- the land of crocs. Spend some time swimming in rockholes and seeing termite mounds in Litchfield National Park, see ancient cave art and astounding red cliffs in Kakadu National Park, then finish with the Mindil Beach Markets in Darwin and a sunset you'll never forget. This part of Australia is underrated and I can't recommend it enough."
Chris Stevens of Backpacker Banter
“If you’re looking for a really unique Australia experience my top bucket list tip would be to get over to the West Coast of Oz.
I campervanned from Perth to Darwin and it was one of the most incredible travel experiences I’ve had, full of epic bucket list items! From watching turtles nest on the beach at Exmouth, swimming with manta rays, feeding wild dolphins and exploring Kakadu National Park….it’s hot, humid and dusty but well worth it!
Of course the East Coast is littered with bucket list to dos as well (The Whitsundays, learning to scuba dive, Fraser Island and surfing in Byron Bay being some!) but if you want the unique experience WA is where it’s at!”
Nora Dunn of The Professional Hobo
“I lived in Australia for a year and a half, and by far my favourite activity was enjoying the epic train journeys available, such as The Ghan (from Darwin to Adelaide), and even more so the Indian Pacific (from Sydney to Perth). You can ride in various levels of luxury (and cost), but it's not just for rich people; Great Southern Rail has pass options that allow you to ride all the rails you want for a very reasonable cost.
If you like trains and want to see Australia in a unique way, this is the way to do it. I even used my pass to ride 11,000kms in 11 days…straight! (Why? To see if it's possible to get bored on a train, of course! More on this epic journey [following the link above].)“
Lauren Juliff of Never Ending Footsteps
“Don’t forget about Tasmania! It’s my favourite part of Australia and one that so few tourists choose to visit it on their travels. It has spectacular scenery, friendly locals, and some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen. And, even better, you’ll have the majority of those beaches entirely to yourself!”
Ed Rex of RexyEdventures
“How can you NOT have an unforgettable experience in Australia?!
My personal favourite is to hire a campervan for a week to drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation to Cooktown on the Captain Cook Highway. You'll see changing environments from the Outback to the Daintree Rainforest, from white sandy beaches in Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation to beautiful waterways such as as the Mossman Gorge. You'll get up close and personal with wildlife including marsupials and the sultry cassowaries and be amazed at the short but significant history at Cooktown.
There's simply loads to do. Stop partying in Cairns and get out on the road to have a journey of a lifetime. Now, I want to go back, please can you buy me a ticket to Australia?”
Bethaney Davies of Flashpacker Family
“When in Sydney, we definitely recommend getting outside the city for a day and exploring the Blue Mountains.
Head up to Scenic World in Katoomba and take the cable car over the mountains to see them at their best. They really do have a blue haze to them! You can also ride the world's steepest railway - an old mining car that descends at a frightening (but fun) 52 degrees of incline!”
Agness & Cez of eTramping
“Biking across the country
Australia is extremely diverse and vast, thus has a lot to offer for those who would like to explore it in a different way, for example by bike. When cycling across this magnificent country you will be exposed to breath-taking road rides, laid-back beaches and muddy hills. One of top places to cycle to would be definitely Byron Bay and Hinterland, Stromlo Forest Park, Blue Mountains, Mt Coot-tha Forest and Gap Creek Trails.
No matter what your reason for hitchhiking is, lack of money or need for adventures, this is definitely one of the most exciting parts of travelling in Australia. Hitchhiking is simply an accepted part of travels here. Everyone does it. The majority of drivers are fairly open to picking up foreigners. In this way you can not only see a lot of different places for free, but also catch up with local drivers and listen to some interesting stories they may want to share about their country, city and local life.
Hit the road, Jack!
There is nothing like exploring Australia on a road trip with awesome companions. This country is well-known for having well-maintained system of highways and roads so it’s a perfect place to rent a car and see some amazing places on the way. It is definitely one of the most comfortable and affordable ways to travel wherever you want and stay in certain places as long as you want to and still save some cash to explore Sydney. You can also sleep there, stop at local stores and get some food. Definitely something to try for everyone with a driving licence.”
Amanda Williams of A Dangerous Business
“I would tell travelers in Australia not to skip Western Australia! Many backpackers focus on Melbourne and Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, but there's more to the country than the east coast. Not only do you have Perth in WA to explore, but also nearby places like Fremantle and Rottnest Island, which are both definitely worth a visit.”
Oceana Setaysha of Barefoot Beach Blonde
“I think that backpackers should absolutely consider taking the time to visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) in the Northern Territory.
Yes, it is a long way, but when you get there you'll realise just how worthwhile the trip is. These two sites are both culturally and spiritually significant to Australia's First People, and therefore offer a uniquely Australian experience to visitors.
When you visit Uluru in particular, I always encourage people to join one of the free walking tours run by the visitors centre, run by local people, which provide an Aboriginal perspective on the significant sites of the region.”
Dave and Carmen Allan-Petale of Double-Barrelled Travel
“The TOP bucketlist adventure we think every backpacker should have when they visit Australia is to travel to the remote West Australian coastal area of Coral Bay.
Most backpackers stay on the east coast and do the Great Barrier Reef. But come west where there’s less hassle and more fun to be had at Coral Bay. There you’ll find the Ningaloo Reef - an unspoiled expanse of delightful coral and sea life that you can access simply by wading into the water at the beach with a snorkel.
You can also venture further afield with scuba diving, whale watching trips and sailing voyages. Sharks, fish, coral, whales, dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles - name it you’ll probably see it at Ningaloo, and with such a remote location the stars of the Milky Way at night are so clear you may get vertigo just looking up!!
When you’re finished at Ningaloo the great northern regions of Western Australia are the at your fingertips or you can head down to the capital, Perth, and visit the south-west wine and nature regions. We have been to this area many times and are always blown away by its pristine perfection. It’s been a favourite with locals for many years but word is getting out and more and more international visitors are coming, which has raised the standard of accommodation and services there so it’s a great time to go west and go north to Coral Bay.”
Jan Robinson of Budget Travel Talk
“I recommend visiting Magnetic Island. Magnetic Island near Townsville could have been named for the attraction it's sandy, boulder enclosed bays exert, but it was James Cook who named it when his compass went crazy back in 1770.
The vibe is laid back with coconut palms galore along the beaches and hoop pines claiming the hilltops. Hire scooters or topless cars to zip around the island, cuddle koalas in captivity or see them in the wild on the fort walk, de-stress or attend a full moon party - the choice is yours.”
Audrey Bergner of That Backpacker
“My suggestion for a bucket-list adventure in Australia is to go kayaking around the Whitsunday Islands. This collection of islands looks as close to paradise on earth as you're going to get! It's a really fun way to go island hopping and squeeze in a little bit of beach time, plus the water is so inviting.”
Raymond Walsh of Man on the Lam
“Take the time to plan a campervan experience through the Outback -- you'll get to see and experience so much more than if you just stick to the cities and beaches.”
Charli Moore of Wanderlusters
“My Top Aussie Bucket List Adventure is:
For experienced scuba divers Australia offers no greater thrill than to dive the rich waters of Osprey Reef.
A remote atoll in the Coral Sea 350km off the coast of Cairns, it rises up from the seabed some 2000m below and plays host to a wealth of marine life large and small. Hammerhead sharks, manta rays, nautilus, and a varied underwater landscape of bubble caves, coral arches, and sheer drop-offs are just a few of the many highlights.
The infamous Shark Feed Dive at North Horn is a must for adrenaline junkies; no cage required, you dive to 15m and watch as hundreds of sharks emerge from the inky depths to feed on chum served up by a team of chain-mail clad crew.”
Edna Zhou of Expat Edna
"For an unforgettable trip to Australia, spend some time relaxing on the West Coast: drink a cold beer from the source at Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle, take in some of the most beautiful ocean scenery and wildlife (quokkas!) while biking around Rottnest Island, explore the vineyards of Margaret River, and gaze in awe at some of the most memorable sunsets you'll see on the beaches of Perth."
Michela Fantinel of Rocky Travel
"Road Tripping is the best way to experience Australia. There are many short and long road trips that you can do throughout the country.
I’d recommend a road trip, (car or campervan) in South Western Australia from Perth to Albany and back along the south west coast of Australia. This region has a distinctive mediterranean climate with a scenic coastal landscape offering a truly pristine environment, some of the best surf beaches of Australia, the unique Karri forest, plenty of outdoor activities, superb local produce and premium wines.
Likewise another great road trip that you cannot miss out is in North Tropical Queensland."
Bre Fowler of Breezy in Paradise
“Spend a few days soaking up the sun and relaxed atmosphere of sunny coastal town Noosa. Spot koalas, dolphins, sea turtles, and maybe even whales as you hike the Noosa National Park Coastal Track, catch some waves with the heaps of other surfers, browse the boutique shops on Hastings street, enjoy the delicious tacos and ice cold beer at the Village Bicycle, cruise the river on a pontoon boat, and spend your Saturday morning getting lost in the sea of stalls at the Eumundi Markets.”
We would like to give a huge THANK YOU to all of the amazing travel bloggers who contributed to this post! It is very inspiring to read each of their recommendations on traveling through Australia - so many great ideas that are now on our bucket list too!