These are some of the “must see” destinations downunder
Having travelled quite a bit throughout Australia, it’s been really hard to choose our favorites places. However, looking back at our journals, there are a few places, which totally stand out. Here are some of the awesome, unforgettable experiences, which we believe truly define Australia.
Sydney Harbour - Bridge Climb
OK, this place is not for the faint–hearted and is recommended for kids 10 years and over - so if you aren’t allowed on the ‘big’ rollercoasters, there’s a good chance you won’t be allowed to do this either (we can’t wait to turn 10 so that we can finally go). This is definitely an experience not to be forgotten.
What’s the quickest way to see Sydney, the largest city in Australia? Easy - climb the biggest bridge in the harbour! No, no, we don’t mean to actually walk on it, but climb its rim!
This is a 3 ½ hour experience where you get to climb 1,439 steps! Phew! But don’t worry – the oldest person who ever got to the top, Mrs, Chris Muller, reached the summit at 100 years old! And no, she didn’t start at 89! J
The walk is actually quite leisurely and includes regular rest stops throughout the duration so it’s not as scary as it sounds. And they do ‘tie you up’ pretty well (in a special climbing gear of course), so it’s not like you are going to fall off or anything!
From its fascinating underbelly to its summit, 134 metres (440 feet) above the Harbour, this Bridge is the pride of Sydney. And the views from up there are absolutely spectacular (or so we are told!). You be the judge…
Tobruk Sheep Station
The TOBRUK Sheep Station is an authentic working farm just over an hour from the Sydney CBD (downtown). Here you can take in an Outback Show as well as take part in a ‘farm-stay’.
This place is absolutely awesome and shows you what it is that makes Australia so very special. The charm of the rustic buildings, the blacksmith’s shop and farm machinery, the warmth of the open camp fire in our Drover’s Camp with Billy tea and hot damper, the hearty country meals, the friendly animals and a great drover’s show, will all make you feel like you are 1,000 miles from anywhere. If you’re lucky, you might even get to learn how to sheer a sheep!
By the way, ‘Drover’ is Australian for ‘Cowboy’ – you just have to check this out!
Ok, we know you have zoos back home – but this is no ordinary zoo – this is our super-duper, famous Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter’s zoo!
Not only is it a beautiful zoo (and we have been to over 50 different ones around the world), but there is an awesome Crocodile Show each and every day! If you ever wanted to safely see these truck-sized, dinosaur-like reptiles leap out of the water and crush a piece of meat with a sound that will make you cringe with fear – then look no further – this is the place to see it!
Australia Zoo is one of our absolute favorite places in the world and we always send our overseas guests there to cuddle our gorgeous Australian koalas (and take a picture with them of course). Did you know that these cute and cuddly ‘teddy bears’ actually smell like Eucalyptus? They are just divine! But since they live far up on top of the trees, it’s really hard to get up close and personal to one. Unless you come to the Australia Zoo, of course!
You can also hand feed a kangaroo here - our nation’s pride and joy! These ones are pretty placid and not scared of humans, so you don’t need to worry - you will absolutely love them.
And for all of you brave ones out there - why not take a photo with a huge snake wrapped around your neck? Then you can go home and say that you’ve really been to Australia!
And kids - if that’s not enough for your ultimate adventure, why not sign-up for a workshop where you are zoo-keeper for a day? You can stroll through the Zoo at your own pace while the kids are amused, entertained and absolutely thrilled to be working alongside real zoo-keepers - feeding, washing and taking care of the animals on the inside of the enclosures! We’ve done this for our birthdays and it was one of the most amazing experiences ever! You can check it out here:
The Great Barrier Reef
Stretching over 2,000 km along the eastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is a mind-blowing, natural wonder. This marine wonderland and Unesco World Heritage Site, harbours one of richest ecosystems on the planet. Over 2,900 individual reefs compose this complicated living system and since it’s over 2,000 km long (1,250 miles), it’s easy to get confused as to where the best place is to see it from. Here are two of our favorite spots:
We really love going to Hamilton Island. It’s only a short 1-hour flight from Brisbane (or 2 from Sydney) and is just spectacular - with tropical palms, wild parrots and golf buggies to get around in (as cars are not allowed on the island). Hamilton Island is only a short distance from some great organized tours where the whole family can snorkel and dive the Great Barrier Reef.
The Reefworld experience allows guests to appreciate the Great Barrier Reef and boasts a range of activities – from exploring the easy-to-follow snorkeling trails to taking a guided snorkeling tour with an experienced reef-guide. For those of you who don't want to get wet, you can tour the reef aboard a semi-submersible or be intrigued by the amazing fish life in the underwater observatory.
Located further north of Hamilton Island (on the mainland) is a town called Cairns. This place may not have the same ‘ahhhh’ island feel as Hamilton Island, but is a really nice place and is a great gateway for a number of our favorite activities.
First of all, it’s the main launching pad for reef tours – there are a staggering number of operators here to take you on the trip of your choice - from an inexpensive day trip on a large boat to a luxury five-day charter. The choice is yours!
Oh, you just have to see this enchanted, mystical, fairy-tale like garden! It is a place, which is truly a labor of love - surrounded by rainforest, waterfalls and creeks with a moss-covered, breathtaking castle right in the middle of it all. Your kids will run around looking through the secret garden spotting birds (and maybe even fairies) while you admire the surroundings while sitting at a moss covered table in The Lower Tea Gardens. We are not going to spoil the surprise and tell you the amazing love story behind this 13-acre masterpiece garden and castle – we’ll let you discover this for yourself. But we can assure you – it’s as intriguing as the grounds themselves!
Tjapukai by Day
If you’ve ever been curious about Australia’s indigenous culture – this place is an absolute must! Both you and your kids are going to be edutained (educated and entertained), mesmerized and absolutely thrilled that you have found this place. We sure were!
Take part in the Day Cultural Experience where you’re welcomed with face painting on arrival (the aboriginal way), have the chance to learn about the Australian Didgeridoo (a brilliant musical instrument) and see many wonderful cultural performances including theatre presentations and Tjapukai dance. You can also take in a few talks where you can learn about Bush foods, Bush medicine and various their hunting tools. Then to top it all off, you can try your hand at making fire - the traditional way - and even learn to throw a boomerang and a spear. But don’t worry, all these lessons are taught by an experienced guide. It’s an absolute blast!
Also, as a real teaser, they have a free Bibunba kids program, which is dedicated to families travelling with their children. The kids can learn how to play the Didgeridoo, join a Story Stone painting class (where they will learn what all those dots actually mean) and for a small price they can even paint their very own boomerang, which makes a mighty-nice souvenir to take home!
P.S. There is also an exciting evening experience available if your kids are up for it!
While in Cairns, you might also want to check out Kuranda Village, which is a cute little rainforest village high in the mountains north of Cairns (not too far away). The Village is full of colourful markets where people from all parts of the Highlands get together to sell their unique and interesting wares.
To get here you can actually catch a train upon the Kuranda Scenic Rail for a 100-minute journey to Kuranda Village via one of the world’s most scenic train journeys. This ‘step back in time’ ride will leave you breathless while you take in the extraordinary views of the Coral Sea, World Heritage rainforest, exotic Gorges, lovely cascades and waterfalls on the way.
While up there you can explore Kuranda Village and check out the unique markets and shops, dine in a quaint café or restaurant and visit other local attractions.
You can take the ride back to Cairns on your own private gondola (it takes over an hour with Skyrail Cableway). Here, you will float 10 meters above the rainforest canopy for most of the 7.5 kilometer ascend while you take in the spectacular scenery. You can even enjoy two informative 10-minute rainforest walks along the way, where you will disembark your gondola for some amazing ground-level views of the flora and fauna of this world heritage listed rainforest.
Check out Trek North – they offer a variety of well-organized, great value tours to Kuranda Village.
Getting there by Skyrail Rainforest Cableway:
Getting there by Kuranda Scenic Railway:
Ok, so if you make it up to Darwin, there are few places we highly recommend you check out:
Crocosaurus Cove is a very interesting building in the middle of downtown, which is very interesting because it is full of… wait for it – salt-water crocodiles! Bringing together some of the largest Saltwater Crocodiles and one of the worlds largest displays of Australian reptiles - this place is an absolute must if you make it up to Darwin.
You can watch some brave adults hop into a glass enclosure and swim with Harry - a massive 5.7 meter (24.4 feet) saltwater crocodile. Or for even more fun – go fishing for naughty teenagers (smaller crocodiles)!
You and your children can also hold a baby crocodile, giving you a glimpse at how magnificent and ancient looking these creatures really are.
Free Water Park
Ok, normally we wouldn’t put waterparks on our list of places to go, but this one is quite unique and our parents loved it! Why, you might ask? Because it’s free! So, if you find yourself in Darwin on a hot, sunny day (which is not unusual in this part of Australia), be sure to check out this amazing free water park equipped with plenty of slides and tubes to keep you busy for hours.
Kakadu National Park
Located 240 kilometers east of Darwin in Australia’s tropical north, Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest terrestrial national park. The Park spans over 20,000 square km (7,700 square miles) – which is about half the size of Switzerland or similar to the size of New Jersey, USA!
Not only do the Park’s landscapes provide refuge to a range of rare and endemic plants and animals, (including more than one-third of Australia's bird species and one-quarter of its freshwater and estuarine fish species), but it’s also home to Australia’s traditional owners, Bininj Mungguy, who have lived here for more than 50,000 years! No wonder it had been internationally recognized and inscribed on the World Heritage list.
This is where you can take part in what may be one of your most favorite, unique and authentic aboriginal wilderness experiences called Animal Tracks. This hands–on aboriginal experience is led by a Bush aboriginal guide who actually grew up in rock and bark shelters.
This half-day expedition is aboard an open-safari vehicle with exclusive access to some of the more remote areas of Kakadu National Park. You’ll get to see some amazing wildlife and areas including the legendary Goose Camp Floodplain, which is actually one of David Attenborough’s earliest documentary locations.
Under the guidance of your bush-wise aboriginal guide, you will learn how to hunt and gather food, find and recognize various bush medicines and participate in a number of authentic activities.
You can then enjoy a beautiful evening by a campfire at a remote location known for its incredible animal sightings. Here, you can help to prepare a delicious bush meal using aboriginal cooking methods.
If you make it as far as Kakadu , this half-day trip is an absolute must! We absolutely loved it!
Top Didj Cultural Experience
There is another fantastic cultural experience, which will teach you about our local indigenous culture through a variety of hands-on activities. This can be found in Katherine, about a 4-hour drive south of Darwin. And unlike the previous safari, these activities actually take place in art gallery and include activities such as making fire from sticks, boomerang and spear throwing and painting your own piece of indigenous artwork – all with the expert guidance of local aboriginal artists. Learning about this intricate style of art will give you a better appreciation of aboriginal art and you will have your very own masterpiece to take home!
Find out more here…
Broome is an incredible place on the opposite side of the country to where most tourists travel, hence why it’s one of our favorite places on earth! The pure white sand beaches, red cliffs, blue skies and the bluest water you have ever seen - will have you mesmerized for days. It’s one of those places where you just want to park yourself on the beach, under an umbrella and never, ever leave. And wait until you see the sunsets here – every night you’ll be treated to some of the most spectacular sunsets you have ever seen! If photography is something you enjoy, then this place is for you!
There are a lot of things to do in Broome and one of out favorites include taking in an exciting camel ride at sunset. While Cable Beach is spectacular on its own, seeing it from the back of a camel is truly an amazing experience.
Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park and Animal Refuge, is also very cool. It’s different from the previous two crocodile parks mentioned because it is home to many ‘problem’ crocodiles. And yes, we mean the jaw snapping, angry ones!
And last but not least is a very unique journey to the stars with Astro Tours. Greg -bikie by day and a passionate star expert by night - provides you with an experience that compares to nothing else.
We were totally blown away by Greg’s self-taught knowledge and passion. The telescopes with satellite navigations were out of this world! Experiencing this, while being in this ultra remote setting outside of Broome – coupled with the fact that Broome is one of the few places in the world where you can see both southern and northern hemispheres at the same time – is truly an unforgettable experience.
So there you have it – our favorite places to explore around Australia. We’ve probably mentioned more than ten, but who’s counting when you have such a beautiful, friendly country to discover.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and come ‘on down!
Hooroo! (Aussie for ‘see ya’)