With year-round sunshine, a laid back lifestyle and TV shows like Home and Away showing every day as a beach day, backpackers love Australia. Some love it so much they opt to stay for a full year, taking on odd jobs in order to bask in the Land Down Under for a little longer.
No matter how long you’re in Australia, you need to make the most of it. That means making your way through as many of these ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences as possible.
1. Visit Kangaroo Island
The name is a giveaway when it comes to what’s in store for you here. Kangaroo Island is just off the coast of Adelaide and is the perfect place to see real life roos as they hop about their natural habitat. Lucky visitors will catch a glimpse of a koala too.
2. Go surfing on Bondi Beach
This New South Wales Bay is one of the world’s most famous beaches and stretches over 1km long. Its epic waves bring in surfers from across the globe. If you haven’t yet learnt to bend and glide, there are loads of schools in the Sydney area ready to get you started.
3. Dive in the Great Barrier Reef
Visible from the moon and one of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is one you can’t leave Oz without discovering. Especially seeing as experts reckon it’s not going to last much longer.
Take a diving day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns and venture below to see some of the 1500 species of fish and 300 types of coral living in the big blue. Just make sure you go with a responsible operator.
4. Drive on the Great Ocean Road
Cruising along the 243km Great Ocean Road is the best drive you’ll ever do. You’ll see waterfalls and wildlife, and instead of pulling into service stations you can stop by the rainforests or even hit the waves as you go.
5. Do a skydive
Yeah, you might be able to skydive in the UK, but freefalling over Cairns, Sydney or Wollongong is so much better. Why not start your gap year or trip abroad as you mean to go on? In true adrenaline junkie style.
6. See the Sydney Opera House
Even if you only gaze at the building itself, make sure to visit the iconic Sydney Opera House. It’s one of the most famous and identifiable buildings in the world and, for the more cultured among us, it hosts some amazing operas and orchestras too. There are expensive tours every day, but when I went I tagged onto the back of one and no one said a thing. Shhhhh.
7. Sail the Whitsundays
The Whitsundays are a collection of 74 secluded bays that you’ll find off the coast of Queensland near the Great Barrier Reef. Take a sailing trip around the dreamy location and you’ll come back with a camera full of unforgettable views, as well as a whole bunch of new friends. Guaranteed.
8. Watch a sunset over Ayers Rock
This red-stone rock, known as Uluru by the aboriginal locals, is thought to be over 500 million years old, right at the country’s Red Centre. Although the rock is amazing to see at any time, watching the colours change on it as the sun sets is unforgettable. Get there at the right time and it’ll be easy to see why the indigenous people consider this spot so sacred.
9. Give sandboarding a go
Swap the sea for sand and learn how to glide the dunes in top Australian locations like Victoria, Tasmania and Lancelin. You can choose the hills you’re willing to brave and experience the speed and slide of Australia’s sandy slopes. Something different anyway, isn’t it?
10. Wine taste at Swan Valley Winery
Swan Valley is the oldest wine producing region in the Perth area, so you can bet there are more than a few tasty grapes to try. Many of the vineyards are still run by the original Italian and Croatian families that set them up in the 1920s. The owners and their families often come to meet you themselves, give you a tour and welcome you into their cellars.
11. Head to the Gold Coast
Not a coast, but a city on the coast, the Gold Coast is surrounded by beautiful beaches like ‘Surfers Paradise’. There are also enough theme parks, water sports and wildlife sanctuaries around that it’s become famous as the place to go for fun.
That’s not all there is to the Gold Coast: make sure you head up into the Hinterland and see if you can camp over for the night. The atmosphere and ‘at oneness’ you’ll feel with the world is hard to beat.
12. Travel on Melbourne’s trams
Melbourne is all about the quirky, indie and alternative vibes, with lots of cool cafes, edgy artwork and independent boutiques lining the streets. One way to find your way around them, and the more well-known sites like Luna Park and the Melbourne Museum, is to ride the 69 tram from north to south of the city. This is the best way to get a good scope of the city in just a few minutes, and then you can work out which of the sights you want to see more of.
13. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
It’s a scary one, but once the terror has worn off you’ll be proud you braved the heights – and you don’t have to do it alone. An experienced climber escorts you to the top, then does their best to distract you from the 134m drop with entertaining bridge facts. Of course, if you want that adrenaline thrill, make sure to look down…
14. Kakadu National Park
Connect a little more with Mother Nature in Australia’s biggest park. Like a wild wonderland, Kakudu is home to over 2000 species of plants and animals, as well as aboriginal culture. It’s said that the Bininj Mungguy people have lived on the land for tens of thousands of years, making it one of the oldest communities around today. Don’t miss those huge termite mounds – they look like an incredible feat of nature, until you realise they’re basically just a big tower of poo.
15. Stay on Fraser Island
Fraser Island is the largest island made entirely of sand, and is the only place in the world where rainforest shoots up from the sand. Lose yourself chilling at the freshwater lakes, exploring the coral cays and discovering the shipwreck bays. Guaranteed, it’s going to be hard to leave.