When visiting Australia you’ll immediately realise how huge the country actually is, and it’s easy to get totally overwhelmed by the vast number of amazingly awesome opportunities that come your way. Whether you want to go on an epic road trip, explore a major city, learn to surf, go camping and hiking in the outback, jump out of a plane from a ridiculous height, or just lounge about on a beach, Australia has it all to offer… but how on earth do you decide what to do? To help you on your mission, here’s a list of the top 10 absolute coolest things you could ever do in Australia.
Must Do Things on a Gap Year Backpacking in Australia
1. Visit Fraser Island
Considered to be the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island is becoming increasingly popular among backpackers. There are plenty of different ways to explore this magnificent place, but by far the most popular is to go on what’s called a tag-along tour. This involves joining a group of about 20 other travellers and, in groups of six or seven, you drive yourselves around the sandy island in a mega-awesome 4X4, following along behind your guide. You will get to drive along the vast stretch of beach, visiting some fantastic places, such as the astounding wreck of the S.S. Maheno and the beautiful Lake McKenzie.
2. Spend time in Sydney
Sydney is one of those cities that you could explore forever and you still won’t have seen it all. Ever changing and growing, this city has almost too much to offer. Whether you want to relax on the nearby beaches (Bondi, Coogee, or Manly to name a few), go hiking in the Blue Mountains, get under the sea at the magnificent Sydney Aquarium, or act like a total tourist and get your snaps of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney has it all. It’s like being in London and Cornwall at the same time!
3. Road trip the Great Ocean Road
As an Australian National Heritage, this 243 kilometre stretch of road is an absolute must do if you’re on the south east coast of Australia. Grab your buddies, sort out some snacks and road tunes, jump in whatever vehicle you can get your hands on and hit the Great Ocean Road. Starting not far from Melbourne, the road works its way along the coast, taking you through some great little towns, past incredible viewpoints and all the way to Port Campbell National Park, where you can take in the astounding sight that is the Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks that have been formed by their own natural erosion. It’s something you do not want to miss.
4. Get sandy on the beaches
With a coastline that stretches for nearly 37,000 km, it’s unsurprising that the beaches in Australia can’t really be rivalled. All 11,011 of them. Whether you want a city beach, like the ever-popular Bondi beach in Sydney, the surfing mecca that is Byron Bay, or a more secluded space, like Whitehaven Bay in the Whitsundays, there’s definitely something for everyone here. The majority of Australia’s beaches are open to the public and there are plenty of activities available, such as jet-skiing or even skydiving if that takes your fancy!
5. Learn to surf
This is probably something that’s on the top of a lot of traveller’s bucket lists, and where better to learn the art of riding waves on a board than in the sunny climes and warm seas of Oz!? There are plenty of different places and ways to learn, so whether you want to hire your own board, run into the sea and see what happens, or go to an accredited surf school with proper instructors who can teach you the ways of the waves, it’s entirely up to you. Whatever happens though, you’ll have heaps of fun and might even catch a wave or two.
6. Sail the Whitsundays
Along the backpacker trail you’ll meet plenty of people who rave about their time sailing the Whitsundays. There’s a reason for this. Never again will you see such beauty just a short way from the shore. There are plenty of different options for a Whitsundays tour, but all involve some sort of boat (small and quiet, or large and noisy, this part is up to you), a captain, delicious food, nights under the stars, at least one sea sick person, snorkelling, a visit to Whitehaven Beach (an uninhabited soft white sandy heaven), and some very attractive stinger suits. However you do it though, the Whitsundays is a trip you won’t ever forget.
7. Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef
So you might have snorkelled already and are now thinking, “what’s the big deal about scuba diving, I’m not going to see anything different?”. But oh boy would you be wrong. Scuba diving is like nothing else imaginable, especially if you get to dive at the Great Barrier Reef. This reef is one of the most magical and alive places you will ever see, above or below the sea – it’s teeming with colourful coral and sparkling fish, all eager to show off their home to you, it’s scuba gear wearing visitor. And who knows… you might even see a turtle or two!
8. Go canoeing in Noosa
Noosa is known for its flashy apartments, fancy shops and well-kept beaches. It’s also a bit of a hotspot for some big-time celebrities. But if you’re on the hunt for something a little less touristy and a bit more off the beaten track, then head out into the bush for a few days of camping and canoeing at Gagaju Bush Camp. Located about 15km out of Noosa, and right on the Noosa River, this is a magical little place with a real community feel. You can canoe up and down the river during the day, and enjoy evenings filled with laughter and stories around the campfire.
9. Don’t forget about Melbourne
You are either a Melbourne person or a Sydney person. That’s what everyone says. But in all honesty, both these cities are impressive each in their own ways. Melbourne is a very quirky place, full of interesting cafés, shops and artwork, and the ACMI Museum makes a fantastic afternoon outing for all ages. This is also the city to visit if you’re a Neighbours fan – tours leave from the city on an almost daily basis and you’ll soon find yourself out in the suburbs, standing on Ramsay Street outside the Kennedy’s house! So while Sydney may be the bustling tourist attraction, don’t forget that Melbourne’s there too, ready and waiting to entertain you.
10. Be a surf bum in Byron Bay
Located at the most easterly point of Australia, Byron Bay is a fantastic spot for surfers. On any day, when you look out to sea, you will see hundreds of little dots bobbing about on their boards, just waiting for the next wave. Byron is a great little town, small enough to walk around, but big enough to still have plenty to offer. One of the best things to do in Byron (aside from surfing, of course), is take a walk up to Cape Byron and the Byron Bay Lighthouse, where you get a spectacular view of the bay and, on a good day, you might even see some dolphins or whales out at sea. Byron bay is a surf and explore by day, and party by night sort of place, full to the brim of backpackers and locals, all looking to just chill out and enjoy the scenery.