K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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The wild and diverse natural landscapes, abundant wildlife and rich ancient cultures of Australia make for some incredible opportunities for outdoor adventure. Of course, in a country so vast, where do you begin? While you’d have to make multiple trips to even begin to enjoy them all, these are some of the most unforgettable options to consider.
Kakadu is the largest national park in Australia, spread across 3.2 million acres which includes the traditional lands of several indigenous tribes. It offers the chance to do everything from explore prolific rock art, view saltwater crocodiles and billabongs, waterfalls and gorges. One of the best ways to cover it is by Jeep tour with multiple options available, including a full-day excursion that features Gunlom Falls and Ikoymarrwa Rock Pool.
Riding a camel is something you probably associate with places like the Sahara Desert but Australia is home to the world’s largest camel herd with around 750,000 of the animals living here. Perfectly suited to the environment, they were imported during the 19th-century to help with the challenging work required in the Outback, and today there are thousands that roam wild. Visitors can enjoy camel rides in places like Broome in the Kimberley region and tick it off their Australian Outback bucket list. It may be best done at sunset along the pristine white sands that are framed by the turquoise sea.
Kings Canyon rises nearly 900 feet above sea level in the heart of Australia’s red rock center. Forged over hundreds of millions of years through the layers of sandstone and hard shale, the towering domes and plateaus spill down to an oasis with natural rock pools and all sorts of native flora. Joining a hike to the rim led by an Aboriginal elder, offered by Kings Canyon Resort’s Bush Centre, is one of the best ways to explore it while learning about this fascinating region and its history.
One of the best places in the world for a hot air balloon ride, the Yarra Valley is a short drive from Melbourne. Rise above the panorama of the Yarra River, farms, forest, undulating hills and vines, while the occasional kangaroo can be seen hopping across the landscape and blue-tinged peaks of mountains beckon in the distance. Afterward, explore one of the world’s great food and wine regions with the relatively cool climate well-suited for producing high quality sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The east coast of the wild and remote Freycinet Peninsula is surrounded by dazzling turquoise bays and pristine white sand beaches surrounded by the pink granite peaks of the Hazards Mountain Range, including Wineglass Bay. Located in Freycinet National Park, pick up a permit at the visitor center and then embark on the scenic one-hour trek to reach it. You’ll enjoy one of the most breathtaking vistas in all of Tasmania, before descending through the eucalyptus forest. Once on the powdery sands, keep an eye out for wallabies on land and dolphins that frequently pass offshore.
Another unforgettable outdoor adventure in Kakadu National Park is the Yellow Water Cruise. The indigenous-owned and led trips bring the opportunity to witness more than sacred Aboriginal sites, some of which features 50,000-year-old rock art, along with crocodiles and more than 60 bird species. There are multiple options, including sunrise cruises that offer a hot buffet breakfast after the excursion concludes.
Ningaloo Reef is a World Heritage Site that some say is even better than the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel, dive or swim with whale sharks, the gentle giants of the sea, along with manta rays, dolphins, three species of endangered sea turtles and countless tropical fish. There are 500 different fish species, including abundant angelfish, butterflyfish and colorful parrotfish. You’ll find plenty of tour options that include gear like snorkeling equipment and wetsuits.
Go underground to explore a breathtaking labyrinth inside the Blue Mountains, named for the frequent blue haze that envelopes them as the result of evaporating oil from eucalyptus trees. This lush region is filled with dramatic features like the Jenolan Caves which contain crystal limestone formations, underground rivers, stalactites and stalagmites. A variety of tours are available for experiencing it all, including the still pools of the underground River Styx that reflects the impressive display above.
Byron Bay offers the unique opportunity to paddle right alongside dolphins. A sea kayaking tour here is likely to bring close encounters with the bay’s curious bottlenose dolphins, along with sea turtles and possibly even humpback whales. Leaving from Clarkes Beach, you’ll also take in sights like the lighthouse, Julian Rocks, Wategos millionaire row and Cape Byron.
One of the most popular outdoor adventures in Queensland’s Gold Coast is the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk which offers the chance to become immersed in the natural beauty of the rainforest, crossing the Skywalk Bridge and the Skywalk Cantilever before reaching the Cedar Creek Viewing Platform, linked by a mile-long pathway that meanders along the canopy floor. Visitors to Tamborine Mountain can also explore four waterfalls and take the Treetop Challenge. It features a variety of challenges like hanging from trees, climbing ladders, balancing on bridges and navigating suspended tunnels.
Perth is one of the best places for paddleboarding in all of Australia. The flat waters of the Swan River are ideal for beginners who are hoping to get up and get paddling, hone their technique and develop confidence. Cottesloe Beach is perfect for paddleboarding too, with gentle waves and a few breaks that stretch from Cable Station to Deep 6, Dutch Inn, Seconds and Cove.
Of course, Australia is famous for its outstanding surfing, and if you’re hoping to learn, head to Robe in South Australia. The six-mile stretch of golden sands of Long Beach is just north of town and offers smaller consistent swells. The more experienced can head to the beaches at Little Dip Conservation Park which tends to have more powerful waves.