A pre-pandemic survey found that Americans want to visit Australia more than any other country in the world. With the ability to work remotely and now stay in destinations longer than before, are you thinking about a bucket-list trip to Australia? Slightly bigger than America, there is so much to explore and many possible things to do in Australia. Don’t worry! We’ve got a shortlist from a local to help you plan a once-in-a-lifetime vacation!
A Little Bit About Australia
Australia itself covers almost 2 million square miles and is the 6th largest country in the world. Like the United States, many Australians live on the coasts in large cities. However, unlike America, most of Australia’s land is inhabitable desert.
The climate does vary throughout the country but lives up to its reputation of being the “Sunburnt Country.” The southern states are cooler in the winter months from June to August, but it’s convenient to travel to Australia all year round.
There are six states and three territories. The largest Australian cities are Sydney in New South Wales, Melbourne in Victoria, and the nation’s Capital, Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT.) With so many different landscapes, experiences, and opportunities, a local outlines 15 amazing things to do in Australia to get you started on planning the ultimate trip down under.
Relax around the Whitsunday Islands
There are 74 different Islands in the Whitsunday network, and you can access them from the tourist hub of Airlie Beach. This is where you can snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, but you can also relax at any number of the Island resorts is visit some of the most pristine Queensland beaches.
Hamilton Island would have to be one of the biggest, having its own airport and direct flights from Australian capital cities. It’s 5 square kilometers in size, and golf buggies or bikes are the only way to get around. Like most Islands, you have several different hotels and holiday homes to choose from and a variety of restaurants. But, most of all, you have the beach and endless hours to unwind, relax, and spend your days recharging.
Other than that, Day Dream Island is another popular location, along with the Hill Inlet viewpoint and the white silica sand of Whitehaven Beach.
Hot Air Balloon Ride in the Gold Coast Hinterland
Imagine standing in a Hot Air Balloon, 5000 feet in the air, above 112 hectares of rainforest and bushland. This is what you’re going to experience with a Hot Air Balloon Ride on a day trip through the Gold Coast Hinterland. This area comprises of Tweed Range, Nimmel Range, Tamborine Mountain, Numinbah Valley, eastern parts of the McPherson Range, and western parts of suburban Gold Coast.
Listen to the echoing sounds of the forest, unrestricted views, flying through clouds, and ticking off more things to do in Australia. Although you can take Hot Air Balloon rides anywhere around Australia, this one views the Gold Coast Skyscrapers to meet the thick, dense rainforest.
Meet the Quokkas
Quokkas are the local wildlife of Rottnest Island, Just off the coast of Perth, capital of Western Australia. They are short-tail wallabies and a similar size to a domestic cat. What makes these animals unique are the rare photo opportunity you can get of them smiling or even catching a famous selfie.
Rottnest Island is 11 kilometers wide, 5 kilometers long, and best explored on a day trip by riding around on bikes. The Quokkas are everywhere, even wandering the small shopping district. Therefore, keep an eye out on your entire visit while exploring the rest of the Island.
Explore the Underwater Life on the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef stretches all the way from Bundaberg, past Cairns in the north. This is roughly 2300 kilometers long, has more than 3000 different reef systems, and contains over 900 islands. This is one of Australia’s most remarkable gifts, the world’s largest coral reef, and there are so many different ways to enjoy it.
It’s one of the most sought-after things to do in Australia and is very popular off the coast of Airlie Beach and Cairns, mainly. Alternatively, day trips are available from several different cities along the Queensland coast. These will take you to Islands beaches in the network and allow you to Snorkel or swim around the reef systems. Expect to see many different small or large fish, including reef sharks, Manta Rays, and the famous Clown Fish.
Witness a Sunrise or Sunset at Uluru (Ayers Rock)
The rock formation of Uluru rises up 348 meters (1142 feet) above the Northern Territory desert. It’s made from red sandstone, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visited by over 300,000 tourists each year. It’s located in central Australia, part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and often explored with the Olga’s( Kata Tjuta).
There are a couple of different allocated car parks surrounding Uluru to view the sunrise or sunset. Therefore, don’t forget to check the times and make you get there early to witness the event. Consequently, there are fees to enter the National Park and conveniently starts with a 3-day National Park Pass. This gives you plenty of time to explore the sites, learn about Aboriginal history and explore several hiking opportunities.
Visiting Ayres Rock is one of the iconic things to do in Australia; consider making a trip to this part of the country to see it.
Road Trip the Great Ocean Road
This is the Limestone coast available near Melbourne in Victoria and stretches 244 kilometers from Torquay to Allansford. It’s here you will get to see how thousands of years of storms, high winds, rough seas, and rising sea levels affect this amazing-looking coastline.
No matter how many times you road trip the Great Ocean Road, you will be in awe and glad you added it to your list of things to do in Australia. Visit sites like the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge, and the Grotto. There are short walking trails for different views around the sites, allocated car parks, and steps to access a couple of the beaches for your convenience.
If you don’t have your own car or want to take the worry out of your journey, then join an organized bus tour from Melbourne. This will be your best option if you’re short on time or don’t have your own car. If your vacation to Australia will be limited to the major cities, make sure you leave room for this road trip during your time down under!
Find Pearls in Oyster Shells
Take a short tour along the coast of Western Australia, near the small town of Broome, and visit the Willie Pearl Farm. It’s here you can experience an award-winning tour showing all the different aspects of Pearl Farming. This goes into collecting the Oyster Shells, spawning, seeding, and eventually harvesting the Pearls.
Get aboard one of their boat tours and see the Oyster Shells submerged into their natural environment in the nearby blue waters. Learn about the different types/shapes of the pearls, how this differs their value, and finish with the jewelry creation. Additionally, being able to purchase your own pearl products in the gift store.
Swim with Whale Sharks
Swimming with the majestic Whale Sharks is one of the unique things to do in Australia. This happens along the coast of Western Australia, in the small northern town of Coral Bay, and where you can book boat tours to see them. They might be part of the shark family, but there is no need to be afraid, and very safe to swim beside these gentle giants.
Whale Sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean and can be very intimidating to see for the first time. They can grow up to 12 meters long and average about 20 tonnes in weight. They are filter feeders, surviving on tiny organisms like plankton that live in the ocean.
The best time to catch this annual migration is around March to August each year and congregate around Ningaloo Reef. In the end, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and should not be missed.
Go Off-Grid in Birdsville
Visit the amazing Big Red Sand Dune in one of the most remote places in Outback Queensland. It’s a Bucket List item located just outside the town of Birdsville, and the challenge is to drive up the sand dune.
Big Red is only 40 meters high but the first of 1100 sand dunes that run parallel into the Munga-Thurri National Park. You will need a four-wheel drive to get up it, but you can walk up if you have enough energy. This is a stunning location to sit and watch a sunset or sunrise with clear, unrestrictive views of the desert.
Once you’re up, you can walk around as much as you like, admire the wind-formed ripples in the sand or search around for local wildflowers. However you enjoy the Big Red Sand Dune, you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re looking for things to do in Australia that most others don’t, add this one to your itinerary.
Fly Over the Bungle Bungles
When you are looking for things to do in Australia, then look no further than the Bungle Bungles. These are natural bee-hive rock formations located in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. Most of this area is four-wheel-drive territory and easy to explore in your own vehicle. However, Tours and helicopter rides are available in the nearby towns of Broome and Kununurra or directly from the Purnululu National Park.
The National Park was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003 and covers about 240,000 hectares in size. It took 300 million years of active faults and erosion to alter the landscape and deposit different materials. Consequently, it formed hundreds of domes and eventually became the Bungle Bungles Range.
The tourist season runs between May and October when temperatures are a little more comfortable. Additionally, with the lower water levels and making it easy to access.
Climb the Highest Building in Australia
Take the challenge and add the Skypoint Climb to your list of adrenaline-pumping things to do in Australia. The Q1 Building stands at 322 meters high and is the highest building in Australia (eleventh tallest in the world). There is an observation deck available on level 77(230 meters high), but the Skypoint climb has you stepping outside and walking up to 270 meters high.
This experience will take about 1.5 hours, have you suited up in safety gear and strapped into a purpose-built guiding rail system. Once you step outside, you will climb the stairs on one side, hang out for photos at the top, then walk down the stairs on the other side. Consequently, you have 360-degree uninterrupted views of the Gold Coast skyline and the surrounding canals and bushland. You will never forget your Skypoint Climb encounter!
Admire the Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most photographed buildings in the world and is located in Port Jackson, Sydney. You will recognize the building with a roof structure built as a unique series of gleaming white sail-shaped shells. It took 14 years to build and cost 102 million dollars, primarily paid for by a state lottery.
There are many different ways to visit or experience the Sydney Opera house, including boat rides, watching a stage performance, or walking around several viewpoints like The Rocks. It was open to the public on the 20th of October, 1973, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Around June each year, Sydney holds the Vivid festival event where several different locations are displayed in light. The Opera house is one of these locations and an exceptional time to visit.
Even if you only visit the outside of the building, make sure to add it to your things to do in Australia shortlist.
Feed Wild Kangaroos on the Beach
Along the Queensland coast and outside the city of Mackay, you have the Cape Hillsborough National Park. What makes this area extraordinary is the wild Kangaroo’s, feeding on the beach every morning while the sun is rising. So expect a very early start, and handy if you’re able to camp close by, in National Park.
The Tides will leave sea pods and seaweed behind on the sand, and the cooler hours before sunrise are when the Kangaroos best like to feed. They are very used to having people around and will sometimes venture into the small crowd for a look. This is your best opportunity for photos or to get up close and personal with these wild Australian animals.
Hike the Royal National Park
This piece of natural beauty is just south of Sydney in New South Wales. The small town of Bundeena has a population of 2000 people and is the starting point to exploring the Royal National Park. It was established in 1879 and is the world’s second-oldest National park. Furthermore, Heritage-Listed and feature unique attractions, plants, birds, animals and is really great for bushwalking.
One attraction you need to see would be the Wedding Cake Rock, a white smooth-faced rock formation shaped and layered like a wedding cake. Set forth on your exploration with a packed lunch and find out what the 16,000 hectares of bushland, coastline, and beaches have to offer.
If you’re limited on time and need to create an itinerary around the major cities, this is one of the things to do in Australia that you shouldn’t miss!
Swim Under Amazing Waterfalls
There are many different places around Australia you can swim under waterfalls, but Florence Falls in Northern Territory would be one of your biggest. It is located about 1 hour outside of Darwin and part of the Lichfield National Park. This is an easy day trip from the city and the perfect cool down in the fresh waters after exploring the rest of the National Park.
Take the 30-minute hike down the stairs into the gorge and make your way into the waters. The Falls are very powerful, so swimming in the falling water can be challenging but not impossible. You can stand or sit in areas around the gorge, but the rest is deep, and you won’t be able to touch the bottom. Even better that these falls are running all year round!
Chris Fry is the writer and photographer behind Aquarius Traveller, where she shares her journeys, provides valuable information and inspiration for your land and underwater travels. She lives in Australia and has traveled to 36 countries and across Australia.