This Australia Day, I’ve selected the top travel destination in each state and territory to create the ultimate Aussie bucket list. The list highlights the incredible contrasts of this great southern land: from the city to the bush, the desert to the rainforest, sandstone ranges to coral coast.
'I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!'
Australian Capital Territory
Lake Burley Griffin is a large man-made lake situated in the geographical centre of Canberra. It covers 664 hectares with a shoreline of 40.5 kilometres, and is a popular spot for a range of water sports including rowing, sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, dragon boating and fishing. There are many national institutions concentrated around the Lake including the National Gallery, the National Museum, the National Library, the High Court, and Questacon. Parliament House, Old Parliament House and the War Memorial are also a short distance away. It has three unnamed islands and three larger named islands. Aspen Island is connected to the shore by a footbridge and is home to the Australian National Carillion.
Activities: visit one of Canberra's great public institutions, the National Gallery for 'blockbuster' exhibitions or the National Library for writer's talks, take a cruise or catch a ferry, hire a bike and cycle (or walk) along the great paths, find a grassy spot for a picnic or visit The Carillion for a recital on Wednesdays and Sundays from 12.30pm to 1.20pm.
New South Wales
Sydney Harbour is arguably the most beautiful natural harbour in the world. The 240 kilometres of shoreline and 54 square kilometres of water, is home to some of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The city’s waterways offer many scenic points looking back at the Harbour city.
Activities: cruise the Harbour, climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge Bridge, ride the Manly Ferry, fly over in a seaplane, explore the Rocks, visit the Opera House, walk from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to South Head, swim in the iconic North Sydney Olympic Pool, catch some rides at Luna Park, or visit the animals at Taronga Zoo.
Uluru (or Ayers Rock) is Australia's most iconic natural attractions. It is a large sandstone monolith standing 348m high and is located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, 450km from Alice Springs. Some other features of this region include Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, and Kings Canyon. Although it is possible to climb the Rock the traditional owners prefer that you don't. A lovely alternative is the Uluru Base Walk, a 10km walk on a flat marked dirt path, which can be completed in around 3.5 hours.
Activities: camp out and sleep under the stars, catch sunrise or sunset and watch the Rock change colour, complete the Base Walk, visit the Cultural Centre, fly over in a hot air balloon or helicopter or fixed wing plane, take a camel tour, or take a guided cultural tour.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef and is the only living thing on earth visible from space. It consists of over 3,000 individual reef systems and coral cays, as well as over 100 islands, including the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. It stretches over 2,000 kilometres along the Queensland coastline and is inscribed on the World Heritage List. CNN has labelled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Activities: Go snorkelling or diving, cruise the islands, take a scenic helicopter or sea plane flight and don't miss a visit to Whitehaven Beach, recently dubbed the best beach in Australia! And if you have the time to explore inland, head to the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park, which houses the oldest rainforest on the planet.
Australia’s premiere wine region lies 60km northeast of Adelaide. The Barossa Valley has over 80 cellar doors and 150 wineries. The Barossa Heritage Trail links many historic sites and cellar doors housed in historic buildings and stretches from Kapunda in the north to Mt Pleasant in the south. And if you're feeling inspired you can head to Penfolds where you can blend wine to your particular tastes using Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre grapes. You can even take a bottle home!
Activities: take a hot air balloon ride over the area, visit the wine cellars, taste the local produce (including the legendary Maggie Beer's Farm Shop), explore the local area by car, on foot, horseback or bike, or go fossicking for opals in the Mount Crawford Forest Reserve.
Cradle Mountain forms the northern end of the wild Cradle Mt - Lake St Clair National Park, itself a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It is the starting point for the world-famous Overland Track, a magnificent 6 day walk that will take you through the heart of Tasmania's finest mountain terrain.
Activities: hike the local area or embark on the more challenging Overland Track, have a BBQ or picnic lunch, stay at the Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge (voted by Lonely Planet as one of the Top 10 Extraordinary places in the world to stay in 2014), go canyoning or rafting, take a twilight wildlife watching tour, or visit a Tasmanian Devil at a local sanctuary.
Travel the Great Ocean Road (and beyond) to experience Australia's most scenic coastal drive. It is a tribute to the determination of soldiers who returned from World War I and used picks and shovels to build the road to commemorate their comrades who died in the war.
The route skirts the Victorian coastline from Geelong to Nelson on the South Australian border. The highlight of this beautiful drive are the towering 12 Apostles (only seven are visible from viewing platforms). The stunning coastline can also be enjoyed by foot on the Great Ocean Walk.
Activities: although you can do the drive as a 'day trip' from Melbourne it is not advisable unless you are strapped for time; take time to stop and take in the local sights; go hiking, surfing, scuba diving or sea kayaking.
The Bungle Bungle Ranges (part of Purnululu National Park) feature distinctive orange and black striped beehive-shaped sandstone towers, some hundreds of feet high. They are all that is left of a massif formed some 360 million years ago.
Purnululu National Park sits in the East Kimberley, around 100km from Halls Creek and 250km from Kununurra. It is very remote with few facilities inside or even nearby. Until 1982 they were known to only a few Australians – mainly cattle stockmen and the local Aborigines. This is a very fragile environment, hence there are only a few hikes through the range (you are not allowed to leave the paths) and climbing is not permitted.
Activities: access the Ranges via the Spring Hill Track, take a scenic flight over the Ranges, camp under the stars, spend the day hiking in Piccaninny Creek.
For further information visit www.tourism.australia.com