Be transported to an ancient world. Zip across floodplains on an airboat as crocs watch on. Touch the moon without leaving the planet. To really know Australia is to experience all its wonders. These are the best things to see and do when travelling across the country.
Conquer Tasmania’s most famous walk1/16
An abundance of landscapes ripe for exploration await you on the fully guided Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, a 65-kilometre six-day adventure on Tasmania’s celebrated Overland Track. From Waldheim to Lake St Clair there are alpine meadows, temperate rainforests and Australia’s deepest lake. Field experience manager Justin Dyer says he finds hikers on a Tasmanian Walking Company tour are often struck by a constant sense of journey. “It really is total immersion on one of the most inspiring walking tracks in the world. The magic here is tied to the drastic changes in terrain and varied ecosystems,” he says. Eco-lodge accommodation, plus nightly three-course meals, add next-level sophistication to the mix.
Step into an ancient world2/16
Witness sights rarely seen by outsiders and gain insight into an ancient world at Normanby Station, home of the Balnggarrawarra people in Far North Queensland. On arrival, guests are greeted by Traditional Owners who will lead a full-day immersive experience into their homelands. Culture Connect’s Normanby Station Rock Art & Rangers Tour includes a guided interpretive walk to discover rock art, visits to Indigenous Ranger Program sites, access to important cultural and heritage locations and rich storytelling with morning tea and lunch stops along the way.
Walk on the wings of a Boeing 7473/16
You don’t have to be an aviation geek to appreciate the history on show at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, Queensland. Strut along the wings of a Boeing 747 and 707, sit in the pilot seat and see up close how they arm the doors. The museum’s Platinum Package offers a four-hour guided tour of these once-in-a-lifetime activities. After inspecting the cargo hold, explore the museum, share lunch and join in on the animated conversation. “Eyes certainly pop when teenagers see seats without screens and armrests with ashtrays,” laughs senior curator Sarah Johnson. “But what’s really exciting is seeing the evolution of women in aviation through their eyes – you never know who we’re inspiring in the next generation.”
Traverse the Blue Mountains on horseback4/16
The one thing that tops checking into Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, a conservation-based resort in the Greater Blue Mountains Area west of Sydney, is exploring its native eucalypt bushland on horseback. Home to 40 stand-alone villas and 14 pampered horses, chosen for their temperaments, Wolgan Valley offers an unmissable 90-minute Signature Trail Ride. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of the property, says resident horse guide Rachel Case. “Leisurely riding past mobs of kangaroos and wallabies; you’ll never forget the thrill of gazing out between your horse’s ears during a river crossing and seeing the majesty of that dramatic landscape.” And when it comes time to dismount, luxury isn’t far away – simply retire to your villa with its private pool and enjoy the luxury lodge’s all-inclusive indulgence.
Note: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is expected to reopen 1 April.
Zoom past the Top End’s famous crocodiles5/16
It’s unusual for crocodiles and brumbies to fall under the spell of your own powerful movements but this is exactly what makes airboating – shallow-water vessels built to skim the floodplains – the quintessential Bamurru Plains experience. “Some mornings we zip along and wildlife, including flocks of native whistling ducks and magpie geese – up to a thousand strong – fly alongside us as water buffalo and crocs watch on,” says general manager Pieter Bosch. “It’s extraordinary.” A stay at the all-inclusive luxury safari lodge, just west of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, isn’t just about airboating, of course. After checking into a safari-style wilderness bungalow you can involve yourself in a world of guided adventures: think crocodile-spotting cruises and open-top safari drives. A sundowner by the infinity pool overlooking the bird- and wildlife-filled floodplain provides the perfect opportunity for reflection.
Master the 4th hole at Bougle Run6/16
Bougle Run has a dramatic location atop coastal dunes in north-east Tasmania – the course is the sister to Lost Farm and The Dunes and has the pedigree to match. What Barnbougle owner Richard Sattler wants golfers – serious and social alike – to understand about the short, sharp 14-hole addition is that it was created to play in just 90 thrilling minutes. “You can arrive at Barnbougle in the morning yet still play a full game in the afternoon,” he says. “It’s about having fast, furious fun.” Only a short helicopter ride away from Barnbougle are some of the Central Highlands’ premium freshwater fishing experiences, luxury lodges and wineries. But if golf is your focus, book a Barnbougle Golf Day tour or a transfer with Unique Charters and you can talk tactics on how to ace that tricky 4th hole – the windy conditions can be as distracting as the ocean views on this 253-metre par 4.
Find every type of fishing, in the one spot, in the NT7/16
Do you want to cast a line for a myriad of species in tidal coastal bays or angle for blue-water hard-hitters in 45-metre-deep ocean trenches? Choosing won’t be required in the diverse marine environment surrounding Groote Eylandt – an island paradise 650 kilometres east of Darwin in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Here, reef, blue-water and estuary fishing can be enjoyed at the one destination. Groote Eylandt Lodge offers two- to five-day sports fishing charters to help amateur and experienced anglers reel in everything from marlin to barramundi.
Grab a front-row seat to Mother Nature, the musical8/16
On the sleepy reaches of South Australia’s Murray River, where a wildlife oasis meets the outback, a decision must be made: to observe the region’s 180 bird species – plus a significant population of koalas and kangaroos – on foot or opt for a tour that combines a multitude of activities. Whether you select Murray River Trails’ iconic four-day Murray River Walk or the three-day Murray River Safari, which intersperses shorter guided walks with canoeing, open-boat cruising and an outback drive, one thing is certain: post-twitching accommodation never looked so good. Your stay for the duration of each tour? A luxury houseboat complete with top-deck hot tub, plus meals and wine.
Revel in the best of McLaren Vale9/16
Gemtree is to South Australia’s McLaren Vale what method acting is to Hollywood: unapologetically engaging. Commit with a stay at CABN X William, one of four luxurious CABN nature escapes in the celebrated wine region, complete with woodfired sauna and outdoor bath, and sign up for Gemtree’s Wine and Wander experience. There are no Oscars for completing the one kilometre-long Gemtree Eco Trail (a biodiverse haven of native flora and fauna), a wine-making lesson or private dining at Salopian Inn, a celebrated regional restaurant specialising in contemporary Australian cuisine, but all are prized.
Live la dolce vita on Prosecco Road10/16
Tie that neckerchief and polish the Vespa – your next Italian getaway is only a three-hour drive from Melbourne. Prosecco Road, King Valley, is home to some of the highest altitude vineyards in Australia, perfect for cool-climate sparkling and other Italian varietals, including pinot grigio and nebbiolo. And this scenic road trip, incorporating five prosecco-producing wineries, demands active hedonism. Pop by Brown Brothers for a wine-blending experience, prosecco brunch or day-glamping picnic package. Or release your inner Sophia Loren at a pasta masterclass at Pizzini Wines’ A tavola! Cooking School. You’re only a short stroll away from their two charming guesthouses – a two-bedroom, self-contained vineyard cottage adjacent to the cellar door and a spacious four-bedroom across the road.
Experience true farm-to-table at a two-hatted restaurant11/16
There’s a danger with placing Daylesford’s iconic Lake House on a list like this, so ardent are its devotees to their "little secret”. One stay at this lakeside property, located 90 minutes north-west of Melbourne, and you too could find yourself obsessively spreading the gospel of Lake House. And why not? It’s got a two-hatted restaurant with a 1200-strong wine list and a deep connection to the soil, land and superb produce. Much of the menu is sourced from its own farm, bakehouse, olive groves and orchard. And guests are encouraged to take a 10-minute drive down the road to visit neighbouring Dairy Flat Farm to discover the journey of their meal for themselves. The property also has a celebrated spa, which utilises products from the region’s volcanic plains and healing waters.
Hold the moon in your hands12/16
Clutching a piece of the moon – or Mars – while a curator happily talks you through its journey to the museum sounds like science fiction until you realise the “close up” approach to priceless artefacts is the premise of the new Close Up experience at Perth’s WA Museum Boola Bardip. The curator-led, 90-minute tour isn’t only about getting to grips with objects aligned with the rich stories of Western Australia and beyond, it also includes a deep dive into the museum’s collection of artefacts that have yet to go on display. “We’ve got everything from two-headed reptiles to elephant bird eggs,” explains manager Helen Simondson. “We’ll even take you on an elevator large enough to transport a T-rex.”
Go on a journey 65,000 years in the making13/16
What does it take to convey 65,000 years of culture through dance? All is revealed in a guided Behind the Scenes tour at Bangarra Dance Theatre. This three- to four-hour experience includes a personal Acknowledgement of Country and Smoking Ceremony, guided tour of Bangarra’s Walsh Bay theatre, canapés and cocktails created using native ingredients and either performance tickets at the Sydney Opera House or exclusive access to the Bangarra rehearsal room to watch a production take shape. “When you watch a production that’s seamless, it can be difficult to appreciate just how many hundreds of hours of work go into every element of our storytelling,” explains Bangarra’s artistic director, Frances Rings. “This is a rare opportunity to see the rawness of rehearsals and understand the emotions that inform the music or the props – it’s the ‘why’ behind everything we do.”
Hear the big stories that matter14/16
What makes Australians tick? National Museum of Australia senior curator Craig Middleton says he has the answers with Big Histories, the Canberra museum’s 90-minute curator-led exploration of notable objects and the stories behind them. “It could be looking at Phar Lap’s heart and explaining its connection to the race that stops a nation or seeing the first Holden prototype and talking about how it was secretly shipped to Australia to be tested on our roads,” he explains. “How do we preserve a Tasmanian tiger and how did we get the cars here? Curatorial decisions, conservation and installation challenges… our secrets are all laid out.”
Connect with the Dreaming in WA15/16
Lie under a canopy of stars and lose yourself in the magic of the Dreaming with Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures. The Didgeridoo Dreaming Night Tour in Western Australia’s Monkey Mia offers the culture of the Gutharraguda region (the Indigenous name for Shark Bay) via didgeridoo, conch shells or tapping sticks. It makes for a rich accompaniment to two soul-stirring hours of seafood, bush-tucker tasting and storytelling in the glow of a campfire.