For many, visiting Australia is a top bucket-list item. It no surprise with its postcard beaches, indigenous flora and fauna, and long list of landmarks second to none the world around.
What’s more, Australia is teeming with bucket-list worthy destinations. No matter what state or territory you visit, there’s bound to be a site that takes your breath away. The truth is, this list could be titled “100 Bucket List Worthy Destinations,” but we had to stop somewhere so this is the short list.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is also the world’s biggest single structure made from living organisms. The 1,430 mile-long ecosystem, stretching from Fraser Island in the south to the Torres Strait in the north, is made up of thousands of vibrant reefs surround hundreds of white sand islands. The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 600 types of hard and soft coral, countless species of tropical fish, dolphins, turtles and sharks.
Known as the Village in the Rainforest, Kuranda offers visitors lush tropical scenery, indigenous culture and countless adventures. Peruse the local markets, hike the rainforest trails to majestic waterfalls, take the scenic railway through the Barron Gorge National Park dense rainforest, or ride the Skyrail Rainforest cable car through and over Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest.
Located in the heart of Queensland’s Gold Coast, Surfer’s Paradise is more than a beach with world-famous waves; it’s a destination for food, fun, local markets, nightlife and postcard-perfect vistas. Several evenings a week, a local market overflows with local cuisine, art, jewelry, fashion and gifts for young and old. After a day of riding the waves, stroll down Cavill Avenue to experience some of the areas best people watching, shopping, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs.
Even though Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, what you’ll find on the 75 mile stretch is not your typical island flora and fauna. Boasting lush rainforests, freshwater lakes, creeks and picturesque coastline, a menagerie of native Australian wildlife, including echidnas, possums, sugar gliders, dingoes, snakes, cockatoos and wallabies. A short ferry ride from the mainland, Fraser Island is the perfect spot for a weekend camping trip filled with fishing, exploring and swimming in crystal clear waters.
Known as “Australia’s most natural icon,” Uluru is a sandstone monolith located on sacred grounds in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The 1142 foot-high structure is shrouded in ancient folklore, scandals, aboriginal Dreamtime stories and rock art dating tens of thousands of years.
While there, you can camp, take a camel ride tour, or see Uluru from the sky via one of the many helicopter tours.
The Simpson Desert
Another of Australia’s natural wonders claiming world’s largest rights is the Simpson Desert. Covering over 65,000 square miles, the Simpson Desert is also home to the world’s longest parallel sand dunes. Big Red, the most famous and tallest dune, standing 130 feet tall, hosts the infamous Birdsville Big Red Bash, a music festival held each year, showcasing some of the country’s most-loved artists.
An Australian landmark known the world around, the Sydney Harbour Bridge stretches across Sydney’s natural harbor, connecting the city to the suburbs. Proudly standing as the world’s tallest steel arch frame bridge, reaching 440 feet high from water level, passage is available via rail, vehicle, bicycle or walking. Nicknamed the “coat hanger” for its curved arch appearance, this must see attraction offers a unique experience for thrill seekers, a bridge climb. Offered daily through the year, including sunset and twilight climbs, thrill seekers are guided up the arch to experience breathtaking 360-degree views.
Revered around the world for its architecture and acoustics, the Sydney Opera House is a sight to behold. Built in the 1950s, the Australian landmark is one of the most iconic destinations for locals and tourists. Hosting more than 1,500 performances each year and called by many artists the best stage in the world, if there’s any place to see a show, it’s here.
There’s no denying it, Australia’s national history is riveted with the blood, sweat and tears of Great Britain’s most dangerous convicts. For a no-holds-barred insight into Australia’s convict history, follow the signs to Fremantle Prison. Built using convict labor in the 1850s, the jail became a maximum-security facility before its closure in 1991. Inscribed on the prestigious World Heritage list as part of Australia Convict Sites, the prison now offers a variety of tours into its underbelly, including cell blocks, gallows, whipping post and prisoner works of art.
Protected by the A-Class reserve, the highest level of protection afforded to public land, Rottnest Island is home to just 300 residents, and one very famous marsupial found only in a few locations worldwide, the Quokka. A short ferry ride from Perth, in Western Australia, Rottnest stretches over seven square miles. Hire a bike for the day and explore the lush, idyllic island at your own pace.
Called one of the world’s last frontiers, the Kimberly region is three times larger than England, yet only 40,000 Aussies call the region, home. The region’s red sand frontier, wildlife, ancient canyons, surprise swimming holes and multiple outback stations set the stage for the ultimate outback adventure. When you’re ready to relax, head to Cable Beach, a 14 mile-long stretch of white sands located in the beach town of Broome, and ride off into the sunset atop a camel.
A short trip outside of Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, sits Kakadu National Park, home to the oldest living culture on earth and Aboriginal rock art dating back over 25,000 years. Spend a day or two hiking the waterfall trails, swim in boulder creek and take an indigenous-owned cruise through the world-famous, Yellow Water Billabong.
One of the world’s most scenic drives, the Great Ocean Road hugs the 151 mile-long coastline, winding from Torquay (west of Melbourne) to Allansford. The historic stretch of highway, built to honor fallen World War I soldiers, leads to some of Victoria’s most famous landmarks, including Bells Beach, the famous artist community of Lorne, the Twelve Apostles, Otway Treetop Walk and Zipline, the Henty Wine region, Queenscliff to swim with dolphins, and Cape Bridgewater to watch hundreds of fur seals soaking up sun.
The Twelve Apostles
Another of Australia’s world-renowned natural wonders is known as the Twelve Apostles. Consisting of eight limestone pillars appearing to be drifting out to sea. The structures were once attached to Australia mainland, but due to erosion, detached. Over time, the limestone structures were battered by the harsh conditions of the Southern Ocean’s waves and wind, carving them first into caves, then arches and now, pillars. Originally, there were nine pillars, until 2005 when one pillar crashed into sea.
A forgotten territory in Australia, Tasmania is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. Standing at its base and looking across Dove Lake, you’ll see snow-capped peaks reflected in the glassy blue water. Poking out of the Central Highlands, one mile above sea level, the mountain can be climbed most of the year, but can be dangerous during winter.