Don’t be tempted to think that the grass is always greener – or the beaches whiter – on the other side of the world.
Australia is full of wonders – natural and man-made – that you just can’t find anywhere else. Here’s a home-grown bucket list of things to see and do before you head overseas to prove there really is no place quite like home.
Swim beneath a waterfall in the Kimberley, WA
Forget ritzy hotel pools and water slide theme parks, nothing beats getting wet in the wild. Take the plunge in one of the Kimberley’s waterfall-fed pools along the Gibb River Road – if you only dive into one make it Emma Gorge on El Questro.
Uluru at sunrise, NT
Some things really are worth getting up in the dark for, and watching Australia’s most famous rock emerge from the desert gloom is worth the early start.
Seeing it change colour at sunset is just as impressive – it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it before, it never disappoints.
Wake up on the Great Barrier Reef, Qld
Sleep out under the stars on a floating pontoon in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. There’s champagne at sunset, a barbecue dinner and hours of stargazing as you cosy up in a canvas swag on the top deck.
Balls Pyramid, NSW
Unless you grew up on Lord Howe Island, you’ve probably never heard of Balls Pyramid, but the seven-million-year-old 551-metre-high rock island is the tallest volcanic stack in the world, home to the world’s rarest insect and part of the lost continent of Zealandia.
Watch the sunrise from Cape Byron, NSW
Be the first in the country to see the sun rise at mainland Australia’s most easterly point; it’s popular on New Year’s Day, but go in winter and you’ll not only get to sleep in a little longer, but you’ll probably see whales as well.
Admire the view from the top of Kosciuszko, NSW
Climbing to the summit of Australia’s highest peak, the 2228-metre Mount Kosciuszko, is relatively easy, especially if you take the chairlift from Thredbo to the top of Crackenback, which is more than halfway there.
See Jim Jim Falls in full flood, NT
Most people visit Kakadu in the dry season, when the famous waterfalls that feature on all the travel posters have stopped flowing.
Travelling in the summertime green season – aka, the wet – has its own rewards, including half-price hotel rooms. Spend the money you save on a one-hour helicopter flight over the falls – they’re one of the most awe-inspiring things you’ll see.
Watch 60 million red land crabs on the move, WA
Christmas Island is the only place in the world you can see carpets of crabs kilometres long when 60 million red land crabs hit the road at the beginning of the wet season.
Migration time is late October and November, but you will still see thousands at any time throughout the year.
Watch a dry river bed boating regatta, NT
Lack of water doesn’t stop the crafty sailors in Australia’s Red Centre.
Head to Alice Springs in August and cheer on the teams racing bottomless yachts, bathtubs and other weird and wonderful “floats” along the dry bed of the Todd River during the hilarious Henley on Todd Regatta.
See a dinosaur stampede site, Qld
Follow the 3300 or so fossilised footprints made 95 million years ago when a large meat-eating dinosaur chased a horde of much smaller dinosaurs on the muddy shores of a lake at Lark Quarry near Winton.
It’s the world’s only known site of a dinosaur stampede.
Peer over the edge of the longest line of sea cliffs, SA
Known as the Bunda Cliffs, these stunning walls of rock, some more than 65 metres high, stretch for more than 200 kilometres about halfway along the Nullarbor, not far from Australia’s longest section of straight road.
Swim with whale sharks, WA
Ningaloo Reef, between Exmouth and Coral Bay, is one of the few places in the world where whale sharks – the largest fish in the sea – visit in large numbers close to the coast, coming here each year between April and early July.
Wander a forest of the tallest flowering plant, Tas
Follow a walking trail that winds through tall swamp gums – also called mountain ash – in Mount Field National Park, just a couple of hours’ drive from Hobart.
They are the tallest flowering plant on Earth.
Find shimmering sculptures in a salt lake, WA
A dry salt lake in the middle of the desert is the last place you’d expect to find world famous art, but this is where British artist Antony Gormley installed his famous work called Inside Australia.
The work features 51 surreal stick-like statutes based on body scans of locals and is spread out over 10 square kilometres at Lake Ballard, near Menzies in the Western Australian goldfields.
See the underground churches of Coober Pedy, SA
It’s not just the churches of Coober Pedy that are underground.
The region’s intense summer heat – and because the opal-mining inhabitants are pretty handy when it comes to digging – has led to a subterranean town where almost everyone lives beneath the surface.
See next month’s edition of Away for even more Australian destinations you shouldn’t miss.