In many ways, Australia truly is the lucky country – our large chunk of land boasts a mixture of luscious rainforest, pristine beaches, rugged outback and bustling cities along with a number of famous and internationally-recognised landmarks both natural and man-made.
While most people are aware of some of the more “token” attractions of our continent such as the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach, the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru, there are also a handful of experiences, attractions and activities in Australia that can’t be found or experienced anywhere else in the world.
Here are 10 awesome experiences you can only do, see, or try in Oz.
10. Experience Aboriginal Culture
Location: Multiple locations across Australia
The rich culture of Indigenous Australia is incredibly unique, and quite unlike any others that exist elsewhere in the world both due to its mixture of nomadic behaviour and sheer age. As a result, learning about Australia from the traditional landowners can provide visitors with a whole new understanding of the country and its many sites of significance dating back far before the days of colonisation.
Various Aboriginal communities across the country have cultural centres open to the public inviting the interested to experience the best of their culture, each with its own unique outlook on spirituality and the lay of the land.
By visiting centres such as these, you can watch traditional dance and music performances, learn to play the didgeridoo, throw a spear or boomerang and learn about the different tribes’ connections to the land through stories about the Dreamtime.
You can also hear some of the well-known stories from the Dreamtime such as “The Rainbow Serpent”, “How the Sun and the Moon came to be” and various others. These range from government-backed centres of learning, to more entertainment-oriented offerings catering to the tourist as well.
9. Surf a wave… made of rock
Location: Wave Rock Road, Hyden WA 6359
This unusual formation is one of Western Australia’s most popular tourist attractions for its combination of natural beauty, unique shape, and sheer scale.
Millions of years old, dappled in a striking colour of grey and red granite strips, and formed from the gradual and steady process of water erosion, Wave Rock is a 15-metre high natural marvel situated on the eastern side of the Western Australian Wheatbelt.
Larger in person that it often appears in photos, the rock possesses a smooth, curved structure and its mixed tableau of colours makes for an extremely photogenic site. Visitors to Wave Rock can climb up to the top for a wonderful panorama of the surrounding area, and when viewed at different times of the day the rock’s colour alters significantly.
Sunset here is magical as well, and creates more of a dark-ochre hue as opposed to the typical more yellow texture seen during the peak of the day.
8. Snap a photo with an endangered Quokka
Location: Rottnest Island, WA
Want to engage in perhaps Australia’s cutest natural wildlife encounter? Catch a ferry over from Perth to the popular getaway spot of Rottnest Island to snap a coveted selfie with its rare, endangered, yet undeniably adorable Quokkas.
The furry and friendly Quokkas are now under protected status on the island despite once being mistaken for large rats by Dutch sea captain Willem de Vlamingh who named the island to mean “rat’s nest” (charming). Now somewhat of a tourist attraction in their own right, the curious Quokkas are always ready for a quick snap and can often be seen pulling their best of faces in front of the camera.
In order to capture the perfect snap, you’ll have to wander around the island yourself or take a tour around the grounds for the chance to get up close to these cute cuddly animals and snap the perfect selfie.
For some “aww”inspiring examples, simply search #RottnestIsland on Instagram to see how popular these photos are and how photogenic these little creatures can be!
7. See the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity
Location: Green Island, QLD
Making his home on Green Island just off the coast of Cairns, Cassius the crocodile can often be found either submerged in cool waters or, more strikingly, enjoying his dinner.
The largest saltwater crocodile in captivity in the world (he even has his own Guinness World Record certificate to prove it), Cassius is a sight to behold in person, clocking in at a whopping 5.5 metres (around 18 feet) in length. Cassius is believed to be closing in on the big “100” age-wise, and calls the island’s Marineland Melanesia home – and has done so for a number of years now.
Taking the title of biggest croc on display in any zoo, sanctuary or aquarium, you can catch a ferry over to the island to explore the rainforest and meet the famous (or is that infamous?) Cassius in person.
That’s one big croc!
6. Watch a movie at the world’s first open-air cinema
Location: 27 Carnarvon Street, Broome WA
The beach town of Broome in Western Australia has long been a favoured getaway spot for those after a blend of beauty and isolation, however, it’s on the map for more than its mere physical charm.
The town’s Sun Picture Gardens cinema is a historic and significant cinema still in operation, recorded as being the first open-air cinema in the world. Its Sun Picture Gardens was constructed in 1913 from an old store in Chinatown, and the first moving picture aired on the 9th of December 1916 – “Kissing Cup” was the film of choice that began the silent film era for the region.
The cinema has endured a lifetime of drama (both on and off the screen) and continued to recover every time; it was frequented by tidal flooding and suffered at the hands of vandals during the war. Despite all these tribulations, the cinema continues to air movies though these days they are louder and more colourful, and display the old vintage projectors that were replaced by technological advancements.
With multiple screenings per night (unlike most other outdoor cinemas in Australia which feature only one or two per week), there’s always a good time to grab yourself some popcorn or a choc-top ice cream, settle in and enjoy an evening of entertainment under the open skies.
5. Spend the night on the largest coral reef system
Location: Great Barrier Reef, North QLD
It’s a marvellous enough thing to visit the largest reef system in the world and explore its vibrant reefs and gorgeous aquatic inhabitants by day, but it’s quite another to spend the night floating on its surface and gazing at a pristine night sky.
Various cruise companies ferry people to their activity platforms and pontoons anchored on the Great Barrier Reef – these cruises depart from several tourist hotspots along the coast including Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays, Cairns and Port Douglas – however the “reef sleep” option both extends the ability to enjoy the reef’s wonders while seeing it illuminated in all the various phases of the sun’s glow.
Staying overnight on the reef allows you to witness a reef sunrise (magical), take in a number of activities during the day (fun), soak in a sunset (sublime), and then crash in comfort for the evening without requiring a return trip to the mainland.
This is a great way to experience the reef with back-to-back days exploring the water by snorkelling, diving, swimming and just plainly admiring its beauty. Some reef tour operators even conduct night dive sessions to give you a glimpse at the nocturnal habits of the animals that call the Great Barrier Reef home in an entirely different – and slightly eerie – aspect!
4. Escape the heat and live underground
Location: Coober Pedy, SA & White Cliffs, NSW
Australia is home to two different towns that have given up on life on the ground level and shifted things underground – and as you might expect, searing heat is a large reason why.
Both Coober Pedy in South Australia and White Cliffs in New South Wales have largely relocated their denizens under the earth to escape the unbearable warmth the harsh Aussie outback delivers on a day-to-day basis. Temperatures in Coober Pedy have been known to soar up to 50 degrees Celsius during the day and drop to a dramatic zero degrees Celsius at night – one of the greatest such variances in the world.
Known colloquially as ‘dugouts’, some of the underground homes can be explored via guided tours that highlight this unusual style of living, including the excellent Umoona of Coober Pedy.
The reason people and businesses have been willing to deal with such extreme climates over the years? Opals, of which Coober Pedy is one of the world’s chief producers and exporters.
3. Spot the only known White Whale in the wild
Location: Multiple locations along the east coast of Australia
Whale watching season in Australia allows the firsthand look at one of nature’s most impressive natural phenomena, however, there’s one particular character in the season who has captured imaginations of animal enthusiasts the world over.
The country’s most well-known humpback whale, Migaloo has become something of an icon around Australia; the only known white whale in existence, Migaloo is occasionally seen frolicking in the waters off the east Australian coast during migration season. Every year Migaloo and his buddies begin the trek from Antarctica to the warmer tropical coastal waters and being the first to spot him each year has turned into almost a competitive sport.
Those visiting Australia during whale season are in for a treat whale watching enthusiasts endeavour to keep their eyes out for the majestic Migaloo as he goes about his business in the water. Some of the best locations to get a glimpse of Migaloo include Byron Bay, the Gold Coast and Hervey Bay in particular – although when and where he will choose to show up is anyone’s guess.
2. See evidence of a dinosaur stampede
Location: Outside Winton, QLD
Queensland’s Lark Quarry Conservation Park houses the only known remaining site on the planet displaying evidence of a real dinosaur stampede.
With more than 3,300 dinosaur footprints scattered across its rock face, visitors can tour the grounds to learn all about its occurrence and what can be interpreted by the remains.
The Conservation Park conducts guided tours through the park throughout the day, which includes animated recreations of the stampede that is believed to have happened around 95 million years ago.
Tours of the park last 45 minutes and provide explanations of the region’s ancient history and geography in a form that both adults and children can take something away from, and the sheer feeling of awe and significance being in the presence of something dating so far back makes a visit here well worth the isolated drive.
1. Travel along the longest railroad stretch in the world
Location: Perth to Sydney (and return)
Australia’s home to some truly epic road trips, but how about an epic rail trip instead? Bridging one ocean to another and crossing a continent, the mighty Indian Pacific journeys from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific – and vice versa.
The train passes through a range of contrasting sights that showcase some of the incredible physical diversity of our country; it encompasses such features as the towering greenery of the Blue Mountains and barren Nullabor, as well as passing through and by various forgotten ghost towns along the way.
Covering a total distance of 4352 kilometres, the trip is spread over four days and three nights, making for an in-depth multi-day journey that requires no shortage of commitment, but brings with it numerous satisfying visual rewards.
With 30 carriages in tow, the train travels at an average speed of 85 kilometres an hour, with the max speed reaching 115 kilometres an hour, while its carriages are shared between passengers, restaurants, crew quarters and lounges.
It’s quite luxurious, too, ensuring travellers are comfortable on the journey and enjoy the beautiful surroundings with all necessary facilities included – which goes a long way after multiple days of track-trundling goodness.
In addition, if you’re looking for all the top things to see and do in and around Australia including activities, attractions and more, be sure to check out our main region section to browse and book online!