The following ten epic experiences were actually our Australian bucket list written a whole year before we left on our road trip around the land down under.
Now, looking back on our amazing time in Australia, we can proudly say we managed to achieve 9 out of these 10 experiences (swimming with the whale sharks was unfortunately too far out of our budget so we decided to do our own snorkelling tour instead).
We couldn’t have been more impressed or surprised with the beauty, diversity and wonder that we experienced in Australia and can’t recommend the following 11 (we added an extra one in later) experiences.
1 – Swim with Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
To be able to let go of all your fears and dive into a deep, blue ocean beside one of the largest fish known to man has got to be an exhilarating experience. The stories people tell of swimming beside these majestic and powerful creatures makes you either drool with anticipation or tremble with nerves . Its not without the latter we’ll be taking the plunge but we’re more than sure it will be an unforgettable and awe-inspiring opportunity that we can’t wait to do.
UPDATE – Unfortunately we couldn’t justify the hefty price tag ($800 for two) to pull this one off. Instead we opted to snorkel the reef for free by ourselves and were far from disappointed! We saw amazing shapes and colours of coral, two sea turtles, a reef shark and HEAPS of fish. Read more about snorkelling on Ningaloo Reef here.
2 – Explore the gorges, caves and pools of Karijini National Park
Karijini is an oasis of burnt orange canyons interlaced with crystalline turquoise waters and lush tropical plants in the middle of a vast desert. It sounds like another world and from what people say, the land and its beauty leave a marked impact on everyone who visits.
We can’t wait to explore the narrow rock gorges, swim in the deserted pools and laze on the sunny rocks with silence all around.
UPDATE – Karijini is so unique and unexpectedly beautiful. We free camped just outside of the National Park and spent three days exploring the many gorges and refreshing swimming holes of this oasis in the desert. Read more about our favourite Karijini gorges here or check out the short video below.
3 – Drive Vanda along the Great Ocean Road to see the Twelve Apostles
The Great Ocean Road isn’t just a stunning drive with beautiful coastal cliffs and breathtaking scenery – it also has great historical significance. It is still the world’s largest war memorial, built between 1919 and 1932 by return soldiers to honour those that never returned form the World Wars. The Great Ocean Road stretches 243 kms across diverse landscapes with the jewel of its crown being eight of the original twelve limestone pillars that jut dramatically out of the water and cast shadows over the adjacent cliffs.
UPDATE – Oh yeah! The Great Ocean Road was simply awesome! Check out the video below to see why we loved the stunning coastline, incredibly wildlife and cute seaside villages of this magical place.
4 – Watch the sunset and sunrise at Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory
This is perhaps one of the most iconic experiences of the Australian outback. As the sun sets and rises, the colours of Ayers Rock move and change creating a stunning display of natural colour and light.
UPDATE – We arrived at Uluru on a very overcast day (as you can see above). We were a little sad because we thought that perhaps there wasn’t enough light to change the colour of the rock. But we were utterly blown away when, for about 3 minutes, the sun came out from the clouds on the horizon and lit the rock up in fluorescent orange! Check out our post about free camping with a view to Uluru here.
5 – Camp under the stars in the middle of the outback
The best places to see the night sky are undoubtedly from the driest, clearest and most unpopulated places of planet Earth. The Australian Outback ticks all the above prerequisites and we can just imagine ourselves lying on our backs in the middle of nowhere, snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag and counting the shooting stars and satellites as they cross the brightly lit night sky.
UPDATE – This amazing experience is possible almost ANYWHERE in Australia! We spent countless nights under perfectly clear skies where you didn’t need a torch to see around you because the stars were so bright!
6 – Trek and climb the Blue Mountains in New South Wales
Arguably the most famous of all Australia’s mountain ranges, the Blue Mountains are known for their grand caves, immense waterfalls, native bushland and extensive walking trails. We hope to spend 2 or 3 days exploring its diversities, seeing the famous 3 sister’s rock formation and visiting Jenolan Caves.
UPDATE – We ended up spending 2 and a half days in this beautiful mountainous environment. We trekked a lot of the walks around Katoomba and Leura and were surprised by the adrenaline rush we got – many of the paths are cut into sheer stone cliffs or beside massive waterfalls. Just stunning and well worth he short drive from Sydney!
7 – Ride a camel at sunset along Cable Beach in Broome
Yes, its got ‘tourist’ written all over it. But who can resist? Broome is famous for its pearling industry, tropical mangroves and beautiful coastlines. What better way to see it all than by jumping on a camel and being led into the sunset down Cable Beach? If you’re lucky and get there on the full moon, you may even witness a unique phenomenon when the tide goes out and the moon comes up, leaving what looks like a ‘stairway to the moon’ as its light is reflected in the shallow pools of remaining tidal sea water.
Update – Okay, so we didn’t actually ride a camel ourselves – but we thought we did even better by 4x4ing onto the beach and snapping away this picture before jumping into the refreshing ocean waves! We absolutely loved Broome – read here to find out the 6 main reasons it stole our hearts. Or check out the short movie below!
8 – Do some serious 4 wheel driving along the Gibb River Road
The pinnacle of off-roading and four wheel adventuring in Australia, the Gibb River Road is famous for its red earth and rocks, natural springs, stunning gorges and complete isolation. The road, stretching 660kms between Derby and Kununurra, opens only during the dry season (between April and September) and takes you through rural cattle stations, incredible geological formations and rare fauna and flora.
UPDATE – Surprisingly enough this was by far our favourite place in Australia! The Kimberley region is so unique, so typically Australian outback and dotted with so many beautiful waterholes and gorges that we were just blown away! Check out the video below to see why.
9 – Follow the trail of Aboriginal rock artwork throughout the outback
Indigenous Australians are the holders of the oldest continuous culture on the planet. These rock artworks, dating back to 35,000 years ago helped the Aboriginals pass on their knowledge, stories and culture. There’s something humbling and magical to know we can go and witness the art still as prominent today as ever.
UPDATE – We saw Aboriginal art mainly in the Kimberley region, around Darwin and at Uluru (pictured above). The paintings we saw varied in age from a few hundred to 30,000 years old and were surprisingly well preserved for their age.
10 – Indulge our taste buds on a food and wine tour of the Barossa Valley
After weeks of sleeping in our van, eating long-life foods and cutting back on the finer things of life we’ll be ready and deserving of a few days indulgence tasting gourmet foods, trying a few beers, tasting century old wines and learning about the german heritage of this unique South Australian foodie valley.
UPDATE – We were pleasantly surprised with the utter beauty of the region around Adelaide (including the Barossa). Lush, fertile land undulates from gentle hills to pastural plains packed with organic produce. Our favourite spots around Adelaide include Maggie Beers farmhouse restaurant (where you can free taste her produce and even wander around the farm) and the Germanic town of Handorff.
11. Spend a night in the snow at one of Victoria’s ski fields
We’re adding this one to the list post trip because we had the most amazing experience camped in our van at the top of Mount Hotham and wanted to share it with you all. After 3pm the Mount Hotham ski resort is actually free to enter until midnight. However, we camped just outside the resort’s boundaries and woke up the next morning to fresh snow that we played in like children! Check it out in the video below.