By Kristan Fischer
In my travels ,I was once told “Australia is so lucky, you don’t need to travel overseas because you have a little bit of every country in the world inside your borders.” And to a large extent ,I agree with this. We have the harsh and barren deserts of Northern Africa, the humid tropical rainforests of Ecuador and Colombia, the beautiful untouched beaches and reefs of the Pacific Islands and dense, lush woodlands of North America.
As much as I enjoy travelling overseas every chance I get, I find it only helps reinvigorate my urges to explore more of this amazing landscape that we have right on our very own backdoor. In a world of ever increasing reliance and interdependence on technology, it is becoming easier and easier to lose time indoors and away from the adventure.
We are lucky in this country, we have a fantastically large chunk of real estate and so few of us to take it over and ruin it. This is my personal list of the best Aussie adventures and experiences. It was compiled either from something I’ve personally experienced or heard about on the grapevine of adventure.
Privileged to grow up in the Australian world of adventure and spend much of my life exploring the far, remote and extraordinary experiences our country has to offer; I have developed a list of some of the greatest adventures in Australia.
Top 20 Adventures in Australia
- Cave Diving, South Australia.
Cave diving is a surreal experience that represents the very best and pinnacle of dive exploration. Every year new underwater systems are being pioneered and discovered and in Australia, we have some of the very best!
Mount Gambier is Australia’s best place to learn to cave dive. Many of the caves are abundant with stalactites and stalagmites and contain unique flora and fauna not found anywhere else on the planet.
But if you want a true one-of-a-kind adventure then you have to head to Cocklebiddy Cave hidden under the Nullarbor Plain. This cave has been coined as the Everest of cave diving. With an entrance cavern over 300m in size and a total explored distance of 6km, she is a monumental behemoth that represents the tip of the sword for caving exploration.
- Canyoning at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.
Jumping off waterfalls, sliding through underground tunnels and getting pummelled by an onslaught of tonnes of water – that’s our definition of fun! Canyoning is the descent by any and all means through a vertical water system. A typical canyoning trip will involve cliff jumping off waterfalls, abseiling through those too big or too shallow to jump in and experiencing amazing features such as underground tunnels and slides.
Some of the very best is found in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain. Bring with you a sense of adventure, a good supply of adrenaline and make sure you tie up any loose hair!
- White Water Rafting on the North Johnstone, North Queensland.
Australia isn’t particularly well known for its’ quantity of white water rivers. But the North Johnstone absolutely makes up for it with quality. A fully fledged Class 5 series of rapids and descent – this is one burly trip.
This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime wilderness experience. Rafters are privileged to experience absolute untouched and ancient rainforests in this World Heritage Listed site that takes 4 days to complete. This is one amazing journey that will keep your adrenaline pumping for days and days on end!
- Dive the Giant Kelp Forests in Tasmania.
The giant kelp forests of the coast of Tasmania are home to some of the most diverse sea and marine life the world has to offer. Leafy Sea Dragons hide under their leaves, Orcas and other whales pass by as the giant King Crabs snap away all underneath a 35m tall canopy that can grow up to 50cm per day. Though it may be cold, it is a surreal new world that is full of life just waiting to be explored.
There are also stunning ‘cathedral’ style submerged caves and shipwrecks to explore and compliment your dive trip to Tasmania.
- Backcountry skiing in the Victorian Snowy Mountains.
Backcountry skiing represents the pinnacle of chasing the ultimate skiing adventure. Searching for snow that has never seen skis before, entire faces of a mountain covered in perfect untracked snow (and undoubtedly several hidden rocks waiting to score out your bases). It is the act of skiing out of bounds, completely responsible for your own safety and chasing the dream fresh powder and putting first turns down on a mountain face.
Mount Feathertop and the Razorback represent some of our country’s steepest and most stunning alpine snow environments. Skiing a 12km stretch along the Razorback exposes you to the second highest mountain in Victoria and an exhilarating vista of endless opportunity for fast paced, fresh track descents.
Backcountry tours to Mount Feathertop typically take 3 days and leave from the Mount Hotham ski area.
- Street Luging in Brisbane.
A radical reinvention of an age old sport has laid down roots in Brisbane. What started as a bunch of Californian teenagers in the 60’s trying to go as fast as they could on skateboards, led to the birth of downhill skating and longboards and over the years led to street luging.
The act of gearing up in full motorcycle leathers, laying flat, centimetres off the ground and using gravity to reach speeds of up to 80km/h on twisting, winding, mountain roads. This is street luging!
This sport is not for those that are faint of heart, it is fast paced, non-stop adrenaline with full exposure. There is a full community and regulated association now in Brisbane with regular meets and competitions. They hold regular training and intro days to help ease beginners into the sport – at 60km/hr and 4cm off the ground!
- Horse Ride along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Driving the Great Ocean Ride is 2 minutes of fantastical thrill and enjoyment and 2 hours of slow meandering behind a logging truck. Next time get even closer to the action with a horse ride along the beach amongst the waves and cliffs. Fairhaven beach is 10km of pure white sand and clear waters at the bottom of Australia. You can canter, trot and meander your way along the coastline on the back of your choice of anything from a Pony to a Clydesdale.
- Sail yourself around the Whitsundays.
There’s nothing quite like hitting the open sea on your own yacht and discovering some of the most beautiful islands, beaches and reefs that Australia has to offer. Sail at your own pace, decide where you want to snorkel, explore and moor every night.
The Whitsundays offer a fantastic choice of 74 diverse islands with something for everyone. There are 6 star resort islands, eco friendly resorts, hidden caves with Aboriginal paintings and fringing shallow reefs for snorkelling and diving with thousands of fish species and coral. Chartering your own private yacht enables you to go where you want, when you want. If you’re feeling especially lazy you can even hire a crew to accompany you and cater to your every whim.
- Climb at Mt Arapiles in Victoria.
No international repertoire of climbing sites is complete without the Arapiles. Home to over 2000 extraordinary routes, there is something for everyone here. If you want to take home a personalised photo of the Arapiles Signature shot – take on the Grade 21 Trad route Kachoong and you’ll be the envy of all your climbing buddies. With a massive roof full of powerful moves – there’s nothing quite like it.
The Arapiles climbing area is well known for its traditional climbing (climbers have to place and remove their protection with each climb). There are very few bolted routes here for sport climbers – it’s a traditionalist area.
- Run the 6 Foot Track Marathon in the Blue Mountains.
Though not officially recognised as a full length marathon, it is 45km of 100% trail running incorporating narrow, rocky trails, meadows, sand, gravel and fire trails with a few ‘small mountains’. The course is tagged as one of the hardest in the country with a net climb of 1528m and descent of 1788m – meaning it’s actually a downhill course.
The race is so named as the trail is at best 6 feet wide. Every year 850 qualifying runners embark on this fantastic challenge and raise over $40,000 for the local fire fighters. To give you an idea of the difficulty of this race – the race record has been set at 3 hours and 15 minutes. If you truly want to test yourself, your off trail running skills, spend your day tripping and scraping up your knees and face in the brutal Australian summer, then look no further than this magnanimous race!
- Kayak with dolphins and whales in Byron Bay.
Byron Bay, the home of pristine white beaches and a serene, relaxed lifestyle. It is no wonder the Bottlenose Dolphins, Humpback Whales and Sea Turtles love this area so much. It is an epicentre for kayaking, snorkelling, stand up paddling and swimming with these beautiful creatures.
Paddle and swim in wonder as you see the humpback’s breaching, the dolphins playfully swimming alongside you and turtles cruising below. In fact there are so many in this part of the World that most companies will guarantee that you will see and interact with them on any given tour.
- Take a motorcycle tour to the northern tip of Australia.
Get down, get dirty and explore some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery in the Cape York region – and do it by motorcycle. Any trip to the top end is an amazing adventure. But one that you can ride yourself is even more so. You will sleep in campgrounds amongst crocodiles, see World War 2 plane wrecks, stand on the northern tip of Australia and see true Aboriginal history first hand.
It takes approximately 8 days to ride the Cape when you leave from Cairns, that’s 8 days of croc infested river crossings, corrugations and red dirt. Whilst the bike of choice would generally be a 400-500cc dual sport, there are numerous accounts of the humble postie bike making it all the way up there!
- Experience Australia’s largest waterfall – Wallaman Fall.
Standing at an impressive 268m tall and only an hour and a half from Townsville, it is a site not to be missed. The waterfall is part of the wet tropics World Heritage listed area and home to some of the oldest rainforests on Earth. Hidden away beneath the canopies of the forest are many endangered species of flora and fauna. Once at the base of the falls there is a 20m deep pool for swimming and frolicking under the tonnes of water falling onto your head.
After getting soaked in falls be sure to dry off and explore the Wet Tropics Great Walk on the way back to your campsite. Hidden deep within the Girringun National Park are spectacular plunges and gorges.
- Swim with Whale Sharks at Ningaloo, Western Australia.
1270km North of Perth and just off the coast is the Ningaloo Reef. It is home to over 220 species of coral, 500 species of fish, Humpback Whales, Dolphins, Dugongs, Manta Rays, Giant Groper, Potato Cod, Turtles and Marlin. It’s a marine adventurers’ paradise. It also happens to be Australia’s best viewing platform for the Whale Sharks as they migrate through each year from March to August.
The Whale Sharks that you have the chance to swim with are up to 14m long, weigh in excess of 30 tonnes and can be up to 100 years old. The area is also encapsulated within the Cape Range National Park which is full of deep canyons, rugged limestone cliffs and pristine beaches which provide plenty of other adventure prospects once you have had your fix of marine wildlife.
- Go Sand boarding at Kalbarri, Western Australia.
Sand boarding; the ultimate summer escape sport for a ski bum. Catch those rays full of Vitamin D, strap on a board and shred your way down a massive sand blow. All over Australia and the world, sand boarding is catching on. All you have to do is dust off your old pair of skis of snow boards, hike a dune and strap yourself in for a summertime shredding session.
No longer will you have to worry about buying expensive ski clothes, having cold and wet feet, getting lip chafe or wondering if she really is a cutie under all those layers. Now you can ride and get a tan at the same time! At this time of year when all your friends are posting photos of the fresh powder in the northern hemisphere, click into your old rock skis and boards grab some shots of you skiing in a much warmer paradise – Kalbarri.
- Explore the hidden tunnels and caves under Australia’s cities.
Hidden away and long forgotten about are vast networks of tunnels under most Australian cities. Sometimes these are war era escape passages or simply just storm water runoff ducts. Regardless, they are a new adventure just waiting to be discovered and explored. Some such tunnels run for miles under well established cities, are hidden in plain sight and are thoroughly ‘decorated’ by the local Cave Clans.
There is little specific information available as to how and where these tunnels are – mostly you just need to get out there and look for yourself. Just make sure you never go into the tunnels if it rains, never explore alone, always take a spare torch and always let someone know where you’ve gone.
- Ride Australia’s hardest hill climb.
For the road cycling enthusiast, you cannot look past Mt Baw Baw in Victoria. Traditionally a winter ski area but when the snow has melted and the sun has come back to shine – it becomes an iconic hill climb. In fact it has even been badged as the second hardest climb in the world of cycling!
The road is 6.2km long gaining 720m in elevation. It has an average grade of 13% and a max of 20.6%. By road standards, 5% is a typical grade for a hill, 10% is considered a steep incline and anything above that is just ridiculous.
- Surfing Cyclops, Western Australia
Big wave surfing is described by some as the tip of the spear of surfing, and by others criticised as the idiot’s sport. Whatever your view, you can’t help but marvel at the tenacity of those that take on the big waves – and in Australia we have our fair share of spectacular breaks.
One break in particular has been made famous off the coast of Esperance. Cyclops. With a wave quality described as ‘totally epic’ and experience level required as ‘kamikaze only’, your mind can only start to imagine. Cyclops has been described as being the heaviest wave in Australia – so while not being the biggest; it has the most amount of water falling onto you and to drag you up to 10m underwater when it does break. These waves are up to 20ft tall – that’s the measurement from the backside and can often be double that on the barrel side. Most riders here don’t wear leashes on their boards because the break is so shallow on the reef that they risk getting snagged on it while riding the wave.
- Downhill Mountain Biking at Mt Buller, Victoria.
As much fun as ski towns are in the winter, my favourite is always what’s left after the snow melts. The grass grows, trails appear and mountain bikes reign supreme. For 6 months a year, a select few ski towns turn into the home of some of the greatest mountain biking in the country. The best bit about biking at a ski resort is they’ll more than likely still have the ski lifts in operation to take you and your bike to the top of the trail ten times a day!
Downhill is what it’s all about in these resorts, see the gnarliest trails stomped by the best in the business at the National and World Series circuits every year in Mt Buller.
- Night sky dive to the beach, Queensland.
People talk about skydiving as being the ultimate adrenaline rush. And let’s face it, jumping out of a plane from 12,000ft and landing on a perfectly, naturally manicured beach is the stuff of dreams. But now there’s a whole new element, tandem jumping at night and you can do it on the Sunshine Coast with a beach landing.
So to summarise, you will be strapped onto another human being, flown to 14,000ft above the Earth’s surface in near total darkness. Crawl out into 200km/hr of rushing air underneath the planes’ wing only to then…. let go – into an abyss of darkness and deafening roar of wind with no visual stimuli to even let you know which way is up. This is the ultimate combination of sensory deprivation and overload for the true adrenaline seeker.