So you've eaten a baguette underneath the Eiffel Tower, basked in the glow of Times Square at night, seen the cherry blossoms of Japan and stood in awe at the Taj Mahal, but have you seen the magic at your own backdoor? Australia is one of the most diverse landscapes on earth yet we always think, "I'll get to it one day". Well why not start that adventure today? Here are ten of our top picks to get you started on your next Aussie bucket list adventure.
Climb the Sydney Bridge
For those not afraid of heights, what could be more thrilling than climbing the 1,332 steps of the Sydney Bridge for a chance to stand tall and take in an extraordinary panoramic view of Sydney Harbour. The only thing more thrilling is, of course, being able to model the fancy grey protective tracksuit that everyone gets to wear. The climb takes three and a half hours and has been operating by BridgeClimb since 1998, so you know you're in safe hands.
Kayak with dolphins in Byron Bay
Byron Bay is one of Australia's most beloved and trendy coastal towns known for its hip organic eateries, calm beaches and emerging local designers. One of the lesser known sides of Byron, however, is its friendly local marine life. For a unique Byron experience why not paddle by kayak across the clear blue waters of the bay to spot pods of dolphins and turtles. Sometimes you may even catch a glimpse of a shy whale. You can learn about local history and indigenous culture from local surf life saver/tour guides if you want to add a cultural element to this bucket list item.
Get close to the penguins of Phillip Island
Phillip Island is best known for its heartwarming sunset Penguin Parade, where visitors can watch the island's adorable Little Penguins return to shore at the end of each day. For the ultimate penguin adventure take an eco accredited tour to a secluded beach to view little penguins waddling ashore to their sand dune burrows. The beach is in a completely different location to the normal Penguin Parade and there are no lights or infrastructure. This soft-eco adventure means visitors walk back from the beach to the Visitor Centre along a closed road that takes you through the penguin colony.
See the Great Ocean Road by helicopter
Some people may argue that the only way to see the Great Ocean Road is by zipping along its winding curves by car. However those people have obviously never been lucky enough to see the breathtaking aerial view of waves crashing into the Twelve Apostles that can only be reached by helicopter. Take a once-in-a-lifetime scenic helicopter flight over the Twelve Apostles as well as other landmarks, including Loch Ard Gorge, The Sentinel, The Arch and London Bridge.
Picnic on Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays
Whitehaven Beach lays claim to having the whitest sand in the world, and with good credentials too we might add. The sand is so pure and fine that NASA uses it in creating its satellite dish reflectors, and is the only entity in the world that is allowed to do so. With just a short boat ride from Hamilton Island standing between you and paradise, you can sink your feet into this fine stuff, while basking in the sun and getting stuck into a pre-made picnic topped off with some sparkling wine.
Night at Field of Light by camel
Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the Field of Light at Uluru is a spectacular light installation made up of 50,000 glass spheres by artist Bruce Munro that just happens to be situated right next to one of the country's most majestic natural wonders. If you're travelling all the way to Uluru you might as well make the experience one to never forget by combining it with an evening of fine dining under the stars topped off with a camel ride on your way to the Field of Light. Not to mention listening to the sounds of the didgeridoo as the sun sets over Uluru complete with canapés and chilled sparkling wine.
Outer Barrier Reef Cruise
If you're going to see the Great Barrier Reef, this is the way to do it. Travel on a wavepiercer catamaran to the very edge of Australia's Continental Shelf. From there you can dive, snorkel or even stay dry in a semi-submarine, exploring the untouched underwater wonderland. Onboard you can listen to a marine biologist talk about the reef and watch the fish being fed, after you've tucked into your own tropical buffet lunch of course.
Tour picturesque Cradle Mountain and its World Heritage-listed Lake St Clair National Park, which boasts some of the most inspiring views in Tasmania. From its summit you can see Mount Ossa, Dove Lake and Barn Bluff below. The mountain has a number of great walking tracks, which includes the Dove Lake Loop Track through the Ballroom Forest next to the famous Overland Track, a six-day trek over 65 kilometres.
Discover Rottnest Island
Number one on any marsupial lovers bucket list should be Rottnest Island, where you can get up close with the island's furry ambassador, the Quokka. Even if you're not a fan of cute, small animals that can only be found on one island in the world, Rottnest still has a bunch of activities to explore. A bike or bus tour of the island is a great way to kick off your time and get a run down on its colourful history, from Dutch exploration in the 1600's to its use as a military defence during World War II. Other options include offshore world-class snorkelling and, for the extra adventurous, there's skydiving on the island too.
Ultimate Penfolds Experience
If wine tours are your jam then don't miss the ultimate wine tasting experience at Penfolds, one of Australia's leading red wine producers. The tour starts with a visit to the original home of Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold to see where it all began. Next up is a tour of the Magill Estate winery followed by a deep dive into the vintage cellar, where the magic happens. Saving the best for last, the tour finishes off with an intimate tasting of Penfolds most awarded and sought-after wines including one vintage of Grange.
By Sam Aldenton