Posted on: November 18th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Melshell Oysters Farm Gate. Photo: Rob Burnett
What’s better than savoring a glass of premium vintage paired with rich cheeses and fresh oysters?
The peace of mind of knowing exactly where every ingredient is produced.
When you step on Tasmania’s soil, you’re walking on the very ground that yields some of Australia’s most coveted wines. As your eyes take in the coastal views, you’re glimpsing directly into the waterways producing the freshest seafood.
Tasmania is a springboard to the best of Australia’s culinary delights, but you’ve got to know where to look. Luckily, the genuine hospitality of its local winemakers, farmers and producers allow you to enjoy Tasmania’s exquisite produce right at the source.
Get a true local’s insight with our guide to 9 Tasmanian gems you won’t find in a guidebook.
Where Taste Exceptional Tasmanian Food and Wine
Josef Chromy Wines
Picnic at Josef Chromy Wines. Photo: Lauren Bath
Location: Relbia, Tasmania (15 minutes from Launceston)
When owner Josef Chromy arrived in Tasmania in 1950, he was a penniless Czech refugee. Now he has developed and owns Tasmania’s most famous vineyards, including Josef Chromy Wines.
Surrounded in landscaped gardens, Josef Chromy Wines is a tranquil escape into idyllic vineyard bliss. Located on a 150 acre vineyard overlooking a serene lake, the setting is ripe for a few enchanting glasses of sensational Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Enjoy a tutored tasting with chief winemaker Jeremy Dineen and learn about the vibrant characteristics of Josef Chromy’s pinots. And don’t worry if you’re not a wine expert yourself, or you think a “bouquet” is just a bunch of flowers – Josef Chromy’s staff are experts in not only wine but also in introducing guests to the world of flavors in Tasmanian wine.
Wines for Joanie
Wines for Joanie. Photo: Rob Burnett
Location: Sidmouth, Tasmania (30 minutes from Launceston)
Wines for Joanie is a passion project inspired by owner Andrew O’Shanesy’s mother and her love of wine.
“She was forever after me for being a naughty kid,” O’Shanesy fondly remembers. “I’d hear her in the background at full volume – ‘Why don’t you make yourself useful and go and learn to make wine?'”
Together with his wife Prue O’Shanesy, the pair operate Wines for Joanie in the heart of Tasmania’s Tamar Valley, a true gem hidden amidst green rolling hills and farmland. Their boutique farm-style winery encompasses a warm, rustic cottage reminiscent of an old friend’s welcoming home as you step through the door.
The O’Shanesys’ hospitality is beautifully complemented by their impeccable Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, perfect for a sit-down tasting. Stay a while and book a night or two at the cottage for a true local’s experience in Tasmanian wine country.
Melshell Oyster Shack
Melshell Oysters Farm Gate Cassy Melrose. Photo: Rob Burnett
Location: Dolphin Sands, Tasmania (30 minutes from Freycinet National Park)
Love oysters without a fuss? Then Melshell Oyster Shack is a must. Located 15 minutes north of Swansea in Tasmania’s east coast, oysters don’t get any fresher than this.
“Our oysters are cultured oysters, which means that they’re nurtured by the farmer,” co-owner Cassy Melrose says. Together with her husband Ian Melrose, the couple’s passion for oysters traces back to their very first date – a venture to look at an oyster barge.
Their careful cultivation yields a startling freshness and plumpness to their oysters, often described as “Dolly Parton Plump.”
Melshell Oyster Shack offers unshucked oysters for takeaway, but we recommend enjoying your dozen on the picnic tables besides the shack, basking in the gorgeous seaside views. Be sure to bring a bottle of local Tassie wine for a seaside road trip lunch experience!
Pyengana Dairy Company
Pyengana Dairy Company. Photo: Flow Mountain Bike
Location: Pyengana, Tasmania (2 hours from Launceston)
When Jon Healey was a child, he matured little cheeses he made in his mother’s bathtub. Now he’s the general manager of Pyengana Dairy Company, an award-winning dairy farm home to Australia’s heritage farmhouse cheese.
Healey attributes the richness of the cheese to the farm’s cows. “Our cows are definitely the happiest cows in the world, and that’s why we make the best cheddar,” Healey states. Never enclosed into a paddock and free to roam the dairy, the cows make the decisions around the farm.
Set in the picturesque Pyengana Valley in Tasmania’s north east, the dairy’s tasting room welcomes travelers to sample cheese handcrafted from a 130 year old family recipe. Take a peek behind the scenes of the cheese making process, or relax with a gourmet platter from the onsite café.
With the bright colors of Pyengana Valley easily viewed from the farm, Pyengana Dairy Company offers a lovely road trip stop on Tasmania’s east coast.
Tasmanian Seafood Seduction. Photo: Peter Aitchison
Location: Hobart, Tasmania
To sample the freshest seafood, nothing comes closer than jumping straight into the water. Onboard Robert Pennicott’s Tasmanian Seafood Seduction cruise, you’ll taste succulent rock lobster, oysters, abalone and sea urchin only moments out of the water.
Departing from the docks of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, the cruise sails out to the sheltered waters surrounding Bruny Island and hits up spots only a local would know.
“It’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been a kid,” Robert says. “Being able to jump in and get abalone, and crayfish and sea urchin, catching fish out of the most beautiful pristine water in the world…it’s the seafood equivalent to ‘paddock to plate.'”
True to his word, Robert dons on a wet suit and snorkeling mask and jumps in the waters to find the day’s catch. Back onboard, a seafood storm is cooked up with sparkling wines, local Tassie beers and cheeses waiting to be indulged.
Where to Find Local Tasmanian Experiences
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary – Greg Irons and Brushtail Possum. Photo: Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett
Location: Brighton, Tasmania (30 minutes from Hobart)
For his seventh birthday, Greg Irons dragged his family to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. He told his mother he’d own Bonorong one day. Now he’s the director of the sanctuary, a 24 hour rescue service for wildlife across all Tasmania.
With a passionate team of rescuers, the sanctuary’s aim is releasing animals back to their habitat. “To see them just go waddling off to where they belong with this feeling of happiness which they cannot hide, it’s just so special,” Greg says.
Here you’ll find not only native Australian animals but wildlife found only in Tasmania. Meet Tasmanian devils and wombats, and spot koalas and bettongs. Kangaroos also hang about, waiting for a hand-feeding.
Join a special Evening Feeding Frenzy tour to get up close and feed the Tassie devils, echidnas, sugar gliders and other wildlife still up and keen for a feed!
If you’re in Launceston on a Saturday morning, the Launceston Harvest Market is a must. There’s arguably no place else where you’ll find Tasmania’s freshest produce in one spot.
“When it comes to the people and the produce, there really isn’t a lot that’s finer,” says Curly Haslam-Coates, manager of the Launceston Harvest Market. “You’re only one or two people removed from the agriculture…and it’s far more fun than going to the supermarket.”
The market prides itself in its local produce, showcasing only products made, grown and raised right in Tasmania. It’s also the perfect opportunity to meet producers and get insider information about every facet of their product.
Stalls of rainbow colored carrots, tomatoes, seasonal greens and berries mix with the warm scents of freshly baked bread, specialty sausages and roasting coffee. For a market breakfast, choose among decadent French toast, fresh fruits and gourmet pastries.
Where to Experience Warm Tassie Hospitality
Red Feather Inn
Red Feather Inn – Lydia Nettlefold. Photo: Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett
Location: Hadspen, Tasmania (15 minutes from Launceston)
Owner Lydia Nettlefold’s vision of a relaxing retreat with subtle touch of provincial France comes to life at the Red Feather Inn.
Few places combine fine hospitality, impeccable cuisine and luxury accommodation like this intimate getaway. Set within convict-built sandstone cottages surrounded in gorgeous landscaped gardens, this boutique accommodation is a distinctly Tasmanian gem.
The fabulous onsite restaurant is locally renowned as a dining destination, sourcing ingredients straight from the garden in true ‘paddock to plate’ fashion. Cooking classes are also on offer, guaranteed to leave you with new tricks and dishes to try at home.
Brockley Estate. Photo: Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett
Location: Buckland, Tasmania (1 hour from Hobart)
Nestled within rural seclusion among rolling hills and farmland lies Brockley Estate. This six-room boutique hotel blends old world charm with Tasmania’s pristine scenery, set just ten minutes from the sea.
Owners Julian Roberts and Chaxi Afonso Higuera welcome guests to enjoy everything their 170 year-old homestead accommodation has to offer. Set on 10,000 acres dotted with ancient English trees and hawthorn hedges, the grounds are an endless country paradise to explore.
Spend the afternoon on the river fishing for rainbow trout, or visit the sheep and cattle at the onsite farm. Hobart is less than an hour away, perfect for a day trip.
Warm up to a 3-course dinner prepared by Chaxi, bringing out the flavors of her Spanish heritage with traditional recipes made from Tasmanian ingredients. As you enjoy dinner paired with local Tasmanian wines, you’ll know this is genuine colonial country life from days gone by.
Ready For Your Trip to Tasmania?
Tasmania holds a whole world of delights for food, wine, and relaxation. The only trouble is knowing where to find the hidden gems. For more things to do in Tasmania and suggestions on your trip, contact our Destination Specialists for one-on-one planning for a smooth journey to Australia.
Posted on: October 31st, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Australia’s Top Food and Wine Destinations in Tasmania
Josef Chromy Wines – Effervescence Tasmania. Image: Liza-Jane Sowden
Tasmania’s untouched natural beauty and culinary delights are unparalleled in all Australia. With the purest waterways and cleanest air in the world, the water yields the freshest seafood and the soil is primed for producing exquisite wines.
Map of Tasmania’s Wine Regions and Top Destinations
Tasmania’s burgeoning wine regions are spread across its spectacular landscapes, from the coastal wine trails of the North West to the lichen-splashed East Coast.
The Tamar Valley is Tasmania’s principal wine producing region, yielding Chardonnays, aromatic whites and Pinot Noir. Here you’ll find the Pipers River micro wine region, with a climate close to that of Champagne in France, and home of Tassie Sparkling. The East Coast region produces some of the state’s freshest berries and seafood, paired with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling along with Sparkling.
In the Southern Wine Trail you’ll find the Coal River Valley and Derwent Valley. The cool climate of the Coal River Valley produces sensational Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while historic towns, ancient rainforest and white-wine varieties are the specialty in Derwent Valley.
Follow our Tasmania Wine Regions map for the best destinations for food, wine and incredible natural scenery.
1. Taste the Food & Wine of Tamar Valley on a Guided Tour
Jansz Tasmania. Photo: Adam Gibson
You deserve a day of indulgence, and Tamar Valley is just the place. Located on the doorstep of Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest city, Tamar Valley is known for sensational Chardonnay and award-winning Pinot Noir.
Guided tours of scenic Tamar Valley take you through several wineries and artisan shops producing gourmet cheeses, ciders, beers, truffles and hazelnuts, giving you a little taste of everything. With over 30 wineries and award-winning cellar doors, it’s Tasmania’s premium wine region – and secretly one of Australia’s best.
Besides, to fully enjoy a day of good wine it’s always best to let someone else behind the wheel.
2. Make Your Own Sparkling Wine at Josef Chromy Wines
Josef Chromy Wines – Art of Sparkling Experience. Image: Osborne Images
Experience the Art of Sparkling at Josef Chromy Wines and learn the process behind making Sparkling. You can even create your own bottle of Sparkling to enjoy, perfect for the amateur winemaker.
Josef Chromy is a powerhouse in the Tasmania wine scene, bursting into Australia’s ranks as the country’s best Pinot Noir in 2017 and 2019. Its passion for Sparkling, however, undeniably poses Tasmania as Australia’s Sparkling capital, often remarked as second only to Sparkling produced in Champagne, France.
The Art of Sparkling experience takes you on a tour of the vineyard and winery, where you’ll create your own Sparkling to enjoy on the day. The wine continues to flow with tastings and a 2-course lunch with matched wines.
3. Explore Cataract Gorge Natural Reserve
Cataract Gorge. Photo: Jarrad Seng
Take a break in Launceston after tasting your way through Tamar Valley. A heritage gem set within sumptuous hills, ancient forests and scenic waterways, Launceston blends natural splendor with historic charm.
The locals’ favorite hangout is Cataract Gorge, a natural wilderness reserve combining historic landmarks, bushland trails and parklands along the banks of Tamar River.
Take a ride on the chairlift over the Gorge, the largest single-span chairlift in the world, or explore the landscaped Victorian garden on the northern Cliff Grounds of the Gorge. The Tasmanian summers are perfect for a dip in the public swimming pool on the southern side of the Gorge.
4. Celebrate Tasmanian Food, Wine and Music at Festivale
Festivale. Image: Adam Gibson
If you visit Tasmania on the first week of February, add Festivale to your list!
Festivale is Tasmania’s premium summer event, a three day celebration showcasing the very best of Tasmanian food, beverages and entertainment. Staged in Launceston’s iconic City Park, the festival hosts over 80 vendors, cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs, master classes and live music.
It’s the perfect opportunity to meet local winemakers, distillers, cheese makers, truffle growers and craft brewers, and learn about the art and passion behind their processes.
Sample wines from boutique wineries, innovative craft beers and ciders, and the most delicious food imaginable. Join a master class such as cheese and beer pairing or watch a master chef demonstrate how to use unique ingredients, before enjoying an evening of local musicians and headline acts.
5. Sample the Pipers River Wineries
Pipers Brook Vineyard. Image: Jarrad Seng
From Launceston you can easily reach the Pipers River wine region of the Tamar Valley, where cool climate wines brimming with the wild flavors of Tasmania are the specialty. This little corner is colloquially known as “Sparkling Tasmania,” for its production of world-class Sparkling.
Pipers Brook is considered the flagship winery of this region, producing a range of Sparkling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. Stop by for divine wine tastings with knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Taste premium vintage Sparkling from Jansz, one of the most highly regarded sparkling winery in all Australia. For exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, make an appointment at Dalrymple Vineyards.
6. Indulge in Wine & Coastal Views at Devil’s Corner
Devil’s Corner Cellar Door. Photo: Lisa Kuilenburg
Wine with a view – it doesn’t get better than that. At Devil’s Corner and Lookout, a glass of wine and incredible coastal views await to exhilarate your senses.
Devil’s Corner Cellar Door sits in the East Coast region of Tasmania, overlooking Moulting Lagoon and The Hazards mountain range. Its range of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Cuvee captures the elements of its wild location, sitting beside the deep blue sea.
With an onsite cafe and seafood kitchen, grab a wood-fired pizza or freshly farmed oysters with paired wine and drink in the view.
7. Discover the Bays of Freycinet National Park
Wineglass Bay. Photo: Tourism Tasmania
As you make your way through Tasmania’s east coast, stop by one of Tasmania’s most treasured natural gems – Freycinet National Park.
Its white sand beaches, sparkling turquoise bays and pink granite cliffs create a coastal splendor unparalleled in all Tasmania. Secluded coves and bays carve into the untouched white sands of the park. Pristine bushland grows over walking trails, proving a slight challenge rewarded with breathtaking views.
Explore Freycinet on your own or join a guided tour, hitting the must-see highlights of this unique spot.
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8. Cruise Wineglass Bay
Wineglass Bay Cruise
Wineglass Bay is the undisputed gem of Tasmania’s east coast.
Sparkling turquoise waters perfectly scoop into pristine white sands, shaped exactly like a wineglass. The trek to the lookout for panoramic views of the bay may prove challenging, but are absolutely worth it.
Scenic cruises depart from Coles Bay into Wineglass Bay, with a stop at the beach for a chef-prepared lunch of fresh Tasmanian produce.
9. Enjoy a Pizza with Wine at Pooley Wines
From the east coast make your way south to the Coal River Valley, characterized by heritage towns and wineries.
Stop by Pooley Wines in Richmond for award-winning Rieslings, Pinot Noir and other varietals set in a gorgeous historic estate.
This family-owned cellar door has won multiple awards including Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine’s “Best Small Cellar Door.” But the true prize lies within its wood-fired pizzas fresh from the glowing oven.
10. Taste Your Way Through Richmond
Tasmanian Craft Cellars, Richmond. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Brian Dullaghan
This picture-perfect historic town is a popular food, wine and art destination in the Coal River Valley. Here you’ll find Australia’s oldest gaol (jail) and Richmond Bridge, the oldest sandstone bridge still in use in Australia.
Browse the traditional bakeries, shops and cafes set in gorgeous heritage buildings, offering everything from specialty Tasmanian fudge to gourmet lunches made of local produce. Sweets & Treats is a popular candy shop where wall-to-ceiling displays of treats make it hard to resist temptation. Break for tea at Ashmore House, a beautiful tearoom in a colonial-style building serving innovative and fresh dishes with generous servings.
If you’re feeling parched, head to the local wineries and breweries dotted throughout Richmond and Coal River Valley. Puddleduck Vineyard is perfect for a graze of cheese with a glass of delicate vino and Tasmanian Craft Cellars offers an excellent selection of local beers, cider and spirits.
11. Experience a Day of Art, Food & Wine at Moorilla
Located on the Berriedale peninsula in Hobart, the museum is actually located beneath Moorilla Winery. Its exclusive Posh-As Day Out experience combines wine, food and art for a super luxe day of indulgence.
The experience includes private exploration of the museum, a private tour of Moorilla Winery with tastings and a two-course lunch at the onsite Source Restaurant with matched wines. After your Posh-As Day Out, no other wine and art experience will come even close.
12. Savor Fresh Tasmanian Seafood on a Gourmet Cruise
Tasmanian Seafood Seduction. Image: Poon Wai Nang
Enjoy a feast of succulent rock lobster, oysters, abalone and sea urchin plucked straight from the sea.
Departing from Hobart, this popular small-group cruise navigates the crystal waterways of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, yielding the freshest seafood. The rock lobster, locally known as crayfish, is extremely sought after and exported all over the world. The fresh oysters are shucked and enjoyed straight from the shell, with a handful also cooked in sparkling wine. It’s simply not possible to buy seafood this fresh and delicious anywhere else.
After gathering the day’s catch, a spread of local breads, salads and artisan cheeses matched with Tasmanian wines, local beers and ciders awaits.
13. Enjoy a Seven-Course Tour of Bruny Island Produce
Bruny Island Cheese Co. Image: Tourism Tasmania and Andrew Wilson
Travel down the channel from Hobart to Bruny Island, a destination of spectacular landscapes and gourmet local produce. Enjoy a delicious day out on this guided tour, where every course on the menu is a stop on your journey.
Bruny Island is a perfect mix of Australia’s best qualities – amazing coastal landscapes, dense rainforests, rare wildlife and great food. Sample artisanal cheeses, handcrafted whiskies and gin, fresh oysters and local chocolates as you visit Bruny Island staples.
Highlights include cheeses from Bruny Island Cheese Company, fresh oysters from Get Shucked, tastings at Bruny Island Premium Wines and single malt whiskeys from Bruny Island Whiskey.
14. Meet Tasmanian Wildlife at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary – Greg Irons. Image: Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett
Home to unique Australian animals, Bonorong is a Tasmania-wide wildlife rescue. Here you can meet Tasmanian devils, wombats, quolls and hand-feed kangaroos on a Sanctuary Tour.
The sanctuary’s aim is to nurse animals back to health and release them into the wild. Run by volunteers and housing species extinct everywhere in the world but Tasmania, Bonorong is truly special.
Besides, no trip to Tasmania is complete without meeting its extraordinary wildlife.
Ready to Explore Tasmania?
As one of Australia’s best kept secrets, Tasmania has wine, food, wildlife and class. What it doesn’t have are the fully booked tables and month-long wait lists.
For more recommendations and tips on what to do in Tasmania, contact one of our Destination Specialists. As experts in Australian travel, we can plan the perfect Tasmania food and wine trip for your Australia vacation.
Posted on: October 28th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Festivale is Tasmania’s Iconic Food and Wine Festival
Festival-goers enjoying Festivale. Photo: Adam Gibson
With the cleanest air, the best soil, and the purest water on Earth, Tasmania produces the freshest ingredients for world-class wines, spirits, and seafood.
Every year Tasmanians gather to celebrate their exceptional produce at Festivale, a three-day event showcasing the very best of Tasmania’s food, wine and entertainment. It’s the perfect opportunity to meet winemakers, distillers, cheese makers, truffle growers and other artisan producers from across the state and enjoy the fruits of their talents.
Held during the first weekend of February in Launceston’s iconic City Park, it’s Tasmania’s premium summer event. Festivale’s ability to present gourmet Tasmanian produce, exquisite wines, beers and entertainment beneath the glorious elms of historic City Park rates it as one of the best food and wine festivals in Australia.
A History of Festivale
Festivale first began in 1988 as a small street party of local multicultural foods, such as Italian, Greek and Indian. As an island abundant in passionate producers, the festival naturally became a showcase of Tasmania’s exceptional food and drink, attracting wine makers, chefs, and anyone with an adventurous palate.
The event now hosts over 80 vendors featuring Australian household names to local food trucks making a splash in the scene.
Festivale food. Photo: Adam Gibson
Taste Gourmet Tasmanian Food
As Tasmania is one of the world’s major suppliers of seafood, lamb and beef, Festivale offers a taste of the freshest food imaginable from Tasmania’s premium food and wine producing regions.
Try freshly shucked oysters sourced directly from local fishermen. Savor braised pork belly from Coal Valley paired with matching wine, or delight in local cured meats from Tamar Valley.
For something a little more hearty, vendors grilling up wallaby hamburgers often make an appearance. Keep your hands as free as possible with a classic Tassie meat pie or fried calamari in a cone.
Favorites from previous years include bespoke bites from caterers Hubert + Dan, blending together innovative flavors of smoked duck breast, quince gel and herb creams.
Highlights of Festivale also include cooking demonstrations and master classes.
Local and celebrity guest chefs demonstrate how to handle ingredients to prepare mouth-watering dishes – all Tassie-sourced, of course. Past demonstrations include how to use fresh wasabi, and creating a dish of ocean trout with whipped goats cheese and baby beets.
Master classes such as wine and chocolate pairing, and beer and cheese tasting are also held within Festivale.
Sample Tasmanian Wine, Beer & Cider
Photo: Adam Gibson
With a rotation of over 20 wine producers featured in Festivale, this is the perfect opportunity to sample premium vinos.
Wines from Tamar Valley vineyards are always a highlight, producing award-winning sparklings, riesling and pinot noir. Big Tasmanian names to try include Jansz and Josef Chromy Wines, the latter awarded Australia’s Best Pinot Noir in 2017.
Don’t forget to stop by the stalls of smaller, boutique wineries for a taste for experimental wines with intriguing flavors.
While wine is a staple of Festivale, Tassie spirits, cider and beer are also on tap. You’ll see anything from your regular lagers and whiskeys to roasty coffee stouts and botanical gins.
Festivale is also the perfect place for brewers and distillers to offer something creative for the crowd to try. Brews on tap range from blueberry cider and ‘perry,’ – pear cider – to raspberry cheesecake beer and gin created with roasted dandelion root and native Tasmanian mountain pepperberry.
Enjoy a Show at Festivale
Photo: Adam Gibson
Performers roam the festival throughout the day, delighting crowds with their unique talents. Sword swallowing, live statue performances and dancing are just a few of the acts on display.
Stay until the evening to listen and watch local musicians plus headline acts live on stage. Festivale often features Australian legends that draw a crowd exciting to behold – and undeniably fun to be a part of. Besides, what better way to end your day of exceptional food and wine than with a show?
Things to Do in Tasmania on a Vacation to Festivale
After sampling wines and food from Tasmania’s top producing regions, venture out on a tasting expedition of your own! Set near spectacular wilderness landscapes, you won’t want to miss out on exploring national parks and landmarks along the way.
Tamar Valley With the Tamar Valley wine region right at its doorstep, Launceston’s love of sensational food and wine makes it the perfect destination for Festivale. Wine tours from Launceston make it easy to visit the vineyards and sample the artisan produce of Tamar Valley.
Cataract Gorge While visiting Launceston for Festivale, stop by Cataract Gorge , a natural river gorge surrounded by scenic bushland, gardens and cliffs. Take a ride on the chairlift over the Gorge, the largest single-span chairlift in the world, or explore the landscaped Victorian garden on the northern Cliff Grounds of the Gorge. The gorgeous summer Festivale days are perfect for a dip in the public swimming pool on the southern side of the Gorge.
North West Wine Trail Tasmania’s North West is a burgeoning wine region with some of the state’s most pristine natural beauty. Take the classic coastal route through seaside towns and stop by countryside wineries for a wine-paired lunch. As the gateway to Cradle Mountain, this trail perfectly blends exceptional food and wine with incredible landscapes.
Just under two hours away from Launceston lies Cradle Mountain, a World Heritage-listed national park with stunning alpine and rainforest scenery. Explore walking trails and mirrored lakes surrounding the rugged mountains. Keep an eye out for wallabies, wombats and echidnas along the way.
East Coast Wine Trail Make your way down Tasmania’s east coast through outstanding wineries, cheese producers and berry farms. Stop to taste cool-climate wines at Devil’s Corner Cellar Door and Lookout, or skip straight to Freycinet National Park.
Freycinet National Park White sand beaches and sparkling turquoise bays are surrounded in pink granite cliffs and untouched bushland at Freycinet, one of Tasmania’s most iconic national parks. Home to world-famous Wineglass Bay, the trek to the lookout may prove a challenge but it’s well worth the amazing views.
Plan for Festivale on Your Tasmania Vacation
Photo: Adam Gibson
As a growing food and wine destination, Festivale lays out the best of what Tasmania has to offer in three unforgettable days. Visit Launceston in February for an indulgent Tasmania vacation.
Looking for more ideas of what to do on a trip to Tasmania? Plan your vacation with our Destination Experts to create your perfect trip itinerary with all the Tasmania highlights.
The country is so large it has developed to cater to every interest. We have compiled a list of the best Australia vacation spots to to make your vacation planning that much simpler.
These destinations encompass the true spirit of Australia and are filled with incredible sights, riveting wildlife, fascinating cultural experiences and thrilling adventures. Each region has attributes that make it unique and special. To help you orientate yourself, here is a map of Australia.
Queensland is nicknamed Australia’s “Sunshine State,” and it’s easy to see why. Lined with sun-kissed beaches on its southeastern coast and tropical towns in the north, this state sees the most days of sunshine throughout the year. Its warm, balmy year-round weather and natural beauty make it one of the best vacation spots in Australia.
Great Barrier Reef. Image Credit: Tourism Australia
Cairns houses two “Natural Wonders of the World,” the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef, making it one of the world-famous best places to visit in Australia.
Cairns is a great spot for adrenaline junkies, aquatic adventurers & wildlife enthusiasts, offering over 600 tours a day. It is the closest, and most convenient, mainland entrance to the Reef, giving you easy access to explore the ocean’s beauty.
The World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest is the oldest living rainforest and is home to some of the most authentic Aboriginal culture.
Snorkeling the reef, exploring the rainforest and learning about the unique Aboriginal culture of this region are just a few of the best things to do in Cairns.
Brisbane Story Bridge. Image Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland
Brisbane is commonly known as the “river city” and is one of the fastest growing regions in Australia.
With twelve months of sunshine, it is no surprise it is one of the top Australian vacation destinations – the quintessential location for year-round outdoor activities.
There is a variety of both leisurely and exciting river cruises and tours, in addition to thrilling theme parks, national parks, world-renowned zoos and koala sanctuaries, and seasonal whale watching tours.
Gold Coast. Image Credit: Destination Gold Coast
Gold Coast is Australia’s 5th most visited destination by international travelers, one of the best vacation spots in Australia.
It is known as the “surfer’s paradise” due to the consistent waves year-round, with pristine beaches, gorgeous rainforests, and a nice mix of urban culture.
Home to one of Australia’s most popular destinations, New South Wales is the state where you’ll find Sydney. Apart from this iconic, international city, New South Wales boasts sublime coastal towns, the oldest wine region in Australia, and incredible national parks.
Sydney is the most culturally diverse and heavily populated area in Australia. It is most commonly known for the iconic Sydney Opera House and gorgeous Sydney Harbor.
In addition, there are a tremendous amount of delicious 5-Star restaurants, magnificent beaches, and attractions that makes travelers drawn to the area.
The beauty of Sydney is that you can kick-back on the beach, stroll through contemporary art galleries, aquariums & botanical gardens.,cruise the harbor and tour the Opera house, or indulge in some world class retail therapy.
If you love wine, you’ll love Hunter Valley. As the oldest wine region in Australia, Hunter Valley is famous for its historic wineries, fantastic views, indulgent food experiences, and full-bodied red wines.
Luxury accommodations in Hunter Valley offer a secluded retreat so you can enjoy some of the best food and wine in Australia without worrying about heading back to the city.
Only about a two-hour drive from Sydney, Hunter Valley is a no-brainer vacation destination in Australia to wine and dine.
Blue Mountains National Park. Image Credit: Tourism Australia
The Blue Mountains region of New South Wales is a popular day trip destination from Sydney, only two hours outside the city. It’s one of the best vacation spots for nature lovers who want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Forest-clad mountains and rugged cliffs covered in eucalyptus trees make up the natural beauty of the Blue Mountains. This region gets its name from the blue haze that emanates from the eucalyptus oil from the trees, creating a soft blue hue.
Well-marked walking trails through streams, waterfalls and valleys are the perfect escape for nature lovers. Guided tours explore the region’s highlights, including scenic lookouts and sacred rock formations. The Jenolan Caves, among the oldest cave systems in the world, are also a must-see in the Blue Mountains.
As Australia’s most southeastern mainland state, Victoria is known for its scenic coasts, boutique rural towns and Australia’s music, art and sports capital – Melbourne.
Melbourne, a close second to Sydney in population size, has an enormous amount of culture that begs to be explored.
Dozens of world-renowned museums and art galleries, along with music venues, restaurants and cafes offer something for every taste. The heart of the city is adorned with historic, Victorian-style architecture and hidden passageways lined with boutique shops, noodle houses, bars, and coffee shops serving some of the world’s best coffee.
The best way to explore Melbourne is on a walking tour of the city, where a knowledgeable local shows you the hidden gems of the city most often missed by tourists.
Great Ocean Road
The Twelve Apostles
The Great Ocean Road is one of the best road trips in the world. Passing through Victoria’s dramatic coastlines and beach towns, this destination is all about the journey.
Along the Great Ocean Road you’ll find the Twelve Apostles, a must-see Australian icon. Other breathtaking rock formations along the trip include Lord Ard Gorge and Gibson Steps. The small coastal towns along the drive also offer fantastic beaches and comfortable accommodations for an extended road trip.
Northern Territory is the spiritual heart of Australia. Encompassing the glowing, red desert landscapes and Aboriginal cultures of the outback, a visit to Northern Territory will transform you.
The World Heritage Listed national parks, terrain, and Aboriginal history is what makes this region a top Australian travel destination.
Explore the culture, traditions, and landscapes while on a guided tour by a native Australian Aboriginal. The sunsets are breathtaking and are best experienced in a hot air balloon or helicopter.
South Australia is a unique blend of wildlife, outback, wine and beaches. This state combines all the best of Australia’s top destinations and is a favorite vacation spot for travelers in search of authentic local experiences.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Image Credit: South Australia Tourism Commission
Adelaide, Australia’s food and wine city, is seamlessly vivacious and always has something going on.
There are year-round events and festivals making it the perfect place to visit no matter the season.
We suggest attending a sporting event or head to the wineries for tours and tastings, followed by an incredible dinner at one of the critically-acclaimed restaurants. There’s never a shortage of things to do.
Kangaroo Island. Image Credit: Tourism Australia
If you’re looking for a more “off-the-beaten-path” type experience, we recommend Kangaroo Island for its well-known scenery, wildlife, and adventure.
In addition to kangaroos you will also discover sea lions and other native critters roaming the gorgeous beaches and national parks.
To optimize the adventure, take a hike through a national park, kayak along the coast, or perhaps take a helicopter tour for a birds-eye-view of this wildlife oasis. Whichever you choose, you will certainly be dazzled by the charming nature and adventure on Kangaroo Island.
Ready for Your Trip to Australia?
The essence and incredible culture of Australia can never be fully explained, it is something you just have to experience for yourself.
Let us plan your vacation today so you’re guaranteed to receive an experience catered to your interests and you don’t miss a minute of what Australia has to offer.
Posted on: March 7th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
If you hate Mondays, just head to Cairns.
Here, every day of the week feels like the weekend.
Located in Australia’s far north Queensland, time is almost nonexistent in this tropical oasis of rain forest and reef.
Known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, people from all over the world travel to Cairns to see this extraordinary natural wonder.
But there’s so much more to explore in and around Cairns. Here’s our list of the top things to do in Cairns.
14 Things to Do in Cairns
1. See the Great Barrier Reef
Image: Tourism Australia
If you’re heading to Cairns, you’re heading to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s one of the top things to do in Cairns – no trip is complete without seeing the reef.
As the largest reef system in the world and one of its most precious natural assets, seeing the reef is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Cairns is the base for most excursions setting out to the reef, with options even for those who’d rather keep their feet on the ground.
Since the reef sits about 158 miles away in the ocean from Cairns, snorkeling cruises are the most popular way to see the reef. Non-swimmers can opt for tour operators that cruise out to a large pontoon by the reef, where underwater observatories, glass-bottom boats and semi-submersible vessels reveal the incredible underwater world of the reef all without dipping a toe in the water.
For the more adventurous, introductory scuba diving sessions are always on offer. Nothing beats seeing the vibrant colors of tropical fish, flitting in and out of breathtaking coral formations, up close on a dive.
Half the fun about visiting the Kuranda Rainforest Village is actually getting there.
Surrounded in the verdant rainforest of the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics, one of the best ways to get to Kuranda is riding the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
This scenic cable car ride lifts you up over this expansive rainforest system for an incredible 1.5 hour float above the Wet Tropics. Opt for a glass bottom cable car to see the millions of shades of green below you. Descend through canopy tops and stop at different stations offering boardwalk tours through the stunning rainforest and educational centers.
The village of Kuranda itself is a hub of local creatives who find inspiration in the rainforest and ancient culture of the Djabugay people belonging to this region. Markets featuring hand-made crafts, artisan goods and local produce line the village, perfect for finding a treasure to take back home.
From Kuranda you can explore the rainforest on self-guided walks, join a riverboat cruise and visit the Rainforestation Nature Park. Meet and cuddle a koala at the Koala Gardens, where you can also get up close to kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and other native Australian wildlife.
Change out furry marsupials for feathers and wings at the Butterfly Sanctuary and Birdworld, easily accessible from the Kuranda Heritage Markets.
End your visit with a ride back to Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This scenic train ride winds through the tropical rainforest over bridges and tunnels built by pioneers over 100 years ago. Dole out a little extra cash for gold class seats and receive complimentary morning or afternoon tea consisting of local delicacies, wines and lagers.
3. Discover Indigenous Australia at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Image: Adam Bruzzone
Learn about the world’s oldest living civilization at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
This award-winning park is one of Australia’s top destinations for learning about its indigenous culture through the eyes of the local Djabugay people.
Witness dreamtime stories about the creation of Earth come to life through performances, dances and breathtaking visual experiences.
Dancing is a large part of the Djabugay culture, so you can expect a hand pulling you up on stage and learning traditional dances and songs.
Join a bush food trail led by an Aboriginal guide and walk through the Tjapukai parklands, learning about the traditional uses of native plants.
Hear the sounds of native Australian animals come to life through the resounding notes of the didgeridoo. Learn about this unique instrument and its integral place in Aboriginal culture.
Kids will also love the spear and boomerang throwing. With something for everyone to enjoy, Tjapukai is not only one of the best things to do in Cairns with family but also one of the best ways to learn more about authentic Australia.
4. Explore the Daintree Rainforest
Image: Tropical North Queensland
Ready to meet a green dinosaur?
Just two hours north of Cairns is the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, where you’ll meet the green dinosaur, dating back up to 120 million years.
Although this species isn’t an actual dinosaur, once you step into the Daintree Rainforest you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
And you’d be right to feel so – the Daintree Rainforest is part of the oldest rainforest system in the world, even older than the Amazon!
The green dinosaur is one of many unique plants that make up the natural wonders of the rainforest. Explore the many walkways and viewing platforms stretching out from the Daintree Discovery Center, where you can learn about the origins of this ancient rainforest.
Join a cruise on the Daintree River and spot native wildlife such as saltwater crocodiles and bright cassowaries. You can even zip-line through the verdant canopies and take in the stunning views over the endless shades of green and cascading streams below you.
Our favorite way to explore the rainforest is on tours led by Aboriginal Kuku Yalanji guides, native to the Daintree region. As traditional caretakers of the land, they offer historical and cultural insight into the way their people used the rainforest for food, medicine and shelter for over 9,000 years. They’ll lead you through hidden streams and spots inaccessible to the general public, giving you a truly unique experience of the world’s oldest rainforest.
Don’t miss out on Cape Tribulation, a spectacular bay where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the only place in the world where to World Heritage-listed sites collide!
5. Relax at the Cairns Esplanade
Image: Tourism & Events Queensland/ Andrew Watson
Worried about stingers in the ocean?
No worries, just head to the Cairns Esplanade.
Located in the center of town right along the water’s edge, relaxing at the Esplanade is one of the best things to do in Cairns to cool off from the tropical heat.
The esplanade’s tremendously large man-made lagoon offers a beautiful spot for a safe swim in place of a beach. A sandy shore dips into crystal clear waters, dotted with splashing fountains and patrolled by lifeguards during the day.
A boardwalk runs along the esplanade, right by the pool, perfect for a walk or jog by the water. Grassy parkland surrounds the lagoon, with shady spots to lay out a picnic or enjoy local bands play live music.
Free fitness classes also run throughout the week, ranging from aqua aerobics in the lagoon to yoga and pilates. If you’re in Cairns on a Saturday check out the Esplanade markets for locally made arts and crafts.
6. Roam the Cairns Botanic Gardens
Image: Friends of Botanic Gardens Cairns
For a small taste of tropical rainforest right in the city, visit the Cairns Botanic Gardens.
Here you can explore exotic plants from tropical regions across the world, including plants from the jungles of South East Asia, South America and Queensland. These unique plants can be found in the Flecker Botanic Gardens, a conservatory highlighting some of the rarest tropical plants in the world.
Get a glimpse of what Cairns once looked like on the Rainforest Boardwalk, winding through a lush patch of rainforest ecosystem, home to endangered species of the region.
Stroll through the Fitzalan Gardens, a picturesque section connecting three separate gardens by paths and footbridges crossing through giant palms and ancient trees. There’s always a secluded nook or cranny here to hideaway and relax in the tranquility of the gardens.
Explore the journey of plant evolution at the Gondwana Heritage Garden. Its main trail traces through the evolution of plants from the very first bacteria that developed into the flowering plants we see today.
Walk around the freshwater and saltwater lakes in the gardens, where you can spot native birds, frogs and turtles or bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds.
As one of the more tranquil things to do in Cairns, visiting the gardens makes for a perfect half-day activity.
7. Discover Treasures at the Markets
Image: Tourism & Events Queensland/ Andrew Watson
What better place to get fresh produce than in the tropics?
At Rusty’s Market in Cairns, the local fruits and vegetables on offer are practically straight from the tree.
Here you can find arguably the best tropical produce in all Australia. You’ll catch the fragrant aroma of the market before you see it. Fruit and veggie lovers will find a wide variety of produce from avocados and mangoes to banana blossom, taro and cassava. You can also find boutiques selling hand-made jewelry, crafts and clothing, perfect for a souvenir.
Take a break from shopping and pick up a snack at one of the many stalls featuring local sellers. Some of the best Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches are found here. If you’re in Cairns for a few days, Rusty’s is the perfect place to pick up some ingredients for preparing fresh meals at your accommodation. The market is open during the day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
If you’re more of a night owl, then head to the Cairns Night Markets, open from 4pm – 10pm every day of the week. These lively markets offer an almost overwhelming variety of Australian souvenirs, t-shirts, custom-made jewelry and other trinkets. Grab anything from Asian cuisine to fresh Australian seafood at the food court for dinner. You’ll want to find a dessert at one of the stalls offering Australian snacks such as kangaroo and emu jerky or gelato.
This wildlife park combines a natural rainforest ecosystem with a challenging ropes course all in one attraction.
Don’t let the size of the park fool you. Though it’s not as large as other wildlife parks throughout Australia, its intimacy allows for personal wildlife encounters you won’t find in other places. The knowledgeable and passionate staff present informative talks on the wildlife, including snakes, lizards, birds, and Goliath, the gigantic saltwater crocodile. You can even pose for a picture while cuddling a koala – a bucket list photo op!
However, the main highlight of Cairns Zoom is its myriad of obstacles courses throughout the complex. Test your balance on the Slackline tightrope walk and cross above trees and tropical rainforest foliage or climb the Pirate Climb rope net to the top of the Power Jump.
Kids will love the Hi-Zoom obstacle course with its challenging wall climbs, tunnels, rope swings and zip lines. Just one look at it and the little ones will dash straight in line. Though a turn at the course is an extra cost, the reward of completing it like a champion is worth every dime.
9. See Tropical Marine Life at the Cairns Aquarium
Image: Cairns Aquarium
Stepping into the Cairns Aquarium is like stepping through the depths of the ocean. The range of aquatic life you’ll see here is even better than what a diver sees.
The Cairns Aquarium highlights the incredibly diverse marine life native to the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef. As the oldest rainforest in the world and the world’s largest reef formation, the marine life from these two World Heritage sites is absolutely unreal.
The aquarium recreates over 10 different habitats encompassing these delicate ecosystems, creating a natural home for a variety of marine life. See the brilliant colors of unique crayfish and giant prawns of the Creek and Streams exhibit. Catch a glimpse of the some of the world’s most bizarre fish, the Freshwater Sawfish, in the Waterways and Billabongs exhibit. There are even exhibits showcasing snakes, lizards and frogs from the tropical rainforests as well as exotic insects and spiders.
One of the main attractions is the Great Barrier Reef Gallery, showcasing the colorful reefs, coral and tropical fish that call this natural wonder home. You can also interact with starfish, sea cucumbers and lizards at the Touch Tanks.
The aquarium also offers presentations to give you a deeper understanding of the marine life on display. It’s one of the best things to do in Cairns on a rainy day, or a perfect substitute for a Great Barrier Reef.
Located less than an hour’s drive away from Cairns, Hartley’s is the perfect day trip for young families.
The park is made up of four different habitats showcasing different wildlife. Meet the beautiful flightless cassowary at the Cassowary Garden on a boarded walk through lush eucalyptus trees rising out of lily padded wetlands. See alligators, lizards and turtles on the Wildlife Discovery Trail, winding into the wildlife amphitheater where the Snake Show and famous Crocodile Attack Show highlight the day.
You can also meet other native Australia wildlife such as wombats, koalas and kangaroos at the Gondwana Gateway section of the park, where you’ll learn how evolution shaped Australia’s unique animals. Don’t miss out on the koala feeding to see these sleepy creatures in action!
The absolute highlight of Hartley’s is the lagoon boat cruise. Embark on a journey through Hartley’s Lagoon, gliding along side enormous crocodiles right in the water! All of nineteen crocs laze in the water, enjoying their natural wetland habitat. Cruising into the lagoon gives visitors an impressive insight into crocodile behavior just as they would act in the wild.
11. Soak Up the Sun in Northern Beaches
Palm Cove Beach
Cairns is not the place to go for the beach. In fact, there is no beach in Cairns.
But don’t cross Cairns off your list just yet. There are so many incredible beaches not even an hour away from Cairns. You’ll have the perfect beach day yet.
Just 20 minutes north of Cairns lies Trinity Beach, a favorite with the locals. The gentle rolling waves, soft golden sand and extremely laid back ambience will have you instantly rolling out your towel and laying out in the sun. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the summer months and a net is cast out during stinger season to keep out unwanted jellyfish. Barbecue areas nestled within the surrounding palm trees are perfect for a picnic out at the beach.
Palm Cove is also a popular respite from the hustle and bustle of Cairns. Only 30 minutes away, Palm Cove is surrounded by a boutique beach town with an array of upscale resorts and classy bars and restaurants for an intimate night out. The beach itself is fringed with palm tress rising high with a gentle lean into the serene, blue waters. A pier juts out into the sea, offering a boarded walk above the sea foam and spray of the fresh ocean breeze.
Yorkey’s Knob, about 20 minutes away from Cairns, is for the adventurers. It’s popular for water sports such as jet skiing, kite surfing and wind surfing. An onsite kite center offers rental gear and introduction courses on kite surfing.
12. Go White Water Rafting
White Water Rafting the Tully River
Wet and wild in Cairns means rafts and oars.
The raging rapids of the Tully River, about two hours from Cairns, offers some of the best white water rafting in all Australia.
Thrill seekers can join extreme white water rafting tours where raft flips, swimming the rapids and jumping from high rocks is not only allowed, but encouraged!
Less risky rafting with the right amount of torrents is also available for beginners.
For easier grade 2-3 guided rafting, the Barron River is the perfect rafting spot. Only 20 minutes away from Cairns, joining a half day rafting tour gives you the excitement of white water rafting while still leaving time to enjoy the rest of your day.
One of our favorite tours transports you right from your hotel in Cairns to the river of your choice for a guided rafting experience. Experience one of the best things to do in Cairns and ask your About Australia destination specialist about booking this adventure for you.
13. Skydive Over the Great Barrier Reef
Skydiving over Cairns
You don’t really hear about people proclaiming “that was awful!” after landing from a skydive. Usually it’s more incredulous laughter, an indescribable sense of accomplishment and an adrenaline rush that makes you feel like you can do anything.
Sounds like the thrill of a lifetime!
What better way to tick this adventure off your bucket list than over the most incredible natural formation in the world?
If you’ve never been skydiving before, this is the perfect place to give it a go. Any fear and nerves you’ll feel will blend in with the exhilaration of the jaw-dropping views around you.
Take in the vast, aquamarine ocean as you plummet towards the turquoise stretch of coral-framed reef. The tropical rainforests of Queensland are spread out before your eyes, and you’ll descend onto a perfect beach landing.
Tandem skydiving – where you jump off a plane attached to a certified skydiver – is the most popular form of skydiving in Cairns. Booking this in advance is essential – skydiving in Cairns tends to sell out fast!
14. Try Your Luck at the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
Image: Reef Hotel Casino Cairns
The Pullman Reef Hotel is more than just a hotel – it’s a Cairns icon.
Taking up an entire block, this 5-star hotel houses a fabulous casino, world class restaurants, live music, and the Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome.
Perhaps the best part about the casino is its rather intimate environment. With poker tables, pool tables, electronic darts, gaming machines and movie screenings on offer, there’s something for everyone.
Unwind at the electronic gaming machines and order a drink from BAR36, personally delivered to you. Join one of the gaming tables – the friendly staff are more than welcoming to new players.
Looking for More Thing to Do in Cairns?
As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest, Cairns is Australia’s tropical paradise.
About Australia knows the best hidden gems and things to do in Cairns to perfectly fit into your Australia trip.
Want to get started on planning your vacation Down Under? Contact About Australia today to get the wheels in motion for the trip of a lifetime!
Here’s our list of the top 8 free things to do in the Gold Coast.
1. Feed the Lorikeets at Currumbin National Park
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Become part of an old Gold Coast tradition and feed the colorful lorikeets at Currumbin National Park. These native Australian birds delight visitors with their incredible flying skills and friendly nature, often landing on heads and outstretched arms.
This famous wildlife sanctuary started when founder Alex Griffiths began feeding wild lorikeets to prevent them from damaging his gardens. These bright, colorful birds, coated in green, purple, red and yellow feathers, attracted local curiosity and soon developed into an essential Gold Coast attraction. The park is now home to numerous animals including native Australian wildlife and exotic animals from around the world.
Though there is an entrance fee to the park, the lorikeet feedings are free to attend. For a small donation fee you can personally feed the birds with a plate of nectar – quickly covered in the dazzling colors of the hungry lorikeets! Feeding times are every day at 8am and 4pm.
2. Cycle the Gold Coast Oceanway
Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland
Get some fresh coastal air with stunning beach views on the Gold Coast Oceanway. This 22 mile coastal route is actually a network of different paths along Gold Coast’s best beaches and parks. You’ll find locals and visitors alike exploring the Oceanway by bike or foot. For true beach vibes, try the Oceanway by skates!
The Gold Coast Oceanway stretches from the Gold Coast Seaway at the northern end of Main Beach to Point Danger headland, at the border between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. You can easily spend a whole day walking the full route, dipping into different beaches and grabbing a bite to eat at tasty fish and chip shops along the way.
Staying in Surfers Paradise? Pack a picnic, swimsuits and sunscreen and take on the Surfers Paradise section of the Oceanway. A popular route is walking from Surfers Paradise to Burleigh Heads. The contrast between the glamorous high rises in Surfers Paradise Beach to the turquoise waters and green parklands of Burleigh Heads Beach is a breathtaking sight to behold.
3. Hit Up Gold Coast’s Boundless Beaches
Photo: Tourism Australia & Tourism and Events Queensland
Australia is famous for its radiant beaches, and Gold Coast is the perfect destination to soak up some sun. With over twenty beaches stretched across 35 miles of pristine coastland, you can visit a different beach each day. Here are our favorite Gold Coast Beaches:
Main Beach – Looking for the perfect spot to roll out your towel and just chill? Main Beach is the Gold Coast go-to for relaxed beach vibes. Patrolled by lifeguards and with a range of cafes, restaurants and shops just steps from the beach, Main Beach is also one of the best Gold Coast beaches for families.
Surfers Paradise Beach – Surfers Paradise Beach has all the glamor of a Hollywood beach movie set and the natural beauty to put Instagram filters to shame. This popular beach sits right at the hub of Gold Coast’s main attractions and entertainment, drawing crowds of beachgoers. Its excellent swimming conditions and array of beachside shopping, dining and nightlife make it a favorite among travelers.
Burleigh Heads Beach – There’s no better place to try your hand at surfing than at Burleigh Heads Beach. This is a popular surfing destination due to its excellent surf break, perfect even for bodyboarding and swimming. Its wide, shady parklands are hotspots for barbeques and picnics, or simply for cool shade from the Gold Coast sun.
Coolangatta Beach – This north-facing beach offers sheltered conditions with crystal clear emerald waters perfect for swimming and sunbathing. Clean and well-equipped barbecues are placed along the shore for a beachside grill and bright cafes just across the road offer delectable menus. The view from Coolangatta Beach towards the Gold Coast skyline is simply breathtaking.
4. Explore Gold Coast’s National Parks
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Head to the Gold Coast hinterland for rainforest national parks, sparkling waterfalls and fantastic walking trails. These are our favorite Gold Coast hinterland spots:
Springbrook National Park – Just an hour’s drive away from the hustle and bustle of Gold Coast is Springbrook National Park, a hidden paradise of moss-laden rainforests and refreshing cascades. The crown jewel of the park is the Natural Bridge, a stunning rock formation formed by the force of the waterfall over an erosive cave. Keep an eye out for kangaroos and wallabies while exploring the winding trails!
Lamington National Park – Threaded with walking trails through lush rainforest and waterfalls, Lamington National Park is heaven for nature lovers. The park is part of the Gondwana rainforest system, the oldest living rainforest in the world. Walk the Binna Burra Rainforest Circuit or the Bellbird Lookout track, both strewn with scenic lookouts, tumbling waterfalls and creeks. See the rainforest from above with a Tree Top Walk at the Green Mountains Section of the park.
Burleigh Head National Park – Rainforest meets sea at Burleigh Head National Park, where you can walk along a rocky foreshore through mangroves, grasslands, coastal heath and even among Australian brush turkeys and water dragons. Visit in spring to for the chance to see whales!
Tamborine National Park – Can’t get enough of rockpools and waterfalls? Explore the phenomenal waterfalls of Tamborine National Park, just an hour’s drive away from Gold Coast. Complete with walking trails through lush rainforest and cliff-jumping into the cool waters, this park is the perfect respite for when you’re completely beached out.
5. Discover Treasures at Local Markets
Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets
Markets are a fantastic way of immersing yourself in a city’s local vibe. Gold Coast loves to support its local food vendors, artists and craftspeople with an array of markets. You’ll find everything from fresh produce, creative art pieces, handcrafted clothes, vintage items and even home-brewed beer! Do Gold Coast like a local and check out these markets:
Miami Marketta – One of the best things to do in Gold Coast on the weekend is checking out Miami Marketta, a local favorite of street food, live music and flowing drinks. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night, Gold Coast’s Miami neighborhood transforms a large warehouse into a foodie’s paradise, with vendors serving up mouthwatering eats from around the world. You’ll find everything from slow cooked brisket to Spanish paella to Vietnamese bao sandwiches, as well as a stall with over 90 different gins to choose from! Free samples and live music complete everything you need for a great night out.
Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets – Wind your day down with a browse at the stalls of handmade crafts and uniquely Australian products at the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets. These markets pop up every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night along the beach esplanade, featuring over 100 different stalls. Find unique souvenirs, onsite artists, boutiques, jewelry, and even a stall where you can take pictures while holding a macaw!
The Village Markets – Bohemian vibes and fashionable finds dominate the Village Markets of Burleigh Heads. Chic stalls focusing on boutique fashion, lifestyle products and delicious eats make this one of the Gold Coast’s best local markets. Explore racks of vintage clothes, handcrafted furniture, creative jewelry and designer clothing from local, burgeoning brands. The Village Markets are open on the first and third Sunday of each month from 8:30am to 1pm.
Marina Mirage Farmers Market – Get your Gold Coast weekend started with a trip to the Marina Mirage Farmers Market for fresh organic produce. Open every Saturday from 7am to 12pm, this farmers market showcases the Gold Coast’s finest seasonal fruits and vegetables, gourmet artisan delicacies, freshly baked pastries and organic products. Pick up something healthy to create a meal back at your Gold Coast accommodation!
6. Stroll the Gold Coast Botanic Gardens
Photo: Friends of the Gold Coast Botanic Gardens
If you’re looking for non touristy things to do in the Gold Coast, check out the Botanic Gardens. This collection of gardens showcases the unique plants found in this hotspot of biodiversity. Almost every aspect of the gardens incorporates stories of the Aboriginal people native to the region.
Easy walking paths and timber bridges cross the gardens, perfect for a quiet stroll. The Kaialgumm Games Trail takes you to six sites where you can use a QR reader from your smart phone or tablet to learn about traditional indigenous games and how to play them.
Wander through the Mangroves to Mountains section of the gardens, linked by several different pathways, to see thriving endemic vegetation. The Montane Rockery also features native species, found on the mountains and escarpments of South East Queensland’s most extreme environments.
For more traditional gardens, the Rose Garden offers delightful blooms of various roses suited to the local climate. Kids will love the playground, a local favorite for birthday parties. Don’t skip the Sensory Garden, where you can get your hands on a range of plants to touch and sniff.
7. Catch a Local Festival
Blues on Broadbeach Festival
The best time to travel to the Gold Coast is always during a festival. From jazz music to sculptures to surfing competitions, the free festivals in the Gold Coast hold something for everyone. Here are some fantastic festivals to plan around your Gold Coast visit:
Surfers Paradise LIVE – This four-day music festival is held on the Surfers Paradise beachfront, showcasing a great lineup of iconic Australian musicians. As night falls, musicians take the stage and fill the Gold Coast nights with electric vibes and incredible shows. Surfers Paradise LIVE usually runs on the first weekend of May.
Blues on Broadbeach – Not only is Blues on Broadbeach regarded as one of Australia’s best blues and soul music festival, but it’s also one of the largest free festivals in the world! International artists and talented acts from all over Australia gather for four days of amazing performances. Visit the Gold Coast in mid-May to catch Blues on Broadbeach.
Swell Sculpture Festival -If you’re visiting the Gold Coast in September, catch the Swell Sculpture Festival at Currumbin Beach. Art installations and sculptures by local and international artists transform the beach into an outdoor gallery, free for all to enjoy. Nothing makes a walk along the beach better than stunning art works set against the backdrop of the Gold Coast skyline.
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast – Want to see how pros take on the waves? Catch the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast surfing competition in early April to see the world’s best surfers ride the barreling waves of Snapper Rocks at Rainbow Bay.
8. Spot Whales from the Shore
Mick Schamburg Park Lookout. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
The Gold Coast has many excellent lookout points where you can spot humpback whales swimming close to shore. Though whale watching season in Australia runs from May to November, your best chance of spotting whales in the Gold Coast is between June and October.
Head to Point Danger Lookout for fantastic views across the ocean. Complete with public binoculars, this is one of the best spots in the Gold Coast to see whales for free!
Just north of Point Danger Lookout and along Rainbow Bay is Kirra Hill Lookout. This beautiful spot offers incredible panoramic views of the ocean and across to the high rise coastline Surfers Paradise. Pack a picnic lunch and relax on the sheltered tables and benches on your whale watching break.
Tumgun Lookout in Burleigh Head National Park is one of the more popular spots for whale watching in the Gold Coast. Make a day of exploring the park’s fantastic walks while keeping an eye out for the telling mist of whale water spouts.
Mick Schamburg Park in the Miami neighborhood of the Gold Coast is one of the locals’ hidden gems. Climb to the lookout for commanding views across Surfers Paradise and uninterrupted views across the ocean. This is one of the best spots for whale watching during the season.
Add These Free Things to Do in the Gold Coast to Your Visit!
Gold Coast is no doubt one of Australia’s best destinations for endless beach days and fun in the sun. Combined with its rich hinterland and love of all things local, the hidden gems of free things to do in the Gold Coast offer spectacular experiences for any kind of traveler.
We hope your visit to the Gold Coast is full of unforgettable memories of fresh coastal air and warm sunshine!
Posted on: February 16th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
How do the experts of About Australia know so much about this vast country?
They see it for themselves!
Our Product and Sales Manager, Melanie, recently returned from a whirlwind adventure in Western Australia as part of her trip to the annual Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) in Perth.
ATE allows travel agents and tourism companies like About Australia to meet directly with Australia’s finest tourism businesses, hotel managers and tour operators.
But there’s no better way to ensure the experiences we include in our vacation packages are the best than by testing them out!
Check out Melanie’s incredible adventures in Western Australia. Perhaps you’ll find something new to add to your Australia bucket list!
Perth, the Capital of Western Australia
Elizabeth Quay, Perth. Photo: Tourism Australia
Perth is rapidly becoming a must-see destination for foodie, art, and beach lovers.
One of the best ways to experience Perth is through its local food and drink scene. For one week in April, the annual Perth Noodle Markets awaken the city nights with sizzling stalls of signature Asian and noodle dishes.
For a breath of fresh air, Kings Park and Botanic Garden is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. With over 988 acres of tranquil parklands, Kings Park is one of the biggest parks in the world – bigger than Central Park in New York City!
Melanie explored the many walking tracks strewn across the park, including the formidable Jacob’s Ladder. This twisting staircase is popular with locals and tourists alike, running up and down its 242 spiraling steps.
Making New Friends in Rottnest Island
Perth is also the perfect base for many of Western Australia’s coastal adventures. Rottnest Island, a haven of white sand beaches and amazing wildlife, is just an hour and a half away by ferry.
With no paved roads to disrupt its natural beauty, the island is a popular destination for sunny beach days. The best way to explore its beaches, lakes, snorkeling sites and lighthouses is by bike.
But perhaps the best way to experience the island is by meeting the locals! Rottnest Island is famous for its quokkas, absolutely adorable creatures that roam the island. Their curious smiles have earned them the title of “The Happiest Animal on Earth.” Quokkas are only found on Rottnest Island, drawing visitors from around the world on a quest to capture the iconic “Quokka selfie.”
Melanie befriended a curious quokka on her Rottnest Island adventure – even posed with her for a couple of photos!
Glamping at Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef Safari Camp
There’s nothing better than surrounding yourself in extraordinary landscapes, and Sal Salis does exactly that. This incredible eco-resort puts you right on the beachfront of Western Australia’s gorgeous white sand beaches in Cape Range National Park.
This luxury camping experience allows you to totally disconnect from the world and unwind in a magical setting. The open bar and exquisite three-course meals set against uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean also help!
Guided wilderness activities such as snorkeling on Ningaloo Reef, kayaking and walks among the red terrain of Cape Range National Park are also included. During her stay, Melanie’s group walked through a secluded gorge to spot elusive black-footed wallabies, and even saw a few dingoes.
Waking up to the sounds of wallaroos thumping by and the gentle waves of the beach were some of Melanie’s highlights during her stay.
Swimming with Whale Sharks at Exmouth
Another highlight destination in Western Australia is Exmouth. This port town is known as the gateway to Ningaloo Reef, with natural beauty rivaling the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s also famous for swimming with whale sharks! Despite their name, whale sharks are actually fish – the world’s biggest fish, in fact. As filter feeders, whale sharks pose no threat to humans. The best time to swim with whale sharks is between April and July.
Melanie joined a whale shark swimming and snorkeling expedition out on Ningaloo Reef, and even saw sea turtles and a hammerhead shark! Check out her video of swimming with whale sharks.
Sailing Ningaloo Reef and Coral Bay
Undeniably, the best way to explore Ningaloo Reef and the sparkling coasts of Western Australia is by catamaran.
Sailing tours allow you to see and explore hidden gems no one else can see. Melanie enjoyed a luxury sailing expedition across the turquoise waters of Ningaloo Reef, complete with fine Western Australian wines and dishes featuring local produce.
On her sailing expedition, Melanie soaked up the sun at the best Western Australia beaches of Coral Bay, named due to the breathtaking coral gardens beneath its waters. The group also witnessed a ‘shark cleaning station’ where dozens of gray reef sharks swam below them.
This sailing expedition also offers liveaboard trips for those who want a unique experience staying overnight on a luxury catamaran. Ask an About Australia Destination Specialist about adding this experience to your trip!
Want to See Western Australia?
U.S. travelers are just now beginning to discover all Western Australia has to offer.
White sand beaches with crystal clear waters and no international crowds? Check. Unique wildlife experiences both on land and under the sea? You bet.
And if you want to explore world-class cities or get lost in untouched bush wilderness, Western Australia is the perfect destination.
Let your wanderlust take you to Western Australia – we’ll guide you with the must-see’s and do’s along the way.
Posted on: February 13th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Cairns is all about tropical vibes. Suits and ties are exchanged for shorts and sunglasses. Days feel like the carefree, relaxed summers of your childhood and nights instantly put you into holiday mode.
As gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics – the oldest rainforest system in the world – your visit to Cairns will no doubt be a busy one.
But if you’re looking for other things to do in Cairns, we’ve gathered a list of local must-see gems. Here’s our list of 7 favorite free things to do in Cairns.
7 Free Things to Do in Cairns
1. Spend a Day at the Cairns Esplanade
Some people prefer the beach, others prefer the pool.
At the Cairns Esplanade, you get the best of both worlds.
This local landmark combines a large man-made lagoon with a small sandy shore, so you get the feel of a beach at the pool. The crystal clear waters offer a fresh respite from the tropical heat, along with shaded areas to help keep you cool. Lifeguards patrol the lagoon during the day.
A lush, green park surrounds the lagoon, with soft grass perfect for laying out and sunbathing or enjoying a picnic lunch. The park also features picnic benches and BBQ grills free to use, but be sure to get in early to snag a bench!
If you’re in Cairns during the weekend, you can enjoy live bands play in the park from 2pm – 5pm. Feeling a bit more active? Take to the wide boardwalk surrounding the lagoon, equipped with free fitness equipment and a playground for the kids. Continue on to Muddy’s Playground, a small splash park perfect for younger children.
The Esplanade also offers free fitness classes throughout the week, ranging from aqua aerobics in the lagoon to yoga and pilates.
Swimming, grilling, workouts and music – there’s something for everyone at the Esplanade. The best part is it’s all free!
2. Browse the Markets
Rusty’s Market. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland / Andrew Watson
Cairns is famous for its local markets, with Rusty’s Market as the main attraction.
Rusty’s Market is known to draw in visitors from out of town for the freshest produce in Queensland. Early risers are rewarded, too – open only from Friday to Sunday, Rusty’s begins from 5am to 6pm. Fruits and vegetables are freshly gathered in the morning then carted off to the market, making it all truly farm-to-table.
You’ll find everything from mangoes, durians and leafy greens to tropical nuts, lychees and pineapples. Many local vendors also sell their wares at Rusty’s, such as turmeric products, hand made natural soaps and lotions, pastries, and knits.
In the evening you’ll want to hit up the Cairns Night Markets, a mecca of creative sweet treats and Australian souvenirs. Open from 5pm to 11pm every day of the week, browsing the night markets is a great way to spend your free evenings.
With an incredible array of souvenirs, here is where you should do your souvenir shopping. You’ll find staples such as T-shirts, fridge magnets and key chains along with more unique items such as indigenous Australian art, koala dream catchers, and even a stall where you can get a fish pedicure!
If you’re craving something sweet, choose from fish-shaped cream puffs, waffle desserts on a stick, churros served with ice cream or crepes. That doesn’t even touch the full list of sweet treats you’ll find at the Night Markets’ food court, where you’ll also find an array of Asian cuisine sure to get your mouth watering.
3. Explore the Cairns Botanic Gardens
Rainforest Boardwalk, Cairns Botanic Gardens
Get a taste of the rainforest at the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Located near the center of the city, the gardens and its walking paths offer a tranquil escape from the bustling city.
Open every day from 7:30am to 5:30pm, you can enjoy a quiet stroll through its unique gardens, each vastly different from the next. The Watkins Munroe Martin Conservatory houses some of the gardens’ most valuable and rarest plants along with a collection of local butterflies. Step inside and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into a bubble of rainforest.
Take to the Rainforest Boardwalk, winding through an ecosystem of tropical palm trees towering over a floor of green ferns. Discover the tropical fruit trees and vegetables of the grounds surrounding the Saltwater Lake, or look out for native birds while you enjoy a picnic by the gardens’ Freshwater Lake.
The Gondwana Heritage Garden displays Australia’s unique flora tracing back from the beginning stages of evolution of its native plants. You’ll find species of plants that were among the first flowering plants in the world.
You can also explore a collection of local plants used by the indigenous people of the region for over 40,000 years at the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden. See a Chinese-style garden at the Zhanjiang Friendship Garden, a perfect spot to stop and take in the tranquility of the gardens.
Join a free guided tour every day beginning at 10am for deeper insight into the gardens, or simply spend a quite afternoon.
4. Visit the Cairns Art Gallery
Cairns Art Gallery
Once you get past the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics – the undisputed stars of Cairns – you’ll get to see the hidden gems the city has to offer.
The Cairns Art Gallery, just a block away from the Cairns Esplanade, is a small but elegant gallery showcasing local, contemporary and indigenous art.
The gallery is comprised of three levels in a heritage building, beautifully styled in classical-inspired architecture. Each level is dedicated to carefully curated pieces and rotating exhibitions featuring everything from photo collections, installations, thought-provoking modern art and Aboriginal artifacts.
After exploring the gallery, pop in to Perrotta’s, the on-site cafe serving up delicious coffee, tasty breakfast options and zesty lunch and dinner menus. Outside seating underneath a shaded verandah creates the perfect ambience for al fresco dining.
The gallery shop offers a great range of specialty gifts, jewelry, books and toys inspired by the in-house exhibitions and collections. You’ll also see pieces from local artists on sale, a perfect memento of your visit to the gallery.
5. Relax at the Northern Beaches
Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
Nothing beats a day at the beach, especially in the sun-kissed beaches of Australia.
However, Cairns has no beaches. At least, not within the city itself.
Travel 20 minutes north of Cairns and you’ll come across what are known as the Northern Beaches. The closest and a consistent favorite beach is Trinity Beach, where gentle waves, soft golden sand and its relaxed ambience make it perfect for rolling out a towel and soaking up the sun. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the summer season, and a net keeps out jellyfish during stinger season so you can enjoy a swim.
Palm Cove is another favorite only 30 minutes away. This is the sort of beach you see on the covers of travel magazines, with its serene, blue waters, soft sand and splendid sunsets framed by relaxed palms. A pier juts out into the sea, offering a boarded walk above the sea foam and spray of the fresh ocean breeze.
Yorkey’s Knob is for the adventurers, popular for water sports such as jet skiing, kite surfing and wind surfing. Only 20 minutes away from Cairns, this is the place for an adventurous beach day trying your hand at extreme water sports. If you’re interested in giving kite surfing a go, an onsite kite center offers rental gear and introduction courses.
6. Discover Local Waterfalls and Swimming Holes
Swimming at Crystal Cascades. Image: Tourism & Events Queensland / Andrew Watson
There’s a local secret to staying cool during the hot Cairns summer – swimming holes and waterfalls.
In fact, many locals completely skip the beach and head straight to these hidden gems for a cool, refreshing swim. Surrounded by lush, shady rainforest, these natural rock pools and waterfalls are hidden tropical oases only minutes from Cairns.
The Crystal Cascades is a popular spot due to its close proximity to Cairns (only 15 – 20 minutes away) and its several different rock pool. Water cascades down a mountain rising out of the rainforest, creating many spectacular waterfalls splashing into the refreshing pools. Small streams running over collections of smoothed rock create natural water slides, just be careful to watch out for people before you slide down! This spot is easily accessible from a carpark, with barbecue and toilet facilities available.
Stoney Creek Falls, located 20 minutes from Cairns, is hidden beneath the pristine wilderness of Barron Gorge National Park. This sparkling waterfall cascades down into a refreshing swimming hole, surrounded in crystal clear rock pools and streams. There’s a walking path running along the creek that takes you to an old weir, a popular spot for relaxing and taking in the tranquility of the untouched rainforest around you.
Freshwater Creek, just 10 – 15 minutes from the city center, is a continuation of Crystal Cascades. This clear stream runs under towering, verdant trees and through smooth stones, offering a shady, cool respite. Picnic benches and barbecues are available throughout different spots along the creek.
7. Climb Walsh’s Pyramid
This adventure is not for the faint-hearted.
But if you’re an experienced hiker looking for the best walks in Cairns, Walsh’s Pyramid is the perfect challenge.
Located about 30 minutes south of Cairns, Walsh’s Pyramid is the highest freestanding natural pyramid in the world. Ascending over 3000 feet, this amazing natural formation rewards climbers with truly incredible views out to Cairns.
The whole walk takes about 4 – 7 hours to complete, best started early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. The marked trail to the summit is rocky and steep, so you’ll need to use your hands for many parts of the hike. Take as much water as you can, and when you think you’ve packed enough, pack even more. You’ll also want to pack snacks to keep you energized throughout the walk. Dab on a good layer of sunscreen.
You’ll likely see many runners summiting the pyramid, training for the annual “Pyramid Race” that takes place every August. They’ll make climbing the pyramid look easy, but don’t feel pressured to keep up. You’ll want to be able to say you’ve climbed the highest natural pyramid in the world!
Try These Free Things to Do in Cairns
As home to the Great Barrier Reef and the spectacular Wet Tropics, your visit to Cairns is sure to hold once in a lifetime experiences. For the free moments you may have in between, these free things to do in Cairns offer a true local’s Cairns experience.
Posted on: December 17th, 2018 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
Visit the Great Barrier Reef Between June & July to Swim with Minke Whales
First recognized by scientists less than 30 years ago, the dwarf minke whale is both elusive and super friendly.
There is so much we don’t know about these whales despite their proclivity to search out human company.
Scientists don’t understand why, but these whales are extremely curious and will often spend hours swimming around snorkelers and divers, giving quite a show! They are known to follow a boat around for hours, stopping for a look at each new dive site.
When to Swim with Minke Whales
Minke whales are the most common of the great whale species, found in abundance throughout the world’s oceans. They are mostly found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Antarctic Oceans.
They are found off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand between March and December, but the best time to see minke whales is in June and July.
Despite their wide reach, swimming with minke whales only happens in The Great Barrier Ribbon Reefs in Tropical North Queenland, Australia. The great thing about this is that minke whales in the Great Barrier Reef are very social and communicative. Expeditions out to the reef regularly report seeing multiple whales in one day!
These multi-day Liveaboard expeditions depart from Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. These expeditions visit unique reef sites each day, offering more opportunities to swim with these gentle creatures.
This is one of the only animal encounters in the world that is entirely on the animal’s own terms. When a pod is spotted, a rope is tossed into the water. Groups of up to 10 swimmers hold on to the rope and the whales can approach or leave as they like. The whales are very generous with their time and once a pod is spotted, its rare if someone on the boat misses out on the experience while waiting their turn.
Things to Know Before Swimming with Minke Whales
Being in the water with these majestic creatures is described as a life-changing experience. It’s common for people to emerge from the water crying, screaming or just plain speechless.
If you want to add this encounter to your Australia bucket list, here are a few things you should know!
1. Every Australian winter, the minke whales make their annual migration from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef from May to August. Plan your trip between June to mid-July for the best odds of seeing a pod. Peak season is in early July.
2. This special experience might take a bit of effort and luck! Only a handful of tour operators have permits to swim with minke whales and you’re never guaranteed an encounter. Increase your odds of swimming with the genial giants by taking a 3-7 night Liveaboard Excursion. In June and July, you’ll have a 98% chance of encountering the whales. It is recommend that you pre-book your excursion.
3. If you’re not keen on spending nights at sea, you can take a day-trip out of Port Douglas. These day-trips have an encounter rate of about 18%. This decreases your odds quite a bit, but if you do encounter them, you will feel as though you won the lottery! Either way it’s an amazing day out on the Great Barrier Reef. These day-trips often give discounts for multiple days out on the boat and they usually end up at different dive sites each day. So, you could stay a few nights in lovely Port Douglas and increase your odds by taking multiple trips out to the reef without feeling like you’re doing the same thing every day.
4. If you go in July, you might even have a chance to see and/or swim with Humpback whales too!
5. You can contribute directly to ongoing research including photo-identification, behavior research and conservation efforts from your minke whale encounter.
6. Dwarf minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales. Like Humpback whales, they have no teeth, but a series of baleen plates that they use to trap and filter the food krill.
7. There is still much to be learned about these whales. For example, they have never been seen feeding on the Great Barrier Reef so it is assumed that they feed in Open Ocean while in the tropics, but no one really knows!
8. They are one of the fastest whales. They can travel at speeds greater than 20 knots or about 23 miles per hour.
9. Minke whales seem to prefer snorkelers to divers. They tend to get closer to and hang around longer when humans are not wearing large air tanks.
Want a chance to cross this amazing experience off your Bucket List? Visit Australia with the help of a Destination Specialist at About Australia. We can make your once in a lifetime trip Down Under fun and easy!