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!
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!
Posted on: November 2nd, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
There’s no better way to recharge than on an island getaway.
But maybe your idea of recharging isn’t all beaches and sun. Maybe it’s discovering wildlife, hiking through lush rainforests or sampling local delicacies.
With over 8,222 islands in Australia, you’re guaranteed to find your own personal island paradise. Each island boasts its own unique qualities that are part of what makes Australia unlike anywhere else in the world.
We’ve gathered a list of the top 12 stunning islands in Australia that will have you dreaming of your next island getaway.
1. Kangaroo Island
Image: Alan & Flora Botting on flikr.com
See wildlife the way it was meant to be seen – out in the wild. No place does a zoo without fences better than Kangaroo Island, located off the coast near Adelaide.
Its separation from mainland Australia has allowed for the wildlife to thrive among untouched wilderness. So yes, you’ll see tons of wild kangaroos, but if you want to get close to them head to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.
Though the wildlife is the main star of this island, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the dazzling landscapes. Long stretches of beaches, turquoise waters and spectacular rock formations – no zoo could even touch this.
Head to Seal Bay to walk among sea lions, swim with wild dolphins off the north coast of the island or spot koalas hanging out on eucalyptus trees at Flinders Chase National Park. Don’t miss the stunning Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island’s signature landmark, looking like something straight out of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.
2. Phillip Island
Image: Tourism Australia
See the tiniest penguins in the world at Phillip Island, just about two hours away from Melbourne.
Phillip Island is famous for its tiny penguins, but its coastal scenery is just as spectacular in its own right. Gorgeous green landscapes crumble into rugged coasts and pink granite cliffs, stretching out into surf beaches with perfectly barreling waves.
Meet the local wildlife at the Phillip Island Wildlife Park or see koalas in the wild at the Koala Conservation Centre. Stop into one of the local restaurants for a classic fish and chips lunch and visit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for a race on Australia’s largest four-lane GP slot car track.
As the sun sets, settle into Summerland Beach for a spot to catch the nightly Penguin Parade.
3. Fraser Island
Image: Jules Ingall
For an island holiday with a more adventurous vibe, head to Fraser Island, just off the coast of southern Queensland. This unique island is the only place in the world where the beach never ends. Its ancient, cool rainforest towers over white sand, interrupted only by freshwater creeks and the clearest lakes you’ve ever seen.
Pack your swimmers and head to Lake McKenzie, a pure crystal blue lake ringed by soft white sand and verdant rainforest. Honestly, this lake beats out any chemically-treated pool in clarity. And it’s all untouched, pure rainwater!
One of the best ways to explore the island is on a 4WD. Drive down 75 Mile Beach and discover the SS Maheno Shipwreck or find a spot along the beach to try your hand at saltwater fishing. You might spot wild dingoes along the way, but only admire from afar!
4. Rottnest Island
Image: Tourism Australia
One of Australia’s favorite holiday island destinations is Rottnest Island. Located off the coast from Perth in Western Australia, many locals like to reach the island by their own boat. Ferries are also available through three ferry operators along Perth.
Though Western Australia is not often on many traveler’s lists, Rottnest Island alone is enough to add it to your bucket list. Impossibly white sand beaches with crystal turquoise waters offer fantastic swimming and snorkeling. Biking is the best way to explore the island, allowing you to beach and bay-hop across its sublime coasts to find your perfect swimming spot. The best part – no roads!
You’ll also meet Rottnest Island’s famous locals – the quokka. This unique Australian animal is found only in Rottnest Island, and has become popular for its photogenic smile.
5. Bruny Island
Image: Tourism Tasmania
Foodies rejoice! Culinary delights are the star at Bruny Island, perfectly paired with otherworldly landscapes.
About two hours away from Hobart in Tasmania, Bruny Island is well beyond the typical tourist trail. But once you step foot on the island you’ll see why it’s a true hidden gem.
Our favorite Bruny Island tour takes you to local artisanal shops showcasing some of Australia’s finest cheesemaking, chocolatiering and whisky distilling. You’ll also try some freshly shucked oysters, locally grown berries and premium wine. Every course on the menu is a stop on your journey!
Make the small journey to The Neck Lookout and see the isthmus connecting the northern and southern parts of the island. The view from the top is absolutely unbeatable.
6. Moreton Island
Want to get up close with dolphins? Moreton Island is your best bet. Just across Moreton Bay from Brisbane, Moreton Island is a must for dolphin-feeding, kayaking, shipwreck snorkeling and sandboarding.
Yes, sandboarding – it’s exactly like snowboarding except with sand! Riding down the large slopes of sand is a lot more fun than you might realize. You might find yourself climbing the slopes again and again, then simply wash off the sand with a dip at the beach.
With no roads on the island, this unspoiled paradise is perfect for relaxing walks and simply taking in the beauty of untouched nature. Be sure to stay after sunset for the chance to hand-feed wild dolphins at Tangalooma Resort.
7. Magnetic Island
Image: Tourism Queensland
A popular stop along the east coast of Australia is Magnetic Island. Located just 20 minutes off the coast of Townsville in Queensland, Magnetic Island promises extremely laid-back island vibes.
Time seems to be at a standstill on Magnetic Island, or “Maggie,” as affectionately called by locals. It’s easy to lose track of time here and just let the world go by.
Go for a dip in one of many sublime beaches or zip around the island on a hired mini moke, a small convertible perfect for island exploration.
Take the Forts Walk through historic WWII landmarks ending with incredible views across the ocean. Be sure to keep an eye out for koalas hanging around the trees. As home to Australia’s largest population of wild koalas, you’re almost guaranteed to spot one of these furry creatures.
8. Frankland Islands
Image: Frankland Islands Reef Cruises
One of Australia’s truest hidden gems is the Frankland Islands. Located off the northern coast of Queensland near Cairns, these islands are an untouched slice of paradise.
Only one tour operator is licensed to go to Frankland Islands, and their close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef make for perfect small-group snorkeling excursions. The main island, Normanby Island, boasts white sand beaches and clear waters ideal for snorkeling.
The marine biologist on the Frankland Islands tour crew offers guided walks around the island, exploring rock pools rife with exotic marine life.
Complete with an included lunch as you cruise back to Cairns, the Frankland Islands are a fantastic way to experience the Great Barrier Reef without the crowds. Ask our About Australia Destination Specialists about this special tour!
9. Whitsunday Islands
Image: Tourism Australia
Looking for a tropical island paradise? The Whitsunday Islands offer your pick out of 74 impeccable islands.
These islands off the coast of Queensland sit within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and are just as stunning above the water as below the surface.
With only 8 inhabited islands, the rest are natural sanctuaries of secluded beaches and rainforest bushwalks, making for perfect campsites. The fringing reef protects the waters surrounding the islands, making for calm bays perfect for sailing across the islands. And you don’t even need a license to rent a private yacht for bareboat sailing!
One of our favorite Whitsunday Islands is the main, titular island, the largest of all 74. Here is where you’ll find the unparalleled Whitehaven Beach, often listed in the top 10 beaches in the world.
10. Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is the definition of picture perfect paradise. There’s absolutely no bad angle – everywhere you turn is a postcard-ready scene, just waiting to be captured on camera.
As one of the 8 inhabited Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island is an Australian favorite for a luxury getaway. Take in incredible views of the ocean from high-end resort infinity pools, tropical cocktail in hand. Explore the roadless island by golf buggy and indulge in world-class dining at one of many renowned restaurants.
It doesn’t get more luxurious at Hamilton Island than in qualia, a 5-star resort embracing its magnificent surrounds in ultimate, couples-only seclusion. More budget friendly options on Hamilton Island include renting holiday homes. With a buggy included in your rental, you’re free to explore the beautiful palm-fringed, white sand beaches on this idyllic island.
11. Lizard Island
Imagine stepping onto a white sand beach right out your door and seeing one of the world’s greatest natural wonders at your feet.
The best way to experience the Great Barrier Reef is being surrounded by it. Situated right on the reef, no island does this better than Lizard Island.
This small island is home to Lizard Island Resort, an all-inclusive luxury getaway up there with some of the highest-end resorts in the world.
You can snorkel some of the reef’s most pristine and young corals right from the beach, or take a scuba diving trip out to spectacular dive sites such as Cod Hole.
See the reef right from your own private infinity pool, explore the local waters on a private dinghy or walk the lush bushland on nature walks and tracks.
Indulge in gourmet meals, taste local and international wines and enjoy a private beach picnic, all included in your stay.
Lizard Island Resort provides the ultimate luxury deserving of the Great Barrier Reef right at its steps, and will be a getaway you’ll never forget.
12. Lord Howe
Lord Howe Island is like stepping into a Planet Earth documentary. The only hues on this island seem to be endless gradients of blues and greens, hiding an abundance of wildlife.
Located over 300 miles off the eastern coast of Australia, the only way to get to Lord Howe Island is on a two hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane.
Its pristine beaches lend to some of the world’s cleanest and clearest waters perfect for snorkeling. It’s just like swimming in an aquarium!
The island is strewn with easy strolls through lush palms and forests, but for a one-of-a-kind adventure the Mt Gower climb is a must. Rated as one of the best day-treks in the world, this challenging journey takes you on a guided cliff-face mountain climb for a truly rewarding experience.
See Australia’s Breathtaking Islands
Dreaming of an island getaway on your trip to Australia? Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat surrounded by stunning beaches or an adventure unlike anywhere else, Australia’s got an island to suit you perfectly.
Our Destination Specialists are experts in all things Australia. We’ll help you pick the best island for your Australia vacation.
Posted on: October 3rd, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
If it’s your first time traveling to Australia, you’re probably landing in Sydney.
The moment you step off that plane – right at sunrise – you’re going to want to make a beeline for your hotel and fall face first into your bed.
But that’s a terrible idea.
Not only will most hotels not have check in until at least 2pm, but you’ll want to stay up to avoid jet lag.
Luckily, Sydney is filled with countless things to do right as you step off the plane.
And there’s nothing better than diving headfirst into this beautiful harbour city in all its splendor by exploring its dynamic harbourfront.
We’ve made it easy for you with these things to do around Sydney Harbour.
Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens
With extensive grounds of beautifully manicured lawns and gardens, the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens are a tranquil escape right in the heart of the city.
Its many trails are perfect for getting your bearings and taking a leisurely stroll with fantastic views of the harbour.
Walk through the Mrs. Macquaries Road footpath to Mrs. Macquaries Point, a picturesque headland jutting out into the harbour.
Take a seat on the famous Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair for one of the best views directly across the Sydney Opera House.
Continue along the waterfront for more fantastic scenery. With the white Opera House sails set against the Sydney Harbour Bridge across the harbour, you’ll no doubt be stopping for pictures every step of the way.
The gardens are home to an array of stunning native trees, plants and flowers with lawns dedicated to each.
Grab a snack or pack a picnic lunch and rest on the Flower Bed Lawn, a clearing of verdant green grass dappled with towering trees and exotic plants. Stop by the Main Pond for a chance to see the resident eels (don’t worry, they’re harmless!). Head toward the Rose Garden Beds for a charming pavilion lined with roses, complete with a statue of Cupid to accentuate its loveliness.
You’re bound to see locals getting in their morning jog and other groups simply enjoying the resplendent grounds. Learn more about the garden by joining a free tour, hopping on the garden’s Choo Choo Express or take a guided tour led by an Aboriginal leader and taste Aboriginal bush food found in the gardens!
As you take your first steps toward the towering sails, you’ll feel the draw of this undeniably mesmerizing icon.
This is the face of Sydney, its main feature recognized around the whole world. Seeing it for the first time is an experience in and of itself.
So, bask it all in. You definitely won’t be the only one. This architectural wonder draws millions of visitors each year – and as such a unique structure set against one of the most picturesque harbours in the world, it’s no mystery why.
Join a tour to get an inside look at the Opera House with an expert guide detailing the history of the building. You’ll get an exclusive look at the interior of the concert halls – perhaps you’ll want to catch a show here later!
Right down the Sydney Opera House is Circular Quay, the hub of Sydney’s harbourfront action and gateway to iconic attractions.
This is where many cruises, ferries and water taxis depart, connecting visitors to the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the historic Rocks District.
Lining Circular Quay is a progression of fantastic waterfront restaurants promising an essential Sydney experience – excellent food paired with unbeatable views.
Grab a spot at Opera Bar, often lauded as the best beer garden in the world. Perhaps the sweeping panoramic views across the harbour steer the scales in its favor. Peer over from the ledge of the Opera House’s promenade and you’ll spot vine-laden umbrellas perched over tables and bar stools. Order a cocktail or a glass of fine Australian wine and settle into the seats curving along the water’s edge .
For a special occasion, reserve a spot at Aria, only minutes away from the Opera House. Enjoy a delectable four course menu and extensive wine list, both highlighted by sublime views out from the glass walls.
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
This Sydney staple houses Australian and international contemporary art along with touring exhibitions. Get a glimpse of modern artworks produced around the world today and let your inner artist get lost in the thought-provoking collections you’ll encounter here.
See breathtaking exhibitions by Aboriginal artists, brimming with color and spirituality. Take in puzzling artworks, bemusing at first, but always with something to take away.
The Museum of Contemporary Art will at once welcome and challenge your notions of art and stimulate your imagination. If you’ve never given contemporary art a chance, this is the perfect place to give it a go.
The Rocks District
Cobbled laneways cut through some of Sydney’s oldest pubs and historic buildings. Structures gleam with their original eighteenth century colonial architecture, standing proud with their gabled roofs.
This is The Rocks, site of Sydney’s first settlement in 1788.
Brimming with a colorful history of convicts, soldiers and sailors, this is the perfect place to learn about the history of Sydney.
Many walking tours detailing the history of the area are available, some with a focus on Aboriginal history, convict stories or even pub walks. Who wouldn’t want to grab a pint in some of Sydney’s first bars?
Amble over to The Rocks Markets for enticing street food and boutique local shops, celebrating authentic local foodie experiences. The markets recreate a feel reminiscent of the bustling commons that once thrived in eighteenth century Sydney. Discover locally crafted clothes, jewelry and homewares along with gourmet food, artisan meats, cheeses and sweet treats mingling their delicious scents within the air.
Learn more about The Rocks before European settlement at The Rocks Discovery Museum. Housed in a restored 1850’s sandstone warehouse, here you’ll find unique exhibitions showcasing images and artifacts found in The Rocks – some of which you can even hold. The best part – it’s free!
Cruise on the Harbour
You can’t go to one of the world’s most gorgeous harbour cities and not go on a cruise. In fact, it’s a Sydney rite of passage.
Lunch cruises, dinner cruises, ferries and water taxis – the options are almost unlimited.
Get the glamorous harbour cruise experience with a dining cruise. With breakfast, lunch and dinner cruises available, enjoy a spectacular meal any time of the day with million dollar harbour views.
Explore more of Sydney and the sparkling harbour aboard a sightseeing ferry. We like to recommend our clients to get their hands on a Hop On Hop Off 2-day ferry pass for an easy cruise across the harbour highway to 10 famous Sydney stop overs, including Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Luna Park, Barangaroo and others.
This lively precinct is home to fun tourist attractions, trendy waterfront dining experiences as well as premier Sydney shopping.
Meet incredible aquatic species at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world. Discover dugongs, sharks, penguins and tropical fish in the aquarium’s differently themed zones. Touch sea stars, shark eggs and coral at the Discovery Rockpool, and get a look into the prehistoric marine life from the dark depths of the ocean at Jurassic Seas.
Stroll down along Darling Harbour to the Harbourside Shopping Center, where the exciting buzz of Darling Harbour emanates from its waterfront dining and boutique shops.
Here you’ll find anything from familiar places to grab a quick bite to eat to waterfront steakhouses. Grab some grub then browse the shops for a new Australian-made outfit or souvenir.
Further along the harbour you’ll come across the Australian National Maritime Museum, where a wealth of seafaring and naval exhibitions provide a look into Australia’s coastal culture.
Climb aboard a replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavor vessel, the tall ship in which he first landed on Australia in 1770. Learn stories about the passengers – settlers and convicts from the 18th century – and their voyages to a new life in Australia. With knowledgeable guides possessing an impressive passion for Australian maritime history, you’re sure to dive deeper into the history of Australia – so closely intertwined with the ocean.
A popular stop on a harbour cruise is Taronga Zoo. With native Australian wildlife, rare exotic animals and breathtaking views of the cityscape across the harbour, Taronga Zoo might just be one of the most gorgeous zoos in the world.
Start with a gondola cable car ride lifting you above the zoo, gliding over trees and bush with views across the harbour.
Meet cuddly koalas, friendly kangaroos and their elusive tree-dwelling cousins, tree kangaroos.
Get up close to the graceful Sumatran Tiger on the Tiger Trek, or see the magnificent Asian elephants. Visit the towering giraffes, who have arguably to best view across the harbour in the whole zoo. Home to over 340 species, you’re bound to find your favorite animal.
Find a true boardwalk amusement park experience at Luna Park, another favorite stop on the sightseeing ferry. Situated across the harbour right along the water, that ferris wheel is guaranteed to have incredible views.
Vibrant with colors and exciting rides for the kids, this is an essential harbour stop for families with little ones. But there’s an undeniable thrill that will strike your very core as you feel like you’re about to be flung into the harbour as you ride the Wild Mouse rollercoaster!
Slide down steep slopes on the Devil’s Drop or spin into a frenzy on the Rotor. Wind down on the Carousel – an amusement park staple – or get lost in the dizzying Mirror Maze.
Luna Park lets your inner kid go wild and immerse yourself in the nostalgia of the perfect carnival day.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Past Darling Harbour is the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, an architectural feat to match the likes of the Opera House.
Its famous steel arch has earned it the nickname “The Coathanger.” Luckily, it’s much more supportive than that. In fact, the bridge has eight traffic lanes and two railway lines with a pedestrian walkway on the eastern side of the bridge and a cycling track on the western side.
Haven’t had enough of those gorgeous harbour views? Get a totally different perspective of Sydney Harbour at the very top of the Harbour Bridge arch on a BridgeClimb!
An essential Sydney must-do, this exciting journey combines fascinating history detailing the making of the bridge with a thrilling climb over the arch. You’ll get fitted with a climbing suit, briefed in safe practices and set off in a group led by a bridge climbing pro.
With morning, afternoon and evening climbs available, you can wake your senses with this invigorating climb or see the sunset glow cast over the harbour and Opera House sails.
Besides, it’s not everybody who can say they’ve climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
Barangaroo is the new kid on the block. Or harbour, you could say.
Once a site used for dumping shipping containers, this wasteland has transformed into a spectacular waterfront precinct. Quite the ugly duckling turned into swan story.
The precinct is named after Barangaroo, an indigenous Cammeraygal clan leader from the Eora Nation living around the north harbour at the time of European colonization. She was revered as a free-spirited and strong-willed Aboriginal woman. Several accounts tell about her refusal to wear European clothing to a formal dinner with settlers and turned up painted in white clay with a bone through her nose.
Just as Barangaroo held tightly to her indigenous roots, so does the idyllic parkland known as Barangaroo Reserve. This project is a testament to the achievable beauty of a congenial blend between urban renewal and nature.
Barangaroo Reserve is a 14-acre natural sanctuary created with a mission to restore the endemic trees, plants and shrubs of the area. Join a walking tour through the picturesque reserve and learn about the different plants and their uses, led by a knowledgeable Aboriginal guide.
Barangaroo Waterfront Dining
Head down past Nawi Cove for exceptional Barangaroo dining. The strip directly facing the waterfront features ten unique, carefully selected restaurants showcasing some of Sydney’s best local cuisine.
Indulge in Turkish share plates bursting with fresh flavors at Anason, and top it off with an authentic Baklava pastry. Treat your tastebuds to a feast of eclectic Australian flavors with an eight course tasting menu at Bea Restaurant, housed in the unique Barangaroo House. Pair your delectable dishes such as seared swordfish with bone marrow and wild barramundi with apple and brown butter with premium Australian wines. Order the Rocky Road for dessert for a chocolate experience out of this world!
Explore Sydney Harbour
Sydney is a world-class city with a harbour unparalleled in adventures to thrill history buffs, foodies and daredevils alike. The number of things to do around Sydney Harbour are countless and promise incredible experiences uniquely Australian.
Posted on: September 21st, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Things to Do on Phillip Island
Photo: 3B’s on Flickr
There’s a little slice of Australian paradise less than two hours away from Melbourne.
Think pristine beaches perfect for surfing, incredible wildlife in their natural habitat and untouched, breathtaking coasts.
One of the world’s largest colonies of fur seals and little penguins call this island home. The world-famous nightly Penguin Parade and Seal Rocks are premier attractions – you could almost say its the local wildlife that call the shots.
Combining the best features of Australia’s natural beauty with its own unique charms, Phillip Island is best explored at ease. Here’s our guide on things to do at Phillip Island.
Take in the Coastal Scenery
The sheer beauty of Phillip Island’s coasts will take you breath away – you’ll need something to grab on to.
Fortunately, the island features many coastal walks and trails, some complete with railed boardwalks.
Wander along Woolamai Surf Beach to the Cape Woolamai Trail for truly dramatic views of the Pinnacles. This two hour walk rewards you with sublime scenery – rolling green landscapes crumbling into jagged rocks known as the Pinnacles, jutting up from azure waters. You might spot some wildlife along the way, including echidnas, wallabies and dolphins. During whale watching season you might spot a migrating humpback!
Head to the westernmost point of the island past the Phillip Island Nature Parks toward Nobbies Centre. Stroll on the winding Nobbies Boardwalk stretching along the rugged southern coast. Turquoise waters crash against the green-clad rocks before you in a breathtaking display of coastal splendor.
From the boardwalk you can see Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest fur seal colony.
Cruise to Seal Rocks
Home to over 25,000 fur seals, Seal Rocks is a natural haven where seals sunbathe, frolic and play in the cool water.
Get a closer look at these friendly animals with a wilderness cruise out to Seal Rocks.
The boat drifts within yards to the seal colony. Younger seals will often swim up to the boat to get a closer look at you, peering up as you peer down.
Surrounded by hundreds of seals in the water, this close encounter with Australian wildlife is part of what makes Phillip Island so special.
Catch Some Salty Waves
Phillip Island’s dynamic coastline features spectacular beaches and rugged shores.
Calm, sheltered bays line the northern coast while wild surf breaks are found on the southern stretch of the island.
As you first cross into the island you’ll spot the curve of Cape Woolamai, a sweep of golden beach set against ancient pink granite cliffs. Woolamai Surf Beach is one of the state of Victoria’s most popular surfing beaches, with large curling waves attracting keen surfers. If you’re not one to pick up a surf board, the barreling waves are mesmerizing enough to simply gaze at from a soft spot of sand.
Get a dose of surfing and wildlife all in one at Summerland Beach. Home to the famous Phillip Island little penguins, this beach is also hugely popular with the surfing crowd for its consistent year-round waves. Wildlife and waves – it doesn’t get more Australian than that.
For swimming, you can’t go wrong with the seaside holiday vibe and shallow high tide of Cowes Beach. With changing rooms, showers and a picturesque jetty flanked by charming coastal eateries, Cowes Beach has everything set for the perfect beach day.
Stroll Through the Koala Conservation Centre
As a small haven of native Australian wildlife, no trip to Phillip Island is complete without visiting the Koala Conservation Centre.
This not-for-profit organization focuses on koala conservation and preserving their natural habitat. With knowledgeable rangers and educational information on display at the visitor center, the dedication and expertise of the Koala Conservation Centre will impress you.
Here you’ll come face to face with koalas in their natural habitat. Wander through Australian bushland on tree top boardwalks at branch-level with sinewy Eucalyptus trees. The koalas are blessed with over 14 acres of pristine wilderness to call home – not something you’ll see in most wildlife parks. You’ll spot them hanging high among the trees, munching on leaves or dozing the day away.
Take the Tree Top Koala Boardwalk for superb koala viewing. If they’re feeling active, they might climb down to lower branches only an arm’s length away from you. Many visitors report seeing up to 12 koalas in one visit!
Below the boardwalks you might also spot other native wildlife, including wallabies, echidnas, rainbow lorikeets and other exotic birds.
Explore Phillip Island Wildlife Park
Photo: Unbound Outbound
For more personal encounters with a larger array of Australia wildlife, head to the Phillip Island Wildlife Park. Here you can hand-feed free-roaming kangaroos, spot echidnas shuffling through grass and Tasmanian devils lazing about in the sun.
As home to some of Australia’s most unique wildlife, some of these animals you might’ve never known existed! With over 60 acres of diverse terrain, every creature has a perfect slice of land to call their own. Other animals you’ll find here include reptiles, wombats, dingoes, emus, cassowaries and quolls.
Pack a picnic lunch or enjoy some park snacks after meeting the furry locals. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to pick up a cute souvenir!
Visit Churchill Island
Churchill Island might just be the closest thing to traveling back in time.
Horse-drawn wagons roll past historic cottages set among tranquil gardens and orchards. Verdant green pastures are dotted with cows and sheep wandering from a restored 1850’s homestead.
Sleepy mornings on this sublime island give way to lively afternoons filled with hands-on farming demonstrations. Watch an authentic sheep shearing, learn how to crack a whip and how to milk a cow. Catch the working farm dogs herd the cheeky sheep back to the farm.
Grab a bite to eat at the Churchill Island Cafe, where country charm combined with local produce and breathtaking views of the sea create the loveliest dining experience.
Or browse over 40 stalls of fresh, local produce at the monthly Churchill Island Farmers Market. Pick up a treat to enjoy while you take in the panoramic views across the island.
Rustic splendor by the sea – Churchill Island is a quiet slice of paradise you never knew you needed.
See the Famous Penguin Parade
As the sun begins to set, the sands of Summerland Beach become a stretch of red carpet.
Crowds gather to catch a glimpse of the Phillip Island famous.
Out of the rolling curls of waves come forth hundreds of tiny tuxedoed penguins, waddling back home to their burrows in the beach.
The miniature size of these little penguins is cuteness overload. They grow to an average of 13 inches, though some may seem as small as the palm of your hand.
Phillip Island Nature Park oversees this nightly Penguin Parade, with the best seats in all the island on a custom-built viewing platform. You can get a closer look at the penguins in an underground viewing platform, where you’ll see them marching right past your eyes.
You won’t catch any paparazzi at this show. No photography is permitted to protect the penguins, as bright flashes might scare or blind them.
After all, the most remarkable wildlife interactions are best experienced as close to nature as possible.
Make the Trip to Phillip Island from Melbourne
Phillip Island makes for a perfect break a whole world away from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne. Get back to nature with native wildlife and unforgettable scenery.
Plus, how many people do you know that have seen a Penguin Parade?
Between Halls Gap and Melbourne is a region rich in Australia’s gold rush history, including the goldfields of Ballarat.
From a spectacular local food and art scene rivaling Melbourne’s and a splendid heritage backdrop, Ballarat is the perfect stop to enjoy the finer things in life.
Here are 10 adventures in Ballarat and surrounds to end your Australia road trip with a bang.
Hang Around Halls Gap for Breakfast
After downing a few cups of Joe throughout your travels in Australia, you’ll know there’s something special about Aussie coffee.
Fuel up for the day at Harvest, where the coffee maintains the Aussie standard of excellence. Fresh ingredients create a stellar breakfast menu highlighting the amazing local produce of the Grampians.
Favorites include the Bubble & Squeak (poached eggs and ham off the bone on a bed of potato and vegetable hash) and zesty corn fritters.
Harvest is a warm and inviting spot. Almost as good as a Melbourne cafe with much lovelier staff. Good food and would recommend the aptly named Bubble n Squeak.Janelle Galea
I’m a serious coffee snob, long black, hot n strong no sugar. So to my shock the coffee at Harvest was simply superb. I highly recommend this beautiful quaint little cafe on the edge of Halls Gap… the staff are amazing and ready to share their knowledge of the area from walks to wineries and more. The food was great and I’ll miss this little cafe. It would be awesome if it were to become your local. Check it out soon.Tony Meehan
See the Gold Rush Opulence of Ballarat on a Heritage Walk
After driving about two hours on the Western Highway from Halls Gap you’ll cross paths with Ballarat.
The Australian gold boom of the 1850’s completely transformed this small sheep station to a major town, now the third largest inland city in Australia.
As you travel closer to the heart of the city, the legacy of Ballarat’s gold rush becomes evident in the magnificent Victorian and Edwardian buildings lining the streets.
Stretch your legs after your drive and take on the heritage walking trails winding through the central heritage precinct.
You’ll find some of Australia’s most beautifully preserved colonial architecture such as the impressive Town Hall and Craig’s Royal Hotel in in Lydiard Street and historic monuments and statues along Sturt Street.
It was my great experience to see inside the Ballarat town hall during a heritage week. Loved all the decorations and all furniture back in gold era. I hope the council will keep the Victorian vibe in the hall and won’t put too much urbanism into our old town hall.Jolt Media
Explore the Ballarat Botanical Gardens
Step into the serenity of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, where rows of red, yellow and pink begonias decorate verdant lawns dotted with classical statues.
Towering trees providing ample shade along paved trails lead to the Robert Clark Conservatory. Here you’ll find the setting out of something in a wedding planner magazine.
Hydrangeas, fuchsias and pelargoniums bloom into a spectacle of purple, pink and red hues in the summer, while autumn boasts a gorgeous begonia display.
Walk down Prime Ministers Avenue past bronze busts honoring Australia’s past prime ministers, adding a unique historical touch to the gardens.
Wander through the carefully landscaped lawns and find Victorian marble statues from Italy placed throughout the gardens.
A highlight is the Sensory Garden, an interactive space where you can touch and smell different plants.
Best place to hang out or enjoy a morning walk. Green house is warm for having a break after run or exercise. This historical garden will give you about Ballarat in the past and so many kinds of plants. Marble Statues are amazingly beautiful. Just come to see something green. On weekend you can enjoy a farmer market along the lake, too.Hugo Krystal
Taste Your Way Through Ballarat’s Growing Food Scene
From authentic Spanish tapas to cozy cafes with exciting menus, Ballarat’s food scene will delight any foodie.
There’s no end to the delicious eateries featuring local produce – an unspoken requirement you’ll find throughout its restaurants.
Grab a slice of some of the region’s best pizza at The Forge Pizzeria. This local favorite delights in crafting unique pizzas. Think slow roasted pork, gorgonzola dolce and green apple slaw on your pie, or woodfired roast pumpkin, goats cheese and pine nuts. Definitely a must for any adventurous eater.
Relish in the colorful Spanish atmosphere at Meigas, where the tapas pack incredible flavors in every bite.
Never have I expect to find food this good outside of Melbourne. Yes if you look at the menu, it look kinda expensive but the serving size is very generous and it is worth every cents. The octopus was tender and seasoned just right with the paprika. The Lamb skewers, the meat is tender, slightly pink in the inside, the sauce to dip with is wonderful. Oh that beef cheek, you don’t need a knife to cut it. It is soft. The sauce and the mash underneath complement it perfectly. Overall all the food are perfect. Beside the food, the atmosphere, the deco and the service are excellent. Even we were sitting by the window, the waiter and waitress came by pretty often, making sure we are okay. Oh lastly for the drink, they have this one with the gin, citrus and cinnamon, you have to try it if you like gin. It is that good!Jenny Kwong
Sip on Locally Brewed Craft Beers
Craft beer enthusiasts may want to hold off on lunch and explore Ballarat’s growing craft beer scene. In a city where food and drink are an experience-based culture, beer lovers are sure to find their slice of heaven in Ballarat.
Get up close to the brewing process at Athletic Club Brewery, boasting an eclectic range of beer styles sure to pique your interest. Settle into one of the couches facing the beer vats behind a glass wall and sip on a choice draft brewed on site.
Head over to Hop Temple, slated as the city’s craft beer mecca. Unique decor, live music and friendly staff are just the beginning of Hop Temple’s highlights. With more beers than you can count on tap and a delicious menu that stands out on its own, this gem has something for everyone.
What is there not to love about this place? The walk through the alley to get to the entrance was a thrill, and when I opened the door, my mouth dropped open at the space aesthetics. My husband and I shared some scrumptious hot sides and a beer paddle as our afternoon tea. It was so relaxing sitting there in the cozy corner near the stairs, enjoying our food and beverages. Wished we stayed for dinner, but had prearranged to go elsewhere… hopefully we will be back soon.Helen Man
Visit Sensational Art Galleries
Ballarat’s mix of major galleries and smaller studios are home to spectacular masterpieces to impress any art buff.
The Art Gallery of Ballarat, considered one of the best regional galleries in all Australia, draws visitors even from Melbourne. Housed in the heritage precinct of Ballarat, you’ll find an incredible range of exhibits throughout the spacious gallery.
This is by far the best regional art gallery I have ever been too. Wonderfully set out, has a great selection of art and lots of different exhibits and themes. From classic to modern, sculptures to painting’s and photos plus some Comic art. Was blown away with how amazing it was and the staff were excellent too. The best thing of all was it’s free, I was so surprised that something so awesome could be free. Please make sure you make a donation though as this place deserves it. Definately recommended for all.Steve Pickwell
We were totally surprised at the quality of this art gallery. It is brilliant! The art collection is amazing. We certainly did not expect to see such a large variety of beautiful works of art by both well-known and less-known artists in a regional gallery. It was certainly worth spending time here!Anna Palmer
See Nuggets of Gold at the Gold Museum
Everything that glitters is indeed gold at the Gold Museum. This informative museum is the perfect introduction to Ballarat’s gold rush history, displaying an impressive collection of gold nuggets, gold artifacts and gold coins.
Discover the chronological history of the gold rush as it swept over this region of Australia, lending to the prosperity of Ballarat. Gaze over historic photos and carefully preserved articles of clothing from the era.
Very interesting and well set out, you get to see real pieces of history from mining to clothing and jewellery plus real nuggets! Something for everyone. I was told not to miss it and I’m glad I visited.Oxley Vic
A great place to learn about the history of the Ballarat gold fields and interesting details. The replica gold nuggets found are eye popping. If you have any interest in history this place is well worthwhile. Fascinating facts and information well presented and well worth a quick visit.C_and_J_Lewis
Pan for Gold at Sovereign Hill
So far we’ve only skimmed the surface of Ballarat’s heritage. It’s time to feel the rush of the gold mining excitement for yourself and travel back in time at Sovereign Hill.
This open air museum is a living, breathing replica of Ballarat in the 1850’s. Walk through Main Street, lined with shops and factories showcasing rare 19th century trades practiced by skilled artisan using original machinery of the times.
Learn to make your own candy, watch the processing and pouring of a spectacular gold ingot or buy a post card and send it off at the working post office.
Catch a show at the Victoria Theatre or hitch a ride on a horse-drawn coach. Try your hand at firing a musket or dress up in Victorian costumes and snap a photo as a unique souvenir. With staff always in character and even a large number of actors in costume roaming the streets, Sovereign Hill feels like the closest thing to a time machine.
But the one thing you absolutely must do is try your hand at panning for gold.
If you’re lucky, you might get to keep what you find!
Absolutely wonderful place to spend the day! There are delicious bakery’s, gold panning (I found quite a bit of it) candle making (you can colour your own candles!) you can have your name be on a ‘WANTED’ poster, you can make your own bath salt jar they sell amazing boiled sweets they take you on a self guided tour underground in the mines and they run a show were you get to watch someone pour gold (gold pouring) and that is only some of what you get to experience at Sovereign Hill I definitely recommend it I’d like to thank the guy at the gold panning for teaching us how to pan and even giving us a few specks of it! Thanks to all the staff for making our day wonderful!Bella Hales
Meet the Animals at Ballarat Wildlife Park
An Aussie road trip isn’t complete without at least a few wildlife encounters.
Situated on natural bush land, you’ll find a fantastic range of animals in the park, including some you may not have encountered in the wild just yet. Hand feed the kangaroos roaming around the grounds, spot exotic cassowaries, meet the cute spotted-tail quolls and get to know the resident wombats.
And of course – take a picture with a koala!
Hands down my favorite experience in Australia to date. The park is smallish, which gives it a cozy atmosphere and allows you plenty of time to explore each exhibit. The animals all appear happy and well taken care of – honestly if I could be one of the kangaroos in another life, I wouldn’t hesitate. Plus, the staff were all lovely (not something I necessarily expect from bigger zoos). We paid extra for the wombat encounter and it was definitely worth the money. Plus, feeding and cuddling with the kangaroos was such a great time. Can’t recommend highly enough!Brittany Lloyd
Soak in the Mineral Baths at Hepburn Springs
Unwind with an invigorating mineral soak in the baths of Hepburn Springs.
Just a slight detour northeast of Ballarat, Hepburn Springs is home to Australia’s largest concentration of mineral springs.
This lends to the many spas dotting the area, all fulfilling their promise to end your day on the highest note of relaxation.
Step into the healing warmth of mineral water with a night bath at The Mineral Spa. Intimate, adults-only and with breathtaking views into the countryside, this destination spa is one of the most acclaimed in all Australia.
My partner and I went on a Sunday. We did the early bird spa and the Radiance facial together. It was great as we were the only people in the spa so we were comfortably trying out all the different saunas and spas, and the facials were amazing. I can’t commend the massage therapists enough, they did an amazing job, so much so, that I fell asleep a couple of times. The refreshments throughout and at the end were a nice finishing touch. Would highly recommend and are definetely looking at planning another trip soon!Ms Blossom
End Your Australian Road Trip in Melbourne
Our epic Australian road trip has come to an end.
With countless things to see and do in regional Australia, this journey promises fantastic experiences and memories to last a lifetime.
Now one of Australia’s most iconic cities awaits. With its unique heritage and a growing food and art scene, Ballarat is the perfect precursor to the stylish city of Melbourne.
Want to Visit Ballarat, Australia?
Ballarat holds a fascinating history and treasures extending far beyond gold for the curious traveler.
Only a short distance away from Melbourne and an essential stop on an Aussie road trip, our Destination Specialists can make the visit happen!
Along this route you’ll find amazing ocean lookouts, food, wine culture, Australian wildlife, and the rugged outback. Adventure awaits on your road trip through the Grampians, Australia.
Get a great night’s sleep at your Port Campbell hotel and wake up early to drive to Halls Gap. Here are a few great adventures you can have along the way!
See the Sunrise at London Arch
Formally known as “London Bridge”, the London Arch hasn’t looked like its namesake since first arch collapsed in 1990. Arrive early to catch the sunrise as you watch the ocean crash against the shore. Take in the cliffs, clear water the the sense of power that slowly eroded these granite stacks into what they are today.
The bridge itself is gone, collapsed awhile ago. However the awesomeness of nature remains. Get there for first light, watch the sun come up. It will make you feel insignificant in the scale of time when you think how long it has taken to create this location. Weng C
Great view, like most other sights along the Great ocean road. But unlike the other sights, the bridge is more than just a rock in the water in my opinion. We came at dawn on the way to the Grampians after a night at portside motel in Port Campbell, so there wasn’t many people. This place would’ve been crowded during sunset I reckon. The sunrise was great even thought it came up from inland, and didn’t impede with photographing the bridge.Gordon L.
One of my favourites on the Great Ocean Road. Worth heading down to the beach to get a good idea of just how big these things areCavan Jordan
Explore The Grotto
The Grotto is a enchanting rock formation along the Great Ocean road. It is a naturally carved out cave standing about halfway up a cliff. You’ll find a paved path that leads to a staircase descending into a viewing area.
Beautiful spot with an easy walk to the viewing platform. Try getting there early or late in the day when there are less people and the sun is setting or rising, this will make for a more picturesque view and photo! The walk down is not suitable for disabled or prams as it is down a set of stairs.Oliver Bersani
Dont stop at the lookout, walk down the stops for the amazing photo through the grotto out into the ocean.Alex Voerman
Maybe my favourite stop on the Great Ocean Road – a small grotto where saltwater is left at high tide, it’s colourful, scenic, and much less crowded than Gibson Steps or the 12 Apostles (not that those aren’t great, either). Stop in, you won’t be disappointed.Aidan Leach
Spot Whales at Logan’s Beach
Find a spot at the viewing platform and be the first to catch a glimpse of a fluking southern right whale. Every year between June and October the whales return to their nursery along this coastline where they give birth and raise their calves. During peak season, June through September, they can often be seen just meters off the shore. Make sure you bring your binoculars!
Great views of the coastline from the wooden platform. Lots of room for visitors whale watching. A good sized carpark but it gets very busy during July-September & can be hard to get a park. A great spot for surfers & a nice beach for a walk along, the beach is un patrolled by Life guards. We were lucky to see quite a few whales frolicking around. A great spot for this between July-September. Bring your binoculars as well as a coat as it can be quite windy. sm05060
We have seen Southern Right Whales before but from a boat. But this was amazing to be lucky enough to see adults and calves so close in to the shore is incredible. We had traveled over 16,800 kilometres to see them and were not disappointed. This is a fantastic experience. Just remember that you will be outside and the weather will not necessarily be clement ! We experienced a cold, south westerly squall with rain and hail but that seemed fine to us to be privileged enough to see these beautiful creatures so close. The site has good car parking very close to the purpose built viewing platforms. Good information and interpretation boards. Also we found it to be a good social activity for the humans as we found people actually speaking to each other !!! We visited twice at different times on the same day and saw whales both times in mid September.John A.
Grab Breakfast in Warrnambool
After waking early to catch the sunrise and a little over an hour on the road, you are probably ready for a nice relaxing breakfast. Head The Pavilion in Warrnambool for great food with a view.
While in Warrnambool, you may want to stop at the Pronto Fine Food Merchants to pick up some gourmet food stuffs for a road-side picnic lunch and snacks.
Brilliant food, good quick service. Coffee is good. Not amazing. Best views in town though. Can get busy on weekends after 9 so worth calling ahead and booking a table.Julien Marr
My favourite chill out spot when I visit Warrnambool. If you’re lucky, you might see a seal and some stingraysKaren Luu Karen Luu
Meet Koalas, Emus and Kangaroos in Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
Koalas, emus, kangaroos, and waterbirds roam freely here inside an extinct volcano. As Victoria’s first National Park, Tower Hill is the ideal pace to experience the Australian bush, enjoy magnificent scenery and landscapes while getting up close and personal with some of Australia’s most iconic wildlife. You’ll also find amazing wildflowers in the spring time (late September to early December).
Loved this place. Take the time to look around when you first drive in – the rock formations are spectacular. Make sure to follow the posted speed limits- wildlife is all over the road. 😊 The walking trails are well signposted and give an indication of the length and difficulty involved with each walk. The peak walk is the ‘toughest’ but is worth it for the view. Keep your eyes open for different animals as you walk. We were lucky enough to visit on a misty afternoon and kangaroos, wallabies and parrots were in abundance.Dianne Hamilton
Interesting extinct volcano area. A variety of good walks, most rated as Easy. We did the Peak wall which is very steep on a properly formed concrete path /steps, great view from the top – however, not for those with breathing or heart problems! Also did the Lava walk and saw black wallabies and 2 koalas. Also enjoyed a very friendly Emu in the carpark, as well as others in the park. Visitor Centre is very informative.Denis Green
Step Back in Time in Port Fairy
If you have some time and enjoy learning the history of interesting places, continue on the Great Ocean Road to Port Fairy. If this is not of interest to you, head north towards Halls Gap to spend more time in the Grampians.
Port Fairy is a charming fishing village at the end of the Great Ocean Road and the last destination on Victoria’s famed Shipwreck Coast. There are over 7000 buildings of historical significance around Port Fairy. Two walking trails take you on historic adventures.
There is also an amazing array of fashion, art, craft, old books and all sorts of collectibles along Sackville Street in the center of Port Fairy.
Griffiths Island Lighthouse is also a popular stop.
Beautiful! One of the best places in Victoria to spend time with your family. It is a best place for people who love walking.Anil K.
Charming and idyllic tree lined streets, nestled in a location surrounded by the natural beauty of the great ocean rd and the grampians. Port Fairy has so much to offer people seeking peace, quiet and good choice of food and hospitalityDavid Y.
Enjoy the Finer Things in Hamilton
For those looking to get in a little culture on their Australian road trip, a detour to Hamilton is a must! Head to the Hamilton Gallery to immerse yourself in the vast range of international and Australian decorative art.
One of the best galleries I’ve ever been to. Fantastic mix of exhibits and artists. Absolutely lovely environment. Really high quality for the size of the town its attached to!Hayley Simons
Make a stop a Pierrepoint Vineyard, a family owned and operated vineyard, cellar door and B&B. The vineyard is managed with traditional care, and without the use of chemicals – you’ll see geese, ducks and chickens roaming free, controlling pests naturally.
Lovely small winery with great wine tasting and food platters on offer. Relaxing outdoor area with chickens and ducks to keep you companyEvan Groves
Hike Mt Sturgeon (Wurgarri)
Avid hikers might want to set aside a chunk of time to hike to the top of Mt. Sturgeon. After over an hour drive through the Victorian Outback, a 3 hour hike might be just what you need. The trail head can be found as you enter the Grampians National Park; about 5 minutes from Dunkeld. This hike is only suitable for fit and energetic walkers.
Depending on the conditions, it can involve water crossings, slippery surfaces and rock hopping. The summit offers panoramic views of the surrounding ranges and volcanic plains.
Nice walk up to the top and the views are amazing.Tim Sproule
Southern most tip of the Grampians and just outside the township of Dunkeld. Great place to visit either as a starting point to the Grampians, or on your way to the next destination.Lucas Pardo
Take a Picture at The Piccaninny
The view from the summit of the Piccaninny walk provides great views of Mt Abrupt and Dunkeld with its unique landscape. This .7 mile hike takes some people a half hour and others an hour and a half. The gradually climbing trail makes its way through open forest that provides stunning wildflower displays in the spring. It’s an easy walk until you get to the last 400 yards, which is fairly steep.
Learn About the Grampains Aboriginal Culture, Flora and Fauna at Brambuk
Brambuk – The National Park and Cultural Centre is a special place. Its multi award winning architecture interprets the traditional stories of the local Aboriginal people. Discover the culture of the Aboriginal communities of Western Victoria through multimedia shows, art exhibitions, artifact displays, cultural talks and lots of great activities such as didgeridoo music, traditional dance, basket weaving, boomerang throwing and painting.
You’ll often find kangaroos hanging around as well!
Great way to learn about the cultural history of Geriwald and the dreaming. Painting our own boomerangs and a lesson on how to throw them was a highlight. Enjoyed the tasting platter and wattleseed damper.Johanna de Kort
Very interesting information about the culture of the local aborigenee peoples, their lifestyle, their cultivating techniques and their moving history. Don’t forget to try the native flavoured ice-cream at the Cafe!Andreas Hurter
Wine in Great Western
Wine lovers will want to make the drive out to Great Western to visit two historic Victorian Wineries – Grampians Estate & Seppelt Cellar Door.
A James Halliday ‘Five Red Star’ winery, Grampians Estate has collected some 49 trophies with their elegant cool-climate shiraz and sparkling shiraz leading the way.
The cellar door offers wine tastings, wine tutorials, cheese platters, muffins and espresso coffee in a warm and friendly environment. Experienced staff will ensure your visit is a rewarding one.
Loved this place! We had a lovely wine tasting experience with Mich, who was funny, friendly, and knowledgeable. She shared the history of the area and the winery and walked us through each one of the wines. They had a wide range of sparkling, reds, whites, and dessert wines, so there’s likely everyone can find something they like. We liked most of their wines and we thought they were reasonable priced, plus they had a discount if you bought 6+ bottles. And they had a selection of very yummy snacks, in case you needed a quick bite. This is a great place and would highly recommend stopping by when heading up to the Grampians or on your way back to Melbourne.Alexandra Smith
Seppelt Cellar Door is famous for their heritage listed labyrinth of underground cellars known as “The Drives”. The Drives are the largest underground cellars in the Southern Hemisphere. Guided tours provide a fascinating glimpse into Victorian wine pioneering history. Tours take place every hour from 11am to 3pm. Night tours with dinner are also available.
The most amazing winery I’ve ever visited. The tour is mind blowing and the wines are some of Australia’s best ! It’s a must do ! Revisited recently and they have launched the 2018 Luxury collection – the 2016 Pinot Meunier is simply amazing and the 2018 Drumborg Riesling is going to wine awards!!! Kristy Daniel
Chase Waterfalls in Grampians National Park
You’ll find quite a few amazing waterfalls in Grampians National Park. Here are a few from which you can choose.
The serene Splitters Falls are just a short walk from Halls Gap in the Grampians. From the center of town, follow the path along Stony Creek to Venus Baths, a series of rock pools popular for toe-dipping on warm days. From here, take the stairs to the tranquil setting of Splitters Falls. Alternatively, take the short walk from Wonderland car park.
Beautiful waterfall, particularly after rain. Go in the spring and walk amongst the wildflowers!Rachael Warncke
A 1.2 mile hike along a steep trail ends in the spectacular view of water cascading over huge cliffs into a deep pool. Sit on a rock in the river and enjoy the view. These waterfalls flow all year round.
Alternatively, a viewing platform at the Bluff offers great views of MacKenzie Falls after a short, easy-access walk up a gentle grade.
Best waterfalls we have ever been to hands down. Spectacular!! Would love to come every year just to bath in the crystal clear cool waters. The Grampians is wonderful. Halls gap a lovely little town. Busy is peak seasons. The walk is all steps, bring water for the trip back up. You will need slight rests and moderately fit. Kids loved it!!!Linda Vaccaro
Just upstream from MacKenzie Falls, you’ll find Broken Falls. You don’t even have to leave the MacKezie Falls parking lot! Just follow the short path through open stringybark forest to the outlook on the edge of the gorge to catch sweeping views of the river tumbling over the wide dissipated waterfall.
The Broken Falls were not as impressive as the MacKenzie Falls. However the view was still quite nice as it has its own style of flowing water through a series of layers of rocks. Or I may say it is somewhat “softer” than the MacKenzie Falls. It is very close to the MacKenzie Falls, so it is worthwhile to have a look.Sin Yin LO
Hear Nothing in Silent Street, See Everything at the Pinnacle
Head to the Wonderland Car Park for a great 1.3 mile hike. Keep an eye out for native wildlife along the way, including koalas and kangaroos. Bring sturdy walking shoes as you may be doing some rock hopping along the way. You’ll ascend into the Grampians’ version of the Grand Canyon with its unique Australian rock formations.
My favorite part of the Wonderland Loop, the canyon type formation with the erosion and rock layers this was really interesting…And the path designed to allow hikers to climb through this area was just great. A must seeTony Meehan
Then you’ll continue through Silent Street.
Its a narrow 100m passage between 2 huge walls of rock. Pretty amazing. The moment you enter, it goes completely silent all around, not even the sound of wind! From here u are just 7-10 mins fr the Pinnacle. Might be a queue to get through bcos certain parts could be rather too narrow for 2 way traffic. You will only encounter this if u take the Wonderland trail.RS
Once you reach the Pinnacle lookout, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Halls Gap and the Grampians’ main peaks. For an easier route, walk from Sundial carpark via Devil’s Gap. You’ll miss the Grand Canyon and Silent Street, but you’ll still get the amazing view from the Pinnacle lookout.
Spectacular scenery during the walk is topped by the magical views from the peak. The grand canyon diversion is well worth the additional effort. The return trip from Wonderland Carpark took 1.5 hours (for a fit bloke walking at solid pace) which included 15 minutes rest at the top and brief photo stops along the way.Ben M
Overnight in Halls Gap
With so many things to do near Halls Gap, you may want to spend a few nights in this small township nestled between the soaring rocky mountain peaks of the Wonderland and Mount William Ranges. You’ll find a number of cafes and tourist shops facing the grassy areas by Stony Creek.
Your Australian Road Trip Continues!
In our next blog post, we’ll conclude with the journey from Halls Gap returning to the stylish city of Melbourne. You’ll travel through the Ballarat Goldfields to discover the fascinating history, opulence and excitement of the region.
Want to Visit the Grampians in Victoria, Australia?
If seeing the amazing Australian Outback and the Grampians is a bucket list item for you, let one of our Destination Specialist plan your perfect Australian road trip!
Posted on: July 10th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
People tend to have two reactions when it comes to Australian animals.
Either their faces light up at the thought of cute kangaroos and koalas, or they actually recoil in horror.
Though several Australian animals are considered dangerous, you’re more likely to get injured from a horse than a snake in Australia.
Over 80% of mammals and reptiles in Australia are found nowhere else on Earth. This makes for some truly fascinating creatures, some famous and others not as well known, to discover in Australia.
Here are 11 unique Australian animals, including some you may not know exist!
No one can resist the cuddly allure of koalas. These iconic Australia animals are marsupials, a kind of mammal that is born undeveloped and is carried in a pouch. Like all marsupials, including kangaroos, wombats and Tasmanian devils, baby koalas are called joeys.
Newborn koalas are called pinkies, born blind and about the size of a jellybean. After birth the pinkie immediately crawls into its mother’s pouch, where it’ll stay for 6 to 7 months. At around 9 to 10 months the joey leaves the pouch for good, ready to munch on a variety of eucalypts. The leaves of these trees are highly toxic and low on nutrition, requiring lots of energy to digest.
This is why koalas spend so much time snoozing so as to preserve energy – often sleeping up to 18-20 hours a day!
What sets the koala apart from other marsupials is that it has no tail. Nonetheless, koalas live high among eucalypts with ease. They mostly hang about in tall eucalypt forests and woodlands of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Contrary to popular belief, the koala is not a bear – though it’s certainly as cute as a teddy bear. Their cuddly exterior makes them appear docicle, and though koalas usually keep to themselves, they can attack if they feel threatened. If spotted in the wild, it’s best to keep a distance.
Where to See Koalas
One of the best places to see koalas in the wild is Kangaroo Island, a natural island sanctuary home to many of Australia’s native animals.
In the state of Queensland, sanctuaries and zoos allow you to hold koalas, so if you’re after that once-in-a-lifetime snapshot with a koala, be sure to do it in Queensland! It’s illegal to hold koalas anywhere else.
Tell anyone you’re going to Australia and one of the first things they’ll ask is if you’re going to feed the kangaroos. And you’ll most likely answer “Yes!”
These native Australian animals are marsupials as well as macropods, meaning “big foot.” Red kangaroos, tall and strongly built, are the largest marsupials and the largest Australian mammal, sometimes standing at over 6 feet tall. Other types of kangaroos include the eastern gray and Kangaroo Island kangaroos, both smaller and tamer than red kangaroos. Gray kangaroos live in the forests of Australia and Tasmania while red kangaroos are found in the eucalyptus woodlands of the Northern Territory.
An old legend about the origin of the name “kangaroo” states that when James Cook asked Aboriginals what these creatures were called, they answered “kangaroo” meaning “I don’t understand your question.”
Though this tale has been proven false, who can resist a good origin story?
Recent linguistic studies uncovered the word “gangurru” from the Aboriginal language of Guugu Yimidhirr, referring to a species of kangaroo and is very likely the source of its name.
Male kangaroos can be very aggressive toward each other, fighting over mates, but kangaroos generally keep to themselves and hop away on sight of a human. With powerful hind legs and a strong tail used as a sort of third leg for balancing, these creatures pack incredible kicks. They’re easily nature’s most skilled kick boxers.
Where to See Kangaroos
You’ll find kangaroos in nearly all Australian wildlife sanctuaries and zoos, but seeing them in the wild is a real special treat. You’re very likely to see them roaming throughout forested national parks with beaches, as well as along the side of the road on the outskirts of major cities. The best time to spot kangaroos in the wild is at dusk.
We’ll admit it – it’s kind of hard to tell wallabies and kangaroos apart. But it gets pretty easy once you see them side by side.
Wallabies are almost an exact miniature of kangaroos. Though they can measure up to 6 feet in height from head to tail, wallabies tend to be much smaller than kangaroos, which can reach up to 8 feet in height from head to tail.
Another way to tell wallabies and kangaroos apart is from their hind legs. Wallabies have more compact legs for moving through dense forest areas while kangaroos have knees and feet set wide apart. Though smaller, their legs allow for tremendous kicks when threatened and are also great for hopping at high speeds. They also tend to be more colorful than their larger cousins, with the yellow-footed wallaby boasting yellow-orange features across its coat.
There are roughly 30 different species of wallabies, grouped by their habitat: shrub wallabies, brush wallabies, and rock wallabies. Larger wallabies tend to be social animals, traveling in groups called mobs. As herbivores, wallabies mainly feast on grasses and plants including flowers, ferns and moss.
Wallabies as a whole are not an endangered species, but there are some species of rock wallabies as well as the banded-hare wallaby that are endangered.
Where to See Wallabies
You’re very likely to see wallabies bounding along the roads in the outskirts of major Australia cities. Locals even report wallabies hanging around gardens and backyards. You’re even likely to see them lying between grapevines of vineyards throughout the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Wildlife parks and zoos are the best spots for seeing wallabies, as these nimble creatures usually dash away at the sight of humans.
When early European settlers posted in Hobart, Tasmania, they came across a strange creature with frightening growls, high-pitched screeches and unearthly screams. Coupled with red ears and disturbingly wide jaws lined with sharp teeth, the settlers decided to call these creatures “devils.” This is how the Tasmanian devil got it’s name, though it may just be the cutest devil ever to grace Australia.
These small creatures almost look like a cross between a small dog and a bear. Their coarse dark fur and round ears give them a baby bear-like appearance, complete with a pudgy build. With a pouch to carry their young, a mother devils can nurse up to four devils at a time.
As the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial, they tend to eat carrion more than hunting live prey. Small native animals such as wallabies, wombats and possums are favorites, though they’ll also devour reptiles, birds and even sheep.
Though nocturnal, devils like to lay out and bask in the sun. They’re huge water lovers, wading and splashing about, even just sitting and laying in water to keep cool. Even devils can’t resist a lazy sunbathing day.
Once present in mainland Australia, Tasmanian devils are now only found on the island state of Tasmania. Loss of habitat and more recently Devil Facial Tumor Disease are the leading causes of declining numbers of devils, now listed as endangered. Though there are huge efforts to minimize the impact of this disease, it’s a difficult task, as this disease is highly contagious among devils. For these brash creatures that often fight over mates, a simple touch is all it takes for the disease to take hold.
Where to See Tasmanian Devils
Though it’s rare to see devils in the wild, you’re more likely to come across them in maintained wilderness refuges and wildlife parks. Some of our favorite places to see devils are the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo in northeastern Tasmania and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary just half an hour outside of Hobart.
These stout marsupials look like miniature bears with chunky cheeks. They grow up to 3 feet long and can weigh between 44 and 77 pounds. Their waddling walk and pudgy appearance make them seem slow and docile, but they can run up to 25 miles per hour. As highly territorial creatures, they attack when defending their territory. These nocturnal animals dwell in burrows dug with their long claws.
Like all marsupials, wombats possess a pouch where their young are nurtured for the first few months of life. Unlike most other marsupials, however, the wombat’s pouch faces backwards toward its rear. This is to prevent soil from getting into the pouch as the wombat burrows.
But this strange feature is nothing compared to its poo. Molded by the horizontal ridges of its large intestine, wombat poo is notorious for its cube shape. In this way, the wombat’s cube-shaped poo allows it to stay in place and mark its territory.
Where to see Wombats
You’re most likely to see wombats roaming Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, but it’s rare to see them out in the wild as they are nocturnal creatures. You’ll definitely find them in wildlife parks and zoos, with some offering the opportunity to pet and feed them.
As cute as a dog yet severely misunderstood, the dingo is one of Australia’s most controversial animals. The origin of these creatures is much debated, with recent studies suggesting that dingoes originally migrated from central Asia across land bridges over 18,000 years ago.
Intensely intuitive and intelligent, Houdini has nothing on dingoes. With incredible agility, flexible joints, rotating wrists and fantastic jumping, digging and climbing abilities, dingoes are the ultimate escape artists. They can even rotate their necks up to 180 degrees around. Imagine seeing your dog do that!
Though they share many characteristics with dogs, dingoes are decidedly not dogs at all. They are classed as a unique species called Canis dingo.
Highly individualistic and naturally cautious, dingoes are very curious but are more likely to avoid unfamiliar threats and confrontation. They tend to shy away from humans, rarely showing aggression or attacking.
Although rarely kept as pets, it is legal in the states of New South Wales, Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia to keep a pet dingo with a license. But doing so is not a light task – dingoes require large amounts of space, lots of bonding, and extensive training.
Where to see Dingoes
Most zoos and wildlife parks house dingoes, but if your heart is set on seeing them in the wild, head to Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland.
With teddy bear ears and tiny doe eyes, look for the happiest animal on Earth at Rottnest Island in Western Australia. This small macropod is in the same family as kangaroos and wallabies, with a Mona Lisa smile to add even more cuteness.
These nocturnal creatures are about as large as a common house cat and look like a tiny, chubby kangaroo. They also have a pouch where the baby joey lives in for six months.
When quokkas aren’t eating grasses, shrubs and leaves, they roam around Rottnest Island with the liberty and confidence of a tourist. With no natural predators or traffic on the island, quokkas have grown accustomed to humans and often make attempts to sneak into restaurants and campsites in search of food.
Though it may be tempting to give a quokka a snack, feeding quokkas human food is greatly discouraged. Attacks are extremely rare, but bites have been reported – usually when people are trying to feed them.
It’s also illegal to touch a quokka – they are wild animals after all – but snapshots and selfies are allowed, even highly sought after. As naturally inquisitive creatures, they have little fear of humans and will often approach people on their own, sporting a huge picture-perfect smile.
Where to see Quokkas
Your best chance to see quokkas in the wild will be in Rottnest Island, a popular holiday destination off the coast of Western Australia. This island boasts lovely white sand beaches, stunning coasts and sparkling bays with clear waters perfect for snorkeling.
You’re also very likely to see quokkas in zoos and wildlife parks throughout Australia.
The tree kangaroo is very much like a shy toddler hiding behind his mother’s leg. Solitary and elusive, there is still so much to learn about this marsupial. There are 12 known species of tree kangaroo, all looking quite different from each other. Some look like a woolly cross between a bear and a kangaroo with golden and red coats. Others have black and dark brown coats with smooth faces. They typically grow up to 3 feet tall and weigh up to 30 lbs depending on the species.
They dwell among the trees in tropical rainforests of the mountains in Queensland, New Guinea and surrounding islands. Though “kangaroo” is in their name, these creatures do much better among the trees than on the ground below. They hop just like kangaroos but rather awkwardly, leaning far forward to balance their long, heavy tail. They are more bold and agile in trees, hopping across branches with the help of their powerful hind legs and tail.
Tree kangaroos eat mostly fruit, leaves, tree bark and other foliage found in their rainforest habitat. Its average lifespan is unknown, but in captivity they can live for more than 20 years.
Where to see Tree Kangaroos
The only places you’re sure to see tree kangaroos are in zoos and wildlife parks throughout the state of Queensland. But if you’re lucky you might see them in the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns. You might also spot tree kangaroos on the Jungle Surfing tour in Daintree Rainforest!
Imagine being the first person to see a playtpus. Good luck trying to convince anyone that this creature is real! It doesn’t help that this elusive animal is hard to spot – its silvery brown fur blends within the glistening surfaces of the streams and rivers in its habitat.
The platypus is monotreme, a kind of mammal that lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young. There are only four other monotremes, the others being different species of echidnas, another animal endemic to Australia. It’s also one of the few species of venomous mammals in the world. Males have a spur on their hind legs capable of delivering a venom severely painful to humans, though nothing life-threatening.
These contrary features make it a wonder that the playtpus isn’t an extinct creature from long ago. In fact, when scientists first observed a preserved body of a platypus they thought it was fake, made of different animals parts sewn together.
Though the platypus is abundant in the wild, numbers are decreasing, bumping the platypus to a “near threatened” status.
Where to See a Platypus
The platypus is generally found in the riverbanks of Australia’s eastern coast as well as Tasmania. There are only a few wildlife sanctuaries in Australia that house platypus, including the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, and Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne.
A special tank called a platypusary is required for housing a platypus. For this reason there are no playtpus in captivity outside of Australia.
These special tanks allow you to see a platypus up close, where its twists and turns in the water will reveal its playful nature.
With a stocky body and a long tail, these spunky creatures are much like a cross between a Tasmanian Devil and a cat. Its white-spotted dark brown coat and dainty pink nose make it look like the star of a cartoon.
But these carnivorous marsupials mean business. Their sharp teeth delight in munching on birds, reptiles and small mammals such as bandicoots, possums and rabbits. Mainly nocturnal animals, quolls will sometimes bask in the sunshine, much like Tasmanian devils.
Females also grow a pouch where their young live for the first few months of life. Like wombats, their pouch opens toward the rear – only the spotted-tail quoll has a true pouch. Larger quolls live up to four to five years while smaller quolls have a lifespan of about two years.
There are four species of quoll native to Australia: the western quoll, eastern quoll, spotted-tail quoll and the northern quoll.
Listed as endangered, major conservation efforts are underway to help preserve quolls and reintroduce some species in the wild. Recently, conservation efforts have led to the successful birth of rare eastern quolls in the wild for the first time in half a century.
Where to See Quolls
Quolls are native to the eastern coast of Australia while eastern quolls are found only in Tasmania. You’re not very likely to see them in the wild outside of dedicated nature park refuges, so your best bet is to see them in wildlife parks and zoos.
It wouldn’t be surprising at all if lyrebirds are in fact robots in disguise. With incredible abilities to mimic chainsaws, camera shutters and toy guns, lyrebirds are easily one of Australia’s most impressive birds.
Some reports even swear to hearing lyrebirds mimic human speech.
Lyrebirds, found in the rainforests of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, pick up sounds from their surrounding environment. It’s able to recreate such fantastic sounds through the complex muscles of its syrinx. It takes up to one year for the lyrebird to hone its song, made up of calls from other birds. These vocalizations easily fool other birds, often responding to the lyrebird’s call.
And if such impressive tunes are not enough, male lyrebirds will display their gorgeous lyre-shaped plumes during courtship.
With such charming features, the lyrebird will surely win a mate.
There are two species of lyrebirds: the superb lyrebird and the Albert’s lyrebird, named after Prince Albert. As ground dwelling birds, they rarely take flight. Though the status of lyrebirds is “near threatened,” they are currently not an endangered species.
Where to See Lyrebirds
The lyrebirds at Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne love to show-off their songs to visitors. Spot wild lyrebirds in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, both just an hour away from Melbourne.
Want to See Australia’s Unique Wildlife?
Known for its array of fascinating native wildlife, a trip to Australia isn’t complete without at least petting a koala or kangaroo.
But once you step inside a wildlife park, you’ll discover so many more breathtaking Australian animals you might’ve not known existed.
If seeing Australia’s wildlife is a huge bucket list item for you, we know the best places for unforgettable wildlife experiences.