12 Epic Australian Adventures
There’s no denying the Granite Belt has done it pretty tough in the past couple of years, with bushfires tag-teaming drought. But all the myths you’ve heard about there being no water for showers and the like are all untrue, and only small sections of the region were damaged by fire. In fact, with the weather cooling it’s the perfect time to follow the Strange Bird Wine Trail. The region’s vignerons have an excellent rep for producing alternative varieties – those strange birds – and following the downloadable map will take you to Ridgemill Estate for saperavi and viognier, Golden Grove Estate for durif and barbara, and about 30 additional spots along the way. There’s plenty of other produce and hospitality to enjoy, too.
Discover more about the history of Australia in Booderee National Park, right near Jervis Bay. Booderee, or as it’s known in the local Dhurga language, Walawaani Njindjiwan Njin Booderee, is a spectacular spot blessed with pristine beaches (Green Patch Beach is pictured at the top of this page), historic sites and Australia’s only Indigenous-owned botanic gardens. It’s also where you join Galamban Aboriginal Tours to find out more about the local culture. Aunt Julie and her family offer a number of different experiences, including Bawa dung-arng (bushfoods, medicines and survival skills), Dgila-nung (weaving) and Dginngi nadgung, which means starry water and includes a spotlight stroll in the forest to a waterhole looking for nocturnal wildlife.
There are plenty of reasons to make a beeline for Stirling Range National Park: the perfect isolation, the rugged and remote mountain landscape, the carpet of wildflowers come spring and the challenging walk to Bluff Knoll. But, as you might have already guessed, it’s quite a long way from just about everything. Luckily you can base yourself at The Lily, a quirky property right on the edge of the park. Stay in one of the cute self-contained cottages or, even better, in a restored Dakota C-47 (the military version of the DC-3). As well as hosting travellers, owners Pleun and Hennie Hitzert grind wholemeal spelt flour in a Dutch windmill on the property and are happy to show guests how it’s done.
The images of flames shooting up the cliffs at Grose Valley were horrifying, but thankfully much of the Blue Mountains was unharmed by bushfire and the region is most definitely open for business. Get to see a part of it hidden to most who journey through for the quaint towns and outstanding views by joining High and Wild Australian Adventures for a day exploring deep into the landscape on a canyoning trip. Scramble, abseil, hike, climb and, when the weather is warmer, add wading, plunging into and swimming in rivers and waterfalls to the adventurous mix.
In the northeast corner of Tassie, bordering Ben Lomond National Park, you’ll find the ultimate getaway. The Creech is an old farm set on the banks of the South Esk River that has been completely transformed with the shearers’ quarters and a wool classer’s cottage converted into contemporary, cosy accommodation. Walk to waterfalls, ride horses into the mountains, go kayaking along the river, and enjoy the clubhouse and bar all miles away from the worries of the modern world.
The plight of koalas during the bushfires broke hearts around the world, but you can lend a hand to those who are caring for them in the aftermath. The Koala Hospital offers a 24/7 rescue operation and has been looking after the rehabilitation of a number of injured marsupials since the fires. You can drop in to the hospital every day to walk around the grounds, but there is also a daily guided tour at 3pm. While the koalas are being fed, a volunteer explains how they arrive in the hospital’s care, the issues they face and about koala conservation in general. Entry and tours are free, but donations are more than helpful. You can also ‘adopt’ a koala, either while you’re there or on the website.
Apart from being the largest system of inland waterways in the country, the Gippsland Lakes is a region of scenic perfection, outstanding beaches, quaint villages and top-notch fishing and boating. If you don’t have your own vessel, book your berth on Pam, a 64-foot ketch that goes for three-hour cruises daily from either Metung or Nungurner. The pearl lugger first sailed in 1901 with the name Dominion, before she was wrecked, rebuilt, assisted in World War II, then was sold off and abandoned. Current owners Dan and Wendy McLay found her in the Northern Territory in 1988, transported Pam back to Gippsland and completely restored her. Life’s a bit gentler for the old girl now as she sails around Raymond Island, Lake King and other local attractions, sometimes accompanied by pods of dolphins.
Just outside Canberra there’s a farmer who is growing black gold. No, he hasn’t worked out how to cultivate oil; instead he grows the French delicacy, Perigord truffles, beneath oak trees. The winter months are the best ones on The Truffle Farm. June to August is the height of the season for these expensive fungi, and visitors can go out with Jayson Mesman and his dog Samson each Saturday and Sunday to dig some up. The tour, which includes an introduction to truffles and a small tasting, takes 90 minutes. Add brunch before the expedition or a six-course lunch after to get the full earthy experience.
It’s not too long until the season begins at Thredbo – opening weekend starts on 6 June – and for the first time skiers and boarders will be able to get a new ride to the top of the mountain. Merritts Gondola will be the first of its kind on an Australian ski field and will whisk snow lovers from Thredbo village to the Cruiser area, which has terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers as well as access to some of the resort’s advanced trails. The best bit? It only takes six minutes to get there, rather than the previous 21 minutes. Just imagine how much more slope action you’re going to be able to get.
This is our idea of three perfect hours. Glide across the waves with the epic coastline of Kangaroo Island in view, and slow down when seals are spotted on the rocks or sea eagles swoop overhead. As part of the Island Explorer Tour with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures you’ll also have the chance to swim with wild bottlenose dolphins, who often appear in a shallow turquoise bay. It’s a year-round option, and even if you don’t feel like getting wet, the curious marine mammals often swim and play around the boat to the amusement of those who stay on board.
For those who like fast cars and good times, buckle up in a Ferrari 488 GTB or Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 and take an exhilarating drive through the Adelaide Hills into the Barossa Valley. You’ll stop at the Bird In Hand Winery for morning tea, before Hentley Farm Restaurant hosts the group for a five-course degustation lunch. There are stops at other wineries and distilleries along the way, too. (Seriously, you need to bring someone who doesn’t mind being the designated driver.) Each Prancing Horse Supercar Drive Day hosts a max of four luxe autos led by a dedicated vehicle offering support using a two-way radio. The base is gorgeous Mount Lofty House, so think about tacking on an extra couple of days to add to the decadence.
Look, we are definitely not going to hold your Man From Snowy River fantasy against you. In fact, here’s an amazing way to play it out. At Spring Spur in Victoria’s High Country you can spend the weekend discovering alpine valleys on horseback. And whether you’re a beginner rider or have calluses on your butt, there’s a sturdy, mountain-bred horse to take you through the terrain. At night, you’ll gather for meals in the Riders Lounge before retiring to the modern homestead accommodation. Ready to rough it? Spring Spur also hosts multiday pack rides starting in late spring when the wildflowers are in full bloom.