Australia vs The World
Well, that idea can float off
You’ve had to put on hold a homestay with the Uros people of Peru’s enormous Lake Titicaca, who have been living on floating reed islands for hundreds of years.
Lucky you’ll be swept away…
When you visit a Yolngu Homeland and become part of the community. After being welcomed, you’ll slot into life in East Arnhem Land, a place so beautiful you’ll never want to leave. There’s no set schedule, but you’ll be fully immersed in Traditional culture, perhaps going spear fishing, weaving a basket, learning how the Yidaki (didgeridoo) is made and played, or gathering bush food and medicines. As is the way in these parts, you might even head off in separate directions to your friends or family to take part in either men’s or women’s business. Lirrwi Tourism offers day tours, but to get the best experience choose one of the extended itineraries. Whatever you decide, you’ll come away with plenty of memories and new friends.
So much for snowtime splashing
You thought you’d spend part of the northern hemisphere winter immersed in natural hot springs staring out at snow-covered mountains in a Japanese resort town like Takayu Onsen.
Soak it up here instead
Take to the waters in the heat of the Northern Territory at Bitter Springs and Mataranka Thermal Pool. Set in the Elsey National Park, made famous in Jeannie Gunn’s book We of the Never Never, the two swimming spots offer very different experiences. Mataranka is more developed and extremely popular, so get there early if you want some peace and quiet. Bitter Springs is a much more natural affair. Jump in where the springs pour warm water – it’s about 31°C – into Little Roper River and go with the flow, letting the current carry you beneath fan palms and ferns to the next swimming area. When you stop drifting, hop out, walk back and start again. It’s only about a couple of hundred metres but it’ll leave you feeling like a new traveller. Bring your goggles or snorkel, too – the clear water is home to freshwater turtles.
Well, that idea’s gone dark
Forget about taking in wildlife during the day and star-filled skies as the sun disappears over Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve, the first place in the world to achieve Gold Tier status from the International Dark-Sky Association. The safari tents at Wolwedans Dune Camp, with their loungers on timber decks perfect for late-night stargazing, will have to wait.
This one will light up your life
Go on a road trip to Coonabarabran in New South Wales’ central west to visit the southern hemisphere’s first Dark Sky Park at Warrumbungle National Park. Unimpeded by any artificial light, the millions of stars above are free to do their sparkling stuff. The best way to enjoy it is to sort out a spot in the campground, book a stargazing session with Donna the astronomer at Milroy Observatory (milroyobservatory.com.au) then go back to your tent, pull your swag out into the open and fall asleep as you stare up at the Milky Way while listening to the call of the southern boobook owl.
It was the dive trip of a lifetime
Sorry, but surrounding yourself with 1,220 square kilometres of pristine marine park and jumping in with sharks, mantas and marine creatures at Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat will need to go back on your travel to-do list.
But this one makes a bigger splash
Avoid the crowds at Australia’s best scuba destination. Christmas Island, which is set at the edge of the Indian Ocean’s deepest trench, has more than 60 different dive sites, most of them very close to the shore. Stick to coral gardens and admire the beautiful parrotfish, gropers, angelfish and eels or drop off a wall to swim with the big boys. Barracuda, reef sharks, turtles and dolphins are common, hammerheads and mola molas sometimes make a showing, and whale sharks migrate through here between November and April. Book a package at Swell Lodge and you’ll sleep with the sound of waves outside the door of your sweet suite, enjoy all sorts of activities on land – walks to waterfalls, birdwatching, yoga – and revel in four days of unbelievable underwater action. Oh, and time your visit right and you might get to witness the migration of 50 million red land crabs. The great scurry takes place whenever the first wet season rains fall, some time between October and January.
No volcanoes for you
Put off trekking across Java to explore some of its active volcanoes for a later date, when you’ll climb Merapi during the night to reach the top at sunrise. That’s some adventure.
Instead there's a whole lotta lava
Step into prehistory in Queensland. The Undara Lava Tubes, about four hours’ drive southwest of Cairns, are huge caverns formed by volcanic activity about 200,000 years ago. Way back then a single volcano – you can still see its enormous crater – spewed 23 cubic kilometres of red-hot basalt into the environment. It cooled quickly on the outside, but remained liquid in the centre, leaving more than 160 kilometres of impressive hollows beneath the earth’s surface. Some are 10 metres high and 20 metres across and you can go walking through them, marvelling all the while at what is thought to be the world’s most extensive series of lava tubes in the world. Wanna explore some more? Stay overnight in rooms set in old train carriages.
Safari so good
Maybe next year you can throw caution to the wind, fly to Tanzania and get back to basics on safari. Apart from the amazing wildlife you might see near Kwihala Camp in Ruaha National Park – lions are definitely the stars here – what else do you need apart from a comfy tent, good meals and a sundowner.
A whole bunch of croc
Lucky for us we can head out of Darwin for an unforgettable overnight adventure. Top End Safari Camp is part of Matt Wright’s portfolio – he’s the Outback Wrangler, as seen on the National Geographic Channel – and you’re guaranteed fun. Bell tents are set on wooden decks near the Finniss River, but you’re unlikely to spend much time in them. Set off on a scenic helicopter ride, fang around floodplains in an airboat and, while there are no lions in this part of the world, you’ll see plenty of saltwater crocs. You’ll spot them in the wild but can also feed some of the rescue crocs, including Tripod, so named because he lost a leg to a trap. There’s a gourmet barbecue around the fire pit at the end of the day – c’mon, would it be Australia otherwise? – followed by tall tales and stargazing before you slope off to your tent for the night.
U.S. ahhh, no you don't
Minnesota’s Boundary Waters is a wilderness area with almost 2,000 kilometres of water routes to explore. It’s also almost half a million hectares, so put a guided trip with Moose Track Adventures on your wish list.
Local paddle power
Put your vessel in the Glenelg River at Dartmoor in southwest Victoria then follow it downstream for about 75 kilometres to the river mouth at Nelson. You’ll float through the spectacular limestone gorge forged by the moving water, stay at campsites reserved for those travelling by canoe and kayak, and throw in a line to see if you can catch your dinner. Most of the four-day journey cuts through Lower Glenelg National Park, which also has some great walks – look for emus, kangaroos and the koalas who languish in the river gums – and is home to the Princess Margaret Rose Cave and its rare cave coral formations.
Texas will have to wait
The work of Donald Judd is set in fields and abandoned buildings surrounding Texas’s high desert town of Marfa. It’s not going anywhere.
Throw some shade
Make tracks to Western Australia’s goldfields region to see what Sir Ian McKellen describes as “one of the greatest artistic installations I’ve ever seen”. This area was given its European name thanks to Robert Ballard, who managed goldmining leases in North Coolgardie in the late 1800s. And Lake Ballard would likely have remained an obscure salt flat northeast of Perth if it weren’t for Antony Gormley. Invited to create a work for the Perth International Arts Festival in 2003, the sculptor chose this spot to show it. He installed 51 metal figures, as a whole called Inside Australia, created using body scans of locals from nearby Menzies. They inhabit 10 square kilometres of the shimmering saltpan, throwing epic shadows and creating an almost mythical experience for those who visit.
There’ll be no coming in on the 12.30 flight
Still, we wouldn’t mind chilling out with the turtles in Robinson Crusoe style at Azura Quilalea Private Island off Mozambique some time.
But it’s gonna take a lot to drag us away from…
Living out all our Castaway fantasies – minus the whole plane crash/being lost for four years/only friend is a volleyball sitch – in luxurious bliss on Haggerstone Island. This tiny private island, off the coast of furthest Far North Queensland (it’s so far north it’s closer to Port Moresby than it is to Cairns), has just five beachfront villas, all with luxe-rustic, Africa-meets-PNG style more often associated with chic safari camps. They’ve been created by owners Roy and Anna Turner, who arrived here in 1985 and built the entire resort by hand. Daily excursions in the 40-foot speedboat take guests to reefs where they can snorkel or try to catch their own dinner, either with a line or speargun. For something really special, call in the big guns for a helicopter ride to waterfalls, deserted cays or rivers filled with fish. The delicious meals consist of what comes from the ocean or is grown in the island’s plentiful orchard. This really is epitome of desert island living.
Put this one on ice
An eight-day jaunt in Portugal’s mountainous Ribatejo, Dão and Douro regions scoffing down exceptional wine and food with Paladares Travel.
Pop the top on this
Reroute to the Barossa Valley, where a magnificent 170-year-old winery offers a taste of your own history. Just 15 years after the first European settlers arrived in South Australia, Johanna and Joseph Seppelt began growing tobacco on a 158-hectare property he named Seppeltsfield in what we now call the Barossa Valley. By the late 1800s, though, the family was exporting wines and spirits back to England. Now the winery is particularly well-known for its fortified goodness; in fact, it’s the only winery in the world to release a 100-year-old, single vintage wine each year – its Seppeltsfield Tawny. It also has a complete and unbroken lineage of tawny port vintages dating from 1878 to the current day. And guess what? Book a Taste Your Birth Year experience and you’ll head to the Centennial Cellar with a wine educator, who’ll draw some of the vintage tawny created during your birth year from the barrel for you to imbibe. This might be the one time you wish you were older.
Pull up anchor
Island hopping in the northern hemisphere – Scotland, the Faroes, Iceland and more – on an expedition with Hurtigruten will need to go on the back burner.
Get on board with this
Cruise the South Australian coastline when you board True North for an eight-night Southern Safari tour. Beginning in Adelaide, your journey on the high seas actually kicks off with a trip inland to visit two local institutions: Penfolds Magill Estate and The Farm Eatery, home of beloved Australian cook, Maggie Beer. Once you’ve loaded up on wine and jam it’s full steam ahead to the vessel, which, amid welcome cocktails, canapes and cabin checks, sets course for Victor Harbour. From there, it’s a non-stop carousel of heart-stopping adventure, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, stunning natural scenery and all-out luxury. Highlights (if we had to pick just a few) include exploring Kangaroo Island, cage diving with great white sharks off Port Lincoln, reaching dazzling new heights on a helicopter flight over Coffin Bay National Park and visiting the lovely township of Streaky Bay. Combine that with an unwaveringly high level of service and impeccable modern Australian menu, and you may very well find departing in Ceduna to be a lot tougher than initially anticipated.
Forget the sin city scene
You’ll have to hit the Vegas slots, re-enact a few scenes from The Hangover then amp up the awe factor with a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon in 2021.
Get high over another canyon
Soar over the World Heritage-listed bushland and towering sandstone cliffs of New South Wales’ Capertee Valley. Did you know it’s the second largest canyon in the world (after the Grand Canyon, of course)? You can get some great views from spots like Pearsons Lookout, but for maximum eye-poppage book a scenic flight with Capertee Valley Helicopters. You’ll follow the curves of the canyon, drop low to check out areas of interest and take in all of this wonderful wilderness from above.
A travel card’s no good here
But we wouldn’t mind getting a ticket to journey across the top of the world by train on the Qinghai–Tibet Railway. It’s the highest train line in the world and offers some incredible scenery.
Rattle and roll in the outback
Stare out as the landscape changes from rolling green countryside to rich reds and rugged beauty. That’s what you’ll get when on board Spirit of the Outback, which travels 1,300 kilometres from Brisbane to Longreach and back twice a week (capacity is reduced at the moment to ensure social distancing). It stops briefly at towns like Emerald, Blackwater and Barcaldine, and it’s entirely up to you whether you stop over and explore Queensland history. The question is: are you happy to kick back in economy or is an upgrade in order? Private cabins come with seats that convert into a bed and provide access to a restaurant and lounge, where you can watch the world go by and meet fellow travellers.
Cancel the cannonball
Visitors to Mexico – that’s not us at the moment – love a subterranean waterhole. And there are thousands of cenotes dotted across Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
Strap on a tank instead
Grab your togs and make a beeline for South Australia’s Kilsby Sinkhole. This watery playground is located beneath a sheep farm just 15 minutes from Mount Gambier – the halfway point between Adelaide and Melbourne. Once only accessible to highly qualified cave divers or the South Australian Police (they use it as a training site), Kilsby is now open to all those who are brave enough to venture into its depths. Keep your feet dry on a sinkhole tour that covers everything from how it was formed to its history as a centre for secret weapons research, or take the plunge on a snorkelling or scuba diving adventure. All equipment – wetsuits, fins, masks – is provided, and experienced guides are on hand as you glide through the shimmering water. Be sure to toast your successful swim with a nip of Sinkhole Gin, inspired by the crystal-clear waters of the sinkhole and crafted using local native botanicals.
Put thoughts of Indian sunsets on hold
A houseboat on Kerala’s backwaters of Kerala, where you can float through canals, lagoons and lakes, is out of reach for now.
Say aye, aye captain
Float on the mighty Murray, one of the world’s longest navigable rivers, stretching from the Great Dividing Range in northeastern Victoria to near Adelaide in South Australia. At Murray River Houseboats you can choose from a small two-berth vessel to an architecturally designed five-star apartment on the water. The latter, aptly named Indulgence, has four bedrooms with queen beds, flat-screen TVs and sliding doors opening to private balconies. On the top deck is a 10-seat hydrotherapy spa with massage seats. Spend the days cruising past forests and ancient limestone cliffs, fishing, kayaking and swimming. The best bit is you don’t need a boat licence to skipper one.
Desert ship be damned
Take your Lawrence of Arabia dreams of rumbling through Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert on the back of a camel and put them on hold – just for now.
Join a walking caravan
Lace up your hiking boots and instead join a nine-day adventure, complete with camels, in the Flinders Ranges. You’ll carry your day pack, while the beasts making up your desert caravan cart all your food, clothing and swags – yep, you’ll be camping beneath the stars – through this remote region. Expect to walk for up to five hours each day, traipsing through landscapes covered in purple wildflowers, following immense rocky gorges and marvelling at the wildlife – it’s not unusual to see yellow-footed rock wallabies, flocks of emus and plenty of other smaller bird species.
Don't make a monkey of yourself
Put the Dian Fossey fantasies of picking your way through the dense Ugandan jungle in search of mountain gorillas to one side.
Track down an Aussie icon
Take part in an important research project helping to save the last natural population of disease-free Tasmanian devils. On the Devil Tracker Adventure, run by the dedicated team at Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, channel your inner conservationist and head deep into native bush near Taranna, along the Tasman Peninsula, to gain an incredible insight into how the at-risk devils are being tracked and monitored. Not only will you have the opportunity to record and observe devil behaviour and learn how to identify traces of nocturnal wildlife activity, you’ll also visit the hidden camera site and check out the latest imagery. With Devil Facial Tumour Disease devastating much of Tassie’s devil numbers, the ones still roaming wild in this region are vital to the ongoing survival of the species, making any data collected highly valuable. It’s an experience that well and truly beats your average day at the zoo, but most importantly you’re also a making a tangible difference to the environment.
A walk for later
South Africa’s first accredited hiking track, the two- to six-day Tsitsikamma Trail through ancient forest, gorges and rivers will welcome you another time.
One foot in front of the other
Challenge yourself with an epic nine-day hike with Trek Tasmania. The South Coast Track walking tour covers 91 kilometres of rugged World Heritage-listed wilderness. You’ll climb peaks that plunge into the Southern Ocean and cross meadows of wildflowers. This isn’t a ramble for the faint of heart, though. You’ll carry your 20-kilogram pack through dense rainforest and muddy moorlands and camp out for eight nights. But the rewards are plenty – not only are you walking in some of Australia’s most spectacular scenery, but there’s also that huge sense of achievement when you reach the end.
No lobster soup for you
Diving for conch and catching crays in the Bahamas with a guide from Abaco Beach Resort is but a mere post-Covid dream.
This is shucking heaven
Wade out into the waters off the Freycinet Peninsula in Tassie and eat fresh oysters straight from the shell with Oyster Bay Tours. The Freycinet Marine Farm is an 80-hectare area with two different growing regions. Pop on some waders and learn how oysters grow, have a shucking lesson, and eat the oysters you plucked from the sea. When your tour is over, head back to base where you can relax with a plate full of Pacific oysters and Tasmanian blue mussels paired with local wines. Have a travel companion who hates oysters? Not to worry. The scenery alone, and the information about the region is worth the trip – and, well, it’s just more oysters for you!
Put it in park for now
There’ll be no getting to grips with the rollercoaster ride that is Norway’s Atlanterhavsveien, otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean Road. Its nine kilometres of bridges and causeways connect the mainland to Averøy Island, taking in the rocky coastline, tiny islets and picturesque villages.
It’s pedal to the metal
Check out Western Australia’s coastline on what some people believe is the world’s best road trip. Start in Perth then head north along the Coral Coast Highway to, oh, Cape Range or thereabouts. Clock up about 3,500 kilometres in what takes 10 or so days. Given you’re going to want to stop at places like Kalbarri National Park, Shark Bay, Monkey Mia, Carnarvon and, of course, Ningaloo along the way, take your time. Explore those fringing reefs, hike those trails, frolic through those fields of wildflowers. Ten days? We might just take a few months to explore it all.
Put the basket down
For the moment, we’ll leave foraging for Cornwall’s seaweed, fungi, roots and berries to the folks at Fat Hen. They also cook a three-course lunch with the spoils, but we’re not going to talk about that.
Don’t forget to pick your lunch
Join Wadandi custodian Josh ‘Koomal’ Whiteland to fish and search for bush foods near Cape Naturaliste in the Margaret River region. He’ll tell you about the six Noongar seasons and how they guide the way the Wadandi forage and hunt, then stoke the fire for a beach barbecue where you’ll cook what you caught.
This dream has gone dark
The life of a lighthouse keeper in the Canary Islands at Faro Punta Cumplida on La Palma isn’t in your immediate cards. Book one of its three luxury suites for later when you can do laps of the infinity pool and conquer the 158 steps to the Sky High Mini Bar.
Become monarch of all you survey
Reach new heights in the Tasmanian wilderness at The Keep. Launched in July, this Scottish-style fortress sits on top of a 650-metre-high rocky pinnacle with 360-degree views of the Blue Tier Forest Reserve. It’s just you and the curious wildlife. Fill the huge granite bathtub set into boulders as the sun sets and watch for shooting stars or the beams from the Eddystone Point Lighthouse as you lie back and soak. Walk to Tasmania’s largest myrtle tree just 10 minutes away, have a picnic at a nearby creek or stoke the outdoor fireplace, grab a deck of cards and just relax.
Rays are so passe
Not really, we love them. But checking in to Anantara Kihavah Maldives and booking a snorkel with the awe-inspiring manta rays who visit will have to wait till next season.
Monotremes are where it’s at
We can’t promise you Penelope and Latisha, the resident platypuses at a rainforest billabong in Queensland’s Mackay region, will be around when you don scuba gear and jump in, but the chances are good. There aren’t many opportunities to dive in fresh water in Australia, so you should grab the one offered by Rainforest Scuba with both hands. Divemaster Luana Royale gives a rundown about platypus behaviour and the other wildlife you might find beneath the surface before getting in the water. There are turtles of all sizes, eels, catfish, plenty of other animals with gills and freshwater prawns. Best of all, there’s nothing dangerous in the water and you can spend as much time exploring as you like.
This one's a bit wobbly
We’ve got this trip on our one-day list: climb aboard your trusty velocipede and set out to explore the Oregon Beerway and its cult craft breweries with Beer Cycling.
On the straight and narrow
Get a taste of northeast Victoria while following the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. The self-guided, two-night trip from Beechworth to Bright takes in cellar doors, craft breweries, farm gates and plenty of postcard-perfect alpine scenery. There’s absolutely nothing to worry about though because it’s mostly downhill and, if you organise your ride with local company Tour de Vines, everything is organised for you. All the accommodation and meals are booked before you leave, luggage is transferred along the route, maps are provided and someone will even fetch that case of shiraz you couldn’t leave behind and deliver it to you at the end of the trail. All you need to do is pedal. In fact, you don’t even need to do that because you can choose an electric assist bike if it’s more your speed.
Stuck in the sand
Look, we’d really love to be getting our kicks going dune bashing during a desert safari in Oman’s Wahiba Sands. But, you know, bit hard at the moment.
Release your inner rev head
Take the wheel – so to speak – on a quad bike and fang it over the sand dunes near Port Stephens on the New South Wales Central Coast. Best of all Sand Dunes Adventures is owned and run by the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council, so you’ll get to see midden sites, find out about bush foods and dig for fresh water. The guides will also pass on their ancient stories about and the significance of the dunes. Plus, there’s the chance to sand board down one of the highest sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. You don’t need to have ridden a quad bike before; there’s a safety briefing before you head off and you’re free to just cruise along if adrenaline isn’t your thing.
Words Carrie Hutchinson
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