Australia is an adventure journey hotspot, with tours operating across the Outback and up and down the coastal fringes.
Some of the highlights for real adventurers are to be had in Tasmania, a state still covered in a significant amount of wilderness.
Roaring 40°s Ocean Kayaking, Oyster Cove Marina, Ferry Road, Kettering, Tasmania (tel. 03/6267 5000; www.roaring40skayaking.com.au), allows you to experience the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area via its waterways. Another option is to embark on one of the world's greatest adventures: rafting the untamed waters of the Franklin River (www.discovertasmania.com). This World Heritage-listed waterway carves its way through rugged and pristine rainforest wilderness. It's one of the world's best kayaking trips.
Hiring a four-wheel-drive car or campervan and "heading bush" (driving into the Outback) will make for more memorable experiences. Some of the best driving routes offering tours include:
- The Gibb River Road, Western Australia. This 700km (434 mile) route makes its way through the Kimberley region, a massive area of rugged red ranges, water holes, and remote. For more information, contact Australian Adventure Travel (tel. 1800/621 625 in Australia, or 08/9248 2355; www.safaris.net.au) or APT Kimberley Wilderness Adventure (tel. 1300/334 872 in Australia, or 03/9277 8555; www.kimberleywilderness.com.au).
- The Savannah Way, the Top End. The Savannah Way (www.savannahway.com.au) is a collection of linked outback roads and highways that link Cairns to Broome. This 3,700km (2,300-mile) route takes in 15 National Parks and five World Heritage areas. For information on tours, touch base with Oz Tours Safaris (tel. 1800/079 006 in Australia, or 07 4055 9535; www.oztours.com.au).
- Red Centre Way, the Red Centre. Another route worth exploring is the Red Centre Way from Alice Springs, which takes in Uluru, Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), and Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon). AAT Kings (tel. 1800 252 668 in Australia, or 07 4124 9943; www.aatkings.com.au) offers a variety of tours.
- Nullarbor Plain, Western Australia. Perhaps Australia's most famous Outback run though is from Adelaide to Perth, via the vast, almost treeless Nullarbor Plain. Tour operators heading out along this route include Crikey Adventure Tours (tel. 08/6201 5341; www.crikey-adventure-tours.com); and Adventure Tours (tel. 1800/068 886 in Australia, or 08 8132 8230; www.adventuretours.com.au).
Food & Wine Trips
Immigration has changed Sydney for the better in many ways, not least the food options available. As in other cosmopolitan cities around the world ethnic eateries and produce shops end up being clustered in particular areas of the city. Gourmet Safaris (tel. 02/8969 6555; www.gourmetsafaris.com.au) offers trips around Sydney to various culinary precincts. It's a very different way to get to know part of the city you may not have otherwise visited. The company also offers occasional gourmet trips around Australia.
In Melbourne, a good option is Melbourne Food Tours (tel. 0408/555 679; www.melbournefoodtours.com).
In Adleaide, Adelaide Top Food and Wine Tours (tel. 08/8386 0888; www.topfoodandwinetours.com.au) are a good bet for food tours around the city and wine tours to the local wine regions.
As for wine, we feature significant wine regions, and some of the tours that operate in those areas. Featuring more wine tourism options is the website www.winetoursdownunder.com.au.
Volunteer & Working Trips
Why don't you give something back on your vacation? Several organizations offer you the chance to do some voluntary work in Australia, such as helping to save endangered wildlife. Often there is a fee involved, to cover transportation, accommodation, meals, and so on.
If you wish to work with sick or injured native animals then you can work in a voluntary capacity at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (tel. 07/5526 2111; www.cws.org.au), on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (tel. 08/9380 9633; www.australianwildlife.org) offers the occasional option for volunteering on animal projects, such as saving endangered bandicoots on Sydney's North Head.
Real Gap Experience (tel. 1866/939-9088 in the United States, or 44/1892 701 884 worldwide; www.realgap.com/australia-rainforest-wildlife-volunteers) offers you the chance to work in rainforests and wildlife sanctuaries.
Australia is a walker's paradise, with plenty of options for the serious hiker as well as the occasional stroller. Plenty of tour companies offer you the chance to explore parts of Australia's vast Outback, national parks, and World Heritage areas with an experienced guide.
To whet your appetite, here are a few of Australia's most dramatic multi-day walking trails.
- The Larapinta Trail, Northern Territory. This 223km- (138 mile-) route winds its way from Alice Springs through the craggy West MacDonnell Ranges. It's divided into 12 1- to 2-day walks. Key attractions include Ormiston Gorge and Standley Chasm.
- The Overland Track, Tasmania. Perhaps Australia's most iconic bushwalk stretches for 75km (46 miles) through the alpine rainforests and plains of Tasmania. You stay in mountain huts along the way.
- The Heysen Trail, South Australia. This, the longest dedicated walking trail in Australia, travels for 1,200km (745 miles) through farmland, wine regions, and the Outback arid country of the Flinders Ranges.
- The Bibbulmun Track, Western Australia. This trekking route stretches for nearly 1,000km (620 miles) through the heart of the scenic southwest of Western Australia.
- The Great Ocean Walk, Victoria. This wonderful walk stretches for 91km (56 miles) via the bays, coves, and beaches of the Shipwreck Coast, while following the Great Ocean Road.
- Bay of Fires Walk, Tasmania. This dramatically named 4-day guided walk takes you through the pure-white-sand coastal wilderness of the Mount William National Park.
Tour operators offering a range of walking trips include World Expeditions (tel. 1300/720 000 in Australia, or 02 8270 8400), auswalk (tel. 03 5356 4971; www.auswalk.com.au); and Park Trek (tel. 03 9877 9540; www.parktrek.com); and Peregrine Adventures (tel. 1300 791 485 in Australia, or 03 8601 4422).
Queensland also has a series of walks worth looking into, including walks around Fraser Island, where you can see dingos in the wild. Visit www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks_and_forests/great_walks for information on Great Walks of Queensland.
Something I particularly recommend if you are visiting the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park is a guided walking tour with Aboriginal Blue Mountains Walkabout tel. 0408/443 822; (www.bluemountainswalkabout.com). Plenty of tour operators show visitors the area's awe-inspiring canyons, thick rainforest, and plunging waterfalls, but this unique tour is a thought-provoking journey with an Aboriginal guide. Expect ancient art and ceremonial sites, Dreamtime stories, ochre bark and body painting, bush tucker tasting, wildlife spotting, and a bath in a crystal clear billabong.
Like elsewhere in the world, Australia's spa industry has grown tremendously over the last few years. If you like to be pampered, then head to a day spa in a luxury hotel or one of the many scattered throughout the major cities.
Spa resorts are also growing in number, with several major ones opening recently. These include The Spa at Château Élan (www.chateauelan.com.au), in the Hunter Valley, NSW, and Emirates' Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa (www.wolganvalley.com), in the Blue Mountains, NSW. To find one near you, consult Day Spa Guide (www.dayspaguide.com.au), which claims to list every day spa and spa resort in Australia.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.