Located an hour north of Brisbane on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Australia Zoo is a team of passionate conservationists working around-the-clock to deliver an animal experience like no other. Established in 1970, the zoo soared to prominence when Steve Irwin and his wife Terri took over the reins from Steve’s father in the 1990s. The 100-acre site is popular with travellers for its vast collection of animals – more than one hundred different species, in fact. Animal shows pepper the day, allowing visitors to get up-close-and-personal, while guests are also able to hand-feed kangaroos in Roo Heaven. But what you see on the site is just the surface of what the team do. Together, the staff are looking to develop new levels of conservation techniques and strategies for the protection of the world’s environment.
The Blue Mountains in New South Wales draw crowds all year round thanks to its mountainous beauty and rich Aboriginal history. Located within a World Heritage area, the Blue Mountains offer a romantic retreat for couples, as well as for adventurists seeking a spot of bushwalking or golf. The range gets its name from the characteristic blue haze which forms from the mixing of sunlight with drops of oil released by the resident eucalypts. Its most famous landmark is The Three Sisters, a trio of unusual rock formations with their own Aboriginal dream-time legend behind them.
Calypso Star Charters – Shark Cage Diving
Established in 1990 by an avid game fisherman, Calypso Star Charters offers the once-in-a-lifetime experience of viewing Great White Sharks in their natural habitat off Port Lincoln, South Australia. The company is particularly popular with backpackers for its one-day shark cage diving charters, while sea lion tours are also available. Taking on new owners in 2006, the team brought in a new vessel which boasts live footage streamed from the cage straight to the saloon so travellers don’t miss out on any of the action. There’s also a huge bridge deck for shark spotting, and a six-person shark cage. Not only that, but the team work closely with The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to help conduct research into Great White Sharks.
Stretching over an area of 184,000 hectares, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. The World Heritage Site, just off the coast from Queensland’s Hervey Bay, is a monumental part of Australia’s natural and cultural heritage, as well as a place of exceptional beauty. Long, uninterrupted white beaches flanked by sand cliffs and freshwater lakes characterise the island, while it’s the only place in the world to have tall rainforests growing on sand dunes at elevations of more than 200m. There are many ways for travellers to get the most out of the island, with regular tours departing from Hervey Bay. Alternatively, you can hire a 4WD, take a cruise, hike, or fly over.
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef needs little introduction: known worldwide for its abundance of marine life and tropical islands, travellers descend in their droves for a chance to snorkel, scuba dive or sail across one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The World Heritage site stretches for more than 2,000 kilometres down the Queensland coast, and is made up of over 3,000 individual reefs and 100 islands. It’s also the largest coral reef system in the world, with islands arguably the closest thing you’ll get to paradise.
Great Ocean Road
Noted as one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road takes in a 243km- stretch of road along the south-eastern coast, between Torquay and Allansford. Surfing, sea kayaking, and cultural attractions line the drive, ensuring there’s something to see and do for every kind of traveller. It also leads people past isolated beaches, pockets of rainforest, and seaside towns so that backpackers can carve out their own itinerary. One of the most iconic sights along the way is the 12 Apostles – rock stacks that rise up out of the Southern Ocean.
Kakadu National Park
Located 240km east of Darwin in Australia’s tropical north, Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest terrestrial national park. It covers almost 20,000sqkm and is a place of enormous ecological and biological diversity. Its range of landscapes are home to a range of rare and endemic plants and animals, including more than one third of Australia’s bird species and one-quarter of its freshwater and estuarine fish species. The site was also added to the World Heritage listing in 1981.
Often considered one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world, the vibrant Sydney Harbour is alive with ferries, yachts – and even kayaks. A natural playground for locals and travellers alike, the harbour is used for swimming and diving, while visitors are also able to walk around its foreshore. Also home to iconic sights such as the Sydney Opera House and Bridge, the harbour is recognisable worldwide, most memorably as the scene of the city’s New Year Eve celebrations.
Uluru – Red Centre
Rising 348m from the desert in the deep centre of Australia, Uluru is perhaps the most recognisable Aboriginal site in the country. Rich in rugged outback beauty, Uluru is accessible via all types of transport: from a motorcycle to a helicopter flight or from the back of a camel. Where the heart of the Outback beats, the World Heritage-listed site is one of Australia’s most iconic symbols, where indigenous culture and spirituality come to life. Travellers are able to learn more about its history and traditions with an Aboriginal guide, and can even camp out under the stars.