By Jennifer Adams, founder of TV travel series Places We Go, mother of 7 year-old daughter Charli, and lover of the adventurous life.
Our Best Australian Wilderness Destinations
Exploring the wilderness and getting back to nature has to be one of our favourite things to do as a nation. Spoiled with pristine wilderness from top to bottom, Australians love to escape their everyday lives and hit the refresh button somewhere in the great outdoors. The fresh air, wildlife, expansive forests, mountains and lakes all provide us with a new kind of energy, and a multitude of pursuits to explore it.
We as a family seek wilderness experiences most times we head away. We are attracted like magnets to the call of the bush – where there are so many secrets to discover, and where we feel like time stands still. Many times I have stood in an area of absolute untouched beauty and wondered if it looked exactly the same 100 years ago. Probably!
We are often asked for our favourite travel destinations around Australia but it always depends on what kind of holiday people want. For people who, like us, love experiencing the incredible wilderness Australia has to offer, here are our top picks.
Tasmania is one of our favourite states for these kinds of adventures. Its size makes it easy to travel around, and you can be in the Tarkine one day, and the East Coast the next. In fact, over one third of the island is protected as parks, reserves and world heritage areas so your biggest problem is always which corner to explore next.
Travel from the mainland is also made easier by the Spirit of Tasmania. Take your car and even your camper and you will be on the road towards your destination as soon as you arrive in Devonport after an extremely comfortable night enjoying the food, wine and entertainment on board.
Our favourite wilderness destinations in Tasmania have to be Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Park. We are drawn back to both time and time again, and are always assured of a unique, wilderness experience.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park has to be up there with the world’s best. An area filled with ancient rainforest, iconic craggy peaks, pristine lakes and waterfalls, and more wildlife than you can name, Cradle Mountain has it all.
Explore on foot to totally immerse yourself in the region. You can even do the famous multi-day Overland Track for the full experience. But there are a number of smaller walks available, from gentle to intrepid. One of our favourites is the Dove Lake circuit, an easy 6km route around the lake mostly on boardwalk, that offers views of Cradle Mountain and takes you past ancient Ballroom Forest, and the occasional platypus or echidna.
I love the history in the park too. When Austrian immigrant and botanist Gustav Weindorfer visited the area in 1910, he was quoted as saying; “This must be a National Park for the people for all time. It is magnificent, and people must know about it and enjoy it”. Over 100 years later, people still come to enjoy it and his vision has become a reality.
If you are exploring Tasmania’s East Coast, one of the destinations along the Great Eastern Drive is Freycinet National Park. Put on the tourist map largely because of it’s extremely famous beach, Wineglass Bay, it offers visitors this and so much more.
The first time we visited Freycinet, we got a lay of the land via kayak. On a paddling tour, we were able to navigate the coastline of the Freycinet Peninsula and see wilderness that we would otherwise be unable to reach.
The Hazards cliff range dominate the landscape here and in the glow of the sunrise or sunset, turn pink, a beautiful contrast to the waters of Great Oyster Bay.
Of course, the 45-minute walk to the lookout over Wineglass Bay has to be done and we also recommend sunrise or sunset to do this. Go at sunrise, and after you have been treated to one of the best views you will ever see from the top, head down the track onto the beach at Wineglass Bay itself. You might even have the pristine sand all to yourself.
Or, if you simply just want to relax and enjoy the surroundings of the wilderness, we recommend setting yourself up at the BIG4 Iluka on Freycinet Holiday Park in either a cabin or your tent/camper, and enjoying direct access to the safe-swimming Muirs Beach on Coles Bay. Pop up the road to Freycinet Marine Farm for some of the freshest seafood you can imagine (it is harvested on site) and bring it back to your accommodation for the ultimate in holiday relaxation.
Of course, there are many other parts of the country deserving of a mention when it comes to their wilderness experiences. Jindabyne in the NSW Snowy Mountains is one of them.
The Snowy Mountains themselves are the highest mountain range in Australia and home to the five highest peaks on the mainland. They host the largest alpine region in the country and two of our most famous ski resorts, Perisher and Thredbo, are both within 30km of the main township of Jindabyne.
The Snowies are also famously the setting for Banjo Patterson’s poem The man from Snowy River. With wild brumbies, vast, unforgiving land characterised by the snow gum, and stockmen heroes, the ‘Snowies’ are the very epitome of Australian wilderness.
We got a taste of our very own Man from Snowy River experience by visiting Snowy Wilderness, a vast property dedicated to the conservation and protection of the wild brumby. The horses are allowed to roam freely on the property without fear of culling, so it is the perfect environment to discover them. By horseback is the only way to go, and after some time exploring the wild and beautiful land, we were finally treated to a mob of the brumbies fleeing past us. A moment in time I will never forget.
Of course, all good Australian adventures should end with a cup of billy tea and this experience was no different.
Further south in Victoria, the Grampians National Park is another treasure when it comes to absolute pristine wilderness. Ranges of untouched landscape, Aboriginal history, and wilderness adventures are waiting to be discovered and we uncover a little bit at a time with each visit.
A few hours' drive north-west from Melbourne, the Grampians have long been the adventure playground for Victorians. With dramatic cliffs and sandstone rockfaces, rock climbing and abseiling are some of the favourites. But I love simply throwing on a pair of walking shoes and hitting some of the bushwalking trails.
There are routes for all ages and levels, and each one takes you through breathtaking nature and offer some of the most spectacular views.
This is a timeless landscape - and all visitors are lulled into a quiet respect for it.
I also recommend visiting Brambuk – The National Park and Cultural Centre in Halls Gap where your Grampians adventure will begin. This is the place to get your head around the landscape, wildlife and Aboriginal history that the park has to offer and understand where and how to best spend your time here.
All of our favourite wilderness destinations are suitable for young and old. We have travelled to all with both our young daughter and our older parents, and we have all found appropriate activities in each location to enable us to get the very most out of our time. Best of all, we have all been able to shirk the trappings of our everyday lives and re-connect, with both ourselves, each other, and nature. And that’s the beauty of the wilderness.
For more travel inspiration go to www.placeswego.com
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