By Jennifer Adams, founder of TV travel series Places We Go, mother of 7 year-old daughter Charli, and lover of the adventurous life.
Top Aussie Adventures
By Jen Adams from Places We Go
When it comes to Australia, adventure is the name of the game. The country is built for it. With our enormous expanse of diverse (and beautiful) landscapes, our naturally intrepid psyches and the scope of incredible tourism operators who can enable us, the sky really is the limit when it comes to adventure.
We have spent the past seven years travelling around Australia. After covering so much of it with an initial ‘Great Aussie Drive’ in which we circumnavigated the country, we totally fell in love with our own backyard and have been exploring ever since. The outback, the alpine regions, the coastline, the tropics… you name it, Australia has it and there is adventure to be found in every corner.
When we are asked what our favourite adventures are, our minds boggle. It is extremely hard to compare one to another – they are all different in their own way and we always say that you get as much out of something as you are prepared to put in.
It is also important to remember that adventures come with highs and lows. I think that’s the beauty, the challenge, and the reward in them. We have had our share of flat tyres in the middle of outback tracks. We have locked keys in the car. Accidently put the wrong kind of petrol in. Had breakdowns. Medical emergencies. And adverse weather. It’s how we got through those situations that stands out to me and we can recount each mishap now with a smile on our faces.
And of course, the highs always outweigh the lows. Making it to your destination, seeing the sun rise or set over a unique horizon, conquering that mountain, or spotting that rare species – that’s what keeps us coming back for more.
Our very favourite Aussie adventures include a mix of driving adventures, outback experiences, train journeys, wilderness explorations and wildlife safaris. You can find it all here, in this amazing country of ours.
1. Travelling through the heart of the Kimberley on the Gibb River Road
The Kimberley is known as the final frontier, for very good reason. Up in Australia’s far north-west, it is a huge area with relatively little known about it. As most of us live on or near the East Coast, it is one of the furthest places to travel in Australia, and because of this, many of its treasures are like hidden secrets.
We’ve all heard of Broome, famous for the amazing Cable Beach, sunsets and camel rides. It’s the perfect (and most spectacular) place to begin an adventure in the Kimberley. Broome is a beautiful holiday but if you can spare the time to head inland to explore, we promise you it will be worth it.
The Kimberley is around twice the size of Victoria. If you choose to drive it, yes, you do spend lots of time in the car. But the scenery outside your window, dominated by rich, red and rugged escarpments, an enormous blue sky and iconic boab trees will keep you more than enthralled. The 660km long Gibb River Road cuts right through the heart of it, a former beef cattle route, it is largely unpaved and has a notorious reputation, however is completely driveable if you prepare well and use common sense. If you prefer to leave it to the experts, there are many experienced and expert tour companies with custom built 4WD’s you can jump on board with.
The beauty of the track is that it is dotted with incredible natural wonders to stop at along the way. Hidden treasures lie on either side of the road just waiting to be discovered.
One of the first you will come across if travelling from Broome is Tunnel Creek – where your adventure will take you wading through the cool waters that line a 750m natural tunnel in the Napier Range, famous as the hideout for Aboriginal bushranger Jandamarra. The tunnel will lead you to a natural and peaceful oasis on the other side.
Windjana Gorge, a little further down the road, will equally stun you with its epic, vertical cliffs that tower above cool sand and the tranquil Lennard River where freshwater crocodiles love to relax along the banks.
Bell Gorge is yet another treasure, where a walk through the Kimberley’s unique vegetation will lead you to the gorge walls and series of tiered waterfalls. If you make your way down the cliffs to the bottom, you are treated to a very rewarding and refreshing swim in a spectacular natural swimming hole.
The Kimberley is not short on incredible waterfalls. Further down the Gibb, and up the Kalumbaru Road to the Mitchell Plateau, one of my favourite Australian adventures awaits; spending the day walking into the famed Mitchell Falls. Through Livistona Palm forests, past Wandjina and Bradshaw Art galleries (Aboriginal occupation in this area dates back to 60,000 years), via magnificent Little and Big Mertens Falls, and finally to the jewel in the Kimberley’s crown, Mitchell Falls. These four-tiered falls are nothing short of spectacular and if you can manage it, a helicopter flight over the falls to finish, will cap off your amazing adventure here.
There are more things to discover in the region, such as El Questro Wilderness Park, the Bungle Bungles, plenty more gorges, and some great accommodation on both genuine outback stations and in wilderness camps. Literally the options are endless for one of the best Australian adventures of your life.
2. Discover Mary River and Kakadu National Park
Less than an hour and a half down the sealed highway from Darwin you will find yourself in Mary River. You pass through it on your way to Kakadu, which is roughly only another hour further down the road, and if you are travelling that way, we highly recommend you stop and include it on your Top End adventure.
If you blinked while you were driving, you might actually miss Mary River. But, like many great adventures in this huge country of ours, all of its treasures lie hidden from the main road, just waiting to be discovered.
Mary River itself is the perfect place to begin. A guided boat cruise along its lazy waters will introduce you to the incredible vegetation and wildlife in the area. Mary River is home to the densest population of saltwater crocodiles in the country and you should definitely get your first glimpses of our largest reptiles here in these waters.
A little down the road is the Corrobboree Billabong, and I strongly recommend you set your alarm, get up before dawn and head out on a guided sunrise boat trip on its waters. As the sun rises, the land wakes up. The sounds of birds start to fill the air around you and the sunlight starts to reveal an incredible scale of bird and animal life on, in and around the water. A scene of crocodiles, jabirus, flocks of magpie geese, and beautiful, tropical vegetation are all revealed when the fog from the billabong starts to lift like magic. And if you throw a line in, you might even catch the prize of the north, a big barramundi.
If you are into four-wheel-driving, then Mary River has some amazing 4WD tracks to complete your adventure. We took Hardies 4WD track, which lead us past spectacular billabongs, through termite mound ‘graveyards’ which towered well above our car, and across thrilling river crossings.
Of course, Mary River can just be the entrée to your Top End adventure and Kakadu National Park further along the Arnhem Highway, is the main course.
Discover epic Aboriginal Art Galleries, with some of the best and oldest art collections in Australia. Between Nourlangie and Ubirr sites, you are spoiled for choice to discover the incredible culture, history and stories of the land around you and we highly recommend joining one of the free ranger-lead tours that run during peak season.
A cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong is also a must. Guided by the indigenous operated Kakadu Tourism, the Yellow Water Cruise unveils one of Kakadu’s richest locations for plant and wildlife. View birdlife on a scale you have only ever imagined before and of course, this is another chance to do some croc-spotting.
There are so many more options for your time in Kakadu, from hiking to incredible waterfalls and natural swimming holes (always check the signs!) to 4WD adventures and wetland experiences.
3. Journey through the heart of Australia on The Ghan
Feel like an early pioneer with an outback adventure ingrained in Australian history by travelling on board The Ghan. Australia’s most famous and iconic train journey begins in Adelaide and connects the south with the north, finishing its route in Darwin. In between, it traverses some of Australia’s most rugged and beautiful landscapes and has done since 1929.
As you relax in the comfort of the train, which offers three classes of service plus lounges and a restaurant-car, you can take in some of our country’s most beautiful yet inhospitable scenery. You will have a front row seat to the wonders of nature; spot a mob of red kangaroos crossing the desert, and witness epic outback sunsets over the red earth.
As the landscape changes out the window, I could not help but think of early explorers and the people that did all the hard work in constructing the railway in such an environment.
Afghan cameleers pioneered the route, which stops in several locations so you can explore on the ground as well. Stop in Alice Springs to discover some incredible Red Centre icons. Further north, a stop in Katherine allows you to uncover Nitmiluk National Park and Katherine Gorge. And finally, all the way to the Top End, your final destination Darwin is full of amazing adventures to cap off the journey.
4. Immersing yourself in the wilderness at Wilsons Promontory, Victoria
Not all great Australian adventures are found in our outback. A few hours south-east of Melbourne is one of my favourite destinations for adventure, Wilsons Promontory.
The ‘Prom’ is at the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland and offers incredible landscapes where granite mountains meet pristine sandy beaches, and open bushland blends with lush rainforest.
The National Park offers one main place for visitors to stay, at the Tidal River campground. Set amongst the beautiful bush and just behind the sand dunes of one of the iconic beaches of the region, Norman Bay, the campground has powered and unpowered sites, plus a range of permanent ‘luxury’ huts.
Everyone is there for a taste of the wilderness. A network of walking tracks takes you through the diverse vegetation the park has to offer, from easy 1km circuits to multi-day hikes. You will no doubt encounter some of the prolific wildlife who live in the park, especially the nosy wombat.
We love to divide our time here between tackling some of the walking trails (many of which have breathtaking views to discover), relaxing at our campsite enjoying the natural surrounds, and spending time at the local beaches surfing, swimming and playing beach cricket. You truly feel like you are miles away from anywhere.
For more travel inspiration go to www.placeswego.com
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