By Ben Lerwill | February 2017 | 7 minute read
It has great beaches but Australia is no place to drop and flop. Whether clients are super-fit adrenaline nuts, family travellers or just keen to try something new, the activities on offer are incredibly broad in scope. You can offer croc-spotting, koala-petting or dolphin-feeding and excursions ranging from hot-air ballooning to wine-tasting and transcontinental train rides.
“Australia is the perfect adventure travel destination. From scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, outback camping under the stars and skydiving over Melbourne to whitewater rafting in Cairns or learning to surf in Byron Bay, it has countless outdoor activities to get pulses racing”
ALISON ZACHER, RETAIL MANAGING DIRECTOR, FLIGHT CENTRE
See the Rock: Towering over the flat desert landscape of the Red Centre, Uluru is one of the world’s great natural spectacles. View it at sunset, walk its perimeter or enjoy dinner under the stars
Go coast to coast: The Indian-Pacific rail journey between Perth and Sydney is one of the world’s great train rides, a three-night epic across the entire country
Swim with giants: Dive with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. The creatures, which can grow up to 12 metres, are harmless
Get sporty in Melbourne: Melbourne plays home to a series of big-name sporting events, from the Australian Tennis Open to an annual Formula One Grand Prix
Take to the skies: Australia is breath-taking when seen from above – try joining a scenic helicopter tour of the beehive-shaped domes of the Bungle Bungle Range
Go Top End: The tropical city of Darwin is situated in Australia’s so-called Top End, a region of raw character and home to the astounding Kakadu National Park/p>
Dream a little dreamtime: Rich, mysterious and often misunderstood, Aboriginal culture stretches back tens of thousands of years. Take the chance to learn more about Australia’s traditional landowners
Catch some waves: Surfing and Australia go hand in hand and if you’re new to the sport you can go to surf school
See the Reef: Last year’s BBC series with David Attenborough highlighted the diversity of the extraordinary Great Barrier Reef. Cruise, snorkel or scuba dive
Get to know the locals: Rich, mysterious and often misunderstood, Aboriginal culture stretches back tens of thousands of years. Take the chance to learn more about Australia’s traditional landowners
Action stations in New South Wales
For many of us, simply reaching Australia is an adventure. Heading down under is never just another holiday, partly because it requires travelling halfway around the world. The country’s far-flung location, however, is a large part of its appeal. Its climate, its terrain, its wildlife and its overall scale are all thrillingly different to the British norm. And because Australia is such a huge place, it offers a similarly large range of adventure and excursion options.
Take Australia’s oldest state, New South Wales, which has a huge choice of activities alone. Within Sydney itself clients can embark on the Harbour Bridge Climb, join a dinner cruise from Circular Quay, take surf lessons on Bondi Beach, visit Taronga Zoo, tour the Sydney Opera House (overnight camping stays in the iconic building are now available) or head out to the stunning Blue Mountains on a day trip.
Elsewhere in the state, top activities to suggest include wine-tasting tours of the Hunter Valley, dolphin-watching cruises from Port Stephens or simply taking the time to unwind on the miles of sandy beaches around Byron Bay. Scuba diving, hiking, skydiving and even skiing (July and August are the peak times for downhill action) are among the countless other options on offer in New South Wales. The state is also drawing attention due to its booming food and drink scene.
My Tasmania experience
I have no idea what time it is, and I couldn’t care less. I’m midway through a six-day hike along Tasmania’s fabled Overland Track, a 40-mile wilderness trail through the island’s impossibly beautiful Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
Sharp dolerite peaks tower on all sides; mobile reception evaporated an hour after I set off – and that was three days ago. I haven’t so much as glanced at a watch, clock or phone ever since. The escape feels exquisite.
Australia has no shortage of epic walks, but this multi-day yomp through jagged mountains and temperate rainforests is up there with the best of them.
What’s more, I’m making the walk with an outfit called Cradle Mountain Huts, which lays on nightly accommodation in comfortable private huts, complete with cooked meals and hot showers. Call me soft, but it’s a mighty fine alternative to lugging a tent along the trail.
Tasmanians are fond of referring to mainland Australia, tongue-in-cheek, as ‘the North Island’”. Spending time here, it’s easy to see why they’re such a self-confident lot. The air is fresh, the views are dramatic and the sparkling wine is world class. It’s a fantastic all-round destination, particularly where adventure is concerned.
On the sixth day I arrive at journey’s end, on the shores of Lake St Clair. I am weary but utterly elated. I cast an eye back behind me at the alpine plateaus and hill passes. Then for the first time in almost a week, I hear a phone beep. It’s a bittersweet moment.
What the experts say
“This a great year to be heading Down Under. We’ve got the Ashes cricket coming up, which will be enormous. We’ll be partnering with Qantas to run some promotional activity in the market – and we also think that a lot of people going to New Zealand for the Lions rugby tour (in June) will think about pre- and post-touring in Australia.
“And 300 days of sunshine is also a pretty compelling reason to visit Australia! And then there’s our world-class beauty and iconic experiences.
“Corroboree, a six-day specialised training event for agents, will take place in October on Queensland’s Gold Coast. We’ll be taking 200 agents down from the UK and Europe.
“In 2017 we’ll be promoting our beaches and aquatic experiences, as well as continuing to try to attract people under 30 on Working Holiday visas ”
DENISE VON WALD, REGIONAL GENERAL MANAGER, TOURISM AUSTRALIA
Flights: Qantas will be launching direct London to Perth flights in 2018, marking the first ever non-stop regular passenger service between the UK and Australia. The flight, which will use a 787-9 Dreamliner, is expected to take around 17 hours.
Attractions: The England cricket team will arrive in Australia at the end of the year, offering fans of the sport good reason to make that once-in-a-lifetime trip. Ashes test matches will be played in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney between November 2017 and January 2018.
The iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground is developing a new ‘roof walk’ which will allow visitors not only to walk on the roof but to ride a zipline from the scoreboard down to a landing area.
Australia’s first Legoland Discovery Centre opens this year in Melbourne.
Also in Victoria, there’s a new self-guided canoe trail along the Loddon River (loddon.vic.gov.au).
South of Melbourne, Arthurs Seat Eagle – a new gondola above the Mornington Peninsula – is now up and running.
In Cairns, Queensland, a new aquarium will open in May. It will offer the chance of a sleepover experience, where visitors bed down surrounded by a lagoon of hammerhead sharks.
In the Red Centre, the spectacular Field of Light installation at Uluru drew lots of attention last year, thanks to its 50,000 ‘light stems’, and has now been extended until March 2018.
Acommodation: Sydney will welcome its first new five-star hotel in 15 years when the Sofitel Darling Harbour opens in September.
In Melbourne March will see the unveiling of the Four Points by Sheraton Melbourne Docklands.
Brisbane’s new 305-room W Hotel is scheduled to open by the end of the year.
Where to book it
A bespoke 18-day self-drive tour from Battered Suitcase that takes in Kakadu National Park and the Kimberley Region is priced from £5,547pp and includes hire of a large 4WD, 17 nights’ accommodation, most meals and selected guided tours. The holiday is available from May to October.
Audley Travel’s 13-day Classic Tasmania self-drive holiday is from £3,895pp, including international flights to and from Hobart. The itinerary visits the Gordon River, Cradle Mountain, Launceston and Freycinet National Park, home to the famous Wineglass Bay.