"The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space but it can also be viewed from a helicopter. When the crew from GBR helicopters said they could fly us from Green Island out to the reef for a snorkel we flipped our lids. The aerial perspective is unparalleled and you truly appreciate just how beautiful this place is after flying over it.
Our first destination was Green Island with Great Adventures. It was time for our maiden voyage into outer space under the sea. Seawalkers are like an old school diving dome helmet that offers a 270 degree perspective. As soon as we hit the sea floor we got swarmed by one zillion tropical fish. It could only be compared to an underwater fish mosh pit." – Adam Rikys and Hamish Cross
“1,142ft (348m) high and 550 million years old, Uluru was a majestic escape from my routine life in the city. We watched the sunset change the color of Uluru right before our eyes, from the bright red center, orange hues to pitch black with the glorious Milky Way behind it. It was an unforgettable experience and I truly felt connected to the natural beauty of Australia.” – Wendy Ong
“Last weekend, eight of us drove six hours from Sydney to Jindabyne, NSW and then on Saturday drove another 30 minutes through Kosciuszko National Park (AUD $17 per vehicle day pass) to the base of Thredbo Mountain. It was strange being at a ski resort in the summertime. We took the chairlift up, and then the men took the boys downhill mountain biking, while us ladies went up to 6,354ft (1,937m) and walked along the ridgeline of Mount Kosciuszko.
We chose the Dead Horse Gap ridge track over the walk to the summit lookout because it had more natural scenery, wildflowers, and shrubs, and also if you’re lucky you might see wild brumbies, which took us back to our fave Aussie childhood movie The Man from Snowy River. On a clear day, the track offers views of Ramshead Range, Crackenback Mountain, and the Threadbo Valley.” – Alison Diaper
“I love a marine encounter and in Australia there is no end of them. Snorkeling off ocean beaches in Sydney (including Clovelly and Gordon’s Bay) offers brilliant sea life meet-ups with fish, rays and groupers. Harbour beaches promise sightings of sea horses, rays and fairy penguins. Up and down the coast, you can encounter grey nurse sharks (that sound ominous but as known as the labradors of the sea), dolphins, and octopuses who will do you no harm if left alone.
For my birthday one year, we flew to a remote part of Western Australia to visit the Ningaloo Reef, repeatedly rolling off the back of a boat into deep water to swim alongside mighty whale sharks. These solitary creatures, who can grow up to 40ft (12m) long, appear out of the gloom, their huge mouths open to inhale smaller fish and plankton food through their huge gills, their unique spotted markings reflecting in the sun rays in the water. You have to swim fast to keep alongside them, but it is a majestic experience.
Recently, on the New South Wales south coast, I went by boat to Montague Island, an old lighthouse station that is home to a fur seal colony. While we snorkeled and dived down, seal pups mewed on the rocks while protective parents spun upside down, checking us out and swimming between us in swimming-pool-clear water. These things for me are what make Australia extraordinary.” – Kate Duthie
“I was lucky enough to camp on Cockatoo Island, an island in the middle of Sydney Harbour where convicts used to be held. There is a lot of other interesting history about the place, including being used during World War II to repair ships. We arrived there just before dusk and I got a cool but eerie feeling as I stepped off the ferry, imagining what it would have been like to live there as a convict. We walked around and saw all the remains of the convict cells and other historical remains such as ports and huge machinery for building and repairing ships. We also had amazing views of the harbour and the Harbour Bridge.” – Kirsty Stark
“I went to an awesome four-day surf camp at 7 Mile Beach State Park in New South Wales. We surfed twice a day for two hours each time. We ate, surfed, ate, surfed, and slept. Then we did it all again the next day. We also were taught surf etiquette, different types of surf conditions and types of boards. We got to review hundreds of photos of each of us surfing so we could see how our technique could be improved and also see ourselves progress. On the last day we got to experience one of the aspects of the life of a 'real surfer' which was to get up at 6am and surf before breakfast! It certainly seems to be the perfect environment to learn how to surf." – Carly Stark
“I spent a day at Kelly’s Ranch in Tennent Valley. That’s where Jerry Kelly taught us to ride horses, to pick fruits in the bush, and to use a lasso. And, honestly, the day was so great because of Jerry Kelly. He teased us and joked around, he told us Aboriginal stories and explained mythology like Dreamtime to us. And when it was all said and done, he invited us into his house, showed us his garden, pictures of his kids, his wife. He gave us tea and biscuits, let us try his homemade salsa. On paper, the event was supposed to last an hour. In practice, it lasted six. Because Jerry just kept talking and talking. It was like hanging out with a favorite uncle for the weekend. He made everything fun. And he was fascinating. So because of Jerry Kelly himself, I loved visiting Kelly’s Ranch.” – Andrew Adams
“Riding quad bikes on the massive sand dunes in Port Stephens was thrilling. They're the largest coastal sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. I was surprised how mountainous the Worimi Conservation Lands were.” – Dianne Damour
Ditch the crowds and head to one of these under-the-radar Australian destinations – from outback towns and pristine coral reefs to isolated beaches.
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