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Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

Alternative Australia: Unique ways to explore Down Under

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5 June 2018 by Claire Benktander

Australia is a land of world-famous cities, white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, surfing and iconic wildlife, visited by millions yearly. But, look past the big name metropoles of Sydney and Melbourne and the tourist-heavy Great Barrier Reef and you'll find unexplored islands, indigenous experiences and remote bushland, often minus the swarms of tourists. We've collated this list of nine alternative ways to experience Australia and its myriad delights, for a truly authentic and unique trip Down Under.

1. Go glamping in the outback

The typical Australian outback landscapes of Alice Springs and Uluru dominate on many a tourist brochure, but this unique glamping experience in the Gawler Ranges is in stark contrast to your typical outback scenery. The incredible salt pans of Lake Gairdner and a myriad of eucalyptus woodland, semi-arid desert and ancient volcanic rock formations await in this spectacular region, and with our 5-day Outback to Sea extension you can swim with sea lions and dolphins alongside a 4WD tour, staying in the luxury Kangaluna tented Camp within the pristine wilderness. Enjoy sleeping under the stars and gazing at the incredible night sky through a telescope; the Australian outback in its truest form. This experience can be enjoyed as an extension on our Wildlife and Wine itinerary that sees you start in Adelaide.


2. Immerse yourself in an indigenous experience

This remote wilderness camp is run by the indigenous Bardi Jawi community and can only be reached by air or 4WD, offering one of the most authentic indigenous experiences in Australia in a wonderful location. On the northern tip of Australia’s Dampier Peninsula, Kooljaman can only be reached after passing through the region’s woodland and mangroves, arriving at deserted beaches framed by sun-drenched cliffs and several thriving Aboriginal settlements. Enjoy cultural bushtucker, night fishing and beachcomber tours alongside staying at Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, enjoying Indian Ocean views with shaded verandahs and timber furniture in a secluded bush setting. Located far away from civilisation, the lodge is designed to give you access to the pristine beaches and remote seclusion of Australia’s northwest wilderness while maintaining the ultimate in luxury comfort – we recommend one of the stunning Deluxe Safari en-suite tents.


3. Swim on the Ningaloo Reef

Everyone knows the Great Barrier Reef, but few are aware of Ningaloo Reef on the west coast, providing a pristine marine experience where you can swim straight off the shoreline onto the reef, unlike most of its Great Barrier cousin. There's even the chance to swim with whale sharks and humpback whales at certain times of the year. It’s easily reached from Perth with a flight to Exmouth, and can be added to any of our Perth itineraries. We recommend a stay in Sal Salis, hidden among the dunes of Cape Range National Park where the outback meets the reef. Spot kangaroos, listen for humpback whales and snorkel with turtles among the corals, while keeping an eye out for filter-feeding whale sharks. Each luxury tent has draping doors opening out to wooden decking straight onto the beach, and then, come nighttime, the remote location allows for fantastic views of the Milky Way.


4. Go walking in Tasmania 

Tasmania often gets missed off an Australia itinerary because of its location off the mainland, but it is in fact home to some of the most pristine scenery and walking in the entire country. The Great Maria Walk is particularly spectacular, on carefree and car-free Maria Island, a national park with pristine white beaches, dramatic mountains and cloaking eucalyptus forests. Stroll among alpine woods and sandstone cliffs, spotting wallabies, wombats, penguins, seals, dolphins and Cape Barren geese, all of which can often be seen from the island's multi-award-winning guided hike. Head on this walk with one of our Tasmania itineraries such as Tasmania’s West Coast Explorer


5. Explore Southern Queensland's hinterland

Northern Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef are the big-time names in this region, but Southern Queensland often gets bypassed – not necessarily a bad thing, with incredible delights away from the hordes. Our self-drive across Southern Queensland offers some awe-inspiring, unique experiences – including the little-known hinterland region, the home of Spicers Hidden Vale. This collection of homestead-style cottages on a 12,000 acre cattle station is set amid stunning country gardens, with mountains and valley vistas at every turn. Then there's the incredible Lady Elliot Island, home to stunning reef experiences with opportunities to snorkel with turtles and manta rays right off the shore line.


6. Fly to Lord Howe Island

Heralded as the South Pacific of Australia, Lord Howe offers incredible diving experiences and a pristine tropical island feel, but its remoteness means many don’t make the journey here. It's undoubtedly worth it, though, particularly when you stay at the Capella Lodge, spending days on the spectacular crescent beach, kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking among the jutting green hills. Unsurprisingly, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, three quarters permanently preserved as a Marine Park, and the lodge’s multiple decks, lounge and opening floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of it – the horizon pool looking over the colourful reef is particularly special. A trip here can be added to any of our itineraries from Brisbane or Sydney, flying at the start or end to Lord Howe Island

7. Speed through the wilderness on an iconic rail journey

Travelling via train is a spectacular way to immerse yourself in nature's wonders, and, in Australia's remote outback, it becomes truly unbeatable. Watch as incredible sights speed past, cities melting into the ochre-red plains, spotting kangaroos hopping among sand dunes and grasslands. Our itinerary on the iconic Ghan travels cross-continent to the famous Kangaroo Island, or, head on our Wilderness & Wine itinerary, where you'll contrast the desolate outback with fine dining and all-inclusive drinks, exploring the world-famous Barossa Valley as well as Darwin's pristine beaches.


8. Sleep on a boat on the Outer Barrier Reef

We’ve all heard of Australia’s biodiverse and iconic Great Barrier Reef, but sleeping on a boat, right in the action, is an unparalleled way to experience the rainbow coral, crystal-clear waters and myriad marine life. Our Eco Australia itinerary sees you stay on a cruise ship with just 22 rooms, snorkelling on the lesser-visited Outer Barrier Reef's desert islands, enjoying glass-bottom boat trips, optional scuba dives and rainforest treks.


9. Cruise one of the world’s most remote destinations

Indonesia’s Papua New Guinea is a much-unexplored paradise, and cruising to its otherworldly inlets is a truly unique way to get off the beaten track. Our Raja Ampat Explorer itinerary to this idyllic archipelago of waterfall-dotted islands will see you dive and snorkel among coral-encrusted lava flows, resplendent with seahorses and manta rays, starting and ending among Darwin’s tropical delights. This combines excellently with a visit to the Northern Territory, where you'll explore Aboriginal folklore, gorges, rainforests and beaches.


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