Go deeper Down Under: A guide to a slower, more revealing Australian adventure

Australia is filled with iconic travel experiences but it's worth slowing down, extending your visit and seeing some of the lesser-known sites too, that also offer an authentic insight into the Land Down Under. We’ve teamed up with Flight Centre to show you how to slow down and see more of the wildlife, nature, culture and gastronomy each state offers…

5 wildlife hotspots across Australia

1. Ningaloo Reef

The world’s largest fringing reef meets the world’s biggest fish at this extraordinary, UNESCO-protected site in Western Australia. Whale sharks cluster on this 300km reef in large numbers from March to July each year, giving the unmissable chance to snorkel with these slow-moving gentle giants. The super-sized creatures are just one part of the reef’s exceptional marine life, which also includes hundreds of fish and coral species, as well as turtles, manta rays and migrating humpbacks.   

2. Cape Range National Park

Serving up an array of land-based wonders to rival the underwater thrills of nearby Ningaloo Reef, the rugged limestone surrounds of Cape Range National Park are home to everything from kangaroos, emus and echidnas to endangered black-flanked rock wallabies. Yardie Creek is a highlight, with dedicated boat trips snaking between the cliffs of the gorge, while elsewhere you’ll find hiking trails, deserted beaches and swimming lagoons. Birdwatchers should head to the hide at Mangrove Bay, which attracts resident and migratory species.    

3. Hamelin Bay

Part of the magical Margaret River region – some 300km south of Perth – Hamelin Bay plays host to a shimmering spread of white sands and turquoise waters. The beach is a spectacle in its own right, but it’s best known among naturalists for its population of sting rays. Measuring up to two metres across, these remarkable animals can be seen up close by snorkelling in the shallows. They’re docile, and far from aggressive, but be sure to give them the space they deserve.

4. Bunbury

Another Western Australian gem – and again sitting a relatively short distance from Perth – this port city holds a number of notable wildlife attractions, not least the wild bottlenose dolphins that frequent the waters of Koombana Bay. The Dolphin Discovery Centre at Koombana Beach gives the option to join a 90-minute eco-cruise into the bay, to admire them in all their athletic, streamlined glory. And if that sounds too tame, it’s also possible to sign up for a three-hour adventure swim with wild dolphins.         

5. Phillip Island

For animal-lovers, the name Phillip Island tends to mean one thing: penguins, and lots of them. The island, which sits on the Victoria coastline south of Melbourne, is estimated to have more than 30,000 little penguins – the world’s smallest species of these much-loved birds. You’ll get a sense of their numbers by watching them return to the beaches in the evening. Take the time, too, to enjoy the island’s other wildlife draws, from fur seals to koalas.

Whale Shark in Ningaloo Reef

Did you know?

Flight Centre offers long-haul tailor-made holidays. Despite the name ‘Flight Centre’, its experts can help with so much more than your flight, offering complete package options which can include accommodation, travel insurance, transfers, car hire, tours and experiences.

7 places in Australia to immerse yourself in nature

1. Kakadu National Park

Few places in Australia are quite so spellbinding as Kakadu National Park, a 20,000 square kilometre swathe of wilderness in the Northern Territory’s tropical Top End. The park is famed for its ancient and ongoing links to the area’s traditional landowners – a trip here is a chance to admire some stirring examples of millennia-old rock art – but also for its deep natural beauty, which changes in character as the seasons shift from ‘the dry’ to ‘the wet’. Be sure to factor in a river cruise, which might see you eye-to-eye with saltwater crocs, but above all grant yourself time to bathe in the majesty of the wide-open, escarpment-studded, birdlife-rich horizons.      

2. Flinders Ranges

Rampaging across the South Australia map for some 400km, the handsome peaks of the Flinders Ranges are a world of rocky gorges, wide valleys and ancient ridges. Wildflowers carpet the slopes in the spring, while cypresses and gum trees cluster around sheltered creeks. There’s a muscular, timeless beauty to the whole region, but this is nowhere more apparent than at the vast crater rim of Wilpena Pound, which has various walking trails that allow travellers to relish the scale of the scenery. Elsewhere, 4WD tracks, rich Aboriginal heritage and more than 600 million years of geological history all add to the overall appeal. 

3. Murray River

The nation’s largest river rises in the Australian Alps, forms a natural state border between New South Wales and Victoria as it flows west, then eventually arrives in South Australia, where its wide, scenic waters flow out into the Southern Ocean. At more than 2,500km in length, the Murray holds endless potential for travellers, but the sections west of Melbourne are where its winsome watery scenery is at its most accessible. The town of Echuca, in Victoria, has a fleet of historic paddle-steamers that run pleasure cruises, while many places along the river offer kayak and canoe hire, allowing you to explore the waterway at your own pace. 

4. The Blue Mountains

Few parts of the great Australian outdoors feel so reachable as the Blue Mountains. Sitting virtually on Sydney’s doorstep, and taking its name from the eucalyptus mist that hangs over the valleys, the mountain chain is a spectacular vision of cliffs, peaks, forests and waterfalls. Visitors flock to famous landmarks such as the Three Sisters – a trio of sandstone rock formations – but it’s easy to avoid the crowds by venturing down the hiking and mountain-biking trails that criss-cross the national park. You’ll also find plenty of secluded campsites, which can be factored into long rides or bushwalks.      

 5. Great Otway National Park

Not many national parks can count attractions as iconic as the Great Ocean Road within their boundaries, so this forest-cloaked, surf-bashed corner of Victoria is an unforgettable one. But there’s far more to it than its world-famous road trip. Its gullies, plateaus, mountains and woodlands are a joy to explore, as are the beaches and bays that fringe its coastline. Highlights for travellers on two feet include the 110km Great Ocean Walk, a hugely immersive way to make the most of the region’s dazzling scenery, while set-piece attractions such as the Otway Fly Treetop Walk and the historical Cape Otway Lighthouse are further draws.   

  6. Gippsland Lakes and Wilsons Promontory

Victoria might be a small state in Australian terms, but it packs in a veritable wonderland of different outdoor attractions. The marshes, lakes and lagoons of the Gippsland Lakes region are a magnet for everything from pelicans to lake dolphins – not forgetting the koala colony on Raymond Island – and there are just as many riches to be found at Wilsons Promontory, the nearby peninsula that forms the southern tip of the mainland. ‘The Prom’, as it’s known, offers a series of beautiful bushwalks through its granite mountains and sandy beaches, and is also renowned for its wombat-spotting. 

7. Grampians and new Grampians Peaks Trail

When it opened in November 2021, the 160km Grampians Peaks Trail became the latest addition to Australia’s portfolio of world-class long-distance hiking tracks. And it’s some walk. The 13-day trail snakes right through the interior of Victoria’s Grampians National Park, traversing ridgelines and summiting peaks as it passes between remote campgrounds. If you don’t have time for the full walk, panic not – the Grampians hold all manner of other attractions, from waterfalls and wildflowers to Aboriginal rock art and scenic drives. Halls Gap, a town in the heart of the park, is the most obvious base and gateway for a short visit.   

Did you know?

Flight Centre is one of the biggest global independent travel agencies in the world, sending hundreds of thousands of travellers on trips each year, with Australia being its flagship destination. Flight Centre knows how to get people where they want to be and are on-hand every step of the way.

5 cultural experiences in Australia

1. Uluṟu

There is simply no image more symbolic of Australia than the sandstone colossus of Uluṟu. Rising above the sun-baked plains of the Outback, the 348m-high monolith is also a site of enormous significance to the traditional landowners, making a trip here the perfect opportunity to learn more about Aboriginal beliefs, customs, and connections to nature. Join a ranger-guided activity or visit Uluṟu’s dedicated Cultural Centre to experience this most unique of landmarks to the full.     

2. The Daintree Forest

Queensland’s Daintree Rainforest is estimated to be around 180 million years old, a figure that makes the Amazon Rainforest look like a young upstart. Unsurprisingly, the Daintree is a phenomenal place to spend time, and by joining an Aboriginal guide for a tour you’ll gain a better understanding of what makes the rainforest environment such an endlessly rich one. Tours usually depart from the nearby town of Port Douglas, and bush tucker, traditional medicines and age-old creation stories all feature.

3. Melbourne

From its live music to its art galleries, from its comedy clubs to its unrivalled sporting calendar, Victoria’s capital is absolutely teems with colour and creativity. Whether you’re here for the fashion shows, the food, or the festivals, you’ll find a city that can be explored and enjoyed in endless ways. Embark on a Melbourne walking tours to discover everything from laneway street murals to Art Deco architecture.   

4. Australia Capital Territory

Canberra doesn’t attract travellers in the same way as the big coastal metropolises, but those who take the time to visit the country’s capital will find an impressive range of historical attractions to discover. A guided tour of Parliament House gives insight into the inner sanctum of the national government, the Australian War Memorial stages various exhibitions and events in imposing surrounds, and the National Gallery of Australia’s vast collections include the world’s largest body of work by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.   

 5. Tasmania

Tasmania is a place apart in more ways than one. The island state has superb gourmet credentials, diverse wildlife and amazing natural scenery, and has also forged a reputation for its ground-breaking art scene. To many minds, the chief attraction is Hobart’s MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art – an utterly extraordinary, multi-faceted venture financed by local collector David Walsh and described as ‘a subversive adult Disneyland’. Elsewhere, Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Hobart’s Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery offer hefty, but more traditional, rewards.

Top tip from Flight Centre

“Our favourite spot in Queensland has got to be Cape Tribulation. It’s about two hours north of Port Douglas. Here, the rainforest tumbles out onto white sandy beaches and, come night-time, you’ll never see stars quite like it.”

Coastal callings

1. The Great Ocean Road

There’s good reason why the Great Ocean Road has become one of the world’s best known road trips. Hugging the shoreline for some 240km between the Victorian towns of Torquay and Allansford – and beginning less than 90 minutes’ drive from Melbourne – it serves up crescendo after crescendo of glorious coastal scenery. Highlights include the fabled surf breaks of Bells Beach and the picturesque limestone stacks known as the Twelve Apostles. Famously, the road was built as a war memorial by returning soldiers from WWI.  

 2. Kangaroo Island

Sometimes described as Australia’s answer to the Galapagos, Kangaroo Island is one of the country’s great wildlife jewels: as well as its eponymous ‘roos, it also hosts everything from sealions and penguins to koalas and wallabies. And as the third largest island in Australia, it’s a destination in its own right, with towns, conservation parks, and all manner of visitor activities, including cellar door visits, art galleries and long-distance hiking trails. It’s recovering well from the 2020 bushfires.   

3. Byron Bay

Its name has long been legendary in surfing circles, but regardless of whether or not you’re looking to catch some waves, this coastal New South Wales town is still a hugely appealing place to visit. Walk out to Australia’s most easterly point at Cape Byron Lighthouse, dive into the local art scene, kayak along the coastline or – between May and November – take a whale-watching trip to spot humpbacks on their annual migration. Surf lessons, meanwhile, are offered for all abilities. 

4. Hayman and Hamilton Islands

Sitting respectively at the north and south of Queensland’s celestially beautiful Whitsunday archipelago, Hayman and Hamilton Islands are both well accustomed to wowing overseas visitors. Hayman is essentially a private island with an upscale resort, while Hamilton is a little larger, with swish hotels of its own and a lively waterfront area. Both islands, of course, also serve up the postcard-ready scenery that the Whitsundays are so famed for, with clear blue waters and soft, white-sand beaches.

5. Cape Tribulation

Renowned as the spot where the rainforest meets the reef, this stunning coastal region is handsomely hemmed in by the ancient forests of the Daintree on one side and the underwater riches of the Great Barrier Reef on the other. As virtually the last place on the coast that can be reached by sealed road, it not only boasts some gloriously wild beaches, but also serves as a gateway for off-road adventures further north. Its name was bestowed after Captain Cook’s ship hit a reef offshore.     

Top tip from Flight Centre

"Catch a ferry to Cockatoo Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour. A former prison, then shipyard, explore this quirky World Heritage site, sip cocktails, or camp overnight."

Food and wine

1. Wine tasting at Passel Estate

The Margaret River Region is renowned for its boutique wineries, and the family owned Passel Estate is unquestionably among the best of them. By way of evidence, its 2019 sauvignon blanc won gold at the International Wine Challenge 2021 and has also been named the best of its kind in Australia and New Zealand. The upshot is that a guided tasting here, in the mellow bushland surrounds of the estate, is one of the country’s leading wine experiences.  

2. Barossa Valley

For wine-lovers, the mere mention of Barossa Valley is enough to get the tastebuds tingling. Synonymous with producing high-quality shiraz, this South Australia region is cloaked in vineyards and is home to leading names such as Penfolds Grange and Wolf Blass. What’s more, the area is only an hour’s drive from Adelaide, and now also provides a base for some brilliant local food producers, from artisan bakers to specialist butchers. Grant yourself the time to enjoy the region, and its cellar doors, at leisure.   

3. Hunter Valley

Australia’s oldest wine region is found here in New South Wales, where the rolling hills of the Hunter Valley have been producing quality wines for almost 200 years. Renowned for its fruity shiraz and its dry white sémillon, it hosts not just countless wineries but various gourmet delis and award-winning restaurants. For the good life, in other words, look no further. Producers of note include Tyrell’s Wines, dating back to 1858, and Usher Tinkler, which is raved about by those in the know.  

4. Tasmania

Tassie is an island of fresh air, clean water, fertile soil and big appetites, a combination that has seen the island state earn a global reputation for the quality of its local produce. From its cheeses to its seafood, its apples to its honey, its chocolate to its ciders, and its beers to its beef, you’ll find a superb range of food and drink to savour. Join a themed tour to make the most of what’s on offer, or browse the markets to find your own rewards.  

5. The Oyster Coast

Founded as recently as 2013 by a group of local oyster farmers, New South Wales’ Oyster Coast champions the quality of these saltwater delicacies – and to be fair, their oysters warrant the praise. Naturally, travellers to the region can take full advantage of the fact, by touring an oyster farm and learning more about the care and know-how that goes into grading them, or by visiting one of the many local restaurants that serve them up in style.         

Make it happen with Flight Centre

To say travelling over the last two years has been tough is an understatement. Now that the world is opening back up, Flight Centre is on hand to make everything as easy as possible, so you can focus on getting back out there and exploring the world. With Flight Centre, you’ll have a real-life human to talk to, who will have your back throughout your whole travel experience.

Flight Centre specialises in long-haul tailor-made holidays, and will go above and beyond to create your journey your way. Its experts are on-hand to arrange everything, including hotels, travel insurance, transfers, care hire, tours and experiences. As one of the biggest global independent travel agencies in the world, Flight Centre send hundreds of thousands of travellers on trips each year, so all you need to is sit back, and let their experts take care of the rest. Indeed, Flight Centre’s Travel Consultants are the ones in the know when it comes to planning bespoke trips. They’ll provide help and advice every step of the way, eliminating those planning worries so you can focus solely on the joy of travel. 

You don’t need to stress about changing restrictions either. Flight Centre’s flexible policies cover every eventuality, offering date changes, refunds and even destination changes if Covid-19 makes your plans difficult. And with the option to secure your holiday with just a £49 deposit per booking, now is the perfect time to start planning your dream Australian getaway with Flight Centre.