I traveled around Australia during my gap year … rather too many years ago and reminisce why Australia offers perfect opportunities for exploration and with its wide-open spaces and dune-backed beaches it boasts spectacular scenery too.
If you have an adventurous spirit you will relish the energy of Australia with its laid-back vibe, spellbinding wildlife and the unforgettable experiences this beautiful continent provides.
My Aussie adventure started and ended in Sydney the highlights of which were climbing the Harbour Bridge, cruising the harbour, visiting the Opera House, meeting a koala and spending my last day lazing on Bondi Beach.
Next up was ‘bush-walking’ and hiking in The Blue Mountains which boast a vast 2.5 million-acre wilderness of tree-lined canyons and peaks that stretch to the horizon. The bewildering array of fauna and rare amphibians was spell-binding. The track passes through pockets of rainforest, under hanging swamps, tunnels beneath waterfalls and follows a sheer cut out path with fabulous views of the Three Sisters rock formation which is three fingers of rock that jut up sky bound. The views were enormous to the valley below blanketed with trees every shade of green and Mount Solitary in the distance changing colour from purple to blue as the sun blinked between clouds.
The Daintree National Park is a World Heritage Site with remarkable tropical scenery. The distant mountains and sparkling azure blue waters of the Daintree River contrast dramatically with the lush green of the forest canopy. I explored the area on horseback which is a wonderful way to cover a great distance and soak up the beauty of the area without having to look down all the time to check where you are walking!
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest, most diverse eco-system displaying breathtaking beauty both from above and below the water. It comprises over 350,000 square kilometres of scattered islands, coral reefs and atolls running parallel to Australia’s north-east coast. Rich in marine life and perfect for water sports, the reef offers a magic combination of clear, warm tropical waters, fantastic coral formations and seascapes abundant with life.
Some islands are backpacker heaven, others for well-funded honeymooners only, some are sacred and others are brilliant for birdwatching or botany. Many remote islands are only accessed by sea or small planes. I was exceptionally lucky to sail around the Whitsunday archipelago and discovered some very remote islands and picture perfect beaches. One of life’s most wondrous experiences was snorkelling through coral gardens of purple and pink through darting shoals of busy fish and coming face to face with an apparently harmless but very friendly reef shark!
Crossing the Nullarbor Desert to jaw-droppingly beautiful Western Australia I was amazed by Albany and the stunning beaches around Esperance with such names as Hellfire and Lucky Bay boasting the whitest beaches in Australia and such novelties as Wave Rock (below).
Then there was Australia’s golden outback and the fascinating opal mining town of Cooper Pedy, famous Alice Springs, my climb of Uluru (Ayres Rock) and reaching the summit as the sun rose. Cruising Katherine Gorge, absorbing the Aboriginal culture and buffalo catching in Arnhem land and discovering ancient rock art in Kakadu National Park are all unforgettable adventures.