The best of Australia’s great outdoors
Wide open spaces, mountain views, rainforests, islands and waterfalls: explore our backyard's best.
- September 2020
Dive under a tropical waterfall and take in views across ancient floodplains. Cycle car-free islands and snorkel coral reefs. Hike desert escarpments and towering rainforest. See nothing but stars between you and the horizon. Find your place for space in Australia’s great outdoors.
Wide open spaces
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
Find your space amid almost 20,000 square kilometres of fascinating, ancient landscapes at Kakadu National Park. Sweeping floodplains, rocky gorges, wild waterfalls, serene wetlands, and the world’s oldest Indigenous rock art. Soak up spectacular views from the rocky outcrop and rock art galleries at Ubirr or from the cool, clear Gunlom Plunge Pool, and cruise the Yellow Water billabong to watch wildlife come alive at dusk and dawn.
Uluru, Northern Territory
Glowing on the horizon, ever-changing in the light, ancient monolith Uluru is a sight you can’t ever quite prepare for. Experience its enormity up close with a walk around its base, and from afar as the sun sets in enormous concave skies. Hike the Valley of the Winds Walk at nearby Kata Tjuta and the Rim Walk at Kings Canyon for awe-inspiring views across the Red Centre’s seemingly endless landscape.
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
Fill your lungs with crisp mountain air amid the glacial lakes, alpine wilderness, rainforest, heathlands and brilliant beech in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Take an easy three-hour walk around Dove Lake, a challenging day-hike to Cradle Mountain’s craggy peak, or the spectacular six-day, 65-kilometre Overland Track. Stargazers, time your trip with the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis).
Blue Mountains, New South Wales
Eucalyptus trees, sandstone cliffs, lush valleys and waterfalls. Sydney’s backyard, the Blue Mountains, is one million hectares of native hues and views. Jostle for a spot at popular lookouts: snap a selfie with the Three Sisters from Echo Point Lookout, peer into Grose Valley from Govetts Leap Lookout, and take it all in from the highest, Hassans Wall. Or hit the bushwalking trails to find a view of your own.
Also consider: Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park (Tasmania)
Daintree Rainforest, Queensland
Meet ancient fronds in the Daintree, the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. Find yourself enveloped in forest on a cruise along the Daintree River or flying through the canopy on a zip-line. At Mossman Gorge, relax in swimming holes, follow a Dreamtime Walk, and retreat to a treetop ecolodge. Let the forest enchant you all the way to Cape Tribulation, where it meets the Great Barrier Reef.
Gondwana Rainforest, Wollumbin National Park, New South Wales
Wander into the hinterland at Byron Bay to explore the lush, subtropical Gondwana Rainforest at Wollumbin National Park, surrounding extinct volcano Mount Warning. Take the Lyrebird Track through towering palm forest, keeping an eye out for frogs, koalas, lyrebirds and brush turkeys on your way to the forest lookout. The Gondawana rainforests sprawl from here to south-east Queensland. Follow Rainforest Way opens in new window for a frond-filled roadtrip.
Also consider: Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania; Great Otway National Park and Turra Bulga National Park, Victoria
Rottnest Island, Western Australia
Meet the quokkas: Rottnest Island’s cutest, happiest locals are just a quick ferry ride from Perth. Explore the car-free island by bike, bask on local beaches (there are 63 in total), and dive in to discover a stunning underwater world, home to some 400 species of fish. Take your fins and snorkel to The Basin, Parakeet Bay, Parker Point, Little Salmon Bay and Little Armstrong Bay. Surfers, find the perfect break at Strickland Bay.
Fraser Island, Queensland
A ride along national sand highway 75 Mile Beach is something else. As is Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. Explore the Maheno Shipwreck, the coloured-sand Cathedrals and the Champagne Pools, where crashing waves add fizz to your swim. Inland, slow the pace with a swim at serene Lake Mackenzie and a float down freshwater Eli Creek. Staying over? Set up camp in the sand dunes or at an island resort.
Lord Howe Island, New South Wales
Two hours’ flight from the coast, Lord Howe Island is an extraordinary escape from mainland life. Just 11 kilometres long, with only 300 permanent residents and 400 visitors allowed at any one time, it’s the perfect antidote to bustling anywhere. Hike lush volcanic peaks (tackle Mount Gower with a guide) or lose the shoes, hit the beach and meet the marine life. Hand-feed wild fish on Ned’s Beach, snorkel or dive the coral reef and take a glass-bottomed-boat tour of the blue lagoon.
Also consider: Magnetic Island and Moreton Island, Queensland; Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Jim Jim Falls, Northern Territory
Fly, drive, do whatever you can, to see the magnificent, famous 200-metre Jim Jim Falls in Kakadu National Park. In the wet season (November to March), take a scenic flight to watch them roar dramatically down the escarpment. In the dry season (April to October), take a four-wheel-drive adventure to the base. The water is slower at this time of year, rewarding adventurers with a swim in a crystal-clear waterhole below the falls.
Millaa Millaa Falls, Queensland
Step into a tropical fairytale in the Atherton Tablelands. Here, the Millaa Millaa Falls tumble into a pristine waterhole surrounded by lush, tropical rainforest. Take some snaps, a swim – and some snacks for the picture-perfect picnic area. For a tropical waterfall trifecta, walk the Waterfall Circuit, taking in Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa falls.