If you’re determined to go off the beaten path Australia delivers!
Unusual bucket list ideas in Australia abound, but when you go off the beaten path in Australia, the magic begins. Visitors most often compile an Australia bucket list with predictable destinations, and there’s nothing wrong with that – there’s a reason these places get millions of visitors every year. But we encourage bucket list ideas for Australia outside the ordinary. If you’re interested in going off the beaten path Australia delivers!
Off the Beaten Path Australia: Teeming with Ideas for Your Australia Bucket List
Unique bucket list ideas for Australia are legion, but when you’re looking to zero in on unusual places the average tourist rarely gets to, or perhaps isn’t even aware of, there are a large number of options. This isn’t just a country, it’s a continent, so a thoughtful bucket list for greater Australia – outside of the more frequently visited cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane – is going to yield the potential for a wealth of quality experiences.
Going off the beaten path in Australia isn’t necessarily a matter of extreme difficulty, although it’s true that great distances are generally part of the equation. None of the unique bucket list ideas for Australia that we’re proposing in this post are super-remote in terms of isolation. What we mean is, once you get to them, you definitely won’t be totally alone in the wilderness. Instead, you’ll likely find yourselves in the company of like-minded others who share your sense of adventure and curiosity.
Each of our destination ideas has more than one fascinating story to tell. They’ll all give you an unexpected impression of the varied contrasts in culture, history, wildlife, and scenery that comprise this amazing land. From arid desert regions with severe water issues to tropical beaches, imposing mountain and rock formations, sweeping plains, and primeval forests, we’re confident our suggestions will whet your wanderlust.
First of Our Australian Bucket List Ideas: Alice Springs
Look in the dead center of the map above and you’ll see Alice Springs. If you’re like us, you probably first heard of Alice Springs because of a popular television mini-series. A Town Like Alice was actually a remake of an earlier 1950s era film based on the popular Nevil Shute novel by the same name. The romantic Outback setting in the story was captivating, and coincidentally timed with an influx of Australian popular entertainment icons. Many Americans based their Australian bucket list ideas on these influences.
But there’s much more to the story of Alice Springs. Nestled in between parallel ridges of the MacDonnell Ranges bio-region, Alice Springs has known human habitation for 30,000 years. There are numerous sites of Aboriginal importance around the town’s area. The late 19th century gold discovery about 100km east of town brought the first European settlers. Alice Springs had to wait for real growth until 1929, when a railway line from Adelaide replaced the traditional camel train means of bulk transport. The Afghan Express – referred to as “The Ghan” – was finally linked with Darwin in 2004.One of the more unusual bucket list ideas in Australia might be to travel to Alice Springs aboard The Ghan. It runs weekly, and you can start from either Adelaide or Darwin. You may want to continue the entire 1850 mile journey to say you’ve traveled the continent north to south. Click here for more information on fares and timetables.
Stephen Codrington [CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Another idea might be to time your visit to Alice Springs to coincide with the annual Camel Cup race, which dates back to a 1970 wager between friends. Thousands of people attend what has turned into a charitable fundraising event.
Second of Our Australian Bucket List Ideas: Northwest and West Coast Tasmania
The national parks and nature preserves, along with breathtaking coastal shoreline, make Northwest and West Coast Tasmania one of the more unique bucket list ideas for Australia. While most visitors fly from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane into Hobart, you can also get direct flights to Launceston, Devonport, and Wynyard/Burnie. The Spirit of Tasmania ferry sails between Melbourne and Devonport, as well.
If your off the beaten path Australia bucket list includes scenic photo ops, you’ll want to check out Fossil Bluff outside of Wynyard. These 275 million year old cliffs yielded the discovery of a 25 million year old marsupial fossil, Australia’s oldest, in the 19th century. Prehistoric whale and hundreds of other species are preserved in the sandstone, and from May to September, thousands of penguins nest along the coast here.
West Coast Wilderness Railway
A popular heritage attraction, the West Coast Wilderness Railway is a narrow gauge, steam engine experience which cuts through rain forested mountains on a 19th century mining route. If you’re an American history buff, add this to your Australia bucket list. The stories of extreme risk, swindling and claim jumping resonate in the same way as American Gold Rush stories do. Passengers can choose vintage carriages in two classes of service with refreshments included or available for purchase. Click here for more information.
Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park
About two hours from the West Coast Heritage Railway station in Queenstown, Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park is popular with nature lovers for its eco-diversity, which ranges from rainforests to alpine microclimates. Old growth habitat, glacial lakes, and mountain terrain are home to wildlife such as platypus and Tasmanian devils (there is a Devil Sanctuary in the park). The famous Overland Track, a strenuous 40 mile walk in remote terrain, begins here in World Heritage listed wilderness.
Next Up in Unusual Bucket List Ideas for Australia: Broome
On Western Australia’s tropical coast lies Broome, bombed along with Darwin by the Japanese in WWII, and traditional home to a significant pearling industry. Broome’s peninsula runs north and south, jutting into the Indian Ocean. Town Beach is the site of a sunset/low tide phenomenon called “Staircase to the Moon,” which occurs two or three days each month between March and October. Town Beach Markets with food stalls, entertainment, and handicrafts are held to coincide with this event.
Millions of shorebirds using the East Asian-Australasian flyway migrate through Broome on their way to and from Asia. The mudflats along Roebuck Bay are critical feeding and roosting stations for transitory and young birds. Dinosaur footprints were found during low tide about a hundred feet off Gantheaume Point in the 1960s.
In the early 1900s, Broome was the center of the world’s pearling industry. Aboriginal pearling dates back almost 20,000 years in this region. Initially, this wasn’t about the pearls themselves, but their shells, which were used as ritual ornament by the indigenous people and buttons, handles, and inlay work by Europeans. Today Broome is a popular beach destination for tourists, but as a jumping off point for the Kimberley and Western Australia wilderness areas, it is still a marvelous addition to your bucket list for greater Australia.
You Might Not Ever Go Farther Off the Beaten Path in Australia than Lord Howe Island
An unincorporated administrative area of New South Wales, Lord Howe Island is an infinitesimal speck in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand with a population of less than 500. With the number of tourists on the island at any given time restricted to less than 400, it’s the perfect addition to unusual bucket list destinations in Australia.The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with about 70% of its area designated as permanently reserved. The Lord Howe Marine Park protects the waters surrounding the island in a similar fashion. The result is a pristine, natural landscape which is home to many plant and wildlife species found nowhere else on earth. Apparently uninhabited until discovered in the late 18th century by a penal colony fleet commander, Lord Howe Island became a whaling provisioning port in the 19th century. Settlers farmed and bartered, establishing a kentia palm growing scheme as the whaling-based world economy waned. Flights to Lord Howe Island come from Sydney and Brisbane; it takes about two hours by plane. Every two weeks a provisions ship arrives, and infrastructure is limited (no cellphone coverage or public transport). Luxury resorts and vacation rentals are available for visitors. Activities, as you might guess, are geared to the outdoors: hiking, snorkeling, diving, fishing, paddle sports, windsurfing, and glass-bottom boat tours.
Our Final Choice for Unique Bucket List Ideas in Australia: Kakadu National Park
Covering an area half the size of Switzerland in Australia’s Northern Territory, Kakadu National Park likes to call itself “the oldest living culture on earth.” Visitors contemplating adding this treasure to their bucket list for greater Australia won’t be disappointed. Often overshadowed by its neighbor, Uluru, in terms of notoriety, Kakadu has a lot more going for it, in our opinion. The park’s corporate organization is based upon a partnership in which the Aboriginal people lease it to Parks Australia.
Kakadu’s biodiversity range is vast: wetlands, savannah, woodlands, mangrove coastal areas, and stony outcroppings. Six seasons mark changes in flora and weather during the year in the park: gudjewg monsoon (during which some areas flood), bangurreng windy storm, yegge – cooler with humidity, wurrgeng cold weather (17ºC – 30ºC temperature range), gurrung hot dry, and gunumeleng pre-monsoon.
Kakadu’s indigenous culture consists of 19 separate clan groups; clans are two or more families which share land ownership. The Aboriginal kinship concept extends to people, plants, animals, and activities such as ritual ceremonies and dances. Cultural norms include social behaviors and kinship terms as opposed to personal names. Instead of their previous nomadic lifestyle, Kakadu’s approximately 500 Aboriginal residents now live in 18 different “outstations” spread throughout the park.
Four hub areas within Kakadu offer visitors camping, cabins and hotel room accommodations. It is possible to camp at remote bush sites interspersed in the park as well. Non-indigenous visitors should respect restricted sacred sites, burial places, residences and places of ceremony.
We hope our recommendations for off the beaten path Australia bucket list items have inspired you to consider at least one alternative destination as you do your planning for “Down Under.” Each of these would make a marvelous addition to any itinerary.