Tourism Australia reveals 2021 travel bucket list

Kristine Tarbert
·Features and Health Editor
·10-min read

From showcasing the oldest continuous living culture on earth, to boasting a reef so vast that you can see it from space, and lakes that turn pink, there are plenty of highlights to see in this great land of ours.

So Tourism Australia has revealed the destinations and experiences in Australia that should be at the top of your 2021 bucket list and why.

Kangaroo at Lucky Bay in the Cape Le Grand National Park near Esperance, Western Australia
Are you planning an Aussie trip this year?

“We are so incredibly lucky to have so many world-class destinations and tourism experiences to choose from right here in Australia as people look to kick-start their holiday plans,” Managing Director of Tourism Australia Phillipa Harrison said.

How many of these are you going to try and tick off this year?

We have the world’s biggest and most famous rock

Uluru stands 348m (1,142 feet) above the surrounding desert plain, making it taller than the Eiffel Tower. Imbued with spirituality and a rich Aboriginal history, watching Uluru change colours at sunrise or sunset is one of Australia's most unmissable experiences. Uluru is the world’s largest monolith and should be at the top of any travel list.

Any travellers aspiring to visit other wondrous rock formations, should also add Mount Augustus to their list. Located in Western Australia, Mount Augustus is approximately double the size of Uluru and is often identified as the world’s largest monolith, but, because it is composed of multiple rock types, it is technically not a monolith.

Sunset at Uluru, the famous gigantic monolith rock in the Australian desert
Changing colour at sunset of Uluru. Photo: Getty

The world’s largest ecosystem

Covering 344,400 sq km in area, The Great Barrier Reef actually extends over 14 degrees of latitude and you can see it from space! The vastness is equal parts extraordinary to the 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and 150 inshore mangrove islands it hosts.

To put it into perspective, the Great Barrier Reef is bigger than Victoria and Tasmania combined. Whether you choose to hop the 74 islands of the Whitsundays, explore the extensive range of native flora and fauna on Great Keppel Island, the Great Barrier Reef is unmissable. It’s also home to Luxury Lodge, Qualia, which is consistently rated one of the best in the world.

Waterfalls that flow horizontally

Western Australia’s Horizontal Falls are unlike any other waterfall you've ever seen. Here, the water ‘falls’ horizontally. Technically, this natural phenomenon is not a waterfall, and occurs thanks to some of the largest tidal movements in the world.

There are two horizontal waterfalls in the Kimberley region, located at Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago. As the tide rises and falls, a huge volume of water is forced through two narrow cliff passages, creating a variation in ocean level of up to four metres and a unique waterfall effect. Whether visitors ride by boat, or witness the sight from the air, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Famous man-made icons, that you can climb

Sydney is known as one of the most vibrant, cosmopolitan and exciting cities on earth, with travellers from around the globe drawn to its must-see harbourside attractions. Count the Sydney Opera House's one million roof tiles which cover approximately 1.62 hectares (4 acres), or learn how the House is cooled using seawater taken directly from the harbour.

For a more active adventure, BridgeClimb is now offering guests the opportunity to climb the entire length of the famed Sydney Harbour Bridge with an Ultimate Climb. Perhaps the biggest innovation to this iconic tourist attraction in 21 years, it is the first time in history climbers have been able to scale the entire Bridge.

Great lakes and rivers, some of which turn pink

Australia is known for its incredible beaches, but don’t overlook the great lakes and rivers. Lake Eyre in South Australia is Australia’s largest salt lake at 9,500 km2 (3,667 miles2) and regularly cycles from completely dry to a full basin dependent on rainfall.

The Murray River is 2,508km (1,558 miles) and is Australia’s longest single river, running across three states and bringing lush green landscapes to its surrounds. Australia is also home to extraordinary pink lakes that have to be seen to be believed. From the outback of South Australia to the coast of Western Australia, there are few things that are as beautiful and baffling as Australia’s pink lakes.

Lake MacDonnell turns pink. Photo: Supplied/Lyndon O'Keefe
Lake MacDonnell turns pink. Photo: Supplied/Lyndon O'Keefe

Stuff that glows

In New South Wales’ Jervis Bay, the beaches are even more wondrous at night. Due to a natural chemical reaction, the plankton become luminescent and emanate a blue glow. This unusual natural phenomenon is more common in spring and summer months. Jervis Bay is not the only place in Australia you can see this occur, with it also being reported in Whitsundays Queensland, Port Lincoln South Australia and Lauderdale Tasmania.

Or, to be surrounded by nature’s own version of fairy lights, head to Lithgow in New South Wales to find a magical glow worm that lights up an old railway tunnel. In Queensland’s Springbrook National Park, find Australia’s largest colony of glow worms or in Melba Gully, Victoria spot glow worms can be seen at night along the walking tracks. There are also fireflies in the forests and mangroves along the coast of New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Glow worms in the old railway tunnel at Helensburgh. Photo: Supplied/Destination NSW
Glow worms in the old railway tunnel at Helensburgh. Photo: Supplied/Destination NSW

The world’s oldest rainforest

Sir David Attenborough once called the Daintree Rainforest, “The most extraordinary place on Earth...”, so you know it’s got to be good. At 180-million years old, the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is so beautiful that its ancient ferns, emerald green vines and lush canopy provided inspiration for the movie Avatar.

Here, you can trek through the jungle and discover plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet, or fly through the trees on a zip-line for a bird’s-eye view. Cruise along the winding waterways of the Daintree River, looking for saltwater crocodiles or head to Cape Tribulation and see where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef.

Experience some of the tallest timber on Earth at canopy level – 40m (131ft) above ground – at the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk near Walpole Western Australia. One of the first walking trail of its kind, the 600m (1,968ft) walkway extends through the majestic and ancient 400 year old red tingle forest where visitors can spot native wildlife below. These giant eucalypts are found nowhere else in Australia, or on Earth as a matter of fact.

For a tropical adventure visit Queensland’s Daintree with trees reaching 44.2m (145ft), or 100km (62 miles) outside of Hobart in Styx Valley witness some of the world’s tallest trees - the eucalyptus regnans growing 100m (328ft) tall.

Daintree Discovery Centre in queensland
Visit the Daintree Discovery Centre. Photo: Supplied/Tourism and Events Queensland

Land so wide it looks like a giant took a bite out of it

The Great Australian Bight is home to the Nullarbor Plain, where visitors can go fishing from cliff tops or watch whales migrating along the coast. There are some incredible experiences to be found as you drive along the open road.

On South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, you can stand on the edge of Australia at the Head of Bight to watch southern right whales nurse their calves. The Nullarbor is also home to a 1,365km (848 mile) golf course along the Eyre Highway, the longest in the world, Nullarbor Links.

Streaky Bay. Back Beach. Eyre Peninsula. South Australia.
The great bite is in South Australia. Photo: Getty

Our Parliament House is shaped like a boomerang

Part of Walter Burley Griffin’s vision for Canberra in 1912 was New Parliament House. Shaped like a boomerang, this marvel of modern architecture is nestled on Capital Hill. Highlights of the building include the two huge circular walls composed of granite, which mirror the curves of the hill; the towering 81m (265ft) flagpole; and in the foyer, 48 columns of illuminated greenish-grey marble create the impression of a eucalyptus forest. After visiting Parliament House take the 3.5km (2.1 miles) Parliament House Walk to the city centre or fly over Parliament House in a hot air balloon.

Australian Parliament House in the evening.
Our Parliament House is something different at night as well. Photo: Getty

We have seriously great animal migrations

Australia’s great lands and seas are a stop on many animal’s migrations, from red crabs that crawl across Christmas Island to spider crabs which migrate under the water of Port Phillip Bay in Victoria. Each year, tens of thousands of whales migrate along Australia’s east and west coasts - resulting in the longest whale watching season in the world.

Hotspots on the east coast include the Whitsundays, Hervey Bay, Gold Coast, Sydney and the Sunshine Coast, where you can also swim with the whales. Over in Western Australia, your best whale watching spots are the coastal towns of Albany, Augusta, Busselton, Fremantle and Broome.

For the chance to swim next to the largest fish in the ocean, head to Western Australia for the incredible whale shark migration. Or off the coast of South Australia, witness the annual migration of thousands of giant Australian cuttlefish to the waters of the Upper Spencer Gulf, which is one of the most spectacular natural events in the Australian marine environment.

Great whites sharks

Port Lincoln, on the Eyre Peninsula's east coast in South Australia, is home to some of the world's largest predatory fish - the great white shark. For those feeling brave, a handful of local cage diving operators offer the chance to meet them face-to-face.

If the thought of diving doesn't appeal, Adventure Bay Charters has the world’s first Aqua sub, meaning travellers can still see sharks up close underwater without getting wet. Or if visitors to the region would prefer something a little more relaxing, book a swimming experience with the friendly sea lions or dolphins at Baird Bay, 284km (176 miles) from Port Lincoln.

Sea lion at Baird Bay in Eyre Peninsula, South Australia.
Visit the Sea lions at Baird Bay. Photo: Getty

The oldest living culture on Earth

No Australian adventure is complete without an opportunity to learn about and connect with the vast history of Australia’s First Peoples. The oldest living culture on Earth, Australia’s Aboriginal culture is multifaceted, with a deep connection to land, sea and spirit at its core.

The Discover Aboriginal Experiences collective offers an extraordinary suite of authentic and meaningful journeys, from one-hour tours to multi-day odysseys, which provide a window of insight into this ancient community. Perhaps the richest of all travel experiences available in Australia, adding an Indigenous experience to any itinerary will leave any traveller with a newfound appreciation and connection to Australia’s ancient natural environment and cultures.

Great legacies of Aussie icons

Australia is a great country and it’s no surprise that it’s also home to some great people. In the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, the Bradman Centre, honours one of Australia’s most famous players, Sir Donald Bradman. The museum contains a vast collection of memorabilia associated with Sir Donald Bradman, and overlooks the oval where The Don began his career.

In Queensland, explore wildlife icon Steve Irwin’s legacy at Australia Zoo. Here, meet some of Australia’s cutest animals, hand-feed kangaroos, meet cockatoos and wombats, and learn all about Australia’s crocodiles.

At the Australian War Memorial in Australia’s capital, commemorate the sacrifice of Australians who served and died in times of conflict through its huge collection of stories and artefacts. Here, several exhibitions including permanent galleries that cover Australia’s involvement in all major conflicts, and a number of temporary displays reveal the touching stories of these Australian heroes with relics, personal and public records, photographs, sculptures, aircraft, the Roll of Honour and more.

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