1. Island hop on your own private yacht (it’s affordable!)
The Whitsunday Islands offer some of the world’s finest sailing, with mostly perfect winds, calm seas, beautiful scenery and 74 islands to hop through (69 of which are uninhabited). It’s called bareboating: hiring a boat, stocking it with provisions and friends and sailing off into the sunset. Even if you have no sailing experience, companies such as Cumberland Charter Yachts will give you a yacht and a safety briefing and then set you free, with the requirement that you respond to their twice-daily radio schedule to say where you are and where you’re going. Leave from the coastal town of Airlie Beach or have your vessel delivered to Hamilton or Hayman Island. Prices start at AUD$365 a night for a six-person yacht.
2. Ride a luxury train across the continent
Named after the Afghan camel drivers that used to roam Australia’s centre, this unforgettable train journey takes in 2979 kilometres (1851 miles) of tropics, the mountains of the Flinders Ranges, scorched desert, Katherine Gorge and the Red Centre. From AUD$3349 per person, The Ghan takes three days to cross the continent, from Darwin to Adelaide or vice versa, including fascinating whistlestop tours in Katherine and Alice Springs.
3. Enter another world at the Pinnacles
On the Turquoise Coast of Western Australia, 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Perth, you will find the Pinnacles Desert, where hundreds of ancient limestone pillars look like extraterrestrial tombstones. The park is fringed by secluded white beaches, wildflowers, unique fauna and excellent fishing. Stay in the nearby fishing village of Cervantes.
4. Take a foodie road trip around Tasmania
Start with a breakfast of fresh doughnuts and bagels at the Farm Gate Market in Hobart then spend five days feasting through Tasmania. There is lots of local produce to sample in a scenic road trip that makes for easy driving, with rarely more than an hour’s drive between gourmet towns and stores. Eat apples at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed, a ciderhouse turned museum in the Huon Valley’s apple groves; just-shucked Tassie oysters at Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed in Port Arthur; Belgian-style chocolates at the House of Anvers near Latrobe; and the triple cream brie or chilli camembert from Wicked Cheese in historic Richmond. Tasmania is famous for its cool climate wines, and the Tamar Valley, running north from Launceston, is Tasmania’s premier wine region. Don’t miss the Pinot Noir, Tasmania’s signature wine variety, from the state’s oldest vineyard at Providence.
5. See the Sydney Harbour new year’s eve fireworks
One of the first places in the world to welcome the new year, Sydney Harbour puts on a spectacular show. The fireworks at 9pm and midnight on New Year’s Eve are not to be missed, with pyrotechnics from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Opera House, and light shows and more fireworks from barges on the harbour. There are vantage points to suit every budget. Plant a picnic rug at one of the many parks around Sydney’s foreshore, jump on a ferry or boat cruise to view from the water, book into a waterside hotel room or attend one of the many ticketed events such as the parties on Fort Denison and Shark islands or the family celebrations at Taronga Zoo Sydney and Darling Harbour.
6. Cruise the Kimberley
One of the best ways to see the Kimberley – one of the last true wilderness areas on earth – is by cruise ship, and there are lots of options. You’ll get up close to the rocky shores, secluded beaches, ochre coloured gorges, lush waterfalls, and complex river systems.
7. Ride the roller-coasters and water slides on the Gold Coast
For fun, not much beats the Gold Coast’s theme parks, offering huge thrilling rides, water slides and wildlife. You can bundle Dreamworld with WhiteWater World next door, or buy a combination pass for Sea World, Warner Bros Movie World and Wet’n’Wild. The ”big five” fun parks are between The Spit and Coomera, north of Surfers Paradise, where there is plenty of accommodation by the Gold Coast beaches.
8. Dine under the stars at Uluru
In this unforgettable, intimate dining experience overlooking Uluru and the distant domes of Kata Tjuta, you’ll watch the sun set to the sound of a didgeridoo, sit on top of a dune to savour a degustation feast under the many stars (while learning all about them), then listen to Dreamtime stories by the campfire. Tali Wiru (“beautiful dune” in the local Anangu language) operates four times a week from April to mid-October, with hotel transfers from Ayers Rock Resort an hour before sunset. There are no more than 20 guests at any one time, and it costs AUD$325 per person.
9. Enjoy a gourmet feast by the beach in Margaret River
The annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape (held each November) is one of Australia’s largest food and wine festivals, celebrating the delights of Western Australia with delicious food and wine, pop-up events, cooking classes and celebrity chefs. The Margaret River region has wineries, restaurants and beautiful beaches to explore. From Perth, hire a car to drive three hours south to Margaret River or fly to Busselton, a town 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Margaret River.
10. Dive with great white sharks in Port Lincoln
Being underwater with a great white shark (even if you are in a strengthened aluminium cage) is an adventure to tell your friends about. Calypso Star Charters and Adventure Bay Charters run one day great white shark tours to Neptune Island, 70 kilometres (43 miles) off Port Lincoln, a 50 minute flight from Adelaide. No scuba experience is necessary (air is fed into the cage via a hose). You can also swim with the gentle but giant whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia between March and August.