Lonely Planet has attempted to rank the top 500 travel experiences in Australia – a mammoth and hotly debated undertaking.
The Ultimate Australia Travel List is a new coffee table book that plots famous and lesser-known travel experiences in every corner of the country.
“As international travel is starting to come back, there’s still so much to enjoy and experience here,” Lonely Planet’s Chris Zeiher told The New Daily.
“Just because we can travel overseas doesn’t mean that we need to necessarily do it.”
The list was compiled from the existing recommendations across Lonely Planet’s Australian guide books, and then ranked according to an in-depth survey of staff writers and public opinion.
The top five experiences overall are hardly surprising, and for good reason:
- Uluru, Northern Territory
- MONA, Tasmania
- The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
- The Great Ocean Road, Victoria
- Three Capes Track, Tasmania.
“A lot of outdoors experiences really came to the fore,” Mr Zeiher said.
“And I wonder if that’s a lot to do with the fact that when we were going through the voting process, we were really cooped up, we were in lockdown, and we were wanting to escape and get outside and reconnect with nature, and also maybe be away from crowds.”
But when you break things down by state, the results get even more interesting.
Although there’s plenty to see and do in Melbourne, some of Victoria’s coolest experiences can be had outside the city.
Mr Zeiher said there’s an abundance of road trips or hiking experiences from which to choose.
His personal favourite is the Silo Art Trail, a series of painted grain silos across northern Victoria that emerged around Shepparton and the Wimmera Mallee region.
- The Great Ocean Road
- Wilsons Promontory
- Victoria’s Garden of Eden, the Grampians
- The Twelve Apostles
- The MCG.
Hidden Gem: The Silo Art Trail
New South Wales
“NSW definitely has the lion’s share of experiences,” Mr Zeiher said, with the state accounting for slightly more than a fifth of all entries on the list.
He stressed that these choices cover “the full gamut” of what the state has to offer, from Sydney, up and down the coast, and deep inland.
One area where NSW stands out from the rest is night-time experiences – stargazing at the Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park, soaking up the lights of Sydney’s Vivid Festival and partying during Mardi Gras all rank high on the list.
- Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park
- Vivid Festival
- Bondi to Coogee Clifftop Walk
- Manly Ferry
- Lord Howe Island.
Hidden Gem: Sea Cliff Bridge
Queensland’s top experiences are naturally found along the coast, be they beaches, reefs or tropical islands.
But there’s more to the state than surf and sunshine.
“The unusual one here is the Museum of Underwater Art in Townsville, which is coming in at No.20 overall, and that’s a bit of a surprise,” Mr Zeiher said.
- The Great Barrier Reef
- Daintree National Park
- Museum of Underwater Art, Townsville
- Whitehaven Beach
- Gondwana Rainforests.
Hidden Gem: Wreck dive the SS Yongala, Townsville
South Australia is one of the country’s top food and wine destinations, with a few quirky spots like Coober Pedy to boot.
“It’s one of those states that’s still begging to be discovered,” Mr Zeiher said.
“I think people don’t necessarily think of it as top of mind, but it has such a great number of things to offer.”
- Kangaroo Island
- Coorong National Park
- Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
- McLaren Vale wine region
- Kilsby Sinkhole, Mount Gambier.
Hidden Gem: Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop
“This is a state that’s been closed for such a long period of time,” Mr Zeiher said.
“So those of us over in the east are really itching to go over and explore and see what the West has to offer.”
Natural wonders are where Western Australia really shines, with several national parks ranking high on the list.
- The Bungle Bungles
- Rottnest Island
- Karijini National Park, Pilbara
- Cape LeGrand National Park
- Cape Leveque.
Hidden Gem: A canoe tour of the Fremantle Prison tunnels
Tasmania’s arts and food scenes are world class.
In fact, Hobart’s art museum MONA – home of the infamous ‘poo machine’ – came in second place on the list overall.
“I think it just changed the landscape in Tasmania in terms of what it meant for cultural travel,” Mr Zeiher said.
- Three Capes Track, Tasman National Park
- Wineglass Bay
- Cradle Mountain
- Port Arthur Historic Site.
Hidden Gem: Bruny Island
The Northern Territory is already known for its rich Indigenous cultural wealth and abundance of natural wonders.
It’s no surprise, then, that Uluru claimed the top spot overall.
“It is one of those places where I don’t know anyone that’s been there that hasn’t been impacted or affected by it – whether it’s the scale, whether it’s the spirituality of the place, or whether it’s the connection to country,” Mr Zeiher said.
“I think it is just one of those places that every Australian should go to.”
- Indigenous history at Kakadu
- Kata Tjuta
- Waterfalls at Litchfield National Park
- Kings Canyon Rim Walk.
Hidden Gem: The Tiwi Islands
Australian Capital Territory
“The ACT is definitely about the national museums and the galleries that are there. It’s the home of a national treasures,” Mr Zeiher said.
But there’s more to the territory than just Canberra.
Included in the list are several out-of-town spots that offer the best of the great outdoors.
- National Museum of Australia
- Namadgi National Park
- Australian War Memorial
- The National Arboretum
- Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Hidden Gem: The Canberra Balloon Spectacular