Walk With Wildlife on Kangaroo Island 

Even though it sounds like an island from a fairy tale, Kangaroo Island is real. This isolated outpost off South Australia has been called a “zoo without fences.” [1]Check in to a room at the Southern Ocean Lodge—a luxuriously appointed seaside getaway that stretches along dramatic sea cliffs—and, once you’ve finished gawking at the view, join in a guided walking tour to mingle with the island wildlife. Feel the sand beneath your feet as you stroll past endangered sea lions, and watch as kangaroos bound across the grasslands using all five of their limbs (the tail, as you’ll notice, plays a vital role). The island is home to a kangaroo subspecies that is shorter than its mainland counterparts, and along with the playful short-beaked echidnas (which resemble curious porcupines), you can share the wilderness of Kangaroo Island with these uniquely Australian critters. 

 

Pamper Your Palate in Pokolbin 

Somewhere between the feta-stuffed olives and slurps of apple pie gelato, you realize there is more to the Smelly Cheese Shop than wheels of pungent fromage. Sure, the heaping platters of gourmet cheese are what entice visitors to stop, but it’s the diverse selection of other gourmet favorites that makes them want to return. Set in the  center of the town of Pokolbin—a luxurious, boutique and rural getaway located a two hours’ drive north of Sydney—the shop is an affordable microcosm of the larger Hunter Valley food scene. When paired with the Sémillon and peppery Shiraz that the Hunter Valley is known for (there are currently over 150 vineyards terracing the nearby hills), the cuisine has helped establish Pokolbin as a national culinary capital. [2]When visiting, spend a day sipping at Hungerford Hill winery with its barrel-shaped cellar door, and then stick around for a delectable meal at its acclaimed restaurant, Muse. After polishing off a plate of pan-fried sea scallops and goat cheese cannelloni, retire for the evening to a King Spa room at Spicers Vineyards Estate, a luxurious lodge set amid the vines, just a 15-minute drive from town.

 

Hit the Beaches of the Queensland Coast 

Maybe it’s the fact that 90% of Australians reside along the coast, but surfing and beach culture are the double helix of Australia’s DNA. Nowhere is this lifestyle more evident than along the beaches of Queensland, where business suits are replaced by boardshorts and noses are plastered with zinc. To get a sense for this surf-obsessed subculture, schedule some surfing lessons in Noosa Heads along Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. This white-sand town is the northernmost surf spot before the Barrier Reef begins, so the water is consequently warmer here than in any other surf town on the coast. When you aren’t slicing your way across a wave face (or paddling back out for more), soothe your muscles by relaxing poolside at the RACV Noosa Resort. By night, browse the Hastings Street art galleries before dining at Berardo’s or Embassy XO, and be sure to buy your surf instructor a beer if you bump into him out on the town.

 

Find Adventure in Isolated Exmouth

Nothing says adventure like waking up in the morning, strapping on a snorkel and jumping off of a moving boat to swim with the world’s largest fish. Diving with whale sharks is just one of the adventures available in the town of Exmouth, an out-of-the-way sea hamlet in Western Australia that is a two-hour flight from Perth. Other adventures include microlight flying, which takes you high above the desert, where you can peacefully glide over a turquoise shoreline to spot manta rays, turtles and whales. The snorkeling in Exmouth also can be fantastic, and the colorful corals of Ningaloo Reef—the largest fringing reef in Australia—run unabated for 160 miles and house nearly 500 species of fish. For a true escape on the desert coastline, stay a few days in the Australian bush at the Sal Salis luxury tent lodge. Take a hike through rugged gorges that explode with desert color, or simply stroll down an empty beach as the sun submits to the sea.

 

Roar With the Crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds

Whether it’s a huddle of fans all screaming at a television in a popular pub on Smith Street, or the pulsing bleachers of the Melbourne Cricket Grounds during the final moments of a match, you can feel Australia’s passion for sport on almost any weekend in Melbourne. “Aussie Rules” Football was born in this city in the early 1860s, and today the game is arguably the most popular of any sport in Australia.  When watching a game at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, feel the energy of 200,000 eyes trained on a moving football, and join in the grimaces and collective groans during every open field hit. Australia’s football season runs March-September, and every year the Grand Finale is held right here in Melbourne. The passion continues through the summer months when cricket replaces “footie,” and not only is Australia’s team consistently top in the world, but the Melbourne Cricket Ground boasts the largest crowd of anywhere else on the globe. During the week, or on days without matches, visit the National Museum of Sport which is located inside of the stadium, and brush up on your sporting knowledge to get psyched and ready for game day.   

 

Go Back in Time at Nitmiluk National Park 

As you cruise the waters of Nitmiluk Gorge—a colorful canyon dotted with rock drawings that date back thousands of years—or take a hike to a hidden waterfall that plunges through the desert, you come to realize there is something special about Australia’s Northern Territory. Aside from the refreshing emptiness of the region (only 240,000 people inhabit an area that is twice the size of Texas), the Northern Territory is also home to authentic Aboriginal culture. Drive four hours south from the city of Darwin to Nitmiluk National Park, and listen as indigenous Jawoyn guides weave enchanting tales of the land. Learn how rock drawings explain how humans are inseparably related to the Earth, and hear the legends of how our mortal existence is just part of a larger dream. Stay a night at the Cicada Lodge on the outskirts of the city of Katherine, and soak in the view from your comfortable room that looks out toward the sandstone hills. These, of course, are just a few locations where you can feel Australia’s pulse. From the cosmopolitan streets of Sydney to the deep red earth of the Outback, the continent continues to entice travelers with its varied, evolving, adventurous, delicious and multifaceted culture.