The Ultimate Australian Summer Holiday Bucket List

Summer holidays are on the way and it’s time to go on an epic trip!

But where to go? Well, if you’ve been in Australia for very long, there are a few ‘bucket list’ holidays you’ve probably heard about, but never quite made the time for. Why not start this year?!

Below are probably the most essential, dyed-in-the-wool, dinky-di Aussie summer holiday getaways. If you haven’t seen most of this list, have you even seen Australia?

Drive the Great Ocean Road

Among seasoned road trippers, you’re unlikely to find one who doesn’t either rave or dream about the Great Ocean Road. It’s probably the quintessential Australian road trip, and for good reason! It deserves to be on everyone’s bucket list.

The road itself runs along the South Coast of Victoria for around 250km, boasting some of the most incredible views in the country. It winds through several regions of temperate rainforest, and past the amazing limestone formations, the Twelve Apostles. Only seven remain (there were only eight to start with) but they’re still an incredible sight, especially at sunrise or sunset.

Here’s another interesting factoid – Did you know the Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial? It was built by returned soldiers from WWI and dedicated to their fallen comrades. Fancy that!

The best place to start a Great Ocean Road drive is Melbourne. The drive west can take a whole day in one direction, depending on how often you stop, so plan accordingly. To see everything, plan a weekend on the road. We recommend staying in Warrnambool, at the western end of the road, which also hosts one of Victoria’s best surf beaches.

Sail the Great Barrier Reef

Let’s be real, you already know that the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef, and that it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world. So why haven’t you been yet? Whether you’re an experienced diver, a scuba novice, a casual snorkeler, or just interested in finding Nemo, the reef should be a mandatory Aussie holiday.

While it’s easy enough to book some time in Cairns, or on one of the many Whitsunday islands, consider getting out on the water yourself. If you’re an experienced sailor, there’s plenty of options for hiring a craft. If you’re not, there’s charter boats galore to take you adventuring. 

Many islands will offer solo rentals & guided tours, or boats can be rented from places like Airlie Beach for a longer time out on the open water. There’s nothing quite like waking up to sunrise over the water, and a quick snorkel before breakfast.

As far as priorities go, getting to the Great Barrier Reef should be something you do sooner rather than later. Climate change is having a devastating effect on the reef, so try to see it before it’s gone.

Road trip the NSW coast

Queensland might have the drop on its Southern neighbours as far as the reefs are concerned, but the NSW Coast boasts some of the most amazing beaches in the world. No matter where you start, you can’t drive more than a few hours North or South without stumbling on a famous stretch of sand, or some hidden treasure.

Even starting in Sydney can land you on some exceptional sand! Avoid Sydney beach crowds by driving north to the Central Coast, or south to Wollongong and Kiama. 

Some of the best coastal exploration can be done on the cheap, by taking a train up to Newcastle, then booking a GoGet to get you to one of Newcastle’s best beaches!

Visit the nation’s capital

Canberra used to have a reputation as a less than interesting place to visit, but it really couldn’t be further from the truth. Less than a 4hr drive from Sydney and roughly 6hrs from Melbourne, there’s far more than a weekend’s worth of activities in the ACT. 

For the kids, Questacon is always a winner, but did you know Canberra has a real life NASA space centre? The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is just out of town, with giant slow-moving dishes pointed toward the stars to catch any alien chatter. The complex also features a small museum, with real moon rocks! The nearby Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is chocka-block full of Wallabies, Emus, and Platypuses!

To double-down on the natural beauty of the region, make sure you visit the Arboretum, one of the largest collections of endangered trees in the world, planted on the site of the devastating 2001 and 2003 bushfires. While you’re on that side of town, make sure to head down to The Cotter for a swim!

If you’d rather not stray from civilisation, Canberra’s food and wine scene has really taken off in recent years. Braddon is the place to go for any kind of cuisine you could wish for, while Manuka boasts gastro pubs, freak shakes, and cafes. Add to this all those art galleries, museums, the National Archives, parliament, the War Memorial, and Black Mountain Tower, and you’ll hardly have time to think of Canberra as dull!

The cheapest way to get to Canberra from Sydney or Melbourne is on a Murrays or Greyhound bus, which will get you there in comfort for less than the cost of a tank of petrol. Once you’re in town, Canberra’s new light rail and many GoGet cars can get you wherever you need to go.

Cross the red centre by train

In these busy lives of ours, it’s not often you get a chance to just sit and watch the world go by. Even on a road trip, there’s a lot you’ll miss while your eyes are on the road. If you’re keen to see more as you travel, there’s no better way to do it than by train.

Trains evoke a sense of nostalgia, even in those of us who’ve never really travelled this way before. They make you think of fancy dinners and Agatha Christie novels – though hopefully your trip won’t be quite that eventful!

Whether you want to go North to South, or East to West, both the Ghan and the Indian Pacific offer various packages for travel between multiple capital cities, with amazing food and activities on offer along the way.

The entire trip on the Indian Pacific, from Perth to Sydney via Adelaide, will take you 4 days. The Ghan, which runs from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs, will take you 3.

Hike around Uluru

Trains not for you? The red centre is still a bucket list item for most Australians. Uluru is a magnificent sight at all times of the day, but a good trek or hike around the area will help you see it from every angle and in every light. 

Walking is one of the best ways to experience not just Uluru, but also nearby Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. A guided hike will help you to not only discover amazing rock formations and waterholes, but also to learn about the area and how these places came to be. 

Guided walks include the free, 2km Mala walk, along the base of Uluru, where rangers tell the story of the Mala people. It’s one of six established walks around the area, most of which are even wheelchair accessible. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the full loop of the rock is 10.6km, and the surrounding areas offer other longer walks as well.

Getting to Uluru? If you’re game, grab a car in Adelaide and drive north, stopping in at Port Augusta and Coober Pedy on the way – it’s worth staying overnight in one of Coober’s underground hotels! Otherwise, several regional airlines fly to Uluru and Alice Springs.

Ride the Gold Coast waves

The Gold Coast is something of an Aussie holiday cliché – but it’s a cliché for a good reason! The Gold Coast, near Brisbane, is a year-round summer destination, with some of Australia’s most swimmable beaches.

The best part about the Gold Coast is you can experience anyway you want. Stay in town for the night-life of Surfers Paradise, give your kids (big and small) a thrill at the theme parks, or get away from the coast and see the Gold Coast hinterland, with some of the most accessible tropical rainforests on the planet (FernGully, anyone?).

You can get to the Gold Coast by plane, or drive from Brisbane. If you’re a GoGet member, any of our Brissy GoGet cars will get you there quick smart!

Cycle the Barossa Valley

The final entry on our list of classic Aussie holidays takes us to South Australia, the wine capital of the country (somewhat disputed, but incorrectly so). Every Australian knows of the Barossa, and has likely had a drop of Jacob’s Creek at some point in their lives, but only a few of us have actually visited.

That’s a shame, because the Barossa has a lot to offer – more than just wine! A two hour drive from Adelaide will get you to Tanunda, in the heart of the Barossa. Hunker down for a couple of days, rent a bicycle (or bring your own) and cycle the Barossa Trail, a sealed, 40km path along the valley taking you to the best food and the best views the region has to offer.

Also, don’t forget the wine. There’s lots of it, and it’s all very, very good. Just make sure you have a designated driver and don’t drive yourself after a tasting.

Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.


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