Travel Blog

Australia’s most jaw-dropping natural wonders

Australia is a land of stunning natural beauty. If you could name all the geographical features you’ve ever heard of, it’s likely that you’ll find them in Oz. Whether you’re a fan of adventure travel or you’re hoping to explore at a more sedate pace, here are some of the most jaw-dropping natural wonders on offer Down Under.

 

The Great Barrier Reef

Spanning more than 2,000 kilometres, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most fascinating and beautiful natural wonders on planet Earth. The scale is difficult to imagine, but if you think that the reef can be seen from space, this gives you an idea of just how vast it is. The reef is home to hundreds of different species, and it affords visitors unrivalled opportunities to explore and discover more about life under the sea. You can snorkel and scuba dive to your heart’s content, and the tiny islands, which are dotted around, make the perfect base to catch rays and appreciate the incredible vistas. If you’re staying along the coast, you can find tours very easily, which will take you out and give you the chance to dive or snorkel and experience the Great Barrier Reef in all its glory.

 

Ayers Rock

Lying at the heart of Australia’s Red Centre, Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru, is a giant red rock formation, which dominates the arid landscape and captures the imagination of many a traveller. Ayers Rock is a sacred site for the indigenous populations of Australia, and it is believed to date back more than 500 million years. If you’re visiting the area, Ayers Rock is not the only highlight. Although you’ll be bowled away by the vivid hues and the sheer scale of this monolith, it’s well worth spending a little time exploring the rest of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where you’ll find the 36 stacks and domes known as the Olgas. In the summer months, temperatures can reach over 40 degrees in Uluru, so if you are planning a trip, make sure you wear sunscreen, and try and avoid the midday sun. If you’re staying for a couple of days, it’s best to visit at dawn or dusk when it’s cooler and the crowds have subsided.

 

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is up there with the best road trips in the world. Along the route from Torquay to Allansford, you’ll encounter everything from deserted beaches, canyons and sea caves to charming towns and of course, the iconic stone stacks, the Twelve Apostles.

Abseil in the Blue Mountains

Just a short drive or train journey from the hustle and bustle of downtown Sydney, you’ll find the tranquil paradise that is the Blue Mountains. If you’re a fan of adventure travel, a trip to this natural wonder will be right up your street. You can test your mettle and give adrenaline-pumping activities like climbing and abseiling a go in the most wondrous surroundings.

 

 

Abseiling in the Blue Mountains

 

You’ll struggle to find a more spectacular setting to try abseiling than the Blue Mountains. Whether you’re a novice with a head for heights or you have years of experience in abseiling, you’ll find this is an exhilarating and memorable adventure. The best way to make the most of the environment is to book a guided tour. You can choose the level of difficulty and there are half-day and full-day options available. In most cases, you’ll be asked to turn up in suitable clothing and footwear, but everything else you need will be provided.

 

If you’re new to abseiling, you can start off small and work your way up as your confidence increases. Starting with 5-metre drops, you can get used to the technique before you progress to higher drops of 20 or 30 metres. If you’re experienced and you like a challenge, you can take on drops of up to 75 metres.

 

Additional activities in the Blue Mountains

 

As fantastic as abseiling up here can be, it would be a shame to go to the Blue Mountains and not try out some other activities or have a good look around. Many tour operators combine abseiling and climbing trips, and there is a multitude of hiking routes available for visitors of all abilities and fitness levels. If you are planning to go hiking, don’t forget your camera, as the views are spectacular. You’ll also need comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and sunscreen. Most hikers make it their mission to incorporate a visit to the famous Three Sisters formation in Katoomba. If you search for the Blue Mountains, this is the backdrop you’re likely to find in most of the images you see. While you’re in the area, you can also try mountain biking and canyoning.

 
If you’re in need of a rest and you want to quench your thirst, there are plenty of quaint towns packed with cafes and tearooms. Leura is particularly charming, and it’s a popular stop-off for those travelling by train from Sydney.

 

Scuba diving in Tutukaka

Scuba diving can be an awe-inspiring, breathtaking experience, but what about diving in the midst of ancient volcanoes along the Pacific’s ‘Ring of Fire’? Dive! Tutukaka offers the once in a lifetime opportunity to dive in the Poor Knights Islands.

 

Formed over 11 million years ago, these islands provide a multitude of spectacular underwater caves, tunnels and various other rock structures. The underwater wildlife is second to none. Thanks to the continental shelf and the abundant sunlight and nutrients needed for photosynthesis, the islands’ filter feeders are provided with ample amounts of food, in turn providing the larger marine animals with a plentiful bounty. During the summer, tropical animals catch the East Auckland current and arrive in this oasis; these animals include humpback whales, turtles, the rainbow fish and elegant wrasse.

 

Divers, look no further than Dive! Tutukaka. They have new equipment in all sizes available for rent if you don’t have your own. The boat begins to board at 8:30, and once filled, heads out 23 kilometers to the Poor Knights Islands. Finding the best dive spot depends on many conditions, but shouldn’t take long. Commence the first dive! After completing this dive, the boat boards again and tours around the islands while lunch is served. After an hour and a half, divers have the opportunity to go for a second dive. After a long and enjoyable day’s diving, the boat heads back to Tutukaka between the hours of 3:30 and 4:30pm.

 

Divers also have the opportunity to explore two sunken ships: the Tui and the Waikato. Both ships were sunk for the sole purpose of underwater exploration. Divers can explore bridges, control and engine rooms and crew areas.

 

If you have not been diving before, Dive! Tutukaka is a certified dive-training center and will teach you. However, if you don’t fancy taking the time to learn and would rather enjoy the sites, Dive! Tutukaka offers visitors the chance to kayak around the islands, an opportunity to explore the waters while snorkeling, and a boat tour, which includes cave explorations and mammal spotting as well as island facts and history.

 

No matter whether you’ve never dived a day in your life or you’re an expert diver, Dive! Tutukaka offers a once in a lifetime exploration of the ancient Poor Knights Islands. If you’re travelling to New Zealand, make sure you put this North Island attraction on your to-do-list for an adventure you will never forget.

 

London direct to Perth now officially a reality!

Seven decades since Australia’s national carrier first took tourists Down Under, tickets are now on sale for a seat on the new Qantas route linking London and Perth, meaning holidaymakers can now officially fly direct to Australia from the UK for the first time.

 

The route, which flies out of Heathrow and replaces the London-Dubai-Melbourne flights, is actually the first regular non-stop passenger service from Europe to Oz, having first been announced back in December 2016.

 

Flights will begin on March 25 in 2018 and will run daily, leaving from Heathrow at 13.30 and returning from Perth at 18.50.

 

It may be a long flight, but tourists will find that the aircraft offers the utmost comfort. The Boeing 787-Dreamliner that will service the route is engineered with long-haul comfort in mind. Qantas are also building new lounges in both Perth and Heathrow’s Terminal 3 to add extra pre-flight indulgence to your trip.

 

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce believes that the new route is a major step forward for air travel between the two countries.

 

“We’ve said the Qantas Dreamliner is a game changer, and that’s becoming real today. The Kangaroo Route has kept changing with new technology. It used to take four days and seven stops but now we’re able to link the UK and Australia in a single hop… We’re conscious that this is a long flight, but not much longer than our Sydney to Dallas service.

 

“It’s the kind of route that the Dreamliner was created for, because of its built-in features to reduce jetlag and improve the overall travel experience. We’ve added a very high level of comfort in each of the cabins and a lower seat count than most of our competitors. And we’re making tweaks to our in-flight service designed to help customers enjoy the journey more,” he said.

 

Schedule for the first non-stop flight from UK to Australia is revealed

Aircraft fuselage

Qantas has officially announced that beginning March 26, 2018, a Boeing 787-9 twin jet will leave London Heathrow at 10 am and land in Perth around noon the following day. The 17-hour flight will cover well over 9000 miles once the jet stream winds and geopolitical factors are taken into account (the shortest route flies over Crimea, a disputed region in Ukraine). Lunch will be served over Germany, dinner over the Arabian Sea, and breakfast 2 hours before landing.

 

Despite being the longest flight ever from the UK, many flyers will need to transfer in Perth to Sydney or Melbourne which is another 4 to 5-hour flight. In Perth, there will be connections available to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Canberra. Qantas has stated that in the future the flight should also go directly to Melbourne or Sydney, cities much larger and more popular than the isolated Perth.

 

The return flight to London Heathrow will depart at 7 pm from Melbourne and after 10 pm from Perth. The return will take roughly an hour longer due to jet stream headwinds, seeing the plane arrive around 7 am at Heathrow.

 

The aircraft for the journey will be able to accommodate 236 people (42 business class suites, 28 premium economy, and 166 economy seats). Although there is some doubt as to how successful and popular such a route will be, Qantas has pointed to one key statistic to show that there will be sufficient demand for the service to Perth. 184,000 British-born people live in Perth, more than anywhere else in Australia. Melbourne and Sydney each have roughly 150,000 British-born inhabitants, just 4% of the population in both cities. All these Brits in Perth and their friends and relatives back in the UK will be sure to keep demand for the service high.

 

Fares have not yet been announced. However, there have been estimates placing the likely cost of a return ticket at around 1,000 pounds (taking into account a £150 premium each way for the faster journey privilege).

A breathtaking abseil into Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Caves are one of New Zealand’s most iconic tourist attractions. Famed for their unique occupants, the caves are visited by thousands of people every year searching for the iridescent glow-worms, which cling to the walls of the caves, creating a truly magical, luminescent spectacle. A trip to Waitomo Caves is not just illuminated by the chance to spot the glow-worms. There’s also an array of activities on offer here that will enthuse and excite you. If you’re feeling brave on your tailor-made New Zealand holiday, you could attempt a breathtaking abseil into the caves.

 

Abseiling into Waitomo Caves

 

If you’re an intrepid explorer with a head for heights, there are few experiences more exhilarating than an abseil into Waitomo Caves. If you’re keen to test your mettle, organised tours will treat you to a nerve-jangling 100 ft abseil, which enables you to plunge into the depths of the caves and discover the gems that make this such a popular and appealing tourist attraction. On your way down, you can get an idea of the scope and size of the caves, and once you land on terra firma, there are plenty more adventures on offer. Abseiling can be daunting, especially if you’ve got a fear of heights, but you’ll be looked after by experienced guides who will ensure that you’re safe and offer some words of reassurance and pearls of wisdom to get you through if you’re struggling.

 

Once you’ve negotiated the abseil, there’s a day of walking, wading, jumping, swimming and splashing around, and that’s before you’ve even marvelled at the glow-worm display. This is a day out when you can get your hands dirty and have loads of fun. On your travels, you’ll see everything from whale carcasses and a giant flowstone to caverns you’re required to scuttle through and water jumps you need to negotiate to reach the next stage. There may also be some creepy crawlies along the way, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re not a fan of eight-legged creatures.

 

Depending on the tour you take, you’ll need a moderate level of fitness and plenty of enthusiasm and energy. You don’t have to abseil into the caves, and there are plenty of trips that are suitable for those who aren’t feeling quite as adventurous and those who don’t have a full day to discover the caves. Some tours also include lunch or dinner and refreshments.

 

A white water adventure on the Franklin River

The Franklin River in Tasmania, Australia, is one of the last truly wild rivers in the world. The river runs through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, beginning on the southeast coast of Tasmania, and flowing through to the west coast of the state. It’s a World Heritage Site, filled with unique Australian wildlife and the Aboriginal caves dating back more than 10,000 years. It’s also one of the top white water rafting rivers in the world. If you’re an adventure seeker, plan your next vacation to raft the Franklin River in Tasmania.

 

The Franklin was nearly destroyed 30 years ago when attempts were made to dam the perennial river. But after a tough political fight, the river and surrounding wilderness became a protected site. The river is home to the Irenabyss, a fantastic rocky gorge; the Great Ravine, full of tumultuous rapids surrounded by beautiful hills; and Rock Island Bend, a beautiful island in the middle of the river – the image that ended up saving it from destruction in the 70s and 80s. Some trips include a hike of Frenchman’s Cap, a mountain alongside the river.

 

Rafting the Franklin River isn’t a one day expedition. Shorter trips are offered for part of the river, but it takes 8-14 days to see it in its entirety. Most tours begin in Hobart, in the southeast. Experienced professional guides will take you the whole length of the river, navigating the waters with ease and keeping you safe.

 

Groups usually run with four to eight people, and no previous rafting experience is required to get involved – everyone works together to paddle the raft. Camp under the stars, with guides preparing fresh, delicious, local food every night.

 

Expeditions tend to be all-inclusive, from the first night in a hotel through to the last night at the other end. Food and most of the gear is included, though some require you to bring your own sleeping bag, so it is best to bring one along if you can.

Rafting trips are offered from October to March during the Australian summer. The river is unpredictable, with both lows and highs possible in the same day. Expect the unexpected on this trip, but know that it’s the adventure of a lifetime. If you have time, travel around the rest of Tasmania, which remains an isolated paradise undiscovered by mass tourism, with some of the best wilderness you can find anywhere.

 

Planning a Tasmanian road trip

A treasure not known to many tourists, Tasmania has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Australia. With more mountains than anywhere else on the mainland, beaches on all coasts, and 45 percent of the land covered with national parks, Tasmania has much to offer for those looking to get off the beaten track on a road trip.

 

As the smallest state in Australia, Tasmania is in fact best covered by car. There are no mammoth motorways here, so roads are all easily-navigable and scenic two-lanes, winding the two to three hour distance between cities. Bus transport is infrequent, and there are few domestic flights, so planning a road trip across the state is the best way to take in all the beautiful sites.

 

If you’re coming from the Australian mainland, the Spirit of Australia is a ferry that runs daily. Otherwise, flights are available from various Australian cities into Launceston, Hobart, Burnie, or Devonport. There is so much to do in Tasmania that it’s worthy of a holiday of its own, so try to plan at least six days to allow you to see everything it has to offer.

 

The southeast of Tasmania includes the capital and most populous city, Hobart. Be sure to check out Salamanca Place, the waterfront heart of the city. Visit on a Saturday to catch the fantastic Salamanca Market, or take a trip to the Museum of Old and New Art, a fantastic gallery on the cove. For outdoors enthusiasts, Mount Wellington offers fun hikes and breathtaking views.

 

On your way out of the area, check out the beautiful sea cliffs and surf beaches that dot the southeast and eastern coast of Tasmania. Once you hit the east coast, make sure to stop at Freycinet National Park, home of the Hazards mountain range and the world-class beach of Wineglass Bay.

 

The northeast holds the fantastic Bay of Fires coast, one of the most beautiful areas in Australia. Take a stop at Launceston, Tasmania’s other large city, a showcase of different architectural styles.

 

Moving on over to the other coast, Devonport is a charming seaside city, and the gateway to the northwest. The Cradle Mountains are just the beginning of the fantastic wilderness the state has to offer. Further down the west coast, Strahan is a small, former convict village that now serves as a tourism hub for the area.

 

Check out the Macquarie Harbour on the west coast, and then move into the southwest to see Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, a kayaking and rafting destination for thrill-seekers to top off your trip in style.

 

World’s largest dinosaur footprint found in Western Oz

A “globally unparalleled” collection of dinosaur footprints has been found on the coastline near Broome in Western Australia, including prints from Sauropods that are the world’s largest.

 

Paleontologists from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences unearthed 21 different types of dinosaur tracks in Walmadany, the name given to the area by its traditional inhabitants. Some of the prints from Sauropods were a staggering 1.7 metres long.

 

The tracks are also considerably older than most of the fossils discovered in Eastern Australia, with those fossils believed to be between 90 and 115 million years old. These findings have been published as the 2016 Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

 

University of Queensland paleontologist and lead author of the study Dr. Steve Salisbury told The Telegraph that 21 different prehistoric species living in such close proximity is very unusual and represents the most diverse discovery of its kind in the world.

 

“Nowhere else has as many different types of dinosaurs represented by tracks than Walmadany has,” Salisbury said. “It’s such a magical place, Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting. It’s the Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti. And it’s written in stone.”

 

As for the 1.7 metre footprint, Salisbury says the track would have belonged to a dinosaur “probably around 5.3 to 5.5 metres at the hip, which is enormous.”

 
The fact the tracks were found at Walmadany was significant, considering that in 2008 the Western Australian government nearly turned the site into a massive liquid natural gas processing precinct. Luckily, the area was awarded National Heritage status in 2011, and it has benefited from this protection to provide us with one of the great paleontological discoveries of recent times.

 

 

Australia welcomes record number of Chinese visitors

1.2 million Chinese tourists travelled to Australia last year, helping to increase the country’s visitor expenditure figures, according to the latest report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

 

The data showed that visitors to Australia spent a record 39.1 billion Australian dollars in 2016, with about a quarter of that figure coming from Chinese tourists.

 

In a statement following the release of the International Visitor Survey numbers, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said tourism is on its way to being one of the country’s most vital economic assets.

 

“Spending by international visitors to Australia has now grown by more than 35 percent in the last three years — supporting Australian jobs and the broader Australian economy,” he said.

 

These numbers come during the China-Australia Year of Tourism, a celebration of the relationship between the two countries. Several events are planned throughout 2017 in order to bring Australia and China closer together.

 

Australia is also working to prepare for an expected increase in Chinese visitors, adding approximately 1,000 new hotel rooms to market to huge investments from Chinese entrepreneurs.

 

On top of the rise in Australia’s visitor expenditure figures, the increase in Chinese visitors has greatly helped local retailers. According to the Deloitte Access Economics Retail Forecasts report, retail spending from Chinese tourists accounted for 1.05 billion US dollars.

 

Deloitte Access Economics partner David Rumbens was the lead author of the report and said that number was set to quadruple within the next decade.

 

“Chinese tourism is a significant contributor to the sector,” he said.

 

Recently, Australia expanded its 10-year visitor visa to Chinese citizens, while respective authorities signed an ‘open skies agreement’ that removed aircraft capacity restrictions on the lucrative China-Australia routes in anticipation of increased demands.