- Discover The Bush
The bush is often referred to as the real Australia, the Australia many backpackers never get to see. Below are a few places where you can experience the unique and breathtaking Aussie Outback.
Otherwise known as Ayers' Rock and the Olgas, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are the age old aboriginal names for them. The Anangu tribe lived in this region and the park has many deeply significant places for them. Check out the Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park cultural centre across the road from the rock. It will give you an idea of the importance of Uluru to the indigenous people. In their culture only an important elder of the group could climb the rock, so they get very offended by the tourists climbing it. They compare it to climbing on the Popes' alter to a catholic. Quite a few tourists have died on the rock climb and this hurts the Aboriginal people deeply. The base walk will give you a better view of the actual rock anyways. There are shorter walks as well, such as the Mala walk, and the Mutitjulu walk.
Uluru is the worlds' largest monolith, but what you see is only a small fraction of it. The rest is underground. At 348m high it's still quite a large section. The best time to get the obligatory photo of Uluru is at sunset. What most people do is go to the main lookout at sunset and then go to the other side for sunrise. The best thing to do is go to the main area for both. You should have the place to yourself as well as getting a different perspective, rather than seeing the exact same thing in reverse.
30km to the west stand the Olgas. These are massive eroded rocks. Climbing is prohibited in this area. There's a short track into the Olga Gorge, but the best is the 7.4km long Valley of the winds walk. The valley is quite beautiful. Many people prefer Kata Tjuta to Uluru and feel that Uluru is something that has to be done for a photo opportunity, after all nothing says you're in Oz than a picture of you standing in front of Uluru.
Stretching over 400km over rugged and dry landscape, the Ranges are a bushwalkers dream, but caution should be taken. As always, take plenty of supplies, let people know where you are going.
Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island and is a must see on your tour of Australia. In fact many people will name Fraser as their absolute highlight of their time in Australia. You will understand when you go there. You can leave from Hervey Bay or Rainbow beach.
4WD is the only way to get around Fraser as there are no roads, just sand track. This is what makes Fraser so much fun, four wheeling on the sand. The beaches are beautiful but do not go swimming in the sea whatever you do. The waters around Fraser Island are a breeding ground for Tiger Sharks, one of the most feared sharks in the world. Swim instead in one of the many freshwater lakes or creeks spread throughout Fraser, especially Lake Mckenzie, Lake Wabby, and Lake Allom, where you should see some turtles.
Drive along 75 mile beach, which is Fraser’s highway, where you will see the Maheno shipwreck, an old luxury liner that washed up on the shore in 1935. There's also the Pinnacles, a natural multicoloured sand formation. Float lazily down Eli Creek to its mouth on the beach. Climb Indian Point to go shark spotting or carry on further south to the champagne pools.
You will almost certainly see the native dingoes, the only pure bred dingoes left in Australia. Do not feed them, they can become aggressive. A nine year old boy was killed by dingoes at Waddy Point in 2001, so stay away from them, they are not like pet dogs. If you leave food out at your camp you will receive a $250 fine from the rangers, they take this very seriously.
Karijini is Aussie outback at its best, gorges, waterfalls, termite mounds, red earth, bats, wallabies, and snakes. It's spectacular and very remote so wrap up for a night of camping. Get off the North West Coastal Highway at Roebourne. It's around 5 hours drive from there. Situated inland, between Exmouth and Broome.
Litchfield is not as well known as Kakadu but it's definitely worth heading down there, 115km south of Darwin. You will be amazed by the Magnetic termite mounds. Some of these mounds are 7 metres tall. They say that it takes 10 years for every one metre, so some are 70 years old.
Go for a swim in Buley Rockhole and further on, Florence Falls. The water is cool but not cold, really good fun. As you're walking down to Florence Falls on the Shade Creek walk, keep an eye out for rock wallabies and even pythons if you're lucky. Another nice place for a dip would be Wangi Falls.
Kakadu National Park spans 20,000 sq km. It's joint owned by the Australian government and its traditional Aboriginal owners. The park is run as it would have been thousands of years ago. You can go on your own and explore the park, or you can go on a tour. With a tour you will get a guide who really knows what they're talking about, and will amaze you with their knowledge of the history of this land. You'll need a minimum of three days to discover the entire park.
The park is best seen at the end of the wet season or early in the dry. During the wet the park is flooded and large parts of the park are inaccessible. At the start of the dry there might still be salties (saltwater crocodiles) in the swimming holes. They don't allow you to swim until they've completed the surveys, which means they go through the pools with massive flashlights and remove all the saltwater crocs. But if you leave it too late into the dry season, the impressive waterfalls will dry up to nothing more than a trickle. Late June and July would be a good time to visit. If you are in the top end in the wet season, get a scenic flight over Kakadu and witness the floods and sheer power of the waterfalls in full flight.
Without a doubt the most famous waterfalls in the park are Jim Jim falls and Twin Falls. You will probably have seen plenty of pictures of the falls before you even head up north. You may not be able to see these falls unless you are on a tour and certainly not without a four wheel drive vehicle. You can't swim at the base of Twin falls anymore due to the increasing number of crocs moving into the area.
The Gumlong Falls are also a great place for swimming above and below the waterfall. There are so many waterfalls in Kakadu and if you're lucky your guide will bring you to some out of the way pool where you can have a quiet swim. Just remember you are swimming at your own risk, however, if the authorities claim the water is safe to swim in, it probably is. A croc attack on a tourist is very damaging for the tourism they heavily depend upon, so they take the clearing of crocs from pools very seriously. You will almost definitely be swimming with freshwater crocs however, as they are fairly harmless and aren't removed from the swimming holes. (Although they have been known to bite.)
Kakadu has some 5000 rock art sites, some going back 50,000 years. These sites are sacred to Aboriginal people, but there are some sites that are open to the public.
Ubirr - there is some great rock art here as well as fantastic views of the park from Narab Lookout. Ubirr is located in the east Alligator region. Nourlangie also has some good rock art paintings.
Follow the Great Western Highway out of Sydney or get a train (2hrs) to Katoomba. You will probably stay in Katoomba which is the main accommodation centre. The visitor centre is at Echo Point, which is about 2km from the train station. To the west of Echo Point are the scenic railway and scenic skyway.
If you're camping, Katoomba Falls Caravan Park is 2km south of the highway. There's also the Blue Mountains YHA if you fancy a hostel (207 Katoomba St). Also there's the Blue Mountains Backpackers (190 Bathurst St)
There's an amazing amount of activities to keep you busy in the Mountains. There's rock climbing, abseiling, caving and canyoning among others.
Australian Outdoor Consulting, The Australian School of Mountaineering, Blue Mountains Adventure Company, High and Wild are some of the adventure companies out there.