Whether it's food focused, travel based or filled to the brim with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, almost everyone has a bucket list in one form or another. Yours might include hitting a hole-in-one on the golf course, learning French, jumping out of a plane or meeting George Clooney. Whatever's on your wish list, we do know one thing: ticking off these items will not disappoint, and you'll be talking about it long after the encounter wraps. So in the name of inspiration, here are 10 incredible experiences that are all worthy additions to any bucket list. Happy travelling!
1. Jump out of a plane
The thought of jumping from a high-flying plane may make some queasy, but for others it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whether you’re seeking bragging rights or an adrenalin rush, skydiving will deliver on both accounts. Brilliant birds-eye views are also guaranteed, and one of the best is of the world-famous Great Ocean Road. Skydive Great Ocean Road operates from Barwon Heads, near Geelong, and gives jumpers an incredible opportunity to check out this stretch of coast from an unrivalled vantage point.
Where to stay: Koorameet, Barwon Heads
Koorameet is only a six-minute drive from Skydive’s drop zone at Barwon Heads Airport. The house has three bedrooms so it's ideal for getaways of all styles, be it a couple's retreat or girls’ weekend. The extra space means the property can also accommodate your support crew (you know, those who greet you on the ground after your jump!). Arriving the night before? The property’s location makes it quiet and peaceful – great for calming any nerves – and the plush sofas, living areas and fireplace are sure to keep you relaxed. When you’re back on solid ground post-jump and are ready to celebrate, it’s an easy walk from your front door to a handful of Barwon Heads’ restaurants and eateries.
2. Swim with sharks
Fancy coming face-to-face with Jaws? Take the plunge by cage diving in Port Lincoln, South Australia. This isn’t your typical underwater thrill: you’ll be lowered into shark territory in an enclosed cage to see great white sharks up close. Even those keen on not getting their hair wet can check out these incredible creatures from the decks of a charter boat. Calypso Star Charters has one-day expeditions that offer the chance to spend about 45 minutes in the water.
A stay at Port Lincoln Foreshore Apartments means you’ll be in the heart of the town’s action. These two apartments are located on the Port Lincoln esplanade, giving you easy access to the jetty and water, as well as shopping and dining. The apartments have space by the boatload. One apartment has two bedrooms; the other has a third loft bedroom that's accessible through the second bedroom. There are also kitchens for you to cook up your catch of the day – Port Lincoln happens to be the unofficial seafood capital of Australia. The open-plan living and dining area has excellent views of the foreshore.
3. Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge
It’s one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks and has seen the likes of Jamie Oliver and Oprah walk its famous arch. Yep, we’re talking Sydney Harbour Bridge. The bridge climb isn’t just a draw for tourists and celebrities though – it should be on a local’s must-do list too. Sure, you have to wear those grey and blue jumpsuits, but the views of Sydney definitely make it worth it.
To make a special experience even better, you need accommodation to match. That’s what Balmain Boutique Apartment delivers. The apartment is tucked away in the garden of a historic sandstone home in Balmain and has excellent city views (just like those you’ll see on your bridge climb!). From the apartment, it’s less than a 20-minute drive to the Harbour Bridge. The apartment has everything you need to make your stay one you won’t forget anytime soon. The interior is elegant and plush, with antiques and art dotted throughout each of the rooms. A modern kitchen is great for self-catering, but Balmain also has a cluster of gastro-pubs worth visiting. These eateries make great pit stops for refueling post-climb.
4. Soar over wine country
Exploring the Hunter Valley from the ground has its perks (hello, cellar doors) but you’ll be treated to a whole new vantage point from the basket of a hot air balloon. Sunrise rides are especially spectacular, and will see you soar over Pokolbin, Lovedale, Rothbury or Broke. You could even opt to follow your flight with a gourmet champagne breakfast. Balloon Aloft operate flights in the Hunter Valley, as well as other regions in New South Wales, Canberra and the Gold Coast.
Generally speaking, when you combine a five-star B&B, gorgeous surrounds and a tried-and-tested location, you can’t go wrong. And that’s just the case at Hunter Valley Cooperage Bed and Breakfast. Don’t think the merits of this property stop there, though. Oh no, this Hunter Valley gem also boasts legendary breakfasts, complimentary port and chocolates, a Gold Class-standard movie theatre and hosts who love sharing their wine knowledge with other foodies. It also just happens to be a 10-minute drive from Balloon Aloft’s Hunter Valley meeting point – good news for those who don’t love early starts. Back at the property, you have the choice between a suite, three rooms or the self-contained retreat.
5. Marvel at another world
A trip snorkeling or scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef isn’t your ordinary ocean paddle. It’s so, so much more. But when it’s the only living thing visible from space, that’s probably stating the obvious. This World Heritage-listed natural wonder is the world’s largest coral reef, home to tropical islands, kaleidoscopic-coloured fish, reef systems and marine life. There are almost as many ways to explore the reef too, whether it’s on a glass-bottomed boat, seaplane, cruise ship or whale watching excursion. To really see this beauty up close though, you’ll need to put your head underwater. There are plenty of tour operators dotted along the mainland and islands for you to choose from.
Fitzroy Island sits just off the Queensland coast near Cairns. Most of the island is national park (97 per cent, if we’re being specific) so you can expect swaying palms, walking tracks and blonde-sand beaches. Fitzroy Island Resort is the ideal base to explore the turquoise waters, lookout points and lush rainforest. The resort has accommodation to suit couples, families and groups of friends. The facilities are superb, too. Expect a gorgeous pool with swim-up bar, indulgent breakfast buffets, al fresco dining, and a dive and adventure centre. You can also pay a visit to Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
6. Sleep under the stars
Forgive us for waxing lyrical, but spending a night sleeping sans roof – in other words, nothing between you and the stars – rates pretty highly on our must-experience list. Yes, there’s nothing to stop you from doing this in your own back garden, but sleeping under the stars is something that’s worth heading out of your hometown for. For an authentic experience, you could set up a camp bed and let that be your digs for the night, but if you do prefer a side of luxury (read: linen and hot water) there are accommodations that can take care of that too.
Let’s be honest, camping isn’t for everyone. So that’s where Tanja Lagoon Camp comes in. This isn’t your average sleeping-mat-and-no-hot-water camping; this is glamping (that’s glamorous camping). The camp has four safari tents, each decked out with a comfy bed, eco-fire, kitchen, fluffy towels and an ensuite you’d expect to find in the city, not the bush. Each of the tents is elevated on a timber platform, giving glampers their own private deck area. You can do nothing or everything at Tanja Lagoon Camp. Active types can kayak, swim or mountain bike; those who prefer lounging about can lay in bed and listen to bird life, or situate themselves by the outdoor dining setting and settle in for a lazy afternoon.
7. Explore a natural wonder
Kakadu National Park is the largest national park in Australia. It’s also one of the most treasured, both for its natural beauty and Indigenous heritage. Kakadu can be seen from the ground, air or water, thanks to boat cruises, scenic flights and walking tracks. Guided tours are available too.
Easily reached from Darwin by a sealed road, Anbinik Kakadu Resort in Jabiru places you in the heart of Kakadu National Park. From here, you can self-drive to hotspots or jump on a day tour to more remote locations. Those with a head for heights can hop aboard a scenic flight over the park (tip: make sure your camera has plenty of battery space!). The resort offers suites, self-contained cabins, bush bungalows and double rooms in buildings of six. Whichever you choose, lush tropical gardens and a pool will be waiting for you after a day of exploration. A tour desk is also available.
8. Cruise the Kimberley
With its reefs, islands, gorges and waterfalls, the Kimberley coast needs no help in the looks department. The remoteness of this slice of Western Australia also means it’s not your average coastal trip. A cruise is a great way to take in this picture-perfect destination and there are expeditions covering every vessel size, budget and style of travel. Cruise The Kimberley has a collection of cruising options available that will help you tick off sights including Buccaneer Archipelago, Silica Beach and Horizontal Falls.
You’d be forgiven for thinking accommodation in remote locations like Kimberley Coast is all about tents and outhouses, rather than top-rated restaurants and stunning villas. Not at Berkeley River Lodge – this is remote luxury accommodation done right. The lodge’s villas are incredible. Expect ocean or river views, king-size beds and even open-air ensuites complete with freestanding bathtubs. The main lodge is just as impressive, with its library and 20-metre lap pool. A list of available activities is longer than your arm and chances are you won’t know where to start. A river cruise is a must, but there are also opportunities for bush 4WD tours, wilderness picnics and fishing excursions.
9. Climb a mountain
You don’t have to be a seasoned hiker to want to climb a mountain. Heck, all you really need is some determination and a good pair of shoes. It’s even better though if the peak you’re scaling has a couple of different walking tracks, so all levels of experience and fitness are catered for. Cradle Mountain in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is one such mountain. Once you've conquered the summit and are ready for your next adventure, tackle one of the other tracks scattered throughout the park.
This accommodation village sits on the fringe of a World Heritage-listed national park and boasts a string of cottages and chalets. Both make excellent retreats after a day spent hiking and trekking (the soaking tubs and Jacuzzis will be an especially welcome sight). Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village also has a guest lounge bar, where visitors can swap tips and stories from the day’s adventures. Each of the accommodations has an in-room kitchenette, but Hellyers Restaurant may make an appealing option for those with weary muscles.
10. Get your fancy pants on
Australia’s top-rated restaurants are an elite bunch of eateries, and usually come with an impressive collection of chef hats, five-star reviews and a certain amount of prestige. Now, while dining at these establishments may not be a practical option for day-to-day, it is an indulgence that some want to experience just once. But where to begin? The Australian Good Food & Travel Guide is a good starting point. You can also tap into the foodie grapevine – blogs, word of mouth, current reviews – where fine-dining restaurants like Attica in Melbourne make regular appearances.
Call swanky Southbank home with your visit to Melbourne Short Stay Apartments Southbank Collection. A collection of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, this complex is sleek, sophisticated and perfect for those set on exploring Victoria’s capital. The apartments are spacious and light-filled, with modern décor and pops of vibrant colour. There is a gym too, for those in the mood to work off last night’s degustation dinner. It’s only a 10-minute walk into the centre of Melbourne and its famous laneways, bolthole cafés and quirky bars. You’re also not far from public transport links for when you need to head out to suburban eateries, parks and sights.