You’ve seen the photos of beautiful beaches, you’ve heard all about the surf and the sights, but do you know what’s behind the poster image? Australia is much more than the stereotypes, and there’s plenty of offbeat fun to be had. What’s more now’s the time to think about Australia – booking hostels and flights from New York, organising visas, stocking up on audio books and packing your bags – it’s time to get ready for a holiday down under.
Open yourself to exploring the unique, and in Australia you can:
1. Overdose on cute Quokkas
Visit Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth, to say hi to some of Australia’s cutest animals, the Quokkas. These extremely charming marsupials are protected, so look but don’t touch. The island is also car-free and boasts quiet beaches, good for chilling out on.
2. Crack up on a comedy roadshow
Australians love their comedy. From the caustic to the cringe worthy, you’ll find big names touring all year round, especially in the bigger cities. But if you’re seeking out some serious comedy, Melbourne should be your first stop. Celebrate Christmas at the Comedy Club, chortle your way through the Melbourne Comedy Festival in March-April and crack up during the Melbourne Fringe Festival at the end of September.
3. Don’t eat the Idiot Fruit
Feel like you’re on another planet by visiting the Daintree Rainforest in Cape Tribulation, the largest block of topical Rainforest in Australia, where you can see the very rare Idiot Fruit – don’t eat it! – as well as one of the worlds most complex ecosystems and a whole host of Australian wildlife.
4. Bet on a bug
If you like a flutter and you’re not squeamish, swing by the Australia Day Cockroach Races in Brisbane when January rolls around. The bugs are the main attraction, but there are plenty of live bands, refreshments and street entertainments to liven up the proceedings.
5. Sneak a peek at the past
Being a relatively new country, Australia isn’t known for it’s historic sites, but a visit to Tasmania’s smaller villages is a great peek at former years. If you’re looking for quaint towns packed with gift shops and pretty views, visit Campbell Town and Richmond but if you’re looking for the real deal, visit Ross – where the air is clean, the tourists are few and the buildings old.
6. Start Swinging
Dust off your dancing shoes and get busy at the Melbourne and Sydney Swing Festivals and Jitterbug Championships. Watch or compete, the choice is yours, but dress up swish and check out Swing Patrol for tickets and events.
7. Spook yourself at Melbourne Gaol
If you aren’t afraid of no ghosts, pay a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol, which has a reputation as the most haunted spot in the country. Book a night tour and protect your candle flame as you’re shown the spot of 136 executions, including that of the infamous Ned Kelly.
8. Enjoy a Romantic Kayak Book a double sea kayak with your favourite person and explore the sheltered lagoons around Ningaloo Reef – home to 500 species of tropical fish and 220 species of coral – for an up close glimpse of the local wildlife and some romantic views of the open seas.
9. Play the Pokies
Pokies – also known as poker or slot machines – are big business in Australia. Recently announced one of the world’s 10 top gambling spots, you’ll find more than 200,000 gaming machines in pubs and clubs across the country, so be sure to take plenty of change.
10. Get Cranked up on Caffeine Might not be the most obvious national drink, but you don’t have to go far in Aus to find a good coffee – especially the much exported flat white. If you’re the real deal, visit in May for the Australian Coffee Festival in Melbourne or The Rocks Aroma Festival – a celebration of coffee, teas and spices – in July.