4WDing around Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island and, with practically no development, it is a truly fantastic experience when you head off for 2-3 days in a 4 wheel-drive to explore the pristine creeks, freshwater lakes and lush rainforest.  Plus, it is all interlinked by the magnificent eastern stretch of beach that runs the near full 120km / 75mile length of the island and acts as the “highway”.  Lake McKenzie, with its clean mesmerising colours, perfect white sand and backdrop of the rainforest, is worth the trip alone.  The highlight experience of Queensland, if not all of Australia, and a must for an East Coast visit


I’ve written a few tips below, but my biggest tips are to give yourself at least 2 days, ideally 3, and to rent a 4×4 rather than taking a tour.  The day tours can be good (I’ve done one before and we still had a great time), but there is something wonderfully adventurous about renting a 4×4 and heading off across the island at your own pace to go exploring.  Its a very accessible chunk of paradise, so very easy to do

10 day roadtrip around Tasmania

Tasmania is one of the jewels of Australia for its rugged remoteness, world-class natural landscapes, unique history and fewer tourist numbers compared to some of the other famous sites.  It also has the added benefit of being far smaller than some of the other parts of Australia, which makes it ideal for a week-10day road trip.  The itinerary below gives you the highlights of this wonderful little island


3 high level tips:

  1. Could do in a week?  You could do this itinerary in a week by shaving off Port Arthur and the Tamar Valley, but it will feel a little rushed.  10 days far better . . . and don’t make the error most people make which is dropping the west coast – it is the highlight of Tasmania
  2. UNESCO rate Tasmania – the high scores give an idea for just how impressive Tasmania is, and in particular the West Coast.  But don’t only take my word for it.   UNESCO have 10 potential criteria for a site to be designated World Heritage, with only one of the criteria needed to be met.  The Tasmanian Wilderness Area in the south west part of Tasmania meets 7 of the 10 criteria which, alongside Tai Shan in China, places it at the top of all sites in the world.  Really is quite a remarkable place to visit
  3. Tasmania or South Island New Zealand?  The two are often compared as they’re relatively close and similar sizes which, considering the world-class natural landscapers of the South Island, gives you an idea of the quality on offer in Tasmania.  Broadly, I’d say that the South Island just nudges it from a natural sites point of view based on its snow capped mountains, glaciers and fjords, but Tasmania clearly wins from a cultural significance point of view and might just shade it based on its more compact size for a roadtrip and its lower fellow tourist numbers

Trip to Port Arthur

Port Arthur is the most infamous of British penal colonies as it was the destination for the most hardened criminals, re-offenders after having been transported to Australia, and for the physiological techniques used to try and discipline prisoners.  For these reasons, it was acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010 and many of the original buildings from the mid 1800s remain in good condition.  In addition to its infamous reputation, Port Arthur is also synonymous with the 1996 Massacre when one man shot and killed 35 people in what is still Australia’s worst mass shooting


Although it’s quite far down the list of experiences in Tasmania, in particular the amazing natural wilderness options, it is a staple place to visit on a trip to Tasmania, is easily accessed with a 1.5hour drive from Hobart and has some lovely gardens

Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park

Regularly voted one of the world’s best beaches, Wineglass Bay within Freycinet National Park is about as perfect a setting for a beach as you can get and the highlight beach for Tasmania.  Its a bit difficult to access, which makes sure that tourist numbers aren’t hectic on the beach itself, but you can easily walk the 30mins or so from the main road and car park up to the Wineglass bay lookout that will give you the famous view.  Biggest tip though – continue on to the beach.  We turned back at the lookout because it looked quite a way further to get to the beach and had run out of time that day, but its only another 30-45mins walk to the beach and, looking back, it needs to be done

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot

A bit cheesy, but really good fun.  Tasmazia features 8 mazes, one of which is The Great Maze which used to be the world’s largest; a cute model village in the centre called Lower Crackpot; and all within the quite stunning backdrop of Cradle Mountain and the Tasmanian Lake District.  Surprisingly good fun getting lost in amongst it all, and make sure to fill yourself up on the giant pancakes in the cafe

Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania – fishing, sailing, trains and hiking

Some may be a bit surprised as to why Macquarie Harbour gets such a high score, especially considering the world-class travel experiences that share this placing in the rankings.  To explain it, and why it is such a gem, consider a few factors:

  1. It is the world’s #1 UNESCO World Heritage site – Macquarie Harbour sits within the Tasmanian Wilderness Area, the isolated south west part of Tasmania that has gained UNESCO World Heritage Status.  In order to gain World Heritage status a site must meet 1 of the 10 UNESCO criteria for outstanding universal value, of which there are 6 for cultural and 4 for natural.  The Tasmania Wilderness Area meets 7 of those 10 criteria (4 cultural and 3 natural)- along with Tai Shan in China, it has the highest measurement of any site globally
  2. World class activities to see the area – the Gordon River Cruise and the West Coast Wilderness Railway are must-dos for the area and allow you to see the fantastic harbour and hidden abandoned logging towns in style.  And to a level of service quality that is a pleasant surprise considering how much in the wilderness it to be . . . and with a drink as you do so which always helps!  Add to that the fishing from Hell’s Gates where the second largest harbour in the southern hemisphere empties into the ocean and the wonderful hiking nearby, and you have some fantastic activities to help you see the area
  3. Fewer fellow tourists – whether it is the 4 hour driving distance from the major towns of Hobart or Launceston, the worry about the infamous Tasmania weather, or just that Tasmania in general doesn’t get huge tourist numbers, you will find relatively few fellow tourists for such a big area
  4. It is a place of wonderful natural extremes – the harbour is huge (more than six times the size of Sydney Harbour), the trees are super tall (Tasmania has 5 of the top 10 tallest tree species in the world), the rainwater and river water is the purest in the world  . . . and the sun’s UV rating is often the strongest in the world (yep, wear sunscreen)
  5. Its really is just beautiful – the lush greens of the rainforest, the whites of the sand, the multicoloured water with its tannins giving dark browns, reds and crystal clear.  Just beautiful

3 days basing yourself in Strahan – a truly wonderful experience at the edge of the world

Trip to the Jenolan Caves

I saw the Jenolan Caves listed as one of the highlights of the Blue Mountains area, but found them to be a little underwhelming.  Perhaps it comes down to which caves you visit on the day, but I found them far behind the stunning views around Katoomba and, what doesn’t help, an hour further away from the main attractions and relatively busy / crammed in when you get there.  Pretty surrounding countryside though

Roadtrip up the Queensland Coast in winter

The Queensland coastline includes some of the highlights for the whole country and, with world-class beach experiences such as 4WDing on Fraser Island, sailing the Whitsunday Islands and diving the Great Barrier Reef, it is one of the premier coastal roadtrips in the world.  Throw into the mix the the hedonistic glitzy skyscraper Gold Coast, the natural phenomenons of the Daintree Rainforest and Atherton Tableland, chilled out islands like Great Keppel and Magnetic Islands, plus the very Australian quirky habit of needing each town to have its own “Big Thing” (think giant prawns, bananas, mangos etc), and you’ve got an unmissable experience


Itinerary below for a 3 week trip and 3 top tips:

  1. Go in winter – despite most of the Queensland coast being in the tropics, majority of people (Aussies and International) think it’s cold in June and July in Queensland.  Whilst it’s certainly colder than normal, the temperatures are very mild in the south and still very much warm enough in the north.  Go in winter – it’s cheaper and it’ll be a far more enjoyable experience
  2. Start in Brisbane or Sydney? – obviously starting in Sydney gives you more to see and includes the wow factor highlights like walking along Sydney Harbour (see the individual travel Sydney Harbour for more tips), the Blue Mountains (likewise the travel entry Train ride from Sydney to Katoomba and checking out the Blue Mountains) and wine tasting in the Hunter Valley.  But these highlights are clustered around Sydney.  The remainder of the New South Wales coastline between Sydney and Queensland is mainly beach towns like Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay, which are nice, but very similar to what you’ll get all along the Queensland coast and will be that bit colder in winter.  It makes sense to start in Sydney if you want to see the highlights around Sydney, less so for the rest of the New South Wales coast
  3. Can do in 10 days, but 3 weeks better – if you wanted to smash the key highlights of Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef, you could do this in 10 days, but it would be hectic as it’s around 2,400km / 1500miles of driving.  The three weeks gives you plenty of chill out time and the opportunity to see some of the slightly more off the beaten track places like the Daintree Rainforest, Atherton Tableland and Great Keppel Island

Driving through the Atherton Tableland

If driving along the standard East Coast of Australia route, I’d highly recommend taking the short detour slightly inland for the Atherton Tableland.  The higher altitude (the tableland is home to Queensland’s highest mountains of Bartle Frere at 1622m and Bellenden Ker at 1593m) makes for a pleasant break from the oppressive heat of the coastline and also fellow tourist numbers drop off dramatically.  Give yourself half a day to drive through the pockets of rainforest and see / swim in the magnificent waterfalls dotted all through the area

Camping in the Daintree Rainforest

For most people, the Australian East Coast trip ends at Cairns as it’s the last town to fly back from.  But, if you continue just another couple of hours north you hit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest which is the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world.  The whole north trip from Cairns feels like you’re escaping the well trodden tourist path as you need to cross flooded roads, say goodbye to electricity from anything other than generators and leave yourself open to nature.  You have jellyfish stopping you swimming in some places, the constant sound of birdsong and insects of the jungle, and frogs getting just about everywhere.  A real getting back to nature experience – but prepare to get very very wet!