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5 Australian travel experiences that Australians never have
It is hard to put your finger on why Australians don’t get out and experience their own country. While Australians are keen travellers that seem to be found in every corner of the globe, traveling within their own borders isn’t a priority. Be it cultural cringe, an ingrained sense of the size of the continent nation, or an inferiority complex about our supposed lack of history, we just assume that the rest of the world is more exotic, more cultured and more exciting than out own backyard.
Below are 5 travel experiences that most, even well-travelled Australians have never had, and they are probably not on their ‘to do’ list until retirement.
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Driving across the Nullarbor
Every now and again a story will appear in the newspapers about a backpacker who tried to do something very stupid, such as drive across the desert on an unsealed dirt track carrying only a packet of biscuits and 10 litres of beer for sustenance. Australians read these stories over morning coffees, mostly in the suburbs and laugh at the folly of these travellers but don’t recognise that at least they have tried to see the continent.
And it is possibly this which stops most Australian’s from making the long journey from Adelaide to Perth by car. However the view from the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight is a sight to behold with sheer cliffs in both directions as far as the eye can see with angry waves crashing against them. The drive includes the Australia’s longest stretch of straight road at 146.6 kilometres. Bright yellow signs start marking the turn about a kilometre before it comes up. Then you are faced with over 70 kilometres of straight road. Your mobile phone won’t work in many places on a drive across the Nullarbor but it is a sealed road with plenty of passing traffic so there is no chance of being lost in the outback if your car breaks down.
Seeing the dolphins at Monkey Mia
The vast majority of Australia’s population resides in the big cities of the east coast. This leaves the west coast largely unexplored by the majority of Australians. Monkey Mia is a 10-hour drive from Perth so takes some serious effort to get there. However the effort is worth it.
Monkey Mia in the 1960’s was just a fishing spot with a caravan park where the visitors would feed the dolphins. Fast Forward 40 years and this is now a National Park with a major resort complex. However there is accommodation for campers, backpackers and caravans. The dolphins are fed 3 times a day, usually in the morning by the park rangers and a few lucky kids picked out of the crowd. The park rangers manage the food intake of the dolphins carefully, ensuring that only the females are fed and that they only receive a small portion of their daily needs. This ensures that they still teach their young the hunting skills they need to survive. It is an eerily sensation to be eyeballed by a dolphin floating on its side while standing in knee-deep water. You wonder who’s come to see who.
4 wheel driving on Fraser Island
When most Australian’s think of exotic island getaways their minds turn to Bali, Thailand or for the more adventurous, Vietnam. However Fraser Island, just off the Queensland coast, has plenty to offer in the way of unique experiences. Something that the throngs of international backpackers getting their hired Toyota Landcruisers into trouble every few kilometres all over the sandy island have cottoned on too.
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island and is world heritage listed as a site of environmental importance. Eli Creek is nature’s own water slide. Walk along the boardwalk through the forest, hop into the sand bottomed creek, and let the clear fresh water carry you back to the beach. Lake McKenzie in the centre of the island is a vividly blue fresh water lake rimmed with lush green vegetation and bright white sand. Seventy-Five Mile Beach on the east coast of the island serves as both the main road and light aircraft runway, which makes for some interesting driving experiences.
Driving the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road starts only an hour away from Australia’s second most populous city, Melbourne yet doesn’t hold the same glamorous allure for Melbournians as it does for visitors from overseas. Take the drive from Torquay to Warrnambool and you’ll notice that it’s frequently foreigners who make this spectacular trip. The biggest clue is the ‘In Australia drive on the left’ signs that are prominently placed at the exit of every turnout and car park as well as randomly along the road.
But driving is not the only option for exploring the Great Ocean Road now. The Great Ocean Walk is a series of tracks totalling 104 kilometres from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles. The walk weaves its way along sheer cliff tops, lonely beaches and through pristine national parks. The walk can be tackled in sections or as a whole with camping spots are designated along the way.
Walking around Uluru
It can be difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t been to Uluru just how impressive a massive rock can be. But it’s not just Oprah and I who think that the red monolith, which gets its colour from the rusting iron content, is magnificent. Uluru, formerly known as Ayres Rock is another natural wonder granted world heritage listing.
While climbing Uluru is still allowed on some days of the year, mainly determined by favourable weather conditions, it is not encouraged. The Anangu people do make a compelling argument against climbing. Uluru is a sacred place and climbing it is dangerous. 35 people have died, mostly from heart attacks. They’d appreciate it if tourists would stop dying on their sacred site. Imagine if travellers en masse decided to start climbing St Peter’s Basilica but kept falling off and dying. It does kind of ruin the spiritual vibe. A better option is the 10.6 kilometre walk around the base that takes in many of the scared sites of the traditional owners.