Australia is a one-of-a-kind place. It is a continent all on its own, and is home to the world’s oldest living culture – the Aboriginal people – who date back to between 50-65,000 thousands years ago.
European settlers arrived from the late 1700s, bringing with them convicts and budding farmers alike, turning the land Down Under into a farming and gold mining heaven – or a prisoner’s hell.
This diverse and lengthy history has shaped what is now one of the most fascinating countries to visit on a road trip holiday. If you are wondering what to do in Australia, here are some unique activities to try.
Old Melbourne Gaol, Melbourne
For an eerie look into Aussie’s penal history, visit the Old Melbourne Gaol. Built in the mid-1800s, this ominous-looking facility was the site of 133 hangings before it closed in 1929, one of which was the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly. Nowadays it’s open for tourists, and features live performances and other historical experiences.
If you dare, you could even try one of three available night tours. These delve into the gritty, dark stories of the gaol, and both staff and visitors have been spooked by what could be ghosts prowling the cold, echoing hallways.
National Museum of Australia, Canberra
The National Museum of Australia (NMA) is home to the country’s National Historical Collection – over 200,000 valuable items from both European and Aboriginal history. Here you can see a range of exhibitions from Aussie’s past, including its participation in World War I, as well as a gallery dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Even better, admission to the museum and the bulk of its areas is totally free, though some of the more special, limited-time shows do have a cover charge.
Daintree National Park, Far North QLD
Just two and a half hours north of Cairns lies Daintree National Park, the oldest rainforest in the world – and one which closely represents the forests of ancient Gondwanaland. Natural wilderness tours and Aboriginal tours are both available here, which offer unique insights into the area from both the perspective of the land and local people. With the latter of the two, you could experience the treats of ‘bush tucker’ (food), as well as ancient fishing techniques and/or spiritual ceremonies, depending on which provider you choose.
A self-drive Daintree Rainforest tour is also an option, and audio guide books and maps can be purchased from numerous local retailers and resorts.
Yabun Festival, Sydney
According to its website, Yabun Festival is the largest one-day cultural extravaganza in Australia that celebrates the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s held in the Sydney suburb of Camperdown – the traditional grounds of the Gadigal people – each January, and features exciting music, dazzling dance and insightful talks. This is one of the best all-in-one local culture experiences to be had in Australia, and gives you a wide view of how the arts have flourished in these ancient people’s history.
Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Of course, you simply can’t road trip through Queensland without going on at least one (or more!) Great Barrier Reef tours. This truly stunning marine environment is the largest living structure on the planet, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. It covers a breathtaking 344,400 square kilometres, and is home to 600 types of coral, over 1,600 species of fish, 500 different mollusc variants and 30 unique whale and dolphin species.
Beginning in Cairns, you can drive north to Port Douglas, or south to the coastal capitals of Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton, each of which has a wide range of boat tours, diving attractions and other aquatic adventures for you to try.