Australia tops many daydreamers’ lists of vacation destinations. Perhaps it’s the draw of the sun, the sea or the plethora of sights and experiences that beckons travelers from across the globe. Your cruising adventures may begin in Sydney or Brisbane, but your bucket list doesn’t have to stop there. We’ve rounded up 10 shore excursions sure to satisfy your travel passions and maybe even surprise you along the way.
If your bucket list has ‘cuddle a koala’ on it, then take in the panoramic sights of “The City of Stars,” before heading to the first and largest koala sanctuary in the world. Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to more than 130 koalas as well as wombats, Tasmanian devils, wild lorikeets and other amazing birds of prey. Spend the day hand-feeding kangaroos, watching a sheep shearing show and spying on platypus swimming. Then have your photo taken with Australia’s cutest creatures.
Find it in: Brisbane
2. Bondi Beach
See and be seen on this wide, half-mile beach that’s world-famous for beautiful views and people watching. Though Bondi is internationally known as Australia’s surf capital, the beach’s relatively calm waters are also a great place for the novice to learn how to ride the waves. After lessons, cool off at Gelato Messina, where every selection on the daily ice cream specials board is a tasty treat.
Find it in: Sydney
A stunning backdrop to Sydney, these blue-tinted mountains are best seen up close. Follow Australia’s ancient Aboriginal Trail to Burralow Creek National Park and take a walk through the towering eucalyptus forest. Fun fact: The oil released from these trees mix with sunlight and tint the air blue, which is what gives the mountains their name.
Find it in: Sydney
Explore the majestic Puketi State Forest, then sneak inside the Kawiti Caves to see how thousands of glow worms illuminate the rock formations inside. Wander through the lush rainforest and a natural corridor of stunning karst rock formations, led by guides that are direct descendants of the chieftainess Hineamaru, who discovered the caves in the 17th century.
Find it in: Bay of Islands, NZ
Experience this landmark performing arts center in person. Completed in 1973, it includes six performance spaces including the main, 2,679-seat Concert Hall and is known for its distinctive shell-inspired design. More adventurous souls can suit up and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for an unbeatable view of the Opera House from 400 feet above sea level.
Find it in: Sydney
The Barossa area is one of the most important wine regions of Australia, famous for its delicious Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache varietals. Drink up the scenery — and the wine. The vineyards have been tended by hand for many generations. With such diversity of growing conditions and soil types, you are bound to find a wine to call your new favorite.
Find it in: Adelaide
Tolkien nerds, unite! The backdrop of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films can be visited in real life in New Zealand, easily accessible during an Australian cruise. See the adorable hobbit holes, including the one where Bilbo Baggins lived in the films, and enjoy the views of the beautiful Kaimai mountains.
Find it in: Tauranga, NZ
Ready to try something new? Ride an all-terrain quad bike over the largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. (Or you can choose to go sandboarding, another exhilarating way to explore the Stockton Sand Dunes.) Guides will provide safety instructions in advance and will also help you unearth the mystery of the Aboriginal midden sites where the remains of stone tools and weapons were found.
Find it in: Newcastle
Check out the largest rainforest on the continent with one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Named after Australian photographer and geologist Richard Daintree, this dense jungle boasts crocodiles, birds and rare Aussie wildlife, such as unique green possums, spotted-tail quolls, fierce marsupial cats, rare bats and tree kangaroos.
Find it in: Port Douglas
The world’s largest coral reef system (more than 130,000 square miles) is off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and you can boat, snorkel and even walk underwater through parts of it. Take note of the more than 1,500 species of fish and 30 species of whales, porpoises and dolphins that live there.
Find it in: Cairns
Ready to start checking off your bucket list? Learn more about the must-dos in Australia and New Zealand.