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Australia “Big Ticket” Bucket List | Trip Planning

Looking for bucket list ideas for your travel around Australia? How about sailing in paradise, swim with sharks, fly over Australia’s most spectacular landscapes and natural landmarks and witness a waterfall that defies logic. 

Here at Our Wayfaring Life we are usually talking up and giving tips on how to travel and holiday as cheaply as possible while still enjoying awesome experiences and making great memories. Notably we strongly urge making the most of low-cost or free things to do as well as low-cost and free camping to help make travel and holidays affordable to as many people and families as possible. Notice I said “usually”? Well this article is a little different this article is about 5 experiences and tours that will push any travel budget to its limits but we think they are worth every cent.

Three bloggers have helped us out to tell you why you should save your money to sail the Whitsunday islands, see the Horizontal Falls and take a scenic flight over the Bungle Bungle range. We will tell you why taking a scenic flight over Uluru and swimming with whale sharks and humpback whales on the Ningaloo Reef are also on our to do list.

As budget travellers we believe that budget travel is about being smart with your money and prioritising what will give you the most unforgettable experiences and leave you with memories of a lifetime.

Image provided by Emily Brett at Websites From the Van

Sail the Whitsunday Islands

By Emily Brett

Sailing in the Whitsundays is something I’ve always wanted to do. Before looking into it, I thought it would be too expensive; however, after researching a few options, I realised if I invited my baby-boomer parents to share a boat with us, they could pay for half the bill! I persuaded them with the temptation of spending a week in paradise with their adorable grandsons, how could they resist?

The Whitsundays consists of 74 national park and resort islands located off the coastof Airlie Beach in Queensland. Surrounded by white beaches and crystal clear waters, this part of Australia is truly paradise.

Unlike many other tropical resort destinations around the globe, there aren’t hordes of tourists filling the beaches or plastic bags floating past when you take a closer look. It’s rare to find a family holiday destination so accessible and untouched. Add to that seeing the islands from your private floating hotel, and you’ve got yourself a big-ticket, bucket list adventure!

It’s possible to sail the Whitsundays at any time of year; however, they do have a wet season over summer.

We opted to hire a 43” Beneteau yacht because my dad fancies himself a bit of a seadog and he wanted to put the sails up to “get her underway” as he puts it. If you are considering a sailing holiday in the Whitsundays, you should know that you can get around with the motor on, you don’t even need a boat license or boating experience! We just so happen to be travelling with Captain Sparrow.

We opted to do a sleep aboard the night before our trip. The company we used are in Shute Harbour, which is a tranquil place that also happens to be a fishing hot spot! We fished off our boat into the night and ended up with a bounty of seafood for our first dinners at sea.

A highlight for us was pulling into several secluded calm bays for the night. The next morning, we were able to take the dinghy ashore and spend the day on a stunning beach with incredible views and no one around.

Other activities we loved throughout our sailing adventure was snorkelling around the reefs spotting turtles. There is also an aboriginal artwork cave on one of the islands, which is fascinating.

Costs to hire a yacht and sail the Whitsundays vary depending on the time of year and the sort of boat you want. For us, four adults and two kids on a yacht, we paid $3950 for five nights in April.

If you want to experience a once in a lifetime adventure which lasts more than a day, hire a private yacht in the Whitsundays.

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Image provided by Vicki Bryant at Happy Campers Australia

Horizontal Falls WA Overnight Tour

By Vicki Bryant

We are Happy Campers Australia, we have toured Australia for 17 months. We are on a budget, although, we never intended to travel Australia and not see Horizontal Falls WA, so the $2000 needed for this tour included in our savings plan right from the beginning.

Asked to write about an expensive tour we have experienced on our travels, one that was worth every cent, I had to write about our overnight trip to Horizontal Falls! $2000 dollars is a lot of money, but the memories are priceless!

We chose the overnight tour from Derby rather than the day tour from Broome. We would be travelling through Derby after completing the Gibb River Road, so it was not out of our way. The tour day tour from Broome was the same price.

The tour is booked in advance, and I must admit, when I handed over the credit card, I was hoping it would be as good as others had told us. The thought of blowing almost 3 weeks budget in one day was scary!

The tour started with a sea plane taking us over the Buccaneer Archipelago Islands, an amazing sight. We landed at the private jetty at our luxury houseboat accommodation in a remote are of The Kimberley before quickly changing into our swimwear. Then we got close and personal with the sharks from the safety of a shark cage.

Time for a quick hose off to remove the salt water before we boarded the boat to experience the falls. 1200 HP needed to work against the tides! Finishing with a scenic cruise around crocodile infested estuaries, spotting crocs before heading back to our houseboat at sunset. 

We disembarked the boat and greeted with cheese, biscuits and fruit while we chatted with our fellow travellers. The tour was BYO, and the drinks were kept extremely cold in a massive shared icebox. Dinner of locally caught barramundi and salads included as part of the tour. It was wonderful to watch the sun go down in such a remote area of Australia while enjoying everything that was on offer. We sat on our floating pontoon enjoying the night, but looking forward to what was installed for us in the morning.

Our rooms were very comfortable with shared bathroom facilities. We slept well, the water was extremely still.

It was an early morning for those who took the optional helicopter ride at sunrise. It was all thumbs up from those who paid the extra cash. We were happy to watch.

With the overnight tour, you get an extra trip through the Horizontal Falls in the morning. This was a real buzz, as we knew what to expect this time, and everyone was pumped!

We arrived back to the pontoon to the smell of bacon and eggs cooking on the BBQ. A full cooked breakfast was the perfect way to complete our overnight trip before jumping on the sea plane again for a scenic trip back to Derby.

While traveling Australia there are so many choices to make in regards to tours, there is no way you could afford to do everything. You need to have a list of “must do’s” and work the other choices out as you go. This was one tour that we do not regret one little bit and was always on our “must do” list! 

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Image provided by Natalie and Steve at Curious Campers

Bungle Bungle Range and Lake Argyle Scenic Flight

By Natalie and Steve

Some things are on such a grand scale that seeing them from above is the best way to view them. The Bungle Bungle Ranges certainly fall into this category. These colourful rock domes cover 450 square kilometres, making a flight the best way to appreciate them.

The Bungle Bungles make up a bulk of the Purnululu National Park in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. We took our flight from Kununurra. Flights are also available from Broome and Halls Creek.

There are two things that make this a special experience. First, the rock formations are spectacular! The orange and black striped domes, often described as beehives, look like an alien landscape.

Sure, exploring the domes on foot is also good, but to see the grandeur of the colour, shapes, and patterns a bird’s eye view is the best way to go.

The other great thing about the flight is it lets you see other sites too. Our flight included close up views of Lake Argyle, the Argyle diamond mine and the Ord River irrigation area.

A couple of tips… Recent burn offs made the view on our trip a little hazy so check the conditions before you go. Also, it is definitely worth taking travel sickness medication. The plane is small and turns and banks often so be prepared!

The cost of a 2-3 hour flight from Kununurra starts from $425 per adult. Prices might vary if you leave from other towns.

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Uluru Scenic Flight

Uluru Scenic Flight

Australia is a land of vast landscapes and famous landmarks, not too many more well known the world over than the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and its ancient monolith Uluru. Spanning over 1300 square kilometres on the lands of the traditional owners Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatara people, to fully be appreciated we think it should be seen from the sky.

A scenic flight over Uluru as well as the surrounding landscape can also include (depending on which flight package you decide and with many tour companies allowing you to customise your flight plan) also flying over the many domes of the Kata Tjuta, the Kings Canyon, Watarrka National Park, Gosses Bluff and Lake Amadeus.

May to September is the peak season for visiting Uluru and the Australian outback due to the milder winter weather.

Average Cost of Uluru Scenic Flight: $150 – $400 per person depending on length of flight

Swim with Whale Sharks

Swim with Whale Sharks and Humpback Whales

Imagine swimming alongside Whale Sharks and or Humpback Whales in their own environment! It is possible to do exactly this on the water’s of Ninagloo Marine Park in Western Australia.

This is top of our to do list as we travel around Australia. As keen snorkellers, swimming with these gentle giants of the sea will be the ultimate experience and thrill. Having heard so many positive stories from other travellers that have done it and read so many positive reviews online, this is another activity on your tour around Australia we believe you should highly consider. I am even willing to overlook the fact I get horrendously seasick to do this one!

Swims with whale sharks and humpback whales can only really be done with licensed tour operators who have the necessary expertise and equipment (Including planes for spotting the sharks and whales). In addition the operators are regulated by the Department of Parks and Wildlife to ensure the creatures and their environment are still well cared for.

Tours are a full day starting around 7am-8am in the morning. It is highly advisable that you book in advance during the peak season. Regulations state that only 10 people can be in the water swimming with a whale shark at any one time so it is also recommended that you follow the advice of tour staff so you can get the most out of your time in and out of the water. How many times during the day you will get to swim with either whale sharks and or humpback whales will depend mostly on the numbers in the area on the day and your fitness levels and swimming ability. Don’t worry if you are not a confident swimmer, you will be looked after.

Other sea life you are likely to see include are manta rays, dugongs, turtles, dolphins, sea snakes, reef sharks and an assortment of fish.

Each tour company provides an underwater photographer so you will end up with some fabulous photos to remember your once in a life time experience.

Peak season is March to August.

Average cost of Whale Shark or Humpback Whale Swim Tour: $1000 per person with a percentage going to research. There is also a no sighting policy meaning you will be able to go a second time if there are no sharks or whales depending on which tour you choose.

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