Absolutely terrifying: Australia's ten scariest experiences

 If a half-hearted vampire costume and a badly-carved pumpkin won't quite cut it, then Australia has several better options for getting the heart pumping. Whether getting in the water with a five metre croc, a ghostly quarantine station, taking a leap of faith down a waterfall or mysterious outback lights, here's where you can go to get properly scared.

The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree

Where? Pemberton, south-west WA

Climbing the Gloucester Tree, near Pemberton satmay16treetop treetop walk western australia wa ; text by mark chipperfield ; SUPPLIED via journalist ; 

Photo: Dan Avila

Climbing trees is just good fun, right? Well, not when they're a 75 metre tall karri, and the only way up is a series of metal pegs hammered into the trunk. The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is the tallest of three 'climbing trees' around Pemberton. The good news for the jelly-legged adventurers who make it to the top is that it's even worse coming down. That's when you have to look down as you're carefully placing your feet on the pegs. See parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/dave-evans-bicentennial-tree

The Cage of Death

Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin offers the change to get unnervingly close to salties you'd run a mile from in any normal circumstances.

Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin offers the change to get unnervingly close to salties you'd run a mile from in any normal circumstances. Photo: Facebook

Where? Darwin, NT

The giant five metre-plus salties of Crocosaurus Cove are not beasts you want to mess with. Getting into their enclosure and swimming around would normally be a one way ticket to getting eaten. But with the Cage of Death, you've got protection from the see-through acrylic box around you. The crocs may sidle right up to it and try to knock you out of your box, however. See crocosauruscove.com

Shark cage diving

Where? Port Lincoln, South Australia

It takes a three hour boat trip to get out to the seal-covered Neptune Islands. But this is the only place in Australia where you can dive with Great White Sharks. This involves getting into a metal cage, and letting the great whites swim around you, often rattling the cage to make things a little bit more interesting. Calypso Star Charters is among the operators who'll dump you in the ocean with Jaws. See sharkcagediving.com.au


Jetski crocodile tours

david whitley scary australia

Absolutely terrifying close encounters with crocs in Cairns. Photo: Supplied

Where? Cairns, Queensland

There's always one big question with a jetski: What if I fall off? This is mildly worrying off the coast, but absolutely terrifying in a croc-filled river. NQ Water Sports makes the crocodiles a selling point, however, with their one hour, 45km jetski tour of the waterways around Cairns designed to get within prime viewing distance of the crocs sunning themselves on the banks. Well, at least no-one's going to drift off during the safety demonstrations… See nqwatersports.com.au

50 metre bungy jumps

Where? Cairns, Queensland

From a specially-constructed 50 metre bungy platform surrounded by rainforest, the AJ Hackett operation offers a menu of 16 different bungy jump styles. These include doing it on a BMX bike. For beginners, the bog standard leap should be fearsome enough. It's much worse than skydiving, as you can see what you're throwing yourself towards, and you have to make the decision to take the tumble yourself, rather than let . See ajhackett.com

Nine Levels of Darkness

Nine Levels: Not for claustrophobes.

Nine Levels: Not for claustrophobes. Photo: Supplied

Where? Bendigo, Victoria

The Central Deborah gold mine in Bendigo has several tour options available when Covid restrictions are lifted. But the Nine Levels of Darkness trip is very much not for claustrophobes. This involves getting into the original miners' cage, descending 228 metres underground, then clambering up and down ladders in narrow tunnels. See central-deborah.com

The Min Min Lights

Where? Northern Territory

Should mysteriously spooky rather than absolutely terrifying be your thing, the Min Min Lights are one of the weirdest phenomena in the outback. Seen from Uluru to Mataranka, these lights are floating, fast-moving balls of colour that glow in the night sky. Oh, and they supposedly stalk people, confusing them in the process. Nobody quite knows what they are, although many who've experienced them reckon there might be something extra-terrestrial involved.

Flying in a jet fighter

Where? Melbourne, Victoria

Roller coasters are for wimps. If you really want to experience G-forces, hop aboard a fighter jet and grit your teeth. Operating from Essendon Airport, Melbourne Jet Fighter attempts to simulate the experience of a military cadet pilot. That means plenty of high speed turns, descents and airborne manoeuvres, with the G-forces being ramped up along with the level of difficulty. See melbournejetfighter.net

Canyoning Phoenix Gorge


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Where? Near Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Cradle Mountain Canyons offers a selection of milder canyoning tours in the mountains of Tasmania, but for the true fear factor, Phoenix Gorge switches the gentle abseils and rock slides for leaps of faith into pools underneath waterfalls. Navigating the 30 metre, near vertical Big Cheese waterfall requires abseiling half way down, then letting go of the rope to plunge into the pool below. See cradlemountaincanyons.com.au

Quarantine Station ghost tours

Q Station.

Q Station.

Where? Sydney, NSW

Believe it or not, the idea of quarantining new arrivals into Australia was once fashionable. From the 1830s until 1984, migrant ships with suspected contagious disease arrived at the Quarantine Station on Sydney Harbour's North Head. Not all of the passengers and crew left alive. And that makes for plenty of ghost stories and unexplained paranormal occurrences. Some of these are included on the two-and-a-half hour after dark ghost tours. See qstation.com.au

Disclosure: David Whitley has been a guest of Tourism Australia and the state tourism boards.

See also: The world's most terrifying tourist attractions

See also: 165 pegs of hell: Australia's scariest tourist attraction