Time-pressed travellers, take heart. When we polled our Traveller team on their most memorable travel experiences, we discovered there is a wealth of one-day wonders out there; activities that may be over in just a few hours, but that linger much longer in the memory.
DO A GUIDED CLIMB OF MOUNT GOWER, LORD HOWE ISLAND
HOW LONG Day-long.
THE EXPERIENCE There's only one way up Mount Gower, one of the two blocks of rock defining Lord Howe's southern extremity, and that's to follow a guide such as Jack Shick, an island character if ever there was one. The 14-kilometre trek takes about 8.5 hours, including a picnic scoff at the summit. Prepare to don a hard hat for a nerve-racking cliff-side sidle and to haul yourself over boulders with ropes to reach the summit's mist forest. From March to September look out for Providence petrels – a seabird so unafraid of humans you can cradle one in your hands.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Tours cost $70 a person, Mondays and Thursdays. See lordhoweislandtours.net
"BAG A MUNRO" IN SCOTLAND
HOW LONG Five to 10 hours (round trip).
THE EXPERIENCE Munros are Scottish mountains over 3000 feet (914 metres), named in honour of Sir Hugh T Munro, the first man to survey and catalogue them. Ben Nevis – Scotland's highest peak (1345 metres), near Fort William – entices many hikers. But there are 281 alternatives to "bag" – including Ben Lomond, a 90-minute drive from Glasgow. All munros are doable in a day, but weather conditions can change in an instant, so come prepared (a flask of warming Scotch might raise the spirits).
GO MUD-CRABBING WITH AN INDIGENOUS LOCAL
HOW LONG Half or full day.
THE EXPERIENCE Juan Walker is a proud Kuku Yalanji man who shows visitors another perspective on his country in Far North Queensland. Based at Cooya Beach near Port Douglas, Walker takes small groups along the coastline, highlighting bush tucker, medicinal plants and ancient lore surrounding geographical features. Follow him through mangroves and coastal shallows to stalk mud crabs with a spear.
MAKE IT HAPPEN The cost is $165/$209 a person. See walkaboutadventures.com.au
TAKE A DAY TOUR TO GREAT BARRIER ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
HOW LONG Seven hours.
THE EXPERIENCE You can see one of the most undisturbed islands of Auckland's world-renowned Hauraki Gulf in just a day. Great Barrier Island receives few visitors and is still mostly uninhabited. Those who live there are some of New Zealand's more unusual characters. You'll fly for 30 minutes from Auckland, before walking through native forest to lunch at the island's best day lodge. In the afternoon you'll spend time on New Zealand's most private, pristine beaches and be back in Auckland by 5.30.
MAKE IT HAPPEN The cost is $NZ464. See flymysky.co.nz
TAKE A BAYOU TOUR NEAR NEW ORLEANS
HOW LONG Almost four hours.
THE EXPERIENCE There's something evocative about a Louisiana bayou, especially when you're nosing around in a flat-bottomed boat, pushing through a tangle of water hyacinth, looking for 'gators and other critters such as turtles and nutria – a semi-aquatic rodent. The Gray Line tour, departing from New Orleans, takes passengers for a cruise along back-country canals, lined with dwarf palmetto, cypress and wisps of Spanish moss, which border the Jean Lafitte Preserve south of the city.
MAKE IT HAPPEN The cost is $US49 an adult; several departures daily, see graylineneworleans.com
TAKE THE "NORWAY IN A NUTSHELL" TOUR
HOW LONG Around 12 hours.
THE EXPERIENCE This day tour from Bergen delivers some spectacular encounters. You will travel by rail, boat and bus, with the day's highlights including a ride on the Flam Railway. The steepest standard gauge line in Europe, it winds its way past thundering waterfalls, mountain slopes and grassy meadows. A cruise on the UNESCO-protected Naeroyfjord is equally memorable. The trip runs all year.
MAKE IT HAPPEN The cost is from 1440 NOK a person, See norwaynutshell.com
DRIVE ICELAND'S GOLDEN CIRCLE
HOW LONG Eight-10 hours.
THE EXPERIENCE This 300-kilometre circuit from Icelandic capital Reykjavik encapsulates the magnetic appeal of "The Land of Fire and Ice". Crossing the continental divide – Iceland straddles the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates – you'll see spewing geysers, gushing waterfalls, crinkly lava fields, pristine lakes and lush green meadows infused with Viking legends, plus stunning Game of Thrones filming locations.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Hire a car (from about $60 a day) and do the loop anticlockwise. Most tour buses go in the opposite direction, so you're more likely to have an open road this way. See visiticeland.com
HIRE A BOAT AND SKIPPER FOR A DAY'S EXPLORATION OF LAKE INLE, MYANMAR
HOW LONG Eight hours.
THE EXPERIENCE Kick off early from the misty shores of Myanmar's Lake Inle and watch in awe as upright, leg-padding fishermen trap fish in their conical nets and farmers tend their floating gardens. The Intha people live on and around the lake, and visitors can disembark for a closer look at floating markets, cigar makers, silk weavers, sacred pagodas and the delightful Inthar House, where Burmese cats – once extinct in their country of origin – are bred.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min offers boat and skipper hire for around $45 for up to five people. Rooms start at around $200 twin share. See novotel.com/MyanMin
CONTRIBUTORS: Elspeth Callender, Caroline Gladstone, Ben Groundwater, Ute Junker, Nina Karnikowski, Katrina Lobley, Catherine Marshall, Rob McFarland, Steve McKenna, Julie Miller, Craig Tansley
NEW EPISODES: Flight of Fancy - the Traveller.com.au podcast with Ben Groundwater
To subscribe to the Traveller.com.au podcast Flight of Fancy on iTunes, click here.