Top 10 essential Australian travel experiences

When it comes to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, Australians don't have to look far afield. From untamed nature to urban exploring, our country offers plenty of unforgettable moments. Here is our ultimate Australian to-do list. 

1 TAKE THE PLUNGE

The best way to cool off after a rugged Top End hike is to dive into a pristine waterhole. A croc-free one, of course. In areas such as Kakadu, many of the waterholes are closely monitored for crocodiles; signs at each pool tell you its status. The enchanting Gunlom Pool, hidden at the top of a waterfall, is usually a safe bet. Be brave, jump in: you'll be glad you did. 

2 SEE (REALLY) OLD MASTERS 

Tucked under rock overhangs and inside caves, The Kimberley's rock art galleries feature thousands of paintings, from ghostlike, wide-eyed Wandjina figures to the elegant dancers of Gwion Gwion art. The oldest images are estimated to be around 50,000 years old. The galleries at Mitchell Plateau are among the most-visited; cruise ships such as the Orion and the True North take in more remote sites. 

3 TALK TURTLE 

They are not as large as manta rays or as menacing as sharks, but when it comes to underwater encounters, it's hard to beat the thrill of snorkelling alongside a turtle. Queensland's Lady Elliot Island is one of the best places to hang with a turtle; at the right time of year, you can even watch baby turtles hatching. 

4 WALK INTO HISTORY 

If you're looking to stretch your legs, there's nowhere quite like Tasmania. The island has so many memorable multi-day walks, it's hard to choose just one; but since we have to, we're going with the Maria Island Walk. From the untouched beaches and blue-gum forests to wombat sightings and a fascinating convict history, every day is an eye-opener. Throw in candlelit dinners, and we're sold. 

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5 GO WAY OUT BACK 

Why is Broken Hill our favourite outback town? Because it embodies all the archetypes of a mining town – old-school pubs, homes made of corrugated iron, streets named Chloride, Bromide, Sulphide – while simultaneously overturning all our preconceptions. Not only is there top-notch coffee, they also have more art galleries than pubs. The silver city has been freshly anointed as the  first town with a national heritage listing; cheers to that.

6 GET LOST IN MELBOURNE'S LANEWAYS

What's down that alley? It might be anything from a bijou boutique to a hole-in-the-wall wine bar, which is why Melbourne's lattice of laneways is the most exciting urban space in the country. The sense of discovery is matched by the rampant creativity, from graffiti murals to galleries tucked into old warehouses.

7 BUNGLE AROUND 

As you pick your way over an ancient river bed winding through a narrow gorge, the walls get higher and the path narrows into what seems to be an impassable crack in the rock. Only as you get closer do you realise you can actually squeeze through and keep going. Indiana Jones-style antics in Emu Chasm are just one of the memorable experiences in Western Australia's remote but spectacular Bungle Bungles. 

8 BOTTLE IT UP 

With 65 wine regions and more than 2400 wineries, we are not going to take sides about who makes the country's best wine. We will, however, note that South Australia has been blessed with an unusually rich selection of premium wine regions, from the Barossa, McLaren and Clare Valleys to the Coonawarra. If you want to discover new wines at the source, there are worse places to start.

9 CLIMB THE SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE

Not just the best photo opportunity in this spectacularly photogenic city, a BridgeClimb experience will also give you a new appreciation of how impressive infrastructure can be. Choose a tour to suit your body clock – it's equally remarkable at dawn, at twilight, or even at night – and rest assured that, thanks to a safety system that keeps you latched to the structure at all times, it is impossible to fall off.

10 DON'T CLIMB ULURU

Uluru ain't what it used to be. Once, it was just a big red rock in the desert. Today, it's a portal into the world's oldest continuous culture. From learning local dreamtime stories to picking up tips on bushtucker or even trying your hand at dot painting, it's one of the best places to get a handle on indigenous culture, something most of us know way too little about. The local Anungu are gracious hosts; all they ask is that you don't climb the rock. With so much else to discover, that's hardly a sacrifice.

Explore the top 10 experiences in pictures in the photo gallery above.