The ultimate Aussie bucket list for families
BEST-SELLING Canadian author and National Geographic TV host Robin Esrock travelled across Australia for six months ticking off unique experiences for his latest book, The Great Australian Bucket List. He picks his favourite experiences for young families in each state.
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
Nature has a powerfully soothing effect on overexcited young kids. The fresh air and scenery of Cradle Mountain, coupled with nearby attractions such as Devils@Cradle wildlife park, made this Tassie jewel a highlight of our journey.
The Dove Lake Circuit, my nomination for Australia's most beautiful walk, might prove a little challenging for the very little ones, but forest walks, lake swims and campsite barbecues will make up for it.
Shark Bay, Western Australia
Both parents and kids were disappointed with the over-hyped dolphin feeding at Monkey Mia, but there were big smiles when sailing the turquoise waters of Shark Bay, spotting dugongs, dolphins and a glorious sunset.
Discovering Shell Beach, the Ocean Park Aquarium, Denham's seaside playground, and friendly locals who gather each evening inside the Shark Bay Inn proved just as successful.
Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory
Two iconic national parks dominate the Top End, but Litchfield is far more accessible than Kakadu. A two-hour drive on the 130km/h highway from Darwin, Litchfield is also packed with natural attractions in close proximity.
After gazing at the giant cathedral and magnetic termite mounds, we soaked up a memorable afternoon at Buley Rockhole, where Mother Nature has carved refreshing pools and rock jacuzzis.
Melbourne Zoo's Roar 'n' Snore, Victoria
Camping overnight in one of the world's best urban zoos is wild. Driving into the zoo's access gates after hours, it felt like we had entered Jurassic Park. Our friendly hosts gave us
a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour and, after a tasty barbecue, we strolled around the grounds, discovering just how active animals are at night (lions included).
Waking up to monkey howls and the opportunity to handfeed giraffes all but guarantees a very happy camper.
Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounter, New South Wales
We did a lot of research, scouring the country for unique experiences, but we also followed our noses. A simple signpost outside Port Stephens led us to this friendly, family-run facility working hard to dispel fears and give visitors a hands-on encounter with various rays and sharks. Our two-year-old wasn't convinced when a large smooth ray gave us a wet hug, but was in awe watching me handfeed a 3m-long tawny nurse shark.
Questacon, the National
Science and Technology Centre, Australian Capital Territory
We took the kids to fantastic museums around the country, and there were definite standouts: MONA in Hobart, the Melbourne Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, and the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle. From the moment they encountered a thespian robot in the lobby of Canberra's Questacon, my kids tuned into science through the museum's outstanding interactive displays.
"Best. Day. Ever!" My daughter screamed these three words many times on our journey, my reward for braving her meltdowns, food quirks, and occasional projectile vomit. Fortunately,
it was smooth sailing off Airlie Beach, hopping aboard a Cruise Whitsundays catamaran
to snorkel, play beach cricket, and explore the squeaky pure sands of Whitehaven Beach.
Oceanic Victor, South Australia
Having braved Monarto Zoo's innovative and unnerving Lions 360 experience, I took my kids to Victor Harbor to get up close and personal with large bluefin tuna. Built for educational and tourism purposes, this offshore holding pen is home to 80 prized tuna, blitzing about as we fed them sardines under the guidance of friendly marine biologists. Swimming with these speedy "Ferraris of the ocean" is an unusual and delightful tick on the national bucket list.
THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BUCKET LIST, by Robin Esrock, AFFIRM PRESS, rrp $33 , AVAILABLE from TUES IN STORES AND ONLINE. VISIT AUSSIEBUCKETLIST.COM TO ENTER GIVEAWAYS