As I strolled along the shore of one of Bouddi National Park’s (above) endless beaches, an elderly swimmer emerged from the ocean, dripping with salt water. I noticed his sun-weathered wrinkles – presumably garnered from multiple days spent lust like this – and friendly smile, thrown in my direction in typical, friendly Aussie style.
I returned the grin and he exclaimed, “You know, if this is Earth then I don’t won’t to go to heaven.” I couldn’t help but agree.
An island continent, Australia has no shortage of aquatic delights along its vast coast. From surfing beaches to waters teeming with marine creatures, there’s an entire underwater playground just waiting to be discovered.
And while iconic landmarks such as the Great Barrier Reef and Bondi Beach may be the best known, like Bouddi’s sands there are plenty more to be found away from the masses.
National Park with a Heart
Located on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Bouddi National Park takes its name from the Aboriginal word for ‘heart’ — and this place certainly manages to steal the hearts of all those who visit.
Its diverse landscape is ripe with golden beaches, rocky clifftops and ancient rainforests gleefully skirting the ocean, and you won’t find friendlier locals. On one side of the park is a handful of beaches with perfect conditions for that national pastime of catching a wave; on the other, calmer seas are ideal for swimming, kayaking and sailing.
A must-do is the Bouddi coastal walk, an 8km trail boasting beautiful beaches, boardwalks and birdlife. Stop for a picnic at one of the many inviting spots, surrounded by wildflowers, and keep your eyes peeled for migrating whales in the water at your feet.
Base yourself at Pretty Beach House — an intimate luxury abode nestled in the treetops, with sweeping vistas of the bay below and untouched national parkland. With just four self-contained suites, it’s as cosy as it is scenic and boasts heated plunge pools, private decks and delicious food from award-winning Italian chef Stefano Manfredi.
To really push the boat out, a personal seaplane transfer from Sydney ensures a royal arrival.
Oysters and Oceans
To be honest, you could be forgiven for thinking you had landed in some mythological oceanic paradise upon arriving in the Freycinet National Park.
Located on a protected peninsula on the east coast of Tasmania and dotted with pink granite peaks, this is where migrating whales and dolphins come to play; calamari and squid spawn in the rocky outcrops; local farms produce fresh, succulent oysters in some of the world’s cleanest waters; and fishing boats and trawlers bring in their daily catch of rock lobster, scallops and deep-sea fish.
It’s a thalassophile’s mecca, untouched and abundant.
Check into Saffire Freycint, where you’ll be whisked off on a complimentary tour of the Marine Oyster Farm. Don a pair of waders and stride out into the wetlands until you’re knee deep in crystal-clear waters.
There, your personal waiter will hand you freshly shucked oysters — salty sweet, straight from the ocean. Paired with a glass of local bubbly, it’s the breakfast of champions. Back at the resort, a stay in a private pavilion promises gorgeous interiors with authentic Tasmanian features, a plunge pool and your very own chef. You’ll truly feel like the world is your oyster—pun very much intended.
Surf and Honey
Fondly referred to as the Galapagos of Australia, Kangaroo Island, off the country’s south coast, is simply brimming with exotic wildlife and dramatic coastal landscapes.
With solid swells on the Indian Ocean and polar gusts that come streaming down from the Antarctic, this is a favourite destination of surfers, as well as seals, whales, dolphins and sharks. The third-biggest sea-lion colony in Australia has made its home here, at the Seal Bay Conservation Park — best visited in the early evening.
Stunning beaches line the island’s waters, including Vivonne Bay — once ranked the best in all of Australia thanks to its turquoise surf and gleaming white sand.
After some bracing surf, take your body back to thaw at Southern Ocean Lodge. This modern sanctuary in Hanson Bay, on the island’s southwest coast, adjoins the Flinders Chase and Kelly Hill National Parks, offering full-frontal panoramas with an amazing sand-and-sea colour palette.
Feast on accoladed cuisine by Jack Ingram with an ever-changing menu that constantly adapts to the season, and be sure to try some of Kangaroo Island’s famous honey. This liquid gold is highly sought after, as the island boasts the only pure strain of Ligurian bees left in the world.
Gentle Nigaloo Giants
Ningaloo Reef is one of Western Australia’s great undiscovered treasures. This colourful underwater colony is the country’s largest fringing reef and the only one positioned a stone’s throw from the mainland — meaning you can simply slip on your flippers and swim straight out to the undisturbed rainbow habitat.
The Ningaloo coast is a World Heritage Site that’s home to some 200 species of hard coral and 500 species of fish. Lauded as one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks, every year from April to July around 30,000 of these docile creatures congregate in and around Ningaloo, giving visitors the chance to float alongside them. You can also find other amazing marine life here like humpback whales, manta rays, dugongs and spinner dolphins.
Set among the island’s red sand dunes, the crew at luxury eco lodge Sal Salis offer exceptional day trips for guests wanting to experience the whale sharks’ annual migration.
In this remote beachside bush camp, tents are perched on individual wooden platforms with fabulous views of the sea. Snuggle up under canvas, dine under the stars and explore bright ribbons of coral just metres from the shore.
Diamonds in the Rough
Get ready to be amazed by the sight of sand meeting saltpan with a helicopter ride over Lake Amadeus, the Northern Territory’s largest salt lake.
Its always changing colours and patterns, completely incongruous with the surrounding desert landscape, make for an intriguing, beautiful visual tapestry that’s best witnessed from the air.
Longitude 131⁰ specialises in this very activity, offering adventures that guarantee unforgettable memories.
After flying over the vast lake, with a knowledgeable pilot identifying points of interest, you’ll move towards the impressive Kings Canyon. This ancient formation of tall red rock faces soars above dense palm forests and provides refuge for more than 600 species of native plants and animals.
The challenging 6km Rim Walk takes around four hours and is best done at sunrise or sunset, when you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the gorge. Afterwards, descend to the Garden of Eden, a permanent waterhole where plant life flourishes.
A rustic base for exploring this territory is Kings Creek Station, surrounded by the outback area’s majestic desert oaks. This fully functioning cattle and camel station sees you bed down in glamping tents positioned along the escarpment, and feast on self-cook bush-inspired barbecue dinners and breakfast hampers.