These once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia include a road trip to ancient Uluru, Australia’s spiritual heart, epic train journeys from Darwin to Adelaide through the Red Centre and Perth to Sydney across the Nullarbor, off-road adventures through the remote Kimberly to the other-worldly Bungle Bungles, a cultural tour of lush Norfolk Island, and hike along the ruggedly beautiful Sapphire Coast.
One of the biggest pandemic travel trends alongside the staycation, glamping getaway and road trip has been the once-in-a-lifetime trip – a holiday so special, whether due to its remoteness, distance, duration, expense, seasonal challenges, or logistical complexity that you can only envisage undertaking it once in your life.
It might be an epic round-the-world trip, a months-long Southeast Asian backpacking adventure, a romantic Nile River cruise in Egypt, a wildlife safari in Africa, a trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu… or a trip to Australia, which for many citizens of the world is one of the planet’s most far-flung destinations.
Before I share the once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia you should book now, I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve enjoyed our guides, itineraries, stories, or recipes please consider supporting Grantourismo. One way is to make a donation to our epic Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon, which you can do for as little as the price of a coffee.
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Once-in-a-Lifetime Trips in Australia from a Road Trip to Uluru to Epic Train Adventures
For many Australians, most of whom live in big cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, much of Australia is far-flung – which is why after being confined to their homes for a hefty chunk of the pandemic an increasing number of Australians are taking a year off to hitch a caravan to their car and circumnavigate Australia – a rite-of-passage for so many families of my generation.
Of course, with rising fuel costs, not everyone can afford the luxury of an extended road trip around Australia. Due to the vastness of the country, the remoteness of so many places, lengthy travelling times, and the significant costs involved, many journeys are once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia.
The upside is that Australia is home to so many epic adventures that you could spend a lifetime embarking on once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia and not complete them all. And goals are good, right? The pandemic may not be over, but if there’s anything that it’s taught us, is that life is too short and we should travel while we can.
If you haven’t been to the land down under yet, there’s never been a better time to travel to Australia. While long haul flights to Australia are quite expensive, long haul flights to anywhere are expensive right now. Once you arrive, you’ll find an Australia that’s far cheaper to visit than before the pandemic, despite the cost-of-living crisis.
The low value of the Australian dollar makes everything more affordable for foreign travellers – even restaurants, which have long been exorbitant for visitors from overseas. Tour packages and hotels in Australia haven’t been this low in a long time, which makes now as good a time as any to embark on one of these once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia.
Now is also a great time to apply for a working holiday visa in Australia, with plenty of jobs available everywhere for younger travellers – in tourist destinations, in wine regions, on rural farms, in country towns, and in big cities. The visas allow for plenty of travel time in between jobs.
If you live in Australia, unless you have deep pockets, you would also be wise to prioritise one of these once-in-a-lifetime in Australia before rushing overseas. Explore your own backyard – it’s a big backyard! – and so many epic adventures await. Why let foreign travellers have all the fun?
Once-in-a-Lifetime Trips in Australia to Book Right Now
You could do some of these trips behind the wheel of your own vehicle. Overseas visitors will need to rent a 4WD or hire a 4WD campervan or motorhome for the Western Australia and Northern Territory trips. Do see our tips for doing road trips in Australia if you do.
But if you don’t have experience driving off-road on the rough, corrugated red-dirt tracks for which Australia’s outback is notorious, take a look at the current deals for these once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia on Luxury Escapes. The site, which specialises in luxury for less, has an ‘Aussie Escapes’ sale with 20-50% off small group tours, self-drive holidays and hotel packages, some including discounted flights.
Darwin and the Top End to Alice Springs and Uluru, Australia’s Spiritual Heart
My parents took my little sister and I on a year-long road trip around Australia that stretched to five years and included 18 months in Alice Springs, which we used as a base to explore Australia’s ancient heart. Weekends would be spent off-roading to palm-filled valleys and old mining settlements, camping on sandy beaches by tranquil waterholes, which explains why this part of Australia has a special place in my heart.
The drive from tropical Darwin in the sultry Top End, as the northernmost part of the Northern Territory is called, down to Alice Springs and Uluru in the Red Centre and spiritual heart of Australia is undoubtedly one of Australia’s best road trips and it tops my list of once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia.
While anybody can drive the sealed highway that connects Darwin to Alice Springs and Uluru, there are plenty of opportunities for off-reading detours, for which you’d need a high-clearance 4WD, in Kakadu National Park, Arnhem Land, Litchfield National Park, and on the back roads and tracks around Alice Springs and between Alice and Kings Canyon.
Unfortunately, you won’t get to do the full road trip on this Luxury Escapes tour, which flies you between Darwin and Alice Springs, but it’s the next best thing I could find: this Top End to Red Centre 8-Day deluxe small-group Darwin to Uluru tour will take you from Darwin to Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land before returning to Darwin for the flight to Alice Springs then overland to Kings Canyon and Uluru.
The package starts from A$5,999 per person twin-share (valued up to A$7,988) and includes expert insider guides and drivers, airport transfers, the Darwin-Alice Springs flight, 7 nights accommodation (the pick of which is the five-star Sails in the Desert at Yulara near Uluru), daily breakfasts, four lunches, one welcome dinner, the Sounds of Silence gourmet dinner with champagne, and all activities in the itinerary.
Highlights include a guided tour of Kakadu National Park with a hike to Ubirr and the Yellow Water Billabong cruise, the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise in Arnhem Land with an Aboriginal guide, the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, sunrise over Uluṟu, a guided walking tour around the base of Uluṟu to learn about Aboriginal culture and art, a guided walk through Kata Tjuṯa and Walpa Gorge, and Bruce Munro’s Field of Light art installation.
Broome via the Bungle Bungles to Kununurra
Ruggedly beautiful and boasting some of Australia’s most dramatic landscapes, from the other-worldly ‘beehive’ domes of the Bungle Bungle Ranges of Purnululu National Park, to the many palm-fringed gorges and rocky ravines that carve the pristine landscape, the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia epitomises the kind of once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia that are so special.
The Kimberley is one of the most remote parts of Australia. Broome, the region’s main travel hub and host to some of Australia’s most breathtaking sunsets, is 2,045 kilometres north of the state capital Perth, while the Kimberley’s largest northeast town, Kunanurra, near the Northern Territory border, is 827 kilometres from Darwin. A Kimberley-focused road trip in one of Western Australia’s best road trips, and would begin in Broome and finish in Kunanurra (or vice versa), both of which have airports.
The Kimberley is vast. Spanning some 421,451 square kilometres, it’s three times the size of England, yet it’s one of the most sparsely populated places on the planet. Almost half of the Kimberley’s population of 40,000 are indigenous Australians from 30 different language groups spread across 160 Aboriginal communities, making these ancient lands rich in culture and art.
It’s that combination of isolation, pristine nature, arid beauty, and ancient culture that make a trip to the Kimberley so meaningful and memorable. But while I’m fortunate to have road-tripped through the region several times, with Terence as well as my family, a holiday here is an adventure usually undertaken as part of a more extensive Australia trip.
Luxury Escapes has a Kimberley 6-day luxury small-group tour (max. eight travellers) departing between May and August 2023 from Broome and taking in the Dampier Peninsula, Ardyaloon, Derby, Windjana Gorge, Fitzroy River, Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park, Purnululu National Park, Fitzroy Crossing, and Kununurra for A$4,999 per person twin-share including guide-driver, transport, accommodation, meals, and activities.
Travellers will get to beachcomb the creamy sands of the Dampier Peninsula, tour of a working pearl farm, drive the legendary unsealed Gibb River Road, walk the 750-metre Tunnel Creek, cruise Geikie Gorge by boat, sail the Buccaneer Archipelago, and take a helicopter over the striped domes of the Bungle Bungles.
Darwin to Adelaide Aboard The Ghan Expedition
If you’re not tempted to get behind the wheel of a 4WD to do one of Australia’s great road trips, even if someone else is doing the driving, then do consider doing one of Australia’s legendary train trips, The Ghan or the Indian Pacific, both of which comprise two of the best once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia as far as I’m concerned. We’re lucky to have done them both.
If I was forced to choose one, I’d say don’t make me, do the two. But if you really could only do one, then make it The Ghan train journey, perhaps Australia’s greatest train journey. This 3,000-kilometre rail adventure from Adelaide to Darwin or Darwin to Adelaide is punctuated with memorable experiences, from a tranquil cruise through the stunning gorges of Nitmiluk National Park near Katherine, to an excursion through the striking Simpsons Gap (pictured below) in Alice Springs.
Luxury Escapes recently launched two new 2023 dates for a 6-day Ghan Expedition departing 20 April 2023 and 19 October 2023, including an all-inclusive 4-day rail journey priced from A$4,599 per person, in a twin cabin in Gold Service with all premium on-board dining and drinks. And the exceptional food and quality Australian wines are a real highlight of both train journeys.
The deal includes two nights of pre- Ghan Expedition accommodation at the Hilton Darwin with a welcome drink, daily breakfast, a 2.5-hour sunset Darwin dinner cruise on board the Charles Darwin with sparkling wine; transfer to the Darwin Station Terminal; a choice of Off Train Experiences in Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy; the services of expert on-ground representatives; and all entrance fees and sightseeing per itinerary.
When it comes to the excursions, in Katherine, you get to select from two Nitmuluk gorge cruises and a unique outback experience on land; in Alice Springs, you can choose from four included experiences, all culminating with an outback dinner under a chandelier of stars at Alice Springs Telegraph Station. In Coober Pedy, you choose from three experiences including visits to Umoona Opal Mine and Museum and Opal Quest Mine, where you can try your luck at finding your fortune.
Perth to Sydney on the Indian Pacific
The iconic Indian Pacific train traverses Australia from the western to the eastern seaboard (and vice versa), trundling an epic 4,353 kms (or 2,704 miles) between Perth and Sydney via Adelaide, taking a leisurely three nights and four days to travel from coast to coast.
While these rail adventures are more about the journey than the destinations, Perth and Sydney are fantastic departure and arrival points. Easily Australia’s most beautiful cities, both are stunningly set on water, Sydney on a gorgeous harbour and Perth on the sleepy Swan River. Both are home to jaw-dropping beaches.
The landscapes enjoyed en route from the Indian Pacific are even more diverse than those from The Ghan, from the golden fields of the Wheatbelt outside Perth and the arid plains of the seemingly never-ending Nullarbor to the gorgeous rolling green hills and vineyards of the Barossa Valley near Adelaide to the shimmering eucalyptus forest of the Blue Mountains bushland.
Luxury Escapes also launched new 2023 dates for its 6-day Indian Pacific journeys departing June, July and August 2023, from Perth to Sydney via Kalgoorlie, the Nullarbor, Adelaide and the Blue Mountains, including an all-inclusive 4-day rail journey priced from A$3,199 per person, in a twin cabin in Gold Service with all premium on-board dining and drinks.
The six-day trip begins in Perth with a two-night stay at 5-star QT Perth and a Rottnest Island tour, before you board the Indian Pacific. Off-Train Experiences include visiting the world’s largest single open-cut mining operation in Kalgoorlie, taking in the magic of sunrise on the Nullarbor at Rawlinna, and a stroll through the ghost town of Cook.
In Adelaide, you get to choose between two city tours, a market walk, or going behind the scenes at the Adelaide Oval, and in the Blue Mountains you head to Scenic World to take in one of Australia’s most breathtaking mountain ranges.
Images courtesy of Luxury Escapes.
Disclosure: we are affiliate partners of Luxury Escapes so if you make a booking via the links in this post we earn a commission, which goes to supporting the work we do to create content on this site.
Have you done any of these once-in-a-lifetime trips in Australia and have tips to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.