Taking place on January 26th every year, Australia Day commemorates the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788. Australia Day is typically celebrated by Australians heading outdoors, to the beaches or to the backyard for a barbecue and a couple of beers. Think of it much like American Independence Day as it also happens in the middle of summer in Australia and produces a national holiday full of celebration, including fireworks.
Whether you’re a visitor to the great land Down Under (or an Aussie traveler), there are many ways to celebrate Australia Day besides the typical Aussie barbecue no matter where you might be traveling on the big day. All of these options have been chosen to help people get better acquainted with the country that is being celebrated.
1. Cruise the Sydney Harbour
Because the big fireworks show is happening in Darling Harbour,the best vantage point is on a boat! The Australia Day Tall Ship Cruises on Sydney Harbour takes travelers for a leisurely run around Sydney before docking for dinner and the show. Otherwise, any daytime cruise of the harbor is worthy of an Australia Day celebration. Just getting outdoors to enjoy the iconic summer weather does the trick. Try the Sydney Harbour Cruise with Goat Island Walking Tour to learn more about Australia’s history and founding.
2. Enjoy a show at the Sydney Opera House
With no landmark more iconic to the city of Sydney than the Sydney Opera House, enjoying a show makes for a great way to spend your day off on Australia Day. You ticket by purchasing it right here on Viator.
3. Head to higher ground
Gaining a new perspective of the country being celebrated on Australia Day can start right in Sydney. The Sydney BridgeClimb takes brave souls to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge – a whopping 440 feet (134 meters) above the water. A more leisurely option is to explore the great city by helicopter.
4. Hang with the local wildlife
It is often a joke that the giraffes at the Sydney Taronga Zoo have the best views of Sydney city, but visitors tend to stop laughing when they discover this statement is based on fact. The zoo across the harbor has done a great job at snatching up both prime real estate as well as a well-rounded selection of animals from Australia and from across the globe. Get in touch with the country through its unique wildlife on Australia Day by purchasing the Taronga Zoo General Entry Ticket.
5. Ride and dine on a famous tram
Trams are a distinguishing feature of Melbourne city, and some entrepreneurial people decided to put a restaurant on an older model. Now, you can explore South Melbourne, St. Kilda, Prahran and Malvern while enjoying a delicious dinner on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant Tour. Sounds like an interesting way to spend the Australia Day holiday, right?
6. Get on the water
The Yarra River flows alongside the lands of Melbourne making it a prime target for a place to relax and celebrate the country of Australia on Australia Day. Getting on the water is an activity done in true Aussie spirit, and you can do so on the Yarra by partaking in a 2-3 hour Melbourne Kayak Tour or a Spirit of Melbourne Dinner Cruise.
7. Take in the scenery from the perfect vantage point
Tall buildings, bridge summits and rooftops don’t have anything on the best vantage point of all: the sky. Spend your Australia Day in true awe of the scenery below by partaking in a Melbourne Balloon Flight at Sunrise. Soar directly over the city as the sun slowly lights up the sky. The perfect way to start a holiday celebration – unless, of course, you’re taking the scenic route of a Melbourne Helicopter Tour instead.
8. Tour the Yarra Valley wine country
Taking just an hour to get to the relaxing and picturesque Yarra Valley from Melbourne, a day trip with the Yarra Valley Wine and Winery Tour is on the menu for wine enthusiasts. Explore the top wineries of the region, get tasting tips, loads of nibbles and a full lunch in the middle. Even better, get the peace and serenity that comes from venturing away from the city – a place that is sure to be full of action given the holiday festivities.
9. Enjoy a fancy dinner
Australia knows a good restaurant. Ever since the Master Chef explosion a few years ago, food has become a trendy night out for people of all ages while chefs have skyrocketed into national stardom. Choose from meals at the likes of Aria, Moda, or Alchemy to name a few. Fancy restaurant or not on Brisbane soil, a Brisbane River Dinner Cruise still offers a special occasion meal out on the water.
10. Get a feel for Moreton Island
Moreton Island lies 36 miles from Brisbane city, but it attracts visitors regardless because of its unique getaway vibe. Resembling Fraser Island, as it is largely composed of sand, top attractions here include 4WD excursions, along with camping and fishing. From Brisbane, catch the Moreton Island Snorkel and Sand Boarding 4WD Day Trip, or the Tangalooma Resort Moreton Island Day Cruise, with the option for dolphin feeding if you choose!
11. Tackle adventure from morning to night
Australia Day is a full day affair, so why not make your adventures a full day as well? You can start off in Brisbane with a Hot Air Ballooning Experience (with Champaign breakfast if you choose), have a break for a mid-day barbecue with friends before attempting the famous Brisbane Story Bridge Climb at night.
12. Get acquainted with the animals of Western Australia
While Australia already possesses a range of unique wildlife, Western Australia has a few of those on its personal list alone. If you’ve never heard of a quokka, I suggest looking these chipmunk like creatures up for a closer view. Or, take advantage of the Full Day Rottnest Island tour including Wildlife Cruise so you can get over and check them out in real life. In addition, the wildlife cruise will help you spot dolphins, seals and sea birds along the way. If you can’t make it up to Exmouth for a chance to swim with whale sharks, swimming with dolphins off the coast of Rockingham makes for a good substitution.
13. Take a breather in the Swan Valley
One of the beautiful features of the Swan Valley is its close proximity to Perth city. It’s just a 25 minute journey by car to get from downtown to the middle of peaceful Swan Valley – a place chock full of microbreweries, wineries and other delicious spots. Another perk is the ability to travel by boat along the Swan River to get there. Try the Swan Valley Lunch Cruise for that option. If food is what you’re after, then you’ll be interested in the Swan Valley Tour from Perth with Wine Beer and Chocolate Tastings.
14. Explore Perth by air
Just like any coastal region of Australia, getting up in the air brings a world of awe. You can explore the city of Perth by helicopter, all the way from Perth to Fremantle and Cottesloe Beach. Choosing a longer helicopter ride will give you the possibility to explore the surf beaches south of Fremantle as well.
15. Discover Fremantle’s cafe culture
Once a fishing port, Fremantle has transformed itself into a cute city with a large cafe culture and lots of artistic flair. By joining up with the Small Group History of Fremantle Walking Tour, you can discover this city and its history in a matter of about 2 hours. It even includes a visit to the Fremantle Prison, an UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
16. Hug a koala
It’s one of the iconic animals of Australia that little girls around the world dream of cuddling at least once in their lives. Live the dream at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and do a lot of other Australian-specific activities like watching a crocodile feeding or petting a kangaroo, too. Visitors can also take advantage of the high ropes course, full of zip lining and detailed maneuvering.
17. Escape to the islands
The Gold Coast is a bustling strip of beach towns known especially for its party culture. When not in the mood for a Surfers Paradise overcrowded beach experience, get out and enjoy island life – the perfect, relaxing way to spend your Australia Day. Stradbroke Island lies just 35 minutes from Gold Coast when taking a boat, and the Stradbroke Island Day Trip will have you deep in the wilds near a private beach in no time. Another option is to hit up Island Swim and Snorkel Cruise to Wave Break Island – an island uninhabited but perfect for swimming and snorkeling the day away.
18. Visit the Q1 Tower
The Q1 Tower is home to the SkyPoint Observation Deck. Located on the 77th floor, this observation point provides a 360 degree panorama of the Gold Coast area with perfect beach views of Surfers Paradise reaching all the way back to the Gold Coast Hinterland in the opposite direction. In addition to being a simple observation deck (with cafe and bar of course), visitors can choose to sign up for the SkyPoint Climb – Australia’s tallest external building climb. And, if that’s too much excitement for one day, be sure to head down to the bottom level and seek out the Q1 Spa for a relaxing massage.
19. Get a taste of Gold Coast thrills
We’ve already mentioned the SkyPoint Climb at the Q1 Tower in the previous point, but that doesn’t even begin to explore the thrilling possibilities in the Gold Coast. There are roller coasters galore at Dreamworld, water slides at White Water World, and jet skies out on the water. A dual thrilling experience to sign up for is the Gold Coast Helicopter Flight and Jet Boat Ride.
20. Take a detour to Bruny Island
Bruny Island lies to the south of Tasmania and presents itself as more of a day trip kind of destination. One can easily explore from Hobart with the Full-Day Bruny Island Tour, which includes a 3 hour cruise along the coast as well as explorations on the island itself. The South Bruny Island is home to the South Bruny National Park, which is known for being a great bird haven.
21. Spend the day at Mount Wellington
Whenever in Hobart, the nearby Mount Wellington is always in view, towering next to the city with its often snow-capped tops. Visitors and locals are able to drive to the top on a sealed road, but many use the chance to get a real dose of exercise by walking to the top. Once there, a great (and adventurous) way of making it back down is by signing up for the Mount Wellington Descent Cycling Tour.
22. Step onto a yacht
The popularity of yachting and sailing in Tasmania is visible just by peeking into the many harbors surrounding the state. Plus, there is that whole Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race that takes place every year. Now, Australia Day can be your chance to step onto a yacht yourself for a Half Day Sailing Tour on the Derwent River.
23. Explore Port Arthur
Port Arthur’s historical nature makes it a perfect Australia Day destination. Visitors can reach this former convict settlement by taking the Full Day Tasman Peninsula Tour from Hobart, which will also include a 3 hour scenic coastal cruise, lunch and stops at many attractions along the way.
24. Venture to Kuranda in the rainforest
Kuranda, known as the Village in the Rainforest, lies to the west of Cairns. Once there, visitors can explore the markets, visit a butterfly sanctuary, and watch an Aboriginal cultural show, but that’s not the best part of the trip in our opinion. Taking the scenic railway one way and the cable cars the other means you literally get to sit above the canopies and get panoramic views of Cairns in the distance. Try the Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Trip for most of these options in one.
25. Learn about the Aboriginal culture
While Australia Day is more about celebrating the birth of the country as we know it today, perhaps a jaunt further into history would help provide the full picture. We’re referring to the Aboriginal culture, and several options are available near Cairns to help you learn more. The most unique one overall would have to be the Flames of the Forest Dining Experience that includes Aboriginal music and storytelling.
– Brooke Schoenman