As I jet over the Pacific Ocean and reflect on my Australian adventure thats coming to a close, I can’t help but feel extremely lucky. In just two short weeks, I was able to check multiple items off my bucket list. From underwater explorations to fireworks over Sydney Harbor, the past 14 days have been some of the best of my life.
Want to make some serious progress on your bucket list? Here’s how we did it!
Bucket List Item 1: New Years Eve in Sydney Harbor
First, take advantage of the extra days off around the holidays and head to Australia at the end of December. This will ensure you make it to Sydney, work out your jet lag and reenergize in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
If anyone tells you to avoid Sydney Harbor on New Year’s Eve, ignore them. We were warned of boat traffic and over congestion, told it was overrated and generally deterred from ringing in 2017 by the harbor. They weren’t all wrong — the harbor is loaded with people and there are tons of boats — but it is all worth it.
We not only ignored the warnings but went directly into the center of the chaos to a floating bar in the middle of the harbor called The Island.
Set off the coast and among hundreds of boats, on a normal day, The Island offers breathtaking views of the bridge and Opera House. On New Year’s Eve, it’s the optimal vantage point for the greatest fireworks display in the world and home to one hell of a party.
As the countdown drew down and the fireworks exploded, I stole a kiss from my fiancé and took time to bask in this remarkable pinch me moment.
Note: If the bar/party atmosphere is not your scene, there are plenty of areas and activities for all ages and interests along the harbor. They even set off a round of fireworks at 9PM for families with young children. Be ready for some crowds. People begin camping out the night before, but sometimes maneuvering the crowds is worth it.
Bucket List Item 2: Snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef
After spending some time in Sydney, jump on a domestic flight and make your way north. We stayed on the Whitsundays Islands at Airlie Beach (highly recommend the Coral Sea Resort), which is a quiet beach town with a more intimate vibe. If you’re looking for higher paced, party atmosphere, check out Cairns.
Both areas offer day trips to the Great Barrier Reef — the ultimate highlight of our trip.
We boarded a seaplane early in the morning along with six new friends and embarked on a three hour journey filled with unparalleled views of the crystal clear waters, islands and reefs below.
Before we even made it to the boat for snorkeling, we saw giant see turtles gliding through the waters below, white sandy beaches, vast amounts of coral stretching on for miles and, my favorite, Heart Island.
As the seaplane made a remarkably smooth water landing by the Great Barrier Reef, we disembarked and climbed aboard a glass bottom boat that would take us to the perfect spot for snorkeling.
Stinger suites zipped up tight, we dove in to check out the reef from underwater. It was an entirely new world. Bright colors radiated from the reef as fish of all shapes and sizes floated around us in search of the perfect piece of coral. Though we missed them, some members of our group even saw hammerhead and reef sharks.
We could have snorkeled the reef all day (and still not made a dent on the 1,600 miles it stretches along Australia’s coast), but our tour guides beckoned us back to the boat an hour later.
Back on the seaplane, an unexpected path flew us right over Whitehaven Beach and it’s infamous inlet.
In three short hours, we’d felt like we’d seen the best of what Whitsunday’s had to offer.
Bucket List Item 3: Find a Koala!
Let’s be honest, I am still a little girl at heart and I wanted to see a cute koala bear more than anything during my time in Australia!
I could have gone to a zoo or sanctuary, but I could do that at home too. What I really wanted was to find a koala in its natural habitat.
Queue the Great Ocean Road. We dedicated a day to this drive, which boosts coastal views, cultural landmarks and (wait for it) koala hotspots!
The area behind a cafe, appropriately named the Kafe Koala, is known as a popular spot for these furry creatures to hang out and it did not disappoint. We spotted three in just the half an hour we were there!
We also spotted a kangaroo along the drive, which was just icing on the cake for what turned out to be one of our top five days on the trip.
Bucket List Item 4: Skydiving
Ok, full disclosure I didn’t actually get to do this, but you should! We’d planned on doing our first skydive in Airlie Beach (even had the reservations) but ultimately circumstances just didn’t work out for us. However, it is a very popular activity in Australia and having seen the views from above, I understand why.
It would be very easy to check this item off your bucket list along with the others. If you do, let me know how it goes. I am itching to cross it off my list as well — maybe we’ll make this a honeymoon activity!
If your bucket list is ever-growing like mine, I would also suggest adding more Australian adventures like wine tasting in Yarro Valley and hiking to the Cape Byron Lighthouse for sunset. Australia is full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities you just can’t miss.