If you’re planning to volunteer abroad in Australia, here are 10 interesting trips and fun diversions to help you make the most of your trip Down Under.
1. Rail Australia
Japan and England could fit in into Western Australia, a state that only covers half the landmass. Though seeing everything in one visit is nearly impossible, the routes of Rail Australia — from Adelaide to Perth, or up the East Coast — provide a rolling window for landscapes you cannot catch from the highway. It’s the most unusual (and cost-effective) way to see the country.
2. Port Arthur, Tasmania
The first foreign settlers to Australia were British convicts, sent to this distant land because England’s prisons were full. Some worked the term of their sentence and were declared free; others continued to break laws and were sentenced to Port Arthur. A prison within a prison, the port settlement is now a living museum and World Heritage Site. Also the scene of a public shooting in 1996 — the most deadly in Australia — Port Arthur is endowed with a sense of tragedy. However, you must visit this site to understand the fighting spirit of hope on which the country is built.
3. Immigration Museum, Melbourne
Who is a ‘real Aussie’? This is a question that has no easy answer, even if you spend a lot of time volunteering in Australia. Melbourne’s Immigration Museum studies the paths and histories of the country’s earliest immigrants, and the reasons they came from all over the world to settle here. Visitors can use computer databases to find ancestral connections to their own families. With changing exhibits and events, the museum also focuses on recent immigrant movements and the policies that shape its current immigrant populations.
4. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Goannas, bandicoots, wallabies, echidnas and kangaroos are only a handful of the many species native to this island. The third largest in Australia, over one-fourth of its land has been declared national park. Problems with invasive species, such as the fox and rabbit — which trouble the mainland states of Australia — have not struck Kangaroo Island. This is an ideal place to witness elusive Aussie animals in their natural habitat, and learn about successful conservation techniques.
5. Cape York, Queensland
The northernmost point of the country is the geographic home of both the Great Barrier Reef and multiple Aboriginal communities, not to mention saltwater crocodiles, box jellyfish, and an assortment of Australia’s most dangerous bugs and animals. Though most visitors don’t make it this far past Cairns, the area provides a setting for better understanding native wildlife and indigenous culture.
6. Karijini National Park, Western Australia
Clear swimming pools and deep red gorges are the last things you’d expect to find in the middle of the flat Pilbara region. The ravines, layered with pink and orange rock, appear suddenly out of the Western Australia land. You can only reach the park by car, passing through the small, mineral-mining-based communities that make up much of Western Australia. WA is teasingly called the “Texas of Australia,” so different it could be its own country. A trip to Karijini allows a glimpse of how much the state varies from its eastern neighbors.
7. Hamelin Pool, Western Australia
The lumpy piles of porous rock in Hamelin Pool haven’t changed much in 3.5 billion years. Called stromatolites, or “living fossils” by geologists, these are considered to be some of the oldest living organisms on Earth. They provide a breathing example of the geographic history that created Australia’s diverse and ultimately unique environments.
8. Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, Tasmania
Of all Australia’s endangered species, Tasmanian Devils are the most deceptive. Small, cute and ferry, they are voracious carnivores with backbone-chilling screams. Living only on the island of Tasmania, the population is threatened by a tumorous facial cancer that only affects its own species. At the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, you can feed these hungry critters, and learn about the challenges and hopes for their survival.
9. Aussie Rules Game
Avid sports fanatics, stereotypically proud and competitive, Australians love any excuse to cheer on their home team. While rugby, cricket, and water sports are extremely popular Down Under, the favored game is a national creation, Australian Rules Football. Volunteer abroad in Australia and you’re likely to wrangle an invitation to watch (or even play in) one of these cool games. Whether you catch a recreational game or a match between states, the crowds are a perfect example of feisty, patriotic Aussie culture.
10. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Still a youngster in terms of development, Australia (as a British colony) is barely 300 years old. Yet it’s fostered a strong culture of native musicians, writers, and artists. The Art Gallery of New South Wales features some of the most recognized and appreciated artworks in the country, including pieces from Aboriginal and Torres Straight islanders. It offers free tours, and the opportunity to see the country through the eyes of its more creative inhabitants.