Even though it is a home of such vibrant and eclectic cities as Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and several others that have so much to offer, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Australia is the sublime natural richness and all the explored and less explored national parks, lush rainforests, hiking and cycling trails, beaches like no other in the world, and animal species that you will not find in any other country. Those are the things that make the land Down Under stand out, and that make it so alluring to all, but nature and adventure lovers in particular. You can have great nightlife and sightseeing tours everywhere in the world, but Australian nature is one of a kind.
Now, if we’ve tickled your fancy sufficiently, and you’re already browsing for tickets, but aren’t really on an unlimited budget, follow us as we teach you all about exploring this gorgeous continent in ways that will not break the bank.
Sleep under the stars
If you’re a true nature junkie, not only will you not mind sleeping under the stars, but it will be your preferred way of ‘accommodation’. You can set up camp in one of the numerous locations in Australia, but make sure you do your thorough research, as there are designated camping sites where you can set up free of charge. However, if you mistakenly set camp in an undesignated place, you could be heavily fined, and that’s the last thing you want to do. The best thing to do is to download the free Spaceships app, which holds all the info on the best free and low-cost camping sites, as well as all the necessary information for the most pleasant stay.
If you intend on staying longer, don’t stick around one place. There are cheap local flights and other means of transportation you can use to get from one campsite to another, and that way you will have explored more than just one area. Our recommendations, the ones that should find their place on your bucket list, are definitely Coffs Harbour, the sublime Milla Milla, Kalbarri and Daintree National Park.
Stay and learn
As an exchange student, you have the unique opportunity to study at some of the finest universities in Australia. Now, this will entail certain documentation, so make sure you do your homework regarding all the prerequisites of spending an entire year on this gorgeous land.
Now, since the student accommodation in Melbourne is one of the most affordable ones, and the city is amazing and fairly affordable to live in, we definitely recommend it. An added incentive – since you’ll be staying a whole year, you’ll get to explore the superb Melbourne surroundings such as the Grampians National Park, Wilsons Promontory National Park, which combines amazing beaches, lush greenery and friendly wildlife. There are tons of other amazing parks in Melbourne’s vicinity, all within one to three hours away. Weekdays are for studying, whereas weekends are for road trips to national parks!
Giving back to nature
Of course, if you truly love nature you won’t mind spending some time volunteering. It is definitely one of the most affordable ways to get by, plus, you won’t be just another tourist, but an actual member of the community who is there to help. You could get the chance to visit a number of places from Adelaide, Bendigo, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Geelong, Hobart, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth to Sydney and Townsville.
Volunteering programs generally entail working on conservation and preservation of the country’s flora and fauna. There is, for instance, the Kangaroo Island, where you can be a part of a team that’s fighting for the preservation of koalas and other native species; work at Wildlife Hospital at the Australian Zoo, be a koala keeper, or take part in the Australia’s Sea Turtle Conservation Project. Each of these programs is more rewarding than the other, and you’ll get to be one of the locals, get a sense of what it means to be an Aussie and even make friends for a lifetime.
If you’ve read the book or watched the movie, trust us, Australia has much better hiking trails than the one Reese Witherspoon hiked through, although you may have an epiphany or two – that’s how inspiring these trails are. Now, again, you can find fairly cheap accommodation in one of the cities, or all of them if you, again, intend on sticking around for a while, and then get to know the best of Australia on foot. Hiking shoes and other protective clothing and equipment are a definite must.
As far as the must-hike trails, we have everything from the iconic Blue Mountains, the home of caves, waterfalls, wildlife, swimming holes and the cult Three Sisters formation. Then, there’s Mount Kosciusko, and Victoria Hiking trails. During this hike you’ll have the opportunity to see the Shipwreck Coast, Castle Cove, Moonlight Head, Princetown and the Twelve Apostles.
Finally, if you want to see the largest sand island and the most unbelievable shades of cerulean and deep blue water, you will not miss out on the Fraser Island, which also happens to be a campsite. And, if just seeing it once is not enough, feel free to stick around, and if you’re not a fan of camping, this place happens to have the cheapest beachside accommodation, so you’ll still remain on budget.
Of course, there’s always work & travel, but you won’t get to explore much. Sure, you’ll earn money but spend most of it on food and accommodation, and you’ll have a couple of days free to roam around, but if you want to know the real Australia, then these options are the best ones.
Author bio: Zara is a regular contributor at TheWellnessInsider, a traveler and a mother of two. Originally from Chicago, she found her place in the sun in Perth, Australia. Passionate about spreading the word about fantastic places to visit and creating a better world for the generations to come.