James Allen is a modern-day explorer. His resume is a bucket list of travels and adventures across the globe including climbing Mt Everest at 22 years of age. He’s also a qualified exploration geologist, economist and has degrees in Polar Studies. He has held senior management positions and runs a bespoke travel company.
On an Australia-wide project in 2021, Allen realised that it’s a big country and he didn’t want to miss finding the best places and that he was driven to share these experiences with as many people as possible.
In producing the book 3001 Things to See and Do Around Australia, James hoped that travellers would be able to spend more time seeing and doing and less time researching.
In collaboration with Hema Maps, the 410-page spiral bound A4 book lists attractions by state and region. Dozens of maps lead you to the best on offer in sites, adventures, history and culture.
Destinations and activities are categorised under Indigenous Culture, Natural Wonders and Man-Made Landmarks. There are loads of places and activities for kids like the best playgrounds, waterparks and safe swimming spots.
While Allen aims the book at making the most of the ‘Big Lap,’ it’s also designed to help you discover many things in your local area. So, big hikes are out, and shorter, more accessible walks and features are described.
In recording so many points of interest, James realises his list is subjective and his Top 10 of each state represent what he believes are the most interesting and not the most obvious in their category.
As an example, we’ve had a look at James’s Top 10 for NSW and provided a few reasons why these destinations are well worth adding to the bucket list.
1. Baiame Cave, Milbrodale
Located on the Great Dividing Range in Milbrodale, Baiame Cave is a heritage-listed destination and significant cultural site of the Wonnarua People. The rear wall of the cave features beautiful artwork including a depiction of a large male figure, Baiame, a creator god and protector of the local people. The caves are located on a private property but is accessible to the public via a dirt road just off Welshs Road. No camping is allowed and be respectful of the property and the site itself.
2. Mount Kosciuszko
Part of the Snowy Mountain region, Mount Kosciuszko is the tallest point in Australia at 2228m (7310ft). Named by a Polish explorer, Paul Strzelecki, Mount Kosciuszko continues to attract adventurers of every kind, from hikers and mountain bikers through to winter sport enthusiasts. Take on the Kosciuszko Summit Walk, a Grade Three 18.6km return trip that runs from Charlotte Pass through the beautiful Kosciuszko National Park to finish at the summit itself. This can be done on foot or mountain bike.
The mountain is covered with snow for three to six months of the year, and much of it is utilised for winter sports. Once the snows melt, the water runs into the rivers and reservoirs that form the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. From breathtaking views that will have your camera out every other moment to stunning flora, fauna and historical sites, Mount Kosciuszko has something for everyone.
3. Brewarrina Fish Traps
This heritage-listed destination can be found on the Barwon River, just outside Brewarrina in northern NSW. Traditionally known as Baiame’s Ngunnhu, the Brewarrina Fish Traps are a complex series of ponds and channels created with stones to catch fish as they travel down the river. This site is known as one of the oldest man-made structures in the world.
Many of the fish traps are still visible, despite damage and destruction over the past 160 years, including the carting away of stones and construction of a weir in the 1970s. Local Traditional Owners continue to care for and use the fish traps. Organise a tour with the Brewarrina Cultural Museum to visit this wonderful destination.
4. Natural Wonderlands - Blue Mountains canyons
The Blue Mountains feature hundreds of canyons that have been created over millions of years of water running down the iconic sandstone terrain. Taking on any of these canyons will require everything from bushwalking, swimming, water jumps, abseiling, rock scrambling and rock climbing and will provide a unique insight to this region’s beauty.
Popular canyons include Grand Canyon, Slot Canyon, Wollangambe Canyon and Rocky Creek Canyon — but with 900 to choose from, you’ll get different favourites whoever you talk to! If you’re a newcomer to canyoning, it is advisable to organise a canyoning tour with a local guide, because as with any adventure, it can quickly become a negative or dangerous experience if you don’t know what you’re doing. Plus, a guide will ensure you don’t miss any secret spots.
5. Barrington Tops
The ancient rainforests of Barrington Tops National Park are unmissable. Part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, the Barrington Tops has a rich history that continues to awe any visitor. Covering more than 83,000ha, Barrington Tops is one of the largest temperate rainforests in Australia.
Enjoy gentle walks through to kayaking, abseiling, mountain biking and much more. Organise a guided tour to make sure you don’t miss any of the breathtaking locations or set up camp at one of the beautiful camping locations and explore at your leisure. The nearby towns, such as Dungog and Gloucester, are a wealth of history, so make sure to leave time to explore them and the local farm gate trail to taste test the local wines and cheeses.
6. Burning Mountain (Mount Wingen)
The home of Australia’s sole naturally burning coal seam that moves approximately 1m south each year, Burning Mountain (otherwise known as Mount Wingen) is a popular attraction for all ages. Burning Mountain is located just off the New England Highway, approximately 298km north of Sydney or a shorter 25km from Scone. Part of the Burning Mountain Nature Reserve, this attraction offers plenty to do, including birdwatching and bushwalking. The Burning Mountain Walk is the best way to appreciate this unique reserve and includes a number of information panels along the 4km return track. Wear sturdy footwear, stay on the track and keep your eyes peeled for fossils!
7. Yuranigh’s Grave
Yuranigh was the Aboriginal assistant of Sir Thomas Mitchell during his fourth journey to the north-west of Australia, and his gravesite 3km south-east of Molong is the only known site in Australia where Aboriginal and European burial practices can be seen together. Dating from 1852, the site is heritage-listed and is surrounded by four carved trees — a sign from the traditional owners that Yuranigh was someone worthy of special credit. The gravestone itself reflects Yuranigh’s character and the bond formed with Thomas Mitchell during their travels.
8. Fish Rock, South West Rocks
This famous location can be found along the north coast of NSW, a short way from Smokey Cape, and requires a boat ride to get there. Whether you’re experienced or an eager novice, organise a scuba dive with Fish Rock Dive Centre to explore this beautiful underwater wonderland and the 125m ocean cave that runs beneath Fish Rock. There is plenty of sea life to encounter, including the critically endangered grey nurse sharks, or if you visit in May to October, you might be lucky enough to spot some whales.
9. Glow Worm Tunnel, Blue Mountains
Found in an old rail tunnel in the Wollemi National Park, near Lithgow, the Glow Worm Tunnel is a sight to behold. The tunnel runs for 400 metres and can be accessed from the Newnes Plateau or Wolgan Valley. Make sure you bring your walking shoes and a torch, both of which are required to entre the tunnel. While glow worms can be found in other parts of the Blue Mountains, this tunnel is the best spot for them, particularly in the middle section, the furthest away from daylight. Switch off the torch and enjoy the soft blue glow. The Glow Worm Tunnel walking track (2km return) is the fastest way to get there. Alternatively, take on the 7.5km Wolgan Valley Circuit — a four-hour loop through that offers plenty of Wolgan Valley views as well as leading you via the unique tunnel.
10. Stockton Beach
Running for 32km, Stockton Beach is the longest beach in NSW, stretching from Stockton to Anna Bay. Enjoy stunning views, four-wheel driving along the beach (with a permit), swimming, surfing and even a shipwreck or two. Sand from the beach blows 3km inland and feeds NSW’s largest coastal dune system — the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands. Extending over 4200ha, the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes include 1800ha of rainforest and 32km of the longest-moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re looking to explore this unique location, consider a sandboarding, camel, horse or 4WD tour.
Along with hundreds of inspiring images, 3001 Things to See and Do will be a worthwhile companion on your travels. Available at good booksellers and through Hema Maps for $64.95.
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