With lots of towns offering some kind of experience, whether it’s cultural or historical, it can be hard deciding which is best. I asked my children to name their top five paid experiences during our adventure around Australia.
1. Monkey Mia, WA
Famous for its up-close and personal interaction between tourists and wild dolphins, Monkey Mia is the perfect place for families to create memories, relax and explore the surrounds of the Peron Peninsula and UNESCO Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Monkey Mia is a popular tourist location known for its almost daily ritual of feeding bottlenose dolphins from its shore. This amazing event started in the 1960s when fishermen threw dolphins some of their catch and has developed into a commercialised tourist destination.
The dolphins today are the third generation of bottlenose dolphins, visiting the shore to interact with rangers and tourists for a feed of fish. These days though, there are many regulations that keep the dolphins safe and ensure they continue to hunt and behave naturally. The dolphins are strictly fed only 10 per cent of their daily food intake so that they continue to hunt and teach their calves to survive in the wild without relying on humans.
Feeding at Monkey Mia is between 7.45am and 12 noon, and the dolphins are fed up to three times per day. The first feed is the busiest for tourists, with everyone arriving early to ensure they don’t miss out on the experience. Tourists are invited by the rangers to enter into ankle-deep water for a better view of the dolphins who swim past, within arm’s reach, following the rangers who provide them with fish. The unique experience is one not to be missed.
2. Coral Bay Glass Bottom Boat Eco Tour, Coral Bay WA
The Ningaloo Reef is in close proximity to the shore of Coral Bay, making it a popular location for families to explore the underworld wonderland. Named after the coral gardens that contrast against the pristine white sandy beach, this picturesque bay is a must-add location to your bucket list. Because of its calm water, children can safely snorkel the reef or float with the water currents from one end of the bay to the other.
We chose a glass bottom boat tour to give our children a different perspective of the reef, especially our youngest (aged three) who is not a confident swimmer. We saw many species of fish and coral. We also saw reef sharks, turtles and dugongs. The boat pulled up on the reef, giving everyone an opportunity to snorkel for around 45 minutes, and the highlight was a large Eagle Ray swimming right underneath us. The tour supplies all snorkelling gear and noodles if required to stay afloat.
3. Broome Camel Safaris, Cable Beach, WA
The camels are iconic to Cable Beach in Broome and my children loved the experience. I couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces as the gentle giants plodded up and down the beach. Unfortunately, there was a lot of nude men laying on the beach, which is not what you want your children to witness and given the number of families parked along the beach, I am surprised it’s actually legal. The camels were a good distraction from most of the nudity.
4.Brian Lee Tag-along Tour, Cape Leveque, WA
We met Brian and his three young male accomplices at Djarindjin campground and followed them on an action-packed tour along Cape Leveque, which is only accessible with a tour guide and your own 4WD. Brian offers a unique insight into the traditional ways of the Bardi people, sharing stories about his family’s history and culture. The tour started with a bush walk where we tasted bush fruit and learned about ancient medicine, used by Australia’s First Peoples. We visited the closed-down Kooljaman Camp, which boasts scenic views of Cape Leveque and Brian shared his community’s plan to reopen the campground in the future.
We followed Brian along the eastern beach of the Cape where the sand was deep and soft, causing some cars to become bogged, though this was all part of the unique adventure. Brian taught us how to whistle through seashells, which my children continue to practice today. As we came over the hill to Hunters Creek, I felt like we were in another country due to the spectacular view of the secluded, white sandy bay with turquoise water.
Although we passed signs reminding us that we were in crocodile territory, Brian assured us that the water was too clear for crocodiles. He encouraged us to swim, snorkel and kayak, which didn’t take much convincing, given the heat. Brian and his crew showed the children how to throw spears, he taught us how to hunt for mud crabs and took us out on the boat, fishing and exploring the mangroves and the surrounds of Hunters Creek. The day was complete with an open-fire cook up of the day’s catch and shared among everyone on the tour.
5. Adelaide River Jumping, Crocodile Cruise, NT
Located about 50 minutes from Darwin on the muddy banks of the Adelaide River is the Jumping Crocodile Cruise and, living up to its name, these prehistoric creatures put on a snappy performance. The crocodiles jump out of the water to snatch the meat which the tour guide entices them with, slapping it on the water to get their attention. They don’t seem to need too much enticing though, as it has become daily ritual and within seconds of the boat leaving the jetty, crocodiles start circling the boat, awaiting their feed.
The tour will take you to meet three dominant male crocodiles along the Adelaide River with two measuring close to six metres. Brutus, the most well-known male crocodile, is estimated to be 105 years old and Dominator around 85 years old. Staff were insightful and shared plenty of knowledge about the prehistoric creatures and other animals living along the Adelaide River. Staff will feed the crocodiles from both sides of the boat, so everyone gets a close view of the prehistoric giants feeding.