Visitors to Australia arrive in search of Foster’s and kangaroos. While the country has plenty of both to offer, the strange beauty of Australia extends much further than the platypuses at Taronga Zoo.
Getting to know Australia requires you getting off the grid. Venture west of Manly Beach, and all of a sudden, the cosmopolitan destination you once knew transforms into something more complex and mysterious. Here are six alternative items to have on your bucket list when visiting Australia:
1. Visit the Empire of Atlantium.
Australia is famous for being the only country on the continent. But a few decades ago, a couple of teenagers from New South Wales sought to change that.
The trio formed a sovereignty advocacy group and set up camp 300 kilometers southwest of Sydney. They named their new territory the Empire of Atlantium. They consider their empire to be a parallel sovereign state. Basically, it’s an ultra-modern state designed to deal with a sociopolitical impasse, a two-state solution.
The Empire of Atlantium may not be recognized as an official state by the United Nations, but it still has its own post office. Not sure where to stay? The benevolent emperor offers up the country’s Government House to visitors on Airbnb.
2. Watch the Penguin Parade.
A charming breed of penguins, known as the Little Penguins because of their average height of only 30 centimeters, are only found in Australia and nearby New Zealand. These penguins spend their days swimming up to 100 kilometers. At night, they make their home on land.
The best place to watch these darling little creatures is on Phillip Island near Melbourne. The island is home to a population of 32,000 of these penguins, and every night, each and every penguin makes its evening march from its sea home to its beach home.
It's called the Penguin Parade, and it is popular with visitors. However, it is an experience no one will ever know you had. That's because the parade happens at night and because the birds’ eyes are sensitive to light, there is no photography allowed during the march.
It is one of those rare times that everyone around you will put their phone down and forget about capturing the cuteness for their Instagram feeds.
3. Hunt for aliens.
Australia’s Northern Territory is rarely traversed by anyone other than residents, miners and aliens. The territory is home to Wycliffe Well, otherwise known as Australia’s UFO capital.
Wycliffe Well is a one-horse town in the middle of the desert. It’s less of a town and more of a rest stop for weary travelers trekking between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
The UFO sightings began during World War II when traveling soldiers reported strange lights and sounds. Locals claim it was not the beer or lack of sleep that caused these strange sights. In fact, UFOs sightings here continue to be so common that the local roadhouse keeps a log of all reported sightings.
4. Play a really, really long game of golf.
A good portion of Australia is never seen by the naked eyes of tourists. In an attempt to bring some action to the Australian outback, the Eyre Highway Operators Association of Western Australia decided to build a golf course. It was a reasonable idea, as golf resorts draw flocks of tourists and their cash.
The group named the course the Nullarbor Links. It features a standard 18 holes and is a par 72 course. The difference is that this course is the world’s longest golf course. The course runs for 1,365 kilometers and features one hole per town, requiring a seriously dedicated caddy.
You can pick up your score card at each end of the course, so you can complete the course backwards if you want. Fill out your score card and turn it in at the end for your certificate of completion.
5. Take a Tasmanian road trip.
Australia is full of great road trips. Tasmania, the island off the South Coast, offers the best of Australian driving in a bite-size package. Take a road trip from Launceston down the Tasmanian capital of Hobart.
Along the way, check out of the Bay of Fires and drive down through Freycinet National Park. Be sure to make a stop in Port Arthur and learn about Australia’s sordid history as the home of Europe’s most violent convicts.
End your trip in the quaint city of Hobart. It is the second oldest city in Australia, and while it does not have the cosmopolitan trappings of Sydney or Brisbane, it is a charming place to spend a week.
It has a casual vibe and plenty of historic sites. It’s a great place to kick back and experience Australian culture without the prices or other stress of the big cities.
6. Go underground in Melbourne.
There is a lot to see and do in Melbourne, and that’s just above ground. Drop down a few feet, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a subterranean city connected by 900 miles of storm drain tunnels.
In 1986, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) claimed their own drain. The ANZAC drain now serves as a base for urban explorers who are interested in the less sunny side of Melbourne.
The tunnels host parties and artists. It is also home to a group called the Cave Clan who host regular meetings down there. However, the tunnels are not officially safe. Heading below ground leaves you susceptible to flash floods, which are always a threat.
Also, when you think about all the wild and weird animals that live above ground in Australia, the thought of what lies below the surface is a little daunting.
Remember that exploration of the tunnels is also illegal. Brave explorers who are caught will face large fines.
Go ahead and enjoy your Kangaroo jerky and your Vegemite while you’re Down Under. But don’t forget to head off the beaten path and enjoy some of the splendid moments that aren’t usually captured on Snapchat.