Tricks and flips off a charter into the Great Barrier Reef, photographed by Whitney Tressel
Fish swim among the live coral of the Great Barrier Reef, photographed by Whitney Tressel
Cape Tribulation Road towards the Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, photographed by Whitney Tressel
The Ghost Gum Walk of Ormiston Gorge in the Northern Territory, photographed by Whitney Tressel
Sunrise from camp in the bush of the Outback’s West MacDonnells, photographed by Whitney Tressel
Overlooking the city ferry trails from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, photographed by Whitney Tressel
Surfers waiting for the perfect wave in Byron Bay, New South Wales, photographed by Whitney Tressel
Photographer Whitney Tressel — who’s also the Photo Editor of Budget Travel magazine — has traveled all around the world in the pursuit of the perfect snapshot, from the deserts of Navajo Country to the marine wildlife of Palau. Here, she takes us Down Under and shares her Top 10 places to visit in Australia.
The Daintree Rainforest, specifically near Cape Tribulation, is the only place in Australia where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Rainforest. By day, we scanned the boardwalk for cassowaries, rode horseback on the beach and kayaked in the saltwater sea. Our lodging was at the lush Cape Trib Beach House, set on the Pacific with a brilliant southern hemisphere sky. We had clear nights, and without light pollution could see the details of the fiery white Milky Way.
When in Queensland, eat at Mason’s Cafe in Cape Tribulation. A vegetarian in daily life but an adventurous eater when traveling, I dug into what Mason’s is most known for: local, exotic burgers. See what you think of kangaroo, emu, crocodile, wild boar and even camel. We rinsed off our guilt afterwards in Mason’s backyard watering hole, a natural speakeasy of sorts, equipped with a rope swing into clear, fresh water.
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is iconic to Australia and indeed lives up to its UNESCO World Heritage hype. The best part about our excursion with Wavelength reef cruise company was that we had ample snorkeling time, including some selfies with sea turtles, but also actually learned a ton about the “largest living thing on Earth”.
Australia is teeming with outlandish, and sometimes dangerous, wildlife unique to only this country and continent. While it is not advised to confront a red kangaroo or emu in the wild, it is encouraged to interact with the ones at Wild Habitat in Port Douglas. Wild Habitat is an immersive experience that takes the “petting zoo” concept to another level.
I found Cairns to be a pretty amusing place to say the least. Mega-bat creatures, called Flying Foxes, soar swiftly overhead as a regular nightly occurrence, and the locals don’t even bat an eye. Then there is the Night Markets, a warehouse of shops that boast local handmade trinkets, delicious Asian cuisine, and some of the best 30-minute massages 15 Australian dollars can buy. Although Cairns sits on the Pacific, there is no natural beach at its waterfront. Instead a lagoon, or a glorified public infinity pool rather, is the main attraction. Hands down, the best people-watching in Australia!
Traveling all the way to Australia without experiencing its unimaginably vast Outback would be a miss. Exploring this flat red Earth with its bright white Ghost Gum trees and contrasting blue skies is a sensory feast, all while breathing in its fresh, eucalyptus-filled air. Sleeping under the desert stars in solely a sleeping bag “swag” doesn’t sound like glamping, but the accompaniment of our Australian tour company Wayoutback made our rugged Northern Territory experience achievable and truly unforgettable.
Uluru and the Australian Aborigines
Seeing the famed and sacred monolith Uluru in person was unexpectedly impactful. Uluru, at times referred to as Ayers Rock, has become one of those bucket-list attractions that to some, crassly, “just looks like a big rock” upon image searching. In the flesh though, especially after learning about the Aboriginal creation stories that abound amongst its facades, is a humbling experience. We absorbed this natural monument walking its perimeter in silence, taking in the Red Centre spectacle.
As a novice surfer, and an expert surf poseur, I pursued Byron Bay with purpose. The vibe of this coastal town is where my inner Gidget meets The Endless Summer. By day, surf The Pass with the best of them, or watch from Fisherman’s Lookout, a wooden platform situated high above sea level where sometimes even whales can be spotted.
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is emblematic to the charismatic capital city of New South Wales. This expressionistic structure by architect Jorn Utzon is impressive, inspired by the peeling an orange, “each of the 14 peels combining a full sphere,” but the true magic happens during a performance in Concert Hall. We were lucky enough to catch the Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff symphony and it was incredible. There is no bad seat in the venue and the massive musical organ setup alone was a sight.
The Ferries and Watson’s Bay
Whether heading to Manly Beach, Taronga Zoo or Luna Park, taking Sydney’s charming public transportation, the ferries, is a fantastic way to see the metropolis. Our favorite ferry ride was to Watson’s Bay, an old fishing village with a spectacular view of both Sydney’s skyline to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. We collected vibrant sea glass along the beach and witnessed one of the richest golden hours from its rocky cliffside.
Some highlights that I’d love to return for: The Blue Mountains of New South Wales, the Sunshine Coast’s Noosa, Victoria’s great Ocean Road, West Coast’s Perth, Far North’s Darwin and the island of Tasmania!