It’s unfortunate, but current international travel restrictions mean once-common bucket-list travel items for many of us are far less likely to happen. And it can be confronting to realise you might no longer be able to cross those experiences off your list.
Of course, you can’t directly replicate international experiences here at home. For example, there just isn’t an Eiffel Tower in Australia to have a picnic beneath. But you don’t have to completely scrap those (for now) impossible list items.
What if, instead, you took the opportunity to slightly tweak your bucket-list experiences at destinations you can travel to safely during the coronavirus pandemic?
By looking at the why (instead of the where) of your bucket-list items, you can find a way to tick them off right here. And it starts by asking yourself why you put those incredible destinations and life-changing experiences on your bucket list in the first place. That’s how you’ll find a path to replacing them.
Australia’s full of must-visit places to see before you die! So it’s time for a little bucket list re-write.
No, it won’t be exactly the same. Nothing will replace seeing the original of an artwork you’ve been dreaming about since childhood. But there may be a local alternative just as beautiful in its own way.
Here are a few ideas…
Bucket-list item: seeing the Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights tops many travel bucket lists. Why? Because it’s a spectacular natural phenomenon. You can only witness it in a certain part of the world, and when you do, it’s awe-inspiring.
There’s nothing like it visible in most of Australia, so having to replace it on your list can be a bit tricky. But...
Alternative: stargazing in the Outback
Did you know there are places in the Australian Outback that offer the best views of the night sky in the world? Because of the lack of background light, stargazers from across the globe have made pilgrimages here to combine astronomy with glamping and a-once-in-a-lifetime holiday experience.
Along with the stars (which are truly incredible), you can also enjoy a red-dirt experience in the spiritual home of the world’s oldest culture. Yes, penguins are cute, but the Red Centre boasts a whole bunch of different birds who are every bit as fancy.
Plus, if you reassign the budget you would have spent getting yourself to the Northern Lights, you’ll get more bang for your buck. Perhaps you could treat yourself to a luxurious resort AND enjoy a private tour from a local who’ll teach you about the cultural significance of each constellation? It’s romantic, spiritual and far warmer than anywhere you’d be able to see the Northern Lights from.
After all, that’s why the Outback is such a popular remote honeymoon destination.
So, if your ‘why’ for seeing The Northern Lights is witnessing a stunning natural phenomenon, the stars of the Outback may just fit the bill.
Bucket list item: Antarctica
Antarctica is a popular bucket-list item for anyone who wants to see nature at its pristine best. The land is almost untouched – it’s remote, and few people have had the pleasure of travelling there. The sheer bragging rights are why it shows up on so many travel experiences bucket lists in the first place, right!?
Plus, for many travellers, seeing the wildlife is a huge highlight: penguins, seals, whales and more. So as a destination, it can seem irreplaceable.
There’s nowhere in Australia like Antarctica, it’s true. But you can spot many of the same animals in Tasmania because it’s so far south. Between May and September, Tasmania’s east coast is an incredible place to whale-watch, with numerous ethical tours available. And, unlike in Antarctica, the food there is world-class.
Plus, if it’s penguins you’re after, you can have so many experiences here at home. Sure, you won’t find any emperor penguins in Tassie. But if you’re happy seeing little penguins, you can easily see them at various spots around Tasmania.
Where are some other fun places to go in Tasmania? Try:
- Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
- Bicheno Penguin Tours
- Frederick Henry Bay (a great whale-watching area).
Bucket list item: Machu Picchu
Hiking the trail to Machu Picchu is undeniably an incredible experience. It’s partly the sunrises and partly the feeling of being somewhere ancient and culturally rich – and it’s all-round mind-blowing. If you ask someone, “Where should I visit before I die?” Machu Picchu is one of the most popular answers.
Learning about Ancient Incan culture from local tour guides as you walk the same trail the Incans did is humbling, exhausting and all sorts of amazing. But again, ask yourself why you want to do it.
For most people, it’s the sense of being very small in time and space, combined with seeing something sacred that’s stayed the same for thousands of years. That feeling is life-changing – and there’s a unique perspective that comes with experiencing it.
Uluru is also one of the most incredible places in the world to watch the sun rise, and it’s right here in our (Outback) back yard.
And really: if you’re looking for an iconic cultural symbol that’s remained unchanged for millennia, it doesn’t get much older or more significant than ‘The Rock’.
Why not book a tour with a local guide and learn all about Uluru’s spiritual significance? There are tracks all around the base you can hike, and too many ancient sites to count. Plus, you can experience a range of different traditional events while you’re there, from smoking ceremonies to art workshops, and from basket weaving to bush tucker walks.
OK, it’s not the home of the Ancient Incans - but it actually pre-dates Machu Picchu by several thousand years. And let’s face it, kangaroos are much nicer than llamas.
Bucket list item: a white Christmas
So many Aussie families dream of experiencing a white Christmas with their children. It’s the stuff Hallmark movies are made of. There’s an undeniable romance to experiencing carols and hot chocolate or building a snowman on Christmas morning. And eating a roast dinner makes far more sense when the weather is under 35 degrees Celcius.
But is that the only reason this appears on so many bucket lists?
A white Christmas is a classic postcard moment. It’s something very different from our everyday lives. Plus there’s a kind of magic to immersing yourself in another culture. And since so many of our Christmas traditions are imported from the Northern Hemisphere, they’re far better suited to a colder climate.
Alternative: Christmas in July in a snowy mountain lodge
Ticking off this bucket-list item is much easier than you may think. All you need to change is the date!
For the same cost as flying your family to the Northern Hemisphere, you could hire a luxury lodge in Thredbo and have your own white Christmas (in either July or August). Because if what matters to you is being near your family and celebrating time together, it doesn’t matter what month it is.
And the other great thing about doing your white Christmas at home? You can pack your family’s traditional Christmas tree ornaments. Hanging your family’s sentimental decorations on a tree while snow falls outside is something you can’t do in the Northern Hemisphere, so that’s a win right there!
Opening presents on (fake) Christmas morning then heading outside to play in the snow is a magical experience. You can eat a roast meal (to a soundtrack of carols,) pour hot chocolates for the kids, and then round out your day by watching Christmas movies in front of an open fire. It sounds pretty good, whatever the date!
This is a magical experience you can quite easily create right here at home if you just use your imagination. And if you aren’t sure where to start, read our handy guide on what you need to pack for a ski holiday.
Bucket list item: famous rail routes
The Orient Express, Trans-Siberian, The Rocky Mountaineer and many other famous rail routes feature highly on travel bucket lists.
Being such a comfortable, safe travel option makes rail travel a popular bucket-list holiday for couples. Especially since it’s a wonderfully civilised, romantic way to watch the countryside scenery roll by.
Of course, like everything else outside our borders right now, international rail travel is trickier than ever.
But if one of these famous rail routes is on your bucket list, there’s a good chance you love trains and enjoy wining and dining as you watch the world go past. And the good news? You can do both of those things right here in Australia.
It’s not the same as those scenic mountain routes, but it’s still pretty good.
Alternative: The Ghan Expedition from Darwin to Adelaide
This train ride features beautiful countryside, access to remote areas and luxurious comfort – just like the international options above. It’s a four-day, three-night, all-inclusive journey that takes you from Adelaide to Darwin through a host of beautiful, isolated places from Cooper Pedy to Alice Springs.
As the stunning landscape rolls by, you’ll also sample a regionally-inspired menu paired with a selection of local wines. Enjoy dinner under the stars at the historic Telegraph Station, then choose between Indigenous culture tours or an authentic Outback life demonstration.
And The Ghan is just one of the rail travel options available in Australia.
Bucket list item: European art galleries
Seeing the huge array of world-famous art housed in Europe is, for good reason, on many a bucket list.
From the Mona Lisa to Guernica, The Last Supper to The Starry Night, there are no replacements. But if you ask yourself why you want to see these artworks, finding a homegrown alternative that’s just as inspiring will be easier.
Alternative: world-class galleries here at home
If it’s incredible artistic skill you want to witness, Australian galleries display thousands of amazing works – Aussie and international, historical and contemporary.
Or, if it’s the history you’re after, areas in the Kimberley region are home to what may be the oldest artworks anywhere in the world. Both Dambimangari and Balanggarra country have been the subject of recent studies because of the galleries (caves) that have stood there for thousands of years.
From the National Gallery of Australia to Mona to Tjukurba Art Gallery, there’s so much to experience and celebrate within our borders.
It’s not quite the same, but it’s every bit as special
Look, we understand nothing can 100% replace a bucket-list item you’ve been dreaming of for years. And the fact you have to replace it at all is disappointing - but there’s nothing like a plot twist to make a travel story interesting.
We hope you have fun rewriting yours in this beautiful country of ours. Maybe it’ll involve a luxury train journey with your other half. Perhaps you’ll spend it stargazing on red dirt. Or it might look like decorating your Christmas tree with the grandkids in July.
Regardless, we know it’ll be just as beautiful as the bucket-list item it’s replacing.
We recommend checking out the deals below to help inspire yourself.
And whatever you choose, let us help you plan, book and pay for your holiday in instalments or with Afterpay. That way, all the hard work is done – so the only thing you have to do is enjoy your dream holiday right here at home.