Large or small, the islands of Australasia are smothered with every type of greenery imaginable. Try these 10, Down Under options for one of your next jungle holidays.
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia
Three hours from Darwin and the gateway to Arnhem Land, Kakadu National Park has earned its UNESCO nod. Australia’s largest national park, it’s all craggy red rock formations, soupy mangroves teeming with lurking crocodiles, and billabongs raucous with herons and pelicans.
Here, frill-necked lizards stop and stare from huge rock walls carved with rock paintings dating back millennia. During the wet season, the Jim Jim Falls crash and churn, while lush pockets of rainforest hide shyly behind sun-bleached escarpments.
It’s busy during the dry months, but with 20,000 km2 at your disposal you’ll easily find a spot all of your own. Don an Akubra hat and channel your inner Crocodile Dundee with a hike or 4WD tour, and explore the region’s indigenous history with a cultural tour.
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Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia
“I love a sunburnt country,” goes the classic poem. And you will, too. South of Alice Springs, this arid, Mars-like setting is home to both Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, and the formations known as The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta in the local language.
Stubbled with desert shrubs, the raw, red plains are endless. The iconic wildlife is all represented: you’ll spot dingoes, wallabies, emus and kangaroos en masse. A vast behemoth, the sacred Uluru rears up from the landscape. Hike around its wind-scarred base, decorated with ancient rock art. It’s spectacular in the evening, becoming chameleon-esque under the setting sun.
If the heat hasn’t got to you, trek the Valley of the Winds and marvel at the untouched beauty of Australia’s heart.
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Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia
Enter a living museum in Queensland’s northern corner. Extraordinarily rich and lush, the Daintree is one of the oldest rainforests in the world, and it’s home to huge numbers of Australia’s flying and crawling wildlife species. With its roots in the ancient continent of Gondwana, it’s had plenty of time to diversify, and you’ll explore mangroves, Eucalypt woodlands and teeming tropical rainforest.
Marvel at cycads and conifers with a history older than the dinosaurs, along with old-school eucalypts and also fossil plants. Spot uniquely Australian oddities like cassowaries and tree kangaroos, and stroll the beaches of Cape Tribulation, overlooked by the granite outcrops of Mt Pieter Bottle. It’s a national treasure according to David Attenborough, so you know it’s a must see. Visit during the cooler months to avoid a wet season drenching.
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Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia
Cut off from the Australian mainland by the Bass Strait, Tasmania is renowned for its rugged terrain and bristling old-growth forest. On the island’s east coast a few hours from Hobart, Freycinet National Park is a craggy jewel bursting with pink granite formations, pale beaches and looming tea-trees. Black swans glide over the Moulting Lagoon. The perfect curve of Wineglass Bay provides a prime swimming spot and views of The Hazards. Keep an eye out for dolphins and whales as well as land-dwellers like possums, echidnas, wombats and even Tasmanian devils.
The region’s a hiker’s heaven, so don some sturdy shoes and spend a few days traversing the secluded bays and camping out under the starry sky. You might even be lucky enough to spot the Aurora Australis – Australia’s answer to the Northern Lights.
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Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
In the south-west corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park is a majestically weathered expanse of under-explored natural wonder. Rainforests, lakes, and alpine expanses: it’s all here.
If hiking – or tramping, as it’s known to the Kiwis – is your thing, cover some of the 500km of walking trails. You can go it alone, or with a guide. The Milford, Kepler and Routeburn tracks, starting and ending at Te Anau, are good picks if you have a few days up your sleeve.
Birdwatchers should be at the ready for a potential discovery or two: the takahe and kakapo flightless birds have been found hiding out here after being presumed extinct for years. The conditions are chilly and wet, so be prepared for rain – especially in Milford Sound, which could easily be dubbed Milford Drowned.
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Waipoua Forest, New Zealand
Be ready to be humbled. Home to New Zealand’s answer to the California Redwoods, Waipoua Forest, on the North Island’s west coast, is brimming with awe-inspiring kauri trees, huge behemoths dating back thousands of years.
The highlight is Tane Mahuta, the ‘Lord of the Forest’, a 2000-year-old ancient kauri tree that’s almost certainly the largest you’ve ever seen. Hire a car and wind through the looming expanses of kauri, rimu and rata trees, or traverse trails that will take you past Tane Mahuta’s ancient siblings and up to the Forest Lookout Tower.
Keep an eye out for the giant kauri snail, as well as the kokako and the brown kiwi, the rare birds you may find rustling in the underbrush. The region’s long been home to Maori communities, so consider a guided tour to learn more about local traditions and customs.
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Blue River Park, New Caledonia
With its rust-red soil and rare flightless kagu birds – which both hisses and barks – Blue River Park can trick you into thinking that you’re in Australia or New Zealand. You are, however, deep in the south of Grande-Terre Island, a mineral-rich region home to scrubby vegetation and massive kauri trees, plus the roaring Madeleine Falls and even a ghostly drowned forest, found in the heart of the Yate Lake.
Traverse the aptly named Forgotten Coast and explore an almost untouched region featuring pristine reefs, valleys gouged deep into the land, and looming ocean-side cliffs. Spot crested geckos and the New Caledonian crow as you kayak up the river, and gaze in awe at the ancient petroglyphs carved into the land around you.
Camping spots plus hiking and cycling trails abound, but so far the area’s a strictly in-the-know traveller’s spot.
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Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea
Tying together the north and south coasts of Papua New Guinea, the Kokoda Trail is one of the world’s best-known hiking trails – and it’s not for the faint hearted. Spanning almost 100km, this ultra-narrow pathway winds through a mountainous topography of rainforest, fern-smothered jungles and deep valleys dotted with tiny villages called home by the Koiari and Orokaiva people.
It’s hot and humid by day, freezing by night, and pouring rain is a given – as are the mosquitoes. Guided tours are the way to go unless you’re an experienced trekker, and you’ll need between 4-12 days to get from end to end. That’s unless you’re planning on running the Kokoda Challenge Race, in which case you’ll need a fighting spirit and a minimum of 16 hours. Plan to arrive between April and September, when the rain lets up a little.
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Efate & Epi Island Rainforests, Vanuatu
Vanuatu’s main island, the coral-wrapped Efate is a verdant beauty rich with waterfall-fed rivers, secret bays and pristine lagoons.
Most visitors stick to her perimeters, but head inland, and you’ll find an interior of lush rainforest carved with a handful of walking tracks. As an island chain nation, Vanuatu’s wildlife is scarce, with water birds, small insects and the occasional frog coming out to play – and plenty of tranquillity.
A 30-minute flight to the north, the island of Epi’s coconut plantations hide a rainforest heart dotted with jewel-like lakes ideal for swimming. The result of recent volcanic activity, it’s mineral-rich and teeming with lush plant-life – and it’s a superb out-of-the-way trek that none of your friends can claim to have made.
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Bouma Heritage National Park, Fiji
Fiji’s third largest island, Tavenui has been aptly dubbed the ‘Garden Island’. Brimming with rainforest and hidden waterfall pockets, it’s home to the Bouma National Park, which is nothing short of a hiker’s paradise.
Trek to the Tavoro Waterfalls and take a dip in the pristine volcanic pools at their base, a brilliant chance to cool off. Hire a guide and make your way up the rugged mountaintop overlooking Lake Tagimaucia, where you might be lucky and find Fiji’s national flower in bloom – while taking in a panoramic view of the island’s tropical good looks.
Traverse the Vidawa Rainforest, rich with traditional villages and home to the barking pigeon, or take a hike along the island’s perimeter, heading over swinging bridges, deep canyons and lush greenery, only broken by rock pools and craggy formations.
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