Exploring Australia: five ways to connect with nature during the holidays

March 13th, 2024

Need inspiration for your next adventure around Australia? You’ve come to the right place.
Sunset over a calm lake with a boat shed to one side.

Lake Wendouree in Victoria is a perfect place to spot some Aussie wildlife. Photo: Jacob Dyer / Unsplash

Australia is an incredibly diverse country, and for holidayers and explorers, there is so much to see and do. To get you excited for your next trip, we’ve leafed through a few of our books for some outdoor inspiration. By foot or 4WD, in search of flora or fauna, from the desert to the coast, we’re certain we’ve found something for every type of adventurer.

Drive Safely, Tread Lightly

Exploring Australia by car can be a great way to see this vast continent. If you plan to head out in your 4WD, it’s important to ensure you understand how to operate your 4WD safely and responsibly – and it’s never too late to remind yourself of the essential skills required.

Most importantly, it’s essential to remember to be aware and considerate of the environment around you to ensure that the wellbeing of the land and it’s ecology are preserved.

In 4WD Driving Skills, author Vic Widman lays out some simple rules for anyone using a 4WD (which, coincidentally, can be applied to anyone camping or exploring in nature). We’ve listed some of them below:

  • Always stay on formed trails – do not make new tracks across any fragile land.
  • Carry out all of your rubbish.
  • Bury human waste and, if fire danger is low, burn toilet paper.
  • Always leave station gates as you find them (either open or shut).
  • Seek permission from local landowners when travelling over their property.
  • Do not camp near stock watering holes.
  • Do not use soap or detergents in watercourses

If you’re looking for the essential reference for all 4WD enthusiasts, we recommend 4WD Driving Skills: A Manual for On- and Off-Road Travel by Vic Widman.

A four wheel drive vehicle with a boat on the roof crossing a creek in a rainforest.

Ensure you’re considerate of the environment when driving your 4WD. Photo: David Clode / Unsplash


Step Out and Explore

If you like to explore the country on foot, then walking trails and hikes might be your choice of holiday activity. Whether it’s by the sea or in the bush, in the tropics or more temperate climates, we have the guides for you! The next time you’re in the area, try out the three family-friendly walks below.


Heading to Wilsons Promontory? Then you can’t go past the Oberon Bay-Wilsons Promontory walk. It’s a 6km return walk along beaches, wrapping around the base of Little Oberon and Mt Oberon. Its easy grade and location make it perfect for families and a good place for budding geologists and spotting seabirds.

New South Wales

For keen walkers spending time in the Snowy Mountains, Bullocks Walk is a great family-friendly day hike and only 20 minutes from Jindabyne. It’s a 5km return walk along part of Thredbo River and near the site of the Thredbo gold diggings and the historic Bullocks Hut. Be sure to wear supportive shoes as the ground can be boggy in places.

Queensland’s Tropics

If you only have a short amount of time to experience Queensland’s tropics, the Djina-Wu Track is a 1.5km easy grade walk along a mixture of earthen and rocky tracks and boardwalks. But if you’re feeling up to more, take a longer circuit back to the starting point or link up to two historic walks – Douglas Track and Smiths Track – that lead into Barron Gorge National Park.

Find your next hiking route in our guides for walks, tracks and trails in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland’s Tropics, where author Derrick Stone has compiled the best the states have to offer.

A wide landscape photo of Islands in the distance looking down from the hiking trail at Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, Australia. A rocky shoreline and shrublands are in the foreground.

Wilsons Promontory provides a stunning outlook for scenery and wildlife. Photo: Ryan Jubber / Unsplash


Discover the Secrets of the Desert

When many of us think of frog habitats, we think of bodies of water like wetlands, creeks, or lakes. Yet even in Australia’s dry deserts, frogs have found a way to survive.

Living in vertical burrows, surrounded by loosely packed soil, most northern burrowing frogs survive by forming an accumulation of shed skin that acts as a cocoon to limit evaporative water loss. They enter ‘aestivation’, a state of inactivity and lowered metabolic rate triggered by heat and dryness.

When the rains fall, the frogs are drawn out of their dormant state and emerge to the surface to eat and replenish their energy stores.

In Australian Deserts, author Steve Morton recounts his first experience with burrowing frogs after a heavy rainfall in remote Queensland:

“The light revealed dozens of water-holding frogs ringing shallow pools on the stony plain where, on the previous day, there had been just bare expanses of sun-blasted soil. I recall talking enthusiastically about the experience with acquaintances back in the city, explaining to them how these animals spend months and years buried in a cocoon deep in the ground, awaiting the opportunity for a brief encounter with the world above.”

Discover more about the fascinating life of Australian’s desert ecosystems in Australian Deserts: Ecology and Landscapes, written by Steve Morton and featuring stunning photos by Mike Gillam.

A light brown coloured Main’s frog emergesfrom its burrow in the rain-soaked ground, shedding its milky-white protective cocoon in the process.

A Main’s frog sheds its protective cocoon as it emerges from its burrow. Photo: Mike Gillam, from Australian Deserts.


Backyard Biodiversity

Whether you live in Victoria’s South-West (including Melbourne) or you’re only visiting, there is a huge diversity of wildlife living there. If you’re planning to get out and discover what animals are in your backyard (literally or otherwise), we’ve looked through Wildlife of Victoria’s South-West and picked three wildlife viewing spots throughout the region where you can experience and observe iconic species.


The Yarra River provides perfect opportunities to glimpse the Platypus, as well as the Azure Kingfisher and Australasian Darter. Jump on your bike and take the Main Yarra Trail from Southbank all the way to the outer eastern suburbs where you might see a colony of Grey-headed Fruit-bat roosts alongside the river in Yarra Bend Park, or a Victorian Smooth Frog at Wilson Reserve in Ivanhoe. If you’re staying close to the bay then, come dusk, keep an eye out for Little Penguins coming ashore to roost at St Kilda Pier.

Budj-Bim Cultural Landscape

This ancient volcanic landscape on Gunditjmara Country is just inland of Portland on Victoria’s south-west coast and home to iconic Australian species like the Spotted-tailed Quoll, the Wedge-tailed Eagle, and McCoy’s Skink. It has a rich Indigenous history, with fish and eel traps demonstrating the innovative aquaculture evident in this region.

Ballarat and Surrounding Areas

For fans of waterbirds, Lake Wendouree is a hotspot for notable birds including Cape Barren and Magpie Geese, which breed on islands in the centre of the shallow lake. You might also get a glimpse of a basking Eastern Long-necked Turtle on the shoreline!

If you’re looking for more wildlife viewing spots throughout the region, or to learn more about the kinds of animals living there, check out Wildlife of Victoria’s South-West: A Guide to the Grampians-Gariwerd, Volcanic Plains, Melbourne and Surrounds by Grant Palmer and Jules Farquhar.

A platypus swimming through clear water, rippling water out in all directions.

If you’re lucky you might spot a Platypus along the Yarra River in Melbourne. Photo: Trevor McKinnon / Unsplash


Unveiling Coastal Resilience

The strong winds, salt-laden air, sand blasting and summer drought that are typical of Perth’s coastal climate create unique growing conditions for plant life that has them sharing similar ecological attributes of desert plants. If you have ever looked at the plants that thrive by the coast and wondered what it is that allows them to survive in such dynamic environments, you might’ve noticed similarities among the plant life.

Plants in these environments make the most of their surroundings to help with seed dispersal. Like the common beach spinifex (Spinifex longifolius) that uses the wind to spread its spiny seed head to help it gain an advantage in colonising eroded or newly created environments. Or sea spinach (Tetragonia decumbens), an invasive weed along the coast with seed capable of surviving in seawater for days and germinating in highly saline conditions that would kill most other coastal species.

Some species even develop temporary succulence on leaves in response to salt-laden winds and seawater spray, which helps them cope in a variety of coastal environments.

The next time you’re exploring the coastline around Perth, take along a copy of Coastal Plants: A Guide to the Identification and Restoration of Plants of the Greater Perth Coast by Kingsley Dixon to learn about the natural history of the region and see if you can spot any of these fascinating traits of coastal flora.

Above photos from Coastal Plants, Second Edition by Kingsley Dixon.


Feel like you want to know more? Check out our range of books on animals, marine science, plants and the natural environment, as well as our children’s books.

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Cover of 4WD Driving Skills, featuring a photo of a white four-wheel drive vehicle maneuvering over rugged terrain

4WD Driving Skills, Second Edition by Vic Widman

The cover image featuring a rocky beach embankment reflected in bright blue water, with a bright blue sky.

Walks, Tracks and Trails of Victoria by Derrick Stone

The cover image features one large photo of a woman walking over large red boulders; in the top left hand of the cover three smaller images.

Walks, Tracks and Trails of New South Wales by Derrick Stone

Cover image featuring a background of ferntrees and thumbnail images of beaches and a seabird.

Walks, Tracks and Trails of Queensland’s Tropics by Derrick Stone

Cover of 'Australian Deserts: Ecology and Landscapes', featuring a photo of a desert landscape with various plants in the foreground transitioning to rock formations in the background.

Australian Deserts: Ecology and Landscapes by Steve Morton

Cover of 'Wildlife of Victoria's South-West', featuring photos of an echidna, bandicoot, frog, snake, robin and brolgas.

Wildlife of Victoria’s South-West by Grant Palmer and Jules Farquhar

Cover of Coastal Plants Second Edition featuring a photo of grasses growing on sand dunes with the ocean in the background and a row of smaller photos of flowers

Coastal Plants, Second Edition by Kingsley Dixon

Cover of Australian Birds of Prey in Flight featuring a Red Goshawk and a variety of smaller bird photos

Australian Birds of Prey in Flight: A Photographic Guide by Richard Seaton, Mat Gilfedder and Stephen Debus