Francoise Peron, Shark Bay, Australia

We all know we can book Australia ourselves – an English speaking county, flights on the internet and a cheap Airbnb. However, there are experiences you can’t get without the advice and insider knowledge of the team at Steppes Travel. It is these elements that go to make a holiday special and memorable. We’ve collated a few of our favourites below.

1) Meeting Local Characters

Only with insider knowledge can visitors to Australia spend time with local characters who can share their own experiences. Spend a few days with Sab Lord up in Kakadu and Arnhemland to discover more about this ancient landscape and cultures. Take surf lessons in Byron Bay with former US surf champion. Rusty Miller. Spend time in the company of real life Tasmanian bushman, Craig ‘Bushie’ Williams, listen to stories over the campfire whilst searching for Tasmanian wildlife.

2) Making a Difference

Want to give something back when travelling? Steppes have a strong ethos on making a difference and can advise on how to support local conservation efforts. Visit Arkaba Station, once a cattle station and now home to an award-winning wildlife conservancy where guests can assist with tasks such as tracking feral cat and monitoring camera traps. For marine conservation visit Lady Elliot Island whose conservation efforts range from a check and assessment program of the Great Barrier Reef to replanting important island flora and fauna. Aiming to be fully sustainable by 2020, Lady Elliot Island is quite rightly proud of its conversation efforts.

3) A Different Perspective

Want to explore on foot but not sure where to start. Our experience means we can suggest one of the Great Walks of Australia, the perfect way to get outside and really experience Australia’s diverse landscape. From the UNESCO world heritage sites of Tasmania, the rocky outcrops of the West MacDonnell Ranges in the Red Centre to the Scenic Rim Trail in South East Queensland, these guided walks cover some of Australia’s most ravishing scenery.

4) Far from the madding crowd

Australia is home to some blissful and lesser visited islands. Include a few days at one or explore a number such as the uninhabited Maria Island off Tasmania, the prehistoric peaks of Lord Howe with only 400 visitors at a time, the private castaway island of Haggerstone and the sublime Lizard Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.  While away a few luxurious days exploring, mud-crabbing and dining on the catch on a remote beach.

5) Unique Experiences

Want to sleep under the stars but unsure about the local wildlife? Try swagging. Swagging is a deluxe reinvention of a bushman’s bedroll out and literally translates to travelling with one’s personal belongings in a bundle. One of the most magical ways to experience Australia’s wilderness is to spend a night sleeping in the open and there are a number of places where it is possible to experience this unique stay. Travel by helicopter to enjoy a luxury bush dinner before sleeping out under the stars.

6) Planes, Trains and Automobiles

There are many ways to get around Australia – self-drive is a great option or if time-poor you can hop on a plane. For a truly leisurely way to see more of the country, train travel is one of our favourite. What about the Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide or the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney. Cross this huge country in comfort while rolling countryside, sprawling outback and mountains roll past. Stop to visit remote gold mining towns and cattle stations as well as some of the most vibrant cities of Australia.

7) The Less Obvious Choice

Want to swim with whale sharks, humpback whales or snorkel with over 500 species of fish? Spend a few days at Sal Salis on Ningaloo Reef, the less visited alternative to the Great Barrier Reef. Support the work being done to conserve the three breeds of turtle found on the reef with a guided walk and a picnic on a deserted beach. Better still the tiny town of Coral Bay, bordering the reef is home to some of Australia’s best Aussie pies – surely worth a try?

8) Urban Secrets

Urban secrets – let’s not forget the eclectic cities and towns of Australia. Home to a buzzing restaurant and art scene, these cities can offer the perfect balance to an itinerary showcasing the great outdoors. From lunch in a submarine under Sydney Harbour or a day’s sailing on a private yacht, learning the art of graffiti with a lesson in Melbourne, often considered Australia’s most European city, to commissioning an artwork by an Aboriginal artist and visiting them while they create it.