Tales of Adventure

Last Minute Pre-Uni Holiday Destinations That Aren’t Boring Beaches

Not all summer holidays revolve around sun baking.

by Katherine Gillespie
03 March 2016, 12:00am

It's March, which means that your days of backyard beers and freezers full of icy poles are officially numbered. It's time to get out of the city for a while and create summer holiday memories that are powerful enough to tide you through the hideous, soul-sucking months of winter.

Are you really going to spend your precious youth at the beach? At least the beach is a beach, right? Plan for a some sort of fun adventure instead. From ski resorts to thermal springs to underground caves, these are the off-the-beaten track summer holiday destinations that promise to drag in the Instagram likes and provide for a good time.

The Rainy Tasmanian Beach Holiday You Didn't Know You Wanted

Let's just say it: Australian beach culture is overrated (at least in the city). The sand, the sun, the crowds. The social pressure to maintain a tan despite your desk job. The social pressure to buy a swimsuit that costs the equivalent of two week's worth of groceries. Shark attacks, poisonous jellyfish, sunburn. Going to the beach is a masochistic act, and we all know it.

Still, it wouldn't be summer without at least one attempt at a beach holiday, and you can avoid some of the above pitfalls by visiting the Tasmanian coast. Tasmania is kind of like New Zealand, but without the constant references to Frodo. Pristine white sand collides with lush green forests, and there's quite a bit of rain. It is the ideal destination for beach goths who feel out of place at Bondi.

Being an island and all, there's quite a lot of coastline to explore. If you're after proper wilderness, try and get to Fortescue Bay on the Tasman Peninsula. Located within the Tasman National Park, the beach is surrounded by forest and sheltered by craggy cliffs. Other sweet locations to explore include the secluded bays of Freycinet National Park, and the popular holiday town of Orford.

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Ski Fields Without the Skiing

Mountains: sometimes they're snowy, sometimes they're not. Hint: during an Australian summer, they're usually not. But that doesn't mean you can't have a bit of alpine fun during the warmer months. Ski fields are open all year round, and off-season is a great time to explore some high altitude wilderness.

Resorts like Thredbo and Falls Creek offer a bunch of summer mountain activities, from bike riding to abseiling to tennis. But if you're looking to accomplish something truly profile picture worthy, climbing Mt Kosciuszko should be a priority. Australia's highest mountain is 2,228 metres above sea level, which qualifies it for a spot on the Seven Summits list. That is, the list of highest peaks on each continent that all serious mountaineers aim to conquer. If you're going to climb any of the Seven Summits, you should probably make it this one—Kosciuszko is about 2,000 metres lower than the next mountain up.

Thermal Springs in the Northern Territory

While your basic friends drink weak cocktails at some mid-level resort in Bali, you could be surrounded by the paperbark trees and palm forests of Elsey National Park in the Northern Territory, luxuriating in natural thermal springs that remain a cosy 34 degrees all year around.

Thermal pools are like day spas, minus the bored housewives. They relax you, mainly because they don't require you to do anything much. As totally passive experiences go, they're up there with the best. Just paddle around a bit, enjoy the cruisy temperature, and embrace the mindset that all those natural minerals possess healing properties. The Mataranka Hot Springs are among the Territory's best kept secrets, and well worth the journey.

Image by Richard HarrisFloating in Underground Desert Caves

Alright, so the previous suggestions are pretty white bread. Beaches, mountains, thermal pools. Sure. It's all good. But if you want to really go all out and make the most of your pitiful two weeks of leave, consider spending some time floating in the bizarre underground caves of South Australia.

Cave diving isn't exactly something you can try out on a whim. It's a precise art that requires extensive research and training. But the rewards are worth it, especially if you have the impulse to venture into the unknown and see some pretty surreal shit. There's so much to explore, and the extensive network of limestone caves under the Nullarbor Plain are mostly undiscovered. New entrances are out there, just waiting to be found. Cave diving training resources can be found here.

This article is presented in partnership with Captain Morgan