Go underground! Here, in the outback of South Australia, is the world's opal capital, the largest mining area for the gemstones anywhere in the world and one of the weirdest towns you'll ever visit.
It's hot and remote, and around half the population of around 1,800 locals live in what they call 'dugouts' â or caves bored into the hillside. These have the major advantage of remaining constantly cool despite exterior temperatures that can often exceed 42 deg C. The town's name comes from the Aborigine word kupa-piti, meaning 'white man's hole'.
This town, some 850km due north of Adelaide, is also a tourist magnet featuring among other things underground hotels, restaurants, bars and an underground church (there is even a huge jewellery shop carved out of the hillside where you can buy the mined opals). Outside, there is a golf course without a blade of grass (you play at night, with luminous balls, and carry a piece of turf from which to tee off).
Tasmania has stunning scenery and agriculture. It's also steeped in history and Port Arthur is the jewel in the Tasman Peninsula's crown, containing three of eleven sites that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. The site covers some 40 hectares of land with many historic buildings, extensive ruins and beautiful grounds and gardens. Just across Carnarvon Bay are the Isle of the Dead and the site of the Point Puer Boys Prison.
A 30-minute drive away is The Coal Mines Historic Site, near Saltwater River on the north western tip of the peninsula. This important convict site is also managed by the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority and is another important element in the history of Tasmaniaâs convicts â and Australia.
But Port Arthur is not just a history lesson. It's a beautiful town and worth staying over at one of the many quality accommodations â not least to try the wonderful local produce and wines.
More than 2 million people visit this amazing natural wonder each year, putting its very future in jeopardy. But management of the reef is in hand to conserve its unique corals and the sea creatures that depend on them. Responsible tour operators take care to ensure you see the fabulous nature without damaging or destroying it.
The reef is claimed to be the largest natural feature on earth at more than 2,300 km from the northern tip of Queensland to just north of Bundaberg. Some 2,900 individual reefs make up the wonder; the whole marine park is the world's biggest World Heritage Area and tropical marine reserve.