Capricorn Dreaming: 15 nights of active adventure on a journey from West Coast to East Coast
Magnificent Australia can offer travellers more in just one trip than many destinations can provide in a lifetime. From beaches, reefs and islands to rainforests, mountains, wine regions and boundless outback, this diverse and abundant continent has it all. Our specialists have zoned in on a one of the best places to visit in Australia just north and south of the Tropic of Capricorn to design an itinerary perfect for active couples, friends and families with older children.
With a focus on nature, culture and connection to place this incredible two-week journey takes in highlights such as giant marine encounters in Ningaloo Reef, uncovering Rottnest Island’s unique past and present near Perth, hiking the mighty Gondwana Rainforest on the iconic Scenic Rim Trail and blissful escapism at Elysian, where further adventure or relaxation awaits.
DAY 1: Ningaloo Reef
Expect a warm welcome from the Sal Salis team on arrival at Exmouth Airport, followed by a transfer to the Cape Range National Park, where Sal Salis sits in sand dunes, overlooking Ningaloo Reef and the Indian Ocean. Over the course of three nights, you will be immersed in this fragile coastal eco-system; wake to the thud of an ‘old man’ kangaroo hopping by, tune out to the sounds of waves lapping the shore and the beautiful song of the pied butcherbird. Naturalist guides will bring the natural world around you to life, from the amazing flora and fauna to the vast swathe of the Milky Way in the heavens above.
DAY 2: Ningaloo Reef
Take to the ocean on a life-changing marine adventure with Live Ningaloo. From mid-March to the end of July, you can swim with whale sharks, while from August to October, expect to see humpback whales migrating south along the Reef, leading their newly born calves to Antarctic feeding grounds. A marine biologist will guide you through interaction with these gentle giants, so that you are confident enough to take the plunge and leap into the big blue for an unforgettable experience with one of earth’s most magnificent creatures.
DAY 3: Ningaloo Reef
Start your day with a guided hike into the gorges of the Cape Range National Park, one of the best places to visit in Australia. Steeped in geological history and mythology, the ranges are home to rock wallabies, red kangaroos and an array of unique Australian fauna and flora. Snorkel the coral gardens of the Ningaloo Reef and admire the myriad species – fish, nudibranchs, octopuses, reef sharks, turtles, rays and many more – then discover how Australia is keeping this huge reef healthy.
DAY 4: Perth
Fly to Perth for a two-night stay at COMO The Treasury, a fantastic hotel that occupies three of Perth’s historic 19th-century state buildings. In the afternoon, join a Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours & Experiences Noongar guide on an insightful journey into Perth’s Aboriginal past. Less than two centuries ago, Perth’s skyscrapers and bustling streets were the site of forgotten great lakes and well-worn tracks that connected family settlements, hunting grounds and sacred places.
DAY 5: Perth
It’s an easy walk to Barrack Street Jetty for the 45-minute crossing abord the Rottnest Express to Rottnest Island. A protected nature reserve, there are few cars on Rottnest Island so the best way to explore its 63 beaches and 20 bays is via the 22 kms of cycle trails. Venture out to West End, stopping at Cathedral Rocks to see the resident fur seals, or spot a rare osprey near Parker Point. Join a Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours & Experiences Noongar guide to discover the deep spiritual connection and history that the Whadjuk Noongar people have with the island.
DAY 6: Spicers Hidden Vale
Fly from Perth to Brisbane, before a 90-minute transfer by road to Spicer’s Hidden Vale. Set on 12,000 acres of farmland managed for rehabilitation, wildlife and conservation, Hidden Vale’s accommodation comprises a mix of beautifully restored Queenslander-style cottages that date back to the 1800s. In the late afternoon, get to know the property’s six ecosystems on an ATV experience, where you can tap into your guides’ extensive knowledge of the area and its treasures. These fertile landscapes are a dynamic food bowl and a chef-led walk through the market garden, smokehouse and fermentation room will reveal the farm’s 100-year-old heritage and provide a deeper understanding of this remarkable place.
DAY 7: Spicers Hidden Vale
After breakfast, join Hidden Vale’s Koala Experience, commencing with a behind-the-scenes visit to the Hidden Vale Wildlife Centre. The Centre operates in partnership with the University of Queensland and the purpose-built facility houses a variety of vulnerable, threatened and endangered species. After learning about koala conservation, you ‘go bush’ to see just what makes a koala successful in the wild. In the early afternoon, it is back to pedal power (e-bikes are available) to cycle with a guide, taking in the sights, including mobs of grazing kangaroos.
DAY 8: Spicers Scenic Rim Trail
Embark on the journey of a lifetime on a four-day hike, travelling 60 kms along the Great Dividing Range. You’ll pass through the Gondwana Rainforest and enjoy the splendour of the native fauna and flora in all its glory. Spend each night in a unique eco-camp (luggage is transported separately), where you can be assured of a cool drink and a hot shower at the end of each day. After a briefing by the Spicers Scenic Rim Trail guides and a short road transfer, you’ll climb the Mistake Mountain Range and enjoy incredible views of the valley below.
DAY 9: Spicers Scenic Rim Trail
Enter the Gondwana Rainforest, a magical place inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1986 for its representation of the major stages of earth’s history, unique geology and biological l diversity. Discover the fascinating species that call the rainforest home, before settling into Spicers Amphitheatre Eco Camp, a lodge of treehouse-inspired cabins nestled in the wilderness. You’ll enjoy sundowners on the observation deck overlooking the mountain ranges of the Scenic Rim, then gather for a splendid dinner in the beautiful main lodge.
DAY 10: Spicers Scenic Rim Trail
Much of today will be spent hiking on Grade 5 trails, under the watchful eyes of your experienced guides. You’ll explore a wide variety of habitats that reveal niche species, including birds such as the Albert’s lyrebird and the black-breasted buttonquail, before a picnic lunch in the Valley of the Giants and a final ascent to a former logger’s lodge, Timber Getters Eco Camp.
DAY 11: Spicers Scenic Rim Trail
The final day of the trail enjoys a slower pace. On a clear day, drink in fabulous 360-degree views from Bare Rock before a short drive to Hidden Peaks Cabins in the foothills of the Main Range National Park, where you will gather around a firepit to feast and share stories.
DAY 12: Elysian Retreat
Transfer to Brisbane Airport, 90 minutes by road, for the flight to Hamilton Island and the subsequent short helicopter hop to Elysian Retreat. Set on the southern point of Long Island, surrounded by rainforest and the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, this soulful retreat is a blissful escape for just a handful of guests. A champion of sustainable travel, each of Elysian’s ten oceanfront villas, are 100% solar powered, saving 112-tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Enjoy a beautiful sunset over Conway National Park with canapes and drinks on the deck, before soaking in the resort’s mineral pool, renowned for inducing a peaceful sleep.
DAY 13: Elysian Retreat
Enjoy a restful pace exploring the Retreat and its surrounds – how about an early morning yoga session followed by a glorious ayurvedic treatment at the Jala Spa? Elsewhere, lounge in a hammock, try paddleboarding or take a glass bottom kayak for a paddle and you may be lucky enough to spot a green turtle. Over in Elysian’s bountiful restaurant, fresh ingredients, including sustainably caught seafood, and produce from nearby Bowen, are order of the day, supplemented by fresh herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden. The chef’s daily changing menu reflects a connection to the local terroirs, with every care taken to minimise food-miles and wastage.
DAY 14: Elysian Retreat
A sunrise cruise to South Molle Island and the only island biking trail in the Whitsunday Islands is a winner. You will be provided with electric bikes, gear and guides for a 2.5-hour ride through lush landscapes that afford staggering island views, before a guided exploration focused on the area’s Aboriginal history. As you meander along rainforest paths, your guide will regale you with tales of their forebears, the long-time custodians of these islands. Learn about the customs of these people, how they sourced ‘bush tucker’ and hunted sustainably and pay a visit to a cave featuring ancient Aboriginal rock paintings.
DAY 15: Departure
Your journey comes to an end with the short but scenic helicopter flight back to Hamilton Island Airport.