Lee Atkinson’s definitive bucket list

The term ‘bucket list’ was coined in the hit 2007 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman about two men determined to get the most out of life with a wish list of things they want to see or do before they ‘kick the bucket’, but you’d be mad to wait until things get that dire.

From seeing the Southern Lights to singing onstage at the Sydney Opera House, Lee Atkinson, author of The Definitive Bucket List: Travel Experiences in Australia and New Zealand, has put together 11 great I’ve-always-wanted-to-do-that adventures that prove you’re never too old to try something new and there’s always a first time for everything.

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See the Southern Lights, Tekapo, South Island, New Zealand
The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve near Mt Cook National Park and Lake Tekapo is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest dark sky reserve, and when conditions are right – clear skies, no moon and strong solar activity – the high altitude offers spectacular aurora viewing.  

southern lights seen from dunedin

Sleep underground, Coober Pedy, South Australia
The Desert Cave Hotel is dug into the hillside in the main street of Coober Pedy. As long as you’re not claustrophobic, a good night’s sleep is pretty much guaranteed – rooms are very quiet and pitch black when you turn off the light. 

coober pedy pub

Climb the Harbour Bridge (Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland)
Sydney BridgeClimb leads guided tours onto, and over, the upper arches of Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is an easy walk, just lots of steps – so you do need to have decent knees – and you’re always attached to a safety line.  If you can’t make it to Sydney, you can also climb the Story Bridge in Brisbane and the Auckland Harbour Bridge – bungy jumping off the edge is entirely optional.

sydney harbour bridge climb

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Bathe beneath a waterfall in the Kimberley, Western Australia
Getting wet in the wild is an adventure when you’re floating beneath a waterfall in an inky-black plunge pool in the heart of the Kimberley. The Gibb River Road has some of the country’s best natural swimming pools with dozens scattered along its length. Taking a dip in a resort pool will never seem quite so exciting again. 

gibb river road waterfall

See the view from the top of Australia’s highest mountains, New South Wales and Victoria
Summiting Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko, is a relatively easy walk, especially if you take the chairlift from Thredbo Resort. An easier-on-the-knees option is Mt McKay, the highest drivable point in Australia: it’s in the Victorian high country near the village of Falls Creek.

walk Mt Kosciuszko

Dig up a dinosaur, Winton, Queensland
Imagine the thrill of uncovering the bones of a fossilised dinosaur. If you’ve ever harboured dreams of being a palaeontologist, head to Winton in outback Queensland. At the Age of Dinosaurs museum you can work with the palaeontologists on the dinosaur dig sites or help out in the fossil lab.

dinosaur museum winton

Sleep in a haunted house, Junee, New South Wales
Are you brave enough to spend a night in Australia’s most haunted house? The two-and-a-half-hour tours of Monte Cristo Homestead include dinner, and if you’re not easily spooked you can stay the night in one of the antique-filled rooms. If you make it to morning, breakfast is included.

haunted house new south wales

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Indoor skydiving, New South Wales
Indoor skydiving offers all the exhilaration of floating on air with the guarantee of a soft landing. The simulated freefall adventure takes place in a vertical wind tunnel – think giant glass cylinder with a big fan covered in wire mesh at the bottom – and most people will fly for at least 50 seconds or so, which is equivalent to the free fall of an outdoor skydive from 14,000 feet. 

indoor sky diving

Sing on stage at the Sydney Opera House, New South Wales
Some people are born to sing on stage: Pavarotti, Dame Joan Sutherland, Kylie Minogue … but for those of us that can’t hold a note even in the shower, the only sure way you can find yourself a place on the stage at the Sydney Opera House is on a backstage tour. 

sydney opera house

Stay on a deserted island, Queensland
Live out your Swiss Family Robinson fantasies with a holiday on your own private tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef. Pumpkin Island is a 40-minute ferry ride from Yeppoon (just north of Rockhampton) and you can hire the entire island for less than $3000 per night: with room for 34, it’s a bargain. If you’re travelling with family, kids under 16 stay free. 

pumkin island hammock

Soak in hot mud pools, Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand
New Zealand really is Lord of the Springs and you’ll find hot mineral springs scattered across both islands, but the most famous of them all are those at Rotorua, where the magical healing qualities of the geothermal mud and water are rumoured to cure just about everything. Enjoy a soak in an outdoor mud bath or sulphur spa at Hells Gate Geothermal Park, home to the biggest mud volcano in the country as well as the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. 

hells gate waterfalls

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The Definitive Bucket List by Lee Atkinson. Travel keeps the memory sharp, the body fit and is a wonderful way to meet like-minded people, and this book shows how to get the most out of the best years of your life with hundreds of holiday experiences across Australia and New Zealand. Published by Hardie Grant Travel (hardcover, RRP $45), it’s available wherever good books are sold.

Want to win a copy of The Definitive Bucket List: Travel Experiences in Australia and New Zealand? Tell us, in the comments section below, your ultimate bucket list experience and five lucky members will score Lee’s amazing book!

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