A Guide to Travelling Sustainably in Australia

Ecotourism thrives in Australia
Ecotourism thrives in Australia | Alexander Hellebaut / © Culture Trip
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer24 December 2020

Travel and sustainability haven’t always been the best bedfellows. But times are changing and when travel returns in 2021, it will be more important than ever to find ways to wander the planet without harming it. When heading Down Under, there are many things that can be done to make your trip all the more mindful. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

Carbon offsetting

If you’re not travelling within Australia, you’re going to have to hop on a plane to reach the continent. This in itself isn’t sustainable – we know that. But efforts can be made to reduce the impact of gas-guzzling jets. Enter carbon offsetting. Usually a matter of pounds, a carbon offsetting fee helps fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a small price to pay for helping the environment.

Pack reusable items

While Australia was initially behind the plastic-free revolution, it was mid-2018 that two of the continent’s main supermarkets pledged to no longer offer plastic bags. To save using the paper bags, too, you’ll need to bring a tote along for the ride to pick up your groceries – it can double up as your beach bag, with space for your BPA-free water bottle, as well.

Choose reusable items where possible | © aldomurillo / Getty Images

Stay in sustainable accommodation

Eco-friendly accommodation is a no-brainer. And there are various tiers to it, from hostels to luxurious resorts. For backpackers hitting the Great Ocean Road, stay at Apollo Bay Eco YHA, which is pioneering energy- and water-saving techniques to reduce its environmental impact. Meanwhile, on the Great Barrier Reef, Orpheus Island Lodge offers a number of eco-friendly tours to guests, has its own vegetable patch, and supports projects and organisations committed to preserving and protecting the Great Barrier Reef through its Reef Keepers Fund. There’s also Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in the World Heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains, which was the world’s first hotel to receive CarbonZero’s internationally accredited carbon-neutral certification.

Choose ecotourism experiences

Companies across Australia are becoming eco-certified and offering ecotourism experiences. On the East Coast, you’ll find plenty of sustainable businesses operating along the Great Barrier Reef, which has been endangered for some time by climate change. Elsewhere, other popular ecotourism activities in Australia include the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, the multi-award-winning Bruny Island Cruises in Tasmania and Taronga Zoo in Sydney. The official Ecotourism Australia website is a great resource for finding current experiences.

The penguin parade is a popular ecotourism experience | © Boy_Anupong / Getty Images

Take public transport

Walking is of course the most environmentally friendly mode of transport, but Australia is a big old place. To get from A to B, take a Greyhound Bus – the company has the largest network in Australia. They also have a carbon offset initiative, whereby passengers can pay an extra $1 to help support carbon dioxide reduction projects. When in Melbourne, utilise its public bike network, as well as trams, trains and buses. Meanwhile, Brisbane and Sydney’s public transport networks also include ferries.

Visit wildlife sanctuaries

Australia has incredible native wildlife – and there are many many wildlife sanctuaries across the country, which are focused on conservation and carbon footprint reduction. For example, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary participates in 16 different conservation projects; Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania has several sustainability initiatives in place, and won the EPA Sustainability Innovation in Industry Award in 2013; and Steve Irwin’s legacy, Australia Zoo, is working to reduce its carbon footprint in all areas, from biodegradable coffee cups to a mobile phone recycling programme.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary participates in 16 different conservation projects | © Travel Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

Support the locals

Ecotourism is all about having a positive impact on the environment you’re visiting. And this means supporting local communities in whatever capacity that might be. It could include visiting farmers’ markets, buying products in independent shops and joining locally run tours and cultural experiences. At Mossman Gorge near Cairns, you can learn about the area’s Aboriginal history on a Dreamtime Walk led by a local indigenous guide; while in Uluru, there’s the Aboriginal Homelands Experience, in which a traditional owner of the land teaches visitors about the Anangu people’s history.

Take a walk

If you enjoy bushwalking and extensive hikes, the Great Ocean Walk is a 100km (62mi) trek that follows the infamous Great Ocean Road, from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles. Some of its iconic trails include the Murray River Walk, which can be traced with an eco-certified company who organise a four-day journey along the Murray River. Another local operator, Tasmanian Walking Company, hosts several hikes across the island state, including at the Bay of Fires and Cradle Mountain.

Head to the Great Ocean Road for some excellent walking tracks | © Jennie Hart / Alamy Stock Photo

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