If a bog-standard bus trip around the well-trodden highlights doesn’t quite cut the mustard for you any more, it’s time to ramp up the quirky quotient. David Whitley ticks off the top five seriously odd day tours being offered around the country.
1. Catch some pigs
Pest control is really not a sexy business, so kudos has to go to Boar Busters at Mission Beach in Qld, who’ve managed to turn their contract to get rid of feral pigs into a tourism opportunity. The Big Pig Shindig allows guests to get as involved as the Occupational Health and Safety chaps will allow. And, yes, that means getting dirty. The Boar Busters try to stagger things so that their guests can set a trap, check devices that have already been set and see pigs that have been caught in the previous day’s traps.
Details // Boar Busters (www.boarbusters.com.au, 0427 406 887) operates the Big Pig Shindig for $90 per person. The day out also includes a visit to a croc farm.
2. Hang around at the airport
For most of us, spending two hours in an airport is a necessary evil. To do it without getting on a flight afterwards is positively masochistic. But the Airside Tarmac Tour at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport is a slightly different experience – it gives air travel junkies the chance to watch the planes take off from close quarters, listen to pilots communicating with the tower and peek into the jet hangars. You’ll also get the chance to see the behind-the-scenes operations, and just how delicate the baggage handlers are when they lob the suitcases around.
Details // Daylight ($47) and twilight ($68) tours are available with Airside Tarmac Tours (www.airsidetarmactours.com, 02 8338 8414).
3. Stalk quolls
Of all the cutesy Australian animals most people would be gagging to see in the wild, the quoll would be quite far down the list, probably below the pademelon and above the irukandji jellyfish. But this won’t deter the chaps at Pepper Bush Adventures in Launceston, who spend the best part of their eight to ten hour “Quoll Patrol” following the little critters around in dark. As part of the trip, there’s a bush tucker and Tasmanian game-heavy dinner, but once that’s out the way, it’s all about scrabbling through the Tasmanian bush, chasing spotty marsupials with torches.
Details // Quoll Patrol with Pepper Bush Adventures (03 6352 2263, www.pepperbush.com.au), cost dependent on individual preferences and numbers.
4. Go industrial
Who needs beautiful beaches when you’ve got the world’s largest alumina refinery and the fifth-largest coal export plant on Earth? Yep, Gladstone is that sexy. Every day a different bus tour goes from the coastal Qld town to one of its industrial delights for behind-the-scenes access to heavy machinery. On Wednesday, it’s the port; on Thursday, the power station. But the real highlight is on the Friday, when the three-hour tour goes to both the Rio Tinto Alumina Refinery and Australia’s largest smelter.
Details // Tours are free, but bookings are essential via the Gladstone Visitor Info Centre (07 4972 9000).
5. Explore the eerie
Ghost tours aren’t particularly unusual any more – you can find one in pretty much every Australian town. But Destiny Tours’ Weird Canberra Ghost and History Tour is a little bit different. For a start, it’s led by Tim The Yowie Man – the shorts-clad shameless self-publicist with an almost unhealthy obsession with mysterious creatures. He’s the Australian National Museum’s resident cryptonaturalist, and he promises that the tour will take in tales of secret tunnels, buried art treasures and coffins in Lake Burley Griffin. There’s also a hidden cave, a haunted embassy and an old homestead that makes people’s noses bleed. But the weirdest things are arguably the fellow passengers – the people who book to go on this tour have a tendency to dress in Halloween-esque garb.
Details // $64 with Destiny Tours (02 9943 0167).