Australia's strangest day trips
If a bog-standard bus trip around the well-trodden highlights doesn't quite cut the mustard for you anymore, it's time to ramp up the quirky quotient. Across the country, there are some seriously odd tours for someone who wants to spend their day doing something truly different. Such as ...
Mission Beach, Queensland
Pest control is really not a sexy business, so kudos has to go to Boar Busters, who have 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; phone 0427 406 887) operates the Big Pig Shindig for $90 per person. The day out includes a visit to a crocodile farm.
Sydney, New South Wales
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 see 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; phone (02) 8338 8414).
Coober Pedy, South Australia
Underground tours are 10 a penny in Coober Pedy, but the Down 'n' Dirty tour is a little step beyond. It involves the usual barrage of history, the chance to look around a mine and an opportunity to rummage around in the mullocks of rubble in the vague hope of finding an opal. But the interesting part is when they get the deadly weapons out.
Inside the Quest mine, visitors are given a hard hat, torch and pick axe and told to go for their life. That's the "Dirty" part, incidentally.
Details: The four-hour tour is available through the Desert Cave Hotel (www.desertcave.com.au; phone (08) 8672 5688) for $105 per person.
While the burgers at the Birdsville pub are relatively good, they're hardly world-beating and worth $600! Now that's a bit of a push.
Charleville's Outback Airtours graciously offers to fly people out to Birdsville so that they can sink their teeth into the wallet-busting burger. On the way, they fly over some seriously spectacular outback scenery and there's a walking tour of Birdsville once you get there to help create space for the bun-encased feast.
Details: The flight is free, but the burger costs $600. However, if four people come along, the burgers only cost $150 each. Strange, that! Phone (07) 4654 3033 or visit www.outbackairtours.com for more information.
Newman, Western Australia
Another option for a scenic outback flight with a twist is to head out on the Golden Eagle mail run from Newman. As part of its remit, Australia Post has to deliver to absolute Woop Woop, and frankly, it can't be bothered to do that as part of its normal service. So it hires contractors such as Golden Eagle to fly to ultra-remote properties in the Pilbara.
The cunning swines have turned the rather mundane task of hopping from mailbox to mailbox into a tourist experience. Thus anyone who wishes to land on a few dirt runways in the middle of nowhere while the odd letter gets delivered can hop on board to visit well-known hot spots such as Balfour Downs, Punmu and Jigalong.
Details: The run operates every Tuesday from 8.30am to about 3.15pm, and costs $320 per person. Bookings need to be made through the Newman Visitor Centre (www.newman-wa.org; phone (08) 9175 2888).
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Ghost tours aren't particularly unusual anymore 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 thing is arguably the fellow passengers the people who book to go on this tour have a tendency to dress in Halloween-esque garb.
Details: The tour costs $64 with Destiny Tours (www.destinytours.com.au/canberra.htm; phone (02) 9943 0167).
Of the cutesy Australian animals that 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, who spend the best part of their eight- to 10-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: The price of the Quoll Patrol with Pepper Bush Adventures (www.pepperbush.com.au; phone (03) 6352 2263) is dependent on individual preferences and numbers it's best to contact them to discuss your options.
Who needs beautiful beaches and luxurious resorts when you have the world's largest alumina refinery and the fifth largest coal export plant on earth? Yeah Gladstone is that sexy.
Every day, a different bus tour goes from Gladstone to one of its industrial delights for behind-the-scenes access to heavy machinery. On Wednesday, it's the port; on Thursday, it's 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: The tours are free, but bookings are essential and can be made through the Gladstone Visitor Information Centre (phone (07) 4972 9000).