SAIL AND DIVE THE WHITSUNDAYS: Island-hop this archipelago of 74 coral-fringed, rainforested isles on the Great Barrier Reef aboard Bliss, a skippered 60-foot yacht that sleeps six (double cabin from $1,346 for three nights, with meals; diving is extra; 011-61-7-4946-5433, www.prosail.com.au).
DRIVE THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD: Roll the 219 miles between Torquay and Warrnambool on one of the world's best drives, past old lighthouses and the famous 12 Apostles rock formation (011-61-3-5222-2900, www.greatoceanrd.org.au).
COMMUNE WITH THE TINGLE FORESTS: Get dwarfed in Walpole-Nornalup National Park's Valley of the Giants, Australia's answer to the Redwoods, 280 miles south of Perth (011-61-8-9840-1027, www.calm.wa.gov.au).
RUN THE FRANKLIN RIVER: Take a mind-blowing nine-day whitewater trip with Tasmanian Expeditions through pristine Tasmanian wilderness ($1,761 per person; 011-61-3-6339-3999, www.tas-ex.com).
OFF-ROAD ON THE CAPE YORK PENINSULA: Ford rivers, dodge crocs, and bathe in waterfalls. Getabout 4WD Adventures offers 16-day guided, self-drive camping trips from Cairns to Cape York ($3,947 for two; 011-61-2-9831-8385, www.getabout.com.au). BIKE THE OUTBACK: For the full Mad Max tour, try Wayward Bus Touring Company's new "Outbike" tour, a fully supported two-week cycle from Alice Springs to Coober Pedy ($1,553; 011-61-8-8410-8833, www.outbike.com.au).
DIVE WITH WHALE SHARKS: From April to July, migrating whale sharks converge on Western Australia's central coast near Exmouth ($284 per day with the Exmouth Diving Centre; 011-61-8-9949-1201, www.exmouthdiving.com.au).
INDULGE IN THE WILSON ISLAND EXPERIENCE: Spend five days at permanent luxury camps on two coral cays, Heron Island and Wilson Island, on the Great Barrier Reef ($1,533 per person, including meals; 011-61-2-8296-8010, www.voyages.com.au).
KITEBOARD IN ST. KILDA: Melbourne's hip beach 'hood is a magnet for kiteboarders and windsurfers. RPS, a local surf shop, offers half-day lessons for $192 (011-61-3-9525-6475, www.rpstheboardstore.com).
SURF BYRON BAY: Paddle out to Tallows, Byron's hallowed beach break. Byron Bay Surf School rents boards for $23 per day (011-61-2-6680-9761, www.byronbaysurfschool.com). Then chill at the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa (doubles from $230; 011-61-1-300-554-362, www.thebyronatbyron.com.au).
BEST EVENTS, 2005-2006
MELBOURNE CUP CARNIVAL (October 29November 5): Experience Australia's version of the Kentucky Derby. COMMONWEALTH GAMES (March 1526): These Olympic-style games, which occur once every four years, come to Melbourne in 2006. IRONMAN AUSTRALIA TRIATHLON (April 2): Hundreds of finely sculpted masochists race in Port Macquarie, New South Wales. RIP CURL PRO at Bells Beach (mid-April): Surfers and wannabes descend on Victoria during Australia's top pro-surfing contest. SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL (June): Rub shoulders with Nicole Kidman, Baz Luhrmann, and Cate Blanchett in the heart of Sydney. HOG'S BREATH RACE WEEK (August 1017): It's party time when one of Australia's most competitive regattas kicks off in the Whitsundays.
OUTBACK ENCOUNTER is one of Australia's premier luxury tour operators (011-61-8-8354-4405, www.outbackencounter.com). WILDERNESS AUSTRALIA specializes in custom guided safaris (011-61-2-9231-2113, www.wildernessaustralia.com.au). BACKROADS runs a nine-day multisport adventure in Queensland (800-462-2848, www.backroads.com). WILDERNESS TRAVEL offers 12-day Wild Australia and 10-day Wild Tasmania trips (800-368-2794, www.wildernesstravel.com).
For general information, visit www.australia.com. And to try to make sense of Aussie slang, pick up a copy of A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (Oxford).