Travel Guide Australia Best Australian Holidays Guide: Part One

Over four days, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield takes a look at some of the most exotic, idyllic and exciting holiday destinations you can visit without leaving the country

Australia. Whatever the survey — meaningful travel, “safest countries to visit” or simply the best places in the world to travel — Australia consistently ranks in the global top 10.

The rest of the world sees it as one of the most idyllic and exotic destinations on the planet. And here it is, right on our doorstep.

In our world of long-haul travel, mega airports, complexities, queues and over-tourism, we’ve already arrived at one of the world’s great destinations, and yet many local travellers may have barely scratched its surface.

It’s a big, brown land fringed by golden beaches and blue seas. It’s a big social mix, from glitzy cities to hokey outback towns. It has big climate ranges, from temperate to tropical. And to see it all, you need 20 big ideas...

1. Melbourne urbane

Melbourne is the biggest drawcard interstate for West Australians — a city defined by art, food and fashion which feels so different from our own home town.

There’s art, from the National Gallery of Victoria to the contemporary art of Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen and the street art of its laneways.

Wander down AC/DC Lane or Hosier Lane and find something great and affordable to eat — you name it, in Melbourne ... perhaps Peruvian from Pastuso, something Spanish from MoVida or breakfast at Laneway Greens. You can get some measure of the experience ahead just by considering your suitcase. (Don’t take blue denim!) Mix in high-end, op shop, new and vintage, and you’re ready for effortlessly sophisticated Melbourne.

2. Trains of thought

Perth to Sydney = 4350km. Darwin to Adelaide = 3000km. This is a wide, brown land and long-distance rail journeys let travellers experience the enormity not just in some comfort but with time to sit and consider it all.

Embrace them, and these are journeys that can reset perspective.

So, now we have to make the choice. Will it be west to east on the three-day Indian Pacific, feeling the vastness and subtle transitions of the Nullarbor Plain and crossing the Great Divide? No, I’m going for the Ghan, to experience the transition from the north to the south of the continent, through the varying environments driven by the different climatic zones that come with latitude.

And I’d probably add a stopover in Alice Springs.

3. Indigenous Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land is the heartland of Aboriginal indigenous experience in Australia. In these remote lands between Kakadu National Park and the Gulf of Carpentaria — a wilderness of nearly 100,000sqkm, feeling far more remote and unspoilt than the Kimberley — there’s rich culture, rock art and good indigenous experiences.

Nhulunbuy and Jabiru are good bases and the Yolngu people’s annual four-day Garma festival is a good time to be there. Better still, I think, join a small group tour which will give access, interpretation and explanation you might struggle for otherwise. Yes — I’ll go ahead and name one.

I believe Outback Spirit is the only tour company with permission to travel right through the heart of Arnhem Land, as a result of its relationship with the Northern Land Council and traditional owners. And travellers stay in nice safari camps and lodges.

4. Walk this land

You have to pick your season to get to walk in Australia. And I’m going to turn my back on the Cradle Mountain Huts Walk (Tasmania), the Cape to Cape Track (WA), Scenic Rim Trail (Queensland), Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk (Victoria) and even the Larapinta Trail (NT) and pick the Jatbula Trail, also in the Northern Territory.

Over just 65km over five days and four nights, walkers don’t have to work too hard to follow this ancient songline of the Jawoyn people. The trail is through Nitmiluk National Park, from Nitmiluk Gorge to Leliyn (Edith Falls), with a view over the Seventeen Mile Valley.

Waterfalls, monsoon forests, rock art and swimming spots — now that’s a combo, isn’t it?

It’s a one-way walk, limited to 15 people at each camp site ($3.30 per night, per adult), and walkers need to book. It’s easy to find online to book for June-September — the site has just opened for next year (start at jatbulatrail.com.au).

The trail is named after Jawoyn traditional owner Peter Jatbula, a leader in getting land rights for the Jawoyn people.

5. Drive it. Seriously, drive it

It has established itself as one of the world’s best- known four-wheel-drive adventures, but when Alfred Werner Canning surveyed the route between Halls Creek in the Kimberley and Wiluna in the northern Goldfields in 1906, it was all about finding and establishing water wells so cattle could be walked south.

Canning had already surveyed for the rabbit-proof fence in 1901 and it’s one of my favourite stories that he was coaxed out of retirement, aged 70, to complete the refurbishment of the route in 1936. It’s a big drive through the Tanami, Gibson, Great and Little Sandy deserts — 1850km self-contained, with full preparation and gear needed, of course. Or join a small group tour and forget the logistics.

We write about once-in-a- lifetime stuff — in WA, this is definitely it.

Read the full story, and more, here.

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