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...
6. Mornington Peninsula
The Mornington Peninsula might be only 75km from Melbourne, but it’s certainly its own little world.
From Rosebud to Portsea and down to Flinders in the south, it feels like an island (it actually also reminds me of the cultured spots along the Great Lakes in the US). But one of the highlights for a recent visitor was its natural hot springs.
Natural thermal mineral waters flow into pools and private baths at hot pools spas.
There are lots of lovely places to stay, and to eat.
This is cool-weather mooching at its best.
7. Byron Bay
They’re 300km (three-and-a-half hours) apart in Queensland but, in deciding 20 Great Australian Holidays, Noosa and Byron Bay have been going head-to-head. Byron Bay is one hour south of Brisbane, Noosa two hours north (so easy to get to after a direct flight from Perth), and offer a similar sort of attitude and experience.
They both have good beaches. Byron Bay’s Hinterland and Noosa National Park each have interesting greenery — very different environments to our own. The rest of the score sheet? Byron Bay = lighthouse, cape, bars, weekend markets and nearby Nimbin.
Noosa = a Florida Keys feel, everglades, Eumundi markets, Australia Zoo. The winner is ... Byron Bay. At conception, creativity, community, cool and sea culture were stuck into a blender and poured into Byron Bay’s DNA. This is authentic.
It’s what some other places closer to home want to be.
8. Barossa Valley
And a wine-touring-tussle’s been going on between Barossa Valley (South Australia via Adelaide) and Hunter Valley (NSW via Sydney), too.
The winner here is ... the Barossa, for its ease and demeanour. Bring on the shiraz.
Wine has driven the Barossa since 1842, and more than 550 grape-growing family businesses still grow for about 170 wine companies. The two big heroes, Barossa shiraz and Eden Valley riesling are accompanied by cabernet sauvignon, semillon, grenache, mataro and some fortifieds.
The modern face of the industry has good restaurants and cafes mixed in and trails and touring maps for driving, walking and cycle touring (barossa.com/visit/maps). Fly direct to Adelaide (under three hours), hire a car and do your thing. The Barossa’s less than 60km north-east of Adelaide.
9. Tasmania trail
Tasmania’s about as good as it gets for walking enthusiasts who don’t want to stray too far, and want lots of varied landscape in a small space. The Maria Island Walk, Cradle Mountain Hut Walks, Bay of Fires Lodge Walk and Wukalina Walk all vie for top spot.
But the Three Capes Track, limited to 48 pre-booked walkers a day, wears the crown in this rundown. Three capes plus two lodges equals one memorable walk. It’s 46km in total, with accommodation in private lodges in Tasman National Park. Crescent and Cape Pillar lodges are about 11km apart and invisible from the track. (For non-walkers, just jump on a “Tasmania complete” tour and see the whole island.)
10. Uluru, the ultimate rock show
Thankfully, the issue of whether to climb or not, and the final get-to-the-top frenzy, is over.
Perth is the only capital city in Australia not to have a direct flight to Uluru (so much for being Qantas’ hub into Australia), but being ignored gives us an advantage as it encourages us to drive one of the best and easiest inland adventures in Australia.
Uluru is closer than Broome, along the all-weather gravel Great Central Road, with fuel about every 300km, and through ungrazed, unfenced land.
I love driving to the heart of Australia, and then walking the lap around its base.
Read the full story, and more, here.
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