STEPHEN SCOURFIELD looks at ten top trips in Australia
Ten top picks
RIVER & VINTNER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
The Murray River draws from a third of the continent and the paddle-steamer, Murray Princess, is a good way to get a taste of South Australia. There’s a seven-night Upper Murraylands Cruise, but I’d settle for their three-night itinerary and add a couple of days around Adelaide, and the Barossa wine region. Wine has driven the Barossa since 1842, and more than 550 family businesses still grow grapes for about 170 wine companies. The two big heroes are Barossa shiraz and Eden Valley riesling.
I’m torn between just hiring a car and doing a lap, doing nice things (food, wineries, smart little B&Bs) and joining a coach tour and not only letting someone else plan all that for me, but explain the place over the PA, too. A nice mix is a self-drive package, including a car and accommodation (usually 4.5 to 5-star). I’d be looking at eight days and figure in Bicheno (fairy penguins), Cradle Mountain (Dove Lake walk), Hobart, Launceston and Port Arthur.
To get those calories back off, add on a dose of “Tasmania Active” — 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, is tops — 46km with accommodation in private lodges in Tasman National Park.)
GREAT BARRIER REEF
Queensland, and I’m just focused on Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. Why? Because the world comes to the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s a pretty good bet that lots of West Australians haven’t.
Now’s the moment. There’s plenty of options to chose from — from day trips to Coral Expeditions’ seven-night sailings from Cairns for no more than 72 passengers to the outer reefs and lesser known islands. coralexpeditions.com
For a bespoke hotel, Flynn opens on the Cairns Esplanade on Tuesday (November 10) — complete with balcony views of the Coral Sea and glass-bottom hotel pools.
For a drink, try the new rooftop bar Oak and Vine at the (equally new) Oaks Cairns Hotel.
For a different sort of evening activity, Cairns Aquarium has launched Aquarium by Twilight, including dinner at its Dundee’s restaurant.
LORD HOWE ISLAND
Now, let’s go overseas. Yes, it’s cheating a bit, but Lord Howe Island feels pretty different to the mainland, so it counts. It has a lot of endemic plant species, diverse marine life and a tropical climate. I’d plan for at least four days. Hire a bicycle (a good way to get around), and put these on your list: swim at Ned’s Beach, walk Old Settlement Beach (and go up to Kim’s Lookout), the Valley of the Shadows rainforest walk, perhaps book the big walk up the Mt Gower path with a local guide. Look out for any tours hosted by botanical guide and Lord Howe Island expert, Dr Ian Hutton, OAM. A naturalist, author and photographer, Dr Hutton has lived on the island for more than 40 years and his local knowledge of the island’s biodiversity is impressive.
SIMPLY SOPHISTICATED SYDNEY
Do all that big-city stuff that makes you feel like a grown-up. The outlook is different — attitude, clothing, and glimpsing the west coast of the US over the horizon. Walk around Sydney Opera House, ride the ferry to Manly, dine somewhere urbane, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and walk around The Rocks. I stay near Darling Harbour and enjoy the evenings here.
If arts and culture are your theme — perhaps stay at Old Clare Hotel, Chippendale (a converted brewery), and visit White Rabbit Gallery and Art Gallery of NSW, dine at Chin Chin in Surry Hills, book for Belvoir Street Theatre, breakfast at Cuckoo Callay, at the heritage site of Newtown Station, and lunch at The Stinking Bishops (more than 40 artisanal cheeses explain the name).
If you want to get busy — walk the Royal Botanic Garden or Hermitage Foreshore Track, cycle Sydney with BlueBananas, paddle with Sydney By Kayak, or try the outdoor harbourside Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool.
Melbourne is the biggest drawcard interstate for West Australians. Wander down AC/DC Lane or Hosier Lane for good and affordable eats. While we love the laneways, Queen Victoria Market has been part of the heart of Melbourne for 140 years. An authentic inner-city market, 600 small businesses provide fresh and specialty produce, hand-made and unique products, great coffee and food, souvenirs and clothing.
The District Docklands has become a place to shop and hang out. Ride the Melbourne Star Ferris wheel for a bird’s eye view, experience 3D art at ArtVo, try Glow Golf Docklands (indoor golf and bar), then rest up at Urban Alley Brewery.
On my list, too, are Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria and simply sitting back on the City Circle Tram.
RUNNING ON RAILS
It is, indeed, a wide brown land, but we want to do the distance on the ground, not just flying over it, and with ease. Enter the great rail journeys. (After all, it’s 4350km from Perth to Sydney and 3000km from Darwin to Adelaide.) West to east on the Indian Pacific is a three-day journey, with a real sense of beginning, middle and end, as we leave one city, cross the vastness of the Nullarbor Plain, and arrive in another. The Ghan gives the dramatic transition of latitudes, between the north and south of the continent. (Add a stop in Alice Springs.)
ARNHEM LAND, NT
With Australians staying home, and the global Black Lives Matters chorus, a lot of eyes have been on Arnhem Land. For these remote lands between Kakadu National Park and the Gulf of Carpentaria are certainly the heartland of Aboriginal Indigenous experiences in Australia. Rich in culture and rock art and, Jabiru and Nhulunbuy are good bases. A good idea is to join a small group tour, which will give access and explanation. To do the whole thing in one go, I’d head to Outback Spirit, the only tour company with permission to travel right through the heart of Arnhem Land (the result of its relationship with the Northern Land Council and Traditional Owners). If you prefer to go it alone (and you’ll need a permit) — in Jabiru, visit Injalak Arts and Crafts Association, walk Injalak Hill with a local Aboriginal guide and visit Macassan Beach, a 35-minute drive away. In Nhulunbuy Gove), on the Gove Peninsula, visit Buku-Larrnggay MulkaCentre and take a boat trip to Groote Eylandt, the biggest island in the gulf.
Are you likely to still feel a bit COVID cautious? OK, let’s do a big trip but stay away from everyone. Throw in the camping gear or hook up the camper trailer, jump in the four-wheel-drive or SUV, and head east down the dirt. And I mean “out”. And I mean “east”. I’m looking forward to driving the Great Central Road, finally crossing the border into the Northern Territory and arriving at Uluru — the big, red heart of Australia. The real start of it is Laverton, 350km north-east of Kalgoorlie, there’s fuel and help and a bit of accommodation about every 300km, and the reward is huge.
GREAT OCEAN ROAD & WILSON’S PROM
I’m combining Great Ocean Road and Wilsons Promontory as one, big trip — but if I had to shorten it, I’d just choose the Prom.
The 243km Great Ocean Road was built by returned World War I servicemen, taking us to the Twelve Apostles, Lorne, Apollo Bay and Torquay. There are good marked walk trails, and cafes, lunch spots and bars. Just fly to Melbourne, hire a car, drive 110km to Torquay and you’re on it. Plan plenty of time for Wilsons Prom. There are lodges and resorts, but for touring, I’d be happy in motels (and lots of travellers here will be surprised by the quality of them). For a bit over $100 a night, they’re good value. For your (future) list: read up on Wilsons Promontory National Park (especially Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit), Mt Oberon Summit Walk, Little Waterloo Bay, Sealers Cove, Squeaky Beach, Norman Beach, Whisky Beach and Tidal River Footbridge.
Read the full story at thewest.com.au