Heading overseas on holiday is all new and exciting, but there’s something really special about holidaying here at home. In fact there are so many incredible places to explore in Australia that are worlds away from one another, from swimming with gentle giants in WA to experiencing an outback race day in central Queensland. We want to celebrate this beautiful country of ours, so in honour of Australia Day, here are 12 reasons to choose an Australian holiday this year.
At Ningaloo Beach Resort in Western Australia, you can not only bask on the pristine WA coastline, you can enjoy an experience like no other in the water too. This spot is famed for the annual migration of whale sharks – the world’s biggest fish. Harmless filter feeders, they congregate around the Ningaloo Reef from March to August, along with a host of other incredible sea life including manta rays and humpback whales. In fact Ningaloo Reef is the only place on earth that whale sharks appear regularly in large numbers – truly an experience you can have nowhere else!
There are plenty of epic rail journeys around the world, from the Rocky Mountains in Canada to the mighty Trans Siberian in Russia. There is one such journey you can make on home soil too. The Ghan, run by Great Southern Rail, stretches right across the Red Centre, from coast to coast, Adelaide to Darwin. Taking three nights and four days via Katherine and Alice Springs the journey covers 2,979 kilometres. Lauded for its balance of comfort and adventure, at each stop you’ll experience something new, from dramatic scenery in the south to awe-inspiring wetlands in the Top End.
Getting into nature and in touch with our land’s deep history doesn’t mean you have to travel to the Red Centre. In fact at Spicers Peak Lodge in South East Queensland you can embark on a Scenic Rim Trail guided multi-day hike which explores beautiful ancient landscapes from Heritage Listed Gondwana Rainforest to rocky peaks in the Great Dividing Range. Accommodation is an eco glamping experience with signature touches of Spicers luxury including wholesome gourmet menus, hot showers and plush king sized beds. If you’re going to learn about nature in style, this is the place to do it.
You’ve heard of the Birdsville Races, but have you been? This annual meeting for hack and stock horses has been running since 1882, and today includes a 13-race program that draws more than 6000 people to the tiny town each September. It’s not just about the horses however, it’s the location that’s the most impressive spectacle: the track sits on a claypan flanked by sand dunes.
An alternative to iconic Birdsville is the annual camel race in Tara, Queensland. Formally known as the Tara Festival of Culture and Camel Races, this annual August spectacle includes three days multicultural stage shows, music, food, and of course the main event, the camel races. It doesn’t get more Australian than this.
Renowned for its beautiful beaches and thrilling marine encounters, the Mornington Peninsula has long been a favourite getaway for Melbournians. Its coastal appeal and rich hinterland, full of food experiences, nature walks, galleries and boutique shopping, cellar doors and more, make it a worthwhile journey from anywhere in the country. Jump in a car and cruise through welcoming villages and undulating countryside, swim with dolphins, board a fishing charter, follow the beer, cider and spirits trail, or simply kick back and relax by the colourful bathing boxes that line many of the local beaches.
Yet another World Heritage Listed paradise on this list, Lord Howe Island combines everything you want from a tropical island, yet it’s just a stone’s throw from the mainland. A two-hour flight from both Sydney and Brisbane, Lord Howe offers some of the world’s best day hikes, snorkelling and scuba diving on the encircling coral reef, bird watching, fish feeding and so much more. In short, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise.
It rivals the harbour bridge as the most iconic building in Australia, but there’s more to the shapely sails than what you see on the outside. This incredible piece of architecture is actually one of the most acoustically sound buildings, making it perfect for live music and stage shows. Only the most famed acts perform here, but its year-round line up of events mean there’s always something to see in ‘The House’.
As the number one luxury hotel in Australia, Saffire Freycinet knows how to create unforgettable moments. One such experience is exploring the working oyster farm. With a pair of waders on, you can head out into the bay – part of a recognised wetland and home to endemic birdlife, and learn about its delicate marine ecology, including how the oyster farm fits into the environment. Top off the experience with a taste of prized Pacific Oysters right in the bay – it doesn’t get fresher than that. When you’ve finished, the resort offers a host of other experiences including wine and vine adventures, guided walks, canoeing and cruises.
Australia is blessed with many rich and varied fertile food regions, from the tropical fruit farms in the far north to oysters and olives in the south. South Australia is home to more than a handful of Australia’s best wine and food regions just a stone’s throw from Adelaide. Start in the Barossa or McLaren Vale where Shiraz grapes are the specialty, before heading into the Adelaide Hills, where craft beer and cider nudge vineyards for space. Fresh fruit and vegetables, paddock to plate restaurants and bed and breakfasts are rampant in this part of the world. So whether you journey to the Coonawarra for award winning Cabernet Sauvignon and red meat, Kangaroo Island for seafood paired with white wine, Mount Gambier or the Flinders Ranges for salt bush lamb, South Australia certainly tastes delicious.
There is no better place to savour the beauty of the Blue Mountains than at the 5 star Lilianfels Resort & Spa, located adjacent to Echo Point – one of the best lookouts in the mountains. Situated within the grounds of a historic homestead once owned by Sir Frederick Darley, the sixth Chief Justice of NSW, the resort combines the romance of a bygone era with modern luxury and doting service. This resort allows you to enjoy the best of the Blue Mountains, from the quaint cafes and boutiques of Katoomba and Leura, to the utmost relaxation at the Lilianfels Day Spa, fine dining in the onsite Darley’s restaurant, which is the most awarded fine dining restaurant in regional NSW, and of course the breathtaking beauty of the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains National Park.
There’s nowhere else in the world quite like the Top End. A landscape of rich wetlands, dramatic gorges and red sunsets, it’s remote, unspoilt and peaceful. If you’re going to experience the Top End, it’s undeniably best done in style, at Wildman Wilderness Lodge. Two hours east of Darwin, this eco resort is on the fringe of Kakadu National Park, nestled in the Mary River wetlands area. Beautifully designed cabins and luxe safari tents are nestled into the landscape, adventure safaris and photographic excursions allow you to discover the incredible landscape and wildlife of the region, and the onsite restaurant and bar serves a delicious menu of local flavours that match the serenity of the scene.
We may not have mountain peaks like Mont Blanc or Matterhorn in Europe, or the many you can spot in the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone in the USA, but what Australia does have is a highest mountain that most people can in fact climb. During the summer months when the snow has all but disappeared, you can hike to the peak of Mount Kosciuszko on a day hike. Taking two to three hours one way, the walk starts at the top of the Kosciuszko express chairlift. Crossing the granite plains of Ramshead Range and field of wildflowers, the track crosses the headwaters of the Snowy River, before making a gradual climb to the summit. The 360 degree views from its peak are well worth the effort.
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