Who better to judge Australia’s best-kept secrets than those well-versed in the best our country has to offer?
Hanging up his racquet hasn’t stopped Rafter travelling – his latest duties as the face of accommodation giant Mantra and father of two, have merely meant becoming well-versed in different kinds of trips.
A Sunshine Coast resident, he’s an especially big aficionado of Queensland, having lived there on and off since the ‘80s.
Favourite holiday: “The whole family loved our trip to North Queensland last year. I had been to Cairns before but had never ventured further up to Palm Cove and Port Douglas and it was fantastic to visit special places like Mossman Gorge and get out on the reef for some snorkelling and diving. It’s really a beautiful part of the world.”
Most underrated destination: “Kingscliff in NSW – it’s the laid back simplicity that I love about this place. We actually filmed the Mantra ads there and it was great to head out for a surf at the end of the day!”
Ritchie spent most of her childhood on Sydney’s northern beaches – but don’t hold that against her. A 20-year-strong career on Home and Away has led to all kinds of travel and publicity work, perhaps most unexpectedly as a judge in the Miss World competition, held in China (“so bizarre, I just don’t even know why I was on the panel”).
Despite the many launch parties and Logies, she considers herself a bit of a country girl at heart.
Favourite holiday: “It was in Tasmania only a year ago, my husband and I travelled down and did the Bay of Fires walk. I didn’t grow up camping so it was actually the first holiday where I strapped a backpack on, exercised everyday and really earned my dinner at the end of it, you know? My husband and I were married there, we continue to go back and it was just spectacular. That coast line really is amazing.”
Most underrated destination: “It’s not a destination, but I think the most underrated holiday is the one you spend at places like Shoal Bay and Port Macquarie – all those coastal destinations are so wonderful with young families and provide so many wonderful childhood memories.”
When Wheeler and his wife Maureen founded Lonely Planet in 1973, they couldn’t have known they were founding a global empire that would one day spawn over 500 travel-related titles, produce travel television shows and create an international culture of seeking out lesser-known hotspots. If there was anybody who deserved to be on this panel, it was going to be him!
What’s Australia’s best destination? “I think I’ll rave about The Kimberley (again). So much there, so much of it is little-visited for an assortment of reasons – it’s remote, difficult to access, there’s a certain amount of time required, the expenses involved, etc. I had a great time at The Kimberley Coastal Camp. It’s changed hands since, but I’ve heard it’s still good.”
Rowntree has worked as a presenter on the Nine Network’s travel program Getaway since the mid-1990s – tough gig.
She’s also a devoted little trooper to the Australian Traveller cause – she filed her votes from Auckland airport over the phone, glass of pinot in hand, during a delay on her way to South America.
What is the secret that should have made the list? “The Tarkine wilderness, Tasmania. It barely even gets a mention on a map, and yet you feel like you’re walking into some kind of film set, it’s so exquisitely beautiful.”
Favourite holiday: “Near impossible to answer, but I suppose after so many years of travelling I’ve found it’s more about the company one keeps than the destination. Wherever I’m with a loved one tends to make me happy, be it Bay of Fires or Port Macquarie. Show me a kind heart and I’ll show you a good time!”
Dr Chris Brown
Brown initially rose to fame as everyone’s favourite vet from Bondi, but these days he’s the co-host and travel presenter on Channel 10’s lifestyle program, The Living Room.
His travel credentials go way back to the days he followed his dad (also a vet) around the country for wildlife conferences – though he admits the trips got a little wilder later on, sans parents.
“Once I took a trip to Denver where eight of us bought a 1995 stretch limo and drove it through the Rocky Mountains to Vegas, then to LA… where we sold it and made a profit!”
Most underrated destination: “I reckon it’s either got to be Blueys Beach on the mid-north coast of NSW, or Litchfield National Park. Everyone by-passes it because of Kakadu, but it’s quite something. Oh – or the Olgas, once again they’re always overlooked because of Uluru, and I actually think they’re better.”
Designer of the iconic Camilla kaftans, worn by Australians the world over (including honorary Aussie, Oprah Winfrey), Franks spends a lot of time on the road – partly for work, which has taken her on shoot to some of Australia’s most remote locations, but also because of the travel ethos instilled by her parents from a young age.
Favourite holiday: “Camping on Fraser Island for four weeks when I was a kid. Every morning we’d go out and catch fish and whatever we caught, we lived off. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy or felt so free. Mother Nature has kissed that island with total beauty.”
Most underrated destination: “Lake Conjola (secret #87). It’s only just past Berry [NSW]. One day my partner and I decided to drive a little bit further and we were like, “what is this place?” We hired a little cottage, on a farm, with horses, and five minutes down the road is this incredible stretch of beach, the beautiful Lake Conjola and fantastic restaurants… It’s just the best of both worlds.”
A multi award-winning travel writer (including 2011 Australian Travel Writer of the Year), Scott recently visited his 100th nation – Sri Lanka – but swears his greatest love is travelling around Australia.
He was secretly chuffed to find that his home, Charlotte Bay (NSW) didn’t make the list.
“Just proves we are still off the radar of even the experts,” he says,“which is just how I like it!”
Most underrated destination: “Lake Condah (secret #57) in Victoria is, for me, the most underrated and unvisited place. There was a huge sophisticated eel-farming operation, dating back at least 6700 years, with an accompanying settlement of stone huts. It’s not much to look at but it’s so significant, given our assumption that all Aboriginals were hunter-gathering nomads. It deserves to be as big as Uluru.”
Favourite holiday: “If I can get away for 10–12 days with a mate driving through WA, then that’s my pinnacle Australian experience. The empty roads, the searing landscape, the lack of population, the sense of freedom and movement, the oddballs that you meet in places like ‘Australia’s hottest town’, Marble Bar, and arriving at some of the world’s greatest beaches for those special WA sunsets – an unforgettable experience.”
Kruger might reside in Sydney these days, but she epitomises her home state of Queensland – sunny, warm and naturally stunning.
The television presenter for the Nine Network spent most of last year commuting between Sydney and the Gold Coast to host Mornings and Big Brother… we reckon her idea of a good holiday probably involves a lot of sleep.
Favourite holiday: “It was a short break but I went to the Hunter Valley for a weekend of great food and wine tasting. I stayed in a lovely little pet friendly cabin so my dog Fergie could come with me and spent the days walking through the vineyards and tasting fabulous wine.”
Most underrated destination: “Culburra on the south coast of NSW is still a bit of a hidden gem. The beaches are beautiful and you can rent a quaint little beach shack and self-cater for couples or families.”
If there’s anyone that knows travel ‘round Australia, it’s this guy.
The managing director of Tourism Australia has had a long, illustrious career in Aussie tourism, including stints as CEO of the South Australian Tourism Commission and in the PR department of Tourism Victoria, where he was credited for creating their long-running jigsaw ad campaign.
Underrated destination: “Kangaroo Island. I think we’ve done a lot to market it, but it’s not there yet. It was never inhabited by humans, Indigenous or white fellas, and it means that the wildlife is in abundance and they’ve got this great combination of Australia’s natural unsurpassed beauty and wildlife, but also with great food and wine. I holiday there every year.”
Favourite holiday: “My family used to borrow a house on Smiths Beach on Phillip Island and it didn’t have power, only kerosene lamps, but we’d go there winter and summer. In winter you’d slide down the cliffs on pillows… don’t tell Mum and Dad… it was just fantastic. We’d play beach cricket at night… simple is best, I reckon, they’re the ones you remember the most. You cannot go past a very simple family holiday on an incredible beach in a pristine location. It’s largely about family and spending time with people.”
Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross
Ross makes a business out of being funny, but claims he’s a history and architecture nerd underneath it all. He felt pretty chuffed to host the third series of Seven Network’s travel show No Leave No Life.
“I got to see lots of places I probably wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise, places you don’t normally think about when you’re younger – Kakadu, Ningaloo… Broken Hill was another one I loved. Unreal.”
Favourite holiday: “I’ve had so many! The last one I had was Byron Bay for five weeks. It was long, it was a complete holiday, there was lots of time with my family, we had friends come and stay, I went to the beach every
day, I went to the markets, I drank every day, which never hurts anyone… I just really relaxed. I reckon that was it.”
Most underrated destination: “Across the board, South Australia. I think too many people, particularly in Victoria and NSW, just go north. They don’t think to go elsewhere. But in South Australia the beaches are great, the food’s fantastic, you can touch down on a Friday arvo and an hour later be in Barossa, then the next day in Adelaide Hills… and then you can start thinking about places like the Flinders Ranges, which I think is amazing.”
As editor of Australian Traveller, Rickard spends a fair chunk of her life trawling our country for amazing experiences and the next big travel things. Half her luck.
Favourite holiday: “It’d have to be the laidback beach trip. My partner and I did it over summer – road-tripped down the NSW South Coast, camped out in a luxe safari tent at Bawley Point, and spent our days barefoot. There’s something about eating a Paddle Pop at the corner store with no shoes on that lights me up inside.”
Most underrated destination: “The Outback. Two of my mates recently rented out their house, bought a campervan and took off on a two-year road trip around Australia. Most of our friends – in their late twenties and early thirties – thought they were crazy, but I could not have been more envious. Too many Australians just do not understand how amazing our backyard is, particularly the multi-coloured centre of it.”