If you’re looking for fire-affected communities you can inject some much-needed tourism dollars back into, consider a #holidayherethisyear.
The Christmas and New Year period saw thousands of Australians impacted by one of the worst bushfire seasons on record. The loss of life and wildlife, homes, communities and businesses was keenly felt all around the world – with many watching on, feeling helpless as to how their efforts could aid those struggling through heartbreaking losses.
There are many ways in which your tourism dollars can help to aid local economies and restore optimism back into communities affected by the bushfires. If you need some inspiration, take some from our special 100 ways to holiday here this year hub, which we created in partnership with Tourism Australia. Here are 18 trips that featured in the top 100 to take in support of bushfire-affected communities.
Just remember to pack light and shop locally in these recovering pockets of our country!
1. Be revitalised on the Sapphire Coast, NSW
The residents of Tathra, Eden, Merimbula and their bracketing hamlets tend to find themselves in the right place at the right time more than your average human. Humpbacks hug the bays here in relatively prolific numbers, particularly abundant and frisky in the September-to-October migration and Lana Willis, co-owner of Eden-based Cat Balou Cruises, gets to introduce many of her patrons to whales for the first time. “We get a lot of tears. Some people have waited a long time to see whales; it can be a very emotional experience,” says Lana.
But humpbacks aren’t the only reason to get out on the water. Head slightly inland from Eden to Kiah to join Kiah Wilderness Tours to explore the other watery wonders atop a kayak on the Towamba River. Spot sea eagles, kangaroos, plovers, ducks and azure kingfishers. “We’ve even had a huge alpha-male Australian fur seal laying around in the paddock for days,” says owner Jenny Robb.
And if it’s the taste of the sea you’re after, there’s plenty of it to be enjoyed on NSW’s Far South Coast. Start by joining oyster farmer Brett ‘Sponge’ Weingarth on one of his two-hour Magical Oyster Tours. Then get Broadwater Oysters on Pambula Lake to shuck a bucket of them right in front of you. Don’t leave before dining nearby at Wheeler’s seafood restaurant.
Head further north to Fat Tony’s Bar & Grill in Tathra for well-considered lavish portions of fruit-of-the-sea-focused mod Oz. And for something other than seafood, stop in at The Wharf Local cafe for sublime sea views, sensational coffee and light, fresh and local land-bounties.
Accommodation by the water on the Sapphire Coast is in plentiful supply, but a night at one of the three agreeably restored gas-fireplace-warmed cottages at Green Cape Lightstation Keepers’ Cottages is something extra special. Alternatively, check into Tathra Beach House apartments or The Anchorage in Bermagui.
2. Do an empty Esky tour of Shoalhaven, NSW
Long summer’s days in the Shoalhaven region on the NSW South Coast normally pass in a sun-drenched parade of beach visits and drowsy, relaxing afternoons. But 2019/20 was the Shoalhaven’s lost summer, when the mammoth Currowan fires burned for a total of 74 days.
For the 49 towns and villages that stretch across the region, the fires were a collective tragedy: even if individual locations weren’t directly impacted by the flames, they all felt the pain. For an area that relies on the summer season to sustain businesses and the local economy through the quieter winter months, the effects were devastating. But now it’s finally time to join the Empty Esky movement and head south to shop up big.
First up, stop in Kangaroo Valley for tea and homemade scones at The General Cafe before grabbing a loaf of freshly baked bread at Kangaroo Valley Bakehouse and stocking up on sweet treats in the Kangaroo Valley Fudge House. And pie lovers won’t want to miss the chance to try Southern Pies’ cheeseburger version: an Angus beef burger, cheese and dill pickle encased in pastry.
Head to Nowra to shop at Nowra Farmers Market, filled with an array of fresh produce and locally made products including Daily Grind coffee, South Coast milk and Ravenous Food Company’s crunchy and sweet muesli.
If you are doing a day tour of Shoalhaven Heads, time it right so that you arrive for lunch at Bangalay Dining, where the menu is filled with local produce and wine. And if you are spending a few days here, book a room in one of the 16 luxury villas.
While it’s worth visiting the charming town of Berry for the Berry Donut Van alone, there is so much more to recommend it, from the twice-monthly produce markets and weekly farmers’ market to chocolate shops and Milkwood Bakery.
While you’re in the Shoalhaven area, you should also check out the towns of Ulladulla, Milton, Mollymook and Huskisson.
3. Take the perfect short break in Canberra, ACT
As far as short breaks go, Canberra is the whole package: a compact city where heavyweight national icons are met with world-class gallery offerings and offset by a current of rule-breaking creative energy manifesting in up-and-coming suburbs.
Check in at Ovolo Nishi and take the time to orientate yourself in the neighbourhood. The architecturally exciting Nishi building that your digs are housed in is also home to contemporary cultural space The Nishi Gallery.
Make a dinner reservation at Monster Kitchen and Bar, Ovolo Nishi’s eclectically outfitted in-house restaurant that serves up modern Australian with Japanese and Middle Eastern inflections.
Get up at the crack of dawn for a hot-air balloon ride over the city with Balloon Aloft. Reward yourself afterwards with breakfast at Barrio in the hip hood of Braddon, before exploring its boutiques and design stores.
Spend the afternoon with Canberra’s national icons: Australian War Memorial, National Museum of Australia and Parliament House. And make time to visit the National Gallery of Australia on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
For an evening of good food, fine wine and great music, head to Bar Rochford. It is a bar first and foremost, but serves a concise menu of sophisticated modern Australian dishes.
Eat breakfast at Monster before making your way to south Canberra to visit Canberra Glassworks within the historic Kingston Power House. Explore its industrial-cathedral interiors via a gallery exhibition, a heritage tour or by taking part in a glassblowing session. Then drop into the Old Bus Depot Markets next door (held every Sunday).
Pick up some lunch from the markets and head to the Kingston Foreshore to hire an electric picnic boat from GoBoat to spend a lazy afternoon on Lake Burley Griffin.
Check out of your hotel and head down the road for a caffeine fix at The Cupping Room before taking the long way home to explore the city’s cold-climate wine region; it’s home to more than 30 cellar doors. Clonakilla, Mount Majura Vineyard and Helm Wines are top choices.
4. Revisit Kangaroo Island, SA
Take a short break (and make a big difference) on Kangaroo Island.
Come next summer, Hamilton & Dune, a duo of private-hire lodges overlooking picturesque Emu Bay, is sure to be the place to be. Choose between the architecturally designed Dune House, or Hamilton House, a property that can house larger groups but is a little less ‘designer’.
Much has been made about the devastation of local wildlife but the happenings on the pristine beach that makes up Seal Bay Conservation Park is the ultimate good news story: with more than 225 seal pups born during the latest breeding season. Take a guided tour down to the beach or a self-guided stroll along the boardwalk.
Dine at Emu Bay Lavender, a rustic farmgate cafe serving homemade lavender scones the size of plates and handmade lavender ice-cream alongside views of lavender fields. Load up on plenty of local produce before you leave.
Dreaming of diving into the shallows to swim with pods of dolphins? Look no further than Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures. Expect to swim and snorkel with anywhere between 20 to 50 wild dolphins at any one time.
Whether you’re into hooning on a quad bike, sandboarding dunes at Little Sahara or quietly kayaking through picturesque countryside, Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action will deliver the action you crave.
Kangaroo Island Spirits offers a tasting tour of its quirky gin, vodka and liqueur flavours. Or if you prefer a cold one, Kangaroo Island Brewery, located just outside Kingscote, serves up eight craft beers as well as a decent menu.
While we are talking about alcohol, some of the island’s best wineries were affected by the bushfires, but you can get a bottle of The Islander Estate’s flagship Investigator Cabernet Franc at the vineyard’s cellar door. Other wineries to add to your itinerary include Dudley Wines and Bay of Shoals.
Take a seriously picturesque road trip around the island. You’ll need a 4WD with powerful brakes (to avoid the kangaroos) and while there are quicker ways to get to Kangaroo Island than taking the Sealink Ferry, there are none more scenic. First, there’s the drive through the lovely Fleurieu Peninsula, and then the post-ferry bite to be had at Millie Mae’s Pantry, by the ferry terminal.
Fill up your petrol on the island and kit out your rented accommodation with items you’ve purchased from the local supermarket. Head down to Kingscote Gift Shop and load up on souvenirs and check out Penneshaw Market Day if you are on-island on the first Sunday of the month between October and April.
5. Make it your mission to see Australia’s most amazing rocks
Australia is littered with stunning stones and monumental rocks that are worth going out of your way to see. Here, a ‘must see’ rock rollcall.
Karlu Karlu, NT: Otherwise known as the Devils Marbles, these compelling red boulders, some standing up to six metres high, are believed by the Warmungu people to be the fossilised eggs of the Rainbow Serpent. Located 100 kilometres south of Tennant Creek.
Mt Conner, NT: Located on the road from Kings Canyon to Yulara, this sandstone-topped monolith is also known as Fooluru due to the fact that many people mistake it for the slightly more famous monolith down the road.
Remarkable Rocks, SA: Located in Kangaroo Island’s Flinders Chase National Park, these granite boulders appear to be balancing perilously together at the water’s edge but have in fact been formed over hundreds of millions of years.
Sawn Rocks, NSW: Resembling a mammoth pipe organ, this stunning 40-metre-high rock formation is the remains of a lava flow from a volcanic eruption that took place some 21 million years ago. Located in Mt Kaputar National Park, it can be easily reached on the Sawn Rocks walking track.
Murphy’s Haystacks, SA: Considered some of the oldest rocks in Australia – between 1.6 and three billion years old, to be precise – the inselberg (island rock) sits on a hilltop in the Eyre Peninsula and is being slowly eroded away. While located on a private property, the site is open to the public.
Also check out: The Pinnacles on Western Australia’s Coral Coast; Burringurrah (Mt Augustus), the largest monolith in the world; the Indigenous art-daubed Ubirr in Kakadu National Park; and the Candlestick in Fortescue Bay in Tasmania.
6. See the wildflowers of WA and beyond
Large swathes of the outback’s red and golden sands are carpeted in colour come spring, when tens of thousands of Australian wildflowers burst into life.
Western Australia, the epicentre of native flora, boasts some 12,000 species of wildflowers, 60 per cent of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Head to Wildflower Country, a few hours’ drive north of Perth, to see the living kaleidoscope, the Golden Outback (including Wave Rock) and Stirling Range National Park in the state’s south-west, or Bay of Isles in Esperance.
But, of course, WA doesn’t have a monopoly on pretty. The Larapinta Trail, north of Alice Springs, boasts more than 600 species of wildflowers scattered across its 223-kilometre length, while the Snowy Mountains in NSW’s Kosciuszko National Park replace their frigid winter stillness with blooms come spring, including more than 20 alpine species that are totally unique to the park. And, in Victoria’s Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, petyan – or the season of wildflowers (late spring) – is one of six weather periods recognised by the traditional owners.
7. Take your pick in Bilpin, NSW
It’s raining when I arrive at the gates of Eden Equine in Bilpin, a 90-minute drive along the Bells Line of Road from Sydney. Considering what the town went through just a few days prior to Christmas 2019, I’m not complaining. That’s when the vicious Grose Valley Fire threatened to engulf this tiny hamlet of roughly 665, which is renowned for its apple and fruit orchards.
I’m bound for the newest addition to the property, a collection of five bespoke self-catering cabins, collectively known as Eden Farm Escape. The cluster of cabins that form the luxury farm stay are tucked at the back of the property, adjacent to a menageries of farm animals that includes chickens, goats, alpacas, donkeys and one very large rescue pig.
Heading inside, my two-bedroom cabin is a gracious proposition. The open-plan living area offers a generous lounge room for relaxing in, while the adjoining kitchen has a big dining table and all the elements necessary to whip up hearty country breakfasts or roast dinners. The bedrooms off the living space continue the cosy rustic theme, while the bathroom is rendered in an exuberant blue patterned ceramic.
It is tempting to do little more than sit and relax, looking out over the property through the floor-to-ceiling windows, but one of the joys of a stay here is the chance to take one of the resident horses out for a ride, so I head for the stables instead.
8. Embrace the natural wonders of Wolgan Valley, NSW
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, in NSW’s World Heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains region, had no choice but to close temporarily due to surrounding bushfires late last year but its reopening brought with it a renewed sense of purpose.
As Australia’s first conservation-based luxury resort, Wolgan Valley prides itself on its symbiosis with, and respect for, nature and the environment. “We like to think we are the only place in the southern hemisphere that’s carbon-free as a resort,” general manager Tim Stanthorpe says over a lunch cooked open-air among the gum trees.
Everything on our plates is sourced straight from the chef’s garden or gourmet producers in surrounding communities. The property is set on almost 3000 hectares of nature and wildlife reserve.
Guests come here to relax in absolute wilderness: fine dining on seasonal fare, swimming in their own private pool or indulging with an organic spa treatment. But they also come to get out into that wilderness, whether on horseback, mountain bike or foot, and now – more than ever – by participating in the resort’s meaningful and wide-ranging conservation work.
After lunch, my small cohort sets off with activities and conservation manager Simone Brooks and field guide Kirra Tammjarv to plant trees. Other conservation activities guests can take part in include wildlife surveys, testing of water quality, feral animal monitoring and the mapping of significant trees to locate hollows, which provide homes for arboreal marsupials such as gliders and possums, and nocturnal birds, like owls, too.
My own experience today rewards as an uplifting and genuine way to connect to Wolgan Valley’s blissful landscape. We finish our task, dust ourselves down and return to the main homestead for a deck-side cocktail made with the resort’s signature 1832 Wolgan Gin. Distilled with purified water from the pristine Carne Creek and infused with hand-picked lemon-scented tea tree straight from the nature reserve, it’s the perfect way to clock off.
9. Rock on in the Granite Belt, Qld
Rising up to 1200 metres above sea level, Queensland’s Granite Belt region is home to some of Australia’s most dramatic scenery and offers surprises at every turn of the New England Highway between Stanthorpe and Tenterfield. Here, some absolute highlights of the southern end around Ballandean.
With its 11,800 hilly hectares of unique rock formations and hiking trails, Girraween National Park and neighbouring Sundown National Park offer some of the most rewarding walking locations. An alternative for a walk to see spectacular balancing boulders is at Bald Rock National Park adjoining Girraween, accessible from the NSW side of Tenterfield (entry fee applies). Here you’ll find the largest exposed granite rock in the southern hemisphere.
Close to Girraween at Wyberba there’s a small cluster of wineries. David and Lori Broadbent offer a range of reds and whites including a highly awarded reserve sagrantino at Balancing Rock Wines. Pyramids Road Wines focuses on low-volume handmade wines with a big range of grape varieties, with reds like mourvèdre and petit verdot prominent. Girraween Estate have won top awards for their shiraz cabernet and chardonnay. And they also produce fruit-driven, crisp and refreshing sparkling wines.
It’s not just about the wines of the Granite Belt. You’re very welcome to rock up to a brewery or distillery if that’s more your fancy: there are several choices including the boutique Brass Monkey Brew House, the closest to Ballandean; Granite Belt Brewery (with pub-style food, and comfortable cabin accommodation so you don’t need to drive).
Not far from Castle Glen you’ll find a spot called Donnelly’s Castle. You can squeeze through crevices in giant granite rock boulders, walk on top of them and enter into cave-like openings. The famed bushranger Captain Thunderbolt once used this rocky outcrop north of Stanthorpe as his hideout and it’s a hidden gem.
Now it’s time to pack your Esky full of the region’s fresh organic food and artisanal, hand-crafted products including, Sutton’s Juice Factory for natural juices and handmade apple pies; Ashbern Farms for strawberry picking and ice-cream; Stanthorpe Cheese for a great selection to accompany your wine purchases; Mt Stirling Olives for fruity, cold-pressed extra virgin oils; Jamworks Gourmet Foods for jams and relishes made from local produce; Anna’s Candles for soy-based scents; and Washpool Farm Soaperie for natural products and soap-making workshops.
10. Unearth the surprises of the Scenic Rim, Qld
The traditional country of the Yugambeh people, with World Heritage-listed rainforest and six national parks spread over an area of some 4000 square kilometres, driving Queensland’s Scenic Rim offers up scenery and surprises aplenty.
Start the journey by driving just over an hour from Brisbane to the small village of Harrisville to arrive at Summer Land Camel Farm. It’s the largest commercial camel farm outside of the Middle East, with more than 550 animals, many having been ‘rescued’ from Central Australia and brought here to breed and produce nutritious, organic dairy products: milk, yoghurt, cheese – including a wonderful Persian feta – and a highly awarded skincare range.
If it’s sheep cheese you prefer, your next stop should be Towri Sheep Cheesery in Allenview. Here Carolyn and Dallas Davidson will proudly introduce you to their 350 specially bred sheep and the award-winning hand-crafted cheeses.
After all that cheese you’ll be in the mood for a few tempting vintages. The Scenic Rim is renowned for its prize-winning wineries where you’ll find a variety of styles, including some excellent fortified wines; the port at Bunjurgen Estate is particularly moreish.
Meanwhile, Scenic Rim Brewery at Mt Alford specialises in liquid of an amber hue. Try crafty brews combined with a homemade deli takeaway lunch that can be enjoyed at a scenic picnic spot nearby.
Talented chefs here are passionately embracing the area’s abundance of farm-fresh veggies, meats, relishes, jams and of course, the dairy products. Two of the best are Daniel Groneberg, who runs the kitchen at Kooroomba; and Richard Ousby, who is a recent arrival at The Overflow Estate 1895’s pretty lakefront cafe. Be sure to sample the fruits of their labour while in town.
Food and wine are fine, but the real joy of a Scenic Rim visit is the magnificent countryside. From sedate, well-marked tracks, to challenging mountain scrambles, try these on for size:
Lower Portals Track (7.4 kilometres/three hours);
Mee-Bor-Rum Circuit (720 metres/15 minutes);
Mt Edwards Summit Trail (six kilometres/3.5 hours);
Rainforest Circuit (1.6 kilometres/30 minutes) and Mt Cordeaux Track (6.8 kilometres/2.5 hours);
Palm Grove Circuit (2.7 kilometres/one hour);
Curtis Falls Track (1.1 kilometres/30 minutes);
Witches Falls Circuit (3.6 kilometres/one hour);
and Moran Falls (4.4 kilometres/1.5 hours).
The Scenic Rim brims with stylish locations to rest your head after a long day of indulging: Spicers Peak Lodge boasts top-class cuisine; O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat for great activities and walks; or Nightfall Camp for a unique luxury glamping experience.
11. The sights and culinary delights of the Southern Highlands, NSW
The towns of the NSW Southern Highlands, just over an hour’s drive from Sydney, represent the perfect day-trip destinations, filled as they are with interesting shops, fun festivals ( including the annual Southern Pie-Lands), country scenery and an ever-increasing roster of cafes and eateries.
Any caffeine and food circuit of the area should include breakfast at The Boston in the town of Mittagong, a sleek space tucked into a historic ivy-covered sandstone terrace. The focus here is on seasonal food and serious coffee using Campos beans.
The sleepy little town of Berrima springs to life come the weekend when Sydneysiders and visitors from further afield flock here to shop the boutiques, enjoy picnics on the village green and score a table for cake and coffee at Berkelouw’sBook Barn Bookshop & Cafe on Bendooley Estate. The Bendooley Estate Restaurant is also open for lunch, but bookings are a must.
Moonacres Kitchen in the enviably situated village of Robertson serves a seasonal menu utilising produce sourced locally or grown on its own farm. The team also bake their own breads in the on-site bakery.
Moss Vale is a bit of a hidden gem in the Southern Highlands, with many visitors ending their journey once they hit the hustle and bustle of Bowral 15 minutes down the road. But that’s a mistake as this lovely town is a cracking spot to explore, with a collection of boutiques, including the beautifully curated Suzie Anderson Home. As for the cafe offering here, the bright and breezy Highlands Merchant has homemade sweet treats or, cross the road and grab a booth at the retro Bernie’s Dinerfor burgers, fries and counter staff in bow ties.
Bowral has much to recommend it, from its annual Tulip Festival to the Bradman Museum.But it’s the cafes that will keep you coming back for more. Head to the must-visit Dirty Janes antique market to browse the vintage stock and then head to Harry’s On Green Lane, with its bookshelf-lined feature wall or The Press Shop, a cafe-cum-stationer. The eclectic Elephant Boy Cafe is another favourite with locals and out-of-towners.
12. Explore the hip highlights of the Adelaide Hills, SA
A swathe of innovative and imaginative new eateries and establishments are making use of South Australia’s superlative produce and transforming the Adelaide Hills into a culinary destination that celebrates community, sustainability and its market garden history. Here are some highlights.
Lot 100 is a sustainably minded collective set on an idyllic 84-hectare property and former cattle pasture in the Hay Valley. Today it’s home to five different producers – who variously make everything from cloudy apple juice to gin and wine – as well as a paddock-to-plate restaurant serving meats cooked over the fire pit and wood-fired pizzas straight from the oven.
Patch Kitchen & Garden is as cute as it sounds: a licenced cafe set in what was originally Stirling’s post office and general store back in the 1880s. Its all-day breakfast and lunch menus are all about being fresh and in-season and guests are invited to enjoy the rambling villa and gardens it’s set on.
Based in Uraidla, Lost in a Forest is an eclectic, wood-fired oven pizza bar operating out of a 130-year-old church with stencil art covering the walls. It also acts as an unconventional cellar door for Ochota Barrels, a minimal-intervention wine label from part-owner and former punk bass player Taras Ochota.
The 150-year-old Uraidla Hotel was given a quirky makeover a few years ago with community and sustainability at its core: the funky interiors use upcycled furniture and the market garden-inspired menu leans in towards vegan and vegetarian options. On site today there’s also a bakery, cafe and brewery and chickens roaming the gardens. See also the Crafers Hotel and the Stanley Bridge Tavern for more historic pubs in the Adelaide Hills that have been reinvented imaginatively.
The Summertown Aristologist, with its handmade crockery and glassware, is a cellar door with a community focus serving natural wines and a simple, ever evolving menu of hyper-fresh and seasonal meals. Founded three years ago, this hatted restaurant has become something of a destination in itself.
For accommodation, head to CABN’s first-ever off-grid offering, Jude, sequestered in the Adelaide Hills for a suitably hip overnight crashpad. Or check into Mount Lofty House’s new luxury lodge Sequoia or a boutique room at the historic Crafers Hotel.
13. Upgrade your next cellar door visit with Ultimate Winery Experiences
Ultimate Winery Experiences, a consortium of premium wineries dotted across the country, acts as a portal to the heart of Australia’s most unforgettable wine experiences. Here are some ways to seriously upgrade your next cellar door experience.
Spend a day in the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine-growing region, with Tyrell’s, one of the originals: the Sacred Sites Exclusive Experience centres on a private tour of century-old vineyards with a member of the Tyrell family themselves.
The Cape to Vine Day Trip is a guided walking tour and in-depth food and wine experience along the Margaret River cape that culminates in a private tour and five-course paired lunch at Margaret River’s founding wine estate, Vasse Felix.
The Centenary Tasting is the ultimate tour offered by Barossa Valley’s Seppeltsfield, one of Australia’s oldest wineries, and will see you visit the Seppelt family homestead before heading to the 1878 Centennial Cellar to taste your birth year Tawny and the legendary 100-year-old Para Vintage Tawny.
A three-day private jet tour from Melbourne, this rarefied Golf, Wine & Art Tassieexperience encompasses golf at Barnbougle’s iconic courses plus a day at Mona that includes a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting at on-site Moorilla winery.
Explore the history of an iconic Aussie wine producer with this VIP experience at Penfolds Magill Estate in the Adelaide Hills, which includes a visit to the winery’s vintage cellar.
At the foot of picturesque Mt Cotton, a short drive from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Sanctuary by Sirromet’s two-night Ultimate Winery Escape includes a stay in blissful bushland surrounds, an eight-course paired dinner at Restaurant Lurleen’s and a winery tour.
14. Have a winter escape in the Aussie ski fields, NSW + Vic
There’s more to do off-piste at Thredbo than at any other ski resort in Australia. Thredbo Village has a large variety of cafes, restaurants and retail stores: ski down to the Alpine Bar at Thredbo Alpine Hotel for a taste of Chamonix-style après, with DJs playing from 2 to 6pm as skiers hit the heated pool.
Or try Australia’s best alpine cocktails at the Après Bar of the Denman Hotel or dine at its restaurant, The Terrace. Alternatively, take a snowcat to the Kareela Hutte restaurant on top of the mountain.
Victoria’s largest ski resort is also one of the best spots in Australia for cross-country skiing, with 70 kilometres of trails.
For drinks, try Apartment 3or Astra Bar & Restaurant. QT Falls Creek’s Stingray bar has its characteristic retro style, while its Bazaar restaurant brings some chic to town, with guests encouraged to ‘dress to impress’. And the Feathertop Alpine Lodge offers the best happy hour at Falls Creek.
It’s a magnet for advanced skiers because of its side and backcountry options. There’s a designated Extreme Zone just beyond the lifts, where a free snowcat vehicle will take you to an area featuring gullies, steep cliffs and tree skiing. As for beginners, they get to learn at the top of the mountain.
Dinner Plainis Hotham’s own specially built alpine village 15 minutes from the slopes. Here you’ll find Stonesthrow Restaurant at Hotel High Plains; visit after soaking at the Japanese-inspired Onsen Retreat + Spa a few doors up. There’s also fine dining at Jack Frost Restaurant.
Some 65 per cent of Mt Buller is designated as beginner or intermediate terrain, while the remaining 35 per cent includes some of the most challenging terrain in Australasia.
Aside from Thredbo, no ski resort in Australia offers the night-time attractions of Mt Buller: from ski-in, ski-out après bars like theArlberg Bar, to the best Austrian drinking establishment outside of Europe, Kaptans Restaurant and Herbies Bar. Mt Buller’s best coffee can be found on a sundeck at Koflers Hutte, right up on the mountain.
It’s Australia’s answer to the super-resorts of North America and Europe, an amalgamation of four ski villages that covers 1245 hectares and is serviced by Australia’s only underground alpine railway. This means you can easily stay in nearby ski town Jindabyne.
Chill in front of a fire at Marritz Hotel’s Rams Head Bar or Marritz Restaurant or meet locals at the Pub Bar in The Man From Snowy River Hotel. If staying in Jindabyne, stop for a locally distilled schnapps at Wildbrumby Distillery or a craft beer with tapas at Jindabyne Brewing. Brumby Bar & Grill offers the best dinner option in town.
Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa offers two on-site restaurants and a day spa, or stay beside the lifts at Barrakee Ski Lodge.
15. Visit the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and towns of the Mid North Coast, NSW
Halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, NSW’s Mid North Coast is the perfect road trip destination for families wanting to make classic summer holiday memories.
Lace together an itinerary that stretches from the Great Lakes of Forster-Tuncurry to the simple sunshine and saltwater pleasures of Yamba, taking in the tranquillity of South West Rocks and Coffs Harbour, with its raft of nature-rich experiences, along the way. And, at the heart of the region, Port Macquarie: with its warm and welcoming laid-back charm, 17 beaches and lush hinterland to explore.
Here, you’ll also find a range of attractions to entertain absolutely everyone who’s packed into the car, but don’t miss thePort Macquarie Koala Hospital – where you can see for yourself the important work it does and make some furry friends. This beloved rehabilitation centre saw an overwhelming wave of support following bushfires in and around Port Macquarie in November 2019, which devastated the region’s genetically diverse koala population.
Its crowdfunding page, initially set up to raise money to purchase and distribute automatic drinking stations to burnt areas, has seen about $8 million pour in from more than 150,000 donors all around the world. These funds will not only allow for the installation of 100 drinking stations, but will help establish a wild koala breeding program, too.
16. Journey through the Greater Blue Mountains, NSW
The best way to experience the compelling attractions of the Blue Mountains is on a road trip. Try this four-day itinerary for a good start.
Heading out of the city, your ascent into the heart of the Blue Mountains passes by or through a string of quaint villages and towns. Turn off the highway at Faulconbridge to visit the gracious home and gardens of the celebrated artist Norman Lindsay, author and illustrator of The Magic Pudding.
Stop for morning tea in the town of Leura, with its main street lined with cafes (try the Red Door Cafe) and shops, including Moontree, filled with scented candles and works by local artists, the brilliantly curated interiors shop The Cat’s Meow and Josophan’s Fine Chocolate, for some road trip treats.
From Leura, it’s a five-minute drive to the town of Katoomba. A white-knuckle ride on the vertiginous Scenic Railway as it plummets through the lush vegetation to the Jamison Valley below is almost mandatory in these parts. Katoomba is also the starting point for some great bush walks: try the easy Echo Point/Prince Henry Cliff Walk/Katoomba Falls or medium Minihaha Falls walks.
Bed down for the night at the heritage-listed Carrington Hotel, with its glory-days decor and generous family rooms.
It’s a 15-minute drive to the pretty town of Blackheath to grab your morning coffee or hot chocolate at Anonymous Cafe. Get it to go and browse the shops – including the mountains outpost ofGleebooksand the estate jewellery in the historic Victory Theatre Antiques Centre – or time your visit to coincide with the annual rhododendron festival in November.
Continue along through Mt Victoria. Stop in at the Hartley Historic Site, one of the best collections of historic buildings in the country. Continuing 45 minutes down the road to Newnes Plateauis the home of the magical glow worm tunnel, a former railway tunnel now filled with nature’s own version of fairy lights.
Spend the night at Parkside at Blackheath, a gracious 1930s mountain cottage that has been meticulously transformed into a chic weekender.
Head out of Blackheath for the 20-minute drive down to the picturesque Megalong Valley. Book a trail ride with Blue Mountain Horse Riding to traverse misty valleys, and finish your morning with a plate of fluffy scones at Megalong Valley Tea Rooms.
From Blackheath, it’s a one-hour drive to the lovely rural community of Oberon. Head to the Mayfield Garden, the largest cool-climate garden in the world. Spend the rest of the day wandering through meticulously manicured gardens. Mayfield Garden’s glampsiteoperates during autumn, with the bonus of early-morning and night access to the gardens.
The Long Arm Farm Cafe and Produce in town is a good choice for breakfast, with its local-produce-heavy menu. Once filled up, load up the car and head back towards Lithgow (stop at Jenolan Caves) and the Bells Line of Road.
It takes 30 minutes to reach the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mt Tomah. Explore the gardens, then have lunch at The Potager (insider’s secret: you can stay the night within the gardens at Camellia Cottage or the Jungle Lodge). The last stop of the day should be Trees Adventure at Grose River Park in Yarramundi, with its tree-top obstacle courses that variously require you to dangle, climb and swing your way through the forest.
The rustic yet super-cosy Hidden Valley Retreat Cottages are perfect for your final night, all situated within a blissful valley setting.
17. Discover Tassie’s Deep South, Tas
A road trip to Australia’s southernmost pub is really just an excuse to explore Tasmania’s beautiful Deep South: a journey that will first see you driving out of Hobartand into the apple-abundant food bowl that is the Huon Valley. Stop for an organic cider tasting or slice of apple pie at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed, just outside Huonville, then take the meandering Huon Highway further south still.
From Geeveston, head west for 30 minutes towards the Hartz Mountains National Park to get high among the treetops. The spectacular Tahune AirWalk, an elevated walkway 30 metres above the forest floor, will have you walking above the forest canopy with heart-pounding views. Tahune Forest Adventures also offers walks around the area: stroll gently through Huon pines or brave the swinging bridges over the rivers; and, for the adrenalin junkies, there’s also a hang-gliding operation in the works.
Just 20 minutes from Geeveston, Dover is a small fishing village and a hub for apple orchards and fishing for salmon, abalone and crayfish. Beyond seafood, you’ll find the creators of the world’s first sassafras spirit, Bakehouse Distillery, here as well. Relaxed and quaint, Dover serves as a good base for your explorations further south (and provides ample unwinding, kayaking and beachwalking opportunities itself). Driftwood Cottages’ collection of well-appointed self-contained waterfront studios or ocean-view cottages will do nicely.
It’s in this sleepy coastal town, Australia’s southernmost, that you’ll have reached Australia’s southernmost pub, the Southport Hotel. Stop here for a warm welcome, a cold schooner and some good country pub grub. Just 15 minutes from town, the Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs also provides ample reward for your troubles: investigate the richly decorated dolerite chambers of Newdegate Cave and soak in the warm waters of the site’s thermal springfed pool, surrounded by lush forest.
A further 40 minutes from Southport, Cockle Creek is the furthest point south you can reach in Tasmania by road. Sitting pretty on the beautiful Recherche Bay at the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, with forest rolling down to meet a thin strip of golden sand and deep turquoise water, Cockle Creek is also the beginning of the challenging 84-kilometre South Coast Track. If you’re ready to start your next adventure.
18. Tour the towns of the Great Alpine Road, Vic
The Great Alpine Roadwinds its way through 339 kilometres of Victoria’s High Country, passing through some of the most picturesque villages the state has to offer, and some of its foodie hotspots. So hit the road with an empty Esky and an appetite and see where you end up (but don’t miss these highlights).
If cheese and wine are your thing, you’re in for a treat in Milawa. Check out Brown Brothers for its award-winning wines (choose to stop off at the cellar door or enjoy a long lunch at Patricia’s Table), stock up at Milawa Mustards and indulge in a tasting atMilawa Cheese Factory (before browsing the gallery, quaint cellar door and other businesses contained in this century-old former butter factory).
A detour to the village of Beechworth is non-negotiable, if not for its historic honey granite buildings built on gold-rush wealth and steeped in Ned Kelly legend, but for its booming food and wine scene. This is the home of destination, two-hatted restaurant Provenance and its on-site accommodation that overlooks a quiet courtyard. Beechworth is made for browsing, and its collection of designer boutiques, homewares stores and eclectic emporiums provide just the excuse.
Set on the Ovens River, the alpine town ofBright is all about outdoor pursuits and scenic beauty, and where you’ll find farm gates and cellar doors down quiet country roads. Stop at small-batch roastery Sixpence Coffee or Ginger Baker cafe and wine bar. The nearby towns and villages of Porepunkah, Wandiligong and Harrietville offer similar wholesome activities and serve as gateways to Alpine and Mt Buffalo national parks.
A 15-minute drive from Mt Hotham at an elevation of 1570 metres lies Dinner Plain. Wander the streets and set out on surrounding bush walks, take a soak at the Japanese-inspired Onsen Retreat + Spa and sip a Powder Pale Ale at Blizzard, Australia’s highest-altitude brewery.
A small rural village in East Gippsland, near the end of the Great Alpine Road, 24 kilometres from Bairnsdale, Bruthen has plenty of spirit and character, as evidenced in the blues and arts festival it hosts annually. There’s a small but quality gallery dedicated to the work of local artists, a couple of cute junk shops including Bruthen Bizarre; and the Bullant Brewery, which aims to pair the best on-site brewed beer with the best regionally sourced food. From here, continue on a tour of East Gippsland.
19. Road trip through East Gippsland, Vic
The eastern end of the Great Alpine Road marks a good spot to start a leisurely meander through the towns and villages of Victoria’s East Gippsland, strung like pearls along the Sydney–Melbourne coastal drive.
Begin in the city of Bairnsdale, with its interesting history and architecture (including the Romanesque-style church, St Mary’s), and eateries championing local produce including The Loft and Northern Ground. It’s also the gateway to the tranquil Gippsland Lakes system and its laid-back lakeside towns of Lakes Entrance, Metung and Paynesville. While away some hours engaging in your choice of therapeutic waterside pursuit: from boating and fishing, to swimming, canoeing and kayaking.
Cross over into Snowy River Country, which spans from forest to sea. Don’t miss Sailors Grave Brewing in Orbost. Just 15 minutes from here in the pretty little town of Marlo, legendary pub Marlo Hotelprovides accommodation and some of the best sunsets going.
From here, you can also take a day or two to explore the Snowy River Country Trail, a 285-kilometre drive through the region’s natural and heritage attractions including the Buchan Caves Reserve. Be sure to have a drink at the world’s first-ever crowd-funded pub: the historic Buchan Caves Hotel was rebuilt after it was destroyed by a 2014 bushfire, with the support from not only the local community but well-wishers from as far away as the UK and USA.
Made up of coast, rivers and hinterland, Croajingolong National Park follows the far-eastern coastline of Victoria for 100 kilometres. At its heart lies the blissful village of Mallacoota, surrounded by wilderness and set on a beautiful lake known as the Mallacoota Inlet.
Check into Karbeethong Lodge, a guest house that’s been in business since the 1920s. A boutique offering today, it stylishly retains its old-school charm and boasts the same eternal water views from the verandah that inspired Banjo Paterson when he stayed once upon a time. Upstream from here, Gipsy Point Lodge is another idyllic spot: a restaurant and retreat on the junction of two rivers with rooms and self-contained cottages.
20. See the world’s second largest canyon, NSW
While the Grand Canyon in the United States is renowned as the largest canyon in the world, it often comes as a surprise to find out that the world’s second largest canyon can be found here in Australia. On the other side of the Blue Mountains to be precise, less than three hours’ drive from Sydney.
Blanketed in World Heritage-listed nature, Capertee Valley encompasses three national parks – Wollemi, Gardens of Stone and Capertee – and is resplendent with stunning scenery and abundant flora and fauna.
Formed over millions of years, the valley has played host to an eclectic array of residents and visitors in its time, from the local Wiradjuri people, who can trace a 2000-year history here (and left behind rock paintings), to bushrangers using its remote reaches to hide rustled cattle, to Henry Lawson, who included a mention of the valley in his 1891 poem, Song of the Old Bullock Driver.
Nowadays, it is hikers and twitchers who flock here for the challenging walks (including to the top of the imposing monolith of Pantoneys Crown, literally the crowning glory of the valley) and outstanding birdwatching. It also plays host to Bubbletent Australia’s three unique igloo tents – Cancer, Leo and Virgo – which boast big beds, en suites, telescopes for stargazing and outdoor bathtubs from which to soak up the grandness of it all.