And the winners of the Best Experiences in Australian Traveller’s 2016 People’s Choice Awards are…
1. Best walk: Bondi to Bronte, NSW
Why you love it… From one of Australia’s most iconic beaches to another, this cliff-clinging walk is an absolute show-stopper, starting or finishing at our cover star, the famous Bondi Icebergs Club. Despite having to dodge the occasional glistening, bronzed local in activewear, this walk never disappoints, especially when Sculptures By The Sea is happening.
Our hot tip… Keep a look-out for ancient aboriginal stone carvings of a shark and a whale on the rocks south of Mackenzies Point. During the humpback migration season between April and December gaze out to sea for a glimpse of frolicking whales.
If you love this, your next walk should be… Next time you feel like stretching your legs in Sydney, hop north of the bridge for the Spit Bridge to Manly walk, which takes in bushland, harbourside trails and stunning beaches.
You also rate… Bibbulmun Track, WA / Cradle Mountain, Tas / Noosa National Park, Qld / the Overland Track, Tas
2. Best food and wine region: Margaret River, WA
Why you love it… Apart from playing host to one of the country’s best food festivals, the always incredible Margaret River Gourmet Escape, this region is brimming with cellar doors, producers and some of the most stunning beaches on the south-west coast.
Our hot tip… While you’re there, scuttle on down to Dunsborough (read more about this fun coastal town here), another gorgeous oceanside town just half-an-hour away, and pop into the celebrated Jake’s Break, WA chef Jake Drachenberg’s casual lunch spot.
If you love this, your next food and wine adventure should be… Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. If the combination of grape vines and the scent of the ocean is what your mini-break dreams are made of, check out this stunning wine region just a short drive from Melbourne.
You also rate… Hunter Valley, NSW / Barossa Valley, SA / Yarra Valley, Vic / McLaren Vale, SA
3. Best outback adventure: Uluru, NT
Why you love it… Australians dream about seeing Uluru in all its ochre-red brilliance at least once in their lives. It’s no secret that the 348-metre-high monolith holds a deep spiritual significance to its traditional owners, the Anangu people, but it has the power to move anyone privileged enough to visit.
Our hot tip… You should see Uluru from as many vantage points as you can: bicycle, scenic flight, camel, or even on a sky dive. Check out ayersrockresort.com.au/experiences
If you love this, your next outback adventure should be… The Devil’s Marbles, NT. Also known as Karlu Karlu, these huge granite boulders, scattered across a wide valley with some balancing on each other, are one of the most intriguing sights in the country.
You also rate… The Kimberley, WA / Kakadu, NT / Flinders Ranges, SA / Birdsville, Qld
4. Best historical site: Port Arthur, Tas
Why you love it… The World Heritage-listed, 19th-century penal station, once home to the most notorious British criminals, is perhaps Australia’s most gripping historic site. It is places like this that bear tales of a time gone by and contribute to our national identity.
Our hot tip… Port Arthur’s convict-era attractions can be quite a chilling experience. If that’s what you’re into and you are of the dauntless and fearless kind, then an after-dark pass comes highly recommended. This spooky version of a golden ticket includes a two-course dinner and Port Arthur’s infamously terrifying, notoriously unsettling Ghost Tour (read about our spooky tour here).
If you love this, your next historical site should be… Bendigo, Victoria. The small rural town, impressing with its heritage streets, dates back to the 1850s, and much like Port Arthur, is a town frozen in time.
You also rate… Uluru, NT / The Rocks, Sydney, NSW / Ballarat, Vic / Fremantle, WA
5. Best cruise line that operates out of an Australian port: P&O
But you also love… Princess Cruises / Silversea / Carnival / Royal Caribbean
6. Most scenic road trip: The Great Ocean Road
Why you love it… What’s not to love about this curvaceous ribbon of road with jaw-dropping views? You consistently vote this drive as Australia’s best, and when you consider its accessibility, beauty and endless things to stop for on the way, such as incredible cellar doors, restaurants and lookouts, we can’t fault your choice!
Our hot tip… Take your time doing this roadtrip and be sure to include a few gourmet stops along the way, but we suggest a night or two at the stunning Drift House in Port Fairy for a little luxury before hitting the road again.
If you love this, your next drive should be… The Southern Ocean Drive in South Australia. Including Kangaroo Island and the gorgeous towns of Robe and Goolwa, this drive offers equal beauty and plenty of incredible food producers along the way.
You also rate… Cairns to Port Douglas, Qld / Tasmania (just anywhere on the island, it seems) / South Coast, NSW / Gibb River Road, WA
7. Must-visit city restaurant: Chin Chin, Melbourne, Vic
Why you love it… As one reader put it: “Chin Chin has instant city buzz and great food. You really know you are in the CBD.” With its upbeat but laid-back atmosphere and hit-list of authentic Asian favourites, this Melbourne institution isn’t going anywhere.
Our hot tip… Put your name down for a table and promptly head downstairs to GoGo Bar for a pre-dinner primer.
If you love this, you should try… Lucy Liu, also in the CBD on Oliver Lane. If you can’t get into Chin Chin, you’ll be relieved to know you can book at this vibing Asian eatery.
You also rate… Vue de Monde, Melbourne, Vic / Quay, Sydney, NSW / Rockpool Bar & grill, Melbourne, Vic / Tetsuya’s, Sydney, NSW
8. Best annual festival: Vivid Sydney
Why you love it… This is when Sydney truly shines. From the colourful projections on the Opera House to the artistic displays of abstraction and creativity, the Vivid Sydney festival of light, music and ideas is abuzz with plenty to see and do.
Our hot tip… Get yourself to the ideas fraction of the festival, where you will listen to people in the know who inspire, endeavour and make change in their respective industries. You will leave with a wealth of knowledge from the worlds of art, tech and science, and be moved by the stories of people who daren’t quit.
If you love this, your next festival should be… White Night Melbourne, Victoria. Inspired by the international Nuit Blanche movement, White Night is a one-night only (7pm – 7am) cultural event where artistic expression is celebrated and design is appreciated. The festival also hosts a mesmerising light show over the cityscape, and what’s more… there’s no entry fee.
You also rate… Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW / Adelaide Fringe Festival, SA / Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay, NSW / Tamworth Country Music Festival, NSW
9. Best guided tour? BridgeClimb Sydney, NSW
Why you love it… This is a bucket-list item for Sydneysiders and visitors alike: climbing the world-famous Coathanger and enjoying incredible views of the pretty harbour and beyond from 134 metres up, while the city traffic zooms below.
Our hot tip… If you’ve already done the day climb or are more nocturnal, try the night climb to see the city lights sparkle under the moon.
If you love this, your next guided tour should be… Story Bridge Climb, Brisbane, Queensland. Brisbane’s Story Bridge is one of only three bridge climbs in the world (the third is the Auckland Harbour Bridge).
You also rate… Port Arthur, Tas / Uluru, NSW / Fremantle Gaol, WA / Kakadu, NT
With so many worthy finalists nominated by our very own AT readers, don’t miss out on finding out where all these amazing places are!