The nominations are in and the votes have been counted for our annual People’s Choice Awards 2017. Thousands of you answered the call to tell us what you love right now in this vast and compelling country of ours, so, allow us to present your ultimate travel escapes!
It is no surprise that ‘the rock’ took top honours in so many categories, but it is heartening to know that Uluru is not some abstract icon admired from afar; you love getting up close and discovering all of its nuances and hidden wonders, from cave paintings dating back tens of thousands of years to the vivid wildflowers that sprout at its base come spring. “Visiting Uluru with my baby daughter, she was mesmerised by the changing colour of the rock at dawn,” says AT reader Ellie.
1. The Best Outback Destination: Uluru
Essentially, Australia’s beating heart, Uluru is a special place and it’s no wonder it makes the list every year. But should you climb the rock? We give you five reasons why you shouldn’t.
Runners up: Alice Springs, NT; The Kimberley, WA; Kakadu, NT; Broome, WA.
2. The Best Outback Adventure: Uluru
It’s the big adventure, so if you’re going to do it, do it right. We can help.
Runners up: Kakadu, NT; The Kimberley, WA; Alice Springs, NT; Northern Territory.
3. The Best Outback Guided Tour Going: Uluru
There are some exceptional tours around Uluru, but don’t forget to catch the Field of Light before it ends!
Runners up: Port Arthur, Tas; BridgeClimb, NSW; The Rocks Tour, NSW; Kakadu, NT.
4. The Destination you would Recommend: Uluru
You recommended that every Australian visit Uluru and we couldn’t agree more. Learn more about our incredible NT centre here.
Runners up: Tasmania; The Great Barrier Reef; Sydney, NSW; Melbourne, Vic.
5. Your Ultimate Dream Experience: Uluru
Stop dreaming about this destination and get planning! And while you’re there, we highly recommend embracing the local tucker.
Runners up: The Kimberley, WA; The Great Barrier Reef; Tasmania; Broome, WA.
The most desirable Island escape: Hamilton Island, QLD
We had an inkling our readers loved Hamilton Island, so you can read all about this magic place on our special Hamilton Island portal.
Runners up: Hayman Island, QLD; Lord Howe Island, NSW; Kangaroo Island, SA; Tasmania.
Our best beach: Whitehaven beach, QLD
Whitehaven Beach is truly deserving of its title, find out what else the Whitsundays have in store here.
Runners up: Bondi, NSW; Hyams Beach, NSW; Noosa, Qld; Cable Beach, Broome, WA
The superlatives attached to qualia, consistently voted as your favourite luxury resort, are endless: “breathtaking”, “perfection”, “mesmerising”, a “once-in-a-lifetime trip”. As far as we are concerned, it is this degree of wide-eyed awe at the sheer beauty and elegance of this slice of paradise in Queensland’s exquisite Whitsundays that makes qualia not only one of the best resorts in the country, but one of the best in the world.
The sexiest pool
It’s on the dream list for most of us, but those lucky enough to have been can’t go past Qualia’s pool for the ultimate dip into luxury. We ask if it still lives up to the hype years after opening.
Runners up: Palazzo Versace, QLD; Bondi Icebergs, NSW; Hayman Island, QLD; Crown Metropol, VIC.
The best luxury resort
That’s qualia with a lower-case q, but a capital L for luxury. You love it, we love it, read why it’s still great here.
Runners up: Palazzo Versace, QLD; Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, NSW; Saffire Freycinet, Tas; Crown Resorts
Hunter Valley, NSW
Of course, a lot of your comments on NSW’s Hunter Valley involved wine. Like, a lot! But then, it is one of the premier wine growing regions in the country after all. Just as many of you, however, made mention of the amazing food on offer here to go with all that great wine, as well as the beauty of the landscape, where verdant grape vines rise out of the dry, rugged earth and stretch on for as far as the eye can see.
Your favourite regional escape: Hunter Valley
If you love the Hunter Valley, as you clearly do, consider taking the long way round next time, read our story here.
Runners up: Margaret River, WA; Mudgee, NSW; Blue Mountains, NSW; Orange, NSW.
Best food & wine region: Hunter Valley
Of course, eating and drinking in the Hunter are a given. Once you’ve had your fill, we have your accommodation sorted.
Runners up: Barossa Valley, SA; Margaret River, WA; Yarra Valley, VIC; Tasmania.
The best walk: Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.
Of course, Cradle Mountain is exceptional, but as long as you’re in Tassie and have your hiking boots on, why not check out the Three Capes Track.
Runners up: Bondi to Bronte, NSW; Bondi to Coogee; Blue Mountains, NSW; The Overland Track, TAS.
The ultimate road trip: Great Ocean Road, Victoria
It’s the big one on every Aussie’s bucket list, but what’s great about the Great Ocean Road is that it’s not just road, there’s so much more!
Runners up: Cairns to Port Douglas, QLD; South Coast, NSW; Tasmania; Grand Pacific Drive, NSW.
The family fun capital: Gold Coast, Queensland
It’s hard to beat the golden GC for a family holiday destination, but it’s not just theme parks, this sparkling corner of Queensland has a lot to offer mum and dad, too!
Runners up: Noosa, QLD; Byron Bay, NSW; Melbourne, VIC; Sunshine Coast, QLD.
Your Favourite Australian Travel Experience: Tasmania
We just can’t get enough Tasmania right now. The scenery, the nature, the food… the list goes on and we have plenty of experiences to read about, just search for ‘Tasmania’. But while you’re in Hobart, and you will be, check out our latest guide to dining.
Runners up: Melbourne, Vic; Byron Bay, NSW; Noosa, Qld; Sydney, NSW.
When You Cruise You Choose… Royal Caribbean
Congratulations to Royal Caribbean for cruising in at first place to be Australia’s best-loved operators.
Runners up: P&O; Princess Cruises; Carnival Cruise Line; Celebrity Cruises.
The best historical site: Port Arthur, Tasmania
This incredible historic site is one every Aussie should visit. If you’ve been before, why not revisit in a slightly different way (read: more supernatural).
Runners up: Uluru, NT; The Rocks, NSW; Sovereign Hill, Vic; Fremantle Prison, WA.
The Annual Festival You Love: Splendour in the Grass, NSW
Well, we can’t say we were expecting this one from our readers (it’s nice to be surprised)! We’ve not reviewed the festival, but while you’re there, pop into nearby Brunswick Heads for some post-festival chill time.
Runners up: Vivid Sydney, NSW; Adelaide Fringe Festival, SA; Dark MOFO, Tas; Falls Festival, NSW, Vic, Tas, WA.
Blue Mountains, NSW
Sydneysiders can sometimes be guilty of taking the beauty and drama of the Blue Mountains for granted, given its ridiculously handy proximity to the city. But pay attention and it is a wonderland of endless views, crisp mountain air and a welcoming population of locals who know exactly how good they have it. It also offers up experiences that you didn’t even know you could have, like staying in a cave: “I was surrounded by nature; it was an incredibly unique experience,” says intrepid AT reader, Serene.
Cosiest Winter Destination: Blue Mountains
Half the fun of the Blue Mountains is getting cosy by the fire, here are our top-five places to stay while you’re there.
Runners up: Tasmania; Cradle Mountain, Tas; Thredbo, NSW; Daylesford, Vic.
Most Romantic Escape: Blue Mountains
Nothing says romance like a crackling fire and a bottle of red. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, give one of these escapes a go.
Runners up: Tasmania; Hamilton Island, Qld; Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, NSW; Hunter Valley, NSW.
Oh Melbourne, how we love you. Having swept to the top spot in this category for years, your adoration of the Victorian capital shows no signs of abating. And given that it keeps adding to its cultural kudos and redefining its unique brand of cool, it’s really no wonder. It’s the kind of city that you can go back to again and again and find something new and fabulous every time.
The Best City To Take A Break In: Melbourne
One reason we love Melbourne so much is for its thriving coffee scene, read about the latest and greatest here.
Runners up: Sydney, NSW; Hobart, Tas; Brisbane, Qld; Perth, WA.
The restaurant you go back to every time… Chin Chin Melbourne
Those clever people behind Melbourne’s Chin Chin know how adored this lively restaurant is, that’s why they’ve created a Sydney outpost. Check back in for our review soon.
Runners up: Quay, Sydney; Bennelong, Sydney; Vue de monde, Melbourne; Tetsuya’s, Sydney.
The best boutique hotel: QT Sydney
Still incredible, the Sydney iteration of QT just can’t be beat for chic city sleeps, read our review.
Runners up: The Olsen, Vic; Pumphouse Point, Tas; The Henry Jones Art Hotel, Tas; Hotel Hotel, ACT.
The Best Budget Hotel Brand: Ibis
If you love to travel, but want to stash the cash for the waking hours rather than on those when you’re in bed, read our tips of travelling on a beer budget.
Runners up: Best Western; Mantra; Novotel; Holiday Inn