There are myriad things that inspire us to travel. One of our favourites (apart from magazines, of course) is books.
During this encouraged period of self-isolation, plug into a sense of escapism that can only come with a great travel book.
Whether it reminds you of a holiday past, or inspires you to daydream about where to next – read on for ideas on the iconic Australian titles that can help you practically pass the time indoors.
One part writer, editor and creative producer and another part photographer, writer and videographer, the swim-obsessed duo of Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon spend their days documenting a staple of Australian society: water.
Places We Swim, as the title suggests, takes readers on a photographic sojourn through the wild aquatic beauty that our country has to offer. Get lost in the stream of pages that showcase the best beaches, pools, waterfalls, lakes, gorges and hot springs around the country, accompanied by helpful blurbs that will give you greater context to the surrounding area at large.
The pair also do great things by way of Instagram, using their feed as a source of inspiration for travellers. Follow them for consistent drips of swimspiration. Or alternatively, purchase a print from their online store – a snapshot that takes you back to your favourite place.
You may recognise Kara Rosenlund’s photographs from a myriad of places – one of which includes the pages of our magazine. Her snapshots and journeys have been frequently featured (and adored) in an array of editorial and commercial contexts.
Her first book, Shelter, documents a yearlong solo road trip around Australia. The photographs feature the real and raw beauty of our country, showcasing interiors, landscapes and the shelters she encountered along the way. There were beach shacks, grand homesteads, sheep stations, shipping containers, and various other roofs that were provided to her by welcoming strangers.
“My itinerary was loose and unstructured,” she said. “I simply followed a conversation around the country, like a bush telegraph. One person would say, ‘Oh, Kara, you must visit my cousin in Tasmania, she has a great hut’, so I would go, and then from there I might be told about a homestead in the red dust of central Queensland, and again, I would follow the conversation.”
You haven’t truly been to Australia until you’ve gained an understanding of the Aboriginal way of life and explored its rich and varied culture. Welcome to Country is a completely inclusive and varied guidebook to Indigenous Australia and Torres Strait Islands through the eyes of respected elder and author Professor Marcia Langton.
After you appreciate the overarching beauty of the cover, the book will do a great job in exploring topics such as Indigenous languages and customs, history, native title, art and dance, storytelling, and cultural awareness and etiquette for visitors.
This is followed by a directory of Indigenous tourism experiences, organised into state and territory sections, covering galleries and festivals, communities that are open to visitors, tours and performances.
The travel memoirs of Bill Bryson frequent many ‘best of’ book lists. This time, he tackles Australia.
Published in 2000, Down Under is filled with signature wit, humour and self-deprecating observations from an American in the Land Down Under.
It’s a great, nuanced take on the local quirks and experiences from an outsider looking in, going well beyond the detail of your standard guidebook. You’ll meet eccentric outback characters and plenty of Australian wildlife, all intertwined with historical and informative context from an avid lover of this country.
“They spend half of any conversation insisting that the country’s dangers are vastly overrated and that there’s nothing to worry about, and the other half telling you how six months ago their Uncle Bob was driving to Mudgee when a tiger snake slid out from under the dashboard and bit him on the groin, but that it’s okay now because he’s off the life support machine and they’ve discovered he can communicate with eye blinks.”
That about sums it up, really…
Be it a leisurely drive through wineries, or a car filled to the brim on a coastal jaunt, Australians can’t get enough of road trips. Our country’s vast landscapes almost beg for it. Recognising this, renowned travel journalist and author Lee Atkinson took to the printing press to immortalise this great love affair.
Profiling 40 of the best around the country, Ultimate Road Trips is a readily accessible guide, featuring information on things to see and do, detailed route maps and helpful distance lists to help you plan your next trip. There’s also heaps of relevant, well-researched itinerary-planning hints, including family-friendly attractions, where to eat and the best hotels, guesthouses, caravan parks and camping spots.
6. The Great Australian Cookbook – Various
The world of Australian travel also umbrella’s the world of Australian food, right? We say yes.
While there are many iconic contenders for the title of the country’s greatest cookbook (Women’s Weekly birthday cakes, anyone?), we choose to focus on the people behind some of our most quintessential dishes.
The Great Australian Cookbook enchants readers on a mouth-watering adventure around the country to meet and share stories with 100 of our most celebrated culinary names, including Maggie Beer, Matt Moran, Gilbert Lau and many more.
It’s more than just a cookbook. These pages are an affectionate snapshot of 165 different recipes, from true Aussie classics to diverse contemporary cuisine.
7. Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback – Robyn Davidson
What drives one woman to walk across Australia through the desert is beyond us, but it’s certainly an impressive feat.
Originally published in 1980, this is what Cheryl Strayed’s famous Wild would read like if it was set in the great Australian landscape. It’s a must-read adventure about a fiercely strong woman who walked 1700 miles (2735 kilometres) of hostile outback to the sea, with only four camels and a dog for company.
Once you’ve finished the book, set your self-isolation sights on the movie. It stars Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, and really does do the original book justice.