It’s official… here are the best towns, city and islands to stay in for 2015, winners of the Best Getaways in Australian Traveller’s People’s Choice Awards.

1. Winner Most Desirable Island Escape – Hamilton Island

It’s no surprise that Hamilton Island has been crowned the darling of Australian islands again this year, laden as it is with stretches of palm-lined, white beaches and glistening turquoise waters. Indeed, as soon as you arrive and are whisked away in a buggy (which, by the way, is so much fun!) you feel like you’re on holidays. But what we love about Hamilton is its lack of pretension. Yes, it has fabulous world-class resorts (hello, qualia, pictured right), divine restaurants (such as the laid-back coca chu) and a drop-dead-gorgeous location to boot (here’s looking at you, Great Barrier Reef), but there’s a relaxed vibe in the air; staff are friendly and casual but the service is impeccable. And that’s what an Aussie tropical island holiday should be – true barefoot luxury.

The runners-up
2. Hayman Island: “So wonderful to see this gem given some new sparkle,” one reader says of the luxurious, secluded and private One&Only Hayman Island.
3. Tasmania: Not your typical island escape, the Apple Isle is rugged in raw beauty, rampant with native wildlife and has a fascinating history and friendly locals.
4. Lord Howe Island: This World Heritage-listed island is an unspoilt paradise with some of the world’s best snorkelling, fabulous hiking, and incredible birdlife.
5. Kangaroo Island, SA: Just 45 minutes from the mainland, this pristine island is known for its gorgeous landscapes, delicious produce and abundant native wildlife.

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2. Winner Best Family Holiday Spot – Gold Coast

It was a landslide victory for the Gold Coast in our favourite family break category. And there is little denying why. Dreamworld, Movie World and Wet’n’Wild all clustered together are nothing short of the Promised Land to those tall enough to be strapped into a rollercoaster. It’s an easy win for parents, but the Gold Coast’s attractions go beyond The Tower of Terror and fairy floss. There are kilometres of beautiful beaches keeping the whole family happy, and, as one reader said, the Gold Coast is “a surf city growing in maturity,
it now has amazing restaurants, markets and cultural experiences.” Indeed, the Gold Coast and nearby Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta (pictured) are in the midst of a revival with cool, new shopping and dining precincts, such as ‘The 4217’, ushering in fresh energy.

The runners-up:
2. Noosa and the Sunshine Coast, Qld,
3. Cairns and Port Douglas, Qld,
4. Byron Bay, NSW
5. Phillip Island, Vic

3. Winner Best Beachside Town – Byron Bay

There’s no denying that Byron Bay has changed enormously since it first became a sanctuary for peace-loving hippies and tousled-haired surfers many years ago. You’ll still find these new-agers around town, along with their modern incarnation, the hipsters, but the reasons they (and everyone else) first flocked to the area remain as magnetic as ever: incredible, vast beaches, a laid-back energy, and warm, friendly people. Many of our readers told us they also love the iconic ocean-side town for its chic boutiques, excellent dining and willingness to dance to its own beat. And we have to agree, wholeheartedly. There are few getaways that offer such a varied experience to holidaymakers, whether you come to bop along at the Bluesfest, spend the day under a pandanus tree on Wategos Beach, or eat your way from a Top Shop burger to charcuterie at St Elmo, Byron Bay is a town that encourages you to just go with the flow, man.

The runners-up:
2. Noosa, Qld
3. Port Douglas, Qld
4. Lorne, Vic
5. Broome, WA

4. Winner Best City Break – Melbourne

The best city breaks should involve a little bit of all the things you love – great food, awesome retail, a dose of culture and lots of meandering. Base yourself at the mid/top end of Melbourne and explore its laneways on foot. You’ll discover boutique fashion, jewellery, galleries and cafes aplenty. Revive flagging spirits with a stiff coffee at Dukes (Flinders Lane) or a sneaky vermouth at MoVida Next Door before carrying on to the NGV for an art fix. Explore a magical world of cheese at Spring Street Grocer, grab a sundowner on the rooftop upstairs at Siglo and hit up hotspots like Cumulus Inc, Coda (pictured left) or Lucy Liu for dinner.

The runners-up:
2. Sydney, NSW
3. Brisbane, Qld
4. Hobart, Tas
5. Adelaide, SA

5. Winner Cosiest Winter Destination – Blue Mountains

Roll up in the quirky little village of Blackheath come winter, and it’s easy to see why the vast Blue Mountains National Park and its smattering of settlements are a favourite when the mercury sinks. Go on a snow-laced, world-famous wilderness walk from Govett’s Leap; head to Blackheath’s hip Anonymous Cafe for a hot chocolate; and check into a charming period guesthouse like Katoomba’s Lilianfels, preferably finding a spot to read a book by the fire. With the likes of nearby Leura becoming a Christmas wonderland and similarly snug this time of year, it’s hard to top the Blue Mountains in the cosiness stakes.

The runners-up:
2. Cradle Mountain, Tas
3. Thredbo, NSW
4. Daylesford, Vic
5. Melbourne, Vic

6. Winner Best Town Off the Beaten Track – Birdsville, Qld

Most Australians won’t make it to this miniscule oasis (population 115) in their lifetimes – and that’s a travesty! The sense of achievement in reaching Birdsville’s classic outback pub (pictured) is overwhelming. The 1500-kilometre drive from either Adelaide or Brisbane will give you a religious appreciation for just how pancake-esque this continent really is. Reward yourself with a camel pie from the bakery to celebrate! Everyone knows the annual Birdsville Races (with 7000 flocking here each year), but other reasons for a pilgrimage include a desert ultra-marathon and the Big Red Bash concert.

The runners-up:
2. Broome, WA
3. Broken Hill, NSW
4. Mudgee, NSW
5. Coober Pedy, SA


ALL THE RESULTS: Australian Traveller’s People Choice Awards 2015


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Australian Traveller magazine 66

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