Australian Traveller's 2019

Top 100 things to do

We’ve got 100 reasons for you to get off the couch. From quintessential road trips to the wonders of nature to destinations to brag about; seriously, what are you waiting for?

 

Explore the best of Australia’s cities

Explore the newfound sophistication of the Gold Coast and check out what's happening right now across our cities great and small.

1. Hike the Gold Coast’s hinterland

Springbrook National Park

Drive one hour outside the Gold Coast and explore the Springbrook National Park.

Strike out from the beaches and boutique hotels of the Gold Coast into its lush hinterland and you are in for a treat of rainforests, waterfalls and wildlife-packed scenery.

Tamborine Mountain

Tamborine National Park is the third oldest national park in the world; it has walking tracks (try the Witches Falls circuit), waterfalls (head to Curtis Falls) and attractions such as the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk and glow worm caves.

Springbrook National Park

A one-hour drive from the heart of the Gold Coast, Springbrook National Park’s stunning natural wonders include Natural Bridge, a cave rock formation and waterfall; The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world teeming with wildlife and plant species; and Springbrook Plateau, which boasts stunning views across the park.

Lamington National Park

Also part of The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area is Lamington National Park. Head to the Green Mountains section of the park for spectacular views; camping is available and you can book half day and full day tours of the area.

2. Sydney’s historic pubs with the best makeovers

Stop into The Imperial Erskineville and enjoy a vegan, vegetarian or omnivore meal at Pricillas Restaurant.

The Aussie pub holds a near and dear place in our cultural history; at one stage local watering holes proliferated, taking up prime locations in towns, suburbs and neighbourhoods across the country. Locals would flock to them after a hard day’s work to relax and socialise, but as times and social mores changed, so too did the fortunes of ‘the local’.

 

From their heyday in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, many pubs morphed into live music venues in the ’70s and ’80s, and had seen better days by the turn of the 21st century. But historic pubs are proving rich pickings for a new generation of publicans; in Sydney drop into The Imperial Erskineville, the Terminus Hotel or Hotel Palisade to drink in the revamped atmosphere and style.

3. Experience Australia’s best suburbs

Eveleigh Farmers Markets at Carriageworks

Spend a morning stocking up on supplies at Eveleigh Farmers Markets at Carriageworks.

Elsternwick

This inner-city Melbourne suburb’s designation as a hip hood was assured when it played host to the 2018 incarnation of The Block. Sandwiched between St Kilda and Caulfield, you need to head here for the interesting cafes and bars and eclectic mix of inhabitants.

Newstead

Once a down-at-heel industrial area, this Brisbane neighbourhood has seen an influx of restaurants, bars and new developments. But its true cool credentials come from the fact that it has its own microbrewery and designer donut store. Say no more!

Mount Lawley

This Perth inner-city village has a laid-back feel that permeates its restaurants and bar, and the buzzy shopping strip of Beaufort Street.

Eveleigh

The former rail yards, now known as Carriageworks in this inner-city Sydney suburb now play host to galleries and food markets and plans are afoot to develop the newly named South Eveleigh into a retail and commercial hub, including a first of its kind rooftop Indigenous garden.

4. Check out Brisbane’s best boutique hotels

The Calile

For an incredibly chic boutique stay book into The Calile in Brisbane. Credit: Sean Fennessy

Long relegated to the ranks of second-tier capitals, Brisbane started to get its funk on a few years back with the opening of some seriously stylish boutique hotels. Now it is ground zero for designer digs, each imbibed with their own brand of chic.

The Calile

Think impeccable styling, a completely now colour palette of whisper quiet pinks and seafoam greens, clean lines (and a statement-making pool), all played out over 175 rooms in Fortitude Valley.

Ovolo Inchcolm

Calling this 50-room property eclectic doesn’t fully convey the riot of colour and pattern and design that is contained within its Art Deco walls; shrinking violets need not apply.

Tryp Fortitude Valley Hotel

This ‘street art hotel’ led the charge in the Valley’s journey to hip hood status, with its exuberant graffiti walls and hipster vibe.

Emporium Hotel

With a rooftop infinity pool and understated luxe interiors, this five-star hotel has become a South Bank landmark.

Art Series – The Fantauzzo

Located in the revitalised Howard Smith Wharves development, the latest Art Series hotel is filled with works by Vincent Fantauzzo.

 5. Discover the best things to do in Albany, WA

Field of Light

Bruce Munro’s Field of Light Avenue of Honour. Credit: Mark Pickthall

The port city of Albany is actually older than both Perth and Fremantle, having been settled in 1826 as a military outpost. While this has left a legacy of charming historic buildings – check out Old Farm, Strawberry Hills, Patrick Taylor Cottage and St John’s Church – it is a decidedly modern undertaking that has been generating buzz in the city, a gateway to WA’s stunning South West region.

 

The award-winning National Anzac Centre is a sleek, cantilevered building looking out over King George Sound that commemorates the ANZAC tradition through the stories of the men themselves; Albany was the final departure point for the first wave of troops heading to the battlefields of Europe. The centre also recently hosted a Field of Light installation by artist Bruce Munro, the lights of which fittingly went out for good on ANZAC Day 2019.

6. Find Australia’s best regional cities

Wah Wah Gee

Passing through Geelong? Stop for a feed at Wah Wah Gee.

Tamworth

This New England city is earning quite the reputation as an emerging foodie destination, with loads of local producers, a dedicated food festival – Taste Tamworth in April with pop-ups, long lunches and food markets – and interesting new restaurants cropping up.

Geelong

An hour-and-a-bit drive from Melbourne, this city of 250,000, designated by UNESCO as a City of Design in 2017, is forging a new identity for itself, anchored by initiatives like the ‘Green Spine’ rejuvenation of the city centre, the vibrant waterfront, home to interesting restaurants like Wah Wah Gee and new civic developments like the award-winning Geelong Library and Heritage Centre.

Bundaberg

The Queensland coastal city has all the elements needed to stamp it as a city on the rise, from a thriving regional art gallery to a microbrewery (head to Bargara Brewing Company’s Brewhouse on Sunday afternoon when it goes off) to a growing food scene – visit during Taste Bundaberg Festival in May.

7. Take a day trip to Brighton, Vic

Brighton is the perfect place to spend a day, with its best-of-both-worlds inner-city location and laid-back beach vibe. Any outing here (it takes about 30 minutes by bus from Melbourne’s CBD) should start with a stroll along the beachfront checking out the historic, multi-coloured bathing boxes. With that box ticked, head to Church Street and its surrounds for the plentiful cafes (try Brighton School House Cafe on St Andrews Street or the famed Royal Brothers and Lickings Fine Ice Cream on Church Street), bars and shopping.

8. Canberra’s best food, festivals and galleries

We say it often enough here at Australian Traveller, but in case you missed it: Canberra is great! The comparisons with Sydney and Melbourne have become redundant as our national capital establishes its own identity as a city of culture – the National Gallery of Australia would win an arm wrestle with some of the world’s best galleries – great food and wine (think Braddon and cold climate wines), and headlining festivals like Floriade. All of which explains the satisfied grins on the faces of the locals here. Lucky ducks.

9. Go to the Street & Lanes Festival in Toowoomba

When it comes to regional cities with capital city swagger, Toowoomba takes the prize. If you didn’t know better, the cafe-packed laneways and vibrant street art might suggest Melbourne, but this city of over 115,000 inhabitants, the gateway to the Darling Downs, has its own uniquely laid-back, friendly vibe. See the city at its most vibrant during The Streets & Lanes Festival, held each year over the Easter weekend, when its streets and public spaces are given over to performers, music, food and fun.

10. Port Adelaide’s Wonderwalls Street Art Festival

A targeted urban renewal plan, close commuting proximity to the city centre and an influx of young creative types have seen the formerly industrial suburb of Port Adelaide become one of the South Australian capital’s hotspots. It is certainly one of its most colourful locations thanks to the Wonderwalls Street Art Festival. The resulting artworks creep up the sides of buildings and stretch along walls; search them out, with regular stops for coffee along the way (try The Folklore Cafe or Drummer Boy).

DEALS

The best nature experiences in Australia

You need no excuse to go out and see the natural wonders our country harbours, its staggering, varied landscapes and incredible, rare biodiversity; perhaps you should start with some of the tallest trees on the planet: WA’s Southern Giants.

11. Listen to the trees in Pemberton, WA

Pemberton trees.

The Walk-Through tree – and her countless cousins – are found in Pemberton, 3.5 hours’ drive south of Perth. A place where tracts of pale, smooth-surfaced karri trees rise like Roman columns and fringe the rolling earth like stubble on a man’s chin.

 

And while everyone’s attention is focused on Margaret River, 1.5 hours’ drive west, these giant trees are left to whisper among themselves.

12. Cool off in Australia’s best secret swimming spots

Yarrangobilly thermal pool, near Tumut, NSW.

You may not have heard of these stunning natural pools that demand to be swum (and photographed).

Yarrangobilly thermal pool, near Tumut, NSW

Go skiing at nearby Selwyn ski resort then warm up in this gorgeous 27ºC thermal pool.

Python Pool, Millstream, WA

Swim in the green waters of this desert oasis, hemmed in by starkly contrasting buttresses of red rock.

Josephine Falls, Wooroonooran, Qld

South of Cairns, slide down the smooth rocks of the falls into plunge pools; a perfect spot for kids to go wild.

Artesian Bore Baths, Lightning Ridge, NSW

It’s almost worth moving to the opal mining town to enjoy these thermal baths of 40ºC mineral water.

13. Stay in Australia’s most sustainable luxury eco retreat

Elysian Retreat.

Stay within some of our greatest natural spots safe in the knowledge that your carbon footprint will be kept to an absolute minimum. Take newly opened Elysian on Long Island in the Whitsundays.

 

It opened in April as perhaps Australia’s most sustainable luxury eco retreat, with a solar farm powering the entire resort including the energy-hungry air-con. Coupled with careful waste and water management, it means you’re free to enjoy the coastal chic interiors of its oceanfront villas and organic, locally sourced food, and explore the coral reefs with snorkel and flippers with a carbon-free conscience. Just make sure you offset the CO2 from your flights to get there…

14. Swim with a minke whale

Swim with minke whales in the Great Barrier Reef.

There’s something utterly counterintuitive about jumping into the ocean knowing that you’ll be at the mercy of nine-metre-long, seven-tonne beasts. But minke whales are gentle giants and will tolerate you floating in their presence in awe at their massive torpedo-like, streamlined bodies.

 

Several operators including Silver Series and Spirit of Freedom run trips out to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas and Cairns respectively to swim with the whales, something that is done in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and James Cook University’s The Minke Whale Project to learn more about their migratory paths, feeding habits and other behaviours.

 

You don’t need any diving qualifications to swim with the whales – just the ability to hold your breath with a snorkel; you’ll be holding onto a line off the back of a boat and it’s totally up to the whales as to how close an encounter you’ll be rewarded with.

15. Find Australia’s dinosaur footprints

Dinosaur footprints caste in concrete.

Australia has a wealth of incredible dinosaur footprints, their strides lasting signatures from a lost world. Here the top three sites in the country to let your imagination run wild picturing the magnificent creatures they belonged to.

Lark Quarry Conservation Park, Qld

Head to the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument, 110 kilometres from Winton, which preserves the footprints of a dinosaur stampede, the only such example you can see in the world.

Milanesia Beach, Vic

In aptly named Dinosaur Cove, you’ll find small, three-toed tracks in a sandstone block, accessed via the Great Ocean Walk en route to the 12 Apostles.

Roebuck Bay and Cable Beach, WA

Take a tour with Broome Hovercraft out to impressive prints belonging to huge, diplodocus-like plant-eaters that become exposed at low tide; plus marvel at the sets on Cable Beach.

16. See the Thorny Devil in Alice Springs Desert Park

The thorny devil.

There are some Australian icons of the animal kingdom you’d be forgiven for accidentally stepping on, such is their ability to melt into the landscape with incredible powers of camouflage. It’s for this reason that you’d also be forgiven for paying a visit to the Alice Springs Desert Park, 10 minutes’ drive from Alice, to admire them for yourself.

 

Take the thorny devil, a curious reptile that looks like a prickly bit of shrub slowly moving across the desert. Its ochre, brown and cream patterning is a reflection of the surface of the sun-baked deserts it inhabits, making it very hard to spot for a passing snake, or budding reptile photographer. Alice Springs Desert Park also has some rare desert dwellers like the bilby and brushed-tailed bettong, but the highlight is possibly the native desert garden, revealing all the surprising colour you can find when the desert is in bloom. Take a tour with an Indigenous guide to learn how the Arrernte people have been living here for thousands of years.

17. See the stromatolites in Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve

Marvel at Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, Shark Bay.

Yes, you read that right. Bacteria have made it onto Australian Traveller’s prestigious annual 100 list. But this ain’t any ol’ bacteria; this particular microorganism represents some of the oldest known examples of life on the planet and they happen to like it in the clement, salty waters of the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve in WA’s World Heritage-listed Shark Bay.

 

Cyanobacteria give rise to the stone-like columns called stromatolites, their mucus collecting sediment which is stuck together with a by-product of calcium carbonate, and they’ve been up to this for around for 3.5 billion years.

 

A one-metre-high stromatolite represents a colony of life some 2000 to 3000 years old, so pay your respects to these sentinels of time, and hang around to take a photo of them in the shallow waters at sunset, when they will reveal themselves to be far more beautiful than their name suggests.

18. The best spots to see penguins in Australia

The fact that Australia is home to penguins seems an oddity – they must have washed ashore here a while ago from Antarctica and never looked back. Make it your mission this year to go and appreciate our polar denizens at these special sites:

Manly Wharf, Sydney, NSW

The only breeding population of fairy penguins in the state, look out for them from July to February waddling up the sand to nest.

St Kilda Pier, St Kilda, Vic

While walking along this historic pier keep an eye out for fairy penguins hopping about on the rocks below.

Bruny Island, Tas

Penguins and short-tailed shearwaters can be observed from viewing platforms on the Neck, Bruny’s famously skinny isthmus.

19. Save the corroboree frog

The corroborree frog looks like it’s been transplanted from the depths of the Amazon, such are its vivid, liquorice allsorts-inspired black and yellow stripes. But this alpine frog, endemic to the Southern Tablelands and Kosciuszko National Park, is under attack from a warming climate, frog-killing fungus, off-road vehicles, and the many damaging hooves of wild brumbies.

 

Marvel at this most striking frog at Healesville Sanctuary outside of Melbourne, where a captive-breeding program is racing to keep these amazing animals in the wild. To learn about the amphibians and the threats they face you can also visit Melbourne Zoo and Taronga Zoo, Sydney, both of which are breeding the frogs in captivity for subsequent release.

20. Dive Sydney’s protected reef

Diving should be on the national curriculum, such is the bounty of wonderful animals in Australian seas. And it’s not just all about the Great Barrier Reef; you wouldn’t think it, but divers are spoilt when it comes to the temperate waters in and around Sydney Harbour.

 

Head out with the likes of Manly Dive Centre and there’s the spectacular protected reef of Shelley Beach and its friendly blue gropers; a chance to spot the incredible weedy sea dragon beyond the surf of Maroubra Beach; and there’s another less famous dragon: the blue dragon (Pteraeolidia ianthina), a spectacular nudibranch (sea slug) with rows of fluorescent blue spines along its length. Look for them snaking along the rocks and make sure you have an underwater camera set to macro mode to capture this striking animal.

DEALS

Australia’s best wineries and restaurants

Australia’s stunning produce and wines  have earned an enviable reputation in recent decades. Now, any foray out and about is a food journey, whether you’re grabbing a coffee with a view, feasting on amazing restaurant design, or taking time out on a gourmet escape.

21. The Mornington Peninsula

Beautiful view of the vineyards on a wine tour of the Mornington Peninsula, Australia.

Located just over an hour’s drive from the city centre, the Mornington Peninsula is a wonderland of pretty towns, rolling countryside, wide beaches and, more importantly, a fertile foodie haven. Here is a taste of the best this patch of Mornington has to offer.  For more wine inspired Australian Traveller exclusive deals, click here.

Red Hill

The area of Red Hill is populated by so many wineries, restaurants and producers that any exploration will be a stop-start affair as small clusters of shopfronts along Shoreham Road and Mornington-Flinders Road lure you in with wine stores specialising in local drops, interiors stores and cafes.

Merricks

Sculpture is a big drawcard at Merricks, where the imposing Pt. Leo Estate has been wowing visitors with its large-scale sculptures and flavoursome dining experience at the hands of Culinary Director Phil Wood. The estate’s hulking modern concrete construction houses the Pt. Leo Restaurant, cellar door and fine-dining Laura. The Sculpture Park offers up two circuits, one that takes 30 minutes and a more rambling 60-minute walk.

The design is equally cutting edge at Jackalope in nearby Merricks North, where the sleek hotel’s signature restaurant Doot Doot Doot is another must-do dining experience.

Rosebud and Dromana

Apart from its rolling landscape of grape vines and sun-bleached bush, the Mornington Peninsula is also celebrated from its beaches and pretty seaside towns. Two of the best, just a short drive from Red Hill, are Dromana and Rosebud; the road between the towns (Point Nepean Road) stretches along the coastline, presenting a vista of vintage bathing boxes and sand on one side and interesting cafes and shops on the other.

22. Dine at Australia’s most stylish restaurants

ARC Dining and Wine Bar located within Brisbane’s exciting Howard Smith Wharves development.

It stands to reason that with Australia’s enviable and innovative dining scene comes excellence in restaurant design. After all, hospitality is a holy trinity of food, space, and service. If one of these elements falters, the whole thing comes tumbling down.

 

A collective of talented hospitality design firms means that almost every new opening is noteworthy and such openings are too numerous to list, but a good start is with the brooding Japanese bunker vibes at Melbourne’s Ishizuka; Bondi’s Mexi-cool, candy-coloured Fonda; the deftly restrained interiors of Adelaide’s muted Osteria Oggi; and ARC Dining and Wine Bar, impeccably designed by Anna Spiro, whose signature style is such a huge hit at Halcyon House in Cabarita Beach. 

23. Restaurants with the best views

Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.

With both an enviable food culture and some wildly spectacular landscapes, Australia wouldn’t be trying hard enough if we didn’t have some incredible dining rooms with a view. From the sun-bleached coast to glinting city skylines, there’s far too many to shout out to here.

 

We’d start a furious debate if we were to suggest one above another. But to get you started, these eateries offer a view that threatens to throw shade on the menu: diners are almost engulfed by waves at Burleigh Heads’ Rick Shores; displaying Bondi’s beautiful beach and bodies is Icebergs Dining Room and Bar; pretty Melbourne glitters below Vue de Monde; and Perth’s rooftop Wildflower parades the city and Swan River.

24. Australia’s best food festivals

Noosa Food and Wine festival.

Drop a pin anywhere on Australia’s fertile fringe and you’ll be guaranteed it will land on a region that produces an amazing food source, be that oysters, wine grapes, meat or orchard fruit. We truly are the lucky country when it comes to the abundance and diversity of our food regions, so celebrate them at one of these excellent festivals.

Orange FOOD Week

Showcasing the wines and produce of Orange, this festival takes place in April each year. It’s a great excuse to visit if you haven’t yet been to this beautiful rural food bowl.

Noosa Food & Wine Festival

As if you needed another excuse to go to Noosa, this festival, which runs from 16–20 May, explores produce from the coast to the hinterland.

Melbourne Food Festival

Frequently declared Australia’s food capital, Melbourne puts on an extraordinarily large festival to celebrate all aspects of food culture every March.

WA Gourmet Escape

Attracting internationally and locally renowned chefs and set in the gorgeous Margaret River region, food-lovers must experience this event at least once.

25. Luxury stays on vineyards

Empire Estate’s irresistible boutique hotel.

The regretful thing about wine tours is that eventually you have to leave. There’s no lingering over a riesling as the sun beds down for the night. But at these luxury stays, you can take your time finishing off a bottle, enjoy a superb dinner, then either saunter or swagger to your room.

For more luxury stays on vineyards try Barossa Valley, Mornington Peninsula or even Gourmet Tasmania!

The Louise

Set in Barossa wine country, The Louise is not only front and centre to the captivating scenery and best wineries of the region, it’s also home to the celebrated restaurant, Appellation.

Empire Retreat

You’ll come to sample the cabernet merlot of this Margaret River region winery, but you’ll end up staying in Empire Estate’s irresistible boutique hotel, which layers natural timbers and stone for a contemporary, rustic effect. Book into the spa too, for its big stone baths and rainforest shower suites.

Sequoia at Mount Lofty House

Projected to open this October at one of the Adelaide Hill’s best-loved estates, the luxury 14-suite Sequoia will sit separately to the existing guesthouse.

Mornington Peninsula Glamping

Situated on Blue Range Estate Wines in the pretty coastal town of Rosebud, the 10 bell tents that make up Mornington Peninsula Glamping are stylishly furnished, there’s a sleek amenities block, the Cellar Door and Cafe has a Mediterranean sensibility, and there are panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait that just won’t quit.

26. Whisky distilleries and festivals

Tasmanian Whisky Week.

As a nation, our thirst for the deeply nuanced tipple of whisky is far from quenched. Perhaps it has something to do with our enterprising convict roots but, as a country, we’ve become exceedingly accomplished at both enjoying and crafting this spirit. With its peaty earth, crisp climate, and barley fields, Tasmania has been leading the way in Antipodean whisky for some years now with the likes of Lark, Sullivan’s Cove and Spring Bay.

 

There’s even a dedicated whisky trail and you can fire up your cockles at Tasmanian Whisky Week in August. If you can’t make it down for August, Sydney is hosting the Sydney Whisky Fair in August.

 

It’s not just our bog-blessed southernmost state that is distilling distinguished whisky; other noteworthy examples are the single-malt and accessible Starward, Victoria’s Timboon, and WA’s Limeburners, to name just a few. If your tastes run to a more American style of whisky, some distilleries are mashing up rye for moonshine-style drinks: try Archie Rose, and Young Henry’s Nightsweat Moonshine.

 27. Unique Sydney eateries

The signature Boathouse.

Melbourne often claims the culinary crown, but there’s something about the Sydney hospitality scene that’s become particular to the harbour city. From fine dining to casual, eateries, Sydney has mastered a refined but playful approach to style and food. Instead of relying on the beauty of what’s outside, restaurateurs began making spaces that would draw people off the beach and keep them seated.

 

Merivale, of course, was among the first to master the art of deftly attuning to a theme with their diverse but en-pointe locales from the high-end Mr. Wong in the city to the new, laid-back Bondi Italian, Totti’s. But you’ll also see this chilled out, polished style at the coastal-clinging Boathouse collection of restaurants, the newest of which is at the until-now sleepy Central Coast town of Patonga.

28. Bottle your own wine

Do you have a sneaking suspicion that you would’ve been a talented winemaker in another life? You can test your theory and your palate at some of the country’s best cellar doors. Blend it like a vintner and slosh together vintages, vineyards and varietals in a blending class, where you can bottle your own handiwork to take with you as proof your talents are wasted in your day job.

 

McLaren Vale’s d’Arenberg offers a blending class, followed by lunch. Tahbilk in Victoria teaches the art of winemaking in a 1.5-hour class plus a tour of their beautifully atmospheric 19th-century cellar. While Jacob’s Creek teaches you the fundamentals of blending in a concise 30-minute session, you can even order an entire box of your quickly created masterpiece, should you be wholly convinced of your mastery.

29. Taste Tasmania’s best gourmet experiences

For Australia’s smallest state, Tassie sure is ravenous.

 

Producing some of the country’s finest fare, from fine-dining restaurants to hand-crafted cheeses, distilled spirits and cool-climate wines, the island’s reputation for good food shows no signs of decelerating. This makes Tassie the gourmet hotspot for mainlanders who come for Bruny Island’s sharp, minerally oysters, golden Leatherwood honey, Flinders Island grazed lamb, and applauded restaurants such as Franklin, The Agrarian Kitchen, and Templo.

 

Perhaps one of the best ways to nibble your way around the state is to hire a car and hit some food and wine trails, one of which is the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail. Of course, you may need to intersperse all that with some hiking, or you might be returning home with some extra luggage you can’t check in.

30. Restaurants that give back to the community

We all want to give back somehow, but oftentimes the pitch from charities, while well meaning, is abrasive and gratingly insistent. Most of us don’t respond well to being accosted on the street during our lunch break. But more and more eateries are opening up where you can give back while sipping your morning latte.

 

Portal in Sydney’s Martin Place looks like any other hip city haunt with a chic architecturally considered fit-out and a chef-created seasonal menu, but this social enterprise cafe (and its sister cafe, Symbol, in North Sydney) donates 100 per cent of its profits to charities.

 

Unlike tossing a coin into a bucket, you can track exactly where your money goes on the Portal website. Happily, there are plenty of places to help your fellow humans by tucking into a wholesome lunch, each with their own charity alignments. Also try Melbourne’s Feast of Merit in Richmond, or Kinfolk in Bourke Street.

DEALS

Beaches and islands

From rugged and wind-swept to perfectly paradisiacal, Australia’s diverse islands and coastal spots offer up a plethora of experiences.

31. We might just have the best beach houses in the world

Roozen Residence in Margaret River.

As a country of coast-huggers, Australia knows a thing or two about great beach houses. Whether that’s the rustic-chic Little Black Shack perched on the water’s edge at Pittwater in Sydney or a private retreat in the shape of Tasmania’s Satellite Island, or one of our perennial favourites, the slick and sexy Roozen Residence in Margaret River – the five-star property of local surfer and artist Ron Roozen that dishes up 180-degree ocean views from every room – there’s a property to suit every mood and season. Check out listings on Airbnb, HomeAway and Contemporary Hotels to see the whole gamut of options.

32. A secret island paradise

Sand banks on Cockatoo Island.

Kimberley guide and author of 100 Things To See In The Kimberley, Scotty Connell has tipped us off that one of the region’s best-kept secrets is set to reopen for tourism. Cockatoo Island, a dramatic swathe of silica beaches and bays off Australia’s west coast, has seen many incarnations.

 

Traditionally the home of the Dambimangari people, it became a mining town in the 1950s then a resort owned by Alan and Eileen Bond. Mining took hold again in the early 2000s and now a revival is on the horizon. “Once marketed as ‘the least known island paradise in the world’ Cockatoo Island’s resort has been used by miners for years but is set to reopen again soon,” Scotty says. “Their infinity pool has glorious views over the neighbouring Buccaneer Archipelago and the sunsets were supposedly the inspiration for Eileen Bond to paint all of the bungalows pink.” Check Cockatoo Island’s website for updates.

33. Beaches, wine and good times

Port Willunga sunset.

The Fleurieu Peninsula, Adelaide’s weekend playground, is an epicurean idyll. The sweeping hills of its wine regions (McLaren Vale is an ideal place to explore if you like your wines big, bold and red) just about roll into the ocean, where a dramatic shoreline gives way to soft, sandy and sometimes deserted beaches, like Port Willunga. You can drop anchor here for a couple of nights in a range of unique accommodation.

 

Hotel California Road is a boutique offering built out of shipping containers and set in the vineyards of McLaren Vale’s Inkwell Wines; it’s a four-minute drive to Maslin Beach, which was designated Australia’s first official nude beach in 1975. Further along the peninsula, Southern Ocean Retreats’ Ridgetop Retreat is ensconced in a stringybark forest and not far from the beautiful Second Valley Beach.

34. Some of Sydney’s best beaches are closer than you think

Shark Bay in Sydney’s Nielsen Park.

In Sydney, you don’t have to head too far out of the city to find lovely stretches of sand; many a Sydneysider’s favourite beaches are part of the harbour itself – and they’re usually less crowded and altogether more tranquil than their famous cousins.

 

Try Camp Cove in Watsons Bay, a visit to which isn’t complete without taking a bush walk round the harbour’s South Head and rewarding yourself with a helping of fish and chips from local institution Doyle’s afterwards. Nielsen Park, tucked into picture-perfect suburb Vaucluse, is home to equally attractive Shark Beach – a kid-friendly swimming spot with a great cafe to boot. It’s also the starting point for a scenic foreshore walking track. On the North Head side of the harbour, you can’t beat Balmoral Beach: a prime spot for stand-up paddle boarding, swimming and tucking into lunch at the Boathouse.

35. A new eco-retreat on Perth’s favourite island

Discovery Rottnest Island: luxury tents all equipped with en suites and outdoor decks.

New to Perth’s popular offshore spot, Discovery Rottnest Island is the island’s first low-impact glamping experience. Set just behind the dunes of Pinky Beach, this eco-retreat features 83 luxury tents all equipped with en suites and outdoor decks; premium options offer up unparalleled sea and sand aspects and there are also family and accessible tents available.

 

Soak up life’s simple pleasures from your deck, wander the boardwalks through the dunes to Pinky’s Beach Club for dinner, cocktails and Margaret River wines, and take a refreshing dip at nearby popular swimming spot the Basin – or in the resort pool. The city might be just about visible on the horizon, but you’ll feel cast away in a world of your own.

36. The Rainbow Beach that lives up to its name

There’s an island in the Tiwis – a quick boat ride from Darwin – with a beach they call Rainbow for crystal-clear reasons. Alongside Michael Goetze, Jampal Williamson is one half of Salty Wings – photographers who specialise in spectacular aerial seascapes of unique and remote places.

 

Here, he describes a journey he embarked on to Melville Island in 2017 with Tourism NT that secured the epic shot that graces the cover of Australian Traveller issue 83. “Whilst exploring the northern part of the island we were told by the locals about ‘Rainbow Beach’, a special part of the Tiwis where the red ochre dirt was collected and used for painting and ceremonial purposes,” he says.

 

“This was the first time anyone had captured this place from above before. We departed the next morning before the sun to capture this magical place. Dodging a few crocs on the beach I was dropped off and managed to capture these images in the soft morning light. To this day it truly is one of the most special places I’ve seen from above.”

37. Cruising the Whitsundays

An aerial at Hayman Island.

Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands are having a moment in the sun (well, are they ever not?) with the reopening of Hayman Island in July and the recent refurbishment of Daydream Island. Which makes us think of one of the dreamiest ways to explore the 74 islands that make up this out-of-this-world archipelago…

 

Cruising the Whitsundays is a classic bucket-list item for many travellers for good reason, and there are different ways to make it happen: from taking a day tour to skippering a boat yourself – aka bareboating. For some old-world glamour, step aboard the Lady Enid, a rare Australian heritage yacht. This luxurious sail departing the Port of Airlie marina will take in Whitehaven Beach, lauded as one of the world’s best. If you choose to DIY – and the Whitsundays provide plain sailing for novices and pros alike – check out Go Bareboating for options.

38. The big lap by sea

Living on an island, with all its islands off the islands, leaves Australia prime for exploring by boat, so keen seafarers take note. New for 2020 is Coral Expeditions’ Tasmanian Circumnavigation, which will take in the best and most adventurous bits of the island state over 14 nights.

 

Departing Hobart on 1 January on board the Coral Discoverer, you’ll travel to Tasmania’s UNESCO World-Heritage wilderness; the Bass Strait islands including the rugged, produce-rich King Island and Flinders Island with its spectacular Strezlecki National Park; and the Tamar River to get deep into the heart of one of Australia’s best wine regions. And if the sound of that floats your boat, consider also Coral Expeditions’ 35th Anniversary circumnavigation of Australia, also due to set sail in 2020.

39. See the Galapagos of the Southern Ocean

The resident 100,000 (mainly elephant) seals and millions of penguins.

For those whose dream of visiting Antarctica is just slightly out of reach, consider a trip to Macquarie Island instead… physical or virtual! Described as the Galapagos of the Southern Ocean, this unique destination is designated a World Heritage Area on account of its outstanding geological and natural significance. Here you’ll find an abundance of fauna, including the resident 100,000 (mainly elephant) seals and millions of penguins.

 

Macquarie Island has the very Aussie nickname of ‘Macca’, and technically it’s part of Tasmania, but geographically it’s around halfway between Australia and Antarctica. In good weather it takes about three days to reach from Hobart, but tour companies like Heritage Expeditions that include it on their epic itineraries tend to depart from New Zealand.

40. Hike or cruise to Victoria’s secret coves

On the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, Wilsons Promontory National Park is home to some of the best views and beaches in Victoria, packed full of hidden coves and boats and just two hours away from Melbourne. Many spots are accessible only by foot or by boat, including Refuge Cove. A drop-dead-gorgeous secluded beach situated on the eastern side of the Prom, it’s found – for the adventurous – at the end of a 19.2 kilometre overnight hike from Tidal River. A campsite surrounded by lush vegetation offers promised refuge.

 

Or cut to the chase on a full-day tour with Refuge Cove Cruises, departing Port Welshpool on a 42-passenger catamaran and taking in the cove and other highlights.

DEALS

Tick off Australia’s bucket-list experiences

From the paradise that is Lord Howe Island to the sands of Ningaloo Reef, you won’t be able to resist telling anyone who’ll listen about these amazing experiences.

41. Stay on Lord Howe Island

Life on Lord Howe Island.

Paradise is a much overused word these days, but we are not exaggerating when we say that Lord Howe Island is just that, paradise. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed island is just 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney, but a world away from the everyday. Its staggeringly blue waters lap wide beaches; fish crowd around your feet when you step into the water; turtles frolic in the shallows; and the lush, hulking mass of Mount Gower dominates the horizon, its peak often shrouded in a crown of wispy white cloud. Like we say, paradise. And everyone on island is determined to keep it that way; only 400 visitors are allowed at any one time, cars play second fiddle to bikes (riders wave warmly to each other as they pass) and – wait for it – there are no mobile phone towers anywhere. Yeah, we know, paradise!

42. Take a Kimberley cruise

Cape Leveque on the Dampier Peninsular.

When it comes to cruising the ochre-tinged Kimberley coast, luxury is the order of the day. But while the price tag might be considerable, the pay off is a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a cost-per-brag ratio that is well worth the investment. Try these for starters.

Kimberley Quest

Its four-day Taste of the Kimberley cruise ticks off the must-sees like Horizontal Falls and Buccaneer Archipelago.

The Great Escape

Its luxury 85-foot catamaran caters to only 14 guests at a time and has its own helicopter!

True North

The onboard mod-cons on this 36-person vessel includes private deck spas and onboard specialists.

Kimberley Quest

While there’s more people on Silversea cruises, there is no compromise on luxury with butler service included.

43. Stay at Longitude 131° for the best view of Uluru

A view of the Rock, Longitude 131°.

When it comes to securing a privileged uninterrupted view of the Rock, Longitude 131° wins hands down. But, within the resort itself it doesn’t get much better than the Dune Pavilion. The sprawling two-bedroom suite has jaw-dropping views from just about every angle, but arguably the ultimate position from which to gaze upon the behemoth that is Uluru is its tin bathtub, watching as the setting sun casts mesmerising colours across the desert landscape.

44. Cross the Simpson Desert

Chambers Pillar historical reserve within the Simpson Desert.

The mighty Simpson Desert is the stuff legends are made of, a seemingly endless stretch of rich, red soil that presents itself as the ultimate challenge. The largest parallel sand dune desert in the world, it stretches across the south-east corner of the Northern Territory, and creeps into Queensland and South Australia. Crossing it is not for the faint-hearted, but the rewards are rich including seeing the desert come to life with colour when the spring wildflowers bloom.

 

If you don’t want to go it alone, there are a number of tour companies plying the desert dunes and tracks: Tri State Safaris do a 12-day Simpson Desert Crossing; Outback Spirit offers a 14-day Simpson Desert Expedition; and Tagalong Tours of Australia has 12-day Simpson Desert tours heading east to west or west to east.

45. Be the first onboard the Great Southern Rail

The magical 12 Apostles.

Great Southern Rail, operators of iconic rail journeys on The Ghan and Indian Pacific, is adding another epic Aussie journey to its roster, with the launch of the Great Southern in December this year.

 

Be one of the first onboard as the train travels from Brisbane to Adelaide over four days and three nights, cruising through the NSW north coast (day one), stopping in the Hunter Valley on day two, and exploring the Great Ocean Road and the iconic 12 Apostles, before arriving into the South Australian capital. Prices start from $2299 per person, but the satisfaction of being the first in line is priceless.

46. Stay at Sal Salis and explore Ningaloo Reef

Sal Salis, a beach-side safari camp.

Ningaloo Reef; these two words inspire such longing in those who imagine one day exploring this staggering natural wonder, home to over 500 types of fish and some 250 coral species. Of course, if you are going to go all the way there (it’s just shy of 1200 kilometres from Perth) you might as well stay somewhere that’s truly of its location. Somewhere like Sal Salis, a beach-side safari camp tucked into the dunes where life is metred out by nothing more than the rising and setting of the sun.

47. Visit the Whitsundays

In the ultimate example of a silver lining, the disastrous summer of early 2017 that brought devastating Cyclone Debbie, damaging these two Whitsundays staple resorts beyond immediate repair, resulted in two fabulous and headline-making island makeovers.

 

The most northerly of the Whitsundays archipelago, stylish Hayman Island throws open its doors in July 2019 with a swathe of new delights including five new bars and restaurants, a luxe new spa and a fresh take on watersports.

 

he more central Daydream Island has already reopened to much fanfare, with a renewed focus on eco-tourism; its Living Reef signature experience has been developed to make the resort’s show-stopping lagoon, wrapped around the main resort, even more of a draw. Guests are invited to wade right in amongst the rays, fish and small sharks, or simply enjoy it all from the underwater observatory.

48. Embrace luxury on a private jet

There’s luxury, and then there’s the take-no-prisoners, entirely uncompromising ironclad commitment to exclusivity and service that leads to the kind of journey Captain’s Choice provides. Its voyages hop from bucket-list destination to destination with the kind of dreamy insouciance reserved for the very, very rich. But if you are looking for the travel experience to end all travel experiences, cast an eye over its range of Journeys by Private Jet.

 

The upcoming Gourmet Trail of the Southern Coast is for those who like to employ all the senses. Jetting across the country, the flight begins in Perth, popping in for a casual limited-release wine-paired seven courses at Voyager Estate in Margaret River, ducks over to shuck world-famous oysters in South Australia’s Coffin Bay, then takes in a gastronomic journey of Kangaroo Island via Southern Ocean Lodge executive chef Asher Blackford’s four-course, wine-matched extravaganza.

 

Drop in to Mount Gambier’s Coonawarra region for an exclusive showing at Yalumba’s The Menzies vineyard, then finish in Mona’s cutting-edge The Source Restaurant in Hobart, complete with a private tour of the museum’s winery – but of course.

49. Cruise from Hobart to Antarctica

A weathered tabular iceberg, just offshore from the Italian Antarctic base, at Terra Nova Bay, in the Ross Sea.

There are few destinations left in the world as seemingly unreachable, as immense and fragile, as Antarctica. Yet reachable it certainly is, with a surprising 40,000 travellers, give or take, venturing to its remote, icy reaches via cruise ship. The path less travelled, though, remains the cruising route from our own Hobart (most travel from South America), with only two operators, Chimu Adventures and Eclipse Travel, plying the waters of the Southern Ocean through to East Antarctica and the likes of fascinating Macquarie Island and gobsmacking McMurdo Sound.

50. Where to see platypus in the wild

An emblematic sight.

This famously shy little monotreme is made for stealth, but here are some likely spots where, if you put on your patient face, you just might score the ultimate sighting.

Latrobe, Tas

The riverside boardwalks in Warrawee Forest Reserve are what locals call the Platypus Capital of the World.

Lake Elizabeth, Vic

Paddle your canoe oh… so… gently at sunrise or sunset, and you may glimpse a shiny back or two.

Nymboida River, NSW

The riverside camping area in Nymboi-Binderay National Park up from Pollacks Bridge is named Platypus Flat. We like their confidence.

Maleny, Qld

Stroll the boardwalk to the wetlands and the old pump house and at best, you’ll spot a cute little critter. If not you’ll have enjoyed this gorgeous hinterland town.

DEALS

Australia’s best cultural experiences

Take a tour of Ballarat’s thriving arts, design and dining scene, and travel the country to uncover some unexpected cultural highlights.

51. Ballarat’s cultural places to eat and drink

Ballarat's Pub With Two Names

Renowned artists, David and Yuge Bromley, gave Ballarat’s Pub With Two Names a creative makeover.

This formative era defines the streetscape of Ballarat today, and new life is being breathed into Ballarat’s attractive heritage buildings and industrial spaces.

 

When Mitchell Harris Wines opened in a 140-year-old former produce store, tentmakers and motor workshop in 2013, it stood out in the city’s hospitality landscape as a pocket of Melbourne-style quality and cool. Fast forward six years and while this rustic-chic wine bar, which showcases cold-climate wines of the local regions as well as Mitchell Harris’s own, is still at the top of its game, the bar has been raised around it.

 

Lost Ones Gallery and Bar is a basement bar of a contemporary art gallery that used to be a masonic temple. It serves cocktails made with pine foraged from a nearby forest and is styled with eclectic furnishings foraged from Gumtree.

 

Tucked away down a laneway in the CBD, Hydrant Food Hall is a great breakfast and lunch spot in an atmospheric old warehouse space. And five minutes’ walk from here is The Pub With Two Names – a heritage pub that was reopened in 2018 following a creative makeover by renowned artists David and Yuge Bromley. Its relaxed menu focuses on its South American-style charcoal grill.

 

The pièce de résistance of Ballarat’s new foodie wave is located in a space with no sign at the door. Underbar is chef Derek Boath’s 16-seat fine diner that opens on Friday and Saturday evenings to serve a tasting menu shaped by the seasons and surrounds.

 

52. Aboriginal fairs and festivals

Darwin Aboriginal Art fair

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair represents the work of over 2000 artists. Credit: Murray Hilton

If you’re an art, design and music lover, there’s no better time to visit Darwin than August. Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is one of the most dynamic of its kind: it hosts over 70 remote community Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned art centres, representing the work of over 2000 artists and offering visitors the chance to purchase work ethically with 90 per cent of sales going back to the communities.

 

The fair (9-11 August) complements the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, and takes place in the same week as the National Indigenous Music Awards and Garma Festival.

53. Art galleries in NSW

The Margaret Olley Art Centre

The Margaret Olley Art Centre can be found on the NSW North Coast.

Is there something about Australia’s hinterlands that attract hidden pockets of creativity? In the Noosa Hinterland you’ll find a pioneer of Pop Art who has created a large-scale studio and gallery, and in the NSW North Coast Hinterland, there’s the Margaret Olley Art Centre.

 

Part of the Tweed Regional Gallery in the picturesque town of Murwillumbah, this purpose-built centre looks like a slick contemporary art gallery from the outside, but inside it’s a different story. Here, parts of Margaret Olley’s Sydney terrace house – which served as the much-loved Australian artist’s home studio for nearly 50 years – have been faithfully reconstructed.

 

The Hat Factory and the Yellow Room contain a treasure trove of paintings, objets d’art and household clutter belonging to the artist, who spent many of her childhood years here in the local area.

54. Ground-breaking architecture

We can’t wait to see what Pritzker Prize-winning architect Glenn Murcutt pulls out of the bag when his design for MPavilion – the country’s leading architectural commission and hub that is installed in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens – is unveiled in 2019. He’s long been famous for his innovative and environmentally sensitive buildings that are rooted in Australia’s culture and topography, and at the age of 82, he’s still delighting and surprising us. Ten years in the making and completed in 2016, the Australian Islamic Centre is one of his most ambitious projects to date.

 

Located in the Melbourne suburb of Hobsons Bay and designed in collaboration with local Islamic architect Hakan Elevli, it’s a striking space for both Muslims and non-Muslims that brings a contemporary slant to traditional mosque design, with lantern-like skylights acting in lieu of a minaret. And in Lightning Ridge in outback NSW, a $34-million opal museum designed by Murcutt has been given the green light: watch this space.

55. Adelaide’s biggest festivals

Adelaide’s two longest running, marquee festivals turn 60 in 2020. Adelaide Festival, which runs over 17 days each March, and Adelaide Fringe which runs for four weeks each year in February and March, both started life in 1960. Expect packed programs and exciting collaborations, such as Adelaide Festival’s exclusive partnership with one of the world’s best classical music festivals, Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence in France. This collaboration, which will launch at upcoming Adelaide Festival, will see the two festivals co-produce and co-commission major operatic productions over a three-year period.

 

Meanwhile, the Fringe has won the bid to host Fringe World Congress in 2020. This gathering of international Fringe directors and organisers from across the world will be held in the southern hemisphere for the first time and is a major coup for South Australia’s arts community. Expect it to further raise the profile of Australia’s ‘festival state’ as an arts destination.

56. The NGV’s best exhibitions

NGV Terracotta Warriers

Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality and Cai Guo-Qiang.

Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria just keeps on giving in the culture stakes, from fashion blockbusters like the House of Dior to contemporary works of modern masters like David Hockney: Current. This winter’s epic exhibition is no exception.

 

Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality and Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape is a dual presentation of Chinese art and culture from both the past and present. The former will see a large-scale presentation of the Qin Emperor’s Terracotta Warriors – the so-called ‘eighth wonder of the world’, while the latter sees contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang create all-new artworks inspired by China’s culture and traditions.

57. Discover the Art Deco town of Innisfail

Historic Blue Bird Cafe building, now housing the Bodhi Cafe

Find the Historic Blue Bird Cafe building, now housing the Bodhi Cafe, in Innisfail.

You might not expect to find one of Australia’s biggest bounties of Art Deco buildings in a town in Far North Queensland, but this is what you get in Innisfail – where Art Deco meets the Great Barrier Reef. The CBD of this once-prosperous sugar cane town was largely rebuilt in the style of the day following a cyclone that destroyed much of it in 1918. Explore its bold and colourful buildings on The Innisfail Town Walk or take a tour of the landmark Johnstone Shire Hall, which was said to ‘rival any hall built in Sydney’ when it opened.

58. Go to the festivals in Alice Springs

The Fab-Alice Mardi Gras

The Fab-Alice Mardi Gras is worth planning your Alice Springs trip around.

With groundbreaking Parrtjima – A Festival in Light going from strength to strength each year, fusing ancient culture with modern technology, and Fab-Alice Mardis Gras fresh from giving Sydney a run for its money with its inaugural event, Alice Springs is becoming a cultural destination in its own right. So consider planning your next trip to the Red Centre around its cultural calendar.

59. Listen to the talks at Australia’s writers’ festivals

The Sydney Writers’ Festival at Carriageworks.

The Sydney Writers’ Festival at Carriageworks. Credit: Prudence Upton

From Melbourne to Mildura, Byron to Brisbane and the Kimberley to Canberra, writers’ festivals around Australia are truly world-class, attracting top local and international talent and providing the perfect excuse to do something different of a weekend.

60. Even more art at Uluru

Opera Australia

The first ever Opera Australia performance at Uluru is coming in 2019.

From Field of Light to creative fine dining experiences and ancient and contemporary Aboriginal painting, the scope for transformative art set against the iconic Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park feels endless. And now for the first time ever on Saturday 2 November, Opera Australia will perform here in a blend of music, art and landscape. Presented by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, the concert will include famous arias from Bizet, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi.