At a time where Aussies are usually flocking to Europe or organising other overseas holidays, the question bids - where to go instead?
Expedia research revealed more than 80 per cent of Aussies admit to having a lack of knowledge on all the great holiday spots across Australia, with many of them on par with plenty of popular overseas hotspots.
With international travel off the cards for the foreseeable future, Australians now have an opportunity to rediscover and reconnect with what makes our country one of the top destinations for global travellers (without the crowds!).
So, we’ve uncovered some top spots in the country that will have you feeling like you’re overseas.
Recreate Route 66 on a road trip across the Nullarbor or Australia’s Great Outback Way, swap the Greek Islands for the Whitsundays, or transport yourself to Bali within the Daintree Forest, and so much more.
Dreaming of Mexico
Mount Gambier’s sinkholes and cenotes (SA)
Mexico is well known for their dramatic sinkholes, but you can also find them in Mount Gambier on South Australia’s limestone coast. The Umpherston Sinkhole, also known as The Sunken Garden, is a beautiful spot for a picnic and is also home to local possums who you can feed when they come out at dusk. Other renowned ‘sinkholes’ in the area include Hell’s Holes, Caroline Sinkhole and Kilsby Sinkhole, all of which feature plunging gardens, aquatic formations and their own distinctive features and plant life.
South Australia’s iconic pink lakes (SA)
Contrasting colours of pink, blue and green create the striking scene that is Lake MacDonnell in South Australia’s breathtaking Eyre Peninsula. Sometimes called Watermelon Avenue, it features a narrow track that divides the pink waters of Lake MacDonnell with the neighbouring blue-green waterscape. Other pink lakes in South Australia include the stunning Lake Eyre in Outback South Australia, Lake Bumbunga, which is less than a two-hour drive from Adelaide, and Lake Hart, which you can see onboard the Indian Pacific or the Explorer’s Way road trip through the Outback.
Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef (WA)
Swimming with whale sharks is one of life’s most breathtaking experiences. Ningaloo Marine Park is the only place on the planet where large numbers visit every year from April to July, so close to land. Strict protections are in place to care for threatened species and all charter boats collect data for scientists and conservationists to ensure Ningaloo’s aquatic visitors stay safe. Join a tour in Exmouth or Coral Bay and pick a boat with its own spotter plane for best results.
Cactus Country (VIC)
Located in Strathmerton in Victoria, Cactus Country is a 12-acre garden that is home to thousands of varieties of cacti that will transport you to a far away Mexican desert landscape, surrounded by beautiful plants and sandy walking trails that take you away to the other side of the world. There are plenty of activities for the whole family; find a new favourite plant to take home, enjoy ice cold margaritas and Mexican beers in the sun, and be sure to try the famous cactus cake and ice cream too!
If you wanted an escape to the Galapagos Islands
Journey to another world at Lord Howe Island (NSW)
Scheduled to reopen in September, a visit to Lord Howe Island in springtime is like a journey into another world; birdsong fills the clean air and lush mountainous terrain rises up all around you. Bikes are the mode of transport and the top activities include walking out to Kim’s Lookout and Malabar Hill, snorkelling in the lagoon from the beach, playing a round of golf on the picturesque Lord Howe Island Golf Course, glass bottom boat tours of the lagoon and feeding wild fish by hand at Neds Beach. Keen hikers can climb Mount Gower which rises 852m (2,795 ft) from the sea. Rated one of the world’s 10 best hikes, the walk takes around eight hours and provides incredible views of World Heritage-listed Island.
Spot nesting sea turtles in the Sunshine State (QLD)
The Sunshine State is a turtle haven, with six out of seven of the world’s sea turtle species calling the Great Barrier Reef home. Every year, Queensland beaches are swarmed by thousands of baby turtles marching their way to the sea from their sandy nests. It’s a magical sight to behold that if not already on your bucket list, should be placed there immediately. Between January to March is when the majority of Queensland’s shelled residents make their way to the shoreline. Or between November and January, eggs are laid as the summer heat warms the sand to help incubate the eggs, with hatching commencing six to eight weeks later. You can spot these magical animals in the Capricorn Coast and Gladstone Region, Tropical North Queensland or Southern Great Barrier Reef.
Had plans to travel to California
All that glitters is gold on the Gold Coast (QLD)
The Gold Coast has an abundance of attractions and experiences to suit every type of traveller. Get your adrenaline pumping at the famous theme parks (various June and July opening dates - check websites for details), skydive over the beach (now open) or learn to surf at any one of the incredible beaches that dot the coastline, including the famous Surfers Paradise. Grab dinner and a drink amongst a range of classic American rock memorabilia at the famous Hard Rock Cafe (reopening 19 June) or enjoy a 20th century diner experience at Easy Street Diner (now open). If you’re more into lounging poolside and feeling like a celebrity, stay in the eclectic new Pink Hotel in Coolangatta or head to one of the many incredible day spas.
Check into the balmy, open-air designed Calile Hotel in Brisbane (QLD)
Touted as Brisbane’s very first urban resort, the Calile Hotel (reopening in July) fully embraces Queensland's tropical flair. With a design aesthetic that wouldn't look out of place in Palm Springs, this uber-cool hotel has palm trees galore with alfresco dining, cabanas, and a lot of pink. While you're there, be sure to make a reservation at the hotel's award-winning poolside modern Greek restaurant, Hellenika, or explore further afield and make a booking at any one of Brisbane’s new restaurants. With food precincts mixing snacking, socialising and sunshine, without conforming to a single genre, Brisbane’s new wave of restaurants, small bars and creative cafes are distinctively, well, Brisbane.
Recreate Route 66
Take Australia’s longest shortcut on the Great Outback Way (WA/NT/QLD)
Once interstate borders are open, travel through the heart of Australia with a 2,700 kilometre adventure from Laverton in Australia’s South West all the way to Winton in Far North Queensland on Australia’s Great Outback Way. The trip is a true Outback experience, weaving through Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland; be sure to plan your trip before you embark and map the best stops for fuel, food and sleep. You’ll be captivated by the deep ancient red landscapes, particularly from Docker River through to Laverton, enthralled by the mysterious Min Min lights and enlightened by the rich Aboriginal culture and abundant art along the way. Stay at Gem Tree for a well earned break to enjoy some fossicking, jewellery making and camp oven dinners.
Hit the road and cross the famous Nullarbor Plain (SA/WA)
If you really want to experience the beauty of Australia’s wide open spaces, the Nullarbor Plain is the road trip for you. About 1,200 kilometres at its widest point, this route includes the amazing sea cliffs of the Great Australian Bight accessible by a short detour from the highway, where you can go fishing from cliff tops or see migrating whales offshore. There is an abundance of wildlife, including kangaroos, emus, dingoes and wedge-tailed eagles, and many interesting little towns, roadhouses and restaurants to visit and stay in along the way. You'll find caves and old gold mining towns, as well the remains of a space station that crashed to earth. It famously includes the longest straight stretch of road in Australia, and will take you three to four days to drive from Perth to Adelaide.
Grand Canyon on your bucket list
Uluru and Kings Canyon (NT)
If you aspire to visit the world’s many wondrous rock formations, be sure to add Australia’s very own Uluru to the top of the list! Imbued with spirituality and a rich Aboriginal history, watching Uluru change colours at sunrise or sunset is one of Outback Australia's most unmissable experiences. But there is much more than just the famous Uluru to see in the Red Centre, including the towering Kings Canyon, a three-hour drive from Ayers Rock Resort (re-opening 1 August). If you’re an early riser, trekking to the rim of Kings Canyon for breathtaking views across the rugged bluffs and gorges of Watarrka National Park for sunrise is a must-do. You can stay in the nearby Kings Canyon Resort (welcoming guests from 1 July) and enjoy gourmet meals served by firelight.
The United Kingdom
Scotland on your list
Enjoy a tour of Australia’s southernmost whisky distilleries (TAS)
With crisp fresh air and water, you can get a taste of some of Australia’s best whisky in Tasmania's burgeoning distillery industry. Located in the rugged wilderness of the Tasman Peninsula, the cosy McHenry Distillery produces a range of smooth, uniquely Australian spirits. Don’t miss the Sloe Gin, crafted using berries foraged from the hedgerows around northern Tasmania. Meanwhile, in the heart of Hobart there is Lark Distillery, which has grown to be one of the top malt whisky distillers in the country, creating premium spirits with time-honoured methods. You can visit both cellar doors for a taste of their pure Tasmanian whisky and gin, including over 150 malt whiskies at Lark.
Hit the golf course in some of Australia’s most scenic settings (TAS)
Located along the wild and remote coast of Northeast Tasmania and ranked second in Australia, The Dunes Course at Barnbougle Golf Resort has gained a reputation as one of the world’s most impressive links courses. The fourth hole boasts the largest bunker in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Complete your trip with a day at Barnbougle Lost Farm, one of Australia’s most visually spectacular golfing experiences. Lost Farm Lodge offers stylish accommodation overlooking the golf course or the ocean, and the restaurant sources the finest Tasmanian produce and wines for memorable meals.
Stay at the Ship Inn in the quaint town of Stanley (TAS)
There's never been a shortage of pubs in Tasmania, and at 170 years, the Ship Inn Stanley isn't the oldest pub, but it is one of Tasmania’s newest lures. Welcoming guests since mid-2019, the Ship Inn is nestled at the base of The Nut and overlooking the panorama of the windswept bay of Stanley - possibly the most picturesque town on the state's north-western coast. Built in 1849, the Ship Inn has reinvented itself as a unique guest house. The town itself is quaint and steeped in history with stylish antique shops, galleries and wine bars, and a renowned bakery.
Escape to the mountains with a stay on the cliffside in Katoomba (NSW)
Located in the Blue Mountains, the town of Katoomba sits on the edge of a cliff, offering breathtaking views of the spectacular Three Sisters rock formation. It is also well known for its gorgeous Art Deco architecture and shopping. Browse antique stores, vintage emporiums and quirky thrift stores on the main strip, Katoomba Street. From here, it's a five-minute car ride to the gorgeous garden village of Leura, where the shopping gets even better. Here, a selection of gorgeously Instagrammable cafés line the main street. Have a tapas-style lunch at Leura Garage, which does a fantastic cheese board, then return to Katoomba via the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, where you can make your own hot drink from silky smooth couverture chocolate (check their website for up to date opening hours). Have dinner or cocktails at the luxe Carrington Hotel, and stay in style at the Victorian-era Lilianfels Resort & Spa or in the stunning old-world surrounds of the Hydro Majestic.
Unwind at the picturesque seaside town of Port Fairy (VIC)
Situated in a picturesque nook of the Great Ocean Road, the historic fishing township of Port Fairy is one of the most beautiful seaside villages you will find. Enjoy a stroll around the fisherman’s wharf and charming whitewashed cottages before sitting down for lunch at the cutting edge local restaurant, Fen - just be sure to book well in advance to secure a seat at this two-hatted restaurant! Spend your afternoon wandering through the array of boutique stores and art centres, where you can even watch glass blowing! After a day on your feet, settle in for afternoon tea at Time & Tide Tearoom (re-opening 27 June) or something a little stronger at the nearby Suffoir Winery, Brewery and Cidery, before enjoying a restful night at the boutique hotel, Drift House.
Ireland’s iconic coastline
Journey down Tasmania’s Wild Western coastline (TAS)
Tasmania’s spectacular western region is much more than the rugged and remote coastline it is renowned for. Leaving Hobart behind as you embark on your Western Wilds journey, take in the glacier-sculpted landscapes of Mount Field National Park, Russell Falls and Lake Dobson, Southwest National Park and Lake Pedder, before arriving at the ‘99 Bends’ between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown, which offer sweeping curves and magnificent views that are acclaimed as being some of the best in Australia. Views don’t get any better than the unique wilderness of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area.
Experience the iconic Great Ocean Road (VIC)
The spectacular Great Ocean Road winds alongside 243 kilometres of the wild and windswept Southern Ocean. Home to craggy cliffs, empty beaches and bountiful wildlife, there's an effortless affinity with nature along this iconic road. And with epic surf and unforgettable hikes, you'll find plenty of adventure around every corner. You'll see the famous Twelve Apostles, historic lighthouses, and visit waterfront cafés and hotels with sea views. Stay for a couple of nights at one of the seaside towns or do the return trip in a day.
Bali trip cancelled?
Aussies who were hoping for a tranquil escape in Bali or Thailand can sub it out for Tropical North Queensland. The beautiful rainforests, nature and coastlines will have Aussies feeling a world away. For the nature lovers and adventure seekers, Aussies won’t be able to spot the difference at Daintree Ecolodge, located amongst the canopy of the world’s oldest living rainforest.
Jungles of South-East Asia
Immerse yourself in the natural and cultural beauty of Tropical North Queensland (QLD)
You can trek through all five climatic types of rainforest in Queensland. In Tropical North Queensland, the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics includes Kuranda Rainforest and the Daintree – the oldest tropical rainforest on earth. If you’re looking for a warm winter escape, head to Tropical North Queensland for a natural and cultural experience you won't soon forget. Connect with Indigenous Australian spirituality with Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel (running tours from 1 July), which invites you to step back into the Great Barrier Reef’s Dreamtime with Indigenous sea rangers on a day tour to two spectacular outer Great Barrier Reef sites, Moore Reef & Milln or Flynn Reef. Then hit the jungle with Daintree Rainforest Tours from Port Douglas (available from 1 July), to experience the rich diversity of the Daintree Rainforest through various national park walks.
Let your hair down and experience a vibrant nightlife at Airlie Beach (QLD)
Gateway to the Whitsundays, Airlie Beach is a coastal town of palm-fringed beaches, waterfront parks and alfresco restaurants. Spend a few days exploring before you head off on your island holiday where you’ll find plenty of action, from sailing to scuba diving to skydiving. The Airlie Beach markets are starting back up 27 June and are held every Saturday morning on the esplanade for locally made jewellery, clothes and crafts. Packed with top restaurants, cafes and nightlife, Airlie Beach provides the tempo of an aquatic playground, with nearby retreats to tropical rainforest and waterfalls in Conway National Park.
Swap South-East Asia’s fisheries for an Australian angler’s paradise:
Cast a line on the Great Barrier Reef (QLD)
What keen angler could resist a sustainable fishing trip to the Great Barrier Reef? A staggering 300,000 square kilometres (116,000 square miles) of pristine waters, idyllic islands and unbelievably beautiful coral cays make up the reef, and charter boats will take you to places where it feels like no-one has ever fished before. Black and blue marlin, sailfish, dogtooth tuna, giant trevally and wahoo are among the incredible creatures that call the Great Barrier Reef home. Operators up and down the reef include Far North Sports Fishing, East Coast Angling, Renegade Fishing Charters and the luxury live-aboard Elizabeth EII.
Catch a Barra at the Top End (NT)
Catching a big barra is top of the bucket list for many anglers, and the tidal estuaries and rivers of the Northern Territory are among the best places to do it. The Top End also offers some spectacular blue-water sport fishing — with longtail tuna, queen fish and Spanish mackerel among the most popular species. The choice of operators and fishing experiences in the Top End is almost as vast as the array of fish. Set up camp in Arnhem Land or on the Cobourg Peninsula. You can even jump aboard a helicopter to go heli-fishing - whatever floats your (fishing) boat.
Can’t sail the Greek Islands
Experience luxury by sailing through the Whitsunday Islands (QLD)
It's hard to beat the romance of sailing through the Whitsunday Islands. Think spectacular sunsets, clear moonlit nights, secluded beaches and pure air. You can sail, swim, snorkel and dive at sheltered anchorages such as Blue Pearl, Butterfly and Hook Island bays. Visit Whitsunday Island and walk the pure white, silica sands of Whitehaven Beach. Several cruise companies will provide you with all that you need, including Sailing Whitsundays, Aquarius and Prosail. Alternatively, be the captain of your own ship on a “bareboating” holiday, in which you hire a boat and sail yourself around the Whitsunday Islands without a crew. Most bareboats sleep between six and 12 people - all you need is a drivers licence and common sense, and after a thorough briefing, you are free to explore the sights and resorts of the Whitsundays.
Swap a European food adventure
Eat and drink your way through the Epicurean Way (SA)
The Epicurean Way seamlessly links together the four iconic wine regions of McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Barossa and Clare Valley, and offers an unparalleled experience in Australia. Local produce, together with a superb array of wines and spectacular scenery all come together on this four day food and wine drive, perfect for foodie friends - and a few “siestas” in between! Some of the wineries you can visit along the way are listed as among the ultimate winery experiences in Australia and include d'Arenberg, Seppeltsfield and The Lane Vineyard.
Kick back in the Margaret River (WA)
The Margaret River region is known around the world for its top quality wines and food. While the region produces less than three per cent of Australia's wine, it accounts for more than a fifth of its premium wine. There are more than 120 world-class wineries to explore, including Vasse Felix (re-opening 25 June), Leeuwin (re-opening 3 July) and Voyager Estate, and opportunities to not only try fine wines, but get beyond the cellar doors. At Vasse Felix, every aspect of the winemaking process is controlled within the estate, allowing every batch to be carefully crafted. Visit the cellar door to sample a selection, or book an in-depth tasting experience in the exclusive vault.
Escape the city to the Hunter Valley (NSW)
Known for its unique expression of semillon, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales is the oldest wine region in Australia. Just under 3.5 hours from Sydney by car, the Hunter is home to some of Australia’s most famous winemaking families, like Tulloch and Tyrrell. At Audrey Wilkinson, visitors can expect to taste rich semillon and earthy shiraz as they enjoy a view of the expansive valley dotted with vineyards. Tyrrell’s Wines offers a daily winery tour that takes guests behind the scenes of one of the region’s oldest estates as well as premium private tastings.
Head inland to the Yarra Valley (VIC)
Transport yourself away on an inland road trip through Victoria’s picturesque Yarra Valley, where you can enjoy sublime local wines along the way. Be sure to check out Giant Steps for a delicious cellar door tasting. Although the region is known for food and wine, Healesville is worth a stop to check out some of the region’s most talented artists. As the French have long established, pairings don’t get much better than a fine wine and accompanying painting.
Cool down in the Canberra Wine Region (ACT)
A cool climate, varied vineyard elevations and different soil types have made the Canberra District Wine Region an ideal spot for winemaking. Sangiovese, riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, shiraz, tempranillo and rare varieties such as grüner veltliner are all produced in this region. Home to 140 vineyards and more than 30 boutique cellar doors, a visit to the wineries is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Wineries such as Four Winds Vineyard, Clonkilla and Helm Wines are open and are taking bookings. Be sure to check opening times and capacity requirements.
Experience the wonder of the Northern Lights
Head south for the magnificent Aurora Australis (TAS)
Like its Northern Hemisphere counterpart, the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) illuminate the night sky with flickering shades of green, blue, purple and red. The Southern Lights can be viewed all year round – although most commonly during winter, May to August, and during the spring equinox in September. Aurora Australis is visible from several spots across the country, but your best chance of witnessing this phenomenon is from Australia’s southernmost state - Tasmania. Head to Bruny Island, Satellite Island, Bathurst Harbour and Cradle Mountain for the beautiful low-light conditions you need to spot the glimmering light show.
After waterfalls or a wild safari?
Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Kakadu National Park (NT)
Get up close with some of Northern Territory’s most beautiful wildlife in Kakadu National Park, where a number of tours can take you throughout this vast wilderness. About one third of Australia's bird species are represented in Kakadu, with at least 60 species found in the wetlands. Whistling Ducks and Magpie Geese are the most abundant. Eagles can be seen hovering searching for prey, and at times you will see distinctive Jabirus and may even get to see Brolgas dancing. Yellow Water Cruises operates year round, with sunrise and sunset cruises where you can see the beautiful sky light up and illuminate the birdlife, as well as crocodiles along the billabong and buffaloes grazing on the floodplains.
Meet a giraffe at Jamala Wildlife Lodge (ACT)
If you’re interested in booking into unique accommodation, be sure to check into the Jamala Wildlife Lodge. Sleep in a luxurious African-inspired timber-clad room with nothing but a glass wall separating you from the lion's den. Or take up a bed in a Giraffe Treehouse and wake up to five metre tall neighbours. Jamala is a conservation first and foremostly, providing a sanctuary to some of the world's most endangered and dangerous animals.
Weave from fall to fall on Queensland’s Waterfall Circuit (QLD)
From reef to Outback, through rainforest and grasslands, driving through North Queensland is an unforgettable travel experience. Take a journey on the Waterfall Circuit from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands to see some incredible lookouts and waterfalls that will continue to amaze at every turn.
Swim under waterfalls in the Territory’s Litchfield National Park (NT)
When it comes to swimming in the wild, it doesn’t get much better than the pools of Litchfield National Park, around a three-hour drive north of Katherine. Home to several sublime waterfalls, it’s one of the Northern Territory's best swimming spots. The most popular place to get wet is Wangi Falls, where there is an accessible ramp into the large natural swimming pool surrounded by rainforest, a kiosk and large grassy picnic area. The twin waterfalls that feed into a deep plunge pool beneath Florence Falls are just as special, and families love Buley Rockhole, a chain of spa-like shallow pools linked by small cascades. You can camp at both Wangi and Florence Falls, or stay in one of the cabins at nearby Litchfield Tourist Park.
Experience the truly unique Horizontal Falls (WA)
Described by David Attenborough as “Australia’s most unusual natural wonder”, Horizontal Falls in the Kimberley region of Western Australia is a natural phenomenon that is as intriguing as it is beautiful. There are two horizontal waterfalls in Western Australia and both can be found in Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago. These incredible natural wonders are the work of some of the largest tidal movements in the world, which flow in two different ways each day, creating a unique waterfall effect. You can view the falls from sea tours which depart from Broome.
Slopes and hot spring
Indulge in Aussie hot springs (NSW/VIC)
Known as Victoria’s spa country, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are home to more than 140 mineral springs, with resorts that allow you to soak up their health-giving properties in luxury. Try the Lake House Daylesford or the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa to combine a soak with some more indulgent therapies. The Hepburn area's therapeutic mineral springs are rich with potassium, magnesium, silica and chloride, making for the perfect remedial detox. Head down to the Mornington Peninsula to experience the day spa at Peninsula Hot Springs or the bubble-free, turquoise rock pools at Blairgowrie Back Beach.
In New South Wales, banish the winter blues and slip into one of the many natural hot springs scattered across the state. In Kosciuszko National Park near Canberra find locals' favorite, Yarrangobilly Cave Thermal Pool, or in New South Wales Country head to Lighting Ridge Hot Bore Baths or Burren Junction Bore Baths.
Head south and hit the slopes this ski season (NSW/VIC)
As winter descends on Australia, the country's ski fields open for (snow) business across New South Wales and Victoria. In New South Wales, skiers and snowboarders can head south to find a slope to tear up at Perisher, Thredbo or Charlotte Pass, all of which include an array of great accommodation and runs for every level of experience. For those heading to Victoria, you will find incredible ski fields at Falls Creek, Mount Hotham and Mount Buller, which are all a comfortable drive from Melbourne and include ski-in/ski-out villages. With lift passes in hot demand, just be sure to book well in advance!
As restrictions and boarder closures continue to evolve we recommend checking local government websites before booking anything.