Pack your bag for these uniquely Australian experiences
It’s time to see Australia through fresh eyes, and these unsung wonders are just the ticket.
From little-known geological anomalies to just-opened luxury digs, consider adding these destinations to your must-see list and discover a fresh twist on tourism which helps to protect and spotlight a new constellation of natural and cultural treasures.
Curl the sand in your toes along the beaches of Esperance, WA
For a country of sun-worshipers, it’s no surprise that the two-year lockdown became an unofficial, low-key search party for Australia’s best beach.
And if Instragram “likes” are any indication, the top prize seems to have gone to the lonely town of Esperance along Western Australia’s desolate southern coastline, over 400 miles southeast of Perth. Esperance took not just first place, but second and third as well.
That’s because the sprawled-out town of 15,000 claims three wildly different beach experiences in its vicinity.
The talc-white sands of Twilight Beach and Lucky Bay form sweeping white landscapes – with the addition of friendly kangaroo footprints. Hellfire Bay, with views of a distant archipelago out to sea that is home to a thriving colony of seals and sea lions.
A bonus prize goes to Lake Hillier, not a beach for swimming per se, but another spectacular body of water, tinged pink from its high salinity.
Check into one of Melbourne’s exciting new hotels
For all the logistical hurdles it’s been dealt in the last two years, Melbourne’s hotel scene has emerged from the pandemic completely revitalized, with easily a half dozen high-profile openings.
Several, including the kaleidoscopic W (shown) and the plush new Ritz-Carlton Melbourne, with its lavish lobby on the 80th floor overlooking the city, are in the central business sistrict.
A bit beyond the city center, Four Seasons will soon anchor a new gleaming tower along Southbank, and hip Australian hotelier Ovolo just swung open its doors in posh South Yarra right on trendy Toorak Road.
View ancient rock art in Arnhem Land
A vast and sacred realm for the indigenous peoples of northern Australia, Arnhem Land requires entry permits granted by the governing aboriginal trust.
It's part of a concerted attempt to safeguard its monolithic rock art sites and marine reserves against overtourism.
Attain a permit through responsible tour operators like Venture North or Lords Safaris, and spend the greater part of a week exploring sites like Mount Borradaile – with its intricate anthropomorphic rock art carvings – and the jutting tropical fjords of Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, whose deep, undulating inlets are home to tuna, sharks, and a gigantic jackfish known as travelly.
Base yourself at Venture North’s zero-waste Cobourg Coastal Camp where glamping tents are dotted along a cliff’s edge offering unobstructed views of the tranquil marine park down below.
Enjoy a Sydneysider’s weekend down south
Like citizens of every other major city around the globe, Sydneysiders escaped the Big Smoke when the work week became more amorphous.
Most of them flocked in a southerly direction, buying up beach shacks along the coast in booming New South Wales’ towns like Kiama, Jervis Bay, and Shoalhaven.
Follow the crowd down and hang your hat in one of the new cabins at Jackson Ranch, three and half hours from Sydney where the forest meets the sea, or rent out Dovecote (shown), a luxury coastal farm stay with stark geometric details.
Try a variety of indigenous flavors at Paperbank Camp’s Gunyah Restaurant where foraged regional produce comes together in multi-ethnic dishes from French-style duck and desserts to Asian greens and rice.
In the evening, take a stroll along the beach, where bioluminescent plankton tinge the dark, crashing waves with a shade of Yves Klein blue.
Fly over Western Australia's Bungle Bungles
Like a thousand little Ulurus, all huddled together in the heart of the Outback, the Bungle Bungles tell a unique story of primeval gullies carved by ancient rivers and wind.
Today the stone mounds are explored by only a fifth of the number of visitors who tour the famed red-rock domes of Uluru.
They reveal hidden caves and crags, but are best explored from the air on a scenic helicopter flight. Have the heli drop you at El Questro or Berkeley River Lodge, two sumptuous adventure lodges that will help you explore more of the vast Kimberley
Road trip up Tasmania’s quiet, untouched east coast
Australia’s most scenic road trip isn’t on the mainland at all – instead, it links together some of Tasmania’s otherworldly seascapes.
Allow four days to make your way from Freycinet National Park, a winding peninsula of crescent beaches which whips out into the sea like a dragon’s tail, all the way up to the boulder-ridden shores of Binalong Bay. Essential stops include The Hazards, a small mountain range, where one should scramble up to the top of Mount Amos for panoramic views of the perfectly circular Wineglass Bay, the region’s most photographed beach.
The vast, crowd-free Friendly Beaches lie ahead; pass the village of Bicheno and you’ll reach the Bay of Fires - named poetically for the blazing pyres the bygone aboriginal population would light along its shores.
The name is still apt: these days, it’s flanked by huge granite boulders that have been turned orange by pervasive lichen, making them look like a coral reef that’s migrated onto the shore.
Slow down for small-town living in Mudgee, NSW
An emerging, award-winning wine scene is helping put Mudgee – an 1850s Wild West-style gold mining town in the Blue Mountains, three hours northwest from Sydney – on the map, but it’s the 100% aboriginal-owned Warrakirri Dining Experience (shown) that’s made the township an essential stop on any foodie’s itinerary.
The five-course, four-hour meal highlights not only endemic ingredients like crocodile, gum leaf, and foraged rainforest fruits, but weaves in live music and storytelling as well.
The result is elevated “bush tucker,” with dishes like saltbush dukkah-crusted kangaroo and pan-fried barramundi with finger lime.
Follow in the footsteps of Aboriginal explorers in WA’s François Peron National Park
It’s impossible to wrap your head around a 25,000-year-old culture in a single day. But you can try, on a quick visit with Wula Gura Nyinda, a tour company run by Darren “Capes” Capewell, a descendant of the nomadic Malgana people that once roamed the rugged Peron peninsula.
Fly in on a regional flight from Perth and pick the speed at which you cram in a wide array of activities, from short hikes and kayaking, to a soak at a warm artesian spring and didgeridoo-playing sessions.
What makes the itineraries stand out isn't how fast or slow you go, but Capes’ captivating retelling of local mythology and use of traditional “Songlines” navigation – skills that brings to life a reverence for the sleeping earth that’s been hard to find since the arrival of Europeans.
Slide below the waves in a submarine off the coast of Queensland
The Great Barrier Reef gets all the attention – good and bad, given widespread coral bleaching and diminishing sea life in recent years.
But a bit further south on the Sunshine Coast, near Brisbane, there’s a new, family-friendly way to see the seas, even for those who aren’t PADI-certified.
New operator Down Under Submarines offers families a new—and blue—perspective of our planet, with a submersible craft that can descend 30 meters below sea level (that’s as far as advanced recreational divers are allowed to go).
Up to 27 passengers at a time can make the trip, coming face to face with some 175 species of reef fish, vibrant corals, turtles, stingrays, and sharks, all visible from oversized portholes.
Sip premium wine and cider in South Australia’s Clare Valley
While South Australia’s Barossa Valley is perhaps the state’s best-known wine region, don’t overlook dry, mineral-forward Reislings and fruity ciders from the Clare Valley. The region is just 90 minutes further from Adelaide – just enough distance to foster intimate, crowd-free tastings at places like Grosset, which serves biodynamic pours from an old stone building that was once a buttery.
Spend the night nearby at Bungaree Station, a mid 19th-century sheep ranch that’s been lovingly converted into a family-run inn.
Back near Adelaide, tack on an extra evening (or five) at the brand-new Sequoia Lodge, which is vying to be South Australia’s most luxurious stay with an ambitious culinary program and tree-top views from glass- and timber-lined rooms.
Visit a groundbreaking new museum in Perth
Standing in stark contrast against the crimson brick of Perth’s historical downtown, Western Australia’s newest and sleekest museum, Boola Bardip, continues the city’s attempt to re-designate land to its original custodians – the Whadjuk Nyoongar people.
The museum’s name roughly means “many stories” in the local language, and its galleries highlight the incredible diversity of culture found across Western Australia.
One permanent exhibition includes a prehistoric-looking spin on a Hall of Minerals, paired with art that explores how Aboriginal communities think about the origins of creation; others revolve around contributions to greater Australian society and showcase cultural artifacts from ancient times through the modern day.
This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here