Australian scenes that make the rest of the world incredibly jealous
Right now, the rest of the world is dreaming wistfully of visiting Australia, and salivating over visions of white sand beaches, wildlife encounters and laid-back wineries. So, while we’ve got it all to ourselves, here’s how to dose up on the magic moments that everyone else is missing.
The harbourside haunts
Manly scenic walkway. Photo: James Horan
Sydney Harbour’s true beauty reveals itself while walking around the edge. And there are great walks on either side of the harbour. Half a day taking on the Spit Bridge to Manly route will bring rock carvings, waterfalls and packets of seemingly untouched national parkland, while Rose Bay to South Head is all about dinky little beaches, yachts and outrageously expensive mansions.
See also: One of the world’s best urban hikes is in Sydney, but many miss it
The island cruise
Whitehaven Beach, the Whitsundays, Queensland. Photo: Tourism Whitsundays
Hands-on sailing and drinks on the deck are as big a part of the Whitsundays cruise experience as stopping off for beach cricket on perfect white sand at spots like Whitehaven Beach. A big range of sailing adventures is available, though, ranging from unashamed party boats to more exclusive affairs with en-suite queen rooms, hot tubs and kayaks. See sailing-whitsundays.com
The winding coastal drive
The Great Ocean Road, hugging clifftops between beach towns and moody rock formations, is no great secret. Traffic can get bumper to bumper in parts on holiday weekends. But the key is to linger in Cape Otway, the bits everyone else rushes through en route to the Twelve Apostles. There’s some magnificent rainforest and clifftop bushwalking here – and you’ve an excellent chance of spotting koalas padding along the paths.
The quokka selfie
A quokka on Rottnest Island, Western Australia. Photo: James Vodicka
Half the planet seemingly wants a picture of themselves with one of Rottnest Island’s quokkas. There are always plenty hanging round the shops near the ferry jetty, but there are plenty of people here too – so hop on a bike, pedal round to a quiet beach and come back for the quokka pic later. Chances are you’ll spot plenty on the way anyway, with the edge of the golf course being a great bet. See rottnestisland.com
The street art laneway
Street artist creating graffiti at Hosier Lane in Melbourne. Photo: iStock
Melbourne’s Hosier Lane has cemented itself as one of the world’s great street art locations – it’s almost always chocka with tourists taking photos. But there’s often better work to be found in the other laneways, and as a bonus, there are top places to eat and drink their too. Try Croft Alley before dipping in for cocktails at the Croft Institute or ceviches at Pastuso on AC/DC Lane. See thecroftinstitute.com.au, pastuso.com.au
The unfolding outback
Flinders Ranges National Park Photo: iStock
There’s a great appeal to feeling alone on top of a rugged sandstone escarpment, seeing the earth unfold beneath you. And, once you’ve checked out the ancient rock art at the bottom, that’s what you get at the top of Ubirr in Kakadu National Park, staring out at the vast floodplains and seldom-visited Arnhemland. Similar sensations kick in throughout the Flinders Ranges, where a drive to the top of a hill or climb of Wilpena Pound offer vast scenes of the big, dry empty.
The Red Centre sunset
Kata Tjuta Photo: Alamy
The classic views of Uluru changing colours as the sun goes down come from the designated (and thus pretty darned busy) sunset viewing area. Try the sunrise area at Talinguru Nyakunytjaku instead, and you might not get all the colours, but you will get the sun going down in the sky almost behind the rock. The Kata Tjuta sunset viewing area is a good, quieter bet too. See ayersrockresort.com.au
The perfect surf beach
View from Burleigh to Surfers Paradise. Photo: Mark Fitz/TEQ
Popular resort towns like Noosa and Byron Bay have grown up around the surf scene, but you don’t have to go where everyone else goes to stride into the surf off a spectacular crescent of sand. Along the coast are less heralded spots such as Crescent Heads or Yamba which do the job just as well. And even on the otherwise megabusy Gold Coast there are much quieter spots, such as Burleigh Heads.
The big glass of Shiraz
Paddle steamer on the Murray River at Trentham Estate, Mildura. Photo: Robert Blackburn
Almost every Aussie wine region has friendly cellar doors offering free tastings. But some spots are prettier than others. The Trentham Estate near Mildura opens out onto the Murray River, the Penfolds Magill Estate has prime views of Adelaide and the Brokenback mountains give Audrey Wilkinson Wines in the Hunter Valley a majestic frame. See trenthamestate.com.au, penfolds.com, audreywilkinson.com.au
The reef swim
Swimming with whale shark in Ningaloo Marine Park. Photo: Tourism WA
Of the approximately eleventy billion Great Barrier Reef trips, pick one that heads to the Outer Reef where the coral is more vibrant. The Quicksilver Cruise from Port Douglas is an excellent all-rounder, with a pootle round in a semi-submersible thrown in. For a bit more space, Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef is often around 100 metres’ swim from the beach. See quicksilver-cruises.com
The writer has been a guest of Tourism Australia and the state tourism boards.
See also: Sydney’s epic coastal hike you should attempt at least once
See also: Avoid the Great Ocean Road crowds: The seaside town most Victorians miss