Travel continues to make Aussies tick. While destinations change with ever-evolving trends, many also stay the same. Here we look at how to get the most out of the places you’ve been before and the best out of new ones to explore.
1. New Zealand
Australians took 1.4 million trips across the pond in 2018-19. While cosmopolitan Auckland has the biggest pull, many Aussies are now exploring Christchurch for its culinary scene, culture and nearby natural wonders. Hanmer Springs hot pools is only a 1.5-hour drive from the city, while Lake Tekapo and the spectacular blue glacial lakes in Mackenzie Country are less than 30 minutes away. Go further on the TranzAlpine train that meanders through beautiful countryside right to the heart of the Southern Alps where adventurers can ski or snowboard some of the best slopes at Mt Hutt.
Whether it’s a family reunion, wedding, school holiday or girls’ trip, Indonesia has long been Australia’s go-to leisure spot. Bali in particular has cast a spell on travellers – once it was the serenity of rice terraces, the smiles of children playing at the foot of temples and the wafting scent of frangipani that lured us. Today the island is a commercial hub of hotels, beach clubs and homewares shopping. Those who want to experience a true tropical paradise can speedboat toward the Gili Islands. There is delightful accommodation and dining for every budget, spectacular snorkelling and diving, and the pure bliss of coconut palms swaying over turquoise waters.
Los Angeles, New York and Hawaii continue to attract visitors without having to try too hard. But Aussies keen for more unique experiences should look to Portland, Oregon, where the motto ‘Keep Portland Weird’ appears at every turn. Famous for its enviro-friendly outlook, hipster coffee houses and microbreweries, Oregon’s largest city also sits on the edge of nature. Within an hour you could be hiking, kayaking or windsurfing.
For something even quirkier, consider Marfa in West Texas. This former railroad water stop, seven hours drive from Austin, has hosted artists and hipsters since the 1970s. Marfa itself is now somewhat of an art installation, and is home to art galleries, music festivals and a very colourful campground, El Cosmico.
London might have the royalty, the shopping and the museums, but if you want to avoid the pricey hotels and so-so food, take a train to Brighton. The quaint seaside town has cool factor in spades. It’s home to an eclectic mix of residents, historical pubs, all-night clubs, a fantastic foodie scene, cobblestone streets dotted with vintage markets, cafes and street art, and lovely boutique hotels.
The ever-growing business hub for Aussies is also a thriving tourist destination. Shanghai is a futuristic metropolis but also has old colonial neighbourhoods, Buddhist temples and ancient gardens worth exploring. Beijing offers a glimpse into the past at attractions like the Forbidden City, The Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. While Chengdu is home of the Panda Base in the Sichuan province – also famous for its spicy food and traditional teahouses. If you have time, escape the crowds and venture to Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia where and endless sky watches over wild landscapes and remote villages.
A land of plenty, Thailand tempts with tropical climes, cuisine, culture, history and hedonism. Visitors can choose to book into a wellness retreat on the island of Koh Samui, take a dive course off Koh Tao, marvel at the floating markets in Bangkok, hike to waterfalls in Phuket or meet the hill tribes of Chiang Mai – and always be met with a smile.
The number of Aussies visiting this island nation has tripled in the last 10 years. The major drawcards being the food, culture, skiing and ease of travel. In eclectic Tokyo you can mingle with worshippers at the Sensoji temple, visit the Mori Building Digital Art Museum, and marvel at the ordered chaos in neon-lit Shibuya. For cultural immersion visit the former imperial capital, Kyoto. In this mystical city you’ll spot silk-layered geisha wandering through serene gardens, visit the shining golden Buddhist shrine of Kinkakuji Temple, and dine on traditional multi-course kaiseki cuisine that’s prepared according to the seasons.
From chaotic cities to chromatic palaces and snow-capped peaks. India stuns and surprises with its kaleidoscope of contradictions. Don’t-miss destinations include: Delhi, for its historical Red Fort, Great Bazaar shopping; Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan where you can explore palaces and forts from every era amid the mayhem of rickshaws, monkeys and motorbikes; Kashmir for its enthralling natural beauty of lakes, meadows, orchards and mountain ranges.
The visa-free, family-friendly destination has night safaris, zoo jungle breakfasts, cable cars, aquariums and a Universal Studios all relatively close to each other. Buy a two-day pass and make the most of it. Keep the kids’ energy up and your wallet happy with the incredible range and flavours of street food. Don’t leave without trying the chilli crab.
Australians love that it’s only a four-hour flight from the east coast and is famed for its kid-friendly resorts. But with around 330 islands, Fiji has something for travellers of every persuasion. Whether you’re planning to wander palm-fringed coastline, laze poolside with a cocktail or partake in land and water sports, part of the appeal in Fiji is forgetting your plans and going with the flow.