The Gold Coast’s star attraction is its beaches, including the world-renowned stretch of sand at Surfers Paradise. Beyond the beaches, you’ll discover laid-back neighbourhoods, plenty of city activities, a burgeoning culinary scene and Aboriginal experiences. Also be sure to leave enough time to explore the subtropical hinterland for rainforest walks and waterfalls.
Where to eat: Located right on Burleigh Beach with floor-to-ceiling windows, Rick Shores takes full advantage of its proximity to the ocean. Seafood is the focus here, with a colourful pan-Asian influence. The Moreton Bay bug roll with Sriracha, mayonnaise and lettuce is easily the restaurant’s most famous dish, but that will just whet your appetite.
Where to stay: Located only steps away from the beach, Peppers Broadbeach offers panoramic views to the Pacific Ocean and Gold Coast Hinterland. With a heated outdoor pool perfect for relaxing and a private cinema plus zen garden and tai chi lawn to unwind after a big day exploring the region.
Described by some as “where the rainforest meets the reef”, many visit Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest – and rightly so. There are plenty of great things to do in and around town; eye-opening wildlife encounters, brilliant cafés, bustling markets and plenty of beaches. A day out on the water is a must, with the coastline dotted with secret islands surrounded by quiet cays, pristine snorkelling sites and secluded beaches.
Now’s your chance to tick the Great Barrier Reef off your bucket list and join a tour with Reef Magic or Quicksilver Cruises, both departing from Cairns, and explore the vast underwater world, so vast in fact you can see it from space!
If you’re into some Australian history, both in landscapes and cultures, join Aboriginal guides on a Walkabout Cultural Adventures tour of Kuku Yalanji country, where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Daintree Rainforest. Sample bush tucker while learning about bush medicines and the traditions of the local Indigenous people. Or, see it by train with the Kuranda Scenic Railway, setting off from Cairns and travelling on a return journey to Kuranda.
Where to eat: If you’re in the mood for fresh seafood and stunning views, make a booking at Dundee’s Restaurant on the Waterfront. Stop by for lunch to see the sunshine glistening on the shore, or reserve a table for dinner and soak up views of the Marlin Marina, Trinity Inlet and majestic mountains while the sun sets.
Where to stay: Located in the heart of the city, just a block from the waterfront, the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort boasts stunning scenery and offers a lagoon-style pool, tropical gardens and rooms that are bright and airy, in keeping with a coastal-themed palette.
An archipelago of 74 tropical islands, the Whitsundays lie just off the Queensland coast, accessible via Proserpine and Hamilton Island airports. Protected from large swells, the secluded islands beaches are ideal for sailing, swimming, snorkelling and relaxing. People travel here from all over the world to see the white sands of Whitehaven Beach and the stunning beauty of Heart Reef.
Ever wanted to see a croc? Whitsunday Crocodile Safari takes you through their natural habitat in the estuaries and wetlands and the Proserpine River.
Where to drink: A visit to the Whitsundays would not be complete without seeing one of the island’s exquisite sunsets. Hamilton Island’s hilltop bar One Tree Hill is the perfect spot to sip cocktails and watch the colours of dusk light up the sky. Great for families too, as it offers a large grassy area for kids to play on.
Where to eat: Before heading off on a tour of the reef, spend time in Airlie Beach and make a booking at Anchor Bar, a funky poolside rooftop restaurant with stunning views over the Coral Sea and Whitsunday Islands.
Where to stay: Book a two-night sail on the tall ship Solway Lass with Explore Whitsundays for a leisurely journey around the islands. With its expansive deck space, licensed bar, rope swing, and stand-up paddleboards, there is something for any type of adventurer. If you’re into eco-luxury, definitely plan to visit Elysian Retreat, the most secluded island retreat in the Whitsundays and the first solar-powered resort on the Great Barrier Reef. Nature immersion and seclusion is what is on offer at Elysian with an emphasis placed on tailored experiences and personal service designed for guests. The boutique eco-island retreat offers a locally sourced custom menu, and personalised organic spa treatments to a legion of aquatic adventures.
Stretching from the coastal city of Caloundra in the south, to the Great Sandy National Park in the north, the Sunshine Coast is home to pretty villages, renowned surf spots and spectacular rural hinterland.
Ride horses along Lake Weyba in the Noosa National Park and see unspoilt views and wildlife as you are guided along the route by the Noosa Horse Riding team.
Catch a short car ferry from the village of Tewantin, located close to Noosa, and explore the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. Kick back and relax in the natural spa called the Champagne Pools. Named for their natural fizz, which is created by waves crashing over a series of rock walls into a calm but bubbly rock pool below the headland on the northern tip of the island, the pools are a great spot to cool off and have beautiful ocean views.
Where to eat: The renowned Hastings Street in Noosa is packed with breakfast spots, boutiques and restaurants. Surrounded by lush gardens, Locale Noosa sits in a protected corner of Hastings Street just a few steps from the golden sands of Noosa Main Beach and serves authentic Italian dishes and cocktails.
Where to stay: Noosa is just a 40 minute drive from Maroochydore Airport, and is famous for its stunning beaches, lakes and national parks – book your family into the Sofitel Noosa, located in the heart of the town. .
Townsville is a major gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics and the Queensland outback. With more than 320 days of sunshine each year, World Heritage-listed national parks and lush tropical gardens, Townsville is home to spectacular natural landscapes and attractions. Enjoy al fresco dining, Federation-style architecture and boutique shopping, as well as the cooling ocean breeze and coastal vibe.
Take a short ferry ride from Townsville to Magnetic Island. Spot koalas in the wild and take part in the various water sports on offer, from snorkelling to fishing and everything in between. If you are travelling as a family, stop at Alma Bay, the crystal clear rock pools, park and playground make it the perfect spot to keep kids entertained.
If you fancy seeing Magnetic Island from above, book a 30-minute scenic helicopter flight with Nautilus Aviation. Departing from Townsville, the flight travels along the city’s waterfront precinct and picturesque Cleveland Bay before turning its focus to Magnetic Islands’ strikingly beautiful, but equally rugged and varied coastline.
Discover Ravenswood, an old gold mining settlement, set amongst the rolling hills of the outback with Ravenswood Tours. Join a day tour from Townsville and discover natural wonders, explore heritage-listed buildings, hear of tales from another era and how life was in the times of the gold rush era.
Where to eat: In the mood for a delicious breakfast to set you up for a day of exploring? Stop by JAM for a fantastic feed and sought after coffee. If you are unable to make it for breakfast, pop along during the day to experience a range of regional cuisine.
Where to stay: Fancy comfort and convenience with stunning views of the CBD and marina? Book a stay at The Ville. With a range of rooms on offer, and a number of bars and restaurants both on-site and just a few minutes walk away, this resort is the perfect place to watch the day wash away.
Nestled between the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs boasts beautiful desert landscapes and is a fascinating spot to explore Australia’s Aboriginal culture and unique wildlife. While there is plenty to do in the town itself, Alice is also a great base for exploring the natural wonders of the outback, including Uluru, Kata Tjuṯa, Kings Canyon and the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Journey from Alice Springs to experience the grand West MacDonnell Ranges on a full-day tour with Emu Run Experience. The tour will see you surrounded by red walls set aglow by the bright desert sun as you drive through to visit the stunning gorges and waterholes the destination has to offer.
Wander through the Museum of Central Australia to discover the region’s history – from mega fauna to colonisation – through photographs, interactive exhibits and talks.
Families planning a trip to Alice during the week should visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary, just a 20-minute drive from Alice Springs. The sanctuary is open for tours Tuesday through Friday in the late afternoons. Tours, which include bus transfers from Alice Springs, last about 2.5 hours and you’ll get the chance to meet some of the beautiful red kangaroos that are typical of the Red Centre, and get the chance to cuddle a joey.
Where to eat: Take a stroll through the historic Olive Pink Botanic Gardens and admire the native flora before grabbing a bite at the onsite eatery, Bean Street Cafe. For an afternoon tipple, head to Alice Springs Brewing Co to sample locally produced craft beer.
Where to stay: The studio villas at family-friendly Desert Palms have verandas and kitchenettes, and are surrounded by tropical gardens and palm trees. The pool is a big hit with kids. It’s only a few minutes walk to some of the best restaurants, bars, cafes, galleries and shops Alice Springs has to offer.
Often considered the spiritual heart of Australia, the Red Centre is an extraordinary landscape of desert plains, weathered mountain ranges, rocky gorges and some of Aboriginal Australia’s most sacred sites, including Uluru and Kata Tjuṯa.
Taking a helicopter ride with Fly Uluru is the best way to appreciate the scale and size of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the national park surrounding it. Learn about the world’s largest rock monolith and the surrounding red desert from the pilot, who doubles as your informative tour guide.
Take part in one of Maruku Arts’ dot-painting workshops. Learn the different symbols that make up the Tjukurpa and, with the help of a Maruku guide and local artist, create your own work of art to take home. Kids aged five and up are welcome.
Fancy seeing sunrise at the base of this stunning rock? Join a Seit Uluru Trek around the base of the rock with a knowledgeable guide and learn about the culture and environment that surrounds you.
Where to eat: Come nightfall, a million stars light up the outback sky with exceptional clarity. Sounds of Silence is a four-hour experience that begins with canapés and chilled sparkling wine served on a viewing platform overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Enjoy a menu especially curated and inspired by Aussie bush tucker, followed by incredible stargazing.
Where to stay: If unwinding and settling down to sleep under the stars is your thing,Kings Canyon is a natural wonder located approximately halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru, at the heart of Australia’s Red Centre. The Kings Canyon Resort, Backpackers Lodge and CampGround offer accommodation types for all travellers.
With everything from crocodile encounters to open-air movies and sunset cruises, Darwin is as easy going as it is exciting. Walk on the wild side and get up close to the Northern Territory’s incredible wildlife – or take in the scenery in style. Be awed by Indigenous culture and history in jaw-dropping natural surroundings from the Tiwi Islands to timeless Kakadu, or catch a beauty of a barramundi without ever leaving the land.
AAT Kings offers a return day tour from Darwin to Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls. Katherine Gorge is located within the Nitmiluk National Park, which spans more than 292,000 hectares. Led by an experienced guide, you’ll view ancient art that’s deeply ingrained in the deep, local spiritual culture and learn about the traditional owners of Nitmiluk on a cruise through Katherine Gorge.
The Wave Lagoon at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct is a must-visit for any family. With shallow water areas for toddlers and a pool with artificial waves, the free Wave Lagoon has boogie boards and tubes on-hand for visitors.
A wildlife park where even the kids can get interactive with crocodiles? It can be done at Crocosaurus Cove, right in the centre of Darwin. Take a tour of the park to watch some of the largest crocodiles be fed, and grab a fishing rod to feed the baby crocs yourself.
Where to eat: Looking for a local scene? Head to the hub, which is the intersection of Knuckey Street and Austin Lane. Around the corner on Austin Lane, Little Miss Korea offers traditional barbecue with a local twist, while its sister bar The Loading Bay serves snacks and cocktails till late. Upstairs, Charlie’s of Darwin serves a tasty range of tapas and a staggering selection of gin.
Where to stay: Arguably the ritziest stay in town, with a prime position next to Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, Mindil Beach Casino & Resort lets you swim out from the deck of a superior suite to a man-made lagoon. The casino complex has a choice of several restaurants serving everything from Asian fusion to contemporary Italian, and rooms featuring indulgent stone-clad bathrooms with twin showers and egg-shaped baths. But check out some of the other fabulous luxury, family-friendly or affordable options.
Tasmania’s capital is the perfect mix of heritage, scenery and culture and a great city escape. From captivating natural beauty, to diverse cultural experiences, and an enviable food and drink scene, it’s a place to seek serenity, outdoor adventure or laid back luxury.
Buckle up for a panoramic scenic helicopter flight, giving you a taste of Tasmania’s dramatic coast and city – all while being able to indulge in Tasmanian food, wine, whiskey and gin with Tasmanian Air Tours.
The Museum of Old and New Art–MoNA–is Australia’s largest private museum and one of the most controversial private collections of modern art and antiquities in the world. Book a ‘wildcard museum entry’ ticket for the freedom to enter the museum at any time, and stay as long as you want.
For fit walkers who are up for a challenge, the Sea to Summit Walk is an incredible opportunity to see Hobart in a completely different light. Follow your guide as they take you along the Derwent River and Hobart’s historic waterfront, Female Factor, the iconic Cascade Brewery, Myrtle Gully Track, Junction Cabin, The Chalet, Organ Pipes Track and then Zig Zag to the pinnacle on kunanyi / Mt Wellington for spectacular panoramic views. Operating on Fridays and Sundays, bookings are required normally at least one week prior to your preferred walking date.
Where to eat: With a unique panoramic view of Hobart, the newly opened Aura at Crowne Plaza is the city’s first rooftop venue and offers an informal but intimate environment for a casual drink, a snack or a full degustation dinner.
Where to stay: Vibe Hotel Hobart is a newly opened hotel based in the heart of Hobart, near the site of the Salamanca markets. The architecturally-designed facade – with its trademark coloured feature fins – has transformed Hobart’s skyline.
The largest city in Tasmania’s north, and second-largest in the state, Launceston is a small but cosmopolitan city, and a vibrant hub for food, wine and culture. There’s also a touch of wilderness with Cataract Gorge just a few minutes walk from the city centre, plus quaint streets to shop for antiques and sample home-baked goods at the many cafés.
Sail through the treetops of Hollybank Forest on a ziplining adventure that combines adrenaline and amazing views. Located a 25-minute drive north of Launceston, Hollybank Treetops Adventure Park offers a wide range of activities such as ziplines, segway tours and tree rope courses, suitable for all ages.
15 minutes from the Launceston city centre at Cataract Gorge (20.5m deep), you can ride the world’s longest single-span chairlift which is 457m from station to station.
Within a 20 minute drive out of Launceston you will find yourself in the Tamar Valley, a wine region known for its excellent chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir. Designate a driver and journey along The Tamar Valley Wine Route to sample the region’s finest drops.
Where to eat: Launceston has an appreciation for excellent produce and fine food. Craving a taste of gourmet? Dine-in farm-to-fork style at Stillwater, inside a renovated flour mill near the mouth of the picturesque Cataract Gorge.
Where to stay: Quamby Estate, located just 20 minutes from Launceston city and airport, is one of Tasmania’s most prestigious and historically important properties. Built between 1828 and 1838, Quamby was once the home of a premier of Tasmania and is now a suitably grand luxury lodge with ten lovingly restored guest rooms. Enjoy sumptuous meals prepared with fresh Tasmanian produce accompanied by local Tamar Valley wines and use the homestead as your base for touring Launceston and the north.
Tasmania’s northern towns of Devonport and Burnie are home to secluded beaches, tranquil waterways and a wealth of wineries. Tasmania’s north-west is also home to Cradle Mountain, one of Tasmania’s most visited icons, offering amazing nature experiences including forest adventures, great walks – easy and hard – and some of the best scenery in the world.
If you’re travelling with young children or good-humoured teens, add a stop to Promised Land for a visit to Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot, just south of Devonport. This wonderfully bonkers attraction features eight mazes and miniature, toddler-sized painted houses.
See the famous Tasmanian devil at world-class wildlife conservation facility Devils @ Cradle which offers a guided tour that will take you up close and personal with these stunning animals. If you fancy a tour with a twist, be sure to book into the After Dark Feeding tour to see these animals feast.
Keep your eyes peeled for little penguins along the pebbly shore of Lillico Beach, a coastal reserve just 10 minutes west of the town of Devonport. The little penguin is the world’s smallest species of penguin. The best place to watch the reserve’s colony is from the timber viewing platform. Time your visit for dusk, when the penguins are returning from fishing in the ocean to their beach burrows. This is a free activity, and Tasmania Parks and Wildlife rangers are on-site during breeding season, from September to May, and during summer, from mid-December to mid-February.
Where to eat: Australia’s largest boutique whisky distillery is located in Burnie. Book a tour at Hellyers Road Distillery to sample their range of single malts, vodka and whisky cream liqueurs at the dedicated tasting counter. Enjoy a delicious meal in the cafe too.
Where to stay: Using the ocean as its backdrop, The Cove is a unique adults only retreat which shares its breath-taking location effortlessly with nature. It offers unique accommodation options; villas, chalets and both hardtop and bell tent glamping.
Where the outback meets the ocean, Broome is home to ancient culture, the world-famous Cable Beach, the natural phenomenon of the Staircase to the Moon and the gateway to the Kimberley region – one of the world’s last true wilderness areas. Here you’ll find wildlife, majestic canyons, freshwater swimming holes and outback stations.
With 22 kilometres of pristine white sand edged by the stunning turquoise water of the Indian Ocean, Broome’s Cable Beach attracts visitors from around Australia and the world. The water is warm and flat, with gentle, ankle-height waves the only disturbance to the expanse of horizon-hugging blue, and the dry season (May – October) is the best time of year to swim. The vast beach is synonymous with sunset camel rides, and watching the sun descend over the water is a must-do.
Cruising the Kimberley’s mottled red cliffs and standing beneath a splintering waterfall is something only the lucky few get to do. All the luxury cruise boats that tour the coastline depart from Broome, making it a popular place for the cruise set to relax pre and post-trip). After pulling away from the town’s proud white jetty, the boats pass thousands of islands before reaching ochre cliffs and lonely beaches. Passengers visit breathtaking rock art, spot giant boab trees and learn about the region’s amazing geology, returning with a new sense of calm mixed with wonder.
Australia has a rich archaeological history and the world’s largest dinosaur footprints can be found on the north coast of Broome. At 1.7m long, these fossilised dinosaur footprints are 130 million years old and extend in patches for 80km along the coast.
Where to eat: Zanders at Cable Beach Club is the place for a special night out. Enjoy views directly over the water and a truly magnificent west coast sunset. For a more casual café lunch with a home-made mango smoothie, go to the Green Mango Cafe.
Where to stay: Named after the local Indigenous word for the coastal area of Cable Beach, Bilingurr, The Billi Resort is located in the main hub of Cable Beach and is perfect for a private escape. The resort features beautiful gardens, raised timber walkways and tranquil surroundings, with a range of self-catering accommodation including 1 and 2 Bedroom Villas, Studio Rooms and ultra-luxurious Eco Tents.
The spectacular Great Ocean Road, which winds alongside the wild and windswept Southern Ocean, begins just 40 minutes drive from Avalon Airport in the town of Torquay. Home to craggy cliffs, empty beaches, bountiful wildlife and unforgettable Aboriginal experiences and UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscapes, there’s an effortless affinity with nature along this iconic road.
This is what everyone comes to see: the glorious limestone towers known as the 12 Apostles, rising out of the ocean. Don’t let the name fool you: there are only seven of these spires, all of which were part of the mainland before wind and water eroded the surrounding rock. For the best views, book a scenic flight with a local operator. The experience of swooping around the rock formations, with miles of coastline unfurling in front of you, is simply unforgettable. 12 Apostles Helicopters offer scenic flights to see the Bay of Islands, London Bridge or the entire Shipwreck Coast.
In Great Otway National Park you’ll see thundering waterfalls and sparkling gorges and walk through the tops of ancient, mossy trees. The Otway Fly Treetop Walk is a 600-metre (0.4-mile) long elevated treetop walk that ascends at a gentle grade through a magnificent stand of cool temperate rainforest. Thrill seekers can choose the Otway Fly Zipline Tour and zip between “cloud stations” 30 metres (98 feet) above the forest floor.
Also along the Great Ocean Road is a new protected habitat called Wildlife Wonders, offering visitors a guided walk with a conservationist around the Otways bushland to spot potoroos, kangaroos, koalas and bandicoots, while showing the region’s conservation projects in action.
Where to eat: If you find that the crisp ocean air has put you in the mood for seafood, stop at Aireys Inlet. About 25 minutes from Torquay, this tiny township hides a big secret: the charming A La Grecque restaurant, which dishes up some of the best seafood on the coast. On a sunny day, a plate of their tender fried calamari or freshly grilled fish, eaten at an outside table, is heaven.
Where to stay: For a truly memorable stay along the Great Ocean Road, guests can choose to stay at Great Ocean Road Resort which is surrounded by beautiful beaches and bushland, or the Great Eco Lodge which is entirely self-sufficient.
Geelong, Victoria’s second city, and the many villages and coastal towns of the Bellarine Peninsula offer a thriving foodie scene, complete with craft breweries, award-winning wineries, a glut of great waterfront cafés and dynamic food experiences. Surf, paddle and swim at bay and ocean beaches, and get close to local wildlife in Port Phillip Bay.
Explore the delicious tastes of Bellarine on the Taste Trail, which will see you visit almost 50 food and wine destinations. Stop in and try samples from local producers, unique winners and award-winning restaurants.
Spend time immersed in local culture, visit the Geelong Gallery, one of Australia’s leading and oldest regional art galleries. With a range of events and exhibitions on offer make sure to pop by with all the family.
Stop by Geelong’s famous Mill Markets in the town centre if you’re on the hunt for vintage items, home decor, books or even just a walk around the streets with a cup of coffee in hand.
Where to eat: Head to Pik Nik, the quirky converted roadhouse with a premium edge. Originally a small market stall selling local jams and other produce the restaurant now offers a delicious all-day menu with the best of Bellarine produce on offer.
Where to stay: Surrounded by 200 acres of rural stunning land, Lon Retreat in Bellarine is the ideal location for those wanting to unwind. With an onsite spa, local artisan breakfast hampers and only seven guest suites, it is perfect for those seeking some personal time.
The stunning Sapphire Coast is a jewel of the New South Wales far South Coast. Named for its deep blue sparkling waters, the region offers stunning beaches and bushland, great fishing, bushwalks, an Oyster Trail, charming towns, and one of Australia’s best whale-watching destinations, Twofold Bay.
The coastal town of Merimbula on the beautiful Sapphire Coast offers both shore-based whale watching and charters between May and late November. Merimbula Marina offers regular whale watching cruises from May through to November with 100 per cent success rate.
In summer, you can hire a kayak or try stand-up paddleboarding with Merimbula Stand-up Paddle in the calm waters near Merimbula and Bermagui. Coastlife also offers stand-up paddleboarding, as well as surfing lessons, on the beaches of Merimbula, Tathra and Pambula.
Cruise, sailboard or canoe on Lake Merimbula on your way to the river village of Pambula, where many of the buildings date back to the 1850s.
Where to eat: Walk around the freshwater lagoon at Pambula Beach and taste the town’s famous fresh oysters at Broadwater Oysters on the Pambula River. The Bar Beach Kiosk in Merimbula serves up simple food and coffee overlooking pretty Bar Beach.
Where to stay: Located a short drive from the centre of Merimbula, Robyn’s Nest Guesthouse is a lifestyle retreat with just six suites and 14 lakeside cottages. The mini resort contains excellent facilities, including an outdoor spa, 15-metre solar-heated swimming pool and a tennis court.
13 kilometres off the coast of South Australia and just 30 minutes by plane from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is teeming with native wildlife, artisanal food, epic rock formations and unique experiences, with a sense of being worlds away from a major capital city.
Exceptional Kangaroo Island has partnered with private wildlife refuge Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife to launch Flinders Chase Focus. This hands-on full-day tour allows travellers to actively take part in conservation efforts to regenerate the island’s vast wilderness, which was affected by the 2019/2020 bushfires. Travellers can participate in wildlife surveys and check fencing and motion cameras while getting a close understanding of the endemic sooty dunnart (an endangered tiny carnivorous marsupial), followed by a gourmet picnic lunch in the bush. Efforts are rewarded with a guided tour of Flinders Chase National Park to explore nature’s gravity-defying sculpture, Remarkable Rocks, as well as Admirals Arch – home to a large colony of fur seals.
As the sun sinks low, sit down and enjoy the hospitality – and gin – on offer at Kangaroo Island Spirits. The cellar door is open seven days a week from 10:30am to 5:30pm, with bookings encouraged. There are also a number of experiences available to book, including cocktail masterclasses and the Blend Your Own Gin experience.
Where to eat: Kangaroo Island is overflowing with fresh produce. Pick up a breakfast of lavender scones at Emu Bay Lavender Farm, then stop at Clifford’s Honey for a souvenir of delectable local honey. Eat a lunch of seasonally available oysters, abalone, and King George whiting at the Oyster Farm Shop, in American River.
Where to stay: Travellers can step off the grid and relax in comfort with a stay at Oceanview Eco Villas. Located on a 500-acre coastal property with stunning cliff top ocean views, the two villas offer guests a fully hosted eco-luxury experience with meals served in the privacy of your villa.
South Australia’s boutique capital is a small city making big waves. With a thriving small-bar scene, world-class art and music, and a festival calendar to rival that of any other Australian city, it also provides easy access to surrounding regions filled with nature experiences and exceptional food and wine. Discover Adelaide’s laneway secrets and find delicious treats around every bend.
Join an intriguing behind-the-scenes tour of Adelaide Zoo After Dark, taking visitors to areas that until now have been inaccessible to the public. You’ll learn about former residents as well as haunting stories as told by the keepers. Book tickets online to ensure you gain a spot within their COVID-19 capacity requirements, with the ability to change your booking if required.
Explore Adelaide on two wheels with Adelaide City to Sea Bike Tour for a full morning cycle through the empty streets of Adelaide’s riverbank precinct, and all the way to Henley Beach and Glenelg.
Experience the iconic Adelaide Oval in a different way without the passionate cheering of the sports fans, as the city night lights come to life while listening to party tunes on the new Roofclimb Night.
Where to stay: Opening this month, Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets is a boutique hotel in Adelaide’s CBD and is perfectly located for travellers looking to explore the city. The hotel’s restaurants and bars also serve up a range of exciting dishes, tapping into the best of Adelaide Market’s wonderful produce for seasonal appeal. Take the elevator to the spectacular rooftop for the raw food bar, Merrymaker, featuring an immaculate array of local seafood, cold meats and the best of South Australian wines, local beers and cocktail favourites.
The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’. Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health.
Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid.
Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor.
To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power.
Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.
You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks.
It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties!
An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:
‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.”