An Australian Traveller’s Guide To Visiting Las Vegas

It’s not all about The Strip.

things to do las vegas
Photo: MIkayla Whitmore

With films like The Hangover and Ocean’s 11 making a strong case for the bright lights and glitz of Las Vegas, it’s no surprise that a whirlwind adventure in the Nevada city is on the bucket list of many Aussies. But for some of us, the Las Vegas we know is actually The Strip, a more modern creation that, while very much worth visiting, doesn’t reflect all the cool stuff you can do in and around the city.

There is plenty in the Las Vegas area that’ll give you more than just a few fun spins of Blackjack and some crazy club nights. Here is a guide to everything Las Vegas has to offer – including The Strip, but going beyond.

things to do las vegas
Photo: Fifty Grande

Where To Stay In Las Vegas

If you have never been to The Strip, it’s worth staying at least a few nights in one of the mega-casinos and their adjoining hotels. It really is something else – so huge they can take fifteen full minutes to walk past just one, the luxury is surprisingly affordable, and while The Strip is known for hedonism and party times, you can still find solitude if you want it.

The Venetian

Modelled off the opulence of old-world Venice, The Venetian has a replica of St. Marks Square (that has to be seen to be believed), plus a man-made river featuring gondola tours. Kitsch? Absolutely – but its rooms are also spacious, have soft, pillow-top bedding and are quiet enough to nurse a hangover after a big night.


When you want luxury, you head to Bellagio. Famous for its nightly fountain shows out front, it’s on the pricier end when it comes to Las Vegas accommodation. But if you’re looking for the full experience, the cost is worth it. Think cashmere pillows, mood lighting and Italian marble bathrooms.

Planet Hollywood

A solid choice for the more budget-conscious traveller who still wants to be in the middle of The Strip action, Planet Hollywood’s rooms are comfortable and modern, but not opulent – somewhere to crash in peace, but not necessarily one to take jealousy-inducing snaps of. If you’ve got flexibility, check the price calendar – we spotted rooms mid-week for $30 a night. 

Alternatively, staying Downtown sees you close to the other action of Vegas – its hidden culinary scene and some seriously great clubs that locals frequent. You’ll also be amid the Fremont Experience chaos, which won’t be for everyone but is definitely a good time, plus a lot of Las Vegas’ history.

Golden Nugget

One of the oldest hotels in Las Vegas, the Golden Nugget is a sprawling scene with a $30 million dollar pool complete with a clear waterslide that runs through a fish tank. Rooms here are comfortable and super affordable, and you’re steps from the action of Fremont Street and the Downtown scene.

El Cortez Hotel

The longest-running hotel casino in Las Vegas, El Cortez was founded in 1941 and has a sordid Mob history, having once been owned by Bugsy Siegel. It retains its retro exterior and has renovated original rooms on offer that tap into the hey-day of Las Vegas from the time. 

things to do las vegas
Photo: @cosmopolitan_lv

Where To Party In Las Vegas

Partying and Las Vegas go hand-in-hand. To work out where is right for you, consider the kind of night you want to have. Wildly creative cocktails while sunken into deep, plush chairs watching jazz and blues? Sweating it out on a dance floor? Seeing incredible acts after a lush dinner? It’s all here.

The Barbershop Cuts And Cocktails

Head into the Cosmopolitan and you’ll come across an unassuming barbershop, with people getting a trim right next to the casino. Except if you pass by in the evening, when there’s probably a lengthy queue for entry. Why would so many people line up for a haircut? Well, they’re not – out the back is a speakeasy-style bar with some of the best live music you’ll find on The Strip. It’s a wild time in there and it’s well worth waiting in line.

Easy’s Cocktail Lounge

On the more low-key end of the scale, head up into the Aria dining precinct and you’ll find Easys, a donut shop by day, hidden cocktail lounge by night. The drinks here are spectacular feats, like the ‘Heart Of The Ocean’, a tequila-based cocktail that comes in a seashell on a white sand base, smoking with dry ice. Music-wise, expect incredible jazz and blues.


Heading Downtown to Commonwealth is a must if you love classy cocktail bars. Created as a neighbourhood spot for locals, tourists are also welcome and the vibes here are chill and ultra-cool. If you’re lucky, you might nab a spot at the teeny speakeasy hidden inside, The Laundry Room.

Don’t Tell Mama

Wannabe Broadway stars will love this sing-a-long karaoke bar in Downtown, where talented staff will take the mic and sing along to the piano tunes, or guests can have a crack. It’s a bit different and something unique to do outside of the usual Las Vegas attractions.

TAO Nightclub
Most of the nightclubs in Las Vegas are raucous, overstimulating affairs thanks to some heavy competition, but TAO remains one of the best. Inside The Venetian, celebrities such as Madonna, Jay-Z, Usher, Drake, Rihanna, Heidi Klum, Kim Kardashian, and Jamie Foxx have all made an appearance, and the lineup of DJ talent is world-class. More of a beach club person? The TAO Beach Dayclub is equally as famous.

things to do las vegas
Photo: La Mona Rosa

Where To Eat In Las Vegas

Yes, The Strip is home to some Michelin-star celebrity chef restaurants and wild experiences. But don’t skip out on the Downtown scene, which is where many of the best local dining spots are situated.

La Mona Rosa

This recently-opened Mexican restaurant is in the heart of Las Vegas’ culinary district Downtown, and makes the best spicy margaritas we’ve encountered. The food is also top-notch – definitely order the carne asada and the tuna guajillo.


This breakfast and brunch spot cannot be missed! From loaded breakfast burritos to tofu scramble, there is something for everyone here, whether you’re easing a hangover or just want to try some local nosh. Run by local legend Natalie Young, a chef with 20+ years of experience, it’s often packed and always thrumming with energy.


One of the newest restaurants on The Strip, Cathedrale is already known on Instagram for its incredible roof installation, art that replicates the intricate details of cathedral ceilings. The mood here is sexy and cool, with shareable plates and a damn good martini, if that’s your thing.

Vanderpump a Paris

Vanderpump Rules fans must put this new restaurant venture from the inimitable Lisa Vanderpump on their list. Housed inside the Paris Vegas casino, it’s like a French garden with hanging lights and floral arrangements everywhere. Cocktails are dramatic and served with flair, and the food is great but you’re really here for the scene, right?

things to do las vegas
Photo: Travel Weekly

What To Do In Las Vegas And Surrounds

Don’t party yourself out when in Las Vegas – there is heaps to see and do off The Strip and away from the casino scene.

The Neon Museum

A place where old neon signs go to rest, The Neon Museum is a history buff’s dreamland. Take an evening tour and see restored signs from the 40s and beyond lit up like their heyday, learn about the creation of Las Vegas and The Strip, and don’t miss Brilliant!, an immersive art experience that lights up ancient neon signs using light installations.

The Mob Museum

Continue that museum tour of Las Vegas with the Mob Museum, a multi-story space that takes you through the history of the Mob in America. It’s a wild time in there, with historic (and weird) paraphernalia like the actual wall from a 1929 massacre of Mob members and the original (third) draft script for The Godfather. It’s quirky and fascinating and well worth a visit.

Hoover Dam

Rent a car and take a trip out to Hoover Dam, a massive project from the 1930s that remains a feat of engineering to this day. It’s also famous from films like Transformers, if that’s more your style.

Valley Of Fire State Park

You just know that a park called ‘Valley Of Fire’ is going to be pretty spectacular, right? You’d be correct – the swirling sandstone and petrified trees here offer up plenty of natural marvels (and incredible Instagram snap backdrops, by the way).

The writer was a guest of Travel Nevada. Learn more here.

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Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

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: 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.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

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.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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