Travel

How to Make the Most of Travel in Australia Right Now

It's time to start planning.

travel in australia
Photo: pixdeluxe/Getty Images

With news that parts of Australia are opening up, we’re all scramming to book holidays, whether it’s a beach house an hour away or an Airbnb in another state. Before you start booking aimlessly, snatching up deals, without reading the fine print, or organising plans, you might want to think about where you can go. There are still travel restrictions in place, even if you are double vaxxed. It’s also important to consider for how long and what are your backup plans if a state slams shut its border halfway through your vacation.

It’s an exciting time, but also an uncertain time, as states decide what restrictions to lift. So if you’re itching for a holiday or something o look forward to, here’s how you can make the most out of travel in Australia right now. 

Explore your own backyard

If you’re way too familiar with your own four walls from a gruelling year of hearing the instruction to “stay at home”, this one is for you. You’ll probably be surprised with the opportunities of things to do and see within an hour of where you live, or more so by getting off the beaten track. Trust us, exploring your own backyard isn’t a rebound option like your last dating app swipe might have been.

Outsmart the big guys

There are endless strategies that people swear by when it comes to booking flights and accommodation. Booking way in advance is one of them, and on the flip side, it’s last-minute deals. But how do you know if you’re actually getting a good deal? At least when it comes to accommodation there are ways you can be confident. 
Using comparative websites like Peakah.com helps remedy any doubt. See it serves all the available accommodation options and the best deals based on your search criteria in just a few clicks.

Have something to look forward to (because we need it)

Weekends were once a treat and held the power to create windows of distraction, excitement and offer a hiatus to the Monday to Friday grind. But with the days bleeding into one large bubble of monotony and limbo, swap your doom scrolling for wanderlust travel bookings. It is time to be brave and click “reserve” on the holiday rental of your dreams. Whether it is a camping spot at a hidden beach, a tiny house on a property out of the city, or a luxury self-contained apartment with friends, finding the perfect place is easy when you start planning and comparing with sites such as Peakah.com. Even if it’s a little while away, it can restore the contentment many of us have been searching for. Just remember to check the cancellation policy so you’re prepared for any changes.

Make the most out of your leave

It’s official, the longer the holiday, the better off you are. And so while most of us are accruing annual leave (much to our employer’s annoyance) and banking it for “some time soon”, actually using our annual leave and switching off is a really good way to recharge. Also, we deserve it!  So make your weekend extra-long by taking a day on either side of the working week. If you’re clever, try and stretch this off the back of a public holiday to maximise your leave and time off.

Explore like a local

Skip the tourist traps and experience things like a local. We live life on social media (we feel naked when we forget our phones at home) but our best travel advice is to ask the locals for their best recommendations. The next town you stop at, ask the barista or the publican of their favourite things to do in the area. It may not be the “best-known thing” but if the locals like it, it’s got to be good, right? 

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Travel

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: 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.

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.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.