Domestic borders are open, our biggest cities are revitalised and there’s no better time than now to tick off the Australian travel destinations still on your to-do list. From cutting edge culture, food and drinks in Melbourne to one-of-a-kind nature experiences in Tropical North Queensland, here’s what to check out on your next Aussie escape.
Best Cultural Experiences in Melbourne
Melbourne is awakening from a lockdown-induced slumber, with its CBD and inner suburbs brimming with restaurant openings, blockbuster theatre shows and unique exhibitions.
In the East End Theatre District, the 11-time Tony Award-winning Hamilton has blown into Her Majesty’s Theatre, while The Regent will welcome the Shane Jacobson-led Hairspray from August. On the live music front, Forum Melbourne is set to host performances by Passenger, Eskimo Joe, and Peter Hook & the Light from October.
Visit the National Gallery of Victoria’s show QUEER, which digs through the NGV collection to showcase art’s power to tell LGBTQ+ stories. WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture sees the gallery’s own portrait holdings brought together with those of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
Spend your downtime dining at the old-world-inspired Grill Americano, which serves housemade pasta and Italian classics. The 1.2-kilogram bistecca alla fiorentina steak is a must, with wine from the cellar containing more than 2000 bottles. Or visit the two-storey floating bar and eatery Yarra Botanica, where you can snack on hand-stretched burrata and crispy mushrooms with XO sauce.
Where to lay your head? Oaks Melbourne on Market’s spacious, light-filled one and two-bedroom apartments are in the heart of the city and just a short walk from Southbank. They offer wi-fi and streaming-capable TVs, and there’s an onsite pool and gym.
Best Family Activities on the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast remains a hotspot for families looking for everything from approachable beaches, to thrilling theme parks, where there’s always something new to check out. Dreamworld has just opened its Steel Taipan rollercoaster – 1.2 kilometres of twists and turns that will have you nudging 105 kilometres per hour and experiencing 3.8 G-forces; Wet’n’Wild boasts three new waterslides and a splash zone; and Sea World’s 18-metre high Vortex suspended top-spin ride is the first in its New Atlantis precinct.
And that’s when you’re not hiking the city’s bucolic hinterland, splashing about in family friendly beaches, such as Tallebudgera Creek, or checking out the newly completed Home of the Arts and its Australia’s Playground exhibition, which features works that explore the unique character of the Gold Coast. Be sure to visit Bam Bam Bakehouse to try its French toast croissant, and stop by The Collective, where you can eat an XO Angus beef stir fry while the kids wolf down American-style burgers or crispy pork and lamb tacos.
The Oaks Gold Coast Hotel is the perfect base for families. It gets you close to both Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach but its generously sized rooms with kitchenettes (and full-sized kitchens in the apartments) and tree-lined pool will make it difficult to leave.
Best Nature Experiences in Far North Queensland
Cairns sits where the luminescent waters of the Great Barrier Reef meet the lush rainforests of the Daintree and rolling Atherton Tablelands, making it a brilliant place to get in touch with Australia’s tropical north.
Headed to the reef? Divers Den provides a variety of tours including a prized multi-night minke whale expedition and a four-day course that will earn you your PADI Open Water Diving certification. Further afield, No Limits Adventures offers day trips to the Daintree rainforest and a three-day four-wheel-drive adventure into the Outback to Cape Bedford, returning along the iconic Bloomfield Track.
“The diversity is what makes this place unique,” says No Limits Adventures’ Konrad Borowiecki. “You can do something different every single day you’re here.”
There are also new experiences to welcome return visitors. Cairns River Cruises is running intimate daytime and sunset trips with lounge-style seating that affords terrific views of Trinity Inlet. And back on the reef is the new solar and wind-powered Reef Magic pontoon – it offers diving courses and guided snorkel tours of Moore Reef’s colourful coral gardens.
Base yourself in between adventures at Oaks Cairns Hotel, with spacious, modern rooms close to the Esplanade dining precinct and a short walk from celebrated spots such as Prawn Star, where you can go large on prawns and bugs sourced fresh from the trawlers.
Best Restaurants in Sydney
Sydney’s big-ticket eateries might be harbourside but it’s in the hillside streets of Paddington, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst that you’ll find the texture of the NSW capital’s modern dining scene.
In the morning, join the locals at hole-in-the-wall coffee spot Neighbourhood or sit down at Italian-influenced Barbetta for truffle scrambled eggs and ‘frittelle di zucchine’ (fritters with zucchini, ricotta and smashed peas). A visit to Cafe Kentaro is also a must for Japanese-style seasonal eats, such as a signature soft-shell crab omelette and a pork-loin katsu sando.
In the evening, hightail it to Poly and sip its signature cocktail, the ‘Polycillin’ (Akashi and Laphroaig whisky with lemon myrtle and ginger). Then dine at Nour and add the Fremantle octopus served with chopped muhammara and whipped roe to your order.
“What makes this area special is it’s close to the CBD but still has that neighbourhood vibe,” says Nour owner Ibby Moubadder. “It’s buzzy, it’s vibrant, but it’s personable as well.”
Landing you on the doorstep of all this is Oaks Sydney Hyde Park Suites. Overlooking the iconic Hyde Park, it’s just a walk away from Museum Station and the CBD. These slickly appointed self-contained apartments feature wi-fi, an onsite gym and swimming pool.