A secluded stay at the end of a pier. An introduction to Western Australia’s most spectacular marine life. A journey on the world’s first custom-built amphibious boat. These are just a few of the unique experiences recognised by the prestigious Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in its 2021 round-up of tourism excellence.
Held annually since 1985, the awards celebrate the best in Australian tourism across a range of categories, including ecotourism, cultural tourism and excellence in food tourism, with a judging panel of 24 carefully selecting the winners from more than 200 national finalists.
Grab a pen: here are five noteworthy experiences that nabbed a top spot.
Live Ningaloo, which organises tours to the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, takes a multi-pronged approach to sustainability, earning it the top prize in the Ecotourism category. Expect small group numbers (in keeping with the Department of Parks and Wildlife laws), a minimisation of non-renewable energy sources in its offices and on its boats and a strong educational stance.
Between April and July, visitors can join the exclusive Swim with Whale Sharks trip to snorkel alongside the majestic creatures, while the August to October season sees humpback whales frolic in the water as Live Ningaloo’s guests swim safely nearby. On the Turtle Eco Adventure Tour in November and December, you can snorkel the Ningaloo Lagoon and admire the kaleidoscopic coral reef and its inhabitants.
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, which includes the leafy Melbourne CBD outpost and the sunburnt Cranbourne site composed of 170,000 native Australian plants, offers an enriching experience for visitors of all ages. In addition to walking tracks and a beautiful setting, there’s a rotating schedule of activities, such as forest therapy, outdoor art exhibits and botany bootcamp.
As well as being a fantastic place for exploration and education, the gardens’ research centre plays a vital role in maintaining a deep understanding of native flora and fauna. The organisation took out the Major Tourist Attractions category for 2021.
Spirits of the Red Sand
The Welcome to Country gives guests an enlightening experience centred on Dreamtime beliefs, followed by the ceremony’s formalities as well as hands-on participation. During the evening tour, participants are treated to the group’s roving three-course dinner and theatre event, which takes them on a journey into Indigenous history and its collision with British colonisation. Discover more incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural tourism experiences at the Qantas Cultural Experiences hub.
Occupying a quiet spot on an atmospheric pier, Lake St Clair’s Pumphouse Point is the stuff of remote accommodation dreams. Nestled within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, this boutique hotel took first place in the Unique Accommodation category.
Days spent at Pumphouse Point are slow and devoid of mundane distractions: bushwalking in the peaceful surroundings is a popular way to pass the time, as are relaxing massages or tucking into the artisan snacks of each in-room pantry while gazing at the water.
Wilsons Promontory Cruises
In the category of New Tourism Business, Victoria’s Wilsons Promontory Cruises was awarded the top gong. The group’s amphibious touring boat, which reduces its environmental impact by smoothly transitioning from water to land, is a world first, forgoing the need to build or use a jetty on Norman Beach and helping to minimise the footprint left on this rugged, unspoilt landscape.
Operating within Victoria’s Wilsons Promontory Marine Park, the cruises give guests the opportunity to encounter fur seal colonies, migrating whales and bottlenose dolphins.