Na­tion’s high­lights shine even brighter

When ex­plor­ing this di­verse land, don’t for­get even the best-known land­marks have the abil­ity to rein­vent them­selves, writes An­gela Sau­rine

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - Landmarks Australia -

THEY are Aus­tralia’s most iconic des­ti­na­tions, fea­tur­ing first on post­cards and more re­cently in brag­ging pho­tos on Face­book as the top places to see Down Un­der.

But no mat­ter how fa­mous a land­mark is, with so much com­pe­ti­tion for trav­ellers they must con­stantly rein­vent them­selves to keep peo­ple coming back.

Here’s how our favourite hol­i­day spots have stood the test of time by mov­ing with the times.

Red Cen­tre

North­ern Ter­ri­tory Uluru may be hun­dreds of mil­lions of years old, but it wasn’t un­til the mid-1950s that the first plane landed be­side the fa­mous land­mark.

Ay­ers Rock Re­sort opened in the mid-1980s, but has un­der­gone ma­jor changes with a stronger fo­cus on in­dige­nous ex­pe­ri­ences since be­ing bought by a con­sor­tium led by the In­dige­nous Land Cor­po­ra­tion in 2010 and is now man­aged by Voy­ages In­dige­nous Tourism Aus­tralia.

The lux­u­ri­ous Sails in the Desert re­sort has had a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment and the more in­ti­mate out­door din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence Tali Wiru has been added to the award-win­ning Sounds of Si­lence din­ner. The noo­dle bar Ay­ers Wok and Out­back Sky Jour­neys as­tron­omy tours have also been in­tro­duced.

Costs – then and now: When it opened in 1990, ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Sails in the Desert – then known as Sher­a­ton Ay­ers Rock – was $160 a night. It’s now $320 a night.

Great Ocean Road

Vic­to­ria Built by 3000 re­turned ser­vice­men dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, the Great Ocean Road is con­sid­ered one of the world’s great drives.

When it opened in 1932, the road was very nar­row and only one-way from East­ern View to Lorne.

Over the years it has been widened and up­graded to cater for the mil­lions of vis­i­tors who drive along it each year.

To­day, tourism along the Great Ocean Road gen­er­ates more than $1 bil­lion for the econ­omy each year and it has been placed on Aus­tralia’s Na­tional Her­itage list for its ‘‘ ex­tra­or­di­nary his­toric and nat­u­ral sig­nif­i­cance’’.

Great Bar­rier Reef

Queens­land Tourists be­gan vis­it­ing the Whit­sun­days as early as the 1930s, but it wasn’t un­til re­sorts be­gan be­ing devel­oped in the 1950s that the re­gion took off.

Adding to the area’s nat­u­ral beauty, ac­com­mo­da­tion and tour op­er­a­tors have in­tro­duced ac­tiv­i­ties rang­ing from out­door din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences to au­dio tours, vol­un­tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties and pil­low menus.

They have also adopted wide-scale eco-friendly prac­tices to en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity of its most im­por­tant at­trac­tion – the Great Bar­rier Reef – and the is­lands.

Re­cent ad­di­tions in­clude the Port of Air­lie ma­rina devel­op­ment, an 18-hole golf course on Dent Is­land, rain­for­est walks and fine-din­ing restau­rants. Costs then and now: In 1985, a White­haven Beach cruise stop­ping at three is­lands cost $55 a per­son.

To­day, you can book a half-day cruise from $95.

Syd­ney Har­bour

NSW Broad­cast around the world on New Year’s Eve each year, Syd­ney Har­bour is top of most in­ter­na­tional tourists’ ‘‘ must do’’ list.

The Syd­ney Opera House opened in 1973 and now wel­comes more than eight mil­lion vis­i­tors each year.

The Har­bour Bridge, known col­lo­qui­ally as ‘‘ the coathanger’’ opened in 1932, but the most pop­u­lar devel­op­ment for tourists has been the op­por­tu­nity to climb the bridge, launched in 1998.

Just un­der three mil­lion peo­ple have climbed the bridge since that time and BridgeClimb has since in­tro­duced night, twi­light and dawn climbs. Costs then and now: In 1998, it cost $98 to do BridgeClimb. Prices now range from $138 to $318.

The­meparks

Queens­land Sea World was the first theme park to open on the Gold Coast Spit in 1972 with a ski show, dol­phins, marine dis­plays, a pool and li­censed restau­rant.

It has ex­panded over the years to in­clude new at­trac­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences, fo­cus­ing on the park’s not-for-profit re­search and res­cue foun­da­tion.

A new seal ex­hibit, Seal Har­bour, opens this month and a new thrill ride is planned for later in the year.

Dream­world opened in 1981 and still

houses many of its orig­i­nal at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing the steam train, vin­tage cars and the Rocky Hol­low log ride.

It has added some of the tallest and fastest rides in the world, such as the Gi­ant Drop and Tower of Ter­ror II.

Its own­ers also opened White­Wa­ter World in 2006 and three new lands have been cre­ated in the past year: Mada­gas­car Mad­ness, Shrek’s Faire Faire Away and Kung Fu Panda: Land of Awe­some­ness.

The past year has seen the ar­rival of two ben­gal tiger cubs and the new Big 8 Thrill Ride, Pan­da­mo­nium.

Warner Bros. Movie World opened a decade af­ter Dream­world, with a range of Hol­ly­wood-in­spired rides, shows and at­trac­tions and has since in­tro­duced a range of 3D rides.

Kakadu

North­ern Ter­ri­tory The wilder­ness area be­came pop­u­lar for sa­fari camp­ing in the 1950s, with the first ho­tels ap­pear­ing in the 1970s when Kakadu be­came a na­tional park.

In the early days, dirt roads made get­ting around Kakadu a chal­lenge. Now it has sealed roads, view­ing plat­forms, bridges and vis­i­tor cen­tres.

In re­cent years, the fo­cus has shifted to­wards cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences, rang­ing from bush tucker walks to tra­di­tional weav­ing.

The Kim­ber­ley

West­ern Aus­tralia This re­mote wilder­ness area be­gan to be recog­nised as a tourism des­ti­na­tion in the 1980s when Broome caught the eye of Bri­tish en­tre­pre­neur Lord Alis­tair McAlpine, who helped re­store many of the town’s old build­ings and opened its first lux­ury re­sort, Ca­ble Beach Club.

Although the Bun­gle Bun­gle Range at Pur­nu­l­ulu Na­tional Park was used by Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple dur­ing the wet sea­sons, few Euro­peans knew of its ex­is­tence be­fore it was dis­cov­ered by film­mak­ers in 1983.

Lux­ury camp El Que­stro Wilder­ness Park opened in the 1990s and the tourism in­dus­try grew with the re­de­vel­op­ment of Ca­ble Beach Club Re­sort & Spa and the open­ing of new re­sorts such as Pinc­tada Ca­ble Beach and the lat­est eco-re­sort, The Billi.

The area re­ceived new at­ten­tion as the set­ting for Baz Luhrmann’s film Aus­tralia, star­ring Ni­cole Kid­man and Hugh Jack­man.

The lat­est ac­com­mo­da­tion of­fer­ings in­clude the Berkley River Lodge and Bun­gle Bun­gles Sa­fari Camp.

Di­rect flights from Syd­ney, Mel­bourne and Bris­bane have also made the Kim­ber­ley re­gion much more ac­ces­si­ble.

Cra­dle Moun­tain

Tas­ma­nia Wald­heim Chalet, Cra­dle Moun­tain’s first hol­i­day get­away, was built be­tween 1912 and the early 1920s and quickly be­came known for its warm hos­pi­tal­ity, gen­er­ous serves of ‘‘ wom­bat’’ stews and sing-songs around the fire.

While the moun­tain it­self hasn’t changed, bou­tique ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion, day spas, canyon­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and culi­nary walking tours have sprung up over the years.

Vis­i­tors can now re­lax be­side a cosy log fire at a lux­u­ri­ous moun­tain re­treat and in­dulge in spa treat­ments and qual­ity food and wine ex­pe­ri­ences and flight­see­ing tours.

Blue Moun­tains

NSW The Blue Moun­tains wilder­ness area has en­tranced vis­i­tors since Gov­er­nor Lach­lan Mac­quarie and his wife, Elizabeth, trav­elled the new road over the moun­tains in 1815.

Be­fore long, myr­iad inns dot­ted the high­way, giv­ing re­spite to weary trav­ellers on their way to the rich pas­toral lands to the west.

The rail­way su­per­charged the tourism in­dus­try in 1867, bring­ing sight­seers to the moun­tains in droves and ho­tels, guest­houses, spa re­treats and board­ing houses opened in abun­dance, be­gin­ning with The Car­ring­ton Ho­tel (orig­i­nally named The Great West­ern) in 1882.

While tourism has strug­gled of late, the area is un­der­go­ing a re­ju­ve­na­tion.

The $40 mil­lion Blue Moun­tains Cul­tural Cen­tre opened in Novem­ber, Scenic World is in­stalling a new $30 mil­lion rail­way and the Hy­dro Ma­jes­tic Ho­tel is about to un­dergo a $55 mil­lion re­vamp.

Barossa Val­ley

South Aus­tralia Wine has been the big­gest tourism draw­card for this re­gion, about 60km from Ade­laide, since peo­ple be­gan trav­el­ling from neigh­bour­ing re­gions to buy their sup­plies di­rect from first winer­ies Or­lando, Seppeltsfield and Yalumba, which were built in the 1800s.

The Barossa Vin­tage Fes­ti­val be­gan in 1947 as a chance for res­i­dents to cel­e­brate the grape har­vest and has grown to be­come a ma­jor re­gional event.

Cel­lar doors, cafes and restau­rants be­gan emerg­ing in the 1970s and busi­nesses have ex­tended their once rigid trad­ing hours to cater for vis­i­tors and more mu­sic and food events have cropped up.

MON­U­MEN­TAL SIGHTS: (clockwise from above) Victorious climbers atop the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge; iconic views from the Great Ocean Road; vine­yards in the Barossa Val­ley; and the nat­u­ral beauty of the Whit­sun­days in the Great Bar­rier Reef.

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