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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.