SIX STUN­NING AUSSIE DES­TI­NA­TIONS PER­FECT FOR YOUR BUCKET LIST

When it comes to home­grown travel ex­pe­ri­ences, Aus­tralians are truly spoilt for choice. A new book – Aus­tralia’s Ul­ti­mate Bucket List – de­tails 100 of the coun­try’s must-visit des­ti­na­tions. Here are just half a dozen ...

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS JEN­NIFER ADAMS AND CLINT BIZZELL

SAP­PHIRE COAST, NSW

The charm of the Sap­phire Coast is its daz­zling beaches. In­ter­spersed with na­tional parks, lakes, cliffs, caves, sea­side towns and scenic drives, it is the south­ern­most coastal re­gion in New South Wales and a haven for hol­i­day-mak­ers.

Stretch­ing from Ber­magui in the north to the Vic­to­rian bor­der in the south, the main towns of the Sap­phire Coast in­clude Bega, Tathra, Mer­im­bula, Eden and Pam­bula, each of­fer­ing some­thing a lit­tle unique and all within an easy drive of each other.

The re­gion is leg­endary for its seafood. Oys­ters are a par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar ex­port, and vis­i­tors don’t have to look far to get them, as most towns have their own har­vest of Syd­ney rock oys­ters. The only prob­lem is de­cid­ing which town does them best.

Whales are reg­u­lar vis­i­tors here, and have been as­so­ci­ated with the coast and par­tic­u­larly the wa­ters around Eden since the early 19th cen­tury, when whal­ing was its ma­jor in­dus­try.

To­day it is all about watch­ing these gen­tle gi­ants, and whether it’s from the shore or by boat ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence is thrilling. The dairy in­dus­try around Bega is fa­mous, and cheese is still its num­ber-one in­dus­try, although tourism is quickly catch­ing up.

Ben Boyd Na­tional Park, named af­ter a 19th-cen­tury en­tre­pre­neur, is a sig­nif­i­cant area for the lo­cal Yuin peo­ple.

It’s known for its rugged, red coast­line, pris­tine beaches, coastal heath and Boyd’s Tower, which marks the en­trance to Twofold Bay and was used back in the day as a whale look­out.

YARRA VAL­LEY, VIC

The Yarra Val­ley is an es­cape from the hus­tle and bus­tle of the city into a world of in­dul­gence. Here you’ll find na­ture at its finest, rolling hills cov­ered in vine­yards, world-class food and wine, and an easy, re­laxed pace of life.

Just an hour from Mel­bourne’s CBD, this val­ley is an as­sault on the senses. The views over the re­gion that pi­o­neered Vic­to­ria’s wine in­dus­try from 1838 in­clude pic­turesque vil­lages, cel­lar doors that range from quaint and rus­tic through to ar­chi­tec­tural gems, and boun­ti­ful vine­yards and farm­land, with the lush green Dan­de­nong Ranges form­ing the back­ground.

The area around Healesville, one of the main towns in the re­gion, was orig­i­nally oc­cu­pied by the Yarra Yarra or Wu­rund­jeri Abo­rig­i­nal group.

This group then set­tled at a reser­va­tion on nearby Bad­ger Creek, which be­came Vic­to­ria’s largest Abo­rig­i­nal re­serve un­til it closed in 1924. To­day the re­gion’s cool cli­mate lends it­self to a thriv­ing wine in­dus­try, suited to chardon­nay, pinot noir and sparkling wine; some of Aus­tralia’s most iconic wine in­sti­tu­tions have been stal­warts in the area for gen­er­a­tions.

And wher­ever there is wine, there seems to be food. The ar­eas around the towns of Yarra Glen and Healesville in par­tic­u­lar of­fer many restau­rants and ar­ti­san pro­duc­ers, creat­ing some of the coun­try’s best culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences.

ROT­TNEST IS­LAND, WA

A world away from the city of Perth, yet just 19km off its coast, Rot­tnest Is­land is home to se­cluded bays, daz­zling beaches, rich his­tory and unique wildlife that will both sur­prise and amaze you.

From the mo­ment you ar­rive on “Rotto” by ferry, you are im­mersed in a laid-back at­mos­phere.

Feel com­plete free­dom as you snorkel crys­tal-clear wa­ters. Ex­plore walk­ing trails, dis­cov­er­ing rich indige­nous and colo­nial his­tory along the way. Climb the Wad­jemup Light­house for breath­tak­ing views. And en­counter wildlife, such as whales on their an­nual mi­gra­tion and the is­land’s na­tive

res­i­dent, the quokka. With vir­tu­ally no cars on the is­land, the main op­tions here are bike and foot. En­joy the peace and fresh ocean air as you set your own pace.

There are more than 63 beaches and 20 bays to be en­joyed in which­ever way you please, be it swim­ming, surf­ing, snorkelling or kayak­ing. The is­land’s first in­hab­i­tants, the Noon­gar peo­ple, oc­cu­pied Rot­tnest when it was still at­tached to the main­land around 7000 years ago, be­fore ris­ing sea lev­els sep­a­rated the two. The tra­di­tional name “Wad­jemup”, means “place across the wa­ter”.

Euro­pean ex­plo­ration be­gan in the 17th cen­tury, and when Dutch cap­tain Willem de Vlam­ingh spent six days on the is­land in 1696, he named it “Rotte Nest”, lit­er­ally mean­ing “rats’ nest”, af­ter mis­tak­ing the is­land’s na­tive mar­su­pi­als, the quokka, for rats.

To­day the quokka is a nat­u­ral draw­card for Rot­tnest, which is one of only a few ar­eas in the world where this mar­su­pial re­sides, largely be­cause the is­land’s iso­la­tion means it is free from preda­tors.

KATHER­INE GORGE, NITMILUK NA­TIONAL PARK, NT

Whether you’re ex­plor­ing it by foot, boat, he­li­copter or kayak, Kather­ine Gorge is a pow­er­ful re­minder of the forces of na­ture.

The Kather­ine River, flow­ing from Arn­hem Land, forged a se­ries of 13 gorges through an­cient sand­stone to cre­ate this nat­u­ral won­der.

The sto­ries of the na­tional park come alive amid its tow­er­ing es­carp­ments, idyl­lic wa­ter­ways, cas­cad­ing wa­ter­falls, caves, beaches and Abo­rig­i­nal rock-art sites.

The area is the tra­di­tional land of the Ja­woyn and Dagomen Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple, whose rock art de­picted in caves and shel­ters through­out the park tells of their cul­ture and her­itage. In 1989 Kather­ine Gorge was handed back to the Ja­woyn peo­ple, who es­tab­lished Nitmiluk Na­tional Park in joint man­age­ment with the Parks and Wildlife Com­mis­sion of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory; their an­cient his­tory is shared at the park’s vis­i­tor in­for­ma­tion cen­tre.

One of the best ways to ex­pe­ri­ence the park is to ca­noe the length of the first three gorges, tak­ing in the diver­sity of land­scapes, dis­cov­er­ing an­cient Ja­woyn rock paint­ings and go­ing for a dip in the re­fresh­ing wa­ters.

This in­ti­mate ad­ven­ture on the Kather­ine River’s serene wa­ters is not only a glimpse into the nat­u­ral habi­tat of the res­i­dent wildlife, but a spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence con­nect­ing with the his­tory and peo­ple of the land.

SEVEN­TEEN SEVENTY, QUEENS­LAND

The town of Seven­teen Seventy might have been the birth­place of Queens­land and the sec­ond place on Aus­tralian soil that Cap­tain James Cook set foot, but not too much has hap­pened since then, mak­ing this idyl­lic beach vil­lage one of Queens­land’s best-kept se­crets.

Named for the year that Cap­tain Cook stepped ashore, Seven­teen Seventy is nes­tled in an area rich in wildlife, with pic­turesque views in ev­ery di­rec­tion.

There are not many beaches in the sun­shine state that you can have all to your­self, but there’s a good chance you’ll find soli­tude here.

The town sits on a penin­sula sur­rounded by the Co­ral Sea and Bus­tard Bay on three sides, and it’s said to be one of the only places on the Aus­tralian coast where you can watch the sun rise and set over the ocean.

Neigh­bour­ing sea­side vil­lage Agnes Wa­ter boasts the most northerly surf beach in Queens­land, and hosts the an­nual Seven­teen Seventy long­board surf­ing com­pe­ti­tion.

Seven­teen Seventy’s small ma­rina is the gate­way to the south­ern Great Bar­rier Reef and Lady Mus­grave Is­land, but the real at­trac­tion of this town lies in its un­der­de­vel­op­ment, leav­ing it to be a quaint and beau­ti­ful beach par­adise for the few who have dis­cov­ered it.

MONA, TAS­MA­NIA

The first les­son you’ll learn when you en­ter the Mu­seum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Ho­bart is to ex­pect the un­ex­pected.

The cen­tre of the ex­pan­sive foyer gives way to a labyrinth of space ex­tend­ing three lev­els un­der­ground, and it is from the very bot­tom that David Walsh, the man be­hind this mas­ter­piece, en­vi­sioned his vis­i­tors would be­gin their jour­ney.

For­get pre­vi­ously po­lite ex­pe­ri­ences at other mu­se­ums. MONA will dance all over them, kick­ing up her heels at the end. Walsh wants peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence his pri­vate col­lec­tion of art with an open mind, and prefer­ably af­ter a stiff drink at the Void bar, which sits strate­gi­cally at the point on the lower level where the ex­hibits be­gin.

In the big­gest phil­an­thropic project in Aus­tralia for decades, Walsh spent around $80 mil­lion build­ing the avant-garde, un­der­ground “Dis­ney­land for adults” to house his pri­vate col­lec­tion, which ranges from the sub­ver­sive to the dis­turb­ing, and largely cen­tres on the themes of sex and death.

His in­ten­tion is to “present art that de­mands an emo­tional re­sponse” and MONA does so with­out apol­ogy, or even much ex­pla­na­tion. While vis­i­tors get an in­ter­ac­tive iPod track­ing their jour­ney around the mu­seum, there is lit­tle to no in­for­ma­tion avail­able with each ex­hibit, so that you are free to in­ter­pret them as you wish.

You could sit in front of the the­atri­cally lit ex­hibits try­ing to get your head around them for hours, with the sights, sounds and smells al­most as­sault­ing you.

Love the mu­seum or hate it, the ir­rev­er­ent Walsh will al­most cer­tainly achieve his vi­sion of chal­leng­ing you, and you will burst out of the mu­seum at the end, back into a world of nat­u­ral light, won­der­ing what ex­actly hap­pened to you in there.

Rot­tnest Is­land, West­ern Aus­tralia and, be­low left, a whale off Ben Boyd Na­tional Park, NSW

Clock­wise from left: See the Yarra Val­ley in Vic­to­ria from a hot air bal­loon; MONA in Tas­ma­nia (Pic­ture: Tourism Tas­ma­nia & Scott Sporleder, Mata­dor Im­age); Ca­noe Kather­ine Gorge in Nitmiluk Na­tional Park, NT (Pic­ture: Pe­ter Eve/Tourism NT); Agnes Wa­ters beach in the town of Seven­teen Seventy, Queens­land

This is an edited ex­tract from Aus­tralia’s Ul­ti­mate

Bucket List by Jen­nifer Adams and Clint Bizzell, pub­lished by Hardie Grant Books. RRP $29.99, it is avail­able in stores na­tion­ally

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