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 ...
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.
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