Ten Must-Visit Aussie Places to Plan Your 2021 Travel Adventures Around
Forget long-haul flights and lengthy stopovers — you'll soon be able to enjoy these idyllic islands, gorgeous beaches and scenic regions across the ditch.
With the long-awaited trans-Tasman travel bubble set to launch this April, it's time to embrace those closer-to-home adventures and make 2021 the year of the great Aussie holiday. And, whether you're after a breezy island-hopping getaway, craving a weeklong escape to wine country, or fancy glamping under the stars by an award-winning beach, Australia has got scores of gorgeous destinations to scratch your particular brand of travel itch.
The best part? Without any long-haul flights and lengthy stopovers chewing up precious travel time, you should be able to squeeze even more holidays into your year than usual. To help you maximise your 2021 wanderings, we've rounded up ten must-visit Aussie destinations worth a spot on your travel hit-list. Put in that leave request and start plotting a new year of memorable local escapes.
CABARITA BEACH, NEW SOUTH WALES
If sun, sand and surf are top of your holiday wish list, what more fitting destination than Australia's best beach of 2020? Nestled between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, NSW's Cabarita Beach owns that honourable title, proving a summertime favourite for its top-notch surfing, ace facilities, sparkling water and general 'wow' factor. Nearby Cudgen Lake and Nature Reserve deliver natural thrills of their own, while the surrounding towns feature a lively mix of shops, boutique stays and varied dining options — including award-winning modern Australian restaurant, Paper Daisy. And for full impact, you can glamp in total luxury just metres from the Cabarita shoreline, at unique beachside resort The Hideaway.
ULURU-KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK, NORTHERN TERRITORY
If all that extra time spent cooped up at home has left you itching for some truly memorable getaway action, you'd best pop Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park on your 2021 travel itinerary — the only Aussie spot to make the top ten of Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel List for 2020. While the striking formation of Uluru is undoubtedly the star of this show, the park's also got plenty more to offer: check out the many walking tracks, tours and ranger-guided experiences, or dive into some history and knowledge at the Cultural Centre. What's more, Bruce Munro's spectacular Field of Light installation has recently been extended indefinitely, magically illuminating the grounds around Uluru with over 50,000 glowing frosted-glass spheres each night.
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, QUEENSLAND
Even with overseas adventures off the cards, you can still experience Australia's own natural wonder of the world — the iconic Great Barrier Reef. The largest coral reef system on the planet, it's home to all the idyllic beaches, tropical islands and stunning seascapes your holidaying heart could desire. Sail, snorkel or cruise the days away; explore the buzzing coastal hub of Airlie Beach; or clock up some scenic steps trekking through the area's gorgeous rainforest. While there, The Whitsundays' famed Daydream Island makes for a luxurious vacation base, or you can literally sleep among the fish by booking a stay at the Great Barrier Reef's underwater hotel, Reefsuites.
THE GRAMPIANS, VICTORIA
Squeeze a little more out of your next regional escape, with a trip to The Grampians. Around 250 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, the area's a haven for foodies and nature lovers alike, brimming with things to explore. Discover the beauty of the Grampians National Park and its famed Pinnacle lookout by trekking the Grampians Peaks Trail, or experience the country's largest outdoor gallery with a drive along the Silo Art Trail. There are wineries and cellar doors galore, along with a host of culinary gems, ranging from the likes of Hamilton's Little Koi Cafe, to Dunkeld's renowned Royal Mail Hotel. And if you're lucky, your visit will coincide with the legendary Grampians Grape Escape wine festival, normally held in May.
LORD HOWE ISLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES
With its pristine beaches, lush green slopes and plethora of hiking trails, it's not hard to see why Lord Howe Island was named among Lonely Planet's list of best places to visit in 2020. Sitting 600 kilometres off the northern coast of NSW, this idyllic holiday destination has a little something for everyone, whether you fancy snorkelling among over 500 species of fish, or soaking up views on the 875-metre trek up Mt Gower. There are world-class dive sites and stunning rainforests, along with a range of accommodation options and impressive eateries featuring dreamy vistas. What's more, a visitor capacity of just 400 people means you're always in for one truly quiet, crowd-free getaway.
ROTTNEST ISLAND, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
It's perhaps best known for its photogenic resident quokkas, but WA's Rottnest Island has plenty more to tempt a holiday visit. Perched 19 kilometres (or a 25-minute ferry ride) off the coast of Fremantle, this idyllic nature reserve is both brimming with wildlife and rich in history. Explore its many tracks and trails by foot or bike, or travel the coastline on a waterbike tour. You'll find an array of bars and eateries — including waterfront beauties like Frankie's on Rotto and Hotel Rottnest — and a range of accommodation options running from campsites and eco-cabins, to the swanky new Samphire hotel. Throw in some historic lighthouses, a museum and 63 blissful beaches and you've got yourself one enviable vacation.
NINGALOO REEF, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
The West's answer to Queensland's most prized natural wonder, Ningaloo Reef is another World Heritage-listed site, hugging the coast around 1250 kilometres north of Perth. With its crystal-clear waters home to over 500 species of tropical fish, this 260-kilometre coral reef is heaven for snorkelers of all abilities. While there, you can brave a swim with whale sharks (April to July), spot pods of humpbacks making their annual migration (July to October), and explore the adjoining town of Exmouth and the Cape Range National Park. Plus, experience eco-friendly glamping teamed with stunning ocean views with a stay at the Sal Salis luxury lodge.
BAROSSA VALLEY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
If your holiday sip of choice is of the full-bodied, red variety, a trip to Barossa Valley wine country is a must. Just an hour out of Adelaide, the region is perhaps best known for its world-class shiraz. Here, you can spend your days tasting your way around much-loved cellar doors like Henschke, Seppelt, Penfolds and Saltram. Or, opt for a more virtuous itinerary of hiking tracks and national parks, exploring nearby natural gems like the Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park and The Barossa Trail. The region's also dotted with cultural finds — like the Barossa Regional Gallery — and an esteemed collection of eateries, including favourites Char Barossa and Appellation at The Louise.
WINEGLASS BAY, TASMANIA
A stunning pocket of Tasmania's Freycinet Peninsula named for its unusual shape, Wineglass Bay boasts some serious cred, regularly named among the world's best beaches. Sporting pristine sandy curves framed by pink granite mountains, it's a slice of coastal paradise to rival anything requiring a passport stamp. In between lazy sessions on the beach, sea kayaking adventures and boat cruises along the coast, you can dose up on more nature by taking one of the numerous treks through Freycinet National Park. Be sure to climb up Wineglass Bay Lookout for some of the most incredible views south of Bass Strait, and to gorge on as much fresh Tasmanian seafood as possible at the local eateries.
APOLLO BAY, VICTORIA
Nestled along the Great Ocean Road, 2.5 hours from Melbourne, this seaside town is a year-round holiday gem. In balmy weather, it's all about the surf breaks, sandy coastline stretches and dreamy seafood dishes enjoyed at local eateries like La Bimba. In fact, each February, scores of food-lovers descend for the annual Apollo Bay Seafood Festival. Not only is the town also home to the starting stretch of the Great Ocean Walk, but it's just a short drive from the lush rainforests and hiking trails of The Otways. And of course, a few local beers and sea views enjoyed in the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse beer garden are a treat no matter the season.
To find out more about the status of COVID-19 in Australia and how to protect yourself, head to the Australian Government Department of Health's website. To find out more about the virus and travel restrictions in New Zealand, head over to the NZ Government's COVID-19 hub.
Top image: Rottnest Island via Tourism Australia.
Published on April 07, 2021 by Libby Curran