It’s official―Australia is hot!
Tourism Australia figures show that Australia has become an increasingly popular tourist destination over recent years, with a total of 9.2 million international visitors in the year ending October 2018―an increase of 5.2 per cent on the previous year.
Notwithstanding Australia’s unique selection of breathtaking landmarks, the dip in the Australian dollar against the United States dollar from its 2011 high has equated to a more desirable exchange rate for inbound tourists spending US dollars down under―resulting in an influx of visitors getting a taste of our beautiful, sunburnt country at an affordable price point.
And with the Australian dollar at its current levels, it also makes sense for local travellers to see what’s in their own backyard and discover what their own country has to offer.
As investment in infrastructure continues and as new tourism offerings are developed, more Australian towns, cities and regions are becoming more accessible and appealing for travellers. This means that whether it’s food, wine, cultural vibrancy or sightseeing opportunities you’re looking for, there is a veritable bounty of home-grown options to choose from.
To alleviate some of the research, we’ve highlighted the hottest destinations around Australia for 2019 according to Qantas, including just a few of the reasons why each hotspot makes the list.
The Kimberley, WA. With a rugged red landscape, ice-blue waterfalls and rivers snaking between soaring cliffs, The Kimberley is one of Australia’s most beautiful regions. And with a new influx of cruises heading to Western Australia’s northern tip, it’s never been more accessible.
Brisbane, Qld. The Queensland capital is hotter than ever. Five high-end hotels have opened (or re-opened) in the past year. The city’s food scene is firing up thanks to new restaurants, bars and a new food and drinks precinct taking shape.
Newcastle, NSW. One of Australia’s grittiest cities has been revived, with quaint bars, hipster cafés, boutique accommodation, of-the-moment restaurants and a soon-to-launch light-rail system all breathing new life into the developing beach district.
Launceston, Tas. After ten years in Hobart, Tasmania’s largest contemporary music festival, MONA FOMA, is moving lock, stock and barrel to the Apple Isle’s second city. And that only means one thing: Launceston is about to get seriously cool. In the meantime, the town also offers a range of different activities sure to entertain every member of the family.
Ballarat, Vic. One of Australia’s most historic towns is now also a hip cultural hub, with a record 2.9 million travellers making the trip there in the last financial year. Impressive events like the Biennale of Australian Art (which brought 150 of the country’s best artists to town for a six-week showcase) have all added to its allure. And things are showing no signs of slowing down, with 2019 seeing the return of overnight art festival, White Night.
The Red Centre, NT. Uluru’s beauty is timeless, but 2019 is a particularly good year to see the natural wonder. August marks the 90th anniversary of The Ghan―the four-day train journey between Darwin to Adelaide, with pit stops at Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. The legendary locomotive plans to celebrate with a few special (top secret) surprises for guests travelling on its June, July and August trips through the Red Centre.
Geelong, Vic. Victoria’s second-biggest city has been reborn. The once-industrial suburbs of Geelong are gentrifying, with a new wave of cellar doors, degustation menus, craft breweries and cute boutiques setting the scene for what promises to be a new cultural hub―just an easy 75-kilometre trip down the freeway from Melbourne.
Yass, NSW. Between a high-profile visit from the cast of the US TV program Queer Eye and the rise of its unpretentious fine-dining restaurant Clementine, Yass is officially “having a moment”. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Canberra, so the capital’s galleries and museums are within easy reach, too.
The Adelaide Hills, SA. The likes of food and wine venues such as Summertown Aristologist and Lost in a Forest have been charming visitors to the Adelaide Hills for years. In 2019, the wine region will get even better, with the opening of Lot 100―a new space set to house a range of boutique breweries.
Dunsborough, WA. After 21 years at Margaret River winery Vasse Felix, its chef packed up in 2018 and moved down the road to open his first restaurant. Yarri was an immediate hit, touted as Western Australia’s best new restaurant for its inventive use of ethically sourced local produce.
Castlemaine, Vic. The great outdoors―and the great indoors―are pulling a new wave of visitors to central Victoria. The state’s newest collection of mountain bike trails opened at La Larr Ba Gauwa Park this year, while in nearby Nagambie, the wine trail experience has become better than ever.
Cairns, Qld. The Riley is the first new five-star property to open in Cairns in 20 years, giving visitors a luxe new reason to see the Great Barrier Reef. Many of the hotel rooms offer ocean views, but make sure to book a table at the sea-facing Rocco, which will become the city’s highest rooftop restaurant and bar when it opens in late December.
Forrest, Vic. Don’t miss this small town on your next trip down the Great Ocean Road, which boasts a newly opened artisan chocolate shop and sits on the doorstop of the Otway National Park’s array of hikes, waterfalls and wildlife. Australia’s top regional restaurant, Brae, is also only a 20-minute drive away.
The Whitsundays, Qld. With two luxury hotel openings set for 2019, there’s never been a better time to hit The Whitsundays, with Daydream Island reopening its $100 million redevelopment and Elysian Retreat cutting the ribbon on its 10-bungalow boutique hotel. Relaxation awaits.
Mullumbimby, NSW. Byron Bay’s days as an undiscovered boho haunt are, sadly, over. Luckily, the serene magic of the NSW north coast is still intact in nearby Mullumbimby. Spend a weekend in the small town and you can eat wood-fired pizza, grab a coffee from the local roasters, stroll through the farmers market―then return home revitalised. It’s got all the bliss with none of the crowds.
Loch, Vic. The tiny Victorian town of Loch might feel undiscovered right now, but it won’t stay that way for long. Pennicott Cruises is set to launch trips to the nearby Wilson’s Promontory in 2019, bringing a new flood of visitors to the region. Go there now to experience Loch’s antique shops, cosy cafés and galleries before everyone else does.
Southern Highlands, NSW. In January, the chef behind revered Bowral restaurant Biota launched a new dining concept in the Southern Highlands. Barn will host two dinner services per month at the picturesque Wildes Meadow property, where guests can enjoy yabby fishing and pre-dinner drinks before sitting down for a multi-course communal dinner. There’s accommodation too―you can stay on-site at the property’s two-bedroom loft.
The Dalai Lama famously said, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” So why not make that place somewhere in your own backyard?