When the world’s leading magazines, newspapers and websites compiled their list of must-visit travel destinations for 2018, a huge number of them recommended coming Down Under. No surprises there – but what might surprise you is just how many different places in our Great Southern Land made the lists. Here’s a rundown of these so-hot-right-now Australian destinations, why tourists are flocking to them and why locals have loved them all along.
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The Apple Isle appears to be the favourite Aussie hotspot, with The New York Times, Fodor’s Travel and Insider all bewitched by its charms. Natural wonders are high on the list of attractions, with Cradle Mountain, Wineglass Bay, Satellite Island (a luxurious private island) and Bruny Island (where oyster lovers are invited to ‘Get shucked’) all warranting a mention. But it’s the opening of the Aboriginal Land Council’s Wukalina Walk, that’s got everyone excited for 2018. This three night/four day Aboriginal-owned and operated guided walk showcases the magnificent homeland of the Palawa people, with accommodation in ‘timber tents’.
Accommodation is also a hot topic in Hobart, thanks to the opening of the first hotel built on the harbour in more than a decade, MACq1, while 11 kilometres north of the city lies MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), consistently named one of the world’s best modern art galleries.
But it’s Tasmania’s foodie scene that attracts much of the attention. Central to it all is a ‘culinary renaissance’ in Hobart, which has seen a legion of leading chefs from all over the country migrate to the island state. They use the exceptional local produce – salmon, abalone, oysters, truffles, cheese and wagyu beef – to produce innovative cuisine. Restaurants name-checked in the lists include Franklin, housed in a restored 1920s Ford showroom, and Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store, a farm-to-table eatery found in a 19th-century former mental asylum.
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Another state renowned for its cultural and culinary offerings, South Australia features on the 2018 top travel lists of two major publications. U.S News provides a decent round-up of major attractions in the state (think Adelaide’s galleries and museums; the Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale; and Kangaroo Island and Cleland Wildlife Park).
Architectural Digest adds a food angle, recommending The Lane Vineyard – the ‘home of the long lunch’ in the Adelaide Hills – and the intriguing new d’Arenberg Cube building in McLaren Vale, featuring bars, tasting rooms, an art gallery and a restaurant.
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For Travel+Leisure, the highlight of a trip to Australia is the Mornington Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from Melbourne. Activities such as touring wineries on horseback, swimming with wild dolphins, and flying over Arthurs Seat State Park in a gondola are a must. There’s also Point Leo Estate, featuring a tasting room, fine-dining restaurant and sculpture park; the boutique hotel, Jackalope; and Peninsula Hot Springs, with geothermal mineral springs and a day spa.
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According to the The New York Times, an indigenous tourism boom in the Top End is one of the most exciting things to happen to travel in 2018. Record crowds at the popular 2017 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair seemed to set the tone and pace, and there’s a plethora of new markets, indigenous centres, camps, tours and indigenous partnerships planned for this year. One such venture is the opening of a six-room camp at the edge of a crocodile-filled billabong, by Aboriginal-owned Pudakul Tours. One for the more adventurous couples!
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New South Wales
According to Elle Decor and National Geographic, the recent reopening of the Joan Sutherland theatre in Sydney’s iconic Opera House is reason enough to visit Sydney. Following a $71 million upgrade, it welcomes back the Australian Ballet in April.
Meanwhile, Architectural Digest pinpoints Byron Bay as the place to visit in 2018, saying, “Australia’s hippie-dippie beach town has always attracted surfers and beach bums, but now it’s growing up, with more sophisticated lodging and dining options”. Those options include Elements of Byron, Three Blue Ducks, and Halcyon House – which, to be precise, is actually at Cabarita Beach, about 50km north of Byron.
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Condé Nast Traveler’s motto is ‘truth in travel’, and they certainly pull no punches in a recent account of the Great Barrier Reef and the damage caused to it by bleaching. The Reef is on their list of the ‘18 best places to travel in 2018’, with the following suggestion: “Rather than mourn what’s lost... we should treasure what’s left”. By going to see the parts of the Reef that are still great, our tourism dollars will help support conservation efforts to ensure they stay great.
Further south, The Guardian holds up the recent 2018 Commonwealth Games as a good reason to hit the Gold Coast, specifically mentioning Surfers Paradise, Kirra, Springbrook National Park and Burleigh Heads as places to visit while you’re there (whether it’s for the Games or not). Brisbane (which is set to host basketball games during the Commonwealth Games) is also recommended, plus two gateways to the Great Barrier Reef: Cairns and Townsville.
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For CNN Travel, it’s all about Perth. Qantas launching non-stop flights from Europe is a factor, but there’s so much else going on in this city. New hotels include Aloft Perth with live music, rooftop yoga and a 24-7 pantry; and the modular-designed, “part collaborative workspace, part social club” Tribe Perth. Then there’s the much-anticipated Yagan Square development, which will not only showcase food vendors, a digital tower and rooftop water feature for children, it will also link the Perth CBD with Northbridge – the cultural hub – for the first time in more than a century.
The article also reels off a list of some of Perth’s best-loved highlights, including beaches, night markets, buzzing restaurant scene (the city apparently now offers more eateries per capita than both Sydney and Melbourne), Little Creatures Brewing in Fremantle and the Swan Valley (“the oldest and most respected wine region in Australia”), about a 30-minute drive northeast of Perth.
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Australian Capital Territory
When Lonely Planet announced its ‘Best in Travel 2018: Top Cities’ list at the end of 2017, it was an interesting and eclectic selection, featuring cities as varied as Oslo in Norway, Guanajuato in Mexico and Kaohsiung in Taiwan. But surely no one could have predicted the city voted number three in the world: Canberra. Burdened by a “boring” label for many years, in recent times there’s been a determined push to prove this tag wrong. According to Lonely Planet it, “packs a big punch for such a small city”. A big event coming up in 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice.
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