If you’re already thinking it’s time to take a holiday in 2021, then now is the time to do it. This is mainly because the Australian government is subsidising 800,000 airfares to tourist hotspots across the country. Who doesn’t love a holiday paid for by the government?
These half-priced flights must occur between April and July, with bookings having opened on April 1st. But, like everything that’s discounted, this won’t last long.
That’s why it’s a good time to start planning your trip now. The airfares are offered to over 13 different locations in Australia, but if you’re at a loss for where to go or what to do, we’ve got some tips to help you out.
The folks at Tourism Australia have a great list of ideas for each of the government-listed tourism hotspots. Here are some of their suggestions for each location:
The Gold Coast (QLD)
- See the Gold Coast from new heights on a Go Ballooning experience.
- A destination known for its innovative new brewing methods, visit the Gold Coast brewmasters on a brew-crawl – make a pit stop at Black Hops Brewing, Burleigh Brewing Company and Granddad Jacks for unique tastings and experiences.
- Fun for all the family, Aquaduck is a great way to see the sights of the Gold Coast.
- Don’t forget the Gold Coast is home to Australia’s greatest theme parks. Dreamworld, White Water World, Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet N’ Wild and Sea World all call the Gold Coast home.
- Located right on Burleigh Beach with floor-to-ceiling windows, Rick Shores takes full advantage of its proximity to the ocean. Seafood is the focus here, with a colourful pan-Asian influence. The Moreton Bay bug roll with Sriracha, mayonnaise and lettuce is easily the restaurant’s most famous dish.
- Situated steps from the beach, Peppers Broadbeach offers panoramic views to the Pacific Ocean and Gold Coast Hinterland. With a heated outdoor pool perfect for relaxing, a private cinema plus zen garden and a tai chi lawn to unwind after a big day exploring the region.
- Tick the Great Barrier Reef off your bucket list and join a tour with Reef Magic or Quicksilver Cruises, both departing from Cairns, and explore the vast underwater world, so vast in fact you can see it from space.
- Setting off from Port Douglas, an easy one-hour drive from Cairns, join Aboriginal guides on a Walkabout Cultural Adventures tour of Kuku Yalanji country, where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Daintree Rainforest. Sample bush tucker while learning about bush medicines and the traditions of the local Indigenous people. For a personalised experience, private tours are available on request.
- Fancy experiencing one of Australia’s most unique rail journeys? Hop aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway, setting off from Cairns and travelling on a return journey to Kuranda. The journey takes you deep into the world Heritage-Listed rainforest.
- If you’re in the mood for fresh seafood and stunning views, make a booking at Dundee’s Restaurant on the Waterfront. Stop by for lunch to see the sunshine glistening on the shore, or reserve a table for dinner and soak up views of the Marlin Marina, Trinity Inlet and majestic mountains while the sun sets.
- Located in the heart of the city, just a block from the waterfront, the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort boasts stunning scenery and offers a lagoon-style pool, tropical gardens and rooms that are bright and airy.
Hamilton Island and Proserpine (QLD)
- A visit to the Whitsundays would not be complete without seeing one of the island’s exquisite sunsets. Hamilton Island’s hilltop bar One Tree Hill is the perfect spot to sip cocktails and watch the colours of dusk light up the sky.
- Book a two-night sail on the tall ship Solway Lass with Explore Whitsundays for a leisurely journey around the islands. With its expansive deck space, licensed bar, rope swing, and stand-up paddleboards, there is something to keep the whole family entertained.
- See crocodiles in their natural habitat in the estuaries and wetlands of the Whitsundays with Whitsunday Crocodile Safari. Book a full-day tour to explore the tropical environment on the Proserpine River.
- Before heading off on a tour of the reef, spend time in Airlie Beach and make a booking at Anchor Bar, a funky poolside rooftop restaurant with stunning views over the Coral Sea and Whitsunday Islands.
- Visit Elysian Retreat, the most secluded island retreat in the Whitsundays and the first solar-powered resort on the Great Barrier Reef. Nature immersion and seclusion is what is on offer at Elysian with an emphasis placed on tailored experiences and personal service designed for guests. The boutique eco island retreat offers a locally sourced custom menu, personalised organic spa treatments to a legion of aquatic adventures that cater to each individual’s interests, with dedicated hosts on hand day and night.
- Ride horses along Lake Weyba in the Noosa National Park and see unspoilt views and wildlife as you are guided along the route by the Noosa Horse Riding team. The beginner walk lasts for one hour and a pick-up and drop off service is available.
- Noosa Stand Up Paddleboarding is the ultimate day trip for the whole family, taking you deep within the Great Sandy National Park to the remote Double Island Point. The tour includes a 4×4 beach drive experience and a guided stand up paddle tour around the national park.
- Catch a short car ferry from the village of Tewantin, located close to Noosa, and explore the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. Kick back and relax in the natural spa called the Champagne Pools. Named for their natural fizz, which is created by waves crashing over a series of rock walls into a calm but bubbly rock pool below the headland on the northern tip of the island, the pools are a great spot to cool off and have beautiful ocean views.
- The renowned Hastings Street in Noosa is packed with breakfast spots, boutiques and restaurants. Surrounded by lush gardens, Locale Noosa sits in a protected corner of Hastings Street just a few steps from the golden sands of Noosa Main Beach and serves authentic Italian dishes and cocktails.
- Noosa is just a 40-minute drive from Maroochydore Airport and is famous for its stunning beaches, lakes and national parks – book your family into the Sofitel Noosa, located in the heart of the town.
- Take a short ferry ride from Townsville to Magnetic Island. Spot koalas in the wild and take part in the various water sports on offer, from snorkelling to fishing and everything in between. If you are travelling as a family, stop at Alma Bay, the crystal clear rock pools, park and playground make it the perfect spot to keep kids entertained.
- If you fancy seeing Magnetic Island from above, book a 30-minute scenic helicopter flight with Nautilus Aviation. Departing from Townsville, the flight travels along the city’s waterfront precinct and picturesque Cleveland Bay before turning its focus to Magnetic Islands’ strikingly beautiful, but equally rugged and varied coastline.
- Discover Ravenswood, an old gold mining settlement, set amongst the rolling hills of the outback with Raven Tours. Join a day tour from Townsville and discover natural wonders, explore heritage-listed buildings, hear of tales from another era and how life was in the times of the gold rush era.
- In the mood for a delicious breakfast to set you up for a day of exploring? Stop by JAM for a fantastic feed and sought after coffee.
- Fancy comfort and convenience with stunning views of the CBD and marina? Book a stay at The Ville. With a range of rooms on offer and a number of bars and restaurants both on-site and just a few minutes walk away, this resort is the perfect place to watch the day wash away.
Alice Springs (NT)
- Journey from Alice Springs to experience the grand West MacDonnell Ranges on a full-day tour with Emu Run Experience. The tour will see you surrounded by red walls set aglow by the bright desert sun as you drive through to visit the stunning gorges and waterholes the destination has to offer.
- Wander through the Museum of Central Australia to discover the region’s history – from megafauna to colonisation – through photographs, interactive exhibits and talks.
- Families planning a trip to Alice during the week should visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary, just a 20-minute drive from Alice Springs. The sanctuary is open for tours Tuesday through Friday in the late afternoons. Tours, which include bus transfers from Alice Springs, last about 2.5 hours and you’ll get the chance to meet some of the beautiful red kangaroos that are typical of the Red Centre, and get the chance to cuddle a joey.
- Take a stroll through the historic Olive Pink Botanic Gardens and admire the native flora before grabbing a bite at the onsite eatery, Bean Street Cafe. For an afternoon tipple, head to Alice Springs Brewing Co to sample locally produced craft beer.
- The studio villas at family-friendly Desert Palms have verandas and kitchenettes, and are surrounded by tropical gardens and palm trees. The pool is a big hit with kids.
- Taking a helicopter ride with Fly Uluru is the best way to appreciate the scale and size of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the national park surrounding it. Learn about the world’s largest rock monolith and the surrounding red desert from the pilot, who doubles as your informative tour guide.
- Take part in one of Maruku Arts’ dot-painting workshops. Learn the different symbols that make up the Tjukurpa and, with the help of a Maruku guide and local artist, create your own work of art to take home.
- Fancy seeing sunrise at the base of this stunning rock? Join a Seit Uluru Trek around the base of the rock with a knowledgeable guide and learn about the culture and environment that surrounds you.
- Sounds of Silence is a four-hour experience that begins with canapés and chilled sparkling wine served on a viewing platform overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Enjoy a menu especially curated and inspired by Aussie bush tucker, followed by incredible stargazing.
- If unwinding and settling down to sleep under the stars is your thing, Kings Canyon is a natural wonder located approximately halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru, at the heart of Australia’s Red Centre. The Kings Canyon Resort, Backpackers Lodge and CampGround offer accommodation types for all travellers.
- AAT Kings offers a return day tour from Darwin to Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls. Katherine Gorge is located within the Nitmiluk National Park, which spans more than 292,000 hectares. Led by an experienced guide, you’ll view ancient art that’s deeply ingrained in the deep, local spiritual culture and learn about the traditional owners of Nitmiluk on a cruise through Katherine Gorge.
- A wildlife park where even the kids can get interactive with crocodiles? It can be done at Crocosaurus Cove, right in the centre of Darwin. Take a tour of the park to watch some of the largest crocodiles be fed, and grab a fishing rod to feed the baby crocs yourself.
- Looking for a local scene? Head to the hub, which is the intersection of Knuckey Street and Austin Lane. Around the corner on Austin Lane, Little Miss Korea offers traditional barbecue with a local twist, while its sister bar The Loading Bay serves snacks and cocktails till late. Upstairs, Charlie’s of Darwin serves a tasty range of tapas and a staggering selection of gin.
- Arguably the ritziest stay in town, with a prime position next to Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, Mindil Beach Casino & Resort lets you swim out from the deck of a superior suite to a man-made lagoon. The casino complex has a choice of several restaurants serving everything from Asian fusion to contemporary Italian, and rooms featuring indulgent stone-clad bathrooms with twin showers and egg-shaped baths.
- You can also check out some of the other fabulous luxury, family-friendly or affordable options.
- Buckle up for a panoramic scenic helicopter flight, giving you a taste of Tasmania’s dramatic coast and city – all while being able to indulge in Tasmanian food, wine, whiskey and gin with Tasmanian Air Tours.
- The Museum of Old and New Art is Australia’s largest private museum and one of the most controversial private collections of modern art and antiquities in the world. Book a ‘wildcard museum entry’ ticket for the freedom to enter the museum at any time, and stay as long as you want.
- For fit walkers who are up for a challenge, the Sea to Summit Walk is an incredible opportunity to see Hobart in a completely different light. Follow your guide as they take you along the Derwent River and Hobart’s historic waterfront, Female Factor, the iconic Cascade Brewery, Myrtle Gully Track, Junction Cabin, The Chalet, Organ Pipes Track and then Zig Zag to the pinnacle on kunanyi / Mt Wellington for spectacular panoramic views.
- With a unique panoramic view of Hobart, the newly opened Aura at Crowne Plaza is the city’s first rooftop venue and offers an informal but intimate environment for a casual drink, a snack or a full degustation dinner.
- Vibe Hotel Hobart is a newly opened hotel based in the heart of Hobart, near the site of the Salamanca markets. The architecturally-designed facade – with its trademark coloured feature fins – has transformed Hobart’s skyline.
- Sail through the treetops of Hollybank Forest on a ziplining adventure that combines adrenaline and amazing views. Located a 25-minute drive north of Launceston, Hollybank Treetops Adventure Park offers a wide range of activities such as ziplines, segway tours and tree rope courses, suitable for all ages.
- 15 minutes from the Launceston city centre at Cataract Gorge (20.5m deep), you can ride the world’s longest single-span chairlift which is 457m from station to station.
- Within a 20 minute drive out of Launceston, you will find yourself in the Tamar Valley, a wine region known for its excellent chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir. Designate a driver and journey along The Tamar Valley Wine Route to sample the region’s finest drops.
- Launceston has an appreciation for excellent produce and fine food. Dine-in farm-to-fork style at Stillwater, inside a renovated flour mill near the mouth of the picturesque Cataract Gorge.
- Quamby Estate, located just 20 minutes from Launceston city and airport, is one of Tasmania’s most prestigious and historically important properties. Built between 1828 and 1838, Quamby was once the home of a premier of Tasmania and is now a suitably grand luxury lodge with ten lovingly restored guest rooms.
Devonport and Burnie (TAS)
- See the famous Tasmanian devil at the world-class wildlife conservation facility Devils @ Cradle which offers a guided tour that will take you up close and personal with these stunning animals. If you fancy a tour with a twist, be sure to book in to the After Dark Feeding tour to see these animals feast.
- Keep your eyes peeled for little penguins along the pebbly shore of Lillico Beach, a coastal reserve just 10 minutes west of the town of Devonport. The little penguin is the world’s smallest species of penguin. The best place to watch the reserve’s colony is from the timber viewing platform. Time your visit for dusk, when the penguins are returning from fishing in the ocean to their beach burrows. This is a free activity, and Tasmania Parks and Wildlife rangers are on-site during breeding season, from September to May, and during summer, from mid-December to mid-February.
- Australia’s largest boutique whisky distillery is located in Burnie. Book a tour at Hellyers Road Distillery to sample their range of single malts, vodka and whisky cream liqueurs at the dedicated tasting counter. Enjoy a delicious meal in the cafe too.
- Using the ocean as its backdrop, The Cove is a unique adults-only retreat that shares its breath-taking location effortlessly with nature. It offers unique accommodation options; villas, chalets and both hardtop and bell tent glamping.
- With 22 kilometres of pristine white sand edged by the stunning turquoise water of the Indian Ocean, Broome’s Cable Beach attracts visitors from around Australia and the world. The water is warm and flat, with gentle, ankle-height waves the only disturbance to the expanse of horizon-hugging blue, and the dry season (May – October) is the best time of year to swim. The vast beach is synonymous with sunset camel rides, and watching the sun descend over the water is a must-do.
- Cruising the Kimberley’s mottled red cliffs and standing beneath a splintering waterfall is something only the lucky few get to do. All the luxury cruise boats that tour the coastline depart from Broome, making it a popular place for the cruise set to relax pre and post-trip. Passengers visit breathtaking rock art, spot giant boab trees and learn about the region’s amazing geology, returning with a new sense of calm mixed with wonder.
- Australia has a rich archaeological history and the world’s largest dinosaur footprints can be found on the north coast of Broome. At 1.7m long, these fossilised dinosaur footprints are 130 million years old and extend in patches for 80km along the coast.
- Zensai at Cable Beach Club is the place for a special night out. Enjoy views directly over the water and a truly magnificent west coast sunset.
- For a more casual café lunch with a home-made mango smoothie, go to the Wild Mango Café.
- Named after the local Indigenous word for the coastal area of Cable Beach, Bilingurr, The Billi Resort is located in the main hub of Cable Beach and is perfect for a private escape. The resort features beautiful gardens, raised timber walkways and tranquil surroundings, with a range of self-catering accommodation including 1 and 2 Bedroom Villas, Studio Rooms and ultra-luxurious Eco Tents.
Great Ocean Road (VIC)
- This is what everyone comes to see: the glorious limestone towers known as the 12 Apostles, rising out of the ocean. Don’t let the name fool you: there are only seven of these spires, all of which were part of the mainland before wind and water eroded the surrounding rock. For the best views, book a scenic flight with a local operator. 12 Apostles Helicopters offer scenic flights to see the Bay of Islands, London Bridge or the entire Shipwreck Coast.
- In Great Otway National Park you’ll see thundering waterfalls and sparkling gorges and walk through the tops of ancient, mossy trees. The Otway Fly Treetop Walk is a 600-metre long elevated treetop walk that ascends at a gentle grade through a magnificent stand of cool temperate rainforest. Thrill-seekers can choose the Otway Fly Zipline Tour and zip between “cloud stations” 30 metres above the forest floor.
- Also along the Great Ocean Road is a new protected habitat called Wildlife Wonders, offering visitors a guided walk with a conservationist around the Otways bushland to spot potoroos, kangaroos, koalas and bandicoots, while showing the region’s conservation projects in action.
- If you find that the crisp ocean air has put you in the mood for seafood, stop at Airey’s Inlet. About 25 minutes from Torquay, this tiny township hides a big secret: the charming A La Grecque restaurant, which dishes up some of the best seafood on the coast.
- For a truly memorable stay along the Great Ocean Road, guests can choose to stay at Great Ocean Road Resort which is surrounded by beautiful beaches and bushland, or the Great Eco Lodge which is entirely self-sufficient.
Geelong and Bellarine (VIC)
- Explore the delicious tastes of Bellarine on the Taste Trail, which will see you visit almost 50 food and wine destinations. Stop in and try samples from local producers, unique winners and award-winning restaurants.
- Spend time immersed in the local culture, visit the Geelong Gallery, one of Australia’s leading and oldest regional art galleries. With a range of events and exhibitions on offer make sure to pop by with all the family.
- Stop by Geelong’s famous Mill Markets in the town centre if you’re on the hunt for vintage items, home decor, books or even just a walk around the streets with a cup of coffee in hand.
- Head to Pik Nik, the quirky converted roadhouse with a premium edge. Originally a small market stall selling local jams and other produce the restaurant now offers a delicious all-day menu with the best of Bellarine produce on offer.
- Surrounded by 200 acres of rural stunning land, Lon Retreat in Bellarine is the ideal location for those wanting to unwind. With an onsite spa, local artisan breakfast hampers and only seven guest suites, it is perfect for those seeking some personal time.
- The coastal town of Merimbula on the beautiful Sapphire Coast offers both shore-based whale watching and charters between May and late November. Merimbula Marina offers regular whale watching cruises from May through to November with a 100 per cent success rate.
- In summer, you can hire a kayak or try stand-up paddleboarding with Merimbula Stand-up Paddle in the calm waters near Merimbula and Bermagui. Coastlife also offers stand-up paddleboarding, as well as surfing lessons, on the beaches of Merimbula, Tathra and Pambula.
- Cruise, sailboard or canoe on Lake Merimbula on your way to the river village of Pambula, where many of the buildings date back to the 1850s.
- Walk around the freshwater lagoon at Pambula Beach and taste the town’s famous fresh oysters at Broadwater Oysters on the Pambula River. The Bar Beach Kiosk in Merimbula serves up simple food and coffee overlooking pretty Bar Beach.
- Located a short drive from the centre of Merimbula, Robyn’s Nest Guesthouse is a lifestyle retreat with just six suites and 14 lakeside cottages. The mini resort contains excellent facilities, including an outdoor spa, 15-metre solar-heated swimming pool and a tennis court.
Kangaroo Island (SA)
- All baby animals are adorable, but a baby koala clinging to its mother’s back is cuteness overload. Spot joeys (the babies of kangaroos, wallabies and koalas!) on a Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tour. Springtime is also when you’re most likely to see older kangaroos’ ‘box’ as they compete with other males at breeding time.
- Exceptional Kangaroo Island has partnered with private wildlife refuge Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife to launch Flinders Chase Focus. This hands-on full-day tour allows travellers to actively take part in conservation efforts to regenerate the island’s vast wilderness, which was affected by the 2019/2020 bushfires. Travellers can participate in wildlife surveys and check fencing and motion cameras while getting a close understanding of the endemic sooty dunnart (an endangered tiny carnivorous marsupial), followed by a gourmet picnic lunch in the bush. Efforts are rewarded with a guided tour of Flinders Chase National Park to explore nature’s gravity-defying sculpture, Remarkable Rocks, as well as Admirals Arch – home to a large colony of fur seals.
- As the sun sinks low, sit down and enjoy the hospitality – and gin – on offer at Kangaroo Island Spirits.
- Kangaroo Island is overflowing with fresh produce. Pick up a breakfast of lavender scones at Emu Bay Lavender, then stop at Clifford’s Honey for a souvenir of delectable local honey.
- Eat a lunch of seasonally available oysters, abalone, and King George whiting at the Oyster Farm Shop, in American River.
- Travellers can step off the grid and relax in comfort with a stay at Oceanview Eco Villas. Located on a 500-acre coastal property with stunning cliff top ocean views, the two villas offer guests a fully hosted eco-luxury experience with meals served in the privacy of your villa.
- Join an intriguing behind-the-scenes tour of Adelaide Zoo After Dark, taking visitors to areas that until now have been inaccessible to the public. You’ll learn about former residents as well as haunting stories as told by the keepers. Book tickets online to ensure you gain a spot within their COVID-19 capacity requirements, with the ability to change your booking if required.
- Explore Adelaide on two wheels with Adelaide City to Sea Bike Tour for a full morning cycle through the empty streets of Adelaide’s riverbank precinct, and all the way to Henley Beach and Glenelg.
- Experience the iconic Adelaide Oval in a different way without the passionate cheering of the sports fans, as the city night lights come to life while listening to party tunes on the new Roofclimb Night.
- A 40-minute drive from Adelaide CBD, this collective site, Chalk Hill winery, houses Chalk Hill wines, Never Never Distilling Co and VPO and allows you to taste a selection of award-winning wines while soaking up scenic views of the regions.
- Opening this month, Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets is a boutique hotel in Adelaide’s CBD and is perfectly located for travellers looking to explore the city. The hotel’s restaurants and bars also serve up a range of exciting dishes, tapping into the best of Adelaide Market’s wonderful produce for seasonal appeal.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.