Childers Cove, Great Ocean Road, Victoria © Great Ocean Road Tourism
Australia’s must-do experiences for 2021
From discovering a variety of exceptional new experiences to re-visiting old favourites, there’s never been a better time to explore Australia.
By Lana Bogunovich
Travel certainly looks different this year and while we can’t jet off on an international flight just yet, we can still satisfy our wanderlust here in Australia. Whether you’re into nature, adventure, relaxation, culture or food, this incredible country has it all and then some. Discover new experiences and destinations, revisit old favourites and travel to make a difference right in your own backyard. It’s the trip of a lifetime, minus the jetlag!
Travel for good in bushfire-affected areas
Where: Kangaroo Island
Brimming with gorgeous beaches, native bushland and wildlife as well as one-of-a-kind food and wine and experiences, Kangaroo Island is a spectacular nature destinations. Following the summer bushfires of 2019/2020, the island is bouncing back thanks to strong conservation efforts led by local groups and passionate volunteers. You can help make a difference by joining a recovery tour where you’ll lend a hand to the ecological rehabilitation of the island.
- How to experience it: Take part in the Exceptional Kangaroo Island Bushfire Recovery Tour. In addition to sightseeing and wildlife encounters, you will be actively involved in crucial conservation projects such as planting trees and rebuilding wildlife habitats.
Immerse yourself in Indigenous culture
Australia’s Aboriginal peoples have sustained their culture for more than 60,000 years and their deep and spiritual connection to the land is palpable. This connection is apparent in their stories, art and ceremonies – and when you visit the awe-inspiring monolith of Uluru, you can’t help but feel it. The Anangu are the traditional custodians of Uluru and know its stories better than anyone else. Connecting with these local people will enrich your experience and their welcoming and generous spirit will stay with you long after you leave.
- How to experience it: Australian Walking Holidays’ Larapinta, Kings Canyon and Uluru in Comfort walk is a seven-day walking and camping adventure through the outback. Take in the dramatic landscapes of the Red Centre and Uluru, explore Kings Canyon, camp under the stars at exclusive eco camps and delve into local Aboriginal culture with the Karrke Cultural Tour.
Hit the wide-open Great Ocean Road
Where: the Great Ocean Road
As one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road rewards you with jaw-dropping scenery and plenty of picture-worthy stops en route. Offering ancient rainforests, towering mountains and charming towns, you’ll want to give yourself at least a few days (as well as plenty of space on your camera) to explore the wonders of the region. But the trip is about much more than the majesty of the 12 Apostles; you can also hit the waves at Bells Beach, discover waterfalls in Great Otway National Park, spot wildlife at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve and indulge your senses in a series of gastronomic delights along the way.
Rediscover the Great Barrier Reef
Where: Great Barrier Reef
Whether you’ve visited once or a hundred times, the Great Barrier Reef never fails to amaze. Plus, there’s always something new to discover, from the one-of-a-kind Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) in Townsville to the fun and energetic hotel Flynn in Cairns. If you’re passionate about helping protect the reef for future generations, volunteer in a citizen science program with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Collect important information, participate in beach clean-ups or help rehabilitate marine life. Getting involved will help you see, experience and appreciate the reef in a whole new way.
- How to experience it: Embark on an adventurous 14-day road trip from Cairns to Townsville, exploring the reef, rainforest, history and culture as you traverse the region's hinterland and coastline.
Indulge in the Margaret River region
When to go
Time your visit to coincide with the famous Gourmet Escape, which returns to the region each November to celebrate Western Australia’s produce, wine and craft beer in all their delicious glory.
Where: Margaret River region
Margaret River has long been renowned for its world-class food and wine – but there’s plenty beyond the vineyards here. If you love craft beer, quench your thirst at Shelter Brewing Co., where pints are served with water views from the foot of Busselton Jetty. Since opening in late 2020, Shelter has become a favourite among locals and visitors alike thanks to their excellent brews and a varied menu of share plates and pizzas. Rather indulge in a little wellness? Warm up with a traditional Finnish sauna overlooking some of the most spectacular scenery. Kaarna Sauna is a mobile wood-fired sauna experience which you can have delivered and set up anywhere, including at your accommodation, for a uniquely relaxing and mindful experience.
- How to experience it: In addition to food and wine, Margaret River also offers stunning surf beaches, lush forests and ancient limestone caves. Enjoy the best this region has to offer with a foodie road trip that takes in all the sights and sounds.
Embrace your inner culture vulture in Canberra
While it may be smaller in size than Sydney and Melbourne, Canberra packs a punch when it comes to art and culture. With several world-class galleries and museums, theatres and cultural festivals, this modern city has a thriving arts and culture scene. Many of the country's most significant works of art can be found here. The National Gallery of Australia boasts an impressive collection of nearly 160,000 works of art, including the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the world. Outside, you’ll find the beautifully designed Sculpture Garden overlooking Lake Burley Griffin, while just a short stroll away is the National Portrait Gallery. Parliament House is another must-see with free guided tours for the public throughout the day.
- How to experience it: Famous international exhibitions are often hosted at The National Gallery of Australia, so be sure to keep an eye on what’s on. From 5 March to 14 June 2021, the gallery will play host to Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London, giving you the rare opportunity to view 60 paintings by some of the most famous artists in European history, including Rembrandt, Cézanne and Vermeer.
Find adventure in small but mighty Derby
Nestled into a valley on the banks of Ringarooma River, Derby is a humble town with a fascinating past and picturesque location. Its dramatic natural landscape and mountainous terrain make it the perfect spot for mountain biking. Take on the Blue Derby Mountain Bike Park, which weaves through towering ancient trees, alongside rivers and around cascading waterfalls. There are trails to suit all skill levels, from experienced pros seeking a new challenge to families wanting a leisurely excursion. After a day of riding the trails, soothe your muscles with a refreshing dip in Lake Derby followed by a relaxing session in the Floating Sauna (and repeat), all while taking in the magical forest scenery around you.
- How to experience it: Blue Derby Pods Ride offers a one-of-a-kind mountain biking and accommodation experience. The three-day itinerary includes guided excursions, fresh Tasmanian food and wine, and unique pod accommodation along the way.
Relax and recharge on the Barrington Coast
Where: the Barrington Coast
One of New South Wales’ most underrated destinations, the Barrington Coast offers surf, sun – and surprises. Embark on a relaxing getaway full of delightful seaside towns, uncrowded beaches and the opportunity to swim, kayak, camp and hike. Start your adventure at a coastal campground, the perfect base for exploring some of the best beaches in New South Wales. Head to the hinterland exploring Barrington Tops National Park, home to the world’s largest subtropical rainforest in the world. Hidden among the moss-covered trees are awesome waterfalls, breathtaking lookouts and unique native animals including lyrebirds, swamp wallabies, wombats and several species of frogs.
- How to experience it: Don't miss Aussie Ark’s incredible Tasmanian devil conservation project and native wildlife sanctuary. The Devils in the Wild tour takes you through the Aussie Ark Centre and offers the opportunity to witness devils in their natural habitat and, if you’re lucky, get a chance to hold and interact with devil joeys.