Rediscovering travel

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When I saw my neighbour’s pug dog exhausted, belly up with legs wiggling in the air, I asked his owner “I’ve seen Billy go on five walks today, is that too much?”

“Actually,” came the response, “it’s either walks, or staring at four walls, what else is there to do?”

Back in the day, we could go almost anywhere, too easy to hop on a plane to explore exotic faraway places. My trip to Japan was cancelled, and my upcoming cruise to South America is looking decidedly shaky. While overseas travel won’t be happening anytime soon, at last domestic restrictions are beginning to ease, one baby step at a time. Here’s how to plan your next trip to get you back out there on the travel treadmill.

The great outdoors

Winter is the perfect time to visit a park. It’s fun to pack a rug and spread out a picnic, trying a different park each time, and our cities are filled with them. National Parks are also waiting to be explored, so seek out adventures on your doorstep. You can go hiking inland or follow the coastline. For Sydneysiders for example, check out Sydney Coast Walks online for descriptions of some great walks. Manly to Spit Bridge or Watsons Bay to Maroubra are both amazing, keep an eye out for whales, as well as walking along the pathways that hug Sydney Harbour. Royal National Park, Kuring-Gai Chase and the Greater Blue Mountains National Park are go-to destinations for discovering the rugged landscape and watching out for birds and animals that live there. If you’d rather an escorted trip, Life’s an Adventure is offering hikes of the Royal National Park and Blue Mountains from June, with walks in other states including Victoria’s Great Ocean Road slated to follow.

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Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Go on a road trip

Growing up in country Victoria, our family would drive to Melbourne, Portland or Adelaide for a quick getaway. What I enjoyed most of all were the stops along the way to visit scenic sights, buy fresh produce from orchards and farms, have lunch at a country pub, and walking down the main street of country towns to view the wares not seen in big cities – crafts, riding boots, saddles, and broad brimmed slouch hats.  Before you set off, consider all that you can experience along the way – orchards, wineries, an amazing café or restaurant, towns you can stop at and the scenery you’ll see.

With fewer cars on the roads, it’s the perfect time to go on a road trip to discover a destination you may not yet have seen. Our coastline is spectacular, but inland there is much to discover.

Many scenic drives can easily be done in a day. From Sydney follow the Grand Pacific Drive across spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge, explore the Blue Mountains, or the Hunter Valley. From Melbourne, my favourites are the Yarra Valley, Great Ocean Road and the Mornington Peninsula. The Tourism Australia website, state and local tourist information centres have driving routes and lots of information. If you can extend your trip, consider staying at atmospheric local pubs, motels, guesthouses or hotels. Or stay in a villa and have the place to yourself.

Nothing is stopping you

With regional travel within state borders permitted once more, I jumped at the chance to travel from Sydney to Tamworth by train, meeting up with my daughter to explore the countryside that after heavy rain is looking green and lush.  

Our trains were comfortable and a great way to watch the passing scenery.  Flights with Jetstar and Qantas will resume soon, with (hopefully) Virgin Australia by September. Make a wish list of places within Australia that you would like to see, and all your friends and family that are due for a visit. Sign up for email alerts with airlines, hotels and tour operators, so you’ll be able to grab some great travel deals. There is plenty to like about home.

See your world differently

Seek out adventures on your doorstep by experiencing the world around you differently. When you next visit a park, go wildlife spotting, look for the animals that live there and smell and touch the native plants. Find out the history and meaning of the places you visit. In Sydney, Bondi for example, is an Australian Aboriginal word meaning breaking water over rocks. Manly was named by Governor Arthur Phillip, our first governor, after observing the manly behaviour of the local aboriginals, who speared him in the leg. While you can walk around Sydney Harbour, try a ferry ride, go sailing or kayaking or visit one of the many islands of the harbour that are open to visitors.

Though you can’t visit the world, let the world come to you, by recreating it at home. I may not get to go to Turkey as planned next year, but I bought a box of Turkish Delight, and have been giving online language and belly dancing lessons a go. And while I may not get to India soon, while in Melbourne, I’ve signed up for a foodie trail with Masala Meander, for a guided tour of Indian restaurants and spice shops.

The ultimate list

If I had to narrow down my list of favourite destinations for each state and territory beyond the capital cities, they would be:

NSW:  Lord Howe Island, Blue Mountains, Broken Hill

Victoria: Great Ocean Road, Grampians, Mornington Peninsula.

South Australia: Kangaroo Island and the Flinders Ranges.

Western Australia: Ningaloo Reef, Kimberley, Karijini National Park.

Northern Territory: Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, Uluru and Kata Tjuta, West MacDonnell Ranges.

Queensland: Gold Coast Hinterland, Great Barrier Reef

Tasmania: Bay of Fires, Freycinet.

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Bay of Fires, Tasmania

Further information

When planning your trip, start big. For my Tamworth trip for example, I began with the website for Tourism Australia, next at the state level, Destination NSW, then the local level DestinationTamworth.com.au

Sign up for email alerts offering discounts and special deals with airlines, hotels (for example Accor operate many hotels across Australia), and tour operators (Intrepid, Life’s an Adventure and AAT Kings are my pick.)

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