If yours was among the millions of abandoned holiday plans in the wake of the COVID crisis, with insult added to injury by way of untold hours on hold to your airline of choice, we see you.
And while it’s true that cancelling an overseas holiday isn’t even one of the top thousand worst aspects of this whole calamity, that doesn’t make it suck any less.
However, with domestic travel restrictions lifting we’re once again reminded how lucky we are to live in a country as large and diverse as Australia. Here’s how you can still get your overseas travel-fix without having to find your passport.
Yoga Retreat yourself: Expedia recently revealed that Aussies spent most of April researching future trips and Bali was number one for post-COVID planning. We get it, relaxation is a high priority in this certifiably insane year. But that same experience can be taken right here in our own backyard.
Taking reservations again from June 5, the sublime Billabong Retreat in Maraylya, NSW is a 30-bed eco yoga retreat that delivers affordable beginner-friendly yoga, meditation workshops, delicious healthy meals and gorgeous treetop cabins. All just an hour from Sydney.
Island beaches: If the warm waters of the Gili Islands were your plan this year, we promise that our own backyard has plenty of hidden beaches better than Indonesia, and if it’s the islands you want? Our Whitsundays have 74 of them. While some restrictions are still evolving, most boat tours around the islands are planning to relaunch on July 10, including trips out to the iconic Whitehaven.
In W.A, CY O’Connor Beach, South Fremantle puts Seminyak to shame with its warm-year-round, calm blue-green waters, long stretches of sand and occasional food trucks.
Food: While every major city has their top Japanese restaurant list – Minamishima in Melbourne, Sokyo in Sydney – our tiny towns punch way above weight, too. First up, Masaaki’s Sushi’s main kitchen in Geeveston in Tassie’s south west Huon Valley. About an hour drive from Hobart, it’s so good top chef Rick Stein has said, “Masaaki Koyama is taking sushi to a new level” and that Masaaki makes some of the best sushi he’s ever eaten.
On the mainland, the New York Times rave-reviewed Doma Cafe in the tiny town of Federal, NSW. An hour and a half’s drive from Surfers Paradise, this cafe serves up gorgeous handmade Temaki style sushi and nigiri, and bigger signature dishes that quickly sell out each day.
Snowboarding: While Niseko and Hakuba might be off the cards for a while, there are plenty of Aussie fields to plough with ski fields opening on June 22. If you’ve worn out Buller, Thredbo and Perisher already, Falls Creek is a tidy four and a half-hour drive from Melbourne and five from Canberra. Boasting 450 hectares with 15 lifts, 65 kilometres of cross-country trails, around 90 runs and a world-class superpipe for the thrillseeking, advanced snowboarders.
In NSW, Charlotte Pass has some of the country’s best snow with less than half the crowds and lines of other parks. Snowbound, pristine and visually spectacular with views of Mount Kosciuszko and the Main Range. It’s also Australia’s highest resort, giving reliable snow cover throughout a season that is set to begin by July.
France: While we’ve already covered your Mediterranean COVID substitute, De Beaurepaire Wines, in hidden gem Rylstone, NSW, promises a taste of France in Australia. The multi-generational producers of French-style wine specifically chose Rylstone, just a three-hour drive from Sydney, for its similarity to the Burgundy region in France.
Round out the French experience with a stop at nearby Mudgee High Valley; serious cheesemakers with a strong farming background who use traditional recipes.
Scandinavia: If you were looking forward to a Swedish or Norwegian type of getaway, Olinda in Victoria could scratch that itch. The tiny town in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria still produces the maples, ash, elms, oaks and cold clean air that attracted many early Scandinavian families to the area over the past hundred years.
It is a tucked-away world of charming B&Bs, galleries, tea shops, and home to the beautiful bushwalks of the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens. Olinda Cellars winery is open for business, with tastings set to resume in July and the town’s Bavarian restaurant, Cuckoo plans to reopen by late June.
Mexico: If your Instagram’s been suffering, the Cactus Country garden in Strathmerton, VIC, is open and welcoming everyone to their more than 4000 species of cacti and succulents. With eight garden paths there’s plenty of room to spread out and nachos, cactus cake and cactus ice-cream at the cafe when you’re done.
As the NT’s dry season of May to October kicks off it creates the perfect counterfeit climate for Mexico. Hot Tamale tequila bar and cantina on the Darwin waterfront dishes out fresh local ceviche, authentic tacos and quesadillas, and the margarita menu of your dreams.
The States: Coronavirus might have taken U out of USA – but that still means you’re left with SA.
And South Australia has plenty of trails to rival even the most impressive American hikes. May to October is the best time to hike Hidden Gorge Hike, Mambray Creek, which you can do as a single day loop or stretch it out over two days. Only three hours from Adelaide, you can camp in the secret Hidden Gorge hikers-only campsite to fully experience the tranquillity of the Gorge.
For a summit hike, Devil’s Peak Walking Trail near Quorn, will give you Grand Canyon vibes with extensive panoramic views of the Flinders Ranges, Pichi Richi Pass, Port August, Upper Spencer Gulf and beyond to Wilpena Pound.