There’s no denying that Australia isn’t short of inspiring places to experience. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, an overdue family holiday, or a solo adventure, we’ve pulled together our guide to travel for 2023. It’s a mix of Journey Beyond favourites and lesser trampled destinations to suit all types of travellers.
WORDS: Lana Al Habl, Katie Goss and Elle Hardy
For the Avid Adventurer
If you’re looking to get your heart racing in 2023, these adventure experiences tick all boxes.
01 HIKE AROUND PILBARA’S KARIJINI NATIONAL PARK
Ancient red rocks opening up to pools of bright turquoise water, all with the soundtrack of cascading waterfalls: Karijini National Park has it all. Featuring seven distinct hiking trails, this natural wonder is a choose-your-own-adventure for visitors of all fitness levels. The best-known trail is the Gorge Rim Walk and Dales Gorge Circuit, a 5.1km grade-four trek winding through the heart of the park. Walk along cliff edges, listen to a symphony of birdsong, and keep an eye out for bats, kangaroos, and dingoes as you make your way to Fortescue Falls. The jewel in Karijini’s considerable crown, Fortescue is a 20-metre-high waterfall that flows into Fern Pool, a lush (and importantly, croc-free) natural spring at the bottom of the ancient gorge. The hardest part of the journey? Bringing yourself to leave. Hike the Karijini National Park with outbackspirittours.com.au.
02 EXPLORE ARAFURA SWAMP AND EXPERIENCE TRADITIONAL ABORIGINAL CULTURE
Cruise through Gurruwiling, also known as Arafura Swamp, Arnhem Land’s largest freshwater ecosystem, covering 1.5 million hectares. Local guides will take you on a boat tour through the main lagoon to look out for crocodiles and the estimated 300,000 water birds the swamp supports, before taking off for a 4WD adventure around the edge. As the birthplace of the yidaki (didgeridoo), and with many of the 16,000 Traditional Owners living on the land, this is a place of deep cultural significance, offering visitors the once-in-alifetime opportunity to experience local languages, ceremonies, and art. Experience Arafura Swamp with outbackspirittours.com.au
03 NIGHT SCUBA DIVE OFF ROTTNEST ISLAND
Set off into the twilight zone and see Western Australia’s incredible marine life in a whole new light. Seasoned divers will love the underwater terrain, formed from the porous limestone of Rottnest Island where it meets the Indian Ocean currents. Swim through large caverns and observe deep crevices, all while surrounded by sea life exhibiting nocturnal behaviour few get to witness.
As the sun sets, the underwater world comes alive with the gentle glow of the world’s southernmost outcrop of tropical coral. Marvel as thousands of schooling buffalo bream form a tight swimming spiral around you, and curious octopuses and cuttlefish emerge from their hiding places to investigate unfamiliar visitors. In spring, catch migrating humpback whales, while autumn is the best time to meet shy grey nurse sharks on their evening hunt. Get there with daily ferry services, book now at rottnestexpress.com.au
04 LEARN TO KITESURF IN PORT DOUGLAS
Get a new perspective on two World Heritage sites by learning to kitesurf on the beach wedged between the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Four Mile Beach, with views of the tropical mountain ranges and the bustling beauty of the Coral Sea, boasts a year-round tropical climate, warm waters, and steady trade winds; perfect kitesurfing conditions. Local instructors are on hand with equipment to teach surfers all there is to know, regardless of their level of experience. Once you get a feel for the gentle waves, you can begin to master the large kite that lifts you up into the sky. As exhilarating as it is challenging, kitesurfing is not for the faint of heart, but those who get a feel for it will keep coming back for more.
05 FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE ON FRASER ISLAND
Hearts will start racing before the ignition is even turned when rev-heads catch a glimpse of K’gari Fraser Island. Four-wheel drives are the only vehicles allowed on the island, making an adventure across the rugged terrain a must for off-road enthusiasts. The world’s largest sand island is home to over 150 kilometres of tracks and trails. Beginners can tackle the easy routes that wind through the island’s lush forests and pristine beaches, while more experienced drivers can test their skills on the challenging sand dunes and rocky trails. Appreciate the island’s stunning natural
For the Luxury Seeker
Escape into luxury travel that is less about money and more about unique experiences.
06 EXPERIENCE OUTBACK GLAMPING IN THE UNTOUCHED WILDERNESS OF NGAUWUDU
In a world where quiet is a rare luxury, Ngauwudu, in the remote wilderness of Western Australia, is a welcome relief. Located in the north Kimberley region, the Ngauwudu Safari Camp is an eco-friendly glamping escape that places the region’s remote beauty at your doorstep. Nestled among pristine natural surroundings, including a private palm-fringed swimming hole in proximity to the mighty Mitchell Falls, Ngauwudu is luxury under a million stars. After a morning dip, venture out to see traditional Aboriginal rock paintings at Gwion Gwion and Wandjina, some of which date back around 50,000 years. Get there with outbackspirittours.com.au.
07 TREAT YOURSELF WITH A LADIES WELLNESS RETREAT IN NOOSA
For those looking to indulge in self-care with a side of sub-tropical vibes, a wellness retreat on the Sunshine Coast bordering the Noosa National Park could be your calling. Run by Surf Getaways, book yourself into the five star Peppers Noosa Resort for a week’s worth of gourmet food, private tours, spa treatments, and female-led surfing lessons to help reinvigorate mind, body, and spirit. In addition to the structured activities, you will have plenty of time to unwind, with Hastings Street boutiques and Noosa Main Beach a short stroll away. It is the ideal experience for those seeking a deeper connection with themselves and the world around them.
08 TOUR THE RED CENTRE FROM ABOVE
Experience the beauty of the Red Centre from new heights with a scenic helicopter tour. With a rare bird’s eye view, witness the sheer magnitude of Simpsons Gap, Mount Gillen Ridgeline, and the Larapinta Trail. Experienced pilots go above and beyond with expert commentary on the history and cultural significance of the sites, helping to unravel the mystery of how these geological wonders formed over millions of years. Learn about the spiritual beliefs of the Arrernte people, traditional custodians of the region, who believe that the Simpsons Gap waterhole was the mythological home of a group of giant goanna ancestors. Experience the sights with journeybeyondrail.com.au
09 INDULGE IN A UNIQUE TASMANIAN TRUFFLE ADVENTURE
Since harvesting the nation’s first truffle in 1999, Australia has become the world’s fourth largest producer of the Périgord black truffle, best known as the ‘black diamond’. A 45-minute drive west of Launceston leads true truffle lovers to The Truffle Farm, home of the black truffle and the first truffière in the country. Join the dogs on a hunt while guides help guests locate and dig up truffles by hand. Afterwards, retreat to the farmhouse to enjoy a seasonal, truffle-infused gourmet lunch with local produce and wines. There, you can meet the Terry family behind the Farm and discover the tricks to transforming the elusive fungi into a culinary masterpiece.
10 SPEND A NIGHT UNDERWATER ON THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
For those who enjoy the best seats in the house, Australia’s first underwater hotel, Reefsuites, in the Great Barrier Reef is just the ticket. Observe one of the seven natural wonders of the world from the comfort of a private room suspended five metres beneath a floating pontoon. Floor-toceiling windows offer an unrivalled view of 1500 species of fish, as well as the sharks, turtles and rays that call Hardy Reef home. The rooms have all the amenities you would expect from a luxury hotel, including a plush king-sized bed, private bathroom, and seating area. Waking up to sun rays piercing the water, guests can spend the day snorkelling, diving, and swimming, or take a helicopter flight to see the famous Heart Reef. At night, watch the sun dip below the water’s surface before enjoying dinner beneath a canopy of stars. Book your Reefsuite at cruisewhitsundays.com
For the Families
Scratching your head for where to book a 2023 family holiday? Let these experiences designed for the young and young at heart inspire you.
11 BECOME A ZOOKEEPER FOR A DAY AT AUSTRALIA ZOO
Whether they’re crazy for crocodiles or keen on koalas, the Zoo Keeper for a Day program at Australia Zoo caters to young animal-lovers in an exciting, interactive environment. Kids from 4 to 16 can get up close and personal with the animals, including tigers and elephants, in their natural habitats. Built from a small reptile park into an internationally renowned conservation centre by the late Steve Irwin, the next generation of passionate eco-warriors can learn the ins and outs of caring for animals by assisting with feeding and cleaning the enclosures. Lunch is also provided for the mini zoo keepers. With the motto ‘everything is hands on’, it’s a 2023 school holiday experience designed to make lasting memories.
12 TOUR ROTTNEST ISLAND ON TWO WHEELS
Unplugging from the world is easier said than done, but Rottnest Island is the place for families to do just that. Only a short ferry ride from Fremantle or Perth, ‘Rotto’ has superb year round weather and a natural environment to match. A full loop of the car free island by bike is only 22kms, meaning it can be a fun day trip or a more leisurely weekend stay. Explore the friendly terrain with stops to snorkel in Little Salmon Bay, watch the fur seals at Cathedral Rocks, and engage in glass bottom kayaking at Pinky Beach. This is the place to get the kids away from their screens, but keep your phone handy for a #quokkaselfie with one of the 10,000 famous residents. Get there by booking with rottnestexpress.com.au.
13 WITNESS A PENGUIN PARADE ON PHILLIP ISLAND
They may be the smallest of the penguin species, but what fairy penguins lack in size, they make up for in personality. Kids of all ages will love watching the little birds waddle up the shore to nest in the sand dunes of Phillip Island at dusk. Only a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, the island is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of fairy penguins. Emerging from the ocean after a long day of fishing, the nightly penguin parade features up to 40,000 of the little creatures. If you can, time your visit during the October to March breeding season, when the penguins are looking after their eggs and tending to their fluffy chicks.
14 CHEER ON THE MATILDAS FOR THE 2023 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
A record number of women and girls are now playing soccer in Australia, and there’s no better way to celebrate female participation in the game than by experiencing the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. From 20 July to 20 August, nine cities in Australia and New Zealand will co-host the tournament, with Sydney’s Stadium Australia home to the final. Sydney is the only city where two stadiums will host games, meaning this is your best chance to cheer on the Matildas and see global superstars from England, the United States, Brazil and more. If you’re lucky enough to nab final tickets, make a weekend of it by booking a Sydney Harbour cruise for the family to enjoy with journeybeyondcruises.com.
For those Seeking Romance
Australia is as romantic as it is beautiful, making these destinations perfect to enjoy with your significant other.
15 BE ROMANCED BY THE BEAUTY OF BROOME
Broome’s Cable Beach sunsets present a conundrum for romantic souls – do you admire it from the back of a camel, or do you enjoy a beach picnic and watch the sun dip below the ocean as the camel train adds an iconic foreground to your photos? Perhaps ensure you have enough time during your trip to Broome to do both. Positioned as the gateway to the Kimberley region, Broome is where the outback meets the Indian Ocean, bursting with captivating natural landscapes and a fascinating pearl diving history. Visit between March and October when the brightness of the full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay and you will be treated to a spectacular sight known as Staircase to the Moon.
16 TAKE THE GHAN FROM DARWIN TO ADELAIDE
There is something wildly romantic about travelling on a train, especially one that travels through the heart of Australia. While there are many ways to visit the Northern Territory and South Australia, taking The Ghan is extra special. Boarding in Darwin (or Adelaide if you’re heading north), the three-day, two night journey takes in remarkable Top End views before stopping in Alice Springs. Continue your journey from red outback to green pastoral land as you pass through South Australia’s majestic Flinders Ranges on your way into Adelaide. Book your ticket at journeybeyondrail.com.au.
17 DINE 89 FLOORS ABOVE MELBOURNE
Elevate date night by treating your loved one – and yourself – to Melbourne’s most unique fine dining experience, 300m above the city. The view, the food, the wine, the service, are all simply exceptional: Eureka 89 is made for the ultimate date night. Award-winning Executive Chef Renee Martillano delivers a tasting menu that is full of flavour, imagination and quality ingredients. Dedicated foodies will be wowed when indulging in the five- or seven-course degustation menu that is the epitome modern Australian cuisine. Once your palates are sated, spend a night at the romantic Adelphi Hotel, a fashionable boutique hotel that is home to one of Melbourne’s most photographed rooftop pools, thanks to its glass bottom. Book your table at eureka89.com.au.
18 EXPERIENCE ROMANCE ON STEROIDS AT BLACKBIRD BYRON
When James and Stella Hudson turned the land of an old banana plantation into an intimate, eco-luxe oasis, they were making the Byron Bay hinterland even more beautiful. The Blackbird’s simple and honest aesthetic caught the eye of the Channel 10 series Hotel by Design judges in 2020, when it was named a finalist. The environmentally sustainable, luxury assortment of self-contained pavilions has also caught the eye of couples wanting to reconnect under the stars at the adults-only hotel. Perched on the side of Mount Koonyum, each pavilion offers uninterrupted views of Mount Chincogan to the north and Cape Byron. With private chefs, a well-stocked bar, an infrared sauna, and a magnesium infinity pool on site, you can be forgiven for never wanting to leave this indulgent escape.
For Those Travelling Solo
Say hello to solo travel experiences that are as liberating as they are relaxing.
19 EXPLORE BRUNY ISLAND WILDERNESS BY BOAT
Some things are best appreciated by zooming out, or better still, zooming around. Sitting off the southeastern coast of Tasmania, Bruny Island’s dramatic coastline sets the stage for an unmissable solo adventure. Jump in an eco-boat to explore some of the country’s highest sea cliffs and deepest sea caves as you search for seals, dolphins, and migrating whales. Be awed by the almighty Breathing Rock, a blowhole that can only be seen from the ocean, huffing in waves and puffing out a glittering mist. Squeeze through the narrow passage between the coast and the coastline and The Monument, where a formation of rocks broke away from the cliffs and manifested into a work of art. Visit Bruny Island as part of Outback Spirit’s Tasmania tour. Find out more at outbackspirittours.com.au.
20 TIP YOUR TOE IN A SEA CHANGE AT BRIDPORT IN TASMANIA
Not all solo adventures have to be go-go-go. The slowed-down coastal town of Bridport in north-east Tasmania offers a sea change experience for solo city slickers looking to enjoy some quality recreational time far from home. Avid golfer? Bridport is renowned for golf, with Barnbougle’s classic links courses ranking among Australia’s top five golf courses. But even if golf isn’t your thing, the seaside escape is full of activities. Take bird watching; spring is when Bridport really comes to life when a kaleidoscope of wildflowers blanket the region, attracting unique birds. Or if painting is your pleasure, head 20km inland to Bridestowe Lavender Estate, the world’s largest privately owned lavender farm, where winding rows of lilac set the scene for a Monet-esque watercolour.
21 TEST YOUR LIMITS HIKING THE GRAMPIANS
There’s something about hiking alone that tests limits. If you’re looking to bask in the solitude of nature, the Grampians National Park in Victoria, with its world-famous walks and soulsearching peaks, is a solo traveller’s delight. Stride through the open forest and rocky outcrops (which may require some scrambling) of Mount Stapylton Walk, stopping along the way for moments of reflection. Or save The Pinnacle Walks – the toughest trail departs from Wonderland carpark and ascends via Grand Canyon – for your particularly weighty burdens, where the hike provides plenty of opportunity for contemplation. Explore the Grampians as a Great Southern Rail off train experience. Book at journeybeyondrail.com.au.
22 MAKE A NEW MATE IN AUSSIE BEACH TOWN GERRINGONG
It’s not hard to see why the friendly town of Gerringong made it on this list: if you had to picture a classic Aussie beach town with loads of charm, this is it. Filled with buzzing cafes and restaurants with seaside views, Gerringong life revolves around its main coast, Werri Beach. But the best way to explore this town as a solo visitor is to pull up a stool at the Stoic Brewery. Hosting a number of events throughout the year, you can easily find yourself some friendly banter and company on your travels. You can also plan your trip around any of Gerrigong’s monthly cinema events, where striking up a conversation with a stranger is encouraged – before and after the movie, of course.
23 CRUISE THE RIVER OF THE NITMILUK (KATHERINE) GORGE
There are many reasons people visit Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge – one is to marvel at the discernible red sandstone, worn down over the millennia, and another is to build an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their culture. You can choose both by exploring the Gorge through a river cruise, with many providing cultural guides who share their knowledge on everything from dreamtime stories to geology of the region. The NitNit Dreaming Two Gorge Tour is a popular one, covering the first two (and longest) gorges of the 13 that make up Nitmiluk, or if you’re a morning person (you will be after this trip), the Dawn Tour presents soft light and dreamy wake-up sights and sounds to set your day right. Experience the Two Gorge tour as part of your journey on The Ghan. Book now at journeybeyondrail.com.au.