Here are the hotspots recommended by Australia’s tourism boards for 2019.
NEW SOUTH WALES – THE CENTRAL COAST
If you haven’t visited the Central Coast in a while, you’re in for a shock. Beloved institutions have undergone a revamp, with the area attracting celebrities and Sydney sea-changers in droves.
With gorgeous beaches, pretty waterways and plenty of national park to get lost in, who could blame them?
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The Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf, once a fishmonger serving 300 parcels of fish and chips a day, has just had a complete refurb. A sleek glass-walled restaurant now serves kingfish sashimi, spicy tomato pippies and Singaporean-style blue swimmer crab alongside classic battered fish, calamari and scallops.
Just next door, at the newly renovated Bayview Hotel, restaurateur Rupert Noffs and chef Matty Bennett have arrived from Manhattan. They’re serving Asian fusion food at their Lucky Bee restaurant upstairs in Frankie’s Rooftop Bar. The nearby Boathouse Hotel Patonga has also recently reopened, with accommodation promised for the near future.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA – EYRE PENINSULA
This picturesque triangular peninsula is loved for its water activities. Swim with colourful giant cuttlefish in Whyalla, the only place in the world to see them congregate en masse at the shores for breeding.
It’s also the only place in Australia where you can swim with great white sharks in a cave dive, or you may prefer to swim free with sea lions off the coast of Port Lincoln.
For seafood lovers, the seaside town of Coffin Bay is your paradise, with stunning beaches, crystal clear waters and the chance to eat freshly shucked oysters straight out of the sea. Oyster Farm Tours is building Oysters HQ, a beautiful deck that will look out onto the water.
MORE INFO: Pure SA organises snorkelling tours with the giant cuttlefish, Calypso Star Charters takes you down with the great whites and Adventure Bay Charters takes you swimming with the sea puppies.
VICTORIA – ST KILDA
Victoria’s favourite urban beach destination has undergone a revival, underpinned by the renovated Espy Hotel, which has been closed for three years until it opened just before Christmas.
Nearby, the chic Prince Hotel and The Prince Dining Room have also undergone major investments, as has sleek bar Captain Baxter, with its outdoor terrace decorated in blue and white nautical stripes and enjoying sweeping views of the bay. Vintage 1800s pub Village Belle has also reinvented itself with its sunny courtyard and weekly live music.
QUEENSLAND – BRISBANE
The Queensland capital is on fire with growth and optimism, with 18 new landmark hotels and a host of new dining facilities.
Highlights are Mr Percival’s overwater bar at Howard Smith Wharves, traditional Greek sharing plates at Hellenika at The Calile Hotel in Fortitude Valley and the Three Blue Ducks, which recently expanded into the city from Bronte and Byron Bay, with views over the Brisbane River.
NORTHERN TERRITORY- LITCHFIELD
Just 60 minutes outside Darwin, Litchfield National Park is possibly the Territory’s best kept secret. Until 2019, that is – with Lonely Planet listing it on this year’s Best in Travel list.
The park is filled with stunning waterfalls and postcard-perfect waterholes that are surrounded by monsoonal vine forests – all of which offer cool respite on tropical summer days.
In 2018 the NT government announced a A$12.1 million funding boost to Litchfield, to be spent on five new swimming spots, new campgrounds, new four-wheel drive tracks and picnic spots.
MORE INFO: Wallaroo Tours offers a combined Litchfield and Jumping Crocodile experience, that ends the day with a glass of bubbles and a slice of Darwin sunset at Fannie Bay. Litchfield Tours also offers great day tours.
ACT – ENLIGHTEN FESTIVAL
Canberra’s Enlighten Festival, held over 17 days and nights from March 1, is like Vivid Sydney without the crowds.
See light projections bounced off the buildings of the Parliamentary Triangle alongside incredible activations throughout the city and the Canberra Balloon Spectacular.
TASMANIA – LAUNCESTON
Launceston is a quiet country town transitioning into a major cultural and foodie destination.
There’s a growing number of new vineyard cellar doors and fabulous new restaurants, combined with established food events like Festivale, Effervescence and the weekly Harvest Market Community farmers’ market. All up, it’s a burgeoning scene of vibrant and creative artisanal producers.
Chic new hotels have followed, with The Silo Hotel stealing the glory.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA – ESPERANCE
On the southeast coast of WA, Esperance’ isolation is its charm. Pristine beaches, some of Australia’s whitest, attract as many kangaroos as people.
The Great Ocean Drive – a 40km loop – is one of Australia’s most scenic drives and Middle Island, off the coast, is where you’ll find the saline Lake Hillier, often a stunning bubble gum pink in colour. The nearby Fitzgerald River National Park is home to an incredible array of animal life and more than 1900 species of flowering plants.
Dirt Music, an adaptation of Tim Winton’s novel of the same name, currently being filmed around Esperance, will soon be showing off the area’s beauty to the world.