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Exploring Australia’s backyard

Revitalise your spirit by taking a holiday in the great outdoors.

Health Agenda magazine
October 2016

Many Australians love to travel. In June 2016 nearly 825,000 of us took a short-term trip overseas and that number was up 5.3 per cent on June 2015, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

We don’t seem to bat an eyelid about traipsing to the other side of the globe to enjoy a couple of days of R&R. But why fritter away all that time in planes when inspiring local destinations surround us?

The answer? The great Australian outdoors. Not only can it be reached with minimal travel time, but the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a number of other studies have found that walking in nature helps eliminate negative thoughts.

Chosen for the ability to blend gentle exercise with spectacular scenery, here are five holiday options in Australia that are guaranteed to help you unwind and enjoy our beautiful natural environments.

Camping

Australia’s climate makes camping an easy getaway option. New South Wales’s Kosciuszko National Park allows you to set up camp virtually anywhere (as opposed to designated areas) – a rare treat.

On the opposite coast in Western Australia at Cape Le Grand National Park, 45 minutes from Esperance, you’ll find two sites with kitchens, gas barbecues, tables, toilets and water. This spectacular location, regarded as one of Australia’s best places to camp, offers beaches and views of sunbaking kangaroos, as well as bushwalking, fishing and wildflowers during spring.

Alternatively, on Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk you can go it alone with hike-in campsites or opt to have a tour operator such as Auswalk transport your gear for an inn-to-inn-style holiday.

Hiking

There’s hiking and then there’s the Three Capes Track. When the trail opened in late 2015 it set the benchmark for bush walks, not only for Australia but also the world.

The 46 kilometre, four-day trail gives ramblers unique access to Tasmania’s pristine environment as well as some of the planet’s most amazing vistas. The walk also offers hikers a sense of private enjoyment, as no more than 48 people can start it on any given day.

The easy-to-moderate trail begins with a boat journey from the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site and proceeds along well-maintained paths through woodland, rainforest and Australia’s tallest sea cliffs. The expedition reaches its literal high point with views of The Blade, a narrow dolerite rock that juts out from the water at Cape Pillar, popularly dubbed the jewel of the Tasman Peninsula.

Each night guests stay in architect-designed cabins that boast memory-foam mattresses and USB charge docks, meaning hikers don’t need to pack heavy tents, sleeping and cooking gear.

Horse Riding

Core stability and balance are the upsides of horse riding, and you’ll enhance both during the seven-day Bush and Beach Horse Riding Tour, hosted by Australian triple Olympian Alex Watson and his wife Rebecca.

You’ll canter on beaches, muster cattle, ride through tropical rainforests and over a historic stock route, enjoying beautiful scenery by day and luxury accommodation at night.

The journey begins in Kilkivan near Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and weaves through the hinterland before finishing near Noosa Heads. All meals are included and you won’t need to haul your gear – you’re encouraged just to enjoy the ride.

Glamping

If you want to go camping without having to get your hands dirty, one business that delivers this option well is NSW’s Paperbark Camp, a family-run operation at the forefront of ecotourism in Australia.

Located near Jervis Bay, two and a half hours south of Sydney, it offers 12 safari-style tents dotted among eucalypts and paperbarks. Each has wraparound decking, an open-air private ensuite and, the best part, hot showers. Explore the property’s walking trails or head to the three nearby national parks for long tracks and deserted beaches.

On the picturesque Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, the camp comes to you. Simply choose the location you want and Happy Glamper will deliver a vintage 1966 Airstream caravan to stay in or pitch you a canvas tent at your chosen site. The operation will even furnish your retreat with magazines and board games, and take away your caravan or tent when your idyllic holiday stay is done.

Swimming

It’s hard to compete with Australia when it comes to beaches, and the same could be said for our natural waterholes. Berry Springs, an easy 40-minute drive from Darwin in the Northern Territory, is a three-pool oasis fed by an underground spring that cascades over a rock shelf to create an aquatic ‘massage’. In parts it’s 20 metres wide – ideal for doing laps – and several metres deep. There’s even a rope swing so you can dramatically flop into its restorative crystal-clear waters.

Between dips, explore World War II remnants and trek in the monsoon rainforest and woodland tracks. Pack a picnic and, from March to April, sit amongst blooming native flowers. Best of all, it’s free.

Three key safeguards when heading into the wild:

  1. Pack plenty of food and water.
  2. Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  3. Check the weather forecast, even during mild weather.

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