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LOCAL AUSTRALIAN GETAWAYS: HOW TO EXPLORE YOUR OWN BACKYARD

We’ve been advised to stay within our own country through the pandemic phase, and in many cases our own state, so the great Australian outdoors has never looked better.

Health Agenda magazine
Updated September 2020

Many Australians love to travel. Exploring the world has always been high on our holiday agendas – between 2018–19, 11.2 million Australians returned from an international trip (up 4% on the period before) – which is one of the highest rates of international travel in the world, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

But what’s even more interesting is the fact that we love exploring our own backyard – in the same period (2018–19), the average Australian took 11 day trips and spent 20 nights away from their home discovering our sunburnt country.

Not only can the great outdoors in your own state be reached with minimal travel time, but a number of studies have found that walking in nature helps eliminate negative thoughts, improves your mood and reduces anxiety.

With various levels of COVID-19 restrictions currently in place, we know not everyone has the luxury of taking a trip right now, but if you are able to explore the country, these Australian getaways will help you blend gentle exercise with spectacular scenery, guaranteed to help you unwind and enjoy our beautiful natural environments.

Camping: From east to west coast

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. Some areas are in recovery mode after the fires of 2019/20, but the park is encouraging people to visit and view the vegetation coming back to life.

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: A four-day trail in Tassie

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 46km, 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. The track is observing physical distancing but it’s still open to walkers – check this website for updates.

Horse riding: On the white sands of Queensland

Core stability and balance are the upsides of horse riding, and you’ll enhance both during a beach-side ride on the white sands of Rainbow Beach in Queensland’s Gympie area of the Sunshine Coast.

The well-trained horses and experienced guides lead you along an area of beach where no 4WD traffic is allowed. From full moon beach rides and half-day country rides to multi-day rides – there’s something for all levels, including those more experienced riders who can swim in the ocean while riding bareback.

Glamping: Australian ecotourism with home comforts

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. (This option is not possible under stage 4 restrictions but it’s a shame not to include it for the future.)

Swimming: Explore Darwin’s three-pool oasis

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 20m 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 among 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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