This pesky pandemic has been a dampener on many an international travel dream. But the silver lining is that it has turned our attention to the gems that await exploration on holidays at home. Tourism bodies and services have been pushing us to show a little local love, with campaigns such as Stayz’s #RoadTripPledge, Empty Esky or #LoveNSW.
So why not switch up your thinking and switch up your itinerary, swapping your favourite international destinations for their Aussie counterparts? Sure, Hobart’s MONA can’t beat New York’s MOMA in size, but it puts up a fair fight when it comes to quirk and controversy. You might not make it to Queenstown this ski season, but you’ll be thrilled to hear NSW ski slopes have re-opened with gusto.
When you can’t visit tourism hotspots overseas, pick these home-grown equivalents instead. Your family might just be surprised…
Monteverde in Costa Rica – Daintree Rainforest, Queensland
After the Amazon, Costa Rica’s Monteverde region is probably the most famous jungle destination for eco-tourism. Our very own Daintree trumps it easily at its own game. Located in far northern Queensland, the Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world, packed with stories from local First Nations peoples.
Bordeaux in France – Barossa Valley, South Australia
Listen up, grown ups. We know a delicious glass of red sounds great right about now. Why not consider the wine regions of South Australia? Try the Barossa, Clare and McLaren Vale regions. Western Australia’s Margaret River, Victoria’s Yarra Valley and NSW’s Hunter Valley also pack a punch.
Read up on child-friendly wineries and breweries with this guide.
Alcatraz, California – Old Melbourne Gaol, VIC
If you can’t scare your socks off in the States, embark on a ghost tour of a spooky historic prison in Australia instead. Old Melbourne Gaol runs great family-friendly programs. Sydney’s Quarantine Station is a ghoulish alternative, as is Port Arthur historic site out of Hobart.
Great Wall of China – Great Wall of China, South Australia
We’d forgive you for doing a double take, but it is true. We have our own ‘Great Wall of China’ in South Australia’s Ikara-Flinders Ranges, a rock formation nicknamed for its size and shape. You’ll find it en route to Wilpena Pound, a breathtaking crater in the national park.
Stonehenge, UK or Pyramids of Giza, Egypt – Kakadu National Park
Australia is home to the oldest living culture in the world, with evidence of more than 60,000 years of rich history. There are sites all around Australia far more ancient than their international counterparts. Make a start among the 5000 rock art sites in Kakadu National Park, home to Bininj/Mungguy people for millennia.
Grand Canyon, USA – Capertee Valley, NSW
You’ve definitely heard of Grand Canyon. But did you know Australia is also home to a Grand Canyon in the Capertee Valley, and that it is the second largest in the world after its American cousin? For another spectacular site, head to Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai – Q1, Gold Coast
Sure, nothing can beat all 830 metres of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. But the Q1 Tower in Surfer’s Paradise – which was the world’s tallest residential building until 2011 – offers views worth climbing for. As a family, you can visit the Observation Deck, which has just re-opened.
Eiffel Tower, France – Eureka Skydeck, Melbourne
You can’t speak of towers and not talk about Paris’ Eiffel. Instead, take a trip up to the Eureka Skydeck, where you can walk out into the Edge, a glass box hanging above the city. When it comes to galleries and café culture, Melbourne is right behind Paris in the chase.
Monument Valley, Utah – Kata Tjuta, NT
Australians are no strangers to unusual and special rock formations. The deserts of Utah have nothing on the Northern Territory’s Red Centre. The numerous rock domes of Kata Tjuta are sacred to the local Anangu people and are a sight to behold whether you do so from a scenic flight or the Valley of the Winds walk. Otherwise, continue along the Red Centre Way to Rainbow Valley, near Alice Springs.
Read about sightseeing in the Northern Territory with teens here.
Sahara Desert Camel Ride – Cable Beach Camel Ride
Missing the magic of Morocco? When you can’t camel ride in the Sahara, head to Broome instead. While you’re there, catch a glimpse of the Staircase to the Moon in Roebuck Bay or immerse in the pearling history at the museum.
Galapagos Islands – Lady Musgrave Island, QLD
Surely the Galapagos Islands are the world’s most famous eco-tourism destination, home to weird and wonderful wildlife and staunch conservation efforts. Lady Musgrave is a humble but simply remarkable alternative in the Great Barrier Reef. It is just as remote and brims with marine and bird species including turtles.
Cappadocia, Turkey – Coober Pedy, SA
People still live in the caves and rock formations of Cappadocia. You too can sleep underground in opal mining town of Coober Pedy. And if it is the prospect of a hot air balloon ride that drew you to Cappadocia, head to Balloon Aloft in the NSW Hunter Valley.
Anaheim, California – Gold Coast, QLD
Are theme parks your thing? We don’t have Disney Down Under, but we do have Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World and more, all waiting in theme park heaven of the Gold Coast.
Provencal Lavender Fields, France – Tasmanian Lavender Fields
The south of France is definitively purple in hue, but Tasmania’s lavender fields are just as amazing. Try Bridestowe Estate in December, when the flowers start blooming.
Tulip Fields, Netherlands – Canberra’s Floriade or Wildflowers, WA
On the subject of flowers, the Dutch may have their tulips, but the vast outback plains of WA boast more than 12,000 species. Over 60% of these are unique to the region. The season begins in June in the Pilbara and Coral Coast, and spreads down to the south west by October.
Safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya or Serengeti, Tanzania – Jamala Wildlife Lodge, ACT
Spot the Big 5 here in Australia instead with a bucket list stay at Canberra’s own luxury safari lodge. Prepare to splurge! Read about Taronga Western Plains Zoofari Lodge and other animal encounters here instead.
Northern Lights, Iceland – Aurora Australis, Tasmania
One of the most sought-after experiences, made all the more magic by its rarity, is catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Flip this experience on its head and try to spot the southern incarnation of the natural phenomenon in Tasmania instead.
Read more about other cool Aussie natural phenomena here.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco – Sea Cliff Bridge, NSW
It goes without mention that our very own Sydney Harbour Bridge is an international icon in its own right. But have you ever ventured along the Grand Pacific Drive to the Sea Cliff Bridge in the Illawarra Region? If you can brave the early morning, the view is awesome at sunrise.