AAs Britain looks to the barrels of a Covid ban being reinstated, holidays abroad seem a little far away – especially to Australia, where borders remain closed to international tourists. But hopes are high that Down Under’s tourism will pick up again in 2021. Until then, here are six of the best island escapees to start planning your 2021 trip in in the meantime.
1. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Of all the places destroyed by Australia’s bushfires earlier this year, Kangaroo Island was worst hit. Its legendary Southern Ocean Lodge was completely destroyed (now being rebuilt), but while the impact on the island’s wildlife and habitat was enormous, it actually escaped about half of the land’s flames. Here the koalas are still asleep in the trees and life goes on as before. But even the areas that were burned down had regenerated.
Australia’s landscapes rely on fire and incredible regrowth, with seeds germinating in ash-filled soil and Yacca trees now all in bloom. New accommodations have also taken root, such as Oceanview Eco Villas: two off-chain five-star inns that showcase the very best in South Australian design and sustainability. Meanwhile, efforts to help the recovery of threatened species such as the dunnart and glossy black cockatoo are continuing. southaustralia.com
2. Christmas Island, Western Australia
Floating in the Indian Ocean and located closer to Asia than mainland Australia, Christmas Island is not your typical tropical island paradise. It is home to a large population of bright red land crabs which make a colorful migration every year between October and December, bringing traffic to a halt as they move en masse to lay eggs in the ocean.
More than 60 percent of the island is protected as a national park filled with rainforest, secret swimming spots and underwater coral reefs. As a result, wildlife reproduces: beyond the crabs, there are seabird colonies including elegant, ribbon-tailed tropical birds, plus seven endemic islands such as the Christmas Island thrush.
Find hidden beaches, explore jungle trails and refresh yourself under waterfalls, then enjoy the comfort of Swell Lodge, the island’s first luxury retreat whose secluded beachfront villas are served by private chefs using groceries. christmas.net.au
3. Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory
Day trips to NT’s Tiwi Islands now have the option of staying stylish at the new Tiwi Island Retreat, which opened earlier this year. This property offers a complete package of 2 days, 2 nights for those looking for an immersive adventure in an almost untouched island environment. The archipelago is located in the Timor Sea about 80 km north of Darwin, with trips between them handled comfortably in half an hour by seaplane.
Time on the island is spent discovering native wildlife and art, fishing for barramundi and mangrove crab, or simply relaxing on the beach (although the risk posed by saltwater crocodiles means swimming in the forbidden sea). Cool down comes thanks to the resting place’s 12-meter waterfront pool or by taking a helicopter trip to a remote (and crocodile-free) natural watering hole. As the outback experience goes on, things don’t get the Top End any more than that. tiwiislandretreat.com.au
4. Bruny Island, Tasmania
Island vacations can be much more active than just visiting the beach. For those who prefer to show their best, the Bruny Island Long Weekend is a lot of fun. A short ferry ride from Hobart, the capital of Australia’s smallest state, unspoiled Bruny is essentially a microcosm of Tasmania and houses samples of each of Tassie’s main habitats and wildlife, including all 12 endemic bird species.
See a number of them (including the green roselle and native Tasmanian hens) on this guided trekking adventure to picturesque Mount Mananga and East Cloudy Head, as well as more familiar Australian animals such as wallabies and echidnas. Along the way, sample local produce and fresh oysters plucked from the cool, clean waters of Bruny’s coast.
Accommodation comes in the form of a luxury tent (with a decent bed) in a 100 acre private area surrounded by eucalyptus forest. It’s the perfect compromise between comfort and rustic. taswalkingco.com.au
5. Hayman Island, Queensland
Single resort island hideouts are not uncommon on the Great Barrier Reef, but few provide comfort and class on InterContinental Hayman Island. Reborn from the ruins of 2017 Cyclone Debbie, this stylish resort is one of the best on the Whitsunday Islands. The low, linear property sweeps around a sandy, gleaming white bay on a wooded hillside like a Bond villain’s den.
Its two wings span either side of the central reception and restaurant, with each having a different atmosphere (one side is for adults, the other is more family friendly). But beyond the phenomenal facilities and dining areas, what makes staying here so special is the sense of being connected to nature, from the curious turtle swimming in the bay to the cockatoo trying to steal your breakfast.
Plus of course there’s snorkeling, kayaking and a variety of off-island excursions, including to the Whitsundays’ most famous spot: Whitehaven Beach. haymanisland.intercontinental.com
6. Phillip Island, Victoria
For an offshore escape within easy reach of the city, head to Phillip Island. Conveniently connected by a bridge to the mainland, the island offers a change of pace that is easily accessible from Melbourne’s bright lights. Its biggest attraction is the Penguin Parade due to its close encounter with little penguins: adorable Southern Ocean seabirds that bob here every night towards their colony in the sand dunes.
There is more wildlife to be found at the Koala Conservation Center or on a boat trip to see sea lions basking on the rocks. At the other end of the spectrum is the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, the Australian MotoGP home and the Superbike World Championship. Take part in a race, tour the facility, or fasten your seat belts and hit the real track with a professional racer (or ace around a replica track in a go-kart). Visit melbourne.com
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