Best Australian trips just around the corner

There's a sense in the air that, after countless Zoom meetings, more home cooking than a series of Masterchef, and weeks of laundry loads without any socks (or was that just me?), we've reached the beginning of the end. As well as restrictions being lifted on where we can eat and who we can visit, recreational travel is finally back on the cards.

Sunrise at Cape Tribulation in Queensland. Pictures: Michael Turtle

Sunrise at Cape Tribulation in Queensland. Pictures: Michael Turtle

Of course, it won't be travel as we knew it before the pandemic hit. It's still going to be a while before anyone is kicking off a week of sun and drinks in Bali or flicking through a guidebook about Italy on the long flight over. But I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing.

If there is any positive consequence of the past couple of months of lockdown, perhaps it is that we have a more profound appreciation of what is around us. The time at home has forced us to reconnect to our local communities, shop at the family-owned businesses nearby, meet our neighbours. It's given us the time to talk to our families and tell stories about our shared history.

I suspect we will emerge from all of this into a slightly different world, and travel will be one of the aspects of our lives that we'll view with a new perspective from now on. This period has shown us that, although it may have been easy to fly around the world, the most important things were often just around the corner.

Captain Sponge takes an oyster tour at Merimbula in NSW.

Captain Sponge takes an oyster tour at Merimbula in NSW.

From Monday, NSW and Victoria will allow recreational travel, while other states and territories are also reopening tourism in different stages. Clearly, domestic travel is going to be the focus for most Australians as the international borders remain closed.

I get the sense that we are going to be looking for a deeper connection in our travels.

This isn't something that we seem to be too disappointed about. In fact, many people I chat to are actually enthusiastic about the excuse to see more of their country, explore new regions, or return to the domestic destinations that hold a special place in the heart.

Australia has so much to offer anyone who visits - from rainforests to deserts, ancient cave paintings to risk-taking modern galleries, top chefs and world-famous wine, modern culture and a rich heritage. There are millions of tourists around the world who see Australia as a trip of a lifetime. We're lucky to have it all right here - and all to ourselves at the moment!

 Kayaking in Nitmiluk Gorge in the Northern Territory.

Kayaking in Nitmiluk Gorge in the Northern Territory.

Even more than this, though, I get the sense that we are going to be looking for a deeper connection in our travels. Maybe this is partly because travel will feel riskier at first, and we will want to make sure our trips are worthwhile. But I also feel it will come from this new appreciation of local communities - and how we can connect with them. We will be looking to discover what is special and unique about other places in our region, not just looking for superficial escapes.

A few years ago, I was writing some stories about the South Coast of NSW and spent one morning on the water near Merimbula on a flat-bottomed punt with an oyster farmer who called himself Captain Sponge. Puttering about, he told me all about the oyster industry, pulled up boxes to show how they grew, and even shucked a couple of fresh ones for me to taste.

Hot air ballooning over Melbourne in Victoria.

Hot air ballooning over Melbourne in Victoria.

Thinking about it today, I realise this tour is exactly the sort of thing that we will be looking for as we head to these popular tourist destinations and try to connect to the local cultures in a more authentic way. Why, previously, would we have happily gone to Hanoi and paid for a street food tour but rarely considered doing the same thing here?

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It was just a few months ago that I wrote an article in this newspaper about the Granite Belt, a region just a short drive out of Brisbane that has made a name for itself by producing exotic wine varieties and using fresh local produce in creative ways. I have to confess that, although I loved my weekend there, I wondered at the time how many people would actually make the trip out from Brisbane themselves. Now, as we look for these getaways that have texture and compelling narratives, I suspect the Granite Belt is going to see a lot more visitors.

In fact, there are lots of opportunities to find places like this in Australia or look at a popular tourist destination through a different lens. Now that we are allowed back on the road, I am going to be busy exploring different parts of our country and bringing you a new idea each week for an Australian trip. Whether it's the dusty pubs of the Outback, the cosy tasting rooms of a wine region, or hiking trails through eucalyptus forests, I'll be finding interesting domestic travel ideas and sharing tips on how you can experience these destinations yourself.

I suspect you may discover that, while we were all at home, the things that inherently define Australia didn't change ... but the way we look at them did.

  • Michael Turtle is a journalist who's been travelling the world for nine years. While travel is restricted, he's sharing stories of his previous adventures. Follow his blog at timetravelturtle.com