Top 10 destinations to visit in Australia in 2015

If you can't survive the festive season without a list to hand, here's another one, this time for 10 planning ideas for your 2015 travels.  
 
InterContinental Hotel Double Bay, Sydney

1. Explore wild Australia in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Wildly remote and deeply mysterious, Arnhem Land is in the far north-east of the Northern Territory, fringed by the Timor Sea and Kakadu National Park. Tourists can now join a working cargo ship and sail with their car on a cruise-drive journey from Darwin to Nhulunbuy via Maningrida and Galiwinku on Elcho Island. Get off the beaten track and into the beating heart of traditional Aboriginal Australia with a new seven-day cultural tour through the sparsely populated Cobourg Peninsula. Track sea turtles in East Arnhem Land at the annual turtle camp on Maabayj (West) Island (phone: +61 400 419 238) or shake it every August at the Garma Indigenous cultural festival. Western Arnhem Land’s hot spot is Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), which lures international collectors to its newly refurbished Injalak Art and Craft Centre. Watch artists painting and weaving their beautiful artworks, then climb Injalak Hill to discover breathtaking galleries of rock art. The best time to travel is May to October.

2. Play picturesque golf and feast on freshness when you visit Tasmania’s King Island

Perched precariously in the wild waters of the Bass Strait, little King Island is a reminder of the landbridge that once connected the Australian mainland and our most southerly state, Tasmania. All eyes are on the new Cape Wickham golf course, opening March 1, 2015, on Tasmania’s north coast. Designed by US architect Mike DeVries, Cape Wickham’s course hugs the coastline, with surfers and a lighthouse overlooking play. King Island’s foodie reputation far outweighs it size: it may be just 65km long and whipped by the Roaring Forties trade winds, but its creamy bries, blue veins and rich cheddars have a soft place in most Australians’ hearts. Order a King Island hamper before you arrive, stocked with local crayfish and the world’s most pure rainwater, King Island Cloud Juice. Explore its walking trails and shipwreck history. Fly in from Tasmania or Melbourne.

3. Sample country kitchen delights on the Great Ocean Road hinterland in Victoria

Hungry? Go west, intrepid traveller, 135km from Melbourne to Birregurra, population 700. It’s home to the new three-hatted restaurant Brae, the pride of chef and restauranteur Dan Hunter, who put another Victorian country town, Dunkeld, on the map for his fare at the Royal Mail Hotel. Brae is a 30-acre property with olive groves and an organic kitchen garden. Diners are served quality, sustainable food, showcasing the region’s exceptional produce, from organic milk to hand-fed ducks, wallaby tartare and stand-out shiitake. In 2016, Hunter plans to open just six rooms to guests for an all-immersive stay in this secluded, rich corner of Victoria that leads down to the Great Ocean Road. While you’re in the hinterland, check out Timboon Provedore, Birregurra Provedore, G.O.R.G.E. Chocolates, and Otway Estate brewery and cidery on the Otway Harvest Trail, then roll on to the Great Ocean Road’s 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail.

4. Immerse yourself in hipster cool among Adelaide’s restored laneways

Once upon a time, Adelaide City’s best wine cellar was a lonely creature amidst the romantic architecture. Now, East End Cellars has many new friends, with the reinvention of Vardon Ave and Ebenezer Place as the top spot for a shot of espresso, a wine fix or whatever fancy cocktail you plan to concoct. Cruise the leafy laneways for locally designed, ethically sourced jewellery at Studio Eco, get your sweatshop-free fashion at Nature’s Threads, artistic homewares from Council of Objects or a restored fixie pushbike at Treadly. You wanna eat? They’ll dish up chai and Afghan dumplings, Belgian mussels and beer, tea and vegie pita, or simply hardcore coffee. That’s not to say that East End Cellars themselves have been sitting still. Their sophisticated Mother Vine wine bar is the newest on kid on two blocks that wrap up the best of Adelaide’s food and wine into one tidy package (www.rundlestreet.com.au).

5. Stay in style at the national capital in Canberra

With a wave of sleek newcomers to Canberra’s hotel scene this year, the question is not “Why should I go?” but “Where should I lay my head while I’m there?” The city’s arts and culture precinct, NewActon, is the home of two of the headliners: the chic Hotel Hotel, with a unique design inspired by the Aussie holiday shack, and slick QT Hotel, with sunny rooms and an antique-meets-chic barber shop for the well-groomed man. An old classic gets dressed with edgy art at Peppers Gallery Hotel and everyone’s waiting for the luxury hotel in theNational Zoo and Aquarium, where only a glass wall separates you from a snoozing white lion. Keep an eye out for five-star The Avenue Hotel in the city’s CBD and the remake of the heritage-listed Hotel Kurrajong Bartonin the Parliamentary Triangle, both slated for December. Business hotels in the pipeline include the four-star Little National in Barton and Vibe Canberra Airport, a hop-skip to the ACT’s new terminal.

6. Relax in Hayman Island’s luxurious seaside surrounds

The jewel of Australia’s east coast, the Great Barrier Reef, now has a new gem with the opening of One&Only Hayman Island in July 2014. With an AUD$80 million price tag on the island’s makeover, the result is the perfect blend of whales, wallabies and the luxury of a private island resort. Expect toothpaste-bright beaches, warm turquoise seas and swaying palm trees married with flowing white curtains and come-hither daybeds. Make your home a beach villa, with its absolute beachfront and private plunge pool, or check into the two-bedroom Diane von Furstenberg penthouse and ask the butler to arrange an Ocean Dreaming massage literally in the water. The journey is half the adventure: to get to the resort, you’ll travel past Queensland’s most beautiful beach, the 7km-strip of Whitehaven Beach, on Whitsunday Island. Chopper over it, sail up to it, picnic on it: can you imagine how many diamond rings have been offered here?

7. Go beyond the beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs

Double Bay and Bondi are the beach stars of Sydney’s iconic east, and both have been blessed with fresh wave of new openings. All the talk in this part of town is about the new InterContinental Hotel in Sydney’s upmarket Double Bay. Opening November, expect super-modern luxury, grill restaurants, rooftop pools, gin bars and even a kosher kitchen. The hotel has inspired a wash of new restaurants around it, including a second Sydney Sake, Fish Face by hot young chef Josh Niland and nightclub Casablanca. It’s worth remembering rival Bondi Beach is only 10 minutes by taxi, so pop over and be seen in The Hub on Hall Street, home to Mr Moustache, China Diner and A Tavola. Maurice Terzini, of Bondi Icebergs fame, has just set up shop in Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta and Sydney’s best breakfast has also moved to Bondi, with the opening of bills Bondi from one of Sydney’s most well-known chefs Bill Granger. Make like a local and order the ricotta hotcakes.

8. Eat your way across the world without leaving Brisbane’s markets

Brisbane lights up each weekend with the new Eat Street Markets on Hamilton Wharf. Strewn with shipping containers, you can mix it up with the locals and eat around the world, from Mexico to New York via Singapore and, of course taste the best of Australia. Snack on old-school Vietnamese dumplings at Dakbla or French crepes with Miss Claude, or put a Brissy spin on an old classic with crumbed tiger prawns and chips at Phunky Dory. Finish off with a cocktail or craft beer and a light browse – churros in hand – through the shops selling quirky clothing, candles, antiques and books. The best way to reach Hamilton Wharf is down the Brisbane River. Take a CityCat river ferry to Brett’s Wharf and it’s a leisurely 10-minute stroll to Hamilton Wharf. The markets run every Friday and Saturday night from 4-10pm

9. Raise a glass to Italian cuisine in Victoria’s King Valley

Tucked away high in the foothills of the Victorian Alps is a busy little community doing its own beautiful thing: smoking meats, making cheeses, pressing wine. The King Valley is a little slice of Italy in a quiet pocket of Australia. And when living la dolce vita, the only drink to drink is the Italian take on sparkling white wine, heavenly prosecco. How do you find this Australian Arcadia? Why, follow the Prosecco Road, a food and wine trail that visits the valley’s best vineyards, restaurants, caf├ęs and providores – with a spot of bocce (Italian lawn bowls) thrown in for good measure. Stay the night in a local B&B and prepare for a car boot that clinks all the way home, thanks to your newly found love of precious prosecco. The King Valley is about three hours’ drive north of Melbourne.

10. Hunt for exotic truffles in unlikely Manjimup, Western Australia

Achingly expensive, hard to attain and an acquired taste: what’s not to love about truffles? The rich, earthy fungus has traditionally been hunted in Europe’s ancient forests, but chefs’ eyes are turning from the Old World to the New, looking to Western Australia, now Australia’s largest producer of French black truffles. Unearthed in truffle orchards of English oak and hazel trees with specially trained dogs, you can take the hounds out for a winter morning’s truffle hunting around Manjimup and Southern Forest Region, about 300km south of Perth. Hungry hunters, stop for a truffle-infused lunch and be sure to pack a shopping bag to haul home your truffle-infused treasures, from chocolates, to oils and salts. WA’s fresh truffle season runs from June to September, and out-of-season simulated hunts are available. Tour operators include Go in Style Luxury Transport and The Truffle & Wine Co.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published by Tourism Australia.

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