Miracles do happen – you and your friends have managed to align your leave approvals. Here’s where it really gets good. Set aside a night to nut out where you’re going and what activities everyone wants to do when you’re there. Do your friends fancy themselves as wine buffs? Maybe they feed off adrenaline? Or perhaps they’re happy to traipse through art galleries?
With those variations in mind, here’s six sure-fire destinations for six different groups.
Adelaide wine region
Land, pick up a rental van at the airport, drive south, and in just over 40 minutes you and your wine-aficionado pals will be in the heart of one of Australia’s best – and most beautiful – wine regions.
With upwards of 50 cellar doors in the area, options for food and world class drink are endless. Established wineries like d’Arenberg and Coriole are popular draws, while new-wave vintners like Alpha Box & Dice offer a fresh alternative to the classics.
Soak up the South Australian wines with local meats and cheeses as you cellar-door hop. Grab a few of your favourite bottles as you peruse, and continue the group tastings once back at your Airbnb (also plentiful in the region). If no one feels like cooking after a long day cruising the vines, try and book a meal at cult pizza joint Pizzateca on Chalk Hill Road. Tip: book well in advance.
This one isn’t for kick-up-your-feet types. Unless you’re kicking them up out of a plane, 10,000 feet over the Great Barrier Reef. Skydiving tours here give you spectacular views of Cairns, inland tropical rainforest and the reef below. Tandem skydives mean you can keep an eye on your friends in the air. Moral support is a must, so choose your travel buddies wisely (weak stomachs need not apply). If you’re staying in Cairns’ city centre, know that most skydive operators run free pick-up and drop-off services in the area.
Once back on terra firma, head 20 minutes inland for another dose of adrenaline. Cairns backs onto hundreds of kilometres of tropical rainforest and bang in the middle is Australia’s only bungy tower. Scaling 196 stairs to the AJ Hackett bungy tower’s top will take you a lot longer than your return trip – a 50-metre headfirst dive into thin air. Take in reef views before you get airborne. A convenient on-site bar can host the group’s post-jump debrief.
Hobart for art
The Museum of Old and New Art – MONA – is reason alone to visit Tasmania’s capital. David Walsh’s “adult Disneyland” is a labyrinth of some of the most interesting, subversive and immersive art in the world. And getting there with a group is half the fun. Situated 11 kilometres north of Hobart on the banks of (and underneath) the Derwent, herd your crew on board MONA’s camouflaged catamaran for a 25-minute trip up the river. With on-site restaurant The Source offering high-quality, seasonal local produce; and Moorilla wine and Moo Brew beer being produced on the lush grounds, MONA is as much a day-trip, food and drink getaway as it is an art attraction.
If your travel companions are itching for sensory experiences outside the museum’s walls, rent a car, drive 35 minutes south of Hobart to Kettering, and take a 20-minute vehicular ferry to Bruny Island. Here you and your friends can take your time sampling the island’s producers: local single-malt whiskies, freshly shucked oysters, cheeses, and berries you pick yourself. That night, you’ll need all hands on deck to eat and drink the haul of produce you’ve collected.
Never been to the red centre? Bypass Alice Springs (and the four-and-a-half-hour drive to Uluru) and fly direct. This is remote, so it pays to pre-book a four-wheel drive (or two) for when you touch down at Uluru Airport. Convoy 10 minutes out to Ayers Rock Resort. You can’t camp within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park so the resort’s campground is the closest you’ll get – just 20 kilometres from Uluru itself, rising in the distance.
If you’re not into roughing it, book one of the 14 on-site, two-bedroom cabins. Accustom the gang to outback life: fire up the barbeque, watch the sun set over Uluru, and settle in under the stars. Tip: when venturing into the national park, get in early to beat the desert heat. You can drive to one of the park’s two nearby carparks and from there tread Uluru’s 9.4-kilometre circumference and its surrounds.
Byron Bay and surrounds
With its abundance of natural wonders, both inland and along the coast, Byron Bay is a wanderer’s paradise for any group of friends looking to take it easy as a collective. A 35-minute shuttle from Ballina airport delivers you to town, where there’s an abundance of well-equipped, beach-centric holiday houses dotted through the area.
With your home base sorted, peel off to snorkel with turtles at Julian Rocks Marine Reserve, take surfing lessons on Main Beach, or drive 20 minutes south through the Byron hinterland to the secluded Killen Falls, where you can swim; marvel at the 10-metre waterfall; and explore the surrounding caves and rainforest. All that, and back to town for a group swim and fish and chips on the beach before the sun sets.
Drag your boots out of the cupboard and your pals into the wilderness of northern Tasmania. Hit the ground in Launceston and jump on a shuttle bus to the town centre. The area’s number-one attraction, Cataract Gorge, is a 15-minute walk away. Take in its rugged cliffs and rolling bushland from above via the bridge across the gorge, or a ride on the world’s longest chairlift, spanning 457 metres. Nature trails around the gorge make for a relaxed group wander and there’s also a swimming pool to laze around.
Next up, rally the group and drive west for a few hours to the world-heritage listed Cradle Mountain, where you can explore rocky outcrops, lush greenery and glacial lakes. Dependent on time and willingness, trails range from a few hours to six days so buddy up with those of a similar fitness level. Book a lodge in the surrounding Lake St Clair National Park so you can unwind and compare tales.
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