When we travel, we like to think of ourselves as explorers tramping into uncharted territory. In our travel dreams, we are intrepid pioneers, not followers of the beaten path. The thing is, to dismiss a much-loved destination purely because it’s popular means you’ll never discover what it is that makes it so attractive in the first place.
With that in mind, we’ve assembled a guide to the tourist destinations that are popular for reasons well worth your learning, regardless of how touristy they may seem.
Wine Tasting, McLaren Vale, Adelaide
Wine tasting is not just about tasting wine. Especially if you’re in South Australia’s wine-growing region of McLaren Vale. Just 45 minutes south of Adelaide, a genuinely stunning landscape of gently undulating vineyards and green farmland awaits. Ringed by the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale is home to around 80 wineries and a handful of brewers and distillers.
South Australia’s viticulture history dates back to the mid-1800s and the region is renowned for its shiraz, grenache and cabernet sauvignon. The climate and varied terrain of sandy loams, yellow clay and lime also supports Mediterranean varietals from fiano and vermentino to tempranillo and sangiovese.
Summers here are warm, winters moderate and harvest is late January through April. A handful of cellar doors feature cafes and restaurants, and Willunga Farmers Market is a treat that awaits you every Saturday. Pick up picnic supplies and make a lunch pit stop along the region’s 30 kilometres of stunning coastline.
Though wine growing and wine tourism define the region, the landscape and the variety of wineries mean it never feels overrun. McLaren Vale could be teeming with tourists, but you’ll still be able to manage a stay that feels secluded and personal.
Kings Park, Perth
It may not be a household name in the eastern states, but King’s Park and Botanic Garden is a 4.06-square-kilomtetre swathe of greenery both sculpted and untouched, making it one of the largest inner-city parklands in the world. Located between the University of Western Australia and the southern end of Perth’s CBD, two-thirds of King’s Park is bushland, while the remainder is a tapestry of botanic gardens, playgrounds, picnic areas, walking trails and rolling hills.
There are views of the city skyline and the Swan and Canning Rivers, and more than 300 species of native plants flourishing among 1000 acres. Kings Park is good for quick lunchtime escapes from the office and more thorough, day-long explorations; an inner-city oasis that encourages year-round exploration.
Keep an eye out for the King’s Park Festival, which runs through September, featuring the world’s biggest display of Western Australian wildflowers.
A Friday night kayak down Brisbane River
Southbank restaurant promenade; Queensland Performing Arts Centre; Gallery of Modern Art and the Kangaroo Point cliffs. There’s one way to experience Brisbane’s landmarks in one sitting – from a kayak on the river.
Yes, on Friday nights you can cruise down the river as dusk falls over Brisbane city, ending your drift surrounded by Southbank’s twinkling light display. Beyond the experience of gently drifting along the water, there’s an array of busy bars, cafes, people and restaurants to ogle along the Southbank Promenade.
The kayak hire point is a 10-minute walk from the Brisbane CBD and almost, dare we say it, an underrated gem.
Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne
Healesville is a hands-on animal sanctuary that encourages close encounters with native Australian animals. If you’ve ever wanted to cuddle a koala, hang out with dingoes or paddle with a platypus – really, you can sit in a tank and wade with Yamacoona the platypus – Healesville is the zoo for you.
Regular shows run throughout the day including a Spirits of the Sky display of Australia’s majestic birds in full-flight. Kids are free on the weekend and adults can enjoy a Wine and Wildlife tour departing from the town, and which includes a two-course meal and wine tastings from the region.
While most locals are aware of the sanctuary, the ever-changing nature of exhibits and animals makes it a place worth returning to. The zoo is an hour out of Melbourne and accessible by train, bus or shuttle services.
Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk, Sydney
The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is an always busy but breathtaking six-kilometre track with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from start to finish. The path is graded as a medium-difficulty hike, which means it’s suitable for most, however some steep sections do come into play. There are plenty of opportunities to take a break along the way at one of the beaches, parks, play areas, rock pools and sheltered picnic grounds.
While the track is one of Sydney’s most well-loved natural wonders, with secluded pockets to inspect and a constantly shifting landscape at every turn, the experience always feels personal.
The walk starts at Bondi Beach, right next to the Bondi Beach rock pool.
This article is presented in partnership with ANZ. The ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card gives you a complimentary return domestic flight each year (until the card is cancelled), when you spend $500 on eligible purchases in the first three months.
Eligibility criteria, T&Cs, fees, charges and flight restrictions apply.