As coronavirus travel restrictions begin to ease across Australia, and with overseas destinations still a way off, now’s the time to get better acquainted with our own backyard.
While there are some classic Aussie travel destinations to visit, if you’re looking to beat the crowds, there are some hidden gems that you may not even know existed.
In a recent survey, Tripadvisor found 80 per cent of respondents were excited to plan their first trip post-COVID-19.
And recent data by Expedia shows searches for July school holidays destinations had increased by 155 per cent.
The most-searched national destinations include Sydney, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Snowy Mountains, Melbourne and the Hunter Valley.
Here’s a look at just some of the travel hotspots – as well as lesser-known locations that are well worth a look.
NSW top destinations
In New South Wales, some of the most popular destinations being coveted for July school holiday travel may not be surprising.
Expedia’s top searches include the Snowy Mountains, Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains, the North Coast (Coffs Harbour/Port Macquarie), the South Coast (Wollongong, Batemans Bay) and Byron Bay.
Many of these destinations are easily accessible by car and are ideal for short trips or longer stays.
But other, perhaps less-travelled locations are equally rewarding – and ready to welcome tourists with open arms.
The Orana region in Central Northern NSW includes cities like Mudgee, Cobar and Dubbo.
These places are perfect for a drive, with beautiful scenery along with a fantastic range of food and wine.
According to Expedia, another hidden travel gem is the humble coastal town of Bendalong.
Just north of Ulladulla, and with a population of just 100, it’s a great spot for those wanting to get away from the more packed popular South Coast destinations.
Visitors wanting to head to the relative warmth of Queensland are specifically looking for beach holiday destinations.
The top Expedia search results for July holidays include Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Cairns, Brisbane, Port Douglas, Whitsundays and the Fraser Coast.
For the moment, it may be an academic exercise, with border restrictions still applying.
But once restrictions have eased, it seems many prospective travellers want to head to locations near the Great Barrier Reef.
For those in Queensland looking for a getaway, why not try the sleepy town of Bargara – an often-overlooked jewel in the Bundaberg region, just a few hours north of Brisbane.
The Southern Great Barrier Reef stretches out off the coast of Bargara, with an abundance of sea life and activities, making it a popular stop for visitors.
Undara Volcanic National Park is another destination in Queensland that may appeal.
The national park is 275km south-west of Cairns and has one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world.
Although the park is currently closed, this ancient geological marvel could be a potential location for those wanting to travel somewhere a little different.
Some of the most-searched destinations for July holidays in Victoria are Melbourne, Alpine National Park, Victoria Regional, the Great Ocean Road, Gippsland, Daylesford & Macedon Ranges, The Murray and the Mornington Peninsula.
The obvious attractions of the cafes and bustling nightlife are a popular search for people wanting to travel in July and beyond.
As road trips are likely to make a resurgence this year, The Great Ocean Road is also expected to be popular.
The 243km stretch is a great short trip for people wanting to enjoy a scenic coastal drive.
With sights like the Twelve Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge along the way, it makes for a perfect travel destination.
Another spot that may well be under the tourist radar is Rye on the Mornington Peninsula.
The impressive beachside town is only a 90-minute drive south of Melbourne.
With ample accommodation and camping along the foreshore, Rye is a must-visit, according to Expedia.
Escape to Western Australia
Margaret River, the Coral Coast, Perth, Broome and Great Southern WA are among the most searched destinations for the July holidays.
Margret River is a hot favourite – from surfing to breweries and wineries, the small town south of Perth has plenty to do.
“From the towering forests and pristine beaches to the award-winning wineries and ancient caves, the Margaret River Region is the perfect destination to enjoy everything in the one place,” said Alex Ozdowski, Expedia Director, Australia Market.
The South West also boasts the towns of Denmark and Manjimup.
Denmark is famous for its untouched beaches and iconic scenery like Greens Pool.
Manjimup is another hidden gem, with pristine rivers, seafood and diverse range of local produce making it a top spot.
The town is surrounded by national parks and state forests and is known for its spectacular wilderness, including trees dating back hundreds of years.
It also has destinations like Fonty’s Pool, a spectacular freshwater spring pool.
Tasmania ticks boxes
Two of the most searched destinations for the July holidays in Tasmania are Launceston and Hobart.
Known for its incredible food and wine, along with jaw-dropping sights, Tasmania ticks all the boxes for people willing to brave the biting weather during the colder months.
Launceston, in the north of Tasmania, is famous for its wine tasting and incredible wilderness.
A place less travelled on the east coast of Tasmania is Swansea.
The classic beach holiday destination is only 90 minutes from Hobart and Launceston.
Swansea has an abundance of beautiful beaches and recreational activities to keep travellers occupied.
The area is particularly known for its seafood.
South Australian holidays
Top search destinations for the July holidays in South Australia are the Fleurieu Peninsula, Barossa Wine Region, the Flinders Ranges and Outback and also Kangaroo Island.
SA is known for having a world-class wine country and a booming cafe and bar industry.
Kangaroo Island is a much-loved destination that has everything from Australian wildlife, wineries and captivating scenery.
It is located 112km southwest of Adelaide and is the third-largest island in Australia, with 509km of coastline.
The island was devastated by bushfires and also coronavirus restrictions, and is in dire need of tourists.
Kangaroo Island is known for its wild Australian Sea Lions that bask on the beach at Seal Bay.
The Limestone Coast is a hidden gem often overlooked by travellers on holiday in South Australia.
It is one of the state’s most beautiful natural wonders which includes Blue Lake and the underground oasis Umpherston Sinkhole.
Northern Territory adventures
The Northern Territory is a rich and vast expanse of land with plenty to see and do.
Expedia found that Darwin, Regional NT and Alice Springs were the most-searched NT destinations for the July holidays.
The territory has some of the most iconic natural landmarks, most specifically Uluru.
Nitmiluk National Park is 244km southeast of Darwin and is a stunning, lesser-known destination.
Throughout the national park, there are multiple hiking trails, one of which is the long but rewarding Jatbula Trail.
Its 62 kilometres take you from Nitmiluk Gorge to the stunning Edith Falls.
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