2018 is likely to be a big year for Australian domestic travel.
With continuing global uncertainty, the ramping up of Brexit preparations, ongoing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and a lacklustre Aussie dollar, more of us are likely to opt for a holiday at home — and that’s good news for struggling tourism markets across the country.
Here’s our all-Australian list of the ten top places to visit in 2018, and the reasons why these destinations should be on your travel radar.
Named one of Lonely Planet’s top ten cities to visit in 2018, Canberra is off to a flying start in its bid to attract visitors over the coming year. The recognition by LP is well deserved. Not only does the Aussie capital offer access to a host of prestigious cultural institutions (including the National Gallery of Australia, the must-see Australian War Memorial and the fascinating National Library of Australia), but it has been quietly building quite a solid reputation as a culinary destination. Monster Kitchen and Bar, Aubergine, Temporada and Italian and Sons are some of the must-try eateries.
2. Gold Coast
Queensland’s Gold Coast is sprinting towards a probable record this year in terms of visitor numbers, thanks to the Commonwealth Games. The eyes of much of the world will be on this sun-drenched piece of paradise from April 4 to 15, which is certain to enhance the coast’s global appeal as a travel destination. Not that it needs much enhancement. The Gold Coast is already one of Australia’s top tourist hotspots. It posted solid visitor growth of around 14% for 2017 (which is almost double the national average).
3. Kangaroo Island
Expect more visitors to hop it to South Australia’s stunning Kangaroo Island this year with the return of the Flying Kangaroo to the island. Qantas has committed to three flights a week from Adelaide (upping to five in summer) and three flights a week from Melbourne during the summer season. KI is the third largest island in Australia (behind Tasmania and Melville Island) and is a haven for wildlife. Walking with the wild sea lions at Seal Bay is a must-do.
No excuse is needed to visit Sydney, but we have one anyway — as noted in National Geographic’s list of top places to visit in 2018. The renovated Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House has just reopened and is set to welcome back the Australian Ballet later this year. The planned renovation of the Concert Hall to dramatically improve its acoustics is still some way off (work is scheduled to commence in 2020), but it’s all part of the one grand multi-million-dollar plan to bring the iconic performance venue up to 21st century standards.
5. Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast will continue to offer gourmets a good time in 2018. After a shaky couple of years, the Noosa Food and Wine Festival has been reclaimed by Tourism Noosa, who will stage this year’s festival (17-20 May). There are more than 35 events planned, including the popular Long Lunch on Hastings Street.
On a somewhat smaller scale, Spicers Tamarind in Maleny is hosting the inaugural Sunshine Coast Asian Food Festival on Sunday February 11. Tickets include the chance to enjoy a range of Asian dishes, cooking demonstrations and live entertainment.
We’re convinced that Newcastle is the sleeping giant of east coast tourism, and this could be the year that sees the city’s awakening. Newcastle’s new cruise terminal is scheduled to open by the end of 2018, allowing the city to host larger cruise ships and more passengers. Australia’s seventh-largest city has plenty to offer them, including breathtaking beaches, an intriguing history to explore, a thriving contemporary arts scene to enjoy and easy access to the Hunter Valley.
7. Great Ocean Road
The commemorations marking the one hundred years since WWI will draw to a close on the 11th of November this year. Visitors to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road can conduct their own quiet moment of contemplation on what is said to be the world’s largest war memorial. Returned service personnel began working on the Great Ocean Road in 1918, and continued until 1932 when the full length of the road was finally declared open. It was dedicated to everyone who served in the Great War.
In 1947, Qantas flights between Australia and the United Kingdom took four days and nine stops. From March this year, they’ll take just 17 hours, non-stop to and from Perth. As a result, the Western Australia capital hopes to welcome an influx of international guests, along with domestic passengers opting for a stopover. A swag of new hotels came online last year, and the city’s new Westin hotel is due to open in April 2018. Meanwhile, the reinvention of the inner-city’s laneways and arcades continues.
9. Whitsunday Islands
Cyclone Debbie hit the Queensland Whitsundays hard in March last year. Some island resorts bounced back fairly quickly; others have taken longer to get back on their feet. One of the region’s most iconic retreats — Daydream Island Resort and Spa — will reopen in mid 2018 following a $65 million refurbishment of all 292 rooms, the arrivals pavilion, the reception area and atrium. The resort will also feature a new Asian-inspired eatery and a cinema.
Launceston is the unsung hero of Tassie’s tourism revival of the past decade. As a key regional hub, the city provides access and infrastructure for many of the state’s most beautiful natural attractions, but rarely gets a mention as a destination in its own right. That could all be about to change. This year will see the opening of the city’s first new hotel since 2010 — the 108-room Peppers Silo Hotel, which will repurpose the old Kings Wharf grain silos. The city offers visitors a wealth of well-preserved period architecture to enjoy and a burgeoning food and wine scene. Watch this space…
Do you have a suggestion to add to our list of ten top places to visit in 2018? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. Adam also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.