After the border closures and lockdowns of the past two years, travel is naturally front of mind for many of us — a top priority for 2022 for almost half of Australian adults, according to a recent study by the cruise company Celebrity Cruises. As we enter the festive holiday period, traditionally a time when Australians take extended breaks, we scan the horizon for destination inspiration.
But as new Covid-19 variants threaten to upend plans for international escape yet again, travel within Australia is ever more appealing. Tourism Australia ambassadors Zoe Foster Blake and Hamish Blake have their sights firmly set on soaking up all that the country has to offer, and they’re urging the rest of us to do the same by giving gifts of travel in place of other presents this year.
“After the past two years, people don’t need things, they need a circuit breaker,” says Foster Blake. “A trip, even a very short one, will create memories, inspire and recharge.”
According to Tourism Australia statistics, Australians each spent on average $770 on gifts during the holiday season last year, totalling $16 billion. Hamish Blake suggests that sometimes all it takes to book something is a little push from someone. “We all know there are incredible things to do in this country,” he says. When you book an experience as a gift, he says, “you’re not only taking out the hassle of booking something someone might not normally have booked for themselves, but helping out some of the operators in the industry who have been waiting a long time for travellers to return”.
Foster Blake and Blake agree that top of their travel list is a trip to Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef. The luxury safari-style tent accommodation is located on the North West Cape, about 70 kilometres south of Exmouth, in the Cape Range National Park, Western Australia. “I’ve been eyeing off Ningaloo Reef since we first started spreading the word,” says Blake.
Here, eight other Australian identities reveal where they are packing their bags for in 2022.
Celebrity chef and cookbook author
“Just like everyone else, I can’t wait to get out there and start travelling around our beautiful country once more. There are so many incredible experiences to be had right in our backyard that would make the perfect gift, so my goal is to both explore somewhere new and get back to rediscover some of my favourite holiday destinations. One of my most memorable Australian holidays was hiring a catamaran, picking up some fresh local produce and setting sail across the Whitsundays for a long weekend. Drop your anchor at Nara inlet for a night of quiet relaxation, and then set sail early in the morning to discover some of the most stunning scenery Australia has to offer! You can hire your own catamaran if you’re an experienced sailor, or there are plenty of private tours that provide everything for you.
For a local getaway, I can’t wait to go and discover the NSW Sapphire Coast. I’ve had so many recommendations to go on a walking tour with the Sapphire Coast Guiding Co., who create totally bespoke guided walking and bike tours that take you around some of the coast’s most beautiful locations. Visiting one of the region’s incredible oyster farms is definitely on my list, alongside enrolling myself into the North of Eden Gin School to create my own bespoke bottle of deliciously customised gin.”
World No. 1 women’s tennis superstar
“I have to say the Australian Open! I hope it’s possible to play in front of a full house at Melbourne Park; there really is no better feeling than having a home crowd behind you.”
Chef, pâtissier and sustainability crusader
“My Christmas wish list is to get to Flinders Island, Tasmania, and eat fish and chips at the Flinders Wharf. It doesn’t get any fresher to see the fisherman moor his boat and bring his catch to land in front of the restaurant and meet the chef. I love getting a taste of the pristine surroundings and becoming completely immersed in nature.”
Celebrity chef and cookbook icon
“The Barossa. I can’t remember another time when so many new, exciting food and wine offerings have emerged. It’s like Covid has reinvigorated the imagination of what’s possible to add to the depth and strength of our food and wine experiences that are such a part of the fabric of the Valley. It’s truly such exciting times in the Barossa, filled with wonderful gift ideas!”
Dr Katrina Warren
Media personality and celebrity veterinarian
“I’m looking forward to regional travel with my border collie, Chilli — he is an adventure dog and loves the outdoors as much as I do. Top of my Christmas list is Scotts Head, located five hours north of Sydney — it is breathtakingly beautiful and dog heaven, with stunning dog-friendly beaches and walks.”
Zac and Jordan Stenmark
Models and Donate Planet ambassadors
“Going to the Australian Open in January with Mum is a tradition we have had since we were in our early teens. But we haven’t been able to go to the last couple of years, and we have been playing a lot of tennis over lockdown, so we would love to do that again. And the Grand Prix in April — we love going to the F1 in Melbourne. It’s an amazing atmosphere and we love the tactics of the sport.
We’re also excited about the Kings of Leon concert in March next year. We love the band and can’t wait to see them live again. We also have a bunch of friends touring next year. We’ve really missed live music, so we’re keen to get to as many concerts as possible.”
Restaurant of the Year chef and TV personality
“Having lived in Sydney for many years, I always enjoy going back and visiting and acting like a local but also a tourist at the same time. So I seek out iconic Sydney experiences, and you can’t go past Icebergs Dining Room and Bar. I’ll always order their classics like the gamberetti with aioli and then find a gem on their specials menu. The last time I went I ordered the Bresse chicken, which I haven’t seen on a restaurant menu in forever.”
Award-winning meteorologist, weather presenter and journalist
“I’m missing the culture and buzz of city life, so I can’t wait to visit the laneways, restaurants and bars of Melbourne — a cake from Beatrix, wine and snacks at Embla, pasta at Tipo 00 and our own Three Blue Ducks at Urbnsurf.”