By Travel + Leisure
November 14, 2019
Scott Ehler/Getty Images

Like many of you, when we want the real scoop on the best places to go in a certain country — and what to do while we’re there — we’re going to turn to the locals. For that reason, we asked a handful of our favorite Aussies for their can’t-miss spots Down Under. Here’s what they said.

Laura Brown, editor in chief, InStyle

Courtesy of Laura Brown

“When I return to my hometown of Sydney, it feels like I exhale a long-held breath. The more years I’ve been away in New York (18 now), the more I crave that feeling. It’s the funny-sounding birds at Sydney Airport on a bleary early morning after a 15-hour flight from California. That singular “koo-koo-ka-ka” of a kookaburra is the kind of Australian-ness that exists nowhere else. We’re a still-young country of settlers, ever reconciling itself with its indigenous owners, and now in possession of one of the most multicultural populations on earth. We have some of the best Thai curry you’ll ever eat (and you’ll most likely find it at a casual hole-in-the-wall), local wine that has a sprightly elegance and is delivered with no pretension, and always-excellent coffee that’s topped with a heart-shaped froth. The walks around Sydney Harbour expand your lungs with fresh air. Jasmine and frangipani bloom all year long. The common greeting of ‘Owzitgoing?’ (Cut to writer, weeping from homesickness, wondering why she left.) The blessing and the curse of Australia, for us expats, is its distance. Its total uniqueness. But what will lure me back one day is its heart. And a green curry. Fresh mango. And my mum. Not in that order.”

Abel Gibson, winemaker, Ruggabellus

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“Wine was a very important part of the culture of the early immigrants to South Australia’s Barossa Valley in particular. We are extremely lucky to have a globally significant resource of old-vine vineyards. There is also a very interesting array of minerals in old soils of South Australia. The Barossa and Eden Valley, in particular, enjoy many warm sunny days followed by cool summer evenings. The combination of these three things makes it an extremely exciting place to make wine. Many of us have traveled far and wide around the world and seem to have been drawn home. There is a very enchanting nature to the landscape and pace of life here. It genuinely feels resilient. And when you get away from the villages and into the bush it’s hard not to feel the presence of the wisdom of it all.”

Louis Tikaram, chef, Stanley

Courtesy of Louis Tikaram

“As a chef, I find the region around Brisbane so inspiring — we have some of the best produce and seafood in the world. Passion fruit, lychee, mangoes, the local Moreton Bay “bugs” (sweet-fleshed crustaceans), huge mud crabs, and reef fish are all delivered just a couple of hours after being picked or caught.” 

Chris Hemsworth, actor

“Australia has some of the most diverse, vibrant, and pristine coastlines in the world. The quality of life here is second to none; plus we have some of the most unique marine wildlife. There are places where the red dirt meets crystal turquoise water, and you can go days exploring the coast without seeing anyone else. Or, you can be in the heart of a buzzing city, like Sydney or Melbourne, with great restaurants and beaches just around the corner.”

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“In The Kimberley, we went fishing in one particular spot that rivaled Jurassic Park — there were crocodiles, snakes, buffalo, and an abundance of other amazing native wildlife. Sunset dinners in The Kimberley are another absolute must. The colors of the skyline there are as rich and vibrant as anywhere I've seen, and it is pretty special to see the millions of stars of the Australian outback’s night sky. We stayed at a beautiful place called Berkeley River Lodge, having dinner each night on a sand dune, barefoot in the desert sand was pretty cool. And one of the best afternoons in The Kimberley was swimming in a secluded waterhole at the base of a waterfall. We helicoptered down along the winding Berkeley River and then boated across to this really private spot. It's something I'll never forget.”

“In the Whitsundays, we stayed at One&Only Hayman Island, which was a real highlight. Amazing food and wine, it overlooks the reef — plus, they have an awesome kids club, with face painting, fish feeding, jewelry making, and some great swimming pools for us to chill out as a family. On the Great Barrier Reef, I went scuba diving for the first time, which was amazing. It’s like visiting another planet. We also had an afternoon at Whitehaven Beach, which was absolutely stunning—it has the most pristine white sand and crystal clear water. The next day we took the kids for a picnic and a bit of beach cricket on Langford Island, just off Hayman Island. The kids loved running along the sand and playing in the shallows.”

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“Seeing Uluru for the first time was really awesome. We had the very special experience of meeting with Sammy Wilson, a local Anangu Traditional Owner. Listening to the local Indigenous people speaking with us about the cultural and spiritual significance of Uluru was fascinating and inspiring. The kids loved running around the base of the rock and exploring all the little caves and trails.”

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