Australia's best attraction named at annual awards

Winning with sharks

The Melbourne Aquarium was named Australia's major tourism attraction at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in Hobart last night.

The 2009 Tour Down Under, which attracted more than 760,000 people to watch Lance Armstrong make his comeback to cycling, was named Australia's best major festival and event, while Canberra's Questacon got the gong for best tourism attraction and the capital's National Folk Festival was named best festival and event.

Tasmania's Bruny Island Tourism won the eco-tourism category and, for the second year running, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway in the Cairns hinterland was honoured for excellence in sustainable tourism. It shared that award with the Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages and Spa Retreat near Berry in the NSW southern highlands.

Booderee National Park in Jervis Bay won the indigenous tourism award and the Old Melbourne Gaol Crime and Justice Experience won the heritage and cultural tourism category.

Another two-time winner was De Bortoli Winery and Restaurant in the Yarra Valley, which took the award in the best tourism wineries, distilleries and boutique breweries category.

NSW was the most decorated state with seven awards; Queensland took home six awards and Victoria five.

The awards, which began in 1985, are organised by the National Tourism Alliance, the industry's peak body, and are judged by representatives of the industry across all states.


Blue barrels, silver screen

Tahiti's Teahupoo is often described as the world's most dangerous wave. Even nine-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater approaches it with caution.

Teahupoo is the principal location for Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D, the new IMAX film starring Slater that opened this week.

Slater says new photographic techniques used by director Stephen Low take the viewer into the heart of the giant wave. "The technology used to create this film is going to help audiences to understand the incredible power behind waves and will further educate future generations to protect the world's oceans," he says.

Teahupoo attracts the headlines but not all of Tahiti's waves are as daunting, says the regional director of Tahiti Tourisme, Robert Thomson. "Surfing has always been an important element of our tourism mix because every island has its own breaks and fans, and there are waves for every level of surfer," he says.


Snow interest piqued

As the Vancouver Winter Olympics wind down, Australian snow resorts are cranking up.

"The good thing is that the Games have got people thinking about skiing and booking early," a Perisher spokesman, Neil Thew, says.

There's been plenty of activity in the Australian mountains over the summer. After two years of inaction, QantasLink has restored the Sydney to Mount Hotham route, which will operate on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from June 25 until September 12.

Mount Buller has invested $1 million in snowmaking and Thredbo has a new online accommodation booking portal with a trip planner that allows members of a group to pay individually.

Mount Hotham and Falls Creek have introduced a loyalty card with discounts of up to 20 per cent on lift tickets, equipment hire, retail outlets and bars in the two resorts.

On a wing and a website

Worth a look is, the new flight-booking site from The company has taken out a patent on its search method, which lists available flights in order from the cheapest, displays departure and arrival times, the length of the flight and requested connecting flights.

The site features domestic flights but the trans-Tasman route will be added within six months and international flights by year's end.

The focus is on regional Australia with Qantas, Jetstar, Skywest, Rex, Aeropelican, Brindabella and Air North included.

Meanwhile, the Wotif Group has announced its half-year profit is up 34 per cent to $27.6 million.

New life for old peak

Machu Picchu is expected to reopen on April 1. Peru's ancient Inca site has been closed since last month when mud slides destroyed part of the railway that connects it with Cusco.

The slides killed five people and stranded more than 2000, including 29 tourists with the Australian adventure travel company Intrepid - who were all airlifted out safely.

Send news items to