11 destinations Australians should love (but don't)

Australian travellers like to play favourites – it doesn't matter how much of the world we've seen. We have our traditional hotspot tourist destinations, places like the UK, New Zealand, and Japan. These countries receive the bulk of our travelling hordes. We don't like to go too far out of our comfort zone for a reliably good holiday.

It seems a shame, therefore, that some places miss out. In fact it's almost baffling that certain countries around the world aren't more popular with Australian travellers, that we haven't caught on yet, given these places offer much that's unique, as well as many of the charms that far more popular places possess.

These are the destinations, surely, that will one day hold our affections like the current favourites.

See also: Why Australia is the land of the idiot

Papua New Guinea

<i>New Britain Island</i>

New Britain Island Photo: Alamy

Our closest neighbour is one Australians have never really warmed to, mostly because of the fairly horrendous reputation that PNG has here. It's scary, it's dangerous, and you probably don't want to go there. But there's so much that's great about PNG, so much adventure and culture to enjoy. There's some of the best scuba-diving in the world around Milne Bay; amazing island homestays off Rabaul; unique tribal cultures in the highlands. Just skip Port Moresby.


Sabah in Borneo, Malaysia.

Sabah in Borneo, Malaysia. Photo: Alamy

Australians visit Malaysia, no doubt. Some go to Langkawi, or Borneo, or Penang. But the country doesn't seem to have entered the national consciousness in the way Thailand has, or Vietnam, or Bali. No one raves about Kuala Lumpur. People don't flock to Sarawak. But they should. The food in Malaysia is some of the best in the world. The beaches are beautiful. The natural attractions, the jungles and mountains and volcanoes, are world-class. And it's still affordable.



Photo: Alamy


When you think Pacific Island paradise, you think Fiji, or Vanuatu, or the Cook Islands. Few people seem to think of Samoa. That might be because it lacks the infrastructure of those tourism heavyweights, it doesn't have the huge resorts with all the mod-cons or the regular flights by budget carriers. But rather than turn people off, those factors should really be drawing travellers in. Samoa is rustic, but it's real – it's friendly, safe, and it's spectacularly beautiful. More people should experience it.

South Africa

<i>Cape Town, South Africa</i>

Cape Town, South Africa Photo: Alamy

What's closer to Australia: Los Angeles, or Johannesburg? Chances are you'll say LA, because it feels like it is. In reality, however, they're both about a 14-hour flight from the east coast. And yet the US is super-popular, but barely anyone goes to South Africa. Why not? You could easily and affordably take a holiday to South Africa for only two weeks. You could hit a game park, climb a mountain, and dine out in Cape Town. South Africa is cheap to get to, cheap to stay in, it's amazing, and it's accessible. I'd jump on a plane tomorrow.

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<i>Pulau Padar Island</i>

Pulau Padar Island Photo: Alamy

A fairly shocking number of Australians don't even realise Bali is part of Indonesia, such is our fascination with that little island, and our complete disregard for any of the other green bits that surround it. There's very little love among mainstream Aussie traveller for places such as Lake Toba on North Sumatra, Borobudur on Central Java, Sulawesi, and even Lombok. There's so much more to Indonesia than Bali, and eventually people will get that.

See also: Confessions of a Bali virgin


<i>Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. </i>

Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. Photo: Alamy

Russia is most definitely not a mainstream tourist destination. It still has the air of being our enemy, a cold and not very friendly place that you might visit to do the Trans-Siberian, but that's about i. The truth, though, is that Russia is great. It's friendly, once you get to know it. It's also baffling and occasionally bizarre, but that's all part of the charm. From beautiful St Petersburg to charming Irkutsk, multi-cultural Kazan to brash Moscow, you could spend years exploring here and never get bored.

See also: What travelling in Russia is really like


<i>Gelada in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.</i>

Gelada in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. Photo: Alamy

There are people around who still think Ethiopians are all starving; that it's the country from the World Vision ads; that it's not even a choice as a tourist destination. But that's completely wrong. The famine of the 1980s is long gone. Ethiopia is open for business, and in places like the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the monasteries of Bahir Dar and the castles and palaces of Gondar, you have some world-class attractions that are easily worth travelling for.

See also: The world's hottest destinations, literally

The Bahamas

<i>Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas</i>

Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas Photo: Alamy

I can understand why most Australians don't get to the Bahamas. It's a long way away – you have to fly through LA, and then probably Atlanta or Miami to get there. And when you do, it seems like it would be all beaches and resorts, same as we can get much closer to home. But the Bahamas is a little different. There's some unique stuff to do. You can jump in a mail boat and head to the out-islands with a local crew. You can swim with pigs in the Exumas (yes, actual swimming pigs). You can go scuba-diving in the clearest water you've ever seen. That's worth the effort.


<i>Cartagena, Colombia</i>

Cartagena, Colombia Photo: Alamy

Though it's now beginning to open up to mainstream tourism, Australians in general are still a little wary of Colombia, particularly since Cassie Sainsbury went and got herself locked up. Bad reputations are hard to shake. But Colombia should be as popular as any South American country. When you've got cities like Cartagena, and Medellin, and Cali, plus access to the Amazon and the Caribbean, you know you're onto a good thing.

See also: the world's best cities, with the worst reputations


<i>Gjirokaster, Albania</i>

Gjirokaster, Albania Photo: Alamy

Why would you go to Albania? It's a reasonable question. No one knows too much about it; we're all into Croatia, and Montenegro, and even Bosnia. Albania pales in comparison. But this is a great destination in its own right, one that's gradually emerging after years behind the iron curtain. Hang out on the Albanian Riviera in Drymades; see ancient ruins in Butrint; go hiking in the incredible Accursed Mountains; or soak up Ottoman charm in Berat. Can't go wrong.

South Korea

<i>Naksansa Temple, South Korea</i>

Naksansa Temple, South Korea Photo: Alamy

It's not that Australians don't like South Korea, it's just that the obsession with Japan is so strong that its close neighbour gets left behind. It shouldn't though. South Korea has plenty to offer, from temple stays with martial arts classes to a great food scene, ski resorts, historic cities, and a thriving bar scene. If you've already been to Japan and loved it, put South Korea on your list.

Which destinations do you think more Australians should visit?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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