We all know we can get to New Zealand, LA or Singapore from major Australian cities, but lurking deep in the airline timetables are some much more unusual routes. Such as …
Port Hedland to Denpasar
Sure, Bali's a hugely popular holiday destination. It makes perfect sense for the main Aussie cities to have direct flights to Denpasar. But the tiny Western Australia town of Port Hedland? Surely that's not big enough to sustain a direct flight every Saturday?
The secret on this one, however, is the miners. Most fly in, fly out of Perth – but plenty have decided it's cheaper to effectively live in Bali and commute from there. So Virgin Australia's weekly flight is primarily aimed at shuttling the miners to and from their tropical home.
Brisbane to Luganville
Vanuatu gets its fair share of Aussie tourism but the bulk of the infrastructure – including most of the resorts – is on the main island, Efate. There are plenty of options for flying to Efate via the main international airport at Port Vila. But getting to the other islands doesn't necessarily require a connection – Air Vanuatu flies direct from Brissie to Luganville on Espiritu Santo every Tuesday. It's actually Vanuatu's largest island, and appeals to an odd mix of volcano trekkers and divers.
Darwin to Dili
Air North generally concentrates on domestic flights within Northern Australia but makes an exception for its scheduled hops from Darwin to Dili in Timor L'Este. The route acts as one of Dili's three connections to the outside world – other airlines fly there from Denpasar and Singapore.
But why use Darwin as a hub? Well, the main reason is that it's close – the flight time is an hour and 20 minutes. But that proximity also means they can run planes small enough to land on the diminutive strip at Dili's grandly named Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport.
Brisbane to Honiara
As with Timor L'Este, Solomon Islands needs a connection to the rest of the world, and it may as well be Australia. Brisbane is the nearest state capital, and flight times are about three hours 15 minutes – so there's no need to put on the big birds. What is surprising about the Brisbane-Honiara route is that it can sustain competition – both Virgin Australia and Solomon Airlines ply it.
Sydney to Fuzhou
The recent explosion in Chinese carriers operating routes to and from Australia has concentrated mainly on the major cities that Australians tend to have heard of – Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. But China has an awful lot of major cities, and gradually the more-obscure ones are getting connected too.
Take Fuzhou in Fujian province for example – it has a population of more than 2 million, and a clutch of temples more than 1000 years old. But it doesn't generally feature on many tourist itineraries. Xiamen Airlines might fix that when it launches direct flights to Sydney in November.
Cairns to Guangzhou
It's probably fair to say that the China Southern seasonal service between Cairns and Guangzhou isn't aimed at Queenslanders wanting to explore the culture of southern China. Nup – this puppy is very much for the Chinese tourists wanting to see the Great Barrier Reef.
Hobart to Wilkins Runway, Antarctica
Primarily ferrying government scientists to the great ice wilderness of the south, Skytraders hops between Tassie and Antarctica. Their planes are specially designed, with retractable skis to land on ice runways, and the fuel tanks are kept deliberately huge to ensure the planes can turn back without refuelling if bad weather in Antarctica prevents them from landing.
Darwin to Manila
Philippine Airlines is entering the Australian market in a big way – it launches flights between Manila and Cairns in December. But Darwin seems too small for a direct route – even though the four-hour, 35-minute flight time makes it feasible in a smaller twin-jet plane.
The handy proximity is only part of the reasoning, though. The main reason the route works is that the plane is coming from Brisbane, and doubling up by picking up extra passengers in the Northern Territory capital before flying on to the Philippines.
Melbourne to Bandar Seri Begawan
Almost certainly the most obscure carrier plying the Kangaroo route between Australia and Britain, Royal Brunei Airlines touches down in Brunei and Dubai on its way between Melbourne and Heathrow. It occasionally offers absurdly good deals on this mammoth round-the-houses schlep, but beware – it's a dry airline and you're not going to get booze on board. But for all those Melburnians wishing to see gauche palaces and a bit of jungle in the oil-rich Borneo microstate, you're in luck.
See also: Flight Test: Royal Brunei Airlines
Perth to Mauritius
Rivalling Brunei in its plucky but somewhat absurd attempts to be a global hub, the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is an eight-hour, 40-minute direct flight from Perth with Air Mauritius. From there, the Mauritian flag-carrier goes on to Paris, London, South Africa, Kenya and Madagascar. But it's a fair bet that any Aussies on the thrice weekly flights from Perth are much more interested in having some fun in the sun at a lavish resort.
See also: Flight Test: Air Mauritius to Perth