Bright young things

Beach getaways to Byron Bay, sunsets at Uluru and taking the kids for a ride at the Gold Coast — our favourite places face competition from new kids on the block. Lee Atkinson reports on Australia's emerging holiday destinations.

Beach resort

Old favourites Glorious beaches, boutique shopping and high-end eateries make Byron Bay and Noosa popular choices.

New kids The beachside holiday towns of Yamba, near Grafton on the NSW mid-north coast, and 1770, north of Bundaberg in Queensland, have beaches and weather every bit as good as their more famous cousins but without the crowds, high prices and traffic snarls.

Both towns are laid-back places, where bare feet still rule, kids can ride their bikes across town and fresh fish and chips are supplemented by innovative cafes. Both are surrounded by national parks and surfing hot spots: Yamba is home to Angourie Point, the first dedicated surfing reserve in NSW; 1770 has the northernmost surf beach in Queensland. They're just like Byron and Noosa were 30 years ago. Long may they stay that way.,

Great outdoors

Old favourite Walking Tasmania's six-day Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair is the ultimate wilderness getaway.

New kids Luxury camping options mean you get the best of the great outdoors without roughing it. African safari-style wilderness retreats with canvas-walled cabins, hard floors, double beds, en suites and decks have sprung up around the country, from Wilsons Promontory in Victoria to Sal Salis near Ningaloo Reef in WA and Mary River near Kakadu. Wild Bush Luxury has five-star swags: you can sleep under canvas or the stars on a platform (the experience includes dinner prepared by a chef) in the Blue Mountains and Flinders Ranges. For those who want to combine "glamping" with bushwalking, the four-day walk on Tasmania's Maria Island offers stunning coastal and mountain scenery, luxury camps and gourmet food and wine.,,

Outback adventure

Old favourite A trip to Uluru and the Red Centre.


New kids For the third year in a row Lake Eyre, in South Australia's north, has flood waters, which means it's the hot spot for outback adventurers keen to see a "once in a lifetime" phenomenon. Once the water disappears, I suspect Lake Eyre will also disappear off the holiday radar.

The new frontier is the last frontier - the Simpson Desert, a vast "sea" of parallel red-sand ridges covering 170,000 square kilometres across the corners of South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The Simpson was the last of the Australian deserts to be explored by Europeans; the first to cross its expanse of dunes was Ted Colson, on camel, in 1936 and the first vehicle crossing was in 1962. The Simpson is top of the list for serious four-wheel-drivers and this year, thanks to the floods that coursed their way down the channel country beyond Birdsville to Lake Eyre, the desert dunes will be carpeted in wildflowers.

Thousands of people cross the Simpson each year but it is still not a trip to be taken lightly. You'll need to be self-sufficient, carry good maps, make sure your vehicle is in tip-top condition, carry basic spares and enough water for several days. Crossing it, however, is an outback adventure like no other.,


Old favourite The thrills and spills of Gold Coast theme parks.

New kid Theme parks are a great place to keep kids amused but they can also burn through the cash like there's no tomorrow.

Savvy families are cottoning on to Canberra's family-friendly attractions. Many are free or low-cost and have the added benefit of being much more educational and more interesting for grown-ups. If you haven't visited the ACT's national museums since you were at school, you'll find things have changed. Interactivity is the name of the game and almost all museums have exhibits and activities geared specifically to kids of various ages - from toddlers to teenagers.

In the Discovery Zone at the Australian War Memorial, kids can dodge sniper fire in a WWI-style trench, take control of an Iroquois helicopter and peer through the periscope of a Cold War submarine. The roller-coaster simulator and artificial earthquake are usually hits at Questacon, which has more than 200 hands-on exhibits, and the National Museum of Australia has a gallery for kids.

Budding astronauts will love the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, Canberra Glassworks holds kids' glass-making classes, older children (over 10) can feed a tiger at the National Zoo and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a great place to show them kangaroos and koalas in a bushland setting.


Old favourites Regional Victoria (Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, King Valley) has always been the place to go for good food and wine straight from the source.

New kids Tasmania has burst on to the scene as gourmet travellers discover there's much more to the Apple Isle than rosy red apples or King Island cheese. Artisan farmers are growing everything from saffron to wasabi and truffles and cool-climate vineyards are producing some exceptionally fine wines, especially if you like bubbles.

However, the real new kid is Bruny Island, south of Hobart.

An island clinging to the edge of an island clinging to the edge of the world; it's where Hobartians go to escape the rat race - as much as Tasmania has a rat race. Bruny has wild windswept beaches, cliff tops and some of the best artisan food producers in Tasmania. Highlights of its food trail include smoked trout, salmon and quail from the Bruny Island Smokehouse (otherwise known as BISH); sensational handmade offerings from Bruny Island Cheese, including the first legally produced Australian raw (unpasteurised) milk-based cheese; freshly shucked oysters from the delightfully named Get Shucked; and decadent chocolates and fudge. Closer to home, Orange, Mudgee and Armidale have become worthy destinations for hungry foodies intent on a gourmet weekend away. Orange has cool-climate wineries and award-winning restaurants such as Racine at La Colline, Lolli Redini, Union Bank Wine Bar and Tonic, in the nearby village of Millthorpe. F.O.O.D. Week (Food of Orange District), a 10-day feast each April, is becoming one of the country's best annual food festivals. Mudgee is home to about 40 wineries with cellar doors and to dozens of cafes, bistros and restaurants.

About six hours' drive from Sydney, the New England region of Armidale, Tamworth and Glen Innes doesn't yet have the restaurant choices of the central west's Orange and Mudgee but it is the country's newest official wine region, with 42 vineyards and 20 cellar doors. It's one to watch out for.,,,


Old favourites Sun, sand and a bath-warm sea: the Whitsunday Islands ooze romance.

New kids Sex and the City has a lot to answer for. Time-poor couples, particularly those with children, are heading into the city for a romantic weekend away, especially in Melbourne. After all, what can be more romantic than holing up in a five-star hotel, venturing out for pre-dinner drinks in a hidden laneway bar, a candle-lit dinner in a stylish restaurant and perhaps a show? Many city hotels now offer great romance packages, with chocolates, flowers, champagne and a mid-afternoon checkout.

Adventurous romantics are opting for dinner under the stars at Uluru's Longitude 131, then watching the sun rise over the rock without leaving their bed.

Others are cosying up in a luxury lodge somewhere wild and windswept, such as Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. After all, if it is cold outside there's no real reason to leave your room.,,

- Sun-Herald