After brooding in our nests with our wings clipped for almost 20 months, there's not a traveller whose appreciation for flight – or any kind of wandering – hasn't grown exponentially. So this Christmas the gift of travel might just be the most precious of all.
And while our international borders are making tentative steps towards opening and there are still a multitude of protocols and measures surrounding leaving the country, the Australian holiday may be the most practical option. But practical needn't mean unimaginative or uninspiring.
In fact, more and more Australians are discovering what our international visitors have long known, that this country is a gift that keeps on giving. So, whoever is on your list, here's a roll call of experiential travel gifts containing something for everyone.
Whether they be risk-takers or trail-breakers, urban adventurers or country amblers, giving that special someone a domestic holiday, or some form of it, at Christmas this year will not only delight the recipient, but also support the Australian tourism industry which has suffered badly from the mayhem of border closures and protracted lockdowns.
"Last year, Australians spent, on average, $770 on gifts during the holiday season, equating to $16 billion in total," says Tourism Australia's Phillipa Harrison. "If we can encourage people to spend just a fraction of that on travel instead it would be a multi- billion dollar boost for the tourism industry.
"We know from our research that there are high levels of pent-up tourism demand in Australia, so by giving the gift of travel, people can be sure they are giving a gift that people will want. So, rather than giving socks, give a surfing lesson or a walking tour."
It's a campaign that Traveller is happy to support after such a tumultuous time for domestic tourism which, before the pandemic, employed as much as 30 times more Australians than, say, the much-discussed coal industry.
So, in case you still need things to stuff in the stockings, peruse our pick of dinki-di travel ideas the recipient will be dying to use. And do keep space in the luggage while on your own travels, too. We've got a list of presents for yourself, as well.
FOR THE WINE CONNOISSEUR
Taste your birth year at Seppeltsfield Wines, South Australia. Photo: Adrian Brown
The older the recipient of the Taste Your Birth Year experience, the better it will be. In 1878, the forward-thinking winemakers of Seppeltsfield laid down a barrel of single-vintage Para Tawny fortified wine, to be opened in 100 years' time. They've been doing it every year since, creating a collection like no other. Your lucky gift recipient needs to travel to Seppeltsfield, which is about an hour from Adelaide. There, the cask of their birth year is cracked open and the game is to see if they've aged as well as the wine.
"Upgrade to the Seppeltsfield Fino Signature Experience with lunch at our restaurant, Fino. The five-course lunch of sharing plates is best served in the courtyard beneath the palm trees," says Seppeltsfield's Lauren Mudge.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
The Taste your Birth Year experience costs from $99. For gift vouchers, see seppeltsfield.com.au
FOR THE WILDLIFE ADORING FAMILY
Make a dinner date with a devil. After a long day's snoozing, Tasmanian Devils wake up hungry. This Christmas package promises a rowdy devil dinner on an hour-long tour where guests learn about their care and conservation as the animals gorge on possum and wallaby. This family-run business near the entry to Cradle Mountain National Park may be small, but its work is mighty, contributing to national devil breeding programs as well as those for the beautiful eastern and spotted-tail quolls.
"All tour tickets include general entry to the sanctuary on the day of the tour and also the day after, so you can ask us all your questions, and maybe even spot some of the devils out sunning themselves," says keeper Stacey Beswick.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
The After-Dark Feeding tour costs $20 for children, $37.50 for adults, $105 for a family pass. For gift cards of any value, see devilsatcradle.com
FOR THE FIRST NATIONS HERITAGE AFICIONADO
Your recipient will see layers of Sydney they might never have known existed on a 90-minute walking tour around The Rocks and Circular Quay. Led by Aunty Margaret and her team, the Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour (Illi Langi) explains the Indigenous connections around the harbour. They'll discover how the Argyle Cut displays the Earth Mother in her ochre colours and notice seasonal flowers connected to the Dreamtime at Cumberland Walk. Once viewed through their Indigenous story, these inner-city Sydney sites take on a whole new meaning that's tens of thousands of years old.
Your Christmas beneficiary can buy Indigenous art at Gannon House Gallery, in a historic building near the Museum of Contemporary Art; it's a signatory to the Indigenous Art Code for ethical dealings with communities and artists.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
From $59 a person; gift vouchers online at dreamtimesouthernx.com
FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS ENTHUSIAST
Hiking on Bruny Island, Tasmania. Photo: Alice Hansen
You really shouldn't just go to Bruny Island on a day trip – it's got myriad charms. So when you give your bushwacker the gift of The Bruny Island Long Weekend, make sure they're up for savouring. A three-day walking holiday from the Tasmanian Walking Company explores the stunning coastlines of this 362-square-kilometre island, just off the south-east coast of Tasmania. On the way they'll encounter an oyster lease where they can help themselves, straight from the sea. Days are active, but nights are luxurious, with feasting and king-sized-bed glamping.
"Bruny is the only place in the world where you can see all 12 of Tasmania's endemic birds, including one of the rarest birds in the world, the 40 Spotted pardalote," says Tasmanian Walking Company co-founder, Rob Sherrard. "We also face due south, with no light pollution, so it's a great place to see the Aurora Australis."
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Walks from $1795. For gift vouchers, see taswalkingco.com.au
FOR THE TRAVEL THRILL SEEKER
Gift that adrenalin addict the thrill they chase, only with a scenic twist. Skydive Australia, will fly them 15,000 feet above sea level and hurl them safely out into the clouds above one of 14 locations across Australia, including Wollongong on the NSW Illawarra Coast as well as Mission and Airlie beaches in Queensland. Even if your list includes an "I'll try anything once" kind of traveller or a bucket list ticker, giving a once-in-a-lifetime experience will put you in the life-long good books.
Complete the package with a luxury sports car hire. Heading from Sydney to the 'Gong, the thrilling Grand Pacific Drive with the breathtaking Sea Cliff Bridge just begs for a red convertible.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
A tandem skydive costs $379. For gift vouchers, see skydive.com.au
FOR LUXURY LOVERS
The Retreat at Pumphouse Point, Tasmania. Photo: Jason Charles Hill
Luxury is watching the moon rise over the glacial waters of Lake St Clair from Tasmania's most exclusive retreat, Pumphouse Point. Built within a World Heritage Area, there are just 19 rooms in the remote, adults-only hotel. Its new wellness retreats run just four times a year. The lucky duck who finds this under the tree can choose from three- or four-night options.
"Take the row boats out at sunrise to go platypus spotting," says Pumphouse's Joanna Chudy. "And you can swim in Lake St Clair; people dip in it throughout summer – though in winter it's more a cold-water therapy."
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Stays from $560 a night all-inclusive of meals and wilderness experiences; minimum-night stays apply. For gift cards of any value, see pumphousepoint.com.au
FOR THE OPEN ROAD WARRIOR
Swimming at Emma Gorge, El Questro, Western Australia.
The Gibb River Road is not for the faint-hearted, but if there's a lion-hearted, wild-hearted (or even mild-hearted) special someone on your Christmas list, there is no better gift than an adventure in Australia's glorious Kimberley, especially if you tag along. Kimberley Wild offers an 11-day land experience featuring all the big-ticket items – the Bungle Bungles, Lake Argyle and El Questro homestead – as well as the region's lesser-known experiences, such as exploring the Tunnel Creek cave system with a local Bunuba guide.
"May and June are the best months to visit, but book your accommodation and flights to Broome as soon as you've booked the tour, as that can be very difficult," says Kimberley Wild co-owner Jen Bird.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
From $3825 a person; see kimberleywild.com.au
FOR THE CONSCIENTIOUS ADVENTURER
For culture served with a dash of adventure, give a walk into the world's oldest living rainforest, the Daintree, with the Aboriginal-owned and operated Walkabout Cultural Adventures. Local man Juan Walker or one of his local Indigenous guides will lead your giftee into Kuku Yalanji country to help them understand how their people see nature and in turn, help find connection to Country. There are two tours, one to Cape Tribulation and the other, the more immersive Daintree tour, where participants can collect bush medicine and tucker, throw a boomerang and try hunting with a spear, maybe even catch a mud crab. "It's not guaranteed – that's nature," says Walker. "But it's not about the catching, it's about learning to look at the country and how to use it in the right way."
"Come with an open mind and willingness to learn," says Walker. "That's how we were always taught."
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Tours from $180, half-day, a person. For gift cards, see walkaboutadventures.com.au
FOR THE AQUATIC ANIMAL LOVER
Swimming with sea lions in South Australia. Photo: Emma Hill
Got someone on your list who's doe-eyed for dogs? Take playing with puppies to the next level, and set them up on a date with the dogs of the sea, Australian Sea Lions. Departing from Port Lincoln, on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, the boat tours visit the colonies of four small islands in the Spencer Gulf, where up to 50 sea lions can be lounging on the shore. "But if you get just one in the water who wants to play the game, that's more than enough," says Andrew Wright, who has been skippering charters into the gulf since 2002. The species is now listed as endangered. Tours alternate between the various colonies, and aim to minimise any disturbance.
"Swimming with sea lions is like being with a three-year-old," says Wright. "If you're not playing with them, they'll get bored and move onto the next, more interesting person."
MAKE IT HAPPEN
From $215 a person for a five-hour tour, gift cards from $50 available; see sharkcagediving.com.au
FOR THE SOLO TRAVELLER
Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Courtney Atkinson
For that curious solo flyer, Lady Musgrave HQ, a new three-tier eco-friendly pontoon at Queensland's Lady Musgrave Island, gives such an immersive sleepover experience on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, that they won't have time to feel alone. With exclusive reef tours, meals featuring locally-sourced ingredients and access to individual snorkel and dive platforms, it's an easy access point to high-speed dive boats to reach the outer reef, glass-bottom boats and the Reef Empress, catamaran ferrying them to and from Bundaberg. Sleep choices are between the Underwater Observatory's Liveaboard Bunk Beds or the open-air Upper Deck Island View Queen Glamping Bed's fitted with privacy canopy.
Advise your giftee to adjust their sleeping patterns beforehand. This is a unique opportunity to see the reef's abundant activity at night.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
From $1250 for two nights (minimum stay). See ladymusgraveexperience.com.au
TAKE IT WITH YOU: AUSTRALIAN-MADE TRAVEL PRODUCTS
BLACK CHICKEN TRAVEL SKINCARE KIT
This pack for keeping you feeling fresh on the road includes travel-sized cleansers, moisturisers and balms, made in Australia from all natural, organic essential oil blends and ingredients. $59.95 See blackchicken.com.au
STATE OF ESCAPE ODYSSEY TOTE
Since inventing the perforated neoprene and rope-handle tote in 2013, State of Escape's tough, good-looking bags have travelled globally. The Odyssey is roomy and comes in musk, olive and black. $385. See stateofescape.com
Beautifully handmade in Scone, NSW, Phylli hats have a lived-in luxuriousness, loved by celebrities such as Delta Goodrem and Matt Damon. Buy pre-made or book into the shop for a bespoke model. From $449. See phylli.com.au
GOOD FOOD GIFT CARD
Celebrate the joy of restaurants being open again by treating your family and friends to one of the best food experiences in Australia. Accepted by more than 500 restaurants Australia-wide, valid for 36 months and available in different denominations. See goodfood.gift
SURVIVAL VEHICLE FIRST AID KIT
Designed in Australia by first aid experts for Australian situations, this car-friendly compact kit has a colour-coded labelling system that enables you to clearly identify first aid contents. $114.95. See survivalfirstaidkits.net.au
TREAT YOURSELF: WHAT TO BUY ON THE ROAD
A visit to Voyages Ayers Rock Resort offers a great opportunity to learn about and buy Indigenous art, from significant investment pieces of painted art and pottery, to unique, handmade, smaller souvenirs such as handbags, jewellery and textiles. See ayersrockresort.com.au
NEW SOUTH WALES
The historic Junee Flour Mill has been sweetly repurposed to become Junee Licorice & Chocolate and is run by local family-owned Green Grove Organics. Stock up on choc-coated licorice, lollies, nuts and a mouth-watering range of specialty chocolates. See juneelicoriceandchocolate.com
The Yarra Valley Dairy's fine artisan cheeses would make a Frenchman weep with joy. Take away your own sampler of gooey goodness with the artisan producer's cheese box. It changes monthly and if a one-off isn't good enough, you can subscribe to get a monthly delivery from $80 a month. See yvd.com.au
Artisan, in Brisbane's Bowen Hills is a must-visit for lovers of locally-made pieces. The not-for-profit has been Queensland's home of craft and design for more than 50 years. There is plenty to choose from but look out for exquisite small items of ceramic, or screen-printed tea towels that will take up next-to-no space in your luggage.
The Adelaide Hills are alive with the sound – and taste – of a new brigade of winemakers, favouring natural, small-batch production. A visit to the lounge-room-esque tasting room at CRFT in the Piccadilly Valley will have you filling up the boot with multiple boxes of their delicious organic drops. See crftwines.com.au
GOOD TO GO: FIVE MORE GREAT AUSTRALIAN TRAVEL GIFT IDEAS
The Epic Australia Pass, an ideal gift for fans of the snow.
Snow bunnies and diamond run devotees will love a 2022 Epic Australia Pass, giving them unrestricted and unlimited access to Perisher, Falls Creek and Hotham, for the snow season. It even comes with protection from the unexpected, including COVID-19-related scenarios. It costs $899. See epicaustraliapass.com.au
Sample fresh crayfish that comes fresh from fishers, prepared by a chef on a secluded beach and accompanied by a glass of Clover Hill bubbles. Add to all that a scenic helicopter flight to Flinders Island from Clover Hill's fabulous cellar door in Tasmania's Tamar Valley. $1495 a person, minimum two guests. See cloverhill.com.au
For those on your list who fancy an escape to the country, Australian booking platform Riparide's collection of country getaways is the answer to their travel dreams. Find their alternative universe in an artist's studio or a floating pontoon, a mountain yurt or chapel in a misty forest, in Victoria, NSW or the ACT. Gift vouchers from $50; see riparide.com
Melbourne Cultural Foodie Tour digs deep into the city's lasagne-like layers of culinary heritage. This walking tour gift starts at the Immigration Museum, winds through the oldest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world and then veers into European Melbourne and indigenous bush foods before serving up dosas from southern India. From $150 a person; for gift vouchers, see foodietrails.com.au
Enthralling, beguiling, slightly terrifying, Canberra's National Zoo and Aquarium's Meet a Cheetah experience brings that special person on your Christmas list up close with the fastest land species on Earth. Cheetahs can be semi-tamed by the qualified and responsible keepers so be assured that it'll be a safe encounter. From $175 a person; gift cards available at nationalzoo.com.au