Thinking of heading across the Ditch? Dust off your passport and start adding to that Australian holiday wish list, because a plethora of new travel temptations have emerged over the past year or so. It's not just shiny new accommodation, restaurants and bars. There are also many fresh cultural institutions and tours, and other inspiring or thought-provoking experiences.
The first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, the Great Barrier Reef's Museum of Underwater Art unites culture and science, particularly coral conservation. The above-water Ocean Siren sculpture is easily spotted from Townsville's jetty, especially when it's lit up at night, but you will need to snorkel or dive to meet underwater-art specialist Jason deCaires Taylor's other creations: 20 "reef guardians" gradually being transformed by marine life.
Newcomers Saltwater Eco Tours cruise the Sunshine Coast's Mooloolah River and canals in a restored 1925 wooden sailing boat. Learn about the Gubbi Gubbi people's traditions and enjoy a bush tucker-inspired lunch on the cultural tour, or kick back with live music on the sunset cruise.
What's new in New South Wales?
BridgeClimb has led thrillseekers up Sydney Harbour Bridge's southern half for more than 20 years, but it's now possible to cross this icon's full span on the Ultimate Climb. There's also the new Burrawa Climb, which reveals Sydney Harbour's Aboriginal stories and landmarks, and sunrise and sunset photography tours 134 metres above one of the world's most spectacular harbours.
Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness has introduced the two-night Yuin Retreat on Djirringanj country. Experiences with Aboriginal guides include a Gulaga National Park walk and traditional wellness sessions, plus gourmet bush foods in the great outdoors.
Non-alcoholic distillery Brunswick Aces has just expanded, adding Australia's first non-alcoholic bar to the mix. This Melbourne venue offers 100-plus booze-free drinks, from beers and wines to several signature cocktails shaken or stirred with faux spirits from near and far. That includes their own gin-like sapiir, distilled in full view of a large window behind the bar.
Dedicated to screen culture, including cinema and virtual reality, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image recently emerged from a substantial redevelopment. Its first major exhibition, alongside the permanent Story of the Moving Image, is Disney: The Magic of Animation (until October 17).
South Australian refreshment
The exponential growth of Australian craft distillers continues, with Flinders Gin the latest to bottle their liquid moonlight. Based in a restored heritage farriers and stables, this Flinders Ranges distillery also uses a 1950s caravan as a mobile cellar door. Their souvenir-worthy gin is made with native botanicals such as quandong and wattleseed by a baker-turned-distiller.
South Australia is better known for wine, especially from the Barossa Valley where Seppeltsfield was founded in 1851. Beyond the usual tastings, this winery's offerings include the Cooper for a Day experience. Learn about this artisanal trade, then get hands-on making your own 10-litre barrel.
Old is new in Western Australia
On twin cantilevered viewing platforms jutting out 17 and 25 metres from Murchison Gorge's rim, Kalbarri National Park's Skywalk immerses visitors in an ancient landscape of red cliffs, rugged bushland and the Murchison River, 100 metres below. It's more than just looks: interpretive signs and artworks provide insights about local Aboriginal culture, fauna, fossils and geology.
WA Museum Boola Bardip, which means "many stories" in the local Noongar language, incorporates several buildings new and old, including an 1855 convict prison. A massive blue whale skeleton is among this new Perth landmark's scientific, historical and cultural treasures.
The timeless Northern Territory
Intrepid's recently expanded range of Australian small-group tours includes the six-day East Arnhem Land Adventure. On this region's remote coast, including Bremer Island, learn how to hunt and gather, paint and weave from the Yolngu. Hear the stories and songs of these people, who live much as their ancestors did for thousands of years.
Or join a tour of the same region that's only for women and girls. Lirrwi Tourism's Gay'Wu – The Dilly Bag Tour is a five-day experience among Yolngu women who reveal their traditional way of life and beliefs, including astrology, healing and gathering foods such as oysters or mud crabs.
Built on a rocky peak in the island-state's northeastern wilderness, The Keep is inspired by Scotland's old fortified towers. It sounds uncomfortable, but this unique accommodation is actually a luxurious escape for two. Enjoy comforts crafted from natural materials such as the alfresco granite bath and fireplace, and 360-degree views across mountains and coast.
Hobart's hottest attraction since it opened a decade ago, Mona took advantage of a nine-month 2020 shutdown to re-hang this audacious museum of old and new art. Among the works never displayed before are a labyrinthine installation of seemingly endless mirrors, and a giant outdoor sculpture incorporating two slides – so kids, please do touch this art.