Australia, we can't wait to see you again!

Australia’s borders may be closed for now, but you can start taking notes from these repeat visitors and bookmark their recommendations for your next trip

One of the most iconic scenic wonders in Australia is the magnificent Twelve Apostles, limestone stacks rising out of the ocean along the famed Great Ocean Drive. PHOTO: VISIT VICTORIA, GREAT OCEAN ROAD TOURISM
Enjoying a picnic by Swan River is one of the most idyllic ways to spend an afternoon in Perth. PHOTO: RACHEL TAN

Perth: More than just quokka selfies

"Perth continues to be interesting and surprising, even in its simplicity. Even after you've seen all her tourist attractions, she brims with simple pleasures - you can easily discover a new place to chill out, be it a park, a cafe in the suburbs, or by the river.

"A University of Western Australia (UWA) student from 2014 to 2018, my years spent in Australia were some of the happiest. I return to unwind and catch up with close friends that I made while at university, visiting familiar favourite spots and exploring a bit more. The next time I visit, I'd definitely check out Rottnest Island (I can't believe I've never been there) and drive out to Esperance and Serpentine National Park to make some new memories."- Rachel Tan, 25, writer

Make time for these highlights:

  • Check out UWA Crawley Campus, surrounded by lush greenery, grand sandstone buildings, wandering peacocks and ducks and cheeky kookaburras snatching food from the unsuspecting students.
  • Picnic and spot swans, ducks and dolphins at Swan River, next to UWA Crawley Campus.
  • Eat brunch with a view at Bayside Kitchen.
  • Book a table at Matilda Bay Restaurant for steaks, oysters and delicious grills.
  • Browse Fremantle Markets (open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) for fresh produce, street food, homewares and trinkets.
  • Visit local favourite Perth Upmarket (only open four times a year in Winthrop Hall at UWA) for unique products made or designed in WA, including items by independent designers, handmade goods and crafts, homewares, cakes and jams.
  • Drive to Swan Valley for really great wines, ciders, ales, chocolates and honey, and gorgeous galleries and museums.
There is no better backdrop for a photo op than brilliant blue skies and beautiful harbour views. PHOTO: HOSSAN LEONG

Sydney: Colourful, gritty, cosmopolitan, inclusive and daring

"My love affair with Australia started in the early '90s, when my best friend Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee went to university in Sydney and I'd save up to visit him every year. That's when I discovered the beaches of Randwick, Coogee and Bronte. Now, when I return to visit, Elizabeth Bay is where I live. Nothing can describe that feeling of walking three minutes to the most beautiful harbour in the world.

"My partner's parents live off the bay of Port Stephens, about two-and-a-half hours away from Sydney. Pre-Covid-19, we'd try to visit Sydney two to three times a year. It's never complete without an amazing Sicilian dinner at Olio just across the alleyway at Kensington Street. Tell Chef Lino I sent you!"- Hossan Leong, 50, local television and stage actor and entertainer

Make time for these highlights:

  • Check out Fingal Bay, a lovely beach to relax at when you want to get away from the city. But during the summer months of December to February, it can get pretty busy because that's when most Sydneysiders and tourists visit.
  • Discover areas such as Redfern, Chippendale and Sydney East, full of speakeasy bars, cafes, new residential areas and shopping malls, and popular with the hipster crowd.
  • Browse the weekend Farmers' Market at King's Cross for fresh produce, and try the Bronte to Bondi Walk.
  • Have a drink at The Old Clare Hotel on Broadway's bar.
One for the photo album - this was taken outside Mona, where Valerie and her family enjoyed exploring modern art for a day. PHOTO: VALERIE LIM

Tasmania: "Forgotten island" no more

"My family and I enjoyed a wonderful visit last September. I liked how it has a less 'commercial' vibe. In Melbourne, I always felt like I had to find the best cafe with the best brunch and flat white. In Perth, I had to go to Fremantle and try the fish and chips. In Tasmania, I didn't feel like we had a must-do list to check off, so we got to take our time, slow down and unwind.

"We really enjoyed the long road trip drives in between towns, with endless blue skies, beautiful weather and many friendly faces. To mark our trip, I did an Instagram story series with my parents (go here, and view the story highlights under "WHITNEY I" and "WHITNEY II") and everyone wanted to go to Tasmania after seeing it! - Valerie Lim, 33, planner at a creative agency

Make time for these highlights:

  • Visit Ralph's Bay to look at bioluminescence (the natural production of light by living organisms). There are several spots around Hobart city, and dedicated Facebook pages such as Bioluminescence Tasmania feature tips on where to spot them.
  • The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona). Go as early as possible because you'd need three to five hours to explore everything. Book your entrance and ferry tickets - Mona is a 25-minute ferry ride away from Hobart - online to skip the queues. There are two optional exhibitions by James Turrell you'll need to buy separate tickets for, but are highly recommended.
  • The magnificent blowhole in family seaside holiday town Bicheno. Go at dusk to catch the sunset.
  • The serene Tamar Wetlands - miles of beautiful nature, with tall grass and marshes. It's a lovely walk for older folks who can't do the more challenging treks and hikes.
A view of the Twelve Apostles taken while on a helicopter tour. PHOTO: GILBERT WONG

Melbourne: An incomparable coffee and cafe culture

"Melbourne is the place I credit for my love of coffee, which developed while I was a Trinity College Foundation Studies student and University of Melbourne undergraduate from 2011 to 2014. It's the first place I think of for coffee and cafe culture, and nowhere else compares.

"Back then, I stayed in Carlton and would venture to nearby suburbs North Melbourne, Footscray, Fitzroy, Richmond, South Melbourne, Brunswick and St Kilda. That's something I'd encourage visitors to do to experience differences in food and culture.

"For my next visit, I'd love to go back to Grampians National Park once the full Grampians Peaks Trail is complete. I've only done half or full-day hikes so far, so a multi-day hike would be a fantastic experience." - Gilbert Wong, 31, writer

Make time for these highlights:

Go stargazing at Uluru in the Northern Territory and marvel at the sheer beauty of nature. PHOTO: TOURISM NT & LUKE TSCHARKE

Northern Territory: The beauty of the outback

"I was born and raised in Alice Springs in the Australian outback, and grew up on a roadhouse called Wycliffe Well situated 400km north of Alice Springs. My childhood was spent hand-rearing baby joeys, shooting landscape photography and stargazing up at the milky way.

"The Northern Territory is full of wonderfully outrageous and unique places to visit. She is built on one-of-a-kind experiences, and her landscapes are considered some of the most distinct in the world (think: giant waterfalls, hot springs, red sandy desert, cliffs, caves and insane rock formations).

"Some of my fondest memories include going barramundi fishing at the Top End with my brother and getting burnt crispy sitting out on the water all day." - Elvina Farkas, 30, co-founder of photo and film production company Anue Studios

Make time for these highlights:

  • Check out natural water holes like Ellery Creek or Emily Gap for a leisurely swim or hike. Do note that Emily Gap is seasonal for swimming, whereas Ellery Creek is a permanent swimming hole.
  • Watch the Finke Desert Race, an off road, multi-terrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quad bikes through desert country.
  • Visit Uluru and spend a weekend camel riding, stargazing and capturing sunset photos.
  • Visit Desert Park to learn about the native flora and fauna, and the Telegraph Station for a BBQ picnic.
  • Enjoy an early morning hot air balloon experience to see the MacDonnell Ranges.
  • Go eco-glamping at Barmurru Plains in Kakadu National Park, which also offers wildlife safaris.
  • Get aboard The Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide, billed Australia's greatest train journey. It takes 54 hours and runs between the cities of Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin.
The stunning park views of Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast. PHOTO: TOURISM AUSTRALIA

Queensland: A charming mix of old and new

"I'd like to think of Queensland as the charming cousin of big-city Sydney and her hip sister Melbourne, which possibly translates into very laidback locals who are friendly and happy to share some conversation any time of the day. Architecturally, Brisbane is beautiful as well - a nice mix of old and new.

"I spent 1999 there to pursue my degree at the Queensland University of Technology. I've always wanted to return, but never had the chance. So far, I've been to Sydney, Perth and Melbourne for short holidays, but my heart belongs to Queensland - it was my first time away from home, so every experience was magnified.

"I fondly remember indulging in must-do's like taking long drives, going to the bar for chips and gravy, cafe-hopping, and eating lunches on grassy lawns. I hear Queensland is very different now and wonder if I'd still recognise my previous hangouts." - Michelle Bong Lejtenyi, 46, editor

Make time for these highlights:

  • Hit up Queen Street Mall, a shopping and lifestyle haven for restaurants, cafes, cinemas and even day spas. Five minutes away, you'll find galleries and museums and the gorgeous riverside.
  • Stroll along South Bank, by the Brisbane River, home to seafood festivals and live music.
  • Visit the Milton area, teaming with cafes for flat whites and delicious cakes and pastries.
  • Discover agricultural festival Ekka to stuff yourself silly with strawberry ice cream and shop for fresh produce.
  • Drive up to the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast to visit the theme parks, go shopping, frolic in clear waters, enjoy walks along the boardwalk or take surfing lessons.
  • Visit Mount Tamborine, about an hour's drive from Brisbane, for a weekend of winery or brewery hopping, dining at quaint cafes and going on rainforest walks.
While exploring the Great Ocean Drive, Bing and her husband stopped to admire this breathtaking view of Cape Otway Lighthouse. PHOTO: BING BLOKBERGEN-LEOW

Australia: No place quite like it

"My family emigrated to Perth when I was 13, where I lived till I returned to Singapore in 1994. My parents still live there, so my siblings and I visit at least once or up to three times a year. I spent much of my time in Perth, but have travelled extensively within Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia for pleasure and business.

"My favourite state remains Victoria - my husband and I love taking regular holidays there. But for now, due to the travel restrictions worldwide, my humble wish is to visit my elderly parents in Perth again and spend quality family time with them. And perhaps take my mother back to the small town of Dongara where she attended boarding school in the early 1960s." - Bing Blokbergen-Leow, 46, director of Gastro-Sense, a hospitality and lifestyle consulting company

Make time for these highlights:

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