Add deserts of spectacular scale, endless, empty beaches, the fittest, friendliest people on the planet, a culture that prizes beach time over the boardroom, snakes, poisonous jellyfish, pythons and killer octopi — and you have, roughly, Australia.
The flight is long. The rewards are tremendous.
Now’s the time to go: we’ve seen round-trip tickets under $900. But which, what and where? Here’s a crib sheet for narrowing your (myriad) options.
For the Visiting Foodies
Like Napa without the tech bros, Byron Bay is the birthplace of Australia’s “paddock-to-plate” scene, thanks to the exceptionally fertile farmland that surrounds this bustle-minded beach enclave. Stay at the super-luxe (and super-friendly) The Byron at Byron, with its own rainforest and easy beach access, and book a private food tour with Taste Byron Bay, during which you can expect to pick figs straight off the tree, sit down to a breakfast prepared by a River Café alum, and sample the country’s best indie brewer.
For Lovers of Beautiful, Spiritual Things
Formerly known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is a sandstone monolith of tremendous spiritual importance to Aboriginal communities, which in recent, more sensitive years has meant restrictions on climbing it (don’t do it) and more initiatives aimed at threading cultural heritage into the tourism experience. One example: In April, English artist Bruce Munro will install 50,000 “spheres of light” on the desert floor. Transcendence awaits.
For Surfers Who Also Like Cities
Book a room at the Sebel and you’ll be across the road from the golden expanse of Manly Beach. Wake up early for a spectacular lavender sunrise seen through towering Norfolk pines. Little kids will want to snorkel in protected Shelly Beach, a 15-minute walk to water’s edge, while older ones might try surfing lessons with Manly Surf School. You can take it all in with beers and oysters at Manly Wine, where the best seats on the beach beckon.
For Scuba Divers with a Bucket List
The most luxurious way to experience the Great Barrier Reef. If you’re blowing the budget, might as well reserve One&Only Hayman Island’s three-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot Hayman Penthouse, with views of the Coral Sea, a wraparound balcony and butler service — no other resort is closer to the Heart Reef. The onsite dive shop can help with PADI certification if you’re feeling motivated.
For Metropolitan Completists
It’s as crucial an experience as London, Paris, New York and Tokyo — and more liveable than any of them. Stay at the Pop Art-inflected Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbor, with views of the city’s waterfront, then tackle as much of the city as you can, from Bondi’s L.A.-style beach scene to dinner and drinks at our favorite joint in town, Surry Hills’ Dead Ringer.