There was a ray of hope this week with the Sunshine State announcing it’ll reopen to vaccinated travellers from hotspots when 80% of its eligible population is double jabbed, expected around December 17.

It’s great news – but I do wonder whether lockdown-weary southerners are going to risk booking any holidays to Queensland straight away, considering how fickle that border has been over the past 18 months.

In the short term, a lot of the focus on tourism in Australia is likely to be on New South Wales, as its vaccination rate continues to impress, and it reopens to the world, quarantine free, in about a week. The industry is begging for international tourists, not just returning Australians, to be allowed to fly into Sydney, but hopefully that’s not far away.

In the meantime, the NSW Government is offering every adult in the state a $50 voucher to spend on accommodation. Wouldn’t it be nice if the program was extended to Canberrans too? Especially as travel will be allowed from the ACT from November 1!

Regardless, there’s going to be a lot of interest in accommodation in New South Wales, and there’s much more to discover than just roadside motels and your usual hotel chains. Some of the places you can stay are downright weird!

Quarantine Station

If you’re not sick of the idea of quarantine, check in to the old North Head Quarantine Station on Sydney Harbour, which was in operation from 1832 to 1984. The heritage buildings remain (with all their spooky stories) but have been rejuvenated as luxury accommodation, known as Q Station. If it feels too soon to be staying in the rooms where sailors would isolate, there are also the doctors’ terraces and officers’ cottages.

A Q-Station feed.

Train carriage

In the Southern Highlands, get your travels back on track by spending the night in one of the historic train carriages now planted on Redleaf Farm. There’s a 1920s passenger car with original timber interiors, or a guard van from 1890 with beautiful views of the bush. Both have been converted into comfortable accommodation with bedrooms, a living area, and dining table.

Treehouse

High up amongst the leaves, nestled between the Blue Mountains and Wollemi National Park, is the Wollemi Wilderness Treehouse, a unique cabin with luxury facilities like a spa and a fireplace (yes, in a tree!). Large windows make the most of its secluded and elevated position with amazing views across the forest, while the comfortable bed and couch mean you may never want to climb down.

Camp with Bison

At Aranyani Bison Adventure Park, near Casino in the Northern Rivers, the large herd of horned American beasts is the highlight, although the ranch also offers bushwalks, fishing, and other activities for visitors. But for the ultimate experience, you can stay overnight in a tipi with the bison just metres away from your tent, which can sleep up to 12 people.

Camp with Bison.

RetroPods

Join the #vanlife revolution for a night or two with a vintage caravan with a comfortable bed, basic kitchen facilities, and outdoor seating. There’s not even any hassle with RetroPod Brunswick Heads, who will drive the caravan to a site of your choosing in the region and set it up in advance. You just arrive in your own car and everything’s ready to go!

Gold Rush

During the 1870s peak of a gold rush in the Central Western town of Hill End, Hosies was built by a wealthy businessman as a haberdashery store on the ground level, with rooms for his ten children on the upper floor. Over the years, it’s also been a bank and even a brothel, but now you can rent the whole building, which is decorated with period furniture and feels like a trip back in time.

Lighthouse

Montague Island, off the coast of Narooma, is a safe haven for 90 species of birds and the seal colony that lives on its rocks – and now it can be a refuge for you too at one of the cottages that once served the lighthouse. The heritage rooms are full of original details, but the highlight is the isolation of the accommodation with just the sound of crashing waves (but not crashing ships, with the lighthouse now automated).

The lighthouse.

Underground

For a different type of isolation, there’s the Underground Motel in the small opal mining community of White Cliffs (population 248) near Broken Hill. Most people dig their homes underground and into hillsides for natural insulation to protect against the extreme heat. The motel’s 30 rooms feel like cosy caves and have no distractions like televisions or mobile phone reception.

Shearing shed

Going even further into the Outback, you’ll find the Mount Wood Shearers Quarters near Tibooburra. Luxury, this is not, with bunk-style accommodation and shared wash facilities that aren’t too different to the early settler years. But being amongst the vast red landscape and under the brightest of stars makes this a very special place to stay.You can see more about where to stay in Sydney on Michael Turtle’s Travel Australia Today website.

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