As far as COVID-affected jobs go, it couldn’t get much worse than it has been for travel agents. While the New Zealand bubble has opened up, most of us are still contained in our own backyard. So, in search of a dose of inspiration, Explore asked seven top travel agents to tell us their number-one places to visit in Australia.

The destination: Darwin and surrounds, NT

Darwin is a classic Australian tourist destination, yet TravelManagers’ Lana Kanchik thinks it’s still underappreciated and deserving of hosting your next holiday.

She suggests allocating “at least three nights to take in all the sights that Darwin and its surrounding areas have to offer”. Her strongest recommendation is to visit the region’s national parks. “While everyone goes to Kakadu, Litchfield National Park is just as beautiful, where you can swim in waterfalls that are 10,000 years old,” she said.

Ms Kanchik also mentions Nitmiluk National Park with its stunning Katherine Gorge and a visit to Marrawuddi Gallery in Kakadu National Park should not be missed. In Darwin, take a jumping crocodile tour.

As far as accommodation goes, Ms Kanchik opts for the Vibe Hotel and Adina Apartments on Darwin’s waterfront, where you can enjoy the new water-city precinct, even swimming from its man-made beach.

Lana Kanchik, Personal Travel Manager, TravelManagers, ph: 0410 699 855

A Darwin adventure

The destination: Ningaloo Reef, WA

The number-one destination for Miriam Rosenman from Rose Bay Travel is Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. The remote region is home to one of the world’s largest coral reefs and offers the chance to swim with the ocean’s gentle guardians, whale sharks. Ningaloo is a wonderland for snorkellers and divers, but also perfect if you’re just looking for a little coastal seclusion.

“While the entire West Coast is completely superb, you just can’t miss Sal Salis, an all-exclusive luxury glamping resort that sits on the doorstep of Ningaloo,” she said. While the reef is still the prize attraction, you can “enjoy a real retreat where you cancel out technology and enjoy the seclusion”, she added.

Ms Rosenman suggests flying into Perth as it “offers a nice city buffer to your beach holiday”. She recommends staying at Como The Treasury and making a booking for Wildflower restaurant. The next day fly to Learmonth, where you can choose between a road transfer or a scenic flight to Ningaloo.

Miriam Rosenman, Travel Advisor, Rose Bay Travel; ph: 02 9371 8166

The destination: Central NSW

Callubri Station is a beautiful option in Central New South Wales and travel specialist Grant Charlesworth rates it as one of the best farm stays and food and wine experiences in the country.

The luxury accommodation is made from shipping containers, adding a touch of the rustic to its indulgent grandeur.

Mr Charlesworth lists one of the best things to do as “simply exploring the property and learning about how the farm is run”, he said. “Staring out over the plains feels like the Serengeti.” He suggests flying into Nyngan and said you’ll “feel well off the beaten path”. You’ll stay alongside a maximum of 10 guests on the 11,300-hectare property.

If you’ve got a bit more time, Mr Charlesworth recommends pairing this trip with more great food and drink experiences in Mudgee and Orange. The Tonic Restaurant in Milthorpe and the Byng Street Boutique Hotel are some highlights. If you like the sound of upmarket dining experiences in countryside seclusion, Callubri Station and its surrounds might just be your next love.

Grant Charlesworth, Owner, Australian Luxury Escapes, ph: 02 9980 8799

The unique construction of Callubri Station

The destination: Tasmania

It’s time to go to Tasmania, according to Flight Centre’s Robert Caldwell. “A small state with so much to offer,” he said. “From great landscapes, amazing food and drinks, and wonderful wildlife – if you haven’t seen it before, now is the time.”

A good tip is to fly into Launceston, then out of Hobart, to maximise the ground you can cover. Or alternatively, drive from Melbourne and take the Spirit of Tasmania so you will have your car with you as you explore the island.

Mr Caldwell recommends the “amazing hikes all over the state and heading off on a self-drive itinerary”. He also encourages a trip out to Bruny Island, to “enjoy the local produce – food and whisky at its finest”.

He adds that Tasmania is super-popular at the moment, so “it’s essential that you book early to secure accommodation and car hire or you will miss out”.

He also offers plenty of hotel recommendations with standouts including Thousand Lakes Lodge and Pumphouse Point on Lake St Clair in the north and Truffle Lodge, nearer Hobart.

Tasmania has just as much for a foodie as it does for an adrenaline junkie and with cheap flights aplenty, it’s surely time you paid Tasmania a visit.

Robert Caldwell, Senior Travel Consultant, Flight Centre Toowong, ph: 1300 650 284

The destination: Kalbarri, WA

Fierce-orange cliffs hold the hand of pristine blue waters at Kalbarri. The coastline was an unmistakable highlight for Sharyn Kitchener of Mosman Travel, who fell in love with the area on a West Coast road trip from Perth.

Ms Kitchener said: “The national park is worth at least three days of exploring – the landscapes are extraordinary.” Kalbarri is home to Hutt Lagoon, a stunning body of water that wears that colour of bright pink that she assures my sceptical self really does look like the photos. She nominates Kalbarri Edge Resort as the perfect base.

If road-tripping from Perth, Ms Kitchener also points to the Pinnacles Desert, where you can see natural limestone stand tall in the middle of a desert.

Sharyn Kitchener, Managing Director, Mosman Travel, ph: 02 9932 4005

The natural beauty of WA

The destination: Haggerstone Island, Qld

One of the best ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef is via Haggerstone Island and specialist travel agency The Tailor’s Kirsty Siekmann is willing you to go and discover it. Jump on a chartered flight or seaplane in Cairns and 600 kilometres later you’ll be in a tropical wonderland.

She raves about the hand-crafted huts that will “have you feeling like you’re about to step out into an African safari”, though rather than lions and elephants you’ll be meeting green turtles, crocodiles and tropical fish. Ms Siekmann describes it as a “Robinson Crusoe experience” and recommends filling your days with “boat excursions, fishing, snorkelling and relaxing”. Other activities available include sipping champagne on sand dunes, showering yourself under private waterfalls and gazing through the coral gardens.

To keep the luxury feel going, Ms Siekmann suggests combining your trip with a stay at Silky Oaks Lodge, where you can relax in decadent surroundings in between your Daintree Rainforest explorations.

Kirsty Siekmann, CEO, The Tailor, ph: 1300 364 406

The destination: Wilpena Pound, SA

A bit over 400 kilometres north of Adelaide is the mind-boggling hole in the earth of Wilpena Pound, and Maha Noore of Out and About Travel thinks it should be your next destination. Australia is well known for its varied landscapes, from its turquoise waters to its rugged red sands, but it’s not quite as well known for the gigantic natural amphitheatres that bear a suspiciously close resemblance to meteor craters.

As far as accommodation goes she said, “there are a couple of stations and luxury lodges nearby, but the best place to stay is Wilpena Pound Resort.

“The views are so beautiful the best way to spend your time is exploring the countryside on bushwalks, although there are also 4WD tours and scenic flights,” she added. If you’re up to a challenge, she recommends taking on the gruelling St Mary peak hike which, if you can conquer the nine-hour hike, offers incredible views at the top.

If you’ve got more days to explore, Ms Noore suggests pairing Wilpena Pound with Kangaroo Island or Lake Eyre.

Maha Noore, Travel Manager, Out and About Travel, ph: 02 8667 3336

Views of Wilpena Pound will make you question what planet you’re on

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