It is the ultimate vacation for cashed-up travellers. Once the preserve of the super-rich, many Australians are taking to private planes as a substitute for international travel.
A few friends for a long lunch in Orange, NSW? A secluded vineyard trip for like-minded vino aficionados? A week-long getaway on a secluded island with six-star accommodation?
There are now a number of boutique Aussie companies ready to hand-craft your itinerary – at a healthy price, of course.
Welcome to the world of chartered planes, private jets and luxurious getaways. You can go on safari, take a trip to a secluded island paradise or visit the sights by helicopter… all in your own backyard.
Lunch in Coffin Bay, SA
Crooked Compass by Air offers a long lunch trip to Coffin Bay, Australia’s seafood frontier in the Eyre Peninsula. Your adventure starts at Essendon Airport in Victoria where you will board the light aircraft operated by Air Founder. A scenic coastal flight takes you over sunburnt land, turquoise waters and aggressive ocean swells to the Eyre Peninsula, home to schools of salmon and tuna farms. And if you are lucky, you will also spot a silhouette or two of a great white shark.
As your plane descends gently into stunning Coffin Bay, the crystal waters lined with oyster farms will greet you and you can indulge in some of the finest and tastiest oysters in the country – washed down, no doubt, with plenty of chilled bubbles.
You will be taken to Coffin Bay National Park where you may spot kangaroos, emus, reptiles and lots of birds while enjoying spectacular coastal views. Indulge in a bit of cheese and wine before sitting down to a leisurely seafood lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the water and oyster farms.
After lunch cruise to The Brothers, a pair of islands where you can observe seabirds, seals and dolphins and learn from a local oyster farmer how to shuck oysters. They will be some of the freshest, most succulent oysters you’ve ever tasted. Fly home in your chartered plane in the afternoon.
Price: $2595 per person; minimum of eight guests
Tasmanian wilderness tour
Besides long lunches, Crooked Compass by Air has recently launched tailor-made holiday itineraries by private charter flight to a range of attractions such as Arnhem Land, the Kimberley and Birdsville.
There’s a six-day holiday in Tasmania by private charter flight from Melbourne which includes helicopters tours, food and wine, and luxury accommodation surrounded by nature in the Tasmanian wilderness.
Your holiday starts when you board your King Air charter flight from Essendon Airport. On arrival at Launceston, you will be taken by helicopter to Clover Hill Winery for an ultimate day out. If you enjoy drinking wine, you will enjoy meeting the winemaker and tasting the fruits of his labour. You will then be flown to Tasmania’s east coast for an unforgettable experience visiting a working oyster farm and savouring oysters straight from the sea.
Afterwards, jump on the helicopter to be transferred to your romantic stay at The Keep. This unique boutique hotel is set on a 650-metre rocky pinnacle with views of the coast and offers an indulgent stay with a hot outdoor bath.
Next day, you will be whisked off in a helicopter bound for the Bay of Fires. You can spot whales and other wildlife as you fly over amazing scenery to indulge at a brunch prepared by renowned Tassie chef Thomas Dicker. You will then fly by helicopter to the private Swan Island. You can walk the white sandy beach and visit the historical ruins of the former convict enclave.
After that, fly by helicopter to Flinders Island for two days of exploration where you’ll taste local gin, sip beautiful wines and eat fresh crayfish. Your accommodation at The Cray Shack, right on Killiecrankie Beach, is a dreamy escape with an outdoor shower and views. And when dusk falls you can sip cocktails outside by the fire.
After two nights on Flinders Island, you will helicopter back to the mainland and the Barnbougle Golf Links which has two iconic golf courses. You will overnight at Barnbougle Lost Farm which has luxury accommodation, a restaurant and spa.
On your final day, there’s a pub crawl by helicopter. Enjoy the diverse scenery of north-east Tasmania – its coastlines, mountainous forests, creeks and valleys – before flying back to Launceston. You will then be transferred to your private charter plane for your flight home.
Price: from $13,565 per person; minimum of eight guests
Outback with ease
For the past 37 years, Bill Peach Journeys has been organising stylish, all-inclusive holidays for well-heeled Aussies to explore unique destinations by private aircraft. When you travel with Peach’s Aircruise, everything is arranged before you leave home.
This means luxury accommodation, dining, excursions and you are accompanied by a journey director to “look after you every step of the way”. You usually travel in small groups of eight.
There’s an amazing 11-day Gulf to Gulf Air Tour itinerary from Adelaide visiting out-of-the-way places, including Innamincka, Birdsville, Mount Isa, Groote Eylandt, Tennant Creek, Coober Pedy and Wilpena Pound.
Highlights of this remarkable outback air tour include: a beer and a night at the famously remote Birdsville Pub; visiting some of the world’s most abundant fossil deposits at the Riversleigh World Heritage Site; viewing the lush vegetation of Lawn Hill Gorge, a beautiful outback oasis; and touching down in the remote island of Groote Eylandt to learn about Indigenous culture. You will also experience an awe-inspiring “flightseeing” over South Australia’s breathtaking Lake Eyre.
Price: from $15,750 per person
Queensland icons tour
For 25 years, Captain’s Choice’s journeys by private jet and plane have featured carefully crafted itineraries with everything taken care of for groups of about 30 like-minded travellers. The tours are also accompanied by highly experienced guides and a doctor.
There’s an eight-day Islands and Icons of Remote Queensland tour by private jet departing May next year. You will fly from Sydney in a privately chartered business class BAE 146 jet and discover the charms of Australian institutions such as dinner at Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, learn more about the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, board the Gulflander train as it leaves Normanton for Critters Camp, visit Horn Island at the northernmost tip of Australia and meet some of Queensland’s last-remaining pearl farmers. Your holiday will also visit Hayman Island to soak up the tropical paradise and sunshine before flying home.
Price: starts at $14,500 per person