With international borders shut for the foreseeable future, holidaymakers are planning their break with Santa now – and high-end accommodation and beachside spots are booking out fast.

The idyllic Western Australian paradise of Rottnest Island – known for its cute quokkas, proximity to Perth and sprawling sandy beaches – was fully booked eight months out from the festive period.

According to the Rottnest Island Authority, more than 9000 people were stuck in online queues and 3000 people jammed phone lines after sales opened for the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Three-hundred people also lined up on Rottnest Island as well as Fremantle to nab a spot for the silly season. 

Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb’s Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand, said search and bookings have increased, especially due to the mid-winter fatigue, and beach holidays are proving popular.

The top searches for Airbnb listings for the Christmas holiday period increased by 66 per cent compared to the same time last year. The top searched locations include the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Dunsborough, Sunshine Coast and Hobart.

“Aussies continue to show a huge amount of enthusiasm for exploring their own backyards and as we approach the halfway point of the year, there’s no doubt many are already firming up their plans for the summer holidays,” said Ms Wheeldon. 

“Recent research found almost 50 per cent of Australians say that who they’re with and what they do together is the most important factor when planning travel this year, so it’s no surprise that whole homes geared towards families that allow pets and have features like pools and big backyards are highly sought after during the Christmas holidays.” 

The top end of town is also proving popular for luxury resorts like Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island in NSW, or Lizard Island in Queensland, where you’ll be forking out over $1000 per night. But there are still options available.

Penny Rafferty, executive officer of Luxury Lodges of Australia, says high-end resorts like Arkaba in South Australia’s Flinders Range and the revamped Silky Oaks in Queensland have Christmas availability.

“As Australia once again sees the need to be flexible with unpredictable COVID-19 outbreaks and resulting border closures there are windows of availability that open up on short notice, offering great opportunities for people to take a spur-of-the-moment holiday,” said Ms Rafferty.

“At the same time, while pent-up demand for premium Australian holidays has been strong, people need to plan for special times away with friends and family – like Christmas and the summer holidays – and there are currently some wonderful destinations with existing availability to explore on holidays.”

Vanitha Sinnathamby of Out and About Travel warns of the importance of booking early: “Anywhere quite warm like Queensland and the tropical north you’ll want to book very early.

“The Whitsundays is mostly booked out already.”

Ms Sinnathamby also cites Kangaroo Island and Tasmanian wilderness holidays as trips you’ll want to book soon to avoid missing out.

“People are booking well ahead of time and blocking off dates to give themselves the certainty of locking in a trip,” she said.

So, your favourite place booked is out. Why not try some of the following alternatives?

New South Wales

If you’re heading anywhere near Byron Bay, the Central Coast, Batemans Bay, Forster or Coffs Harbour you’ll want to be booking very soon. But according to Destination NSW there are plenty of other waterside options (how about Lake Macquarie?) which have stunning new resorts, hotels and homes. Otherwise, look to the country for Christmas in the Outback.

Why not:

Barrington Tops

While the beach is always calling during summer, the shelter of Barrington Tops eucalypt forests provides a different way to deal with the heat, about three hours from Sydney. Book a cabin or throw up a tent and enjoy the river kayaking, intriguing wildlife and tranquil surroundings. 

Rylstone

Tucked into the Mudgee wine region, about three hours from Sydney, Rylstone is an underrated hub of country delights. Enjoy yum cha at 29 nine 99, visit the 170-year-old cellar door at De Beaurepaire Wines and then tuck yourself into bed at Wollemi Retreat. 

The lovely view from Barrington Tops.

Victoria 

Melbourne is still a hot ticket for a summer break with plenty of sporting events, new hotel openings, nightlife and theatre on the cards attracting holidaymakers. Regional Victoria also has its fair share of popular spots with places like the glitzy Sorrento bringing in the city’s rich and famous for a beach side jaunt.

Why not:

The High Country

This region is known for its wineries and food districts like Milawa, where there is a focus on local produce. Base yourself in King Valley where there is an abundance of accommodation. If you’re after hikes and views, Mount Buffalo will serve you well. 

Daylesford Macedon

Wander through wild forests and soak in natural mineral waters in the magical town of Daylesford. Clifftop at Hepburn is a luxurious eco-stay option if you’re looking for an indulgent holiday over Christmas. 

Queensland 

The Sunshine State has long reigned as one of the most popular places for a summer holiday. According to Tourism and Events Queensland, accommodation and destinations within a four-hour drive of Brisbane book out early. Get in early to book the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island. Bear in mind the Whitsunday Island resorts have been booked out for months.

Why not:

Cape Tribulation and the Daintree

Summer in this region is spectacular.  It’s where two World Heritage-listed regions collide: the Wet Tropics (Daintree Rainforest) and the Great Barrier Reef. Pick a treehouse and relax out on the front deck. Or for adventure, join a tubing tour and take a rubber tyre down gentle rapids (try Back Country Bliss Adventures) or ride under the cooling canopy of the rainforests (Cape Trib Horse Rides).

Brisbane

While lots of Christmas revellers will be flying into Brisbane, few stay to explore the city. If you love your sporting events, head to the Brisbane International, the PGA, or hit up Woodford for its noted folk festival. There are fabulous new hotels where you can staycate and shop. Hotels like the Calile, W Brisbane, and the Fantauzzo are like urban resorts, surrounded by some of the country’s best restaurants – without the resort price tag.  

Western Australia 

While the quokkas might not be available for Christmas, there is plenty to see on the west coast. According to Tourism Western Australia the Margaret River region, Albany, Denmark and Esperance are prime destinations for December.

Why not:

Jurien Bay

The Coral Coast tourist town of Jurien Bay is a languid two-and-a-half-hour drive from Perth. It’s a top fishing spot and home to adorable Australian sea lions. The hidden bays and protected inlets provide lovely swimming spots of the family. Christmas accommodation is available at Kalbarri Edge Resort, the Gerald Apartment Hotel and Jurien Bay Tourist Park.

Geraldton

The Mediterranean climate beats down on Geraldton all year round. The

stunning coastline attracts visitors to its laidback vibes, dining options and cosmopolitan lifestyle.

South Australia 

The coastline of South Australia has proven to be a popular holiday spot for locals. In particular, the Eyre Peninsula is a hotspot for the Christmas break with its fresh seafood and regional wineries. Tourism South Australia advises to book now. 

Why not:

Kangaroo Island

Just a short ferry ride from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island’s regeneration after the 2020 bushfires is in full swing. Known for its artisanal produce, sweeping landscapes and abundant wildlife, there are plenty of options available for the budget conscious to the big spenders.

Yorke Peninsula

The Yorke Peninsula has over 700 kilometres of beautiful coast waiting for you. To avoid the crowds head north and check out Dolphin Bay, Shell Beach and Pondalowie Bay. A special option for Christmas is a stay at the Hillocks Drive, where wild bushland meets coastal beauty. 

Northern Territory 

There is still plenty of capacity in places around the Northern Territory. Visitors might think the weather might be wet and wild but there are still plenty opportunities to discover the city. It’s a lovely time to explore some of the national parks and there is plenty of capacity available in places like Katherine and Litchfield National Park.  

Why not:

Darwin

The city will provide you with thriving culture and delicious meals, before you head out to national parks to get away from any crowds and into fresh air and amazing nature. There are colourful street markets and the always lively waterfront boasts great cuisine.

Kakadu

Get out to Kakadu National Park which is known for its lovely hiking trails and lush waterfalls – a perfect place to cool off.

Tasmania 

If you’re planning on spending your holiday period cruising around Tasmania in a hire car, you’ll want to book yourself in nice and early as there are hire car shortages. 

Launceston

Airbnb listed Hobart as one of the most searched for destinations, but the northern city of Launceston boasts panoramic views of Cataract Gorge and lovely museums. Nearby, the Tamar Valley and its scenic lavender farm is a popular choice for cellar doors and long lunches.

Burnie

The industrial town has reinvented itself into a creative hub. Walk around the town’s art deco architecture and take in the sights. Burnie is also home to Hellyers Road Distillery which produces excellent whisky.

Bridestowe Lavender Estate, at Nabowla, Tasmania is considered one of the State’s most spectacular vistas during flowering in December and January.

ACT

Things are a little less busy in Canberra around Christmas compared to other big east coast destinations, which makes it a great base for exploring the region while still putting yourself up in a fancy hotel such as Ovolo Nishi or the new A by Adina, with fine dining options all around. 

Why not:

Jervis Bay

The seaside town books out quickly and is about three hours’ drive from the capital. You can take day trips to laze on the beach and grab some seaside fish and chips.

Snowy Mountains

During summer, the Snowy Mountains come alive with wildflowers bursting from the nutrient rich waters of the region. It’s an adventurer’s paradise with plenty of mountain biking and hiking trails.

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