Australia’s state borders are slowly starting to open again after months of closures due to the COVID-19 crisis.
But each state has been crippled by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, and governments are refusing to offer any certainty about whether borders will stay open if cases begin to soar once more.
Instead, state bodies are encouraging residents to support their own economy by travelling locally – and with a landscape like Australia’s, the options are endless.
While Victoria remains in lockdown and restrictions are still in place for intrastate travel, all other destinations are encouraging locals to explore their own backyards.
From The Whitsundays to Broome and city staycations, Daily Mail Australia takes a look at the most popular destinations to travel within each state.
Where you planned to be: Croatia
Where you can be: The Whitsundays
The Whitsundays is Australia’s answer to luxury island getaways.
With white sand beaches and crystal blue water and home to famous Whitehaven Beach, Hamilton Island and Great Barrier Reef, The Whitsundays is on most Aussies’ bucket lists.
While COVID-19 might’ve brought international travel plans to a standstill, The Whitsundays is up and running for all Queenslanders to enjoy.
Tourism Queensland listed the destination as one of the ‘must see’ locations in the Sunshine State – topping a host of other great places.
Where you planned to be: Malaysia
Where you can be: Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy
If you’re looking for something a little more off the grid and less likely to be bombarded with tourists, Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy might be the spot for you, Tourism Queensland revealed.
The hidden gem location is ‘the definition of laid back coastal bliss’ and is home to quiet beaches and homey cafes.
Seventeen Seventy is a stones throw away from Lady Musgrave Island – and come November and January, is teeming with turtles who are ready for nesting season.
While Tioman Island in Malaysia is often considered the top location to play with turtles, this Australian island paradise is just as great.
The spot is considered one of the greatest snorkeling regions in Queensland, and is largely underappreciated when tourists are planning their getaways in the Sunshine State.
Where you planned to be: New York City
Where you can be: South Bank, Brisbane
While Brisbane city is often overlooked for its southern and northern counterparts in the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast as a prime holiday destination, South Bank is quickly becoming the hottest place to be.
With long stretches of dining facilities, expansive parks and even a man made beach, South Bank has something for everyone.
South Bank is known as Brisbane’s cultural and lifestyle hub and is within walking distance of the West Village arts precinct, where Metro Arts recently opened a family-friendly outdoor oasis.
Cocktail bars line the streets across from the Brisbane River walkway, where live street performers often take up residence, while luxury boutique accommodation and hotels are scattered throughout the city.
South Bank offers Queenslanders something different to the laid back lifestyle residents are so accustomed to – and can match any of the fast paced global destinations on your initial 2020 holiday calendar.
New South Wales
Where you planned to be: California
Where you can be: Byron Bay
Byron Bay has long been considered the destination of choice for Aussies, famed for its idyllic beaches and vibrant community culture.
But the northern NSW town is also home to some of Hollywood’s hunkiest leading men, including Chris Hemsworth and his brood, and more recently, Zac Efron.
For NSW holidaymakers who had their heart set on heading to Hollywood Hills to hunt for celebrities, or those just wanting a quiet, off-the-grid getaway, Byron Bay is the place to be.
Where you planned to be: London
Where you can be: Sydney
A Sydney staycation (or vacation for out-of-towners) is an ideal way to get your city-fix during COVID-closures.
Destination NSW have created several itineraries to suit every type of vacation – from romantic couple’s getaway to a full on family affair.
Simply choose a destination spanning from Manly on the northern beaches to Bondi in the east, Penrith in the west and the CBD, and follow along with the scheduled activities.
Destination NSW Chief Executive Officer, Steve Cox said the ‘playcation’ itineraries are ‘a shout out to locals to come and show the city some love.
‘The world-class experiences and venues that are so integral to the fabric of Sydney are still here and these businesses need our support.’
NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres encouraged locals to rediscover why Sydney is one of the world’s most desirable global cities.
‘Our inspiring waterfront views, city beaches, amazing bars and restaurants and unique attractions are not just for international visitors – they’re ready to welcome us back and remind us what makes Sydney special in a new, COVID safe context,’ Minister Ayres said.
Sydney Playcation itineraries
● Luxury: Take a cruise on ‘Tango’, the largest private charter vessel on Sydney Harbour , indulge in a seven-course feast at Aria, book a Sydney Seaplane to Newport for lunch and stay in five-star luxury at Park Hyatt Sydney.
● Family: Take a Twilight climb with BridgeClimb Sydney, cruise Sydney with Bonza Bike Tours, explore Taronga Zoo Sydney and SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and book in the Family Fun Package at the Four Seasons Sydney sleeping in a teepee.
● Foodie: Feast on sustainable seafood at Saint Peter, take a rum spicing masterclass at Brix Distillers, and stay at Paramount House Hotel with room service from Poly.
● Culture: View the Streeton Exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, Lindy Lee at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the world’s most significant collection of Chinese contemporary art at White Rabbit Gallery, and stay in style at the Old Clare Hotel.
● Romance: Book into Pier One Sydney’s Luxe Igloo Suites , dine under whimsical pendant lights at LuMi Dining , enjoy cocktails at Mister Percy , feast on fabulous French cuisine by candlelight at Restaurant Hubert , and picnic in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney with a hamper from Sydney Picnic Co .
● South West Sydney: Visit Sydney Zoo, dine at The Paper Mill, explore Cabramatta with a Taste of Vietnam Tour, see multi-disciplinary exhibitions at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, and stay overnight at the William Inglis Hotel.
● Cronulla: Oceanside dining at ZimZala and Next Door Cafe, sip cocktails in small bar The Blind Bear, rejuvenate with yoga on the beach with Ying Bean, explore local street art, and book the family in for a beach-side stay at Rydges Cronulla.
For more info on Sydney and to view the Sydney Playcay itineraries, visit Sydney.com
Where you planned to be: Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Where you can be: South Coast stretch
Stretching from Wollongong to the Sapphire Coast and encompassing regions from Bateman’s Bay to Shoal Haven, the New South Wales coast is jam packed with expansive beaches and laid-back coastal towns.
A roadtrip through the regions, stopping along the way at lively cafes, bars and restaurants is a great way to help the economies which were first crippled by the bushfires and then again when COVID-19 hit.
While holidays in Victoria are banned for the rest of Australia at the moment due to the pandemic, this road-trip route is a great alternative for Sydneysiders looking to get behind the wheel and explore what the state has to offer.
Where you planned to be: The Bahamas
Where you can be: Rottnest Island
While Rottnest Island isn’t home to Pig Beach, where wild pigs roam the white sand shores, it does have a large habitat of quokkas – which are arguably the more loveable option.
Rottnest Island is a short ferry journey away from Perth but is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
For West Australians, who have been subject to some of the hardest border restrictions in the world, Rottnest is a holiday destination that will break up the day-to-day.
There are surfing spots and snorkeling hire businesses, walking and hiking trails for all abilities, seaplane flights and day spas on the island, nestled among a variety of restaurants.
Where you planned to be: Dubai
Where you can be: Broome
Broome is a unique town in Western Australia rich in culture and history.
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The expansive beach town combines the best WA has to offer, with red sand rock formations that meet crystal blue water and white sand beaches that stretch on further than the eye can see.
From camel tours, pearling trips and once-in-a-lifetime whale watching opportunities, the Kimberley is fast becoming a prime tourist destination.
With its long, hot days and expansive sandy deserts, it is easy to see why holidaymakers might confuse the local destination for a luxury holiday abroad.
Due to COVID border restrictions, the region remains isolated from the rest of Australia, making it prime time for West Australians to snap up a great deal.
Where you planned to be: Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Where you can be: Margaret River
Margaret River is described as ‘the quintessential West Australian holiday destination’, made famous by its pristine coastlines, forests and rugged terrain.
A holiday that can be tailored to suit every traveller, from backpacker to five-star luxury, the region has something for everybody.
With a thriving art scene, wineries, hiking trails and watering holes, the region speaks to all holidaymakers.
South of Perth and in the furthest reaches of Australia, Margaret River is like no other destination in Australia, and is on the bucketlist for tourists worldwide, making it an ideal time for West Australians to explore without hordes of tourists.
Where you planned to be: Fiji
Where you can be: Mornington Peninsula
When travel restrictions are finally eased, the Mornington Peninsula is another hard-to-beat local destination.
Ideal for a romantic getaway to wash away the pressures of lockdown, the romantic region south of the CBD is rich in arts and culture, while also offering all the luxuries one could want in a weekend getaway.
Famed for its luxury hot springs and day spas, tourists are encouraged to ‘relax, slow down and restore the senses’ and ‘leave the phone at home’ to let the region truly work its magic.
‘Take a walk in the peaceful hinterland and let the aromas of eucalyptus and the countryside relax and restore your city senses. A place to find yourself, a place for couples to reconnect and a place for friends to play,’ a spokesman for the region explained.
Where you planned to be: Wellington, New Zealand
Where you can be: Phillip Island
With a chocolate factory, koala conservation reserve, wildlife park and wild penguins, Phillip Island is the ideal family-friendly location for an intrastate getaway for Victorians.
The embattled state is in the midst of a second outbreak of COVID-19, and travel restrictions mean that right now, any holiday is off the cards.
But as life slowly returns to normal, locals will be encouraged to explore their own backyard well before they venture into other parts of Australia.
Phillip Island offers a unique opportunity to escape from the city with the family, and is far enough away from central Melbourne to feel like a true getaway for city slickers.
Where you planned to be: Arrowtown, New Zealand
Where you can be: Ballarat
Ballarat is officially open for business for anyone living in Regional Victoria – and hopes Melburnians will be able to travel shortly.
An hour and a half outside of Melbourne, this old-school town transports you back to simpler times with iconic heritage buildings and family-friendly, wholesome attractions.
With medieval castles and wildlife parks for the kids, and a booming food and wine scene, Ballarat has something the whole family can enjoy.
The town is reliant on tourists and is itching to open up as soon as it is safe to do so for the rest of the community, and is a great option for Victorians as the state slowly starts to open up for intrastate travel once more.
Where you planned to be: Pensacola, Florida
Where you can be: Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island was devastated during Australia’s 2019/2020 black summer bushfires, but the one-of-a-kind landscape is well and truly bouncing back.
An ideal destination for South Australians looking for a getaway in the current COVID-climate, the location has all the elements of an international getaway just a stones throw away from the heart of the state.
The natural wonders and unique wildlife make the region feel worlds away from the bustling city centre just a ferry-trip away and offer an unparalleled holiday.
‘It’s impossible not to relax,’ South Australia’s tourism body claims.
Holidaymakers can choose from five-star luxury living to glamping and relaxing beachfront huts, allowing for a truly tailored experience.
Where you planned to be: Tuscany, Italy
Where you can be: Barossa Valley
The Barossa Valley is just 50 minutes outside of Adelaide and is an internationally acclaimed destination famous for its wine.
South Australians have the opportunity to take first pick on all wine tours and vineyards in the region as COVID-19 keeps international travellers at bay.
At present, interstate tourists are welcomed in the region, but uncertainty due to COVID-19 border closures has put a dampener on usually peak travel periods.
Barossa Valley is home to over 80 cellar doors and offers food and wine tasting throughout the region, perfect for a romantic trip away or long-overdue girls’ trip.
Where you planned to be: Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Where you can be: Mount Gambier
Situated smack bang in the middle of Melbourne and Adelaide, Mount Gambier has done well to keep its charming, small town feel while also adapting and modernising itself with time.
The famed Blue Lake is enough to draw tourists to the town alone, with its pretty, luminescent glow all-year round.
During COVID, the site has become a must see for South Australians, who can make a road trip out of the four-and-a-half hour drive down the coast.
It is also one of the closest destinations to the Victorian border and, given the COVID-climate, is about as close as South Australians are encouraged to get to the embattled state.
Where you planned to be: Grand Canyon
Where you can be: Uluru
You can’t climb the sacred rock anymore, but that doesn’t make a trip to Uluru any less worthwhile.
Northern Territorians have been encouraged to make the trip back out to the Red Centre and reignite the tourism industry devastated by border closures.
Most Australians are still allowed to travel to the state under current border restrictions, but each state is focused on encouraging locals to travel intrastate to help the economy.
Uluru offers tourists walking tours around the rock, camping and glamping opportunities and a unique cultural experience that can’t be compared to any other destination in the world.
Where you planned to be: Amazon Rainforest
Where you can be: Litchfield National Park
According to Tourism Northern Territory, Litchfield National Park is a hidden treasure with untapped potential.
With lush waterholes hidden within stunning walking and hiking tracks, the destination is ideal for adventure-seekers looking for their next ‘Instagrammable’ selfie.
Litchfield is just 60 minutes north of Darwin and tourists are encouraged to book a cabin or camping spot at the entrance of the National Park.
Caravan spots can also be booked in advance.
The destination is described as ‘a little slice of heaven’ among the many tourist spots in the Northern Territory.
Where you planned to be: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Where you can be: Alice Springs / West MacDonnell Ranges
The West MacDonnell National Park spans 161 kilometres west of Alice Springs, and is considered a must-see location while exploring the Northern Territory.
For Territorians who have explored much of their own backyard already, the ever-changing landscape is a great place to reconnect with nature and cultural roots.
The water holes and waterfalls are popular among residents for a quick cool off, while the walking tracks range from beginner to advanced to service every type of tourist.
The national park also has cultural significance for indigenous communities in the region, and is home to several ancient landscapes which were naturally sculpted by the elements over thousands of years.
Where you planned to be: Hawaii
Where you can be: Port Arthur
For history nuts who were hoping to spend their Christmas vacation learning about the tragic history of Pearl Harbour, Port Arthur might just be the next best thing.
With ghost tours, lessons on Australia’s first female convicts and the devastating massacre, Port Arthur is a destination with a deep ingrained history – and locals are more than willing to share.
The ‘Escape from Port Arthur tour’ is a walking true crime adventure novel which tours the region in a fun and engaging way to teach the entire family.
Where you planned to be: Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada
Where you can be: Flinders Island
Located off mainland Tasmania, Flinders Island houses precious shipwreck relics, rolling hills and relaxing seaside resorts.
Flinders Island offers an ‘off the grid’ holiday option for Tasmanians during COVID – offering an escape from everyday living with something unique and untapped.
Tasmanians can leave the city behind, hire a car and explore the unique landscape.
Where you planned to be: Great Keppel Island, Queensland
Where you can be: King Island
With two world-class seaside golf courses located on this tiny patch of land in the Bass Strait, its easy to see why locals want to keep King Island a secret.
Great nature walks leading to the lighthouse or several shipwrecks prove great activities for tourists looking for an adventure-filled quick getaway.
Tourists can also expect to see platypus and rare orange-bellied parrots, both of whom call King Island home among a host of other wildlife creatures.
Travellers can expect friendly and warm service at one of the several B&B accommodation spots, or alternatively are encouraged to secure a spot at a camping ground to entirely immerse themselves in the elements.