At the moment, travel is largely off the table—but that's not going to stop us from having a staycation inspired by our favorite destinations. So far this year, we've taken you on virtual vacations to Paris, London, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Peru, and Japan. This week? We’re heading to the Southern Hemisphere to that magical land of Oz: Australia.
The sheer size of the country-continent makes it impossible to sum up all there is to see and experience, but one thing we do know is that there’s something for absolutely everyone—we’re talking world-class wineries from Adelaide to the Yarra Valley, stunning natural scenery from Queensland to Tasmania, unique cultural heritage in Canberra and the Northern Territory, and, of course, incredible art and cuisine from Sydney to Melbourne. While restaurants as far as Brisbane and Bondi have just begun to reopen, sadly, the country remains off-limits to most leisure travelers. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t recreate a taste of Aussieland at home.
Here’s how you can enjoy an Australia-inspired vacation from wherever you are in the world right now—no day-long flight required.
Visit Nature and Wildlife—Even in Real Time
Thanks to its vast, rambling landscapes and isolated position surrounded by the Southern, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, Australia is spoiled with some of the most beautiful—and unique—natural resources on Earth. The Great Barrier Reef, for one, is the largest coral reef system in the world, and we can think of no one better to lead an interactive journey across one of Australia’s most vulnerable ecosystems than Sir David Attenborough. Once you’ve listened to what clownfish sound like underwater, experience how mantis shrimp see, and follow the migratory route of minke whales, pay a visit in real time with this live underwater feed near Port Phillip Bay. Back on land, it doesn’t get much cuter than Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary’s Koala Cams in Brisbane, where you can watch these fuzzy marsupials cuddle in between feedings and snoozes. (These napping experts can sleep up to 20 hours a day.) While you’re at it, check in on Australia’s little penguins, the smallest breed of penguin, via Phillip Island Nature Park’s live Penguin Burrow Cam.
Tour Landmarks and Museums, Virtually
Built in 1959, the Sydney Opera House and its iconic, sail-like silhouette has become a symbol not only of its home city but of Australia itself. Less familiar is what lies inside. Get an up-close look at the building’s beautiful interiors during one of its free online exhibits, which includes the stories behind its massive stage tapestries and behind-the-scenes footage from its construction. Art as a whole is such an important part of Australia’s story. Take a walk through the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art or go on a self-guided tour of the National Gallery of Victoria, where highlights include curator-led talks on Indigenous Art. For an even more immersive experience, one of the interactive guided tours of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park takes you inside the cave where colored paintings served as a language for the Aboriginal Anangu people. Uluru, the colossal sandstone monolith deep in the heart of Australia’s “Red Centre,” deserves a spot on every traveler’s bucket list—as does the Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks that rise out of the Southern Ocean along the Great Ocean Road. Until it’s safe to get there again, take a helicopter flight for a bird’s-eye view, set to a soothing soundtrack.
Attend a Concert or Art Fair
Tickets aren’t required to score a front-row seat to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, thanks to a collection of pre-recorded live performances that include a collaborative series with the Sydney Dance Company, which was filmed during isolation. For the first time ever, you also don’t have to book a flight to Darwin in order to attend the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (August 6-14, 2020), which is going digital this summer. Anyone who registers for the nine-day program will gain exclusive access to music and dance performances, panels, live artist demonstrations, and the ability to purchase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art—100% of the proceeds return to Art Centres and their communities—right from their laptop. Immediately following, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (August 14-23, 2020) will feature a digital showcase of art by Queensland First Peoples’ artists as well as storytelling, musical performances, comedy skits, and more.
Explore the Outdoors From Your Couch
Is your living room yoga mat set-up growing old? Be transported to a beautiful backdrop of crashing waves and ocean breezes in Queensland during a reef-side yoga session with Annalisa Siefken. If you’re not up for breaking a sweat, let a local do the exercise for you and book a tailored live-stream tour with Localing Tours, where a local expert will virtually take you around the Melbourne area and cover whatever it is you’re most interested in—the beachside suburb of St. Kilda, perhaps, or a drive down the Great Ocean Road. Alternatively, take in the sights without commentary during a sail into Sydney Harbor or a flyover of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, or simply close your eyes and listen to “the healing sounds of Australia” with this Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley recording from their sanctuary in the Blue Mountains.
Enjoy Australian Food and Drink
Australia’s culinary and wine scenes are some of the best in the world. On the food front, seafood features prominent on menus across the continent. Queensland Masterchef alum Matt Sinclair (behind modern Asian restaurant Sum Yung Guys on the Sunshine Coast) recently shared his well-loved recipes for Fraser Isle Spanner Crab Fried Rice and Prawn Curry and led chefs at home through the cooking process in a pre-recorded live demo. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley executive chef Jerome Tremoulet also shared his tried-and-true recipes for pumpkin ravioli and salmon tartare.
More of a baker? The Great Australian Bake Off host and restaurateur Maggie Beer live-streamed a baking class from her Barossa kitchen on how to make your own Anzac biscuits, a classic Australian dessert. As anyone who’s been to Australia knows, locals are serious about their coffee—and heaven help you if you don’t know your “flat white” from your “short black.” Get in the mindset with the help of Melbourne’s Market Lane Coffee’s recipe for the perfect home-brewed filter coffee. Don’t forget to pair your cuppa with some Vegemite-slathered toast or Tim Tams!
Host an Australian Film Fest at Home
Australia’s natural beauty has inspired scores of films through the decades. Of course, who could forget Paul Hogan’s rugged, unperturbed bushman Micka and the incredible scenes of Kakadu National Park, outside Darwin, in the 1986 sensation Crocodile Dundee? The Outback plays just as big of a role in the quirky dramedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which follows two drag queens (played by Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) and a transgender woman as they drive from Sydney to Alice Springs. Both versions profiling famous outlaw Ned Kelly (1970 with Mick Jagger; 2003 with Heath Ledger) were shot around Kelly’s Australian home state of Victoria. Of course, kids and kids at heart equally love Disney/Pixar’s vibrant, touching portrayal of life along the Great Barrier Reef in Finding Nemo, the first Pixar film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. However, for a full sense of the continent, check out Baz Luhrmann’s epic romantic drama Australia. Starring native Australians Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, it was filmed across the continent in destinations including Darwin, Sydney, and Western Australia’s dramatic Kimberley Range.