Regular YourLifeChoices contributor, Lee Atkinson, has a new book out: Australia’s Best Nature Escapes. It features 100 of the best nature-based holidays in Australia, with everything from camping in beachside reserves and on remote outback cattle stations to glamping in vineyards and splurging out at six-star luxury lodges. We asked Lee to choose her favourite five.
Connecting with nature and spending time in wild places makes you feel good. But getting back to nature doesn’t have to mean roughing it – you don’t even really need good knees. Just relaxing in front of a wilderness view can work wonders on your frame of mind and change the way you feel. Here’s my pick of the best ways to go wild, the easy way.
Cruise Tassie’s wild south west: not so long ago if you wanted explore the wilderness around Bathurst Harbour in south-west Tasmania you had to either spend eight days hiking to get there, or brave southern ocean swells and sail your own boat in. Tasmanian Boat Charters are now running summer-time cruises through the area aboard the Odalisque, a custom-made abalone boat with three double cabins and three bathrooms, private chef and expert wilderness guide onboard.
Image © Mark Daffey
For those who like their adventures wild, but their beds soft and showers hot, it’s the perfect way to join the ranks of the privileged few to see one of the world’s most magnificent wilderness areas.
The Murray River Walk: this four-day guided walk combines hiking and houseboating along a 40km stretch of the Murray River between Renmark in South Australia and the Victorian border.
Walking is easy, more of a stroll than a trek along mostly level ground, and while you’re wandering along river banks and through forests of redgums, a houseboat named Desire motors upriver to meet you with chilled wine and canapés at the end of each day.
It’s a luxurious way to walk the walk, with hot showers, a top-deck spa, wrap-round water views at every turn and fabulous food matched with Riverland wines.
Best splurge-out luxury lodge for a special occasion: Australia has some truly wonderful luxury lodges, but my favourite is Arkaba Station in the Flinders Ranges. A highlight is sleeping out underneath the stars on their special swag platforms – there’s a picture of one on the cover of the book – but if you don’t like the idea of that, you can stay in the beautiful homestead, built in 1856.
Rates include daily guided wilderness safaris as well as all food and drinks. Who needs five-star luxury when you can have a million of the real things?
Best beachside camp spot: we’re also spoilt for choice when it comes to fantastic beachside camping and caravanning spots – in many coastal towns the council caravan park has the best views in town – but they don’t get much more beachfront than those on North Stradbroke Island, just a 45-minute ferry trip from Brisbane. You need a 4WD because the only way to get to the beachside campgrounds is to drive along the beach.
There are not a lot of fancy facilities, but sites are right on the edge of the sand, there’s a lot of shade, and outside the holiday season, there’s plenty of room to move. Look up into the trees and you’ll probably spot a koala or three. If you don’t want to drive on the sand, there are half a dozen good beachfront caravan parks.
Favourite island escape: offering the rare chance to really switch off from the outside world – there is no mobile phone coverage on the island – travelling to Lord Howe can feel like stepping back in time, but in a good way. Proudly crime-free, the resorts and guest houses have a no-key policy, offer surfboard, wetsuit and snorkel hire – and even drinks at the island’s best sunset bar (aka the boatshed) – is by honesty box.
Activities are low key too, like snorkelling on the world’s most southerly coral reef straight from the beach, bird watching, bushwalking and picnicking beside the lagoon. It’s as close to paradise as you’ll ever be.
Australia’s Best Nature Escapes by Lee Atkinson is published by Hardie Grant Travel and is available from all good bookstores and online booksellers.
Recommended retail price: $39.99.