So much to see, so little time.
Good travel books tend to fall into three broad categories – compact guides packed with key information but visually dull; wonderful coffee table books that whet the appetite as much by the beautiful photos as the words and, rarely, a wonderful combination of the two. And that’s where Lee Atkinson’s Australia’s Best Nature Escapes fits.
First off, I need to declare that nature escapes are what my holidays are generally planned around. I’m a camper and I love to escape crowds and go bush – the further bush the better.
As Lee says in the foreword: “Connecting with nature and spending time in wild places makes you feel good. Countless studies – scientific and anecdotal – show that our mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual wellbeing are improved when we immerse ourselves in the natural environment.” Cue the applause for that.
Lee is an award-winning travel writer who seems to know this country inside out. I have visited about two dozen of the 100 destinations she selected for this book and she has obviously been there and done that – driven the roads, walked the walks, camped and glamped, sampled the food, tried the tours, swum in the pools and at the beaches. She has left no stone unturned.
The book is divided into nine sections – glamping, coastal, mountain top, island getaway, walking, country escape, holidays afloat, luxe and outback – and is ordered alphabetically in each section. There is also an index at the back for quick reference.
For each destination there is a panel with essential information: a map showing where it is, why go, how much things cost, when to go, for how long and where to access more information.
Lee’s book is super informative and presents multiple options for each destination – do this walk, go up this road, camp by this river. And if plan A doesn’t grab you, try plans B and C. Not a camper? There are cottages here. Glamping too expensive? Here’s a budget option. Want to spoil yourself? Here are the luxe options. Travelling with a dog? You’ll be allowed here. She caters for everyone.
Family friendly or not; where to swim with whale sharks, sea lions, dolphins; where to spot whales, koalas, cassowaries, crocs; where to eat; where to book well ahead; best sunsets, whitest sand; firewood required; mountain bikes for hire; join a tour, make sure you have a high clearance 4WD, wildflowers, must-dos, must-not-dos. The information is as broad as our wide brown land.
There is a concentration of destinations in south-east Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, but also a good spread across other states and territories.
On top of all that, the book is compact – about 20 centimetres square – and the quality stock will stand up to the journey.
There’s the obvious – Uluru and the Larapinta Trail – and the lesser known – the East Macdonnell Ranges and Mount Kaputar. They’re all must-dos, but some are more compelling than others, such as the Rim Walk in Kings Canyon, described as ‘one of the most dramatic half-day walks in the outback’.
It’s inspiration and information wrapped up in one.
I’ll be working my way through or returning to these camping spots: North Stradbroke Island in Queensland (brilliant), Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory, Coongie Lakes in South Australia, Barmah Forest in Victoria (it was flooded the last time we tried) and the Warrumbungles in NSW (broke down en route) and ended up in Howqua Hills.
Happy touring. This book will keep you in the right track.
Australia’s Best Nature Escapes, Lee Atkinson, published by Hardie Grant Books, rrp $39.99.
* Lee Atkinson has authored 11 guidebooks and developed two smartphone apps on travelling around Australia.