World-class destinations, no passport necessary

Staying in huts during a six-day trek of Tasmania's Cradle Mountain is a similar experience to walking Europe's Mont Blanc. Pictures: Shutterstock
Staying in huts during a six-day trek of Tasmania's Cradle Mountain is a similar experience to walking Europe's Mont Blanc. Pictures: Shutterstock

Since I wrote last week about the need to have a more consistent approach to reopening our state borders, there has been some progress and the tourism industry is more hopeful that domestic travel will improve as we head into spring. But it's clear that any major changes to the rules around international travel are a long way off.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has been encouraging people to "think outside the square" and approach a holiday at home like it's an overseas one.

"An Australian holiday for an Australian shouldn't just be about going back to that regular spot at the beach you've always gone to," he recently told the ABC, "but you should really get out, explore our country and book something exciting."

You can island hop in the Whitsundays to replicate a tropical holiday in Fiji or Vanuatu.

You can island hop in the Whitsundays to replicate a tropical holiday in Fiji or Vanuatu.

But can travelling in Australia actually be like an international trip? Well, there are certainly some destinations and experiences that are quite similar to those you will find overseas.

If you're trying to replicate the atmosphere of a particular country, there are a few places you can head in Australia to get close. Visit Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills to feel like you've arrived in Germany. Founded by Prussian settlers in 1839, the town has embraced its heritage and you'll find German-style pubs, wooden folk art, cuckoo clocks, and bakeries.

Visit Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills to feel like you've arrived in Germany.

Visit Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills to feel like you've arrived in Germany.

At Innisfail in Queensland, the influences from Italian immigrants make the tropical town feel almost Mediterranean, while the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta could nearly pass for the bustling streets of Saigon. Or head into the NSW Southern Highlands where the pasties, manicured gardens, and morning fog transports you to rural England.

Aside from the cultural influences, the nature of Australia can often evoke the impression of other countries. There's no need to go to the Grand Canyon in the USA when the Northern Territory has the mighty Kings Canyon with 300-metre-high sandstone walls and a six-kilometre circuit walk along its rim.

Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory.

Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory.

For a longer hike, head to Tasmania's Cradle Mountain for a six-day trek. It may not have the same landscape as Europe's Mont Blanc but staying in huts each night makes it a similar experience. And, until we are able to travel to the South Pacific, you can island hop in the Whitsundays to replicate a tropical holiday in Fiji or Vanuatu.

One of my great pleasures when I travel overseas is to visit wine regions, particularly those famous for a specific variety. In Australia, we can travel the world through our wine - tasting Chardonnay in the Yarra Valley rather than France's Burgundy, or Cabernet Sauvignon in Margaret River rather than California's Napa Valley.

Victoria's Yarra Valley is just as spectacular as France's Burgundy region.

Victoria's Yarra Valley is just as spectacular as France's Burgundy region.

Just because an international destination is renowned for something, doesn't mean we don't have something similar here. Take a houseboat down the Murray instead of a paddle steamer down the Mississippi; look for native animals on a 4WD tour of Kangaroo Island instead of a safari in South Africa; take a train ride from Darwin to Adelaide instead of across Siberia.

The Murray or the Mississippi?

The Murray or the Mississippi?

Growing up in Australia, I think I take many of our landmarks for granted and am often a bit surprised when I see international tourists visiting a building that I walked past to school every day. Yet, when I am in famous European cities, I often pop into churches to admire the architecture and art. Perhaps we can find that sense of wonder by visiting St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne or St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney - or visit some of the grand National Trust properties like Rippon Lea Estate or Saumarez Homestead to get a dose of heritage. And don't forget that Australia has world-class art collections so, if you are missing standing in a queue to get into the Louvre in Paris or the Uffizi in Florence, just wait outside Canberra's National Gallery for a couple of hours then walk in to see the excellent exhibitions.

St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.

St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.

Even specific international landmarks have interesting equivalents that perhaps we overlook too quickly. Instead of visiting Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, explore Fremantle Prison which is now a World Heritage Site. Rather than exploring Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona, head to South Australia's Umpherston Sinkhole where a garden has been created in a collapsed limestone cave. Or, if you've never seen the Pyramids of Giza, you may be interested (or not) in the 15-metre-high Ballandean Pyramid in Queensland, which was constructed with 7500 tonnes of rock in 2006.

Fremantle Prison, a World Heritage Site.

Fremantle Prison, a World Heritage Site.

Ultimately, though, I think what Simon Birmingham meant when he suggested we approach a domestic holiday like an international one, was that we should be curious and engaged. Take a food tour, visit a museum, join an organised kayaking trip, hire bikes and explore a new neighbourhood. We so often go overseas and search out new things to see and do - yet, here in Australia, there are probably more experiences and sights than you will ever have time to see or do.

Michael Turtle is writing about his trips around the country at the Travel Australia Today website.

This story World-class without a passport first appeared on The Canberra Times.