If you’re cold and living in Australia, head North and West, not Up and Out. I always believed that escaping the winter chill should involve boarding a flight for an exotic island for some warmth and a dose of foreign ‘culcha’; where a long flight and a passport were the main prerequisite. It was only when I took a year off to travel around Australia that I realised some of the best places to escape the cold were in this very country.
The winter months of June through to August are best to travel around the Northern Territory and the top of Western Australia. The days are cloudless and singlet-and-shorts warm. The nights cool down enough for pleasant sleeping and the sunsets: Oh my, those sunsets. But it’s not just the weather. Here are three destinations every Australian should holiday in before they jump on their next plane to an overpriced package holiday overseas winter escape:
The NT News has a lot to answer for: Darwin is not the armpit of civilisation as its headlines would suggest, but rather a city of tropical cuisine, moving historical and cultural attractions and did I mention the sunsets? Kakadu National Park is only a few hours’ drive away and its beautiful country cousin, Litchfield, is even closer. Along the foreshore stand monuments to one of the few places in Australia to be touched up by war, museums showcase giant crocodiles, natural disasters and the intricacies of Aboriginal culture. For foodies, the scent of ginger blossom smacks you around the face as you step off the plane and the cuisine of the Mindil and Parap Markets clearly show Darwin has a lot more in common with its Asian neighbours than the chia and sourdough brigade down south. There’s crocodiles in the water, but ironically, the Darwin Ski Club (yes, a water-ski club) is one of the best places for those sunset drinks. To be clear: sunsets.
I don’t consider myself to be a spiritual person, but there is a vibration running through the very top of Western Australia that cannot be denied by even the greatest of sceptics. Sitting on a high rocky outcrop, with nothing between you and the next evidence of civilisation but unending kilometres of untouched wilderness does funny things to the East Coast Hugger- the theme music from Crocodile Dundee wafted into my head on such an occasion and you know what? It wasn’t corny or ridiculous: it was awe inspiring. There are the jaw dropping landscapes, Aboriginal art and places of deep spiritual significance, stunning gorges and waterholes perfect for cooling down hot bodies, sometimes with only the odd black cockatoo or kookaburra watching on. It’s raw, remote and overwhelming but in a deeply beautiful way.
The Coral Coast
The Coral Coast: isn’t that somewhere south of Cairns? Imagine my surprise when I found out it stretched south from Exmouth along the West Australian coast! Coral outcrops in warm, crystal clear water can be accessed just metres from the beach, not hours from the mainland. You can swim with gentle whale sharks, walk along coastal rocky outcrops in the amazing Kalbarri National Park and then there’s always Monkey Mia and its dolphins if you haven’t had enough nature. Distances between ‘attractions’ are in their hundreds of kilometres, but there is something about that enormity which is cleansing and rejuvenating, as though you are sloughing off all that ails you as the country glides by.
Don’t fly out: there’s plenty here to keep your body and soul warm.