ABOVE: Kata Tjuta National Park FACING PAGE: (clockwise from top left) Charles Knife Canyon, near Exmouth; Noah Beach in Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation; Kuranda Scenic Railway, Queensland; Magnetic Island PICTURES: Tourism Australia; True North Adventure Cruises;; Townsville Enterprise; Reuben Nutt

the main attraction, and if you’ve got time, it’s worth doing two different trips out there – the individual reefs have different qualities and aquatic life, while cruises cater to different tastes. The Quicksilver catamaran cruise to Agincourt Reef is a great all-rounder, including an underwater observatory and a coral-viewing tour in a semi-submersible as well as the usual snorkelling. But there are also more beach-focused cruises out to Green Island and trips to the rainforest town of

Kuranda via the Skyrail cable car and Scenic Rail train. Book it: Inspired by Australasia offers a full-day Outer Barrier Reef Cruise to Agincourt Reef with Quicksilver from £155.

THE WHITSUNDAYS There’s plenty of reef to explore around the Whitsunday Islands farther south, but it’s the islands themselves – many of which have outrageously impressive white-sand beaches – that are the stars. It’s possible to stay on several of them, with options ranging from basic camping on Hook Island to high-end luxury on Hayman Island.

Hamilton Island is the action-packed all-rounder, with several accommodation options and an enormous range of things to do including jetskiing, wildlife walks, golf and quad biking. It’s easy to book as an add-on, with four-night stays costing from around £763. The other way to tackle the islands is on a multi-day yacht cruise from the town of Airlie Beach. These range from backpacker party boats to crewed

charters with spacious cabins. Book it: G Adventures includes three days of sailing in its basic, small-group Brisbane to Cairns Experience: Sand Dunes & the Whitsundays trip, lasting 10 days, from £1,087 in June 2021.

RED CENTRE That big red rock on all the postcards is much better visited in the Australian winter, when the walks can be completed without excruciating heat. The sunset and sunrise viewings of Uluru will do for the photos, but there’s so much more to it. The roughly six-mile base walk should be treated as mandatory, as should a side visit to the quieter and equally mysterious red rock domes of Kata Tjuta. The range of activities available from the Ayers Rock Resort – including Aboriginal dot-painting workshops, camel rides, stargazing experiences and dinner on the sand dunes – has massively

expanded in recent years. Book it: First Class Holidays’ three-day Uluru & Kings Canyon Discovery includes Uluru and Kata Tjuta, from £726 land-only.


For Broome and Exmouth, Perth is the major connection point – internal flights are cheap when added to international Qantas tickets. Or there are seasonal flights to Broome from Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, useful for linking longer itineraries without the detour to Perth. Options for getting to Cairns without a lengthy backtrack via Brisbane include Jetstar from Tokyo Narita and SilkAir from Singapore. Likewise, time-savers for Darwin include direct routes from Singapore with Jetstar Asia and SilkAir, which can be worked into codeshares. Brisbane is the main connection point for the Whitsundays – flights

go into Hamilton Island or Proserpine. Ayers Rock Airport at Uluru is amazingly well-served, with direct flights to Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and Darwin.

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