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News & Advice

A Coast-to-Coast Guide to the Best New Things to Do in Australia

Australia re-opened to American travelers on February 21 with a host of new restaurants, hotels, museums, and more.

When Australia clamped its borders shut in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, it implemented some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures. International tourism was paused, and even Ozzies were barred from coming and going. The COVID-zero approach worked for a while: Australia kept its mortality rate remarkably low through most of the pandemic. But once the majority of its citizens 16 and up were vaccinated, the government took a U-turn—embracing what some have called a “let it rip” approach, lifting lockdowns and mask mandates precisely as Omicron started surging.

While the decision remains controversial, tourism is forging ahead. On February 21, Australia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated visa holders from a number of countries, including the United States, building on a late-2021 loosening of travel restrictions that allowed visitors from New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea to be the first foreigners to re-enter.

To enter, Americans must present a valid Australian visa, proof of full vaccination (defined as two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved COVID-19 vaccine, which includes Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J), and a negative rapid antigen or PCR test taken within 24 hours of departure. With the exception of Western Australia, whose own reopening is set for March 3, this allows vaccinated tourists to travel quarantine-free throughout much of the country. Visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still need a valid travel exemption to enter and may be subject to additional state and territory quarantine requirements.

Despite the myriad challenges of protracted lockdowns, life has continued apace—with new hotels, museums, restaurants, and cultural experiences launching at an impressive clip. Here’s what travelers have to look forward to Down Under, right in time for the country’s reopening, organized by region.

All listings featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you book something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Luke's Kitchen at the Kimpton Margot Sydney, New South Wales

Kimpton Margot Sydney

New South Wales

Sydney is getting a slew of new hotels in 2022, including options from Capella, W, and the first Ace Hotel in the southern hemisphere. Landing ASAP? Snag a suite at the glamorous Kimpton Margot Sydney, which opened earlier this month in a heritage Art Deco building on Pitt Street. The first Kimpton in Oz, the 172-room hotel boasts a swanky rooftop swimming pool, restaurant from celebrity chef Luke Mangan, and custom Lekker bikes for tooling around Surry Hills and Darlinghurst.

For nature enthusiasts, there’s a new snorkeling-with-seals experience at Montague Island (Barunguba) led by Sapphire Coastal Adventures. The small-group tours traverse the coastline between Bermagui and Narooma in Batemans Marine Park, four hours south of Sydney. The stretch is home to large colonies of Australian and New Zealand Fur Seal and Little Penguins, Grey Nurse Sharks, and nesting seabirds. Lucky swimmers may even glimpse a dolphin or whale gliding through the water.

At the Warrakirri Dining Experience in Mudgee, 3.5 hours inland, epicureans can tuck into a five-course degustation menu centered on native ingredients and traditional cooking methods. Ngemba Weilwan founder Sharon Winsor spent her youth gathering bush fruits and catching yabbies (freshwater crustaceans)—and delights in sharing her knowledge of Aboriginal cuisine with curious diners.

Back in the Emerald City, BridgeClimb’s new Burrawa Climb invites adrenaline seekers to join an Indigenous storyteller for a three-hour, 1,332-step guided summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s a unique opportunity to go beyond postcard snapshots and learn about the history and significance of this land in Aboriginal culture.

Five Acres on Phillip Island, Victoria

Marnie Hawson/Five Acres

The yard at Five Acres 

Marnie Hawson/Five Acres


Never one to be outshone, Melbourne also has a dazzling array of new accommodations, including the year-old W Melbourne with its ridiculously photogenic mirrored pool; The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne, soon to be the tallest hotel in Australia when it opens in June; and the forthcoming Shangri-La Hotel, housed within the sumptuous Sapphire by the Gardens development.

Also notably new is Five Acres, a working farm on pristine Phillip Island, 90 minutes south of Melbourne, which has three new luxury cabins for rent. These cozy hideaways—each with an outdoor tub and panoramic views of Western Port Bay—will book up fast, especially once Saltwater Springs, a posh thermal springs bathing complex, opens on Phillip in October.

Food-wise, don’t sleep on Big Esso by Mabu Mabu in Melbourne’s Federation Square. Owned by Torres Strait Island-born chef and cookbook author Nornie Bero, the contemporary Indigenous eatery prides itself on using native ingredients and sustainably caught seafood. Among the standout dishes: saltbrush- and pepperberry-fried crocodile and kangaroo tartare with smoked oyster aioli.

For an art fix, check out the sparkling new Shepparton Art Museum, two hours north of Melbourne. Opened in November, it houses the nation’s most significant collection of South-East Australian Aboriginal works. The inaugural exhibition includes more than 160 Indigenous and First Nations pieces.

Itching to get outdoors? The 99-mile Grampians Peak Trail in Grampians National Park (Gariwerd) is ready to be tackled. Not for the faint of heart, the newly completed route takes 13 days to hike and has 11 well-equipped campgrounds along the path. Travelers driving the Great Ocean Road should pencil in a stop at Wildlife Wonders. The recently opened conservation site offers 75-minute guided hikes through Otways bushland, with proceeds benefiting the Conservation Ecology Centre. Keep your eyes peeled for kangaroos, koalas, swamp wallabies, tiger quolls, and laughing kookaburras.

Oceanview Eco Villas on Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Heidi Linehan/Oceanview Eco Villas

South Australia

Kangaroo Island, which suffered devastating bushfires in early 2020, has the new off-grid, all-inclusive Oceanview Eco Villas. The 500-acre estate makes an excellent base for close encounters with the island’s non-human residents, including pygmy possums and wee dunnarts (Oz’s most endangered marsupial). Alternatively, the new three-day Conservation Connection tour from Exceptional Kangaroo Island dives even deeper into the local flora and fauna—and introduces citizen scientists to the environmentalists working to save them.

On the hotels front, Adelaide welcomed the five-star Sofitel to its Central Business District. Twenty minutes from the city center, Sequoia Lodge opened on Mount Lofty with spring-fed hot pools and 14 sustainability-minded suites. Wherever you lay your head, treat your stomach to a char-grilled meal at Jake Kellie’s arkhé, the first fully open-flame restaurant in Adelaide and one of the buzziest new eateries in Australia.

Adytum Spa in Braddon, Canberra

Lean Timms

Adytum interior

Lean Timms

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

In August 2021, the National Arboretum Canberra introduced a trio of new Indigenous-led walks and experiences. The Walk On Country Ngala Tour tools through the 618-acre arboretum’s Bush Tucker Garden and Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park, introducing visitors to native plants used by Aboriginal communities for medicinal, culinary, and cultural purposes.

To see central Canberra from a fresh POV, climb aboard GoBoat Luxe. Launching soon on Lake Burley Griffin, the Danish-designed, electric-powered party boat is 50 percent larger than a standard GoBoat. There’s a lounge in the back and food and drink options available for purchase, making it a fun way to get on the water with friends. (The boat fits up to eight guests and two crew.)

For a pandemic detox, head to Adytum’s new wellness sanctuary in Braddon. Opened last November, the center takes a holistic approach to self-care: After a deep tissue massage, indulge in a Japanese Oak mineral bath, traditional hot rock sauna, and cold-pressed organic juice from the sanctum’s Elixir Bar.

Home of the Arts (HOTA) in Surfer's Paradise, Queensland

Travis Cottrell


The Museum of Underwater Art has unveiled two installations by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor: Ocean Siren, a statue of 12-year-old Takoda Johnson of the local Wulgurukaba people, located 1.5 miles off the Strand Jetty in Townsville; and Coral Greenhouse in the Great Barrier Reef. The latter was completed in December 2019, which means few divers and snorkelers from abroad have seen it in person or learned firsthand how these sub-aquatic artworks support reef restoration. And when Down Under Submarines in Mooloolaba launched last month, it became Australia’s first fully submersible hybrid tourist vessel: The battery-operated SUBCAT-30 can coast atop waves or dive 30 meters below the ocean’s surface, offering travelers another one-of-a-kind look at coral reefs.

Over on the Gold Coast, Home of the Arts (HOTA), a six-story cultural center, landed in Surfers Paradise last May. The $44 million dollar enterprise is Australia’s largest public gallery outside a capital city, with programming spanning art, theater, cinema, cabaret, dance, comedy, and more.

Further north, it was also recently announced that the 180-million-year-old Daintree Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest living rainforest on earth, will now be co-managed by the Queensland government and the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people with the intention of eventually returning the land to its traditional custodians. If you go, consider staying at Silky Oaks Lodge, a luxurious treehouse retreat that reopened in December 2021 following a multimillion-dollar renovation.

Kakadu Cultural Experience boat ride on East Alligator River

Kakadu Air Services & Djabulukgu Association Inc.

Sunset from Ubirr Rock

Daniela Constantinescu/Kakadu Air Services & Djabulukgu Association Inc.

Northern Territory

Debuting this spring, Finniss River Lodge is one of the Top End’s most anticipated openings. The rural accommodations, run by third-generation cattle farmers, fit just 15 guests at a time. Those who make the 90-minute trek out from Darwin can try bushwalking, birdwatching, trapping mud crabs, or driving a herd through a floodplain—and still retire to a comfortable suite come sunset.

Aside from Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Kakadu National Park is the biggest draw in the NT. And now there’s a new way to experience it—on a sky-and-river cultural tour. Scenic flight operator Kakadu Air partnered with an Indigenous tourism outfitter to launch the Kakadu Cultural Experience last July. The excursion combines a two-hour flight above the escarpment with a 90-minute Guluyambi cruise on the East Alligator River, plus a visit to Ubirr, a sacred Aboriginal rock art gallery.

In Darwin proper, pay a visit to Willing Distillery. Opened in September, the cellar door and cocktail bar was the first in the Territory to use a traditional pot still, putting a uniquely Ozzie spin on small-batch craft spirits (think: Australian grape vodka and gin infused with desert lime).

WA Museum Boola Bardip in Perth

Michael Haluwana, Aeroture

Western Australia

When W.A. reopens to international travelers on March 3 (the full entry requirements, including a registered G2G Pass, are detailed here), there will be plenty of new things to experience—starting with the 330-foot-high Kalbarri Skywalk in Kalbarri National Park. Introduced in June 2020, the two cantilevered platforms offer visitors Insta-worthy views of the Murchison River Gorge.

Rottnest Island, a protected nature reserve 12 miles off the coast of Perth, is best known for its turquoise lagoons and thousands of quokkas, a.k.a. the “happiest” marsupial on earth. Though you could always cram it into a day trip, in-the-know travelers spend a few nights here. Samphire Rottnest, opened in October 2020, is the trendiest spot to stay thanks to its coastal-chic design and spectacular views of Thomson Bay.

Another 2020 newcomer was the WA Museum Boola Bardip in Perth. The art space pays homage to Whadjuk Nyoongar, the land on which it sits, and the stories of the Indigenous people who inhabit it. Its collections touch upon everything from fashion to geology, but no museum-goer should miss Nyumbi, its weekly Aboriginal dance performance and smoking ceremony.

Road trippers headed up the Dampier Peninsula should lock in a slot on the newly launched Oolin Sunday Island cultural tour. The day trip is run by Jawi guide Rosanna Angus, whose family resided on Sunday Island in its early mission days. It includes a visit to the Ardyaloon community on Middle Beach and wayfinding through the whirlpools and eddies of Jooloom and Jayirri islands—a vital hunting and fishing ground for the Jawi people.

Breakfast at Peppina

Remi Chauvin

Vines at Devil's Corner winery, Apslawn, Tasmania



Like Western Australia, the island of Tasmania implemented some of the country’s most stringent lockdowns. It only reopened its border to mainland Australia in December 2021—at which point it had already vaccinated more than 90 percent of residents aged 16 and up.

But the high vaccination rate isn’t the only cause for celebration. Already a well-known destination among oenophiles and foodies, Launceston in Northern Tasmania was recently named a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO. New cellar doors (Devil’s Corner, Mewstone Wines) are popping up everywhere, and blessed is the traveler who nabs a coveted reservation at Seven and a Half in Hobart, a 10-seat rooftop dining experience from acclaimed chef Luke Burgess. Even the months-old Tasman, a splashy Luxury Collection Hotel from Marriott International in Hobart, has a creative Tassie-Italian restaurant (Peppina) and craft cocktail bar (Mary Mary).

Another table of international renown: Van Bone in rural Marion Bay, opened last February. Chef Timothy Hardy’s multi-course tasting menus are headlined with wood-fired seafood, organic produce harvested from an on-site orchard and vegetable garden, and alpine-style cheese from a local dairy. The restaurant has just 16 seats, so booking ahead is imperative.

To get even farther off the grid, ferry over to Satellite Island in Southern Tasmania’s D’Entrecasteaux Channel. The private escape sports a summer house, boathouse, bell tent, and a new clifftop mineral sea bath and yoga deck; a floating sauna is in the works. Guests have free run of the island during their stay and they’re encouraged to embrace the ruggedness—diving for urchins and abalone and shucking wild oysters straight from the sea.