Destination spotlight: Australia
Updated: Mar 31
Do yourself a favor and get to Australia at least once in your life. Yes, it’s a long way to go, but you will be rewarded with a land like no other on Earth, with unique wildlife and endless beauty in a place that’s as large as the continental U.S. with less than a tenth of the population. The people who are there are quick to welcome visitors with a friendly “G’day,” and there is something for every type of traveler to enjoy, from the wines of the Barossa Valley to the Great Ocean Road to outdoor adventures in Tasmania. You won’t be disappointed you spent so much time on the plane to get there.
It takes 15 hours to get there from the West Coast, and when you land it will be two days later than when you left. So what is it that makes Australia worth the trip? You arrive in the morning, and you get off that plane in Sydney. The first site you are going to see is Sydney Opera House and that beautiful, picturesque harbor. You’ll know it was worth it. Having come so far, you’ll want to give yourself at least two weeks to explore. While Australia is a year-round destination, September and October -- spring in the Southern Hemisphere -- are the best months to visit, as the northern part of the country lies in the tropics, while the south is in cooler climes.
While the locals are as friendly as they come, you go to Australia to see wildlife. The best to see animals in their natural habitat is the aptly named Kangaroo Island. Rebounding rapidly from the devastating bushfires of late 2019 and early 2020, the island is devoid of predators and full of life once more. Kangaroos get top billing, but they’re joined by koalas, echidnas, wallabies and many other species. The beloved Southern Ocean Lodge, lost in the fires, is rebuilding and set to open in late 2022 or early 2023. To get to the island, off the coast of Adelaide in South Australia, you’ll want to cross through the Barossa Valley wine region. Just 25 minutes outside Adelaide, it’s home to numerous wineries, including the legendary Penfolds.
Western Australia very much resembles the American Wild West, and is known to Australians as the Last Frontier. The capital, Perth, is one of the most isolated cities in the world. The Kimberley region is the only place outside Africa -- which it was joined to about 180 million years ago as part of the Gondwana supercontinent -- where you’ll find pink diamonds and baobab trees. Strict COVID protocols will remain in place in Western Australia when the country opens, so check with your travel advisor on rules when you start planning.
On the east coast of Australia, you’ll find such marvels as the Wolgan Valley -- sort of an Aussie answer to the Grand Canyon -- the Great Barrier Reef and Lizard Island. Though climate change has depleted the northern part of the reef, it is still a wonder. Lizard Island is home to a research center where reef restoration efforts are based, and to a Virtuoso-preferred resort.
Slightly smaller than the much-celebrated Sydney, Melbourne became a boomtown during a Victorian-era gold rush and was once Australia’s capital (Canberra took over in 1927). Today it remains a financial center as well as a melting pot of cultures, with large numbers of immigrants from Asia and Europe. Melbourne is home to the Australian Open and is the gateway to Phillip Island, famed for its nightly procession of little penguins.
For those who have been to Australia before and want to uncover the hidden gems, Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory contains Aboriginal rock art that dates back over 50,000 years. The NT is also home to Uluru, aka Ayers Rock, one of the most recognizable natural landmarks in the world.
COVID entry protocols
From 21 February 2022, all fully vaccinated visa holders can travel to Australia without a travel exemption. Unvaccinated visa holders will still need a valid travel exemption to enter Australia. You will need to prove your vaccination status when you check-in for your flight. Complete an Australia Travel Declaration (ATD) at least 72 hours before departure.The ATD requests details that are considered to be critical health information. You must be able to show evidence that the critical information was completed before boarding the aircraft.
This is an enforceable requirement. A person who fails to comply with the requirement may be liable to a civil penalty (fine) of 30 penalty units (currently $6,660 AUD). This is set out in section 46 of the Biosecurity Act 2015. Travellers who do not make the declaration before they board their flight will be delayed when arriving in Australia.
When filling out the ATD you will need to:
provide your contact details, including a contact phone number in Australia
make a declaration in relation to your vaccination status
make a declaration regarding your last 14 days travel history
make a declaration that you are aware of the quarantine and testing requirements that apply in the state or territory you are landing, and the penalties for non-compliance
acknowledge that when you check-in for your flight, you must present evidence of:
a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or NAAT test taken within 3 days of your flight’s scheduled departure to Australia or
a medical certificate as evidence of a negative Rapid Antigen Test taken under medical supervision within 24 hours before your flight’s scheduled departure.
You can find more information about pre-departure testing at the Department of Health. You can also find information about exemptions from pre-departure testing.
Penalties will apply for giving false and misleading information, including potential criminal prosecution for providing false or misleading information. This is set out in section 137.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. Travelers may also have to undergo hotel quarantine at their own expense. If your flight is delayed, you will still be considered to have met the pre-departure testing requirements. You will not need a new test.
Where to stay
Park Hyatt Sydney
The waterfront Park Hyatt Sydney offers a spectacular location on one of the world’s most beautiful harbors. Its 155 guest rooms have a soft, residential feel, with neutral tones, mood lighting, and floor-to-ceiling windows that take full advantage of the views over the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The spa transports you straight to dream time with luxurious treatments and steam rooms, as well as native spa products from the Blue Mountains. Relax in a cabana by the rooftop pool, then nosh on light fare in The Living Room before exploring Sydney Harbour.
Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is nestled within the Greater Blue Mountains Area, a World Heritage-listed, a short drive from Sydney, and is set on 7,000 acres of carbon-neutral conservation and wildlife reserve. This resort is committed to conserving its natural setting and heritage. Experience nature in an array of outdoor pursuits led by the resort’s team of dedicated Field Guides and return to your villa to relax in a private pool, the perfect combination of luxury and a quintessential bush experience. Your rate includes three meals daily, including select local beers and wines, plus two on-site nature-based activities per day.
Secluded within a national park, enriched with beautiful and diverse Australian wildlife and bounded by private beaches, Lizard Island offers 40 private rooms and suites packaged with cuisine created from local produce accompanied by Australian and international wines. Complimentary activities include access to your own motorized dinghy and clear-view sea kayaks, gourmet picnics and a minibar that is restocked daily. Located on the Great Barrier Reef, you will be able to experience the world's best diving and snorkeling. Rejuvenate with a customized spa treatment or meditation and yoga classes surrounded by tranquility.
Longitude 131° offers an essential experience of Australia's spiritual heartland. Lounge in the cool sanctuary of the Dune House, relax with an icy drink from the convivial open bar and savour refined dining with ever-changing views of the monolith. Relax after a day’s exploring in a luxury tent and enjoy unparalleled views of Uluru from the end of the bed. Retreat to Spa Kinara for an indigenous-inspired treatment or drink in the sunset on the glamorous Dune Top. Venture beyond the lodge to discover the World Heritage-listed wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta and connect with the ancient stories of the land’s traditional owners.