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8 Popular Yet Uncrowded Aussie Places Outside The City That Everyone’s Booking For NYE

We need to rethink how we’re going to ring in New Years, like we’ve done for almost every other celebration this year. Following Melbourne’s recent extended lockdown and Sydney’s current outbreak, staying safe and keeping things a little more low key is more important than ever.

In fact, many of the ‘usual’ events are cancelled across Australia, including fireworks. Most notably, Sydney has cancelled their 9pm fireworks, and the usual free vantage points are being reserved for frontline workers only, via ballot. Things are different this New Years – it’s all about smaller groups, planning ahead at smaller venues and keeping things casual.

It’s no surprise then, that many of us have been booking regional and local getaways with family or friends as a much-needed break. Expedia looked at trending destinations from holiday home bookings between December 31, 2020 and January 3, 2021 to see the top locations Aussies are escaping to.

We’ve removed major cities like Gold Coast and Sydney from the list, because, you know, crowds. However, please note that some states such as NSW have restrictions (and fines) in place so only travel if it is safe and permitted to do so.

#1 North Coast, New South Wales

 

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The verdant and gorgeous NSW North Coast reaches 700kms to Tweed Heads. Encompassing hubs like Nelson Bay, Forster, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Yamba and Byron Bay, it’s known for its beautiful beaches, bush, rainforest, waterfalls and fertile valleys around flowing rivers. We recommend checking out any of the multitude of epic little towns up this coastline and giving ever-popular Byron Bay a miss this year, as tourists swell the town’s population over New Years and it becomes frustratingly busy.

What to do while there: embrace the coastal lifestyle and get into nature. Whether that’s by camping or renting somewhere near the beach, grab your nearest and dearest and have a relaxed seafood BBQ with house-made cocktails. There’s also kayaking, surfing, rainforest walks (and even the self-drive Rainforest Way), bush walks, whale or dolphin watching tours, quad bike sand dune tours and loads of wonderful cafes and restaurants to give a boost. Just remember to book ahead.

#2 Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Ring in 2021 on the Sunshine Coast, a place brimming with beach resorts, surf spots and rural hinterland. Starting at Caloundra (north of Brisbane), this region stretches north to the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park, home to multicoloured sand dunes, mangrove forests, and shallow lakes. If you’re after boutiques and fancy restaurants alongside your walking trails and waterways, Noosa’s the place.

What to do while there: Visit the famous Eumundi Markets, hike Mount Coolum, walk the Caloundra Coastal Walk, visit Australia Zoo (vale Steve Irwin), jump in a go kart, take a river cruise, and try your hand at Australia’s highest adventure course, which also happens to be in the treetops at the Big Pineapple. Oh, this is in addition to spending time by the beach or hiking, of course.

#3 South Coast, New South Wales 

 

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The south coast is a favourite with Sydneysiders for a reason. Starting south of Sydney and reaching to the border with Victoria, its many national parks contain beaches, lagoons and rainforest. It’s a spectacular part of the world, with verdant hills to one side and the raging Pacific to the other.

What to do while there: This is a region known for camping, outdoor activities and wildlife, so nature is the name of the game. Powder white sand beaches (although maybe give Hyams the flick as it’s a popular one), go fishing in St Georges Basin, shuck your own oysters down on the Sapphire Coast near Merimbula and while you’re there, snorkel with seals off the coast of Narooma, and look, it wouldn’t be a trip to the South Coast without a detour pit stop at the Berry Donut Van.

#4 Cairns, Queensland

 

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Another favourite, Cairns is one of the few spots in Queensland that’s hosting a traditional NYE event. Midnight fireworks will crack on at Cairns Esplanade or Palm Cove Jetty at 8:30pm. Beyond New Years, take advantage of ‘Australia’s gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’ and get thee into the crystal waters.

What to do while there: snorkelling the aforementioned reef might be an idea, but head inland for the Rainforestation Nature Park and join the Dreamtime Walk in the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience. The way in is pretty special too, as you take the famed steam train on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which navigates difficult bridges across dense rainforest, waterfalls and steep ravines. You could also check out Fitzroy Island on a day trip or high tail it to the tropical shores of Palm Cove or Port Douglas.

#5 Whitsundays, Queensland

 

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It’s one of Australia’s most globally-recognised destinations, with an archipelago of 74 tropical islands between the northeast coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, a massive stretch of coral teeming with marine life. There’s also year-round summer temperatures and caster-sugar sand beaches with turquoise crystal waters. No wonder it’s on the list of most popular locations for NYE.

What to do while there: It goes without saying that if you’re heading to the Whitsundays, exploring the islands and getting out on the water is front of mind. Sailing, snorkelling, island hopping – it’s all on the menu here with hot spots like Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and Heart Reef (but you might have to splurge on a chopper ride for that one). Visit the friendly local towns like Airlie Beach.

#6 Central Coast, New South Wales 

We’ve shared our love for the Cenny Coast many times: just 1.5 hours from Sydney, it’s full of great beaches, saltwater lakes, fab cafes, restaurants and bars, plus fun activities.

What to do while there: Go horseback riding in the Glenworth Valley, visit organic farms in the Central Coast Plateau, browse amazing local boutiques and see what the Central Coast creatives are up to, check out NSW’s only pearl farm at the ‘Broken Bay Shellar Door’ in Mooney Mooney, visit Distillery Botanica, go surfing and bushwalking, and catch sunset at Long Jetty.

#7 Illawarra, New South Wales

 

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An easy hour, to an hour-and-a-half drive from Sydney, the Illawarra region is the southern equivalent to the Central Coast. It encapsulates the areas of Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama and similarly to the South Coast, the stunning vistas juxtapose mountains and beaches.

What to do while there: Skydive over Wollongong Beach, hit up a world-class surf break in the Shellharbour area and have your mind blown at the scenery on the Kiama Coastal Walk.

#8 Adelaide, South Australia

 

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Adelaide is always a good idea: stunning (usually almost empty) beaches, world-class wineries, and a cosmopolitan city with impeccable dining and drinking options.

What to do while there: it’d be rude not to partake in a wine tour, or at the very least, bar hop through Adelaide city’s incredible small bar scene, gorge at award-winning restaurants, catch a show, head out to the beach, check out the Adelaide Central Market and Adelaide Oval and so much more. We’ve even made the perfect road trip itinerary for you to follow.

(Lead Image: Unsplash / Romain Terpreau)