1/ Storytelling on Cockatoo Island
When you dream of Sydney’s famous Harbour very few people think about World Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island. Accessible only by ferry or private charter boat, the island’s rich history makes for enthralling storytelling about Australia's history. You can step back through time from the first nations people who inhabited the surrounding shores, the convict era when the island served as a solution to London’s prison problem, as a reformatory school and the centre of Sydney’s maritime era.
Today, the island is home to a range of event spaces from gritty industrial buildings, heritage sandstone cottages and outdoor spaces with views out to Sydney Harbour Bridge. In summer, you would ordinarily find regular pop-up bars and arts events on Cockatoo Island breathing more new life into this historic location.
Best for: Industrial style event spaces that ooze creativity
2/ More to Rottnest Island than cute quokkas
You may have seen celebrities like Chris Hemsworth and Kylie Minogue brag about meeting the cute native marsupials found on Perth’s Rottnest Island, a 25-minute ferry from Fremantle. But, there’s more to daydream about than getting your own selfie with these adorable marsupials.
Rottnest, or ‘Rotto’ as the locals call it, has 63 beaches and 20 secluded bays and it’s where you’ll find some of Australia’s best snorkelling, diving and surfing. If you’re adventurous, you could jump from a plane and skydive over the island or if you visit around April, you can see humpback whales pass by as they migrate from the Antarctic to the Indian Ocean.
Best for: Getting active in the sun, sand and surf
3/ Luxury on Hayman Island
Possibly the ultimate daydream during lockdown is to imagine being transported to Hayman Island in Queensland - one of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays and one of only four you can stay on. It won’t be any ordinary stay either. The InterContinental opened its doors on the island nearly 12 months ago following a multi-million dollar redevelopment.
Event spaces go from beaches to garden settings to superyachts and restaurants. You can even hire the entire island exclusively and have access to Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach with its impossibly perfect sand made from 98 per cent pure white silica.
Best for: Private and secluded island luxury
4/ Indulgence on Kangaroo Island
When you’re dreaming of international travel resuming, add Kangaroo Island in South Australia to your fantasy list. A 30-minute flight from Adelaide, you will be kicking back with a locally distilled G&T at Kangaroo Island Spirits’ Gin Garden or taking part in a gin blending masterclass. If that’s not your tipple of choice, head to Kangaroo Island Ciders to check out their cellar door or if you consider yourself more of a wine fan, there are endless wineries including False Cape Wines which opened a new cellar door in December 2019.
Any island experience can’t be had without seafood and on Kangaroo Island, groups can devour oysters, marron, abalone and King George whiting at American River's Oyster Farm Shop.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the island is home to prized Ligurian bee colonies - business event groups can tour them before chowing down on honeycomb ice-cream and Ligurian lattes.
Best for: Indulging on local, seasonal, boutique, artisan food and drink with ruggedly beautiful scenery
5/ Going wild on Phillip Island
If working from home or social distancing is getting to you, daydreaming of a trip to Phillip Island will bring you joy. Each night, a parade of Little penguins can be seen as they come ashore in groups. A 90-minute drive from Melbourne city centre, Phillip Island is packed with wildlife including a local colony of 25,000 Australian fur seals who bask in the afternoon sun, play with their mates, and dip into the ocean to hunt for their supper.
If groups want to go wild themselves, Phillip Island Nature Parks has a rock climbing experience and an eco boat tour where teams can see local wildlife up close.
Best for: The thrill of seeing wildlife in their natural habitats
6/ Snap the ultimate food photos on Hamilton Island
When you dream of Australian luxury, white sand beaches, fresh seafood expertly prepared and luxury resorts most likely spring to mind. If that’s your dream then look no further than Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. Here you’ll find the much-celebrated luxury lodge qualia.
Qualia (pronounced kwah-lee-ah) in Latin means "a collection of deeper sensory experiences" and it’s here you’ll feast your tastebuds at waterfront restaurant, Pebble Beach. The contemporary Australian menu, exclusively for qualia guests, features seasonal, sustainable and ethical produce sourced from Australian farmers, producers and artisans.
Best for: Quintessential Australian luxury
7/ Embrace the Great Barrier Reef on Lizard Island
Visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system and within it, you’ll find Lizard Island. Just an hour's scenic flight from Cairns, the island is set on 1,000 hectares of National Park and is home to a private island resort with 40 suites and villas set amongst 24 secluded beaches.
Actively embrace the reef with stand up paddle boarding, a glass-bottomed sea kayak or snorkel straight from the beach. Paddle to Anchor Bay for up-close encounters with coral, colourful fish and giant clams. There are multiple options for certified dives in the inner reef including Cod Hole, home to the ‘BFG’ (Big Friendly Giant) of the fish world - Potato Cod.
Best for: Those who can’t sit still
8/ The ultimate geography lesson on Green Island
If you’ve been using isolation as a time to learn something new, take time to Google Green Island just 27 kilometres / 16 miles off the coast of Cairns. It’s one of 300 sand cays on the Great Barrier Reef and the only one with a rainforest. Created around 6,000 years ago, it’s an island that was formed on top of existing reef structures and is made up of sand and coral rubble debris that has piled up as a result of the waves. Interestingly, seabird droppings are what cement the sand together so the island doesn’t wash away.
Incentive groups can visit the island as part of a day adventure with a scenic helicopter flight or 45 minute catamaran journey from Cairns. Once here, groups can snorkel, dive, dine out and spa. Those who want to stay longer can overnight at the Green Island Resort.
Best for: Great Barrier Reef island experience in a day
9/ From city to beach with Moreton Island
If you’ve got used to the concept of isolation and returning to city life seems daunting, consider Brisbane and nearby Moreton Island where you can daydream about the best of both worlds. Just a 35-minute scenic helicopter ride from the city, Moreton Island is the world’s third largest sand island (Queensland’s Fraser Island further north takes the top spot).
At Tangalooma Island Resort, dreams of hand feeding wild dolphins can come true. Tangalooma’s wild dolphin feeding program operates each evening at sunset run by the Dolphin Care Team, made up of Eco Rangers. The resort has a licensed feeding program and is the only place in the bay where dolphin feeding is allowed.
Best for: Ethical dolphin experiences
10/ Discover the lesser known Lord Howe Island
If your thirst for discovery is growing with each day international travel is restricted, then save a daydream for Lord Howe Island. Just a two-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane, off the coast of New South Wales, this small island paradise is packed with scenic beaches, bushland, coral reef and interesting endemic species.
In fact, Lord Howe has recorded 241 species of indigenous plants of which almost half (47%) are found nowhere else in the world. There are over 200 different bird species including endangered birdlife that has been bred on the island. Underwater, there are over 500 types of fish and 90 different coral species who call the remains of this extinct volcano home.
Best for: Getting off the beaten track