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See the best of Australia in 2018

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It makes sense to spend your holiday dollar at home when we have such incredible diversity. When AAP Travel asked our state tourism boards to recommend their hotspots for 2018, this is what they suggested:

NSW - THE TWEED

WHY: This northern NSW coast region offers World Heritage rainforests, mountain ranges, uncrowded beaches and world-famous surf breaks - all nestled in the eroded caldera of the largest shield volcano in the southern hemisphere. Outside the main centres of Kingscliff, Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah, you can enjoy the quirky charm of quiet villages and historic river ports. The Tweed also offers easy access to the Gold Coast where the Commonwealth Games will be held in April.

HIGHLIGHTS: Check out new agritourism food offerings such as Tasting Plate Tours (https://tastingplatetours.com.au/). New restaurant Ancora (http://www.ancoratweedcoast.com.au/) has just opened on the Tweed Coast offering a casual dining scene with Mediterranean beach club interiors, while Husk Distillers (home of the famous Ink Gin) are due to open a new cellar door in early 2018 (https://huskdistillers.com/).

MORE INFO: https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/north-coast/the-tweed-area/tweed-heads

VIC - FOOTSCRAY AND THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA

WHY: Melbourne's eclectic Footscray precinct is full of new breweries, bars and restaurants sitting alongside African, Italian and Vietnamese institutions. There's a burgeoning art scene and an incredible Asian market. The Mornington Peninsula, meanwhile, saw the opening of three major new properties in 2017: Jackalope Hotel Point Leo Estate winery and the refurbished Lindenderry at Red Hill.

HIGHLIGHTS: Try the little Ethiopian-themed places along Footscray's Barkly St that serve smooth, medium roasted coffee and traditional injera flatbread to accompany their Habesha cuisines. The Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove on the Mornington Peninsula has just reopened after a facelift. (https://montalto.com.au)

MORE INFO: www.visitvictoria.com/

QLD - THE GOLD COAST

WHY: The Commonwealth Games, to take place April 4-15, could see this seaside favourite mature from being a destination for schoolies and family summer getaways to a serious city that can stage world-class events and festivals. The Games has inspired more than a billion dollars worth of new infrastructure including hotels and restaurants.

HIGHLIGHTS: Get out and explore different corners of the coast. The laid-back southern beaches of Burleigh, Currumbin and Coolangatta are perfect for escaping the crowds.

SPECIAL DATES: Try chasing the Queen's Baton Relay as it travels around Australia in the weeks leading up the Games. In Queensland, it will pass through Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, the Whitsundays and Fraser Island among other places. For dates on the relay, visit https://www.gc2018.com/qbr

MORE INFO: https://www.destinationgoldcoast.com.

NT - SOUTHERN KAKADU.

WHY: Kakadu is one of the world's greatest national parks, with climbs, views, plunge pools and gorges to satisfy your Instagram for months.

HIGHLIGHTS: Southern Kakadu has Gunlom, a steepish 2km climb that takes you to the top of a waterfall with a natural infinity pool and lookout over the southern section of Kakadu National Park.

Nearby, a series of interconnecting walks take you to scenic spots including Boulder Creek, Motor Car Falls and Yurmikmik Lookout. If you're after a crystal-clear plunge pool, wander through the forest to Maguk Plunge Pool where you can cool off under a waterfall. Jim Jim Falls Plunge Pool and Twin Falls Gorge are also spectacular, but only accessible in the dry season.

SPECIAL DATES: This region is dramatically different in the wet and the dry so is an all-year destination. If you're keen to sample The Taste of Kakadu interactive food festival, which launched in 2017, then stop by May 18-27 and taste bush foods given a contemporary twist. You'll also be able to hear indigenous elders share stories of their traditional hunting and gathering methods.

MORE INFO: https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu

SA - MCLAREN VALE

WHY: This small town was where SA's viticultural origins began and the Mediterranean climate continues to drive its world-class red wine and diverse food offerings. Sustainable winegrowing is the buzzword about town.

HIGHLIGHT: D'Arenberg Cube is expected to open in early 2018 and be a huge boost for the state's wine tourism. The Cube will offer luxury dining, art spaces and interactive experiences for the senses, including a winemaking installation where you can smell the fermentation happening. (https://www.darenberg.com.au/)

MORE INFO: https://mclarenvale.info/

WA - PERTH

WHY: The WA capital has undergone a transformation over the past few years, with new bars, restaurants, shopping and cultural precincts opening alongside major infrastructure developments. The small bar scene is booming. Disused heritage buildings and laneways now house 93 small bars, many offering share plates of local produce. The much-hyped Qantas direct flight to London will start flying out of Perth daily from March.

HIGHLIGHTS: Elizabeth Quay has new public spaces, boardwalks, restaurants and bars. Stage One of the $2 billion waterfront project opened to the public in early-2016. Another public space, Yagan Square, is being developed in the CBD to celebrate WA history, culture, landscape and produce. The city's new 60,000-seat stadium will open in January 2018 as the state's AFL home.

MORE INFO: https://www.westernaustralia.com/us/places_to_see/perth

TAS - BAY OF FIRES AND THE REMARKABLE TASMANIAN DEVIL EXHIBITION, HOBART

WHY: Tourism Australia's beach expert Brad Farmer recently named Bay of Fires as the state's best, thanks to their sugary white sand and clear ocean.

The Remarkable Tasmanian Devil, at Hobart's Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, aims to give a fresh perspective on Australia's largest marsupial carnivore. It portrays the devil as a remarkable survivor rather than a cartoon character or victim of facial tumour disease, and assesses why the devil has endured while the thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) did not.

MORE INFO: https://eastcoasttasmania.com/discover/town/bay-of-fires/

The Remarkable Tasmanian Devil is open until 6 May, 2018. Visit tmag.tas.gov.au

ACT - CARTIER: THE EXHIBITION, CANBERRA

The National Gallery of Australia will welcome 300 Cartier masterpieces in March that will offer a glimpse into the intimate world of the Paris jewellery house and its famous clients, including royalty, aristocrats and global socialites. The exhibition will run from March 30 to July 22 2018. https://nga.gov.au/cartier/

SOURCE:AAP