Domestic travel surge: Aussies choose these top spots over big cities

Man in blue swim trunks floating on his back in a rock pool in Mossman Gorge National Park in Far North Queensland

Australian travel is on an exciting upturn according to Tourism Research Australia. We're back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of domestic trips and spending, with a 30% and 57% year-on-year increase, respectively. The real story, however, lies in where we’re going.

The trend, as you’ll see in the chart below, is a clear move away from the large metropolitan cities and towards smaller cities and regional destinations. 

Queensland is a perfect example. It’s attracting visitors with its diverse range of attractions, from the energetic arts and riverfront scene of Brisbane to the Gold Coast’s beautiful beaches and exciting theme parks, not to mention the serene beauty of places like the Daintree Rainforest.

Adelaide and Regional WA are also on the up-and-up. Adelaide for its celebrated wine regions and cultural festivals, and Regional WA for its unique outdoor adventures and expansive landscapes.

These trends highlight a desire to explore a different side of Australia – one with a mix of urban charm, natural beauty and a more relaxed pace.

For those who enjoyed our recent article on Australia’s top ten international travel destinations, these shifts in Australia's domestic scene offer a new array of travel options worth considering. 

So let’s delve into the four areas that have truly stood out in terms of growth. We'll uncover what makes each of these destinations so appealing, and why they've become top choices for Aussie travellers.It's an exciting time to rediscover the beauty of our own backyard!

Australia's Regional Travel Trends: 2019 vs. 2023

Bar chart showing the number of visitors to various regions of Australia in both 2019 and 2023, also displaying the percentage change between each two timeframes.

Spotlight on Growth: Australia’s Top Four Soaring Travel Destinations

In the following sections, we're highlighting four destinations that have seen the biggest jumps in visitor percentages since 2019, in order of total number of visitors. These areas stand out not just for their growth, but for the unique experiences they offer.

Regional QLD: 1.3m trips, up 23%

Sunset over Mount Tibrogargan in Glass House Mountains of Queensland

Want a classic Aussie adventure? Head to Regional Queensland where you can find everything Australia is famous for, all in one place. Picture yourself unwinding on the Sunshine Coast’s pristine beaches or exploring the Daintree Rainforest’s lush, ancient landscapes. And if you love the water, you can’t beat the Great Barrier Reef for some of the world’s most spectacular snorkelling and diving.

Towns like Caloundra and Port Douglas have a relaxed beach-town feel that you’ll notice as soon as you arrive. They’re laid-back and friendly – just what you'd expect from a coastal getaway in Australia.

Brisbane & Gold Coast: 1m trips, up 22%

People queuing up to get tickets to Dreamworld outside of the main entrance.

Brisbane is bucking the trend as one of the few Australian capitals seeing a growth in visitors. The city is alive with energy, hosting bustling markets and vibrant music scenes. It's also conveniently close to a variety of attractions.

Drive for just about an hour from Brisbane, and you'll find yourself on the Gold Coast. Here, the long sandy beaches and famous surf spots draw crowds, as do the adrenaline-pumping theme parks. For a quieter experience, the Gold Coast’s hinterlands offer serene retreats with breathtaking views.

Together, Brisbane's urban buzz and the Gold Coast's beachside relaxation create a compelling combination, attracting more travellers to explore and enjoy what each has to offer.

Regional WA: 642k trips, up 41%

Picture of Esperance beach in Western Australia, from the vantage point of the entrance

Regional Western Australia is quickly becoming a popular choice for its natural beauty. You’ll find stunning beaches and expansive outback landscapes perfect for exploring. Take a trip through the ancient gorges of the Kimberley or relax on Esperance’s serene beaches.

Margaret River is a great spot for both surfing enthusiasts and wine lovers, offering a unique mix of activities. Meanwhile, the Coral Coast is a haven for snorkelling and diving, boasting vibrant marine life and coral reefs.

What makes Regional WA so appealing is its variety of experiences. Whether you're after a beach holiday or an outback adventure, there’s plenty to do and see. This diversity is attracting more visitors keen to explore its unique offerings.

Adelaide: 309k trips, up 35%

Beautiful Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills with colourful sky above

Like Brisbane, Adelaide is another capital city bucking the trend and becoming more popular. And it’s easy to see why. This city in South Australia is great for both city life and getting back to nature. It’s got a lively arts scene with lots of festivals and events, and foodies will love the mix of great places to eat and busy food markets.

Adelaide is also really close to some famous wine regions like the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. They’re just a short drive away, and you can try some top-notch wines while enjoying beautiful views.

What’s special about Adelaide is that it offers both a vibrant city atmosphere and the chance to relax in nature. One day you could be at a fun festival, and the next, chilling out in a vineyard. It’s perfect for all sorts of different interests.

Domestic travel checklist

As you gear up for your next domestic adventure, here are some key points to consider for a smooth and enjoyable journey:

  • Stay informed on health advisories. Regularly check updates from the Australian Government's Department of Health, which provides links to each state's health department for region-specific advisories, particularly related to COVID-19.
  • Check for special permits or access conditions. Some destinations, like protected national parks or remote areas, may require permits or have specific access conditions.
  • Monitor local weather and safety alerts. Keep an eye on the Bureau of Meteorology for weather updates and any natural event advisories, such as bushfires or floods, that could affect your travel plans.
  • Consider domestic travel insurance. Unforeseen events like trip cancellations or emergencies can happen. Domestic travel insurance can offer peace of mind and protection against such incidents.

For the best travel insurance coverage, look into top-rated travel insurance as recognized by awards like the Mozo Experts Choice Awards. Additionally, Mozo’s travel insurance guides can provide useful tips and insights for planning your journey within Australia.

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