Where to go on Australia Day across the country

Visitors go for a dip at Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory..
Visitors go for a dip at Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory..

The pandemic may have halted the Sydney Harbour ferrython, but there are still plenty of places to celebrate our national day. Andrea Bell investigates.

Emerging from 2020, a year when the catchcry was "we're all in this together", what better way to start the promise of a New Year than by celebrating the one day that promotes our togetherness - Australia Day 2021.

Like so much else, however, our national day will look very different thanks to the global pandemic.

So how do we keep the spirit alive in a COVID-safe way?

Whether it's throwing another 'shrimp' on the barbie - after sanitising your hands, of course - cracking open a beer with a mate at a respectable 1.5 metres, exploring the nation's natural beauty through the filter of a face mask, the important thing to remember is that "we are one and (relatively COVID-) free".

Whether you're in the state of New South Wales, Queensland or a state of paranoia, we've got some suggestions for you to celebrate locally.

Don't forget that this year Australia Day falls on a Tuesday, bypassing that most celebrated of Australian work-life traditions - the long weekend. So unless you're intending to pull that other celebrated Australian work life-tradition of a 'sickie' on the Monday, activities are restricted to what you can do in a day.

New South Wales

Young female dancers at the WugulOra Indigenous Morning Ceremony.

Young female dancers at the WugulOra Indigenous Morning Ceremony.

One of the most renowned and recognisable landmarks of Australia, Sydney Harbour, is a place New South Welshmen can descend upon to go feel warm and fuzzy about Australia Day. Celebrate out natural beauty at the world's most beautiful natural harbour. With more than 70 surf beaches and dozens of coves, you're bound to be able to find a place to picnic, graze and barbecue to get your patriotic heart strings plucked.

Sydney Harbour also offers a range of 'island getaways' for you to absorb various chapters of the story of the nation. The former convict establishment of Cockatoo Island affords a historical education in a part of Australia's story while offering some of the best views of the harbour. Arrive by ferry and stay for the day or even overnight, in either the campground or other accommodation options available. Visit cockatooisland.gov.au to book.

Our home is girt by sea, and contains some of the rarest and most extraordinary sea creatures on the planet. Have an underwater experience on Australia Day at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. And let's not forget our unique fauna - and you can appreciate an astonishing number of them at Sydney Wildlife Zoo - an outback experience right in the heart of Sydney City.

Want to get out of the city? The Merlin Pass gives entry to Illawarra Fly on the NSW South Coast. Take the kids, and walk on the suspended bridges amongst the rainforest treetops. Visit Kiama and Wollongong while you're there, and don't forget to pass through the town of Jamberoo travelling from Kiama - it is one of the most beautiful, lush country drives the country has to offer.

On the Central Coast, it's hard to go past Ettalong Beach for a relaxing and lazy Australia Day. Only 90 minutes' drive from Sydney or Newcastle, the views across Brisbane Water and Broken Bay present an expanse of water as impressive as Sydney Harbour, while largely retaining their untouched, natural state. Named after the Aboriginal word meaning 'place for drinking', Ettalong and surrounds offer many establishments for just this activity, including Ettalong Diggers with 180-degree views of Brisbane Waters, Ettalong Beach Hotel and the newly revamped Bayview Hotel in Woy Woy.

Why not take the opportunity to experience Australia Day through a different regional lens? Bathurst is planning a four-day Fun Fair from Saturday, January 23. Entry is $6 per person with unlimited ride passes for the kids at $30. The celebration will culminate with a firework display over Bathurst, scheduled to commence at 8.30pm on Australia Day. For details and event updates keep an eye on the bathurst.nsw.gov.au website.

Travel an hour further west and join the picnic at Cook Park in Orange, from 8am to 1pm. The community event will showcase live music and entertainment, as well as stalls raising support for local businesses.

Looking out further west, there are plenty of opportunities around Dubbo to experience a piece of Australian history, culture and beauty, all in the one day. The Great Big Adventure pass offers entry into Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Old Dubbo Gaol, the Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Centre and Wellington Caves (cave entry pending COVID-19 restrictions). See dubbo.com.au/visit/great-big-adventure-pass for details.

Explore more: australiaday.com.au

Australian Capital Territory

Fireworks in the national capital.

Fireworks in the national capital.

Canberrans are at somewhat of an advantage to find Australian things to do to celebrate Australia Day, given Canberra is our capital city and the designated home of many our national treasures.

Whether you're interested in celebrating history, the great outdoors, paying your respects to the defenders of our nation or paying homage to our system of government, there is something significantly Australian to do in every corner of Canberra on Australia Day. The main attractions including the National Museum, the Australian War Memorial and the National Gallery of Australia.

The capital's centrepiece of Parliament House can be viewed on popular, affordable Lake Burley Griffin cruises which take in this fine example of civil engineering, and allow you to reflect upon the story of our past, present and future. To book visit lakecruises.com.au.

Northern Territory

Ready for a swim in Litchfield National Park.

Ready for a swim in Litchfield National Park.

Appreciate the nation's natural gifts from the land from where all time began. The Northern Territory offers some of the most diverse Australian landscapes, from the dry, red earthy centre to the cooling waterholes and billabongs across Kakadu, Litchfield and Nitmiluk national parks, to name a few.

This year the Hot 100 Australia Day Ute Run is scheduled to return for its 20th year, starting at Hidden Valley Raceway and convoying to Noonamah Tavern. The 'noony' afterparty will showcase quintessentially Australian thong-throwing and lamington-eating events.

Queensland

You could always head north for Australia Day.

You could always head north for Australia Day.

Aptly named the Sunshine State, what better place to celebrate a national public holiday than by basking in the Australian sun? Make a day of it exploring the hidden gems of Moreton Bay, including Sandgate and Redcliffe, both less than an hour's drive out of Brisbane, or snorkelling Tangalooma Wrecks off Moreton Island.

Stop in at Doug's Seafood Café on the Sandgate foreshore and experience that Australian eating ritual of fending off seagulls while enjoying your fish and chips. After lunch take a stroll down to Shorncliffe Pier under the shade of the Moreton Bay figs and easily imagine yourself in an Australia 100 years ago.

Want to get further out of Brisbane? Take a day trip up to Rainbow Beach, about three hours' drive north of Brisbane. Used as the gateway to Fraser Island, it is often overlooked by tourists, yet it offers a truly unique experience. Marvel at the rainbow cliffs that resemble bands of a carefully constructed layer cake, or take the high road and emerge from the rainforest at Carlo Sand Blow, a moonscape section of sand, and have an out-of-this world experience without leaving the planet.

South Australia

Enjoy a tasty tipple in South Australia.

Enjoy a tasty tipple in South Australia.

What better place than South Australia to enjoy that fine Australian art form of alcohol appreciation? Take your time visiting the four iconic wine regions, the Barossa and Claire Valley, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, as you travel The Epicurean Way. On this road trip you can spend the day to go the whole way or just a little; however far you travel, it will be an Australian road-trip experience all in one day.

Explore more: australiadaysa.com.au

Tasmania

Take in the views in Tassie.

Take in the views in Tassie.

If you're in Tasmania on Australia Day, why not take the advice directed on the state's numberplate and "explore the possibilities". With over a fifth of the state's wilderness being World Heritage listed, it seems a fitting day to take the opportunity to explore the country's natural assets, with many hiking and vantage points across Freycinet National Park, kunanyi/Mount Wellington and Tasman National Park.

Victoria

Look the part at Ballarat's Sovereign Hill.

Look the part at Ballarat's Sovereign Hill.

The self-appointed cultural hub of Australia, you won't be hard-pressed to find a way to celebrate Australia Day in Victoria. Go for a drive down a section of The Great Ocean Road, have a 'religious experience' at the Twelve Apostles, find your fortune in Ballarat, or have an Australian cultural experience in any one of Melbourne's many museums and galleries.

Western Australia

Wave Rock, a WA gem.

Wave Rock, a WA gem.

Australia is known as a country of extremes, so why not enjoy them all in one day? You can go from the waves of Cottesloe Beach in the morning to a four-hour drive out of Perth to Wave Rock, all while enjoying some spectacular scenery. If you're in Perth, don't miss the Shine the Light - The Story of Us light celebration on January 22-26 at The Esplanade, Elizabeth Quay.

Places to stay: waholidayguide.com.au

Explore more: auspire.org.au

To search for Australia Day events near you follow the links from australiaday.org.au.

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