Ring-a-ding-ding! The end of financial year has rolled around and that means one great thing for fiscally responsible adults – a gift from the federal government in the form of a hefty tax return.[related_articles]63689,63233,60711[/related_articles]
Have you been very good this year, squirrelling away your pennies? Then it’s time to reinvest in a mid-winter holiday! Here are six places where $1000 will go a long way.[listicle]
Ningaloo Reef, Australia
One of Australia’s most remote and spectacular natural wonders, the Ningaloo Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site that stretches 260 kilometres up the coast of Western Australia. Spend your tax refund on the flight out west then hire a car and some camping gear to explore this incredible stretch of wilderness.
Between Carnarvon, Coral Bay and Exmouth, there are many secluded beaches where you can swim out just a few metres and snorkel over the reef, home to 500 species of fish and 300 varieties of coral. If you have a slightly bigger lump sum hitting your bank account this year, put it to good use on a whale shark tour. From March to July, the whale sharks pass by the outer reef on their migratory path and specialty tours will take you out to swim with these lovely aquatic giants.
Image: Visit Ningaloo
Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington is in easy reach with a decent tax return – this picturesque city on the water is home to food-lovers, craft markets and many a craft beer brewery. The hip heart of New Zealand’s long islands, Wellington has over 750 cafés and restaurants to explore, including the gems hidden along Hannah’s Laneway in the middle of the CBD. A short drive out of the city and you’re in Wairarapa wine country, with dozens of boutique cellar doors to open wide.
Back in town, the celebrated Te Papa Tongarewa museum holds fascinating pieces of Maori history while the behind-the-scenes Weta Workshop tour helps Hobbit-lovers find their bliss. At night, this little capital punches above its weight with a cool bar scene, including the Alice in Wonderland-themed Alice Bar (where cocktails are served in teapots) and the Cuban-flavoured Havana Bar (built into a workman’s cottage in the Te Aro neighbourhood).
Image: Taryn Stenvei
A few hundred dollars will get you to the red centre and back, with a breathtaking outback holiday in between. If you’ve never seen the sandstone monolith at the heart of our country, you’ve missed the molten palette of deep desert colours that change every hour of the day, beneath a billowing blanket of sky that stretches from here to just past forever.
See Uluru through the eyes of our first peoples on an Aboriginal cultural tour, take a flight over the rock to appreciate all its rivets and folds, ride a camel across the shifting sands of the desert, then settle in for a candle lit dinner under a canopy of stars.
Image: Robert Young / Flickr
Sure, Bali is a holiday cliché, but there’s a reason why it’s beloved by Australian tourists. A decent tax return and a six-hour flight will land you in a tropical paradise, which is no less beautiful for being well-known.
Escape the maddening crowds of Kuta and head for the secluded south beaches of Ungasan, or to the west to see volcanic sand beaches where the rice paddies meet the sea. High in the mountains, Ubud is the place to rest your weary bones, practice some yoga and sink into a private pool in your hidden forest villa, while thrill-seekers can ride the southern ocean swells at Padang Padang and Uluwatu.
From the crystal waters of the Gili Islands to the ancient stones of the Besakih Temple, Bali offers a whole world of wonder without breaking the bank.
Image: Toshi Widarto / Flickr
Though devastated by Cyclone Pam in 2015, Vanuatu is back on its feet and desperately seeking holiday makers to fill its many beautiful beach resorts – and flights are just under our tax return budget. A tropical idyll in the middle of the Pacific, the archipelago holds pristine beaches, an active volcano and some of the best wreck diving on the Coral Sea.
On the remote islands, the Tanna people still worship the cargo cult while the small business operators of Port Vila offer quick and easy smiles. Spend your days snorkelling on remote island reefs and your night drinking potent Vanuatuan kava, and let the memory of your everyday life sink into a deep blue hole.
Image: thegef / Flickr
Winter is peak season in Broome but if you dig around, there are plenty of deals for flights and accommodation that come in under $1000. In this tropical outpost of far northwest Australia, white beaches run into red desert sands at the foot of the Indian Ocean, with the mangroves and mudflats of Roebuck Bay wrapped along Broome’s outer edges.
Most of the tourist action is centred around the luxury resorts on Cable Beach, where you can swim in turquoise waters, ride a camel across the sand and watch one of the most spectacular sunsets Antipodes has to offer.
Image: Josh Janssen / Flickr[/listicle]
(Lead image: Ayana Resort & Spa Uluwatu in Bali)
Simone Ubaldi is a ghostwriter, music journalist, film critic and frequent flyer. She has written for The Age, The Monthly, triple j Mag, Paper Sea, Faster Louder and various other publications, and appeared on ABC Radio National, triple j and Melbourne's 3RRR FM. She has co-authored four books, including memoirs of Bon Scott and Mark 'Chopper' Read, and she stashes a lot of her writing here.