Few people have a better understanding of Australian cities and their unique charms than airline staff, who spend much of their year exploring the cities on their overnighters.
So while they are currently grounded and have some spare time on their hands, we asked some Virgin Australia crew to name their favourite cities to visit in Australia.
There are some definite themes that came out, and the answers may surprise you (not a single person listed the big metropolises of Melbourne or Sydney).
Their top spots may give you a bit of inspiration as to where you’d like to visit once the domestic travel ban lifts.
It’s a timely reminder that there’s so much great stuff to explore in our own backyard.
When the world’s top emerging destinations for 2020 were announced as part of TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice destination awards, Darwin was the only Australian spot that made it onto the list.
The list highlights “the destinations still ahead of the curve”. TripAdvisor says the winners are based on year-on-year increases in positive review ratings for accommodation, restaurants and attractions, and increase in booking interest and searches across destinations worldwide.
So it comes as no surprise that many Virgin crew also named the capital of the NT as one of their favourite places.
Hostie Dinh Le says “I love Darwin because of the tropical heat, the temperamental 15-minute rain downpour in the wet season and then going back to being sunny, followed by a cool evening and listening to the amazing sound of thunder and lighting shows.
“It’s Australia with a very tropical and laid-back vibe that makes me stop and slow down on life and enjoy a different perspective than the hustle and bustle of a major city.”
During an overnight in Darwin, Le likes to hire a car with colleagues “and drive out to the parks and waterfalls to experience the amazing outdoors.”
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Food is another highlight, with the laksa at Rendezvous and at Mary’s stall at Parap Markets getting an enthusiastic review. The steak at the Cavenagh pub also gets a shout-out.
Edwina Ingham lists the Mindil Markets during the dry season as a highlight.
“The market atmosphere is electric as locals and tourists wander the packed stalls and sample from the surprisingly large array of cuisines on offer. Personally, nothing beats a delicious authentic laksa while watching the sunset over Mindil Beach with your crew.”
Tash Styles says she actually feels “a little guilty” when she does an overnight in Darwin.
“Because of the tropical weather and the chilled vibe, sometimes I feel like I’m on holiday while I’m working.”
Renee Turnbull is another big advocate for Darwin, saying “it’s a city of such diversity with crocodiles, fresh mangoes, all year-round balmy nights and spectacular lightning shows”.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA (IN PARTICULARLY BROOME, THE KIMBERLEY AND PERTH)
It seems WA is having a moment too.
Kara Le says Kununurra in the Kimberley is an unforgettable place to visit.
“The Kimberley is one of the most remote, majestic wilderness regions in the world … there
are plenty of freshwater swimming holes, outback stations, majestic wildlife and 4WD tracks to explore”.
Broome is another favourite spot, with both Renee Turnbull and Jade Cartwright saying Gantheaume Point is“a must-see spot is where dinosaur tracks are revealed in the beach’s red rocks during low tide … the contrast of red dirt and blue ocean is stunning.“
Natasha Styles has always had a soft spot for the northwest of WA:
“The landscape is so unique and dotted with hidden treasures … Last month I crewed a flight to Broome, and took a moment to look out the window as we were flying along the coast. We were flying over 80 Mile Beach, the longest uninterrupted beach in WA, which is between Broome and Port Hedland. It has endless white sand and is scattered with tropical shells. Broome itself is amazing to explore on its own, but for the more adventurous be sure to get off the beaten track and check it out along with the rest of magnificent Kimberley area. It’s memory making at its best – big fish fishing, beach walking, shell collecting, camel riding, sunsets over the ocean and the infamous stairway to heaven …”
Jade Cartwright says exploring the west coast is the top of her to-do list once the travel ban lifts, saying “Ningaloo Reef, Rottnest Island and Esperance are my next go to destinations”.
Tess Norris has developed a fondness for Perth.
“I love the vibe, especially during summer. And you can easily get to Rottnest Island, which is one of my favourite places in Australia. Perth is such an underrated city. The west coast is absolutely beautiful.”
Kara Le also loves WA’s capital, saying “geographically, it’s the most isolated city in the world. It has such a laid-back, friendly vibe.”
FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND
Both Cairns and Townsville were also repeatedly listed as favourites.
Jade Cartwright says “watching the sunrise from the top of Castle Hill in Townsville and smelling the tropical flowers is worth the early wake up. Nearby Magnetic Island is a gem, and taking the ferry over to see the wild koalas and wallabies is a fun adventure. I also love the tropical vibrant atmosphere of Cairns. I enjoy listening to the live music at the esplanade and taking advantage of it being the gate way to the Great Barrier Reef and Port Douglas”.
Danielle King, agrees, saying “Cairns is hard to beat. There is the beautiful warm weather to escape to, the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon for a swim, lots of cheap and tasty food and the night markets for a $10 massage.
Bridgette Nelson says of Cairns “I love walking along the waterfront and ending up at Pho Street for a seriously delicious chicken vermicelli bowl and then wandering across the alley for a banana crepe afterwards. The weather is always perfect for a dip in the pool, or an ice cold beer while soaking up the sun. And the Arrow tracks through Mt Whitfield Conservation Park provides some beautiful views.”
Kaitlin Jones points out that Fitzroy Island in the Great Barrier Reef is just a 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns.
“This beautiful island has to be one of my favourite holidays with a hidden gem called ‘Nudey Beach’. This beautiful little coral beach was awarded Australia’s #1 beach back in 2018 and definitely deserves the title. The 20-minute walking track through a tropical rainforest and coastal woodlands to get there is breathtaking. I love this place because you can snorkel right off the beach and are guaranteed to see a sea turtle”.
Ever since MONA helped put it on many a traveller’s must-visit list, Hobart has been enjoying something of a resurgence. Its natural beauty makes it a favourite with a number of Virgin staff.
Ray Pastoors says “The air is so fresh … I know it sounds odd but it truly feels like you are on another planet. The mountain and sky views are breathtaking and it’s a perfect spot to get your walking or running shoes on and explore.”
Tara Perkin says “I absolutely love Hobart. They have the most beautiful walks and the Salamanca markets are a must-see.
Edwina Ingham concurs, saying “Hobart is my favourite place to wander and explore in Australia. The quaint streets and beautiful gardens have an almost European feel, quiet pubs serving traditional fare makes us feel at home and waking in the morning to the seagulls out in the bay is amazing.”