With budget airlines, lush resorts and a dollar that stretches a long way, holidaymakers these days are just as likely to opt for Bali or Phuket than somewhere closer to home.
But it wasn’t so long ago that international air travel was unaffordable to most. So when the summer holidays came around, it was time to load up the FJ Holden, wind down the windows (what’s ‘air con’?) and hit the road.
We take a look at three of our favourite Aussie holiday spots, and see how things have changed … and stayed the same.
Blue Mountains, NSW
To beat the Sydney heat, a trip to Katoomba was a nature-packed summer holiday treat. While the drive from Sydney now takes under 2 hours, back then it meant a solid half day on the road. Like today most vacationers made Katoomba their base, and – like today – the biggest attractions were natural: viewing the Three Sisters from Echo Point was mandatory, as was a ride on the treacherous-looking scenic railway.
Visitors these days can still ride the ex-mine’s tracks, although it’s now a smooth glide rather than a rickety adventure!
The Carrington Hotel, built in 1883, was the place to stay for the well-heeled and honeymooners, while most people chose a more modest motel, or camping out under the stars. These days, there are around 90 hotels, motels and B&Bs in the area, not to mention hundreds more options via private rentals, Airbnb, Stayz and more.
We’re still heading west to the Blue Mountains, and still loving the epic scenery!
Anyone who traveled the dreaded Nepean Highway on a stinking hot Melbourne day in the 1940s or 50s will recount the journey in hushed tones and with a far-away look usually reserved for the concussed. The only thing keeping us from heat stroke was anticipation about our Mornington Peninsula destination: Rosebud!
While the rest of the world knows Rosebud as Citizen Kane’s dying word (and –spoiler alert – his childhood snow sled), for Australians – and especially Victorians – Rosebud is a by-word for summer holidays. Back then, the foreshore caravan parks ruled, as kids and families from all backgrounds sunbaked and ice creamed their way through January and towards a new school year.
These days, the crowds, caravan parks and ice cream shops are still there. But, in keeping with holiday spots across the land, things have headed just a little more upmarket in Rosebud.
First, we don’t sunbake, we sunscreen. Hipsters are crafting perfect single-origin long blacks by day and small-batch rum cocktails by night, while diners can now choose Italian fine dining, $24 smashed avo at the café, and mod-Oz cuisine at the golf club, alongside the traditional fish and chips on a blanket at the beach.
Rosebud might be changing, but old habits (and the Capel Sound Caravan Park) will take a long time to die!
Just a Big Red hop across the wonderfully-named Backstairs Passage (funny no matter how old you are), Kangaroo Island was an unspoilt and untrammeled holiday spot for crow-eaters and more adventurous travelers from other states in the 1940s and 50s. And unlike almost everywhere else on planet Earth, it’s hardly changed to this day!
You’d head out from Adelaide on the first Saturday of the holidays, drive onto the SS Karatta ferry at Cape Jervis, and be on Kangaroo Island inside two hours. This made Kangaroo Island one of Adelaide’s favourite summer break destinations. And it’s pretty much the same today.
With lots of coverage on social media, (and even some dubious celebrity endorsements that made it to TV’s Media Watch) Kangaroo Island is now hot stuff. No longer just a few humble motels and ‘resorts’ (motels with a pool), the island now boasts around 200 accommodation options; not bad for a joint with only 4000 residents. They reckon around 150,000 people visit every year.
But even with this increase in visitors, the island itself still boasts natural beauty and attractions in spades; you can say hi to sea lions at Seal Bay, pose in front of those weird rocks at Flinders Chase, and view the stunning sand dunes at Little Sahara, just like in the 1950s.
Something we could never have guessed way back when was that the island would be a resource for the world's only pure-bred and disease-free population of Ligurian bees. Queen bees are exported all around the world, just as global travelers are swarming in to discover the beauty of this little piece of paradise.
Whether it’s because of social media, great holidays, or bees, Kangaroo Island has been the buzz for as long as we can remember, and doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon.