Get a taste of Down Under from your living room with these awesome virtual experiences
Australia is famous for its relaxed way of life. Everyone is 'mate' in the country that invented 'no worries', and travellers have long headed Down Under for a chance to enjoy this laidback lifestyle for themselves. But with planet Earth on lockdown right now, we can but dream. And improvise, by bringing the best of Aussie culture into our homes...
The list of reasons to visit Australia is endless, from dipping beneath the waves to see the Great Barrier Reef or exploring the Mars-like red landscape of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to immersing yourself in a night of high culture at the Sydney Opera House.
And while you can't head there just yet, now is the perfect time to plan that dream holiday. And to get you in the mood, why not bring a little of Australia into your own home with some of these clever ideas...
Jet along the iconic Great Ocean Road from the comfort of your own home with virtual tours
Take a trip on the wild side
Australia's doors are still open to visitors – virtually, at least. Tourism Australia has a fab selection of virtual tours on its YouTube channel that will let your mind travel while you stay safe at home. That means the adventurer in you can still set off along Victoria's iconic Great Ocean Road, surrounded by the calming sound of the waves crashing ag ainst the shore as you fly past idyllic deserted beaches, rainforests and the Twelve Apostles, the surreally beautiful limestone stacks that scatter Port Campbell National Park.
For something a little more relaxing, pour yourself a glass of something cool, don your shades and chill as you wind down on Whitehaven Beach, on the Whitsundays Islands. This picturesque spot off the coast of North Queensland is defined by its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.
Or why not head south to Boston Bay and dive in to meet the friendly sea lions – there's a virtual tour of that, too! Visit youtube.com/australia to experience these virtual tours.Fire up the barbie, with Neil Perry
TV presenter and chef Neil Perry gives us some top tips for the ultimate Aussie BBQ
As lockdown continues, we find ourselves heading into the sunniest months of the year – which, in our books, is all the excuse we need for a BBQ. Acclaimed Australian chef, restaurateur and TV presenter, Neil Perry, fires up the grill and shares his five tips for acing an Aussie barbecue.
- The key to barbecuing is to use quality meat, vegetables and seafood. The finer the goods are, the more likely they are to taste sensational without marinades or seasoning.
- Make sure your grill is spotlessly clean. A bit of carbonised grime may not look like much, but it could impact the flavour of your whole meal. l If you can, always cook meat and fish on the bone, and cook shellfish in its shell for maximum flavour. Also, oil and season your products liberally before cooking – don't oil the BBQ!
- For healthier options or for vegetarians, opt for aubergine, courgette and tomato for some delicious results. Serve with extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and red wine vinegar for that special finishing touch.
- Don't forget dessert! Bananas, pineapple and most stone fruits taste incredible when grilled on a barbecue. Serve them warm with ice cream and gooey caramel.
To complete your perfect barbecue, enjoy some Australian-style refreshments, such as an iced glass of Bird In Hand Chardonnay from South Australia, or cool Great Barrier Beer, brewed in sunny Queensland (both available in the UK). Cheers!
Meet the natives
Sea lions aren't the only animals making a name for themselves on YouTube. If the country's weird and wonderful creatures were your main draw, you can now get up close and personal with them in your living room thanks to a whole host of videos and live streams set up by the cou ntry's wildlife centres. Melbourne Zoo has set up webcams in a number of enclosures so you can check in to see what its lazy lions and adorable snow leopard cubs are up to.
Queensland's Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is also letting you get a close look at its famous fluffy residents, and the Australian Reptile Park has both fun and educational videos suitable for the whole family, featuring cheeky echidnas and curious wombats. Visit YouTube and search for the wildlife centres to find their videos and live streams.Down Under in books
Enthral little ones and get your own mind racing with t hese riveting reads about Australia – perfect inspiration for your future adventures
The Land Before Avocado
By Richard Glover (2014)
Taking you back to the '60s and '70s, Glover paints a dark yet oddly appealing image of Australia. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be itching to see for yourself how much the country has changed since then.
Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
By May Gibbs (1918)
These fairytales haven't been out of print since they were first published over a century ago, inviting children into a fantasy world of adventure and magic in the Australian bush generation after generation. Your little ones won't be able to contain their excitement once they get to the real Outback.
By Bill Bryson (2000)
Travel-mad author Bill Bryson immediately fell in love with Australia the second he landed, and his book conveys that passion infectiously. Be whisked away to sun-soaked coastal cities and the wilds of the Outback with every turn of the page.
All of these books are available via Amazon UK.
Settle in for some culture
After all that virtual adventure, why not take a break and dip into some intriguing Australian culture? Kick off your day with an exercise class led by The Australian Ballet company, who have created perfect routines for small spaces. Visit australianballet.com.au to join in.
Pay a visit to Victoria's National Gallery via its new NGV Channel (ngv.vic.gov.au/channel) to join a curator-led tour of its Indigenous Art collection, or even its Basquiat exhibition: Crossing Lines. Then, as the sun sets on another day in lockdown, wind down with a laugh and see ten of the biggest comedians from Down Under, including Tom Walker, Alice Fraser and Tommy Little, who have all streamed their stand-up specials for Amazon Prime.
Grab the popcorn
Sometimes a good film is the only way to get some true escapism. Australia has entered some real classics to the world movie stage throughout the years, and each has their own allure. Muriel's Wedding, for example, follows the story of a young woman (played by Toni Collette) who's desperate to improve her social standing, and have a dream wedding that'll be the envy of her friends and family. But she' s got a real battle on her hands trying to prove her worth and discover what will truly make her happy. It's a proper feel-good film and, like Muriel, it's unconventional – but that's what makes it timeless. For the best of Australian cinema, however, look no further than The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving play three fabulously brassy drag queens taking a whirlwind tour of the Outback, bringing a touch of glamour wherever they go. It's impossible not to love – and the soundtrack will lift your lockdown spirits, guaranteed.Cocktails from the Maybe Sammy cocktail bar in Sydney
The Mini Frank
30ml Johnnie Walker Black Label
5ml Ardbeg 10 whisky
20ml Campari 10ml red vermouth
10ml cacao liqueur
20ml filtered water
The Mini Dean
20ml red vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
20ml filtered water
The Mini Sammy
10ml apricot brandy
15ml filtered water
These can be made on the spot, or if you want to make a larger batch for a lazy day at home just add them to a jug and keep in the fridge – they'll store well for a few days. Then pour into a glass over ice and enjoy!