Australians pride themselves on being an easy-going bunch. Our egalitarian ethos, famous sense of humour, ability to swear like a trooper and penchant for the word ‘mate’ is just par for the course when traveling around our great country.
Even amidst a year of uncertainty and untold challenges for the travel industry, 2020 proved Australians remain generous hosts; always ready to provide first-class hospitality and incredible experiences to those who travel near and far.
But have you ever wondered which towns lay claim to being the most welcoming? The places that welcome out-of-towners with open arms and a friendly, “G’day, mate”. Booking.com recently announced the results of their Traveller Review Awards, rewarding the best hosts for hospitality and friendliness according to millions of Aussie traveler reviews. The reviews also revealed the top 10 most welcoming towns in Australia. Without further ado, here are the towns that made the list.
1. Maleny, QLD
Set within the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, it’s a cool retreat in the shade of the Glass House Mountains.
Maleny is a lush and tropical town with a calming and relaxed vibe. Start the day bright and early with a walk along the Maleny Trail for the chance to catch a glimpse of the shy platypus swimming in waterways at sunrise. Nearby, Maple Street has an array of boutique shops to explore; Rosetta Books is worth perusing, featuring a coffee shop to boot. Also on Maple Street is Colin James Fine Foods, renowned for serving the best ice-cream in Queensland. Make sure you try some of the more exotic flavours, such as pistachio and rosewater. The Brouhaha Brewery is also a must-visit. Order a beer paddle to sample a small selection of beers on tap and grab lunch while you’re there.
2. Denmark, WA
A vibrant little town in WA’s far south, Denmark is characterized by beautiful seascapes and a tight-knit community that are passionate about producing top quality food and award-winning wines.
The beaches in Denmark are a major drawcard – try Light Beach for waves or the placid Greens Pool waterhole for snorkeling. After a day of swimming, grab a homemade pie from Denmark Bakery in the town square before tackling the scenic section of the Bibbulmun Track towards Walpole. Walk the whole way there and on to the Valley of the Giants. Its Treetop Walk through the canopy of 400-year-old trees is mesmerizing. If you’ve got kids, they will love Dinosaur World just out of town.
3. Hervey Bay, QLD
Its whale watching vantage points may have put Hervey Bay on the map, but travelers are beginning to appreciate it for so much more than just the marine life that frolics offshore.
Whale watching is the obvious one here. The season generally runs from July to November in Hervey Bay. You can also expect to see dolphins, turtles and dugongs at the same time. There are also a number of ways to fill your itinerary while on-land. The Urangan Pier is a historic landmark that was initially built as a deep-water, cargo-handling spot to facilitate the export of sugar, timber and coal. Hervey Bay is also conveniently close to the UNESCO-listed Fraser Island, which we could wax lyrical about for pages.
5. Margaret River Town, WA
Margaret River is a triple threat of fine dining, world-renowned wine country and enviable surf-breaks, all while still retaining its country town charm.
No visit to Margs, as it’s known locally, would be complete without calling into a winery. Find a full list here. Next, wander and check out the town’s cool boutique shops. Margaret River Collaborative is a stylish space selling homewares, loose-leaf tea, and bits and bobs from local creatives, it’s a top spot to pick up a few souvenirs. If you’d rather be active, hire a bike and hit up the nearby mountain biking trails. Before farewelling Margaret River enjoy a visit to Wilyabrup Dreaming Pottery.
6. Montville, QLD
The cute-as-a-button town of Montville is considered by many to be the creative heart of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
More a village than a town thanks to its tiny population, Montville is teeming with charming boutiques, studios and art galleries boasting work by both up-and-coming and established local artists. Illume Creations sells glass sculptures and vases from local artist, Tina Cooper; Montville Art Gallery is housed in a 1920s Queenslander showcasing works from more than 30 award-winning artists, and don’t miss Secrets on the Lake Gallery – beautifully designed with magical views of Lake Baroon.
Part colonial, part country, and part contemporary, the ‘Rocky’ as the locals call it, is the beef capital of Australia.
Rockhampton straddles the Fitzroy River, the largest river on the Australian eastern seaboard. With a catchment area of 156,000 square kilometres it’s prime for Barramundi and King Threadfin fishing. Throw in a line yourself or join a fishing charter. Alternatively, Capricorn Caves serves up a combo of ancient geology, adrenaline-charged adventure, and wondrous wildlife. As the Beef Capital of Australia, travellers to Rockhampton can’t deny themselves of the region’s best export. The Ascot Stonegrill is one of the most highly-rated restaurants in Rockhampton to splurge on a steak.
7. Mildura, VIC
Considered the fruit basket of Victoria’s far northwest, Mildura’s a small town with big surprises. Its main claim to fame is that 95 percent of Australia’s dried fruit is produced here.
The town loves food and that’s no secret. There is a lot of cool little cafés and restaurants to choose from: the award-winning Stefano’s restaurant is bound to send your taste buds into a frenzy and Trentham Estate Winery & Restaurant offers a wide range of wines produced on the banks of the famous Murray River. If you really want the best vantage point of the rich-red soils of Mildura, then a balloon ride is just the thing. Otherwise, take a tour through a 50-acre orchard with over 30 different citrus and avocado trees at Orange World.
8. Bendigo, VIC
The alluvial gold rush of the 1850s transformed Bendigo into the multicultural melting pot it is today. The city houses a legacy of grand buildings, historic gardens, avenues and charming homes – making it a delight to explore. It’s also a goldmine in terms of exceptional local produce.
Take aself-guided walking tour of the town or join a heritage guided walking tour to explore Bendigo’s iconic historical sites. Begin at the Visitor Centre and make your way to the Bendigo Town Hall. Book ahead to enjoy high tea at Fortuna Villa, and marvel at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Head underground to explore the shafts and tunnels of Central Deborah Gold Mine for a taste of what it was like in Bendigo in the 1850s during the gold rush times. Jump on board Bendigo’s Vintage Talking Trams for an interactive history lesson. The hop-on, hop-off tour weaves its way through the city, stopping at Bendigo’s main attractions, eateries, art and shopping precincts.
9. Tanunda, SA
The Barossa is renowned for its quality wines, but when you need to refuel you will also find a wide variety of food to sample in the region’s foodie hub, Tanunda.
If you are after a quick, good value and easy stop before you head off for a day of wine tasting, head to Tanunda Bakery and Café. Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop in neighbouring Nuriootpa (less than 10 minutes’ drive) is the place to stop in the Barossa, you’ll see that famous kitchen and the newer function centre with its surrounding nature walks.
10. Mount Tamborine, QLD
Known as “the green behind the gold”, Tamborine Mountain is a serene place to escape the summer holiday mayhem of the Gold Coast.
It’s just a one-hour drive to the beach but there are loads to do on the mountain, too. Try the Firewater at the famous – or infamous – Tamborine Mountain Distillery. Witches Falls Cheese Company has a great reputation, as does Ripples Massage for spa treatments. For something extra special, one of the best walking experiences on the mountain takes place 30 metres above the forest floor along the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, it’s the mountain’s equivalent of standing on the top floor of the Gold Coast’s Q1 building. If local culture is more your thing, take a walk down Long Rd – particularly the section known as Gallery Walk. You’ll meander past Fudge Heaven, PJ Art Gallery, and the German Cuckoo Clock Nest.