20 Aussie icons
They are Australia’s most iconic destinations, featuring first on postcards and more recently in bragging photos on Facebook as the top places to see Down Under.But no matter how famous a landmark is, with so much competition for the traveller’s dollar, they must constantly reinvent themselves to keep people coming back.
Here’s how our favourite holiday spots have stood the test of time.Red Centre
Northern Territory: Uluru may be hundreds of millions of years old but it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the first plane landed beside the famous landmark.
Ayers Rock Resort opened in the mid-1980s but has undergone major changes with a stronger focus on indigenous experiences since being bought by a consortium led by the Indigenous Land Corporation in 2010 and is now managed by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.
The luxurious Sails in the Desert resort has had a major refurbishment and the more intimate outdoor dining experience Tali Wiru has been added to the award-winning Sounds of Silence dinner, as well as the noodle bar Ayers Wok and Outback Sky Journeys astronomy tours have been introduced.
Costs then and now: When it opened in 1990, accommodation at the Sails in the Desert – then known as Sheraton Ayers Rock – was $160 a night. It’s now $320 a night.Great Ocean Road
Victoria: Built by 3000 returned servicemen during the Great Depression, the Great Ocean Road is considered one of the world’s great drives.
When it opened in 1932, the road was very narrow and only one-way from Eastern View to Lorne with a speed limit of 19km per hour.
Over the years it has been widened and upgraded to cater for the millions of visitors who drive it each year.
Today, tourism along the Great Ocean Road generates more than $1 billion for the economy each year and it has been placed on Australia’s National Heritage list for its “extraordinary historic and natural significance”.Great Barrier Reef
Queensland: Tourists began visiting the Whitsundays as early as the 1930s but it wasn’t until resorts began being developed in the 1950s that the region really took off.
Adding to the area’s natural beauty, accommodation and tour operators have introduced activities ranging from extravagant outdoor dining experiences to audio tours, voluntourism opportunities and pillow menus.
They have also adopted wide-scale eco-friendly practices to ensure the sustainability of its most important attraction – the Great Barrier Reef and the islands.
Recent additions include the Port of Airlie marina development, an 18-hole golf course on Dent Island, rainforest walks and fine-dining restaurants. In the next six months, the Whitsunday Regional Council will also complete a major upgrade to Airlie Beach’s central hub which will transform the town.
Costs then and now: In 1985, a Whitehaven Beach cruise stopping at three islands cost $55 a person. Today, you can book a half-day cruise from $95.Sydney Harbour
NSW: Broadcast around the world on New Year’s Eve each year, Sydney Harbour is top of most international tourists’ “must do” list.
The Sydney Opera House opened in 1973 and now welcomes more than eight million visitors each year.
The Harbour Bridge, known colloquially as “the coathanger” opened in 1932, but the most popular development for tourists has been the opportunity to climb the bridge, launched in 1998.
Just fewer than three million people have climbed the bridge since that time and BridgeClimb has since introduced night, twilight and dawn climbs.
Costs then and now: In 1998, it cost $98 to do BridgeClimb. Prices now range from $138-$318.
Gold Coast theme parks
Queensland: Sea World was the first theme park to open on the Gold Coast Spit in 1972 with a ski show, dolphins, marine displays, a pool and licensed restaurant.
It has expanded through the years to include new attractions and experiences, focusing on the park’s not-for-profit research and rescue foundation.
Dreamworld opened in 1981 and still houses many of its original attractions, including the steam train, vintage cars and the Rocky Hollow log ride.
It has also added some of the tallest and fastest rides in the world, such as the Giant Drop and Tower of Terror II.
Its owners also opened WhiteWater World in 2006 and three new lands have been created in the past year: Madagascar Madness, Shrek’s Faire Faire Away and Kung Fu Panda: Land of Awesomeness.
Warner Bros. Movie World opened a decade after Dreamworld, with a range of Hollywood-inspired rides, shows and attractions and has since introduced a range of 3D rides.
Wet ‘n’ Wild opened as Cades County Water Park with five water attractions and a wave pool in 1984 and was renamed two years later.
It is now home to 35 slides and has become one of the top 10 water parks in the world based on attendance.Kakadu
Northern Territory: The wilderness area became popular for safari camping in the 1950s, with the first hotels appearing in the 1970s when Kakadu became a national park.
In the early days, dirt roads made getting around Kakadu a challenge, particularly in the monsoon season.
Now it has sealed roads, viewing platforms, bridges and visitor centres.
In recent years, the focus has shifted towards cultural experiences.
Western Australia: This remote wilderness area began to be recognised as a tourism destination in the 1980s when Broome caught the eye of British entrepreneur Lord Alistair McAlpine, who helped restore many of the town’s old buildings and opened its first luxury resort, Cable Beach Club.
Although the Bungle Bungle Range at Purnululu National Park was used by Aboriginal people during the wet seasons, few Europeans knew of its existence before it was discovered by filmmakers in 1983.
Luxury camp El Questro Wilderness Park opened in the 1990s and the pearling and tourism industries grew with the redevelopment of Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa and the opening of new resorts such as Pinctada Cable Beach and the latest eco-resort, The Billi.
Tasmania: Waldheim Chalet, Cradle Mountain’s first holiday getaway, was built between 1912 and the early 1920s and quickly became known for its warm hospitality, generous serves of wombat stews and sing-songs around the fire.
While the mountain itself hasn’t changed, boutique hotel accommodation, day spas, canyoning experiences and guided culinary walking tours have sprung up over the years.
Visitors can now relax at a luxurious mountain retreat and indulge in spa treatments and quality food and wine experiences and flightseeing tours.
NSW: The Blue Mountains wilderness area has entranced visitors since Governor Lachlan Macquarie and his wife travelled the new road over the mountains in 1815.
Before long, myriad inns dotted the highway, giving respite to weary travellers on their way to the rich pastoral lands to the west.
The railway supercharged the tourism industry in 1867, bringing sightseers to the mountains in droves and hotels, guesthouses, spa retreats and boarding houses opened in abundance, beginning with The Carrington Hotel (originally named The Great Western) in 1882.
While tourism has struggled of late, the area is undergoing a rejuvenation.
The $40-million Blue Mountains Cultural Centre opened in November, Scenic World is installing a new $30-million railway and the Hydro Majestic Hotel is to undergo a $55-million revamp.
South Australia: Wine has been the biggest tourism drawcard for this region, about 60km from Adelaide, since people began travelling from neighbouring regions to buy their supplies direct from first wineries Orlando, Seppeltsfield and Yalumba, which were built in the 1800s.
The Barossa Vintage Festival began in 1947 as a chance for locals to celebrate the grape harvest and has grown to become a major event.
Cellar doors, cafes and restaurants began emerging in the 1970s.
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The Blue Mountains' Three Sisters. photo // THINKSTOCK