Life Travel As tourism slowly restarts, it’s now possible to give the gift of an experience this Christmas
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As tourism slowly restarts, it’s now possible to give the gift of an experience this Christmas

Travel as a Christmas gift
Open borders and fewer restrictions mean experiences are back on the cards as Christmas gifts. Photo: Supplied
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With travel now viable for the first time in months, Tourism Australia has enlisted celebrities including Hamish Blake, Johnathan Thurston and Hannah Gadsby to sell Australia to Australians this summer.

The hope is that people can give one another gift cards for experiences nearby, or as part of a domestic trip, as an end-of-lockdown Christmas present.

From weekends away, to snorkelling with marine life, foodie experiences and more, there’s no shortage of activities to choose from in every state around Australia.

And according to the stats, the demand is there.

Qantas has clocked almost 500,000 bookings over the past two weeks, compared to just 20,000 bookings over a two-week period in August.

The surge comes as borders reopen and society adjusts to live with COVID.

Here’s some inspiration from across the country, compiled by the folks at Tourism Australia, plus a few famous faces.

Domestic experiences include five-course meal showcasing the best of native produce. Photo: Supplied

Gifts to impress a foodie

Thanks to gift vouchers, Christmas shoppers can look beyond cookbooks and tableware for their foodie friends.

The five-course Warakirri Dining Experience in Mudgee, NSW, sees Ngemba Weilwan woman Sharon Winsor guide guests through a seafood, game, rainforest fruits and bush tucker degustation menu for $145 per person.

Brewery tours are a safe bet for many Australians, and Brewery Tours Cairns offers half-day trips around Far-North Queensland’s best craft breweries and distilleries for $160 per person.

Meanwhile, renowned chef Tony Tan is launching a boutique, eight-person Asian cooking school in Trentham, Victoria, just in time for Christmas, where guests will learn to cook yum cha classics for $250-$300 per person.

Gifts that won’t break the bank

Travel experiences can still be affordable, especially if you’re staying in your own city.

Roaring 40s Kayaking offers paddle tours of Hobart’s harbour, including the city’s famed seafood barges, for $100 per adult and $60 per child.

Back on the mainland, the MCG is offering cricket lovers a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, complete with a look inside the famous Long Room and Melbourne skyline views from the City Terrace, for just $30 per adult and $15 per child.

For $59 per adult, Aunty Margaret and the team at Dreamtime Southern X are taking guests on a 90-minute spiritual tour of The Rocks and Circular Quay in Sydney, highlighting the Dreamtime connections of one of modern-day Australia’s most prominent locales.

Hamish Blake is the face of Tourism Australia’s latest campaign. Photo: Supplied

Gifts to one-up the person who out-gifted you last year

Comedian Hamish Blake has put together his top picks in order to one-up that dear friend or family member who managed to surprise you last year.

Snorkelling tours of Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef start at $200 per person, where swimmers might encounter turtles, humpback whales and even gigantic whale sharks.

Another option is a four-hour helicopter tour of the Grampians National Park, with stops at a cellar door, a microbrewery and a vineyard for the special price of $595 per person.

If money is no object, Lon Retreat and Spa at Point Lonsdale, Victoria, is offering a three-day retreat complete with a mineral pool, wine tasting and fine dining, all for $3026 twin share.

Gifts for someone who Instagrams everything

Zoë Foster Blake has also whipped up a few gift ideas for that someone in your life who can’t stop posting gorgeous photos wherever they go.

Uluru Camel Tours offers both sunrise and sunset camel experiences for $135 per person, where you can experience the Red Centre during golden hour.

Your friend could also eat in style with a gourmet picnic from Above & Beyond Tasmania, where guests are whisked to a secluded Hobart beach on a seaplane for $395.

Finally, few things are more picturesque than a sunrise hot air balloon flight, and Global Ballooning Australia has deals on trips across Melbourne, Yarra Valley and Mansfield.

Oyster farm tours are one unexpected option for someone who has everything. Photo: Supplied

Gifts for the person who already has everything

Some people are hard to buy for, but these options have a bit of extra wow-factor to please even the person who has everything.

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a rite of passage for many locals, but now BridgeClimb has a new package which spans the full length of the bridge, pylon-to-pylon, for $348 for adults and $189 for children.

Oyster Farm Tours in Coffin Bay, South Australia, offers the ultimate farm-to-table experience on a semi-submerged deck for $45 per person.

Up in Darwin, the Aboriginal-owned Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise does exactly what it says, taking passengers up close and personal with saltwater crocs for $50 per adult and $35 per child.

A full list of gift ideas based on interest and divided by individuals stats is available at the Tourism Australia website.