Australia has a problem. It's beautiful, but it's too far away for anyone to come. Okay, so President Obama may be able to jet over in Airforce One for a few days of cocktails and neighbourly chat, as he did last week, but that doesn't mean the rest of the world is easily able to follow.
I've spoken to so many people, in so many countries, who have sighed deeply when I've said the word "Australia". They've then told me that they've always wanted to come but a) have never had the funds, b) have never known where it is (I can see this how this could happen; it's down near Antarctica if you have a map to hand), and c) have never wanted to sit on a plane for 14 hours to get there! Now I can understand all of these reasons, and I sympathise, I really do. Who wants to sit on a plane for 14 hours, let alone in LAX or Heathrow for the three-hour wait beforehand?
The thing is, we want you all to come. We live in this enormous, absolutely gorgeous country, with very few people to ruin the scenery, and we'd love to show it to you. If nobody comes here, we'll soon wonder what to do. So follow Obama and just get on a plane. United, Virgin and Air New Zealand have return airfares for extraordinarily low prices at the moment. Don't worry about accommodation: there's plenty here, and if you can't find anywhere, then we'll look after you. It's summer here: you'll have a wonderful time. (Oh – one last thing. Obama had crocodile insurance, but we don't think you'll need that. Just get cover for Great Whites and perhaps a snake bite or two.) We look forward to seeing you soon!
PS When you do get here, here are some of the best places to go, in my humble travel journalist's opinion.
Lord Howe Island. An island so tiny you can ride your bike around it in a few hours, and yet it has all the best bits of Australia, including a spectacular coral reef with tonnes of tropical fish, gorgeous beaches, and two dramatic mountains, plus hideaways such as this one – the magnificently designed Capella Lodge. See? Isn't this sublime? Don't you want to come now? Explorer Dick Smith says it's the most beautiful place on earth. I'm with you, Dick. www.lordhowe.com
Peppers Palm Bay, Queensland. A little-known place that's right away from the raucous crowds of Hamilton Island. There are a handful of super-luxurious "huts" (huts being a bit of a misnomer, really, since they're more stylish than a five-star hotel), a superb restaurant, pool and spa, a cute cove-style beach, and all the bushwalking / swimming / yachting / cocktailing you could want. Pure bliss. www.peppers.com.au/whitsundays
Wilson Island. I've not been here, but it's on my List. Right at the top. See that girl? That'll be me. Soon. www.wilsonisland.com
Whitehaven Beach, in the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland. See how there's nobody on the beach? That's what ALL our beaches are like. Okay, so not all, but most of them are reasonably deserted. This one's a little special in that it can only be reached by sea plane or yacht, but that just keeps the riff-raff out. The water is the colour of a Tiffany box, and the temperature of a bath. The sand's so pure and soft it's like talcum powder. And the sky is the colour of Wedgwood. Paradise.
Our architecture. (The Pole House, Great Ocean Road.)
Our getaways. (A private beach hut and pier at Portsea, Victoria.)
Our summer diet. Seafood, Champagne, wine, and beer.
You can't get much more idyllic than that...
Will post more Australian gorgeousness next week...