Arinex’ Incentives and Special Events Manager Tania Rauhihi has travelled across Australia to round up the most exciting destinations for group programs in 2019. Have a read of her shortlist…

  1. Hayman Island

The private island of Hayman Island, situated on the stunning Great Barrier Reef, will soon herald Australia’s most anticipated hotel opening for 2019. Hayman Island by InterContinental will offer a private island experience for groups, giving them a secluded paradise to explore the natural wonders of the iconic coastline; an experience that will not be forgotten.

Must do:  Snorkelling at Blue Pearl Bay is a highlight at Hayman Island.  Just a quick boat trip takes you to this small beach were the coral and fish life are spectacular.  We have taken clients from all over the world to this special spot and they are amazed!

Must try: Fresh seafood, preferably while overlooking the water.

Venue watch: Due to open in July 2019, Hayman Island by InterContinental is a 166-room luxury resort that can be accessed via Hamilton Island and then by either vessel or helicopter.

  1. Perth

Dubbed Australia’s ‘new-age’ city, Perth’s exciting city sprawls gently to the idyllic West Australian coastline to offer the best of both worlds. The city is easy to discover; free from the pressures of congestion and population affecting its eastern counterparts. But there is more beyond, with Perth also the gateway to the neighbouring port town of Fremantle as well as Rottnest Island.

Must do: My absolute favourite Perth day out is at Rottnest Island, brimming with beautiful beaches, scenery and the without a doubt the world’s cutest animal – the quokka. If you are lucky enough you might even be able to get a great selfie with one of them!

Must try: The all-day brunches at Orange Box, in North Fremantle, where you can relax in hammocks or deckchairs just off Leighton beach. The Aviary is also a must, comprising an iconic open-air rooftop bar – a great place to enjoy a relaxing drink and casual bite.

Venue watch: Perth is in the midst of a hotel boom, with two DoubleTrees by Hilton, Park Regis in Subiaco, Ritz-Carlton at Elizabeth Quay, Iconic Scarborough, Quest in Perth and Joondalup and Capital Square (the former Emu Brewery site) all in development.

  1. Uluru

Australia’s point of difference is without doubt its Aboriginal heritage – and what better place to learn about the oldest culture in the world than Uluru. The area, home to the largest rock in the world, breeds ancient wisdom and diverse plant and animal life. By night, enjoy the most brilliant star show on Earth, with uninterrupted views and non-existent light pollution, surrounded by utter silence and tranquillity.

Must do: Field of Light Uluru, by Bruce Munro. This massive art installation, now a global phenomenon, comes to life at the base of Uluru once the sun goes down. Happily it has been extended to the end of 2020.

Must try: Bush tucker from the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara tribes, prepared as they retell creation stories.

  1. Port Douglas

Port Douglas offers an unmatched variety of four- and five-star accommodation and fine dining, without being overwhelmed by congestion or pretentiousness. The unassuming coastal town – a pristine 45-minute drive north of Cairns, in far north Queensland – is a gem to discover, with year-round warm weather beckoning people to experience its natural beauty.

Must do: Explore the beautiful Four Mile Beach where you’ll no doubt be able to find your own find a quiet spot for a swim. Hartleys Crocodile Farm and Flames of the Forest are also a unique experience for visitors. If you are feeling energetic, I would definitely recommend a morning run or walk to the Flagstaff Hill Lookout for views of one of the most beautiful beaches you will ever see, flanked by coastal mountains.

Must try: “Port” as it is known to the locals, has some great bars and restaurant.  Origin Espresso offers the best coffee in town and roast their own beans, as well as offering local sugar can juice on tap.  Enjoy sunset at Hemmingway’s Brewery overlooking the marina and be sure to have a tasting paddle of locally crafted beers.

Venue watch: An ultra-luxury hotel development by Crystalbrook is planned for the Port Douglas Superyacht Marina, which will comprise a 100-room five-star hotel and a 30-room ‘ultra-lux’ wing.

  1. Sydney

Popular Sydney remains an inspiring choice for visiting groups and is my home city – so forgive me if I sound biased! Beautifully wrapped around its magnificent harbour and beaches, it has visual wow factor like few other places. Scratch the surface and it only gets better. There are plenty of hidden laneways and restaurants to explore, as well as countless beaches the world-famous Bondi.

Must do: There is so much to experience in Sydney – so bear with me! It is worth visiting the Tramsheds, a dynamic inner-city dining district which has been transformed from the original Rozelle Tramway Depot built in 1904. Staying on the historical theme, not many know about the two ghost tunnels of St James. Built in the 1920s to connect the eastern suburbs to the northern beaches, the tunnels were later used as Air Defence headquarters during WW2 and are now abandoned. Sydney Living Museums operates tours within the underground paths that stretch more than one kilometre beneath the city…  also a great unique event space perhaps one day! Staying out of sight, Underground Cinemas is a live immersive cinema experience held in secret locations in Sydney and Melbourne. The location is revealed via SMS the day before and themed for each occasion, whether taking you back in time to early 1900s or into the future. It is an immersive cinematic unlike any in town. Other recommendations are Cock & Canvas (Australia’s First ‘paint and sip studio’) and St George Open Air Cinema, or the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb which provides fantastic views of the stunning harbour.

Must try: Gelato Messina who produce 35 signature flavours and 5 new specials every week. My favourite is Panna Cotta with Fig Jam and Amaretti Biscuit.  You might even see Leigh Sales (Australian journalist, 7.30 Report) in the queue. In the evenings, get a taste of France in the inner-city Sydney at Huberts. Descend down a spiral of stairs into a basement to find the chic and classy restaurant, with an array of candles creating a warm ambience with music flowing from the jazz quartet. The private function spaces are great for intimate celebrations. Don’t forget to try one of the best dirty martinis in town! Bon Appetit.

Venue watch: From our Sydney office we have been watching the construction of the third W Hotel chain, known as The Ribbon. The 593-room hotel will provide the ideal base to explore, situated on the edge of Darling Harbour. It is due to open 2020.

  1. Melbourne

Melbourne oozes raw appeal and charm, disarmingly wrapping itself around visitors like a long-lost friend. Whether it’s the street art, buzzing laneways, the peaceful Yarra River or the sports-mad locals, Melbourne is a cultural melting pot that is begging to be discovered.

Must do: Catch an AFL (Aussie Rules for international readers) game at The Swan, which attracts sports-crazed locals from across Melbourne to watch a match. Early risers should head to the famous Victoria Markets at dawn, where you can enjoy the wares without the crowds.

Must try: The Espy was an iconic entertainment establishment built in 1878 and left dormant for several years. In 2018 it reopened greater than ever, comprising more than 12 venues across 5 levels offering bars, restaurants, music, performances and great cocktails. The secret ‘ghost bar’ is the hidden gem and only accessible by invite and escort, including ‘lock and key’ lift access. It is a cocktail bar dedicated to former Epsy resident Alfred Felton, who spent this last days at the hotel and showcases Victoria charm, modern elegance and cocktails to die for…excuse the pun!

Venue watch: I’m excited for the development of a ‘skinny hotel’ half the size of a tennis court on a central laneway scheduled for mid-2020.

Attending IMEX Frankfurt on 21-23 May 2019? Make an appointment with Tania to learn more about group programs in Australia or visit us on the Tourism Australia stand B320 or Body & Soul stand C400 and hear how we can assist you make an inspiring experience for your attendees. Want to hear more? Email inspiringexperiences@arinex.com.au.