Every time we visit someplace new, no matter how long or short the stay, the experience stays with us. This holds true whether it’s centred around the culture, the food, or the diverse landscape of a destination; the experience creates an appreciation that lasts a lifetime.
That’s because travel can have a profound and pretty magical impact on us, prompting us to see the world through a different lens. And let’s face it, many of us have spent time daydreaming about the places on our bucket list over the past year and a half, one of which is a country renowned for its natural wonders: Australia.
When it comes to Australian cuisine, it’s all about quality ingredients, the people who produce them, and the landscapes in which they’re enjoyed. Celebrity chef, TV and podcast host, and best-selling author Dan Churchill understands this well. The Aussie was born on the northern beaches of Sydney and currently lives in New York City, where he’s the executive chef at fast-casual restaurant Charley St.
Despite living a long way from home, Churchill remains connected to and inspired by his Australian roots. And although we might not be planning international trips right now, we too can take inspiration for future travel to Australia (once its borders open to North American travellers again) from Churchill’s favourite Australian spots and recipes.
It’s easy to see why Churchill has a soft spot for Ningaloo Reef. As Australia’s largest fringing reef, it has a swathe of aquamarine waters hugging the shoreline of North West Cape. Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Area, the reef sustains everything from marine reptiles and mammals to tropical and temperate marine flora and fauna.
Just a few short metres from the beach, snorkelers are immersed in a world of vibrant, colourful coral, fish, sea turtles, and sometimes even manta rays. Meanwhile, offshore in the deeper waters, whale sharks and mighty migrating humpback whales can be found. Can visitors join diving tours to see these majestic creatures up close? You bet they can!
“Northwest Australia is a bit of a hidden gem and not as many people know about it,” says Churchill. “I always think of Exmouth, a resort town that is a gateway to the Ningaloo Marine Park with its incredible reefs, water, sports, and inland activities. Then you also have The Whitsundays, a super picturesque spot that many have become enamoured with, located above the Great Barrier Reef.”
A surfer’s paradise with endless golden beaches and reliable surf breaks, Byron Bay is located in New South Wales. Even though many visitors still come to this Australian town primarily for its tubular waves, its beaches offer the perfect backdrop for other activities, like meditation sessions, walking, and sheltered swimming in glistening waters.
“My own heritage lies on the eastern coast of Australia, and so, of course, I recommend that region fondly,” says Churchill. “You have Melbourne (known for its coffee and food scene, as well as sports) and Byron Bay (which has become a major hot spot in the past year as well).”
During a visit to Byron Bay, Churchill suggests kayaking along the clear waters at Cape Byron Marine Park — where you might just see a pod of bottlenose dolphins beside you (could you imagine?) — or join a snorkeling or scuba diving adventure at Julian Rocks to meet the area’s resident sea turtles.
You might also want to visit The Pass, a popular right-hand point break beach with white sand, located halfway between Main Beach and the Cape Byron Headland. (It sounds like pure bliss if you ask us.)
Also located in New South Wales, Sydney is home to over 100 breathtaking beaches with everything from calm, sheltered bays to secret coves and surf havens. The city fosters active living with a year-round Mediterranean climate and ample opportunities to have fun with aquatic activities, including snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and of course, surfing.
Many of the beaches in Sydney have cafés, restaurants, or shopping villages clustered around their edges, and most are easily accessible from the city centre (tan, shop, tan, then dine, kind of vibes). Prefer land-based activities? Don’t forget about the world-famous tourist destinations to visit, including the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, among countless others.
“The community there [in Sydney] is super active, and the area offers a trail of over fifteen beaches from Manly up to Palm Beach, with a mix of sailing, surfing, aquariums, and the harbour,” says Churchill.
In the meantime, you can get a little taste of Australia’s food scene by trying Churchill’s easy-to-follow Pollock Fish and Chips recipe on his website. It takes just 30 minutes to make, and the delicious plated result will have you dreaming of Australia in no time.