April 13, 2024

When Australia clamped its borders shut in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, it implemented some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures. International tourism was paused, and even Ozzies were barred from coming and going. The COVID-zero approach worked for a while: Australia kept its mortality rate remarkably low through most of the pandemic. But once the majority of its citizens 16 and up were vaccinated, the government took a U-turn—embracing what some have called a “let it rip” approach, lifting lockdowns and mask mandates precisely as Omicron started surging.

While the decision remains controversial, tourism is forging ahead. On February 21, Australia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated visa holders from a number of countries, including the United States, building on a late-2021 loosening of travel restrictions that allowed visitors from New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea to be the first foreigners to re-enter.

To enter, Americans must present a valid Australian visa, proof of full vaccination (defined as two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved COVID-19 vaccine, which includes Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J), and a negative rapid antigen or PCR test taken within 24 hours of departure. With the exception of Western Australia, whose own reopening is set for March 3, this allows vaccinated tourists to travel quarantine-free throughout much of the country. Visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still need a valid travel exemption to enter and may be subject to additional state and territory quarantine requirements.

Despite the myriad challenges of protracted lockdowns, life has continued apace—with new hotels, museums, restaurants, and cultural experiences launching at an impressive clip. Here’s what travelers have to look forward to Down Under, right in time for the country’s reopening, organized by region.

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Luke’s Kitchen at the Kimpton Margot Sydney, New South Wales

Kimpton Margot Sydney

New South Wales

Sydney is getting a slew of new hotels in 2022, including options from Capella, W, and the first Ace Hotel in the southern hemisphere. Landing ASAP? Snag a suite at the glamorous Kimpton Margot Sydney, which opened earlier this month in a heritage Art Deco building on Pitt Street. The first Kimpton in Oz, the 172-room hotel boasts a swanky rooftop swimming pool, restaurant from celebrity chef Luke Mangan, and custom Lekker bikes for tooling around Surry Hills and Darlinghurst.

For nature enthusiasts, there’s a new snorkeling-with-seals experience at Montague Island (Barunguba) led by Sapphire Coastal Adventures. The small-group tours traverse the coastline between Bermagui and Narooma in Batemans Marine Park, four hours south of Sydney. The stretch is home to large colonies of Australian and New Zealand Fur Seal and Little Penguins, Grey Nurse Sharks, and nesting seabirds. Lucky swimmers may even glimpse a dolphin or whale gliding through the water.

https://www.cntraveler.com/story/a-coast-to-coast-guide-to-the-best-new-things-to-do-in-australia