Locals know this as the signal to brace themselves for the annual onslaught of …(pause for dramatic effect)…SCHOOLIES!
If you are lucky enough to live in a place that, for the most part, is made up of early morning dips in the surf on a near-deserted beach, or quiet afternoon strolls along the waters’ edge, and a neighbourly catch up over coffee at the local café, then you know that schoolies is the time to, how do I say? Get the h*** OUT.
Start the search for cheap flights to a schoolie-free refuge. The following is a list of my top picks for escaping the hormonal tsunami that’s about to hit your hometown.
1. Katoomba, The Blue Mountains – New South Wales
Hit hard by the recent bushfires, the iconic Australian Blue Mountains have been burned and blackened but are still breathtakingly beautiful. It’s about a 90-minute drive from Sydney to your base in the town of Katoomba. From here, you’re close to two of the Blue Mountain’s most popular sights, the Katoomba Falls and The Three Sisters. Aboriginal legend has it that the three sandstone towers rising from the valley floor were once sisters – they were turned to stone by a tribal elder to stop them marrying members of a rival tribe.
2. Canberra – Australian Capital Territory
I can guarantee you’re not going to be caught up in any schoolie shenanigans in our nation’s capital. However, you will find yourself with easy access to some of our country’s greatest museums and galleries and our most striking national monuments and public buildings. Don’t miss Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery, the Royal Australian Mint, and Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre.
3. Daintree National Park
Poor Queensland, it bears the brunt of the Schoolie force in summer. Luckily, it’s a short flight to Cairns and from there an easy drive to some blessedly quiet wilderness. The Daintree is a magnificent tropical rainforest and one of the oldest surviving on the planet. You can explore this magnificence on foot, by car, in a boat (on the Daintree River), on horseback, or, if you want to get the heart rate up, on a zip-line through the forest canopy.
4. Melbourne - Victoria
There’s not much you can’t do in Melbourne. The city centre is a foodie paradise, from high-end degustation menus to trawling the stalls at the Queen Vic Market. There are world-class live shows on offer, from the Australian Ballet to dive-bar jazz. Sporting options are endless, and the shopping can keep you going till stumps. When it’s time to take it down a notch there are some lush gardens and parks where you can lay out a picnic blanket, munch through your market goodies and just lie back and relax.
5. Hobart - Tasmania
If it’s been a while since you’ve visited the Apple Isle, then you’re in for a treat. For a place that was once thought of as a bit of a backwater, little ol’ Hobart has gone and grown up into a first-class travel destination. Thanks in no small part to the establishment of Mona – the Museum of Old and New Art. The museum is Tasmania’s very own artistic field of dreams – he built it, and they came. In droves. As well as the wondrous Mona, Hobart’s sandstone Salamanca Place is not to be missed – be there on Saturdays for the market.
6. Uluru (via Alice Springs) – Northern Territory
Rising out of the dusty red earth, the Uluru is nearly a staggering 870m high, more than 2km wide and 3.6km long. Making it easy to understand why it has played such an important part in the spiritual lives of the indigenous Australians who have lived in this region for over 30,000 years. Walk around the base of the rock - it’s a reverential experience.
7. Adelaide – South Australia
Now Adelaide, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but when I was trying to come up with cities that schoolies would like to party in, your name never came up. Which is why it’s perfect here. Adelaide has a superb fresh food market, some lovely botanic gardens and plentiful parks for lounging around in – entirely schoolies-free.