Where next: The hot new holiday destinations for 2019

This is where you should go and the experiences you need to try this year - from exploring South Australia's wine country and horseriding in Sumba, Indonesia, to stargazing in New Zealand.

Vibrant Ho Chi Minh City has so much to offer
  • Kate Baracossa
  • December 2018

Want to go off the beaten track and try something different in your travels in the new year? From active breaks and glamping getaways to relaxing escapes with little else to do other than lounge on the beach with a cocktail, these are the next destinations you need to head to.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

This city’s unique buzz has become so loud it’s now on everyone’s travel radar. It’s possible to soar to Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor in the morning, then spend the afternoon enjoying a AUD $2 beer on a plastic stool perched precariously close to the road. Each of Ho Chi Minh City’s 24 districts has a distinct feel. Historic attractions – such as the important War Remnants Museum in District 3 – stand alongside innovative restaurants experimenting with Vietnamese cuisine (one even created a seriously gourmet AUD $140 banh mi), an explosion of new microbreweries and a deeply entrenched café culture. And while there’s a satisfaction that comes from successfully dodging the swarm of motorbikes as you cross the street, the city’s first metro line, set to open in 2020, will make exploring this great city far less heart-stopping.

Leeward Coast, Hawaii

It’s easy to get caught in the Waikiki bubble. But leave its beach and sprawling malls behind, hire a car and head west for a different perspective of life on Oahu. Here you have two choices. The first is a family-friendly experience: stay at a series of all-inclusive resorts clustered around purpose-built lagoons ideal for little keiki (kids), have a round on an 18-hole golf course and take a trip to the Wet’n’Wild waterpark. The second is more focused on primal beauty: hiking to mountain peaks formed by millennia-old lava flows and visiting Makaha Beach Park, a spot linked with the first serious attempts at big-wave surfing. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed a memorable trip.


Test the legendary waves at surfing beach Makaha
Test the legendary waves at surfing beach Makaha.

McLaren Vale, Australia

For the past year, the dream-like d’Arenberg Cube has drawn wine lovers’ attention away from South Australia’s Barossa Valley and towards McLaren Vale, a rural enclave south of Adelaide known for producing a good red. Now that it’s established itself as one of the region’s premier attractions, there’s room to appreciate some of the new kids on the block. Boutique winery and brewery Victor’s Place opened in mid 2018, while winery Coriole launched its new on-site restaurant Gather with Tom Tilbury in the kitchen. Mitolo Wines has also refurbished its cellar door and restaurant.


Cellar door and restaurant d'Arenberg Cube.
Cellar door and restaurant d'Arenberg Cube.

Japan

Face-painted rugby tragics will descend all over Japan to cheer on their teams come the 2019 Rugby World Cup in September. But there’s more to see than just the stadiums. One of the first matches in Sapporo, on Hokkaido island, coincides with the Sapporo Autumn Fest (sapporo-autumnfest.jp/english), which includes the chance to sample miso-spiked ramen and Japanese delicacies amid the falling leaves. Osaka, on Honshu island, is a food lover’s dream – a blend of Michelin-starred restaurants, kushikatsu stores and street cooks whipping up snacks such as takoyaki (balls of fried octopus, ginger and green onion). Soak away post-match exhilaration – or disappointment – at an onsen in Oita Prefecture (Kyushu island) or get psyched up for a big game by whizzing through the streets of Tokyo on a real-life Mario Kart.

Wanaka New Zealand

Queenstown is the default destination for adventure seekers but there’s another hub of thrills equal in natural beauty just an hour’s drive away on the South Island. Wanaka is full of adrenaline-pumping options: tackle the Cardrona ski fields, where winter Olympians practise their craft, go skydiving, rock-climbing, mountain biking, parasailing or heliskiing. The most recent addition? The space-age dome tents at First Tracks Wanaka Geo Dome Heli Camp high up in the McKerrow Range. It’s accessible only by helicopter, offering exclusive access to remote ski-tour terrain. The timid need not apply.


Get the blood pumping in Wanaka.
Get the blood pumping in Wanaka.

Boracay, Philippines

Boracay was closed for six months in 2018. The 10-square-kilometre island had become so popular that its pristine white beaches were in urgent need of restoration. Now it’s ready to welcome back visitors with a fresh new image. Casinos, bonfires and beach parties are out – electric tricycles, wetland parks and sustainable eco-tourism are in, meaning the island is on its way to recapturing the off-the-grid feel that attracted travellers in the first place. Visit in mid 2019 when more improvements to hotels and roads are complete.


Stunning post-makeover Boracay.
Stunning post-makeover Boracay.

Koh Kood, Thailand

Just when you thought there were no more unspoilt Thai islands left to discover... On the eastern side is laid-back Koh Kood, an island that’s retained most of its paradisiacal features. While there are plenty of places to stay, from beachfront bungalows to high-end resorts such as Soneva Kiri, there’s really not much to do – which is exactly why you should go. Your choice of activities for the day might include a spa treatment, laying on the beach watching the local fishermen (about 2000 people live here), cruising out to sea in a kayak or hiking through the forest to plunge into the pool beneath Klong Chao waterfall. Tough choices.


Escape the bustle of Thailand at this getaway destination.
Escape the bustle of Thailand at this getaway destination.

Da Nang, Vietnam

Da Nang has lived several lives: sleepy backwater, bustling port city, army landing zone. And it’s transformed again, this time into an attractive location for luxury hotels. It’s an ideal base for exploring the surrounding sleepy beaches and the vertiginous crags of the Marble Mountains, as well as some man-made wonders. The Golden Bridge, sculpted to look as though it’s supported by two giant hands emerging from the ground, can be found in the nearby Ba Na Hills.

Kata Tjuta, Australia

Uluru might receive most of the adoration when it comes to sights in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park but the latter half of the park’s namesake is just as worthy of awe. Kata Tjuta, an Aboriginal phrase meaning “many heads”, is a cluster of 36 rust-red domes (also known as the Olgas) sacred to the native Anangu people. For a close-up look, take the three-hour Valley of the Winds walk that weaves between the rocks and has two lookout points from which to really take them in. Go early in the day to increase your chances of seeing the rocks change colour as the sun moves higher in the sky and of spotting kangaroos grazing nearby.


Kata Tjuta is probably the Red Centre's best kept secret.
Kata Tjuta is probably the Red Centre's best kept secret.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

You don’t need to go to Scandinavia to see an ephemeral light show. Though the Northern Lights have never been more popular, their southern counterpart, aurora australis, is just as dazzling – and gaining popularity. One of the best spots to catch the Southern Lights is Lake Tekapo, in the Mackenzie Basin on New Zealand’s South Island. The Aoraki-Mackenzie region was named an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012 – one of only 12 in the world – in recognition of its sparkling night skies. As interest in these natural phenomena increase, there is more happening in the area, such as a new night-time photography tour to the Church of the Good Shepherd and in April 2019, a new Earth and Sky astronomy experience is set to open, providing unparalleled access to the stars.


Witness awe-inspiring cosmic displays at Earth and Sky Observatory.
Witness awe-inspiring cosmic displays at Earth and Sky Observatory.

Sumba, Indonesia

Bali has been a favourite destination for decades but travellers are starting to seek out new spots to explore in the Indonesian archipelago. Enter Sumba in the East Nusa Tenggara province, a few skips east of Bali. The island is a delight for horseriders who can ride through waves like local horsemen on a bush-to-beach trail tour organised through Nihi Sumba. The resort even has an equine meditation program.


Sumba is set to be the next big holiday hotspot in Indonesia.
Sumba is set to be the next big holiday hotspot in Indonesia.

Bokor National Park, Cambodia

Seeing the sunrise over Angkor Wat might be the reason Cambodia makes it onto travel bucket lists but its lush national parks should be your new reason to visit. Bokor National Park, in the country’s south-west, was once a favoured retreat for French colonialists – the ruins of their holiday homes still stand. These days, the accommodation is a little different. Shinta Mani Wild, nestled between Bokor and Cardamom national parks, is an eco glamping experience, where you can get back in touch with nature by accompanying rangers as they monitor local wildlife populations.


There's a reason Bokor National Park was a holiday hotspot during colonial times.
Bokor National Park offers a back-to-nature experience.

Newcastle, Australia

It’s been a rebrand 10 years in the making: Newcastle is officially cool. Though this coastal city two hours’ drive north of Sydney has always drawn outdoorsy types keen to explore its ocean pools and nearby national parks, the influx of new drinking dens and eateries courtesy of a decade-long initiative to revitalise empty spaces is enticing a new crowd. Speakeasy Coal and Cedar is slinging inventive cocktails, craft beer bar The Grain Store is tempting tourists with interesting hops and Corner House Café is a Scandi-style space serving single origin coffee and all the breakfast necessities. Consider it your next gourmet getaway.