How to be a tourist in your own town
So, you're staying put at home this holiday season and wondering what to do. Your normal crowd have dispersed to the four winds, a lot of your favourite places are on break… frankly, you're bored. So now is the perfect time to do what thousands of people do in your city every year: see it like a tourist does.
It's always wonderful to see your own city through fresh eyes, especially if you've been there a while. After all, the person lobbing in from the airport doesn't know about that awesome cafe down the road or that brilliant hole-in-the-wall bar that you and your friends hit on a Friday night: they see only the big, bold and brassy things. And hey, maybe – just maybe - they're on to something.
So here are ten suggestions for what you can do while you've time on your hands and a spring in your step. If nothing else, it means that next time you have friends from interstate or overseas with you, you'll actually be able to answer when they ask “so, is such-and-such actually any good?”
1. The zoo
Unless you have kids, nieces, nephews or the kids of friends, you probably haven't been to the zoo in ages. And here's the thing: zoos are great. Forget the sad-looking animals pacing in cages: zoos are mightily concerned with environmental issues and animal conservation these days, with as much thought put into layout and sustainability as to looking after the beasts themselves. Been to the zoo recently? How about the aquarium? The wildlife park? The native animal sanctuary? There are options out there.
2. Test out the tourist traps
You know all the stuff that is designed for tourists? Do that stuff. In Sydney? Do the Bridge Climb. In Melbourne? Go visit Federation Square. In Adelaide? Ride Popeye down the Torrens. Whatever the thing that you'd never think of doing in a million years because it looks tacky, do it. It'll be worth it just for the Facebook check-in.
3. Spend a night in a hotel
Let's face it: you never stay in a hotel in the city you live in. So why not jump onto one of the myriad other cheap travel and accommodation sites and have a night somewhere fancy on the beachfront or the CBD, and test out how visitors see your town. And as a bonus, everyone knows that hotel lovin' is at least 65% hotter than domestic lovin'. It's those thick, soundproofing curtains.
4. Visit the museums
When was the last time you had a fossick around your capital city's museum? They're not just gift shops with a cafe attached, you know: they're all large, beautiful buildings filled with an ever-changing collection of fascinating artefacts – and in at least two Australian states, contain models of Diprotodons. They're hippo-sized marsupials which were sort of like wombats, you know: how could you seriously not want to go see that?
5. Take a cruise on your river/harbour
With just about every great Australian city on the coast, and most of them based around a river, you can guarantee that there are cruises allowing you to see your hometown from a whole different perspective. Hit the harbour, take a ferry up the river, just get out on the water and see your town at sea level.
6. Hit your local iconic beach
You always go to your special beach, far from the madding crowd. Well, maybe it's time to give the madding crowd a go and actually fight for some space at the best-known stretches. Cottesloe Beach in Perth, St Kilda in Melbourne, Glenelg in Adelaide, Sandgate in Brisbane (or, of course, hit the Sunshine Coast), or Bondi in Sydney: wherever the backpackers go, that's where you should spend the day.
7. A meal in your city's best-known restaurant
Everyone's a foodie these days and, again, you most likely have your go-to places that you adore, those local secrets and sentimental favourites. Forget them: what's the most awarded, Michelin-starred, multiple-hatted eatery in your city? Make a booking and have a meal there. If it's somewhere you'd never go in a million years, all the better.
8. Take a tour
You've probably blocked out the tourist buses trundling through your city streets, but now is the time to get on the top deck and do a lap of your town. Do a ghost tour, or an audio trip around significant sites. Every city has dozens of explorations of local colour and history, and it's worth doing if only to go “um, as a local…” when they make some egregiously false claim.
9. Wander around the Markets
Salamanca markets in Hobart, Central Markets in Adelaide, the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne – heck, even run through the stalls at the tackfest that is Paddies in Sydney (seriously, how many wig stalls does one market require?). And the best part is you won't have to work out how to send your shopping home.
10. Hit an Art Gallery
Like museums, it's a safe bet that you haven't been through your state art gallery recently; and if you have, you probably were checking out a touring exhibition. When was the last time you took a seriously relaxed stroll through the permanent collection? Every gallery has its treasures awaiting rediscovery.