Australia/South Pacific

International (Destination)

August 2016

Australia offers range of awesome aquatic allures

by Jeff Heilman

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    Lucky Bay, Cape le Grand National Park, Western Aus.

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    Sydney Harbour

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    Twelve Apostles aerial, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Officially unveiled this January in New York City, the latest installment of Tourism Australia’s global “There’s Nothing Like Australia” campaign focuses on Oz’s many aquatic and coastal experiences.

Water is lifeblood in this unique island-nation-continent, which boasts 19,000 miles of coastline surrounded by oceans and seas ranging from tropical to sub-Antarctic. With 70 percent of international visitors seeking out an aquatic and coastal experience, as noted at the launch by Tourism Australia’s Managing Director John O’Sullivan, it’s also an irresistible calling card for groups.

“For corporate decision-makers who have visited, Australia delivers strongly,” said Penny Lion, Tourism Australia’s executive general manager of events. “Our natural environments are a key driver of this satisfaction, and this especially includes our world-class aquatic and coastal experiences, which provide yet another platform on which to showcase our destinations, superior accommodation options, world-famous food and wine, and outstanding event delivery capabilities.”

With major facility expansions and global recognition keeping business events flowing, Australia’s ways with water are winning even more attention.


Boasting the world’s largest natural harbor and 70-plus beaches, Sydney is an unrivalled aquatic playground. From seafood restaurants to surfing lessons, there are hundreds of waterfront event spaces and aquatic activities within a 19-mile radius of the city.

For spectacular city views from some 440 feet above Sydney Harbour, there are several different guided experiences up the ironwork of the mighty Sydney Harbour Bridge. Groups seeking higher inspiration can arrange seaplane tours over the harbor area and beyond, while those looking to hit the water below can book cruises or sailing challenges with popular provider East Sail. From ferry rides to jet boating, other options run as deep as the harbor itself.

 With two harbor-facing outdoor decks, historic Crystal Palace is an inviting event spot at the famed Luna Park amusement complex, while inside the iconic Sydney Opera House, Bennelong restaurant hosts private events in a setting as stunning as the cuisine. Inspiring, too, are Sydney’s beaches, from intimate Tamarama (locally, Glamarama), site of the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, to iconic Bondi, where groups can learn how to surf, dine facing the water and soak in the remarkable scene.

Set to open this December, the A$1.1 billion (USD$838 million) International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) delivers a commanding new high-tech convention, exhibition and entertainment complex on the Darling Harbour waterfront.

Anchoring the overall A$3 billion (USD$2.3 billion) Darling transformation, the project, which has already attracted more than A$220 million (USD$168 million) in new business, includes an attached 600-room headquarters hotel. Now offering 892 rooms, nearby Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, Australia’s largest hotel, has completed a major A$200 million (USD$152 million) makeover.


Melbourne, Victoria’s stylish capital on the shores of Port Phillip Bay, is a global leader for major international academic, medical and scientific conferences. This May, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) confirmed plans first announced in 2014 for an A$205 million (USD$156 million), 66,000-square-foot addition. Featuring 30,000 square feet of new exhibition halls, new meeting and banquet rooms and a new 305-room hotel, the expansion, aiming for 2018, will grow total space to more than 230,000 square feet.

 MCEC sits on the banks of Melbourne’s other major body of water, the Yarra River, which takes center stage for tours, cruises, riverfront venues and events like the famous Moomba Festival, dragon boat races and Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

Sister venues Encore, Republica and Captain Baxter are group choices on St. Kilda Beach, while Big Stick Adventures offers sailing excursions in Port Phillip Bay, including runs to the scenic Mornington Peninsula. Helicopter and ground tours of the spectacular Twelve Apostles limestone spires along iconic Great Ocean Road are Melbourne musts.


Brisbane, capital of Queensland, was recently crowned world convention venue champion. In June, the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) turned 21, celebrating 18,000 events, 14 million visitors and A$3.87 billion (USD$2.9 billion) in economic benefit. One month later, the venue, host for the 2014 G20 Summit, was named World’s Best Convention Centre by the International Association of Congress Centres (AIPC).

Next year sees the anticipated completion of the new waterfront Howard Smith Wharves development, including an exhibition and event venue and boutique hotel.

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