The bits of Australia that have really improved


David Whitley takes a look at the regions of Australia that have changed for the better in the last decade-and-a-half.

I first arrived in Australia in 2001, and after living there for five years, have managed to go back once or twice a year since. In that time, the country has changed – some of it for the better, some of it for the worse. But some improvements have been more significant than others… 


The Victorian capital always struck me as a bit try-hard, desperate to compare itself to a European city and bang on about the things it does better than Sydney. Now, Melbourne has grown into itself, and many of things it pretended to have are now real. The laneway scene is superb, and Melbourne has become a genuine world city – worth coming to in its own right, and for its own personality. It no longer wastes its energy comparing itself to other places; the food, drink and cultural scenes are top rank.




Once an almost abandoned city centre, surrounded by suburbia, Perth has thrown money at its faults. The city centre is coming back to life, with lots of bars, restaurants and street art tucked down lanes and precincts set back from the main streets. Big developments at Elizabeth Quay and Scarborough Beach, plus the burying of a train line to join the centre and Northbridge, have also helped. Basically, if another Aussie city is going to join Sydney and Melbourne on the must-see list, Perth is likely to be it. 

Margaret River

Once just a surf spot and wine region, Margaret River has started properly tapping into the market of people willing to drive three hours south from Perth, and a whole host of nature, wildlife and adventure tour operators have sprung up in the last couple of years. The effect is to increase the number of people ‘Margs’ appeals to, and the number of days they want to stay there. The switch from backwater to mainstream is almost complete.


Once a bit fuddy duddy, focusing on historic attractions, Tasmania has properly embraced its natural side. Much of the island is wilderness, with mountain hikes, river rafting and clifftop walks to photogenic beaches rounding things off. But, crucially, it has embraced the arts. The daring, controversial MONA in Hobart has been the main catalyst for this, but Hobart itself has clicked that being small doesn’t have to mean being parochial. It now has a little sass to go along with the prettiness. 

The Red Centre

The ban on climbing Uluru is coming – and not before time. But it’s interesting to see how the Red Centre has changed over time. At one point, it’d be a case of driving for hours, exploring the big red rock, then not having much to do. Now, there is an emphasis on providing other activities – camel rides, stargazing sessions, dot painting workshops, desert wildlife tours and giant art installations. It’s all an attempt to get people to stay longer at the Ayers Rock Resort, of course, and prices are still uncomfortably steep, but it’s a vastly better offering and makes the detour to the middle of nowhere more appealing.



by David Whitley




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