Recession busters: top 25 under $50
Leave the gloom to the doomsayers, and cheer your spirit up with an energy boost at some of Australia's fabulous locations.
Whether you're in the city, in the bush or on the coast, there's every opportunity to get out and try something new and fun.
Beaches are free; trekking in the bush is free; visiting a museum or art gallery is free.
Australians are blessed with natural and cultural wonders that make our egalitarian lifestyle the envy of the world.
Here is a selection of 25 great ideas for under $50 that can buy you a new lease on life.
1. Visit the Great Walks of Queensland website to find a world class walking track near you.
Some of Queensland's best natural areas are yours to explore, whetherit's traversing coastlines, taking in our ancient rainforests ordiscovering the highlands.
Go to www.epa.qld.gov.au/parksandforests/greatwalks
2. Take a dip at South Bank. Not many cities can boast a beach in themiddle of the city, but Streets Beach in the heart of Brisbane'scultural precinct is a wonderfully weird addition to the city thatnever says no to a dip.
3. While we're in the water, for those in Cairns, the Cairns Lagoon,set on the foreshore overlooking Trinity Inlet is a saltwater swimminglagoon which can accommodate up to 1000 swimmers.
Ditto Airlie Beach lagoon - the gateway to the Whitsundays, Airlie's Lagoon beach is a central hub for the region.
Cost for both: Free.
4. Enjoy a picnic in the vineyard. Charming Canungra Valley Vineyards,with its beautiful old restored Queensland homestead, rolling gardensand platypus-bearing creek, is perfect for a day in the Gold CoastHinterland.
From only $28 per person, you can pick up your picnic basket filledwith goodies, grab a bottle of wine from the cellar door, and find aperfect spot near the creek to laze away a few hours.
For more, go to www.oreillys.com.au or call (07) 5543 40111.
Cost: from $28 per person.
5. Get adventurous on the Brisbane River. Riverlife Adventure Centreoffers a great selection of activities, from abseiling to nightkayaking.
For more, go to www.riverlife.com.au
Cost: Activities vary, but you can abseil, for example, for $34 per person or take a kayak instruction for $34 per person.
6. Experience Aboriginal culture. Riverlife Mirrabooka is a wonderfulnew addition to the Brisbane based Riverlife Adventure Centre withcultural presentations delivered by the Yuggera Aboriginal Dancers inthe middle of natural bushland at Kangaroo Point.
Bookings essential, so go to www.riverlife.com.au/aboriginal-experiences.
Cost: Thursday special price $45 adults, $25 students (8-18).
7. Find your hidden backpacker. Backpacking Queensland has a range ofaccommodation in some of the most fabulous locations in the country.
For example, ParrotFish Lodge in Port Douglas has dormitory style beds going from $26 per person.
For more go to www.parrotfishlodge.com or www.backpackingqueensland.com.au
Cost: From around $26 per person per night.
8. See below.
9. One for the birds. Wander through the delightful Rainforest HabitatWildlife Sanctuary at Port Douglas to discover a world of ancientbeauty.
One of the highlights is breakfast with the birds or lunch with the lorikeets.
For more, go to www.rainforesthabitat.com.au
Cost: $39 including breakfast or lunch.
10. Explore the Noosa Food and Wine Trail. Spend a weekend in thisbeautiful part of the world and sample the produce, meet the farmers,visit the wineries and markets, and enjoy the conviviality of a relaxedcountry drive.
For a free guide, go to http:// www.visitnoosa.com.au/index.cfm/contentitem/show/noosa-food-trail
11. Have a roast at the Apollonian Hotel. Each Sunday, the Boreen Pointpub (about a 30 minute drive from Noosa) puts on a legendary spit roast- get there early as it's first in best fed.
Carving starts at midday, and live music goes on in the beer garden until 4pm.
Phone (07) 5485 3100.
Cost: Sunday roast lunch $15 per person.
12. Take in the view. It's 230m above sea level, and you can get to thetop in just 43 seconds. Q1 is the Gold Coast's lanky star, the tallestresidential tower in the world - and you can enjoy the amazing 360views from the 77th level.
Cost: Adults $28.50, children $10 (less if you purchase online).
13. Learn to surf. Surfing Australia has a list of surf schools allover the nation where pro surfers will have you standing up proudly inno time at all.
Go to www.surfingaustralia.com
Cost: varies, but at Coolum, for example, a 1.5 hour lesson is $50 per person for a group of four.
Go to www.coolum.com.au/coolumsurfingschool
14. Been to Bundy lately? One of the gems along the coast, you canstill find digs on the beach for around $20 at the Bargara BeachCaravan Park.
New South Wales
15. Shear magic. Visit the Shearers Hall of Fame and other exhibits andentertainment at this wonderful tribute museum, Shear Outback, in Hay.Driving into the region is a treat itself, as the never ending panoramaof the Hay plains lets you know you're in Banjo Patterson country.
Cost: $15 adults, $8 children or $35 family.
16. Fishing for fossils. Canowindra is in the heart of some of thestate's most glorious wine growing areas, a short drive from Cowra.
This is home not only to the fantastic Marti's hot air balloon fiestaeach April, where all shapes of balloons make a magical sight in thesky, but also to one of our most unique museums.
The Age of Fishes Museum recounts a time long before dinosaurs ruledthe region, when the world was populated by fish - fish with lungs,fish with jaws the size of crocs, fish with armour plating.
Go to www.ageoffishes.org.au
17. See below.
18. Cockatoo Island is the ultimate camping spot.
The largest of the harbour islands, it's one of Sydney's surprisepackages. Only 10 minutes from the city by ferry, settle in to watchthe twilight, then get up early and watch the sunrise over the HarbourBridge - pretty special.
Go to www.cockatooisland.gov.au for details.
Cost: $45 a night.
19. Wine Odyssey Australia is situated in the historic Rocks.
Learn about great Australian wines from the experts in the Aroma Room and Tasting Theatre.
You'll be taught the secrets of wine appreciation, expand your wine vocabulary and taste six world class Australian wines.
For more and to book, go to www.wineodyssey.com.au
Cost: $39.85 per adult.
20. Join the Riverboat Postman cruise up the glorious Hawkesbury Riveras Australia's last riverboat postie delivers his cargo to quaintsettlements along the historic route. Runs Monday to Friday from 9.30amto 1.15pm (except public holidays).
Go to www.hawkesburyriverferries.com.au for full details.
Cost: $50 per adult, $30 child or $130 family pass.
21. Relive your childhood or introduce your kids to the delights of theBlue Mountains with a trip on the glorious Zig Zag railway.
Located at Clarence, 10km south of Lithgow, the Zig Zag was built inthe 1860s, constructed to transport people and produce from the westernplains of NSW to Sydney.
For more, go to www.zigzagrailway.com.au
Cost: Adult return $25, children $12.50.
22. Visit the Channon Country Market, just out of Lismore, the original established 20 years ago.
These days, country markets on the north coast and northern rivers are held in various towns and villages every weekend.
For details go to www.northernriverstourism.com.au
You're sure to pick up a bargain here for under $50.
23. Cruise the wetlands. Kingfisher cruises travels the narrowestsection of the mighty Murray River, between Albury and the ocean,called the Narrows or the Barmah Choke. On your two hour cruise, you'lllearn about the prolific wildlife - more than 230 species of birds -and 500 plant species.
Go to www.kingfishercruises.com.au for more.
Cost $26.50 for two hour cruise, $18.50 for kids.
24. Swim under a waterfall. Dorrigo, overlooking the Coffs Coast, isgateway to national treasures in the World Heritage listed parks.
Take the spectacular drive along Waterfall Way, which stretches 280km from the Pacific Highway, west to Tamworth.
Dorrigo's Dangar Falls are a huge attraction. Dive in and swim through crystal waters under the falls.
Go to www.dorrigo.com/attractions/rainforest
25. Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park at Calga, about an hour's drivenorth of Sydney off the F3, is a wonderland of fauna experiences.Visitors are treated to talks, tours, Aboriginal sites, bush tucker andbush medicine.
Go to www.walkaboutpark.com.au for more.
Cost: $24.50 adults, $12.00 child inclusive of talks and tours.
■ Next month we look at 25 more cheap secrets around the country.