There’s no-one Australians hold in higher esteem than their sporting heroes, and the country’s love of a contest on the field is legendary. From capital cities to country towns, here are seven of Australia’s must-see destinations for sports lovers. Tick off all seven and you can proudly call yourself one of Australia’s greatest sports fans! Book accommodation for your sporting odyssey at ChoiceHotels.com.
Canberra has plenty to entice visitors, including several of the country’s pre-eminent galleries and museums. But it’s the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) that will be at the top of the to-do list in the capital for sports fans. Located in Bruce, just a short drive from the city centre, the AIS offers a superb 90-minute guided tour of its facilities, which have trained many of Australia’s greatest sporting heroes. It’s a fascinating insight into what it actually takes to be the best of the best on the field. Tours include entrance to Sportex – which is packed with sporting memorabilia and a series of interactive exhibits.
Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Dickson Canberra is perfectly located as a base for exploring everything the capital has to offer. The hotel is just 8 minutes’ drive from the Australian Institute of Sport.
Adelaide is one of Australia’s most passionate sporting cities. Adelaideans love their AFL football, cricket and soccer, and there are high profile sporting events held throughout the year – including the Tour Down Under (the opening event of the cycling UCI World Tour), the Women’s Australian Open golf tournament, the Adelaide 500 supercar race, and in 2020 – game 1 of the State of Origin rugby league series. The historic Adelaide Oval is a must-visit and guided tours are offered daily (excluding match days and public holidays). The Oval is also home to the Bradman Collection – a museum of memorabilia dedicated to the greatest batsman of all time. Those with a head for heights can do the Roof Climb and walk across the top of the Riverbank Stand for fabulous views of the city.
Need a place to stay? Browse Adelaide accommodation options
Melbourne needs no introduction as a sporting mecca. You name it, it’s played here, and there’s probably a museum dedicated to it as well. Sports fans could fill a week visiting the top venues, most of which offer guided tours. If you only have time to tick off a couple of options, make them the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and the Australian Sports Museum (formerly the National Sports Museum). The MCG runs behind-the-scenes tours several times a day – one of the best value tourist activities in the city. The museum, which is located at the MCG, will reopen in late February 2020 after a complete revamp. It’s multi-disciplined and houses the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, the Australian Football Hall of Fame and the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. Expect to spend the best part of a day here.
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Sydney is no slouch as a sports lover’s dream destination either. All major sporting codes have a presence in the Harbour City, and again, whatever time of the year you choose to visit, you can expect there to be a tournament in progress. No-one will ever forget the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and the Games’ main venue – Stadium Australia at Olympic Park – has become enshrined in the national sporting psyche. Stadium tours are offered on weekdays and include the opportunity to step up onto the original Sydney Olympics medal podium.
If you have a day to spare during your stay in Sydney, it’s also well worth doing a day trip to the stunning Southern Highlands. The bustling town of Bowral is home to the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame. The Don spent his early years living in Bowral and the museum charts his incredible career on the pitch, as well as focussing on the history of the game itself (which is thought to date back to the 14th century).
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Over in the west, you can expect to meet some of the most fanatical sports fans in the country. Perth is home to two sporting must-sees, located on opposite sides of the Swan River at the eastern end of the CBD (and now linked by the Matagarup Bridge). The first is the iconic Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground, which has been the spiritual heart of WA sport for more than a century. Do a tour of the ground and spend some time in the excellent museum soaking up more than a century’s worth of sporting memorabilia. Once you’re done, wander over the footbridge to the newly constructed and architecturally remarkable Perth Stadium in Burswood. This multipurpose venue can hold 60,000 spectators, cupped in what looks like a giant bird’s nest. Tours of the state-of-the-art venue operate four times a day from Monday to Friday.
Need a place to stay? Browse Perth accommodation options
Motor sports enthusiasts should make their way to the regional New South Wales city of Bathurst, which hosts one of Australia’s most famous motor racing events – the touring car Bathurst 1000 on Mount Panorama. Much of the Mount Panorama circuit is a public road, and anyone can drive it on non-event days (provided they stick to the speed limit). The National Motor Racing Museum is located adjacent to the track and showcases the history of the Bathurst 1000, along with various other forms of motorised racing – including motorbike, drag, rally and more. The memorabilia on display includes ‘King of the Mountain’ Peter Brock’s collection of trophies and sashes. Brock took out the Bathurst 1000 nine times.
Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Bathurst makes the perfect base for exploring the region and is located just a short drive from Mount Panorama. The hotel has 50 rooms and an inhouse restaurant that serves modern Australian cuisine. Alternatively, walk to city cafes and eateries with ease. Relax in the indoor heated pool, spa and sauna at the end of a busy day of sightseeing.
Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is best known for its sublime coastal scenery and the epic 12 Apostles rock formations, but it’s also hallowed ground for surfing enthusiasts. The Pro Bells Beach surf competition – the second stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour circuit – is held at Bells Beach at Easter. Even if you’re not a huge surfing fan, it’s worth spending some time at the Australian National Surfing Museum in nearby Torquay. The museum is dedicated to all facets of the sport and hosts a vast and colourful collection of surf craft.
Need a place to stay? Drive on to the tourist hub of Apollo Bay and check into the superb Comfort Inn The International. The hotel is located right opposite the beach and offers well-appointed rooms with large bathrooms. Walk to shops, cafes and restaurants and make use of the complimentary Wi-Fi. If you’re closer to Geelong, stay at Quality Hotel Bayside Geelong, located just twenty minutes from Avalon Airport.
Also held at Easter in regional Victoria, the Stawell Gift is renowned as the richest foot race in Australia. Competitors from across the country and the globe take part in the event, which culminates in the 12-second 120-metre final at Central Park. Whatever time of the year you find yourself passing through this historic town, drop into the fascinating Stawell Gift Hall of Fame. It has an archive of material dating back to the first Gift in 1878 and is as much a commentary on the changing face of the country as it is on the race itself.
Need a place to stay? Econo Lodge Goldfields is conveniently located on the southern approach into Stawell from Melbourne, and just 15 minutes’ drive to the Grampians National Park. It offers comfortable, well priced accommodation options (some with kitchenettes), a saltwater solar-heated pool and an onsite bar and restaurant.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.