Staycations and daytrips: travel restrictions easing this month

This week, the Prime Minister announced a three-step roadmap to guide our country out of isolation. Australia’s State leaders have followed by assigning definite dates to freedoms we can once again soon enjoy – from eating in a café to camping in a national park, and even travelling up to 150 kilometres from your home for a fishing trip. With common sense and an eye on social distancing, could we soon have our (disinfected) fingers on the ‘Book’ button of a local holiday?

The short answer is ‘yes’, but it depends heavily on which state you’re in. With so many things these days, the longer answer involves checking rules, and respecting our ‘new normal’ that the government has handily named COVIDSafe behaviour – hand-washing, physical distancing and keeping that bottle of sanitiser ever nearby. With that in mind, domestic travel could be on the cards within the month in such states as Queensland and South Australia. Beyond June, for other states, so much depends on the public’s willingness to stay cautious and keep those coronavirus case numbers on a downward curve. For now, let’s take a look at the next month or two according to each state:


Physically distancing off Moreton Island. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

Already, residents of the Sunshine State have been allowed to travel up to 50 kilometres from their home, just for fun and leisure. From Friday 15 May, that will be extended to 150 kilometres from home, or 500 kilometres for residents of outback areas. Groups of 10 can gather anywhere from cafes and restaurants to libraries and parks – make that groups of 20, for outback residents. Swimming pools will be fully open too – an important consideration in areas like Cairns where the public pool is such a community hub.

Importantly, from Friday 12 June, restaurants, pubs and clubs will be able to accommodate 20 customers at a time; home gatherings can also number up to 20 people; and holiday travel will be allowed within your home region.

From Friday 10 July, gatherings can number up to 100 people, and both hiking and camping will be allowed in national and state parks. Nightclubs and casinos will also be reopening at this time.

As long as physical distancing and heightened hygiene practices continue to be observed, it looks like the Sunshine State could well become the capital of the staycation, with travel not only almost unrestricted but encouraged by this last step, so that residents can not only enjoy that famous sunshine, but restart the state’s tourism industry in the process.

New South Wales

Seeing Sydney from the water. Image: Mads Schmidt Rasmussen

From Friday 15 May, you may have up to five people visiting another household – with appropriate physical distancing, so Nanna will have to hold the hugs. Playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment are open once more, and cafes and restaurants may welcome up to 10 customers, distanced as per the four-square-metre ruling from before. No pubs open as yet, and the Premier is not keen on promoting local or regional travel as yet.

Australian Capital Territory

National Museum of Australia – still closed for now. Image: NMA

The ACT has been cautious until now, but is moving forward in line with the other states. From Saturday 16 May, cafes and restaurants can welcome up to 10 customers, as can community centres. Playgrounds, outdoor gyms and libraries will reopen, along with several national parks and reserves. For now, travel for leisure is not encouraged.


Hopetoun Falls, on the Great Ocean Road. Image: Steve Bittinger

As the most proactive state to enact lockdown at the beginning of the crisis, Victoria is being likewise cautious, with most of the significant easings of restrictions flagged for June. However, the five-person household visit rule is now in place, and 10 people can gather publicly. Golf, football and fishing are now allowed, with physical distancing, and the AFL and other pro sports teams are now able to recommence training.

Cafes, pubs and restaurants, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, caravan parks and camping, will all need to wait until June – although national parks are once again open for day visits.

South Australia

The wildlife of Kangaroo Island. Image: Judith West

With a swift response on border closures and a low coronavirus case count overall, South Australia is looking optimistic regarding domestic travel – which is great news for areas like Kangaroo Island, whose tourism industry was hit so hard already by the bushfires earlier this year.

Caravan parks and campgrounds are open as of this week, as are public swimming pools, and regional travel is being encouraged by the State government. Cafes and restaurants may have up to 10 patrons sitting outdoors only.

From Monday 8 June, restaurants and pubs are set to open for full service, as are cinemas, museums, art galleries and gyms – for up to 20 people in any gathering.

Western Australia

Wave Rock awaits. Image: Gyorgy Bakos

Gatherings of up to 10 people are already allowed; from Monday 18 May, that will increase to 20 people. Cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs and casinos can also welcome up to 20 customers, seated, with appropriate social distancing, with pubs able to serve alcohol only with a meal. Libraries, fitness classes, public pools and shops are also set to reopen from Monday, with the same 20-person rule.

Being geographically such a large area, Western Australia has been sectioned off into 13 bordered regions to limit population movement – and also to ensure biosecurity around the state’s more vulnerable Aboriginal communities. The 13 regions will be reduced to four regions on Monday, with the Kimberley and Goldfields remaining separate for now (the latter had one of the most recent cases of coronavirus within its bounds).

Western Australia remains firm on blocking interstate visitors from entering, with a 14-day quarantine rule still in place.


Hidden Lake. Image: Sylvia Yang

Fortress Tasmania is taking its island status seriously, and was the first state in Australia to go into lockdown – not without reason, as an early coronavirus outbreak affected the island’s north-west, leading to 5000 people ending up in isolation.

This week, national parks and reserves have opened for fitness excursions only, up to 30 kilometres from home.

From Monday 18 May, cafes and restaurants can accommodate up to 10 customers. Up to 10 people may gather publicly, increasing to 20 people from Monday 15 June.

Northern Territory

Fishing is unrestricted in the Northern Territory. Image: Pat Josse

At the other end of the country, and both the restriction and infection scale, the Northern Territory is clearly pleased with its own progress and zero death count (from only 30 infections overall). Residents can take heart from the forecast of the State Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, who said, “May 15 date night; June 5 Sunday sesh.”

Household visits are unrestricted, with appropriate physical distancing, and public parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and fishing areas all open. Residents are already able to go camping and, by the weekend, tourist attractions, wildlife parks, live shows and guided tours are all set to reopen, as long as any indoor activity is limited to two hours or less. Restaurants, cafes, clubs and bars are all open too.

From Friday 5 June, the two-hour limit will be removed. Cinemas, nightclubs, theatres and gaming venues will reopen.

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