For me, this one item of footwear sums up what it means to be Australian. Sure, it’s a couple of pieces of rubber. But it’s what it represents that’s important. Simple, comfortable, egalitarian: from paupers to prime ministers, everyone feels at home in thongs.
But where do you and the family take your pair to celebrate our national day? Here is my personal list of the best places to rejoice:
THE ETTAMOGAH PUB
If you haven’t been to this icon of Australiana, rescind your citizenship immediately. Four hotels have spouted from the Ken Maynard cartoons, but I reckon the one at Palmview on the Sunshine Coast is the best. The wonky timber building is chock-a-block full of Aussie memorabilia. The toilets are labelled “Sheilas, Ladies, Dunny, Outhouse, Loo” and Bluey’s Bar & Grill serves a rib fillet as big as your head.
THE LIVERPOOL PLAINS
We’ve all got to eat. And without our food bowl on the north-west slopes of NSW, that would be rather difficult. Last year, I had the privilege of giving the Australia Day speech at sunset in the tiny town of Quirindi, on a sprawling sheep property. We threw gumboots, whacked a cricket ball, and played dog lotto. The latter involves lining a ring of chicken wire with tyres and putting money on which one the cattle dog will piss on. You don’t get more Aussie than that. If your tastes are more – ahem – sophisticated, the area also has the state’s best country pub. Willow Tree Inn serves local black angus steak. Nature’s gifts, rich and rare, indeed.
THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
OK, I know. Ballarat should win gold for Victoria. But this serpentine road, which clings to vertiginous cliffs, brutally borders southern Australia. (I mean, the mainland. Sorry, Tassie!) I remember walking across London Bridge before it fell down; playing Rock Lobster on the jukebox; and hitting golf balls into the sea like Kramer from Seinfeld. On history’s page, ghost stories keep haunting Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse, at Cape Otway.
BROOME AND THE KIMBERLEY
The red of the dirt; the blue of the sea; the white of the sand; and the crocs. You know you’re in the north when you see a sign, “Careful: crocodiles cross here”, accompanied by stomach marks. From the elegant El Questro to the Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Wildlife Park – where the beasts are barely contained behind cyclone fencing – this region is exhilarating. And, mildly terrifying.
I could go on. The North Coast holiday park Jimmy’s Beach, with surf on one side and calm on the other; feeling our political pulse in the much-maligned city of Canberra; or the nation’s spiritual heart at Uluru.
Everyone has a favourite piece of Australia, somewhere to slip on a pair of thongs and feel right at home. What’s yours?