27/09/2016 10:56 AM AEST | Updated 27/09/2016 4:51 PM AEST

12 New Australian Travel Experiences From The Last 12 Months

Let's celebrate World Tourism Day by remembering how great our own backyard is.

Field of Light is changing the way you see Uluru.
Supplied / Fairfax Media
Field of Light is changing the way you see Uluru.

If you think you've seen Australia, it's time to look again.

In the last year, Australia outdid itself with brand new beachfront resorts, world-class pop ups and space age caravan parks. For UN World Tourism Day, we've compiled 12 new Australian experiences that are sure to spark your wanderlust.

You can now swim with whales in WA

For the first time, snorkelers have been able to swim alongside humpback whales as they migrate past Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

You can now swim alongside the gentle giants in WA and Queensland, so both sides of the country are catered for.

Field of Light opens in Uluru

If you haven't experienced the once-in-a-lifetime sight of 50,000 solar lights mirroring the milky way around Uluru, there's still time.

The epic art installation has been a major tourist draw card and is on until March 21 next year.

50,000 frosted glass spheres on stems #fieldoflight #brucemunro #uluru #ayersrock

A photo posted by vanessa smith (@vanessa___smith) on

New world-class beach resort in Byron

If you like pristine beaches and contemporary bohemian community life, Byron Bay is pretty much perfect.

The travel destination has become a little more perfect with the addition of world-class resort Elements of Byron in the nearby bushland.

Elements of Byron
Do yoga at the quiet end of Clarkes beach at Elements of Byron.

Melbourne's bar scene gets a fresh shot

Australia's unofficial small bar capital has outdone itself in quirky new bars in the last 12 months, with gourmet whiskey bar Thundercats Supper Club, CBD micro brewery Bad Shepherd Brewing Co, Chinatown rock'n'roll bar Heartbreaker and more opening their doors.

More flights to Australia

It's never been easier to fly to Australia, with several new direct flights from China as well as Canberra International Airport hosting actual international flights for the first time in a decade.

The influx of Chinese carriers was due to a revised air services agreement lifting the cap on seats to Australia by 18 percent, encouraging Hainan Airlines, Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen Airlines to run regular routes.

China Daily China Daily Information Corp - CDIC / Reuters
Hainan Airlines now flies into Australia.

Skyrise camping in the Melbourne CBD, for real

Notel is just like a caravan park, but it's atop a skyrise CBD building and there's no communal facilities, yappy dogs or permanent resident called Cheryl who invites you in to watch Wheel of Fortune.

In other words, it's not like a caravan park at all.

Repost of @petekoutss at #notel . We hope you enjoyed your stay! 👊🏼 great photo

A photo posted by Notel Melbourne (@notelmelbourne) on

Noma came, and went

The arrival of a restaurant like Noma that wins the world's best restaurant competition four years in a row and gets name checked movies like The Big Short was always going to spark interstate travel.

Yet it opened at new Sydney entertainment district Barangaroo for a pop-up period of 10 sold out weeks so early birds got the gourmet $400+ set meal.

Edwina Pickles
Noma used Australian ingredients like this crumbed abalone with native seaweeds and bunya nuts.

Sleep became more important than high-tech connectivity

Pillow menus, blackout blinds and super sized sleep-conducive beds became the ultimate sought-after hotel addition in 2016.

The Westin now goes as far as curating a sleep superfood menu to encourage good sleep.

John Arsenault
Sleep it up while you're on holidays.

We got our first Dark Sky Park

A new kind of Australian national park was declared at the remote Warrumbungles to protect the uninterrupted view of the night sky.

The 'Dark Sky Park' is part of a national group of regions where city lights are so far away, the sky's glittering stars can be seen with perfect clarity.

Getty Images/iStockphoto
The Warrumbungles look even better at night.

Sky Mirror transforms regional lake into tourist attraction

There's no Big Banana or tourism industry at the small, regional town of Sea Lake yet tourists are flocking to the town to see an optical illusion dubbed 'sky mirror'.

When the waters of Lake Tyrrell are completely flat, it creates a perfect mirror image.

#laketyrrell ❤️

A photo posted by lin zhu (@mmmmmmmango) on

An Aussie Bought An Island Resort For $49

When an Australian couple was ready to leave the Micronesian surf and dive resort they'd lovingly built, they decided to raffle it off.

After more than 75,000 tickets purchased, the winner was a fellow Aussie. And yes, we wish we bought a ticket too.

Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef saw something new and frightening

It's hard to talk about a year in tourism without mentioning how Australia's greatest attraction -- the Great Barrier Reef -- was severely impacted by coral bleaching.

From a tourism perspective, this has spurred interest in ecotourism on the reef, where you can assist researchers as they work with turtles, monitor fish and for the brave, assist on a vessel undertaking tiger shark research.

After all, every person who sees the reef becomes an advocate to protect it, and isn't that what travel's all about?