There’s no denying, 2020 didn’t unfold exactly the way we thought it would. However, it actually brought with it some unexpected opportunities. With travel at a minimum, we had the chance to take stock of what’s most important to us; our amazing community, the clients who support us and our passion for what we do! While we may not have been able to travel as we normally do, we’re extremely grateful to have still been able to travel at all. We got to experience places closer to home and discover spots we may not have otherwise.
More than ever, we’ve developed a deep love for the beautiful country we call home and so much appreciation for all the wonderful opportunities in our lives. To celebrate them, we’ve kept track of all those extra special experiences and, as we do each year in December, sat down to determine the best of the best. The Little Grey Box Travel Awards are our way of showing our immense gratitude and a little extra love and support for the wonderful people who make these moments possible. We just want to say a huge thank you to each and every person we met and worked with this year. Without further ado, here are the Little Grey Box Travel Award Winners (and, I suppose, our travel highlights) for 2020!
Best Australian Destination
Local travel was at the forefront of 2020 and we had the opportunity to discover an array of new destinations and reignite our love for a few well-known spots we haven’t visited in quite a while. Our Byron Bay road trip saw us indulging in some of the year’s best meals, visiting stunning parts of Australia’s coastline and having a whole lot of fun along the way. Our first interstate trip since the start of the year, it felt amazing to be on the road doing what we love again! Watch our Byron Bay Road Trip video here.
Runner-up: Gold Coast Region, Queensland
Honourable mention: Sunshine Coast Region, Queensland
Best Overseas Destination
Winner: Phuket Region, Thailand
When we boarded our flight for Thailand in February, we had no idea it would be our only overseas adventure for the year and our last international trip for quite some time. The trip was unreal, taking us to spots we’ve visited before and showing us a completely different side to them. As someone who hasn’t really connected with Phuket in the past, I was amazed to discover tranquil Mai Khao Beach and have a range of food, cultural and adventure experiences that allowed me to finally fall in love with the region. Watch our Phuket video here.
Runner-up: Bangkok Region, Thailand
Honourable mention: Hua Hin Region, Thailand
Best Under-the-Radar Destination
Winner: The Scenic Rim, Australia
Having lived in South-East Queensland most of my life, I felt I’d seen and done it all and would probably delve a little deeper once Matt and I eased into the Grey Nomad Lifestyle in years to come. Thanks to 2020, we had the time and opportunity to explore closer to home and visit some hidden gems! The Scenic Rim is so close to where we live and we were both genuinely shocked by just how beautiful it is and how much there is to see and do. It’s a destination that blew us both away and we’re already planning to go back again. Watch our Scenic Rim video here.
Runner-up: Toowoomba, Australia
Honourable mention: The Tweed, Australia
Best Luxury Accommodation Experience
From the moment we arrived at SALA, we knew we were in for an amazing stay! Walking through the resort to our private villa we were already impressed but the second the door swung up and we saw the huge, private pool, outdoor bathroom and gorgeous living areas, we were both speechless. Our stay was nothing short of fantastic, from the stunning beach, luxurious resort facilities and exceptional food and drinks on-site to the amazing staff and our dreamy spa experience, it was all perfect. Watch our Phuket video and see more of the resort here.
Runner-up: Baya Eco Retreat, Australia
Honourable mention: Cape Nidhra Hotel, Thailand
Best Budget Accommodation Experience
When local restrictions eased and we were able to start venturing further from home we found ourselves drawn to the Gold Coast, filming a few videos showcasing some of the best things to do in different parts of the coast. Eager for a unique experience, we booked a stay at The Pink Hotel in Coolangatta and fell in love with the super cool interior and exterior fit-outs! Neon signs, David Duchovny murals, mid-century furniture and a lot of pink paint combined with a great location, rooftop bar and gorgeous views to make this our favourite budget-friendly stay of the year. Watch our Coolangatta video and see more of the hotel here.
Best Beach Experience
Winner: Tallebudgera Creek, Australia
There’s no denying Australia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Just one of the reasons we were very grateful to be grounded in our home country this year. Having the time for more local adventures meant we were able to visit spots like Tallebudgera Creek, easily my favourite beach experience of the year. We visited twice in the last few months, once very early in the morning on a weekday which saw us have most of the creek to ourselves! The second visit took us into the section of the creek surrounded by the David Fleay Wildlife Park, an area we had never visited before and one that had us saying, “I can’t believe how beautiful this is,” about 100 times. Watch our Coolangatta video and see more of the Beach here.
Runner-up: Wategos Beach, Australia
Honourable mention: Tallebudgera Beach (Dog Beach), Australia
Best Food Experience
Winner: Foxy Luu’s, Australia
The best food experiences don’t always cost the most, a sentiment we had confirmed on our trip to Byron Bay. Pulling up to Foxy Luu’s, located in a small shopping centre just outside the heart of Byron Bay town, we weren’t expecting to have the best food experience of the year! But, that’s exactly what happened. Our vegan and meat-eater bento boxes cost $14 and $16 respectively, lavished with bright and colourful bites including edamame, tofu topped with the perfect satay sauce, plump and juicy bao buns, pickles and a refreshing asian salad. Each bite was unbelievably good and, while we were eating it, had us planning to come back just to eat there again. Watch our Byron Bay video and see more of our favourite food experiences here.
Runner-up: Yulli’s Byron Bay, Australia
Honourable mentions: Bacchus South Bank, Australia and Three Blue Ducks, Australia
Best Breakfast Experience
Winner: Nodo, Australia
Nodo has been a favourite among Brisbane locals for quite a few years now, famous for great coffee and scrumptious doughnuts. With all the travel we do, we don’t usually have time to check out restaurants around Brisbane. Thankfully, this year we did and we finally got the chance to dine at Nodo. It was worth the wait! Matt absolutely devoured his breakfast burger and I savoured every last bite of the best acai bowl I have ever had. In fact, it was so good we went back the next day and ordered exactly the same thing again.
Runner-up: The Paddock, Australia
Honourable mention: Folk Byron Bay, Australia
Best Restaurant Experience
Winner: Three Blue Ducks, Australia
It was love at first bite at Three Blue Ducks in Byron Bay. Set in the gorgeous surrounds of The Farm, the only problem we had was whittling down our choices from the mouth-watering menu. Honestly, if we could, we would have tried everything! Somehow we narrowed it down to four dishes and each was as good as the last, offering up flavoursome, fresh and absolutely delicious food we couldn’t help but rave about. I knew it was the best meal I had eaten all year right away, which is why it takes out the top spot for the best restaurant experience of 2020! Watch our Byron Bay video and see more of this unbelievably good meal here.
Runner-up: Bacchus South Bank, Australia
Honourable mention: Emeraude, Australia
Best Cafe Experience
Sometimes, the best cafe experiences happen where you least expect them and that was certainly true during our trip to the Scenic Rim here in Queensland. We pulled up to Hummingbirds expecting to have a tasty lunch, we just weren’t quite prepared for how good it would actually be! The staff are absolutely lovely and the food was nothing short of wonderful, filling us both up with wholesome, deliciousness. In addition to all that good food, we also made our way through the cafe’s on-site pantry, where we were able to stock up on a range of organic goodies including an obscene amount of dark chocolate-covered strawberries, blueberries and more! Watch our Scenic Rim video and see more of this experience here.
Runner-up: Cafe dbar, Coolangatta, Australia
Honourable mention: Commune Cafe, Australia
Best Unique Experience
I’ve learned a lot since I began travelling and one of the lessons I value most is around animal tourism and how beautiful creatures, like elephants, are often beaten, tortured and exploited for monetary gain. On our trip to Phuket this year we had the privilege of visiting the Green Elephant Sanctuary for an ethical elephant encounter and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Here, these majestic giants are rescued from appalling situations and given the space and freedom to behave naturally with NO forced behaviours or interactions! We learned so much about them and had the absolute pleasure of giving them a mud bath, spa and scrub down. Seeing the genuine joy in their eyes brought so many emotions to the surface. Read more about our ethical elephant encounter here and watch our Phuket video to see more of this amazing experience here.
Runner-up: SUP Yoga (with Pure Aloha Yoga), Australia
Honourable mention: Walking through Noosa National Park, Australia
Best Adventure Experience
When our tickets for a ‘Thrill Ride,’ with Noosa Oceanrider were booked, we both assumed it would be a leisurely float around Noosa’s waterways, checking out the coastline at a laid-back pace. We were wrong. From the moment the boat hit the open water it became clear we were in for an actual thrill ride. The boat reared up over the crest of each wave, slamming back down onto the water’s surface, emitting a roar of cheers from everyone onboard. While I did get pretty sea sick toward the end, it was 100% worth it for a hilarious and unexpected adventure experience. Watch our Noosa video to see more of our adventure here.
Runner-up: Pot to Plate Adventure (with Tweed Eco Cruises), Australia
Honourable mention: Indoor Skydiving (with iFLY Gold Coast), Australia
Best Festival Experience
In a year where social distancing reigned, many beloved community events and seasonal celebrations were cancelled. Which is why we were delighted when the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers forged ahead, with an amended events schedule. The annual celebration of spring saw us revelling in the warm sun with other Queensland locals, one of the first real events since restrictions began. It felt so good to be exploring the city’s vibrant gardens, connecting with locals, indulging in delicious local food and feeling, for the first time, that things may be getting back to normal. Watch our Toowoomba videos here to see more of this fantastic trip.
Best Day-Tour Experience
Our visit to Queensland’s Scenic Rim saw us presented with a multitude of ways to reconnect with Australia’s beautiful scenery. In the Lamington National Park, we joined a guided walk with ParkTours, led by local legend and all-round wonder woman, Inari. Our walk to Tullawallal saw us slowly making our way through rainforest with Inari pausing to point out unique plant and wildlife, things we would never have spotted otherwise. In the space of a few hours we learned so much about our own backyard and when we did a walk ourselves a few weeks later in a different national park, all that knowledge helped us enjoy that experience even more as well. It was one of those unexpected, feel-good moments that filled us both up with so much love for our home. Watch our Scenic Rim video here to see more of this day tour!
Best Airport Experience
We normally find ourselves walking (or shuffling like zombies) through a large number of airports each year. However, 2020 was a whole lot different and the airport we graced the most was our hometown port of Brisbane. Touching down at Brisbane Airport’s International terminal one day before the Aussie border closed, we were greeted by friendly staff welcoming us back home in a way that made us feel so safe and grateful. More than that, the airport is so open, bright and modern, with a great layout that helps you move through it easily. I guess it’s true what they say… there really is no place like home!
Best Airline Experience
Winner: Thai Airways, Business Class
When we found out we were going to be heading back to Thailand at the start of 2020, we couldn’t have been more excited! That was until we found out we’d be flying with Thai Airways and have the opportunity to indulge in their Royal Silk or Business Class. The leg room. Oh, the leg room! The space to stretch out and get comfortable while watching movies, sipping cocktails and nibbling on tasty snacks. The staff were absolutely fantastic, going above and beyond to make our flight a dream. From boarding to disembarking, we loved every moment of our time onboard.
Best Airline Lounge Experience
If you travel often, you’ll know not all airline lounges are created equal! the Air New Zealand Lounge in Brisbane Airport’s International Terminal is definitely a cut above the rest. Boasting fantastic views and an open, airy space with plenty of seating options to choose from, it’s the perfect spot to chill-out pre-departure. More than that, the food is absolutely delicious and the drinks selection are wonderful too! We also love the staff, who make you feel so welcome and are always very cheerful and friendly.
Best Day-Spa Experience
Truth be told, our 1 1/2 hour flight from Bangkok to Phuket didn’t really earn us the right to indulge in a ‘jet lag’ massage at SALA Spa Phuket. But, we did it anyway and it was a very good decision. The spa itself was modern, sleek and still warm and inviting, putting us both immediately at ease as we settled onto the massage table. Our massage therapists were skilled and professional, working out all the tension and sore points in our bodies and successfully sending us both into a state of total relaxation in the process! Floating back to our villa at SALA Phuket afterwards just sealed the deal as an unforgettable experience. Watch our Phuket video here to see more of our time at SALA.
Best Bucket List Moment
I’ve seen a lot of tiny houses in tv shows and on instagram but had never stayed at one until our visit to Baya Eco Retreat in Queensland’s Scenic Rim. In my mind, I had imaged it would be a bit cramped, with us spending most of our time sitting in the one spot. Instead, we found ourselves completely immersed in nature, as though we’d been placed inside a luxurious bubble in the middle of the Australian bushland. From sitting on the deck in our undies, eating breakfast to laughing around the fireplace at night and stargazing through the moon roof, it was a real highlight of 2020. I think the thing that stands out the most for me has to be the fact we didn’t see another human soul or so much as hear a car the whole time! It was the perfect spot to disconnect, unwind and recharge. Watch our Scenic Rim video here to see more of our stay at Baya Eco Retreat.
Best Travel Tech
Winner: Apple iPhone 11
It’s safe to say we have spent a lot of money on camera equipment over the years. From DSLR cameras to their mirrorless counterparts, drones, GoPros and everything in between. So, it’s surprising that the humble iPhone 11 should take out the top spot for our favourite piece of travel tech in 2020! Since getting one each, we’ve both come to rely on them for great photo and video content. The wide angle camera is great for capturing hotel room photos and the video capabilities allow us to film discreetly in crowded settings without ruining anyone else’s experience. Not only that, but there are a whole host of travel apps that help us stay connected, travel safely and easily and find great things to see, do and eat as we travel.
Runner-up: DJI Mini 2
Honourable mention: Sennheiser Noise Cancelling Headphones
Best Travel App / Website
Winner: Surfshark VPN
If you aren’t already using a VPN when you travel, you need to start doing so immediately! When we travel, we’re often connecting to public, unsecured networks which means your personal information is at risk of being stolen by hackers. Using a VPN ensures your access to the internet is secure and all your data, including things like passwords, usernames, credit card information and so on is also secure. Not only that but you can use your VPN to use the internet like you would at home! We started using Surfshark VPN this year and loved it! Not only did it keep us safe but it also meant we could sneakily watch streaming platform content from other countries. Brilliant!
Runner-up: 1Password Password Manager
Best Travel Accessory
Winner: Akubra Coober Pedy Hat
Travel accessories come in all shapes and sizes and this year, my favourite travel accessory came in the shape of a hat. To be honest, I’ve loved my Akubra from the very first moment I picked it up. An iconic Australian brand, the Akubra is pretty much a national symbol at this point. I love mine because it’s extremely comfortable and timeless in style. It offers great sun protection when we’re out and about exploring all day and holds up great in a variety of weather conditions. I’ve had mine for years now and it still looks brand new, just like the day it came home with me.
Runner-up: TORRAS Bladeless Necklace Fan
Honourable mention: Archies Arch Support Thongs
Best Travel Instagrammer
Winner: Mark and Miranda (@thecommonwanderer)
Travel opportunities were few and far between in 2020 which presented quite a unique situation for travel content creators and their social platforms! Mark and Mim of The Common Wanderer didn’t skip a bit, filling my Instagram feed with dreamy photos that kept me inspired and hopeful. I absolutely love Mark and Mim’s photography style and the beautiful tones with which they edit. Their photos truly are art, capturing real moments of humanity, life and connection in a beautiful and accessible way. Not only that but they just seem so lovely, humble and genuine, it’s impossible not to want to follow their adventures!
Best Travel Vlogger
Winner: The Endless Adventure (YouTube)
It was Matt who first came across Eric and Allison’s YouTube channel, The Endless Adventure. After binge-watching a bunch of their videos he called me into the kitchen where we sat and watched a hilarious video of them attempting to eat and enjoy Vegemite for the first time. Their videos are really well shot, turning seemingly simple things into cinematic moments perfectly accompanied by their genuinely lovely personalities. It’s clear both Eric and Allison are great people, as evidenced by their epic 450k+ following on YouTube alone! Relatable, entertaining and down-to-earth, their videos are fun, informative and genuinely enjoyable to watch.
Just a quick note to confirm the Little Grey Box Travel Awards are based solely on our experiences. None of these spots has been paid for or requested by any of those included, it’s all legit love!
Useful travel resources for your next adventure!
If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you used the affiliate links below. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, these are the products and services I love and use. Thanks for your support! – Matt
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Agoda – hotels
Booking.com – hotels
Cover-More – insurance
Motorhome Republic – RVs
RentalCars.com – rentals
SimsDirect – SIM cards
Skyscanner – flights
Surfshark – VPN
TourRadar – tours
Uber Carshare – rentals