When it comes to ‘must do’ Aussie holidays, everyone’s heard of the Rock (Uluru), the (Great Barrier) Reef and the (Daintree) Rainforest. But what about those little-known places off the beaten track, the treasures that take us into the heart and soul of this wide Australian land. Skyscanner Australia tracked down 15 awesome holiday hot spots to put on your ‘must see’ list.
1. Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Indian Ocean Territories)
First up, let’s head as far offshore as we can without requiring a pesky passport to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Sometimes known as Australia’s secret Maldives, islands are kissed by tropical sunshine, the ocean is clearer than gin and beach sand rivals talcum powder for softness. String a hammock shaded by palm fronds from a coconut plantation gone wild, close your eyes and allow the sound of the sea lapping the turquoise lagoon to soothe your soul. Don’t blame us if you miss your flight back to the real world.
2. Christmas Island (Indian Ocean Territories)
While we’re well out west it would be remiss not to visit neighboring Christmas Island. In complete contrast to Cocos, Christmas is all craggy limestone carved from an eternity of Indian Ocean swells. A pinnacle-like island that rises 5km from the seabed, scuba diving is world class. As are wildlife spotting opportunities. Time your visit during the annual red crab migration and you’ll witness a throbbing carpet of crimson crustaceans that stop traffic as they make their way to the sea.
3. Bathurst Harbour (Tasmania)
Smack bang in the heart of one of Australia’s last great wilderness areas, far-flung Bathurst Harbour is tucked away in the south west corner of Tasmania where World Heritage listed Southwest National Park is home to the seriously endangered Orange Bellied Parrot. Hard core hikers touch down from Hobart on the dirt Melaleuca airstrip to tackle the 7-day-long South Coast Track. Travellers more attuned to hot showers and cool Pinot Noir are best to book a berth on bespoke adventure cruise vessel MV Odalisque with Tasmanian Boat Charters to cruise wilderness waterways, hike the hills and absorb the stories of those who tried to tame this remote frontier while Chef whips up a storm in the galley from wild caught seafood.
4. Corinna (Tasmania)
While we’re in Tassie and continuing with the wilderness theme which Tasmania has nailed, the historic tin mining town of Corinna, now converted into an eco retreat, is your entry into the Tarkine rainforest. On the banks of the King River, majestic Huon pine trees tower over a moss-draped forest floor as soft as cotton wool that seems to absorb all sound. If you’re looking for the sort of enchanted forest where fabled fairies just might reside, the Tarkine is your kind of place.
5. Eromanga (Queensland)
Unless you’re a fossil geek you’ve probably never considered dinosaur bones for holiday inspiration. What if we told you that the teeny Outback QLD town of Eromanga, with a population of just 45 hardy souls, is kicking some serious fossillised butt on the world stage? Check into recently opened Coopers Lodge which is next door to Eromanga Natural History Museum, fossil HQ for the most exciting and prolific dinosaur site in Australia. The stories shared here are seriously impressive.
6. Atherton Tablelands (Queensland)
Almost 1,000m above sea level an hour west of Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands is the food bowl of north Queensland. Expect rolling hills dotted with dairy cattle, crater lakes brimming with water of unfathomable depths, waterfalls aplenty and roadside stalls selling mangoes, melons and macadamia nuts, lychees, avocados and corn. All those cows are the source of rich yoghurts, cheese and the sort of old-fashioned milk that comes with a hefty dollop full fat cream on the top. Yum! Home to rainforest dwelling-cassowaries and tree climbing kangaroos, the Tablelands are a splendid road trip destination.
7. Cape Leveque (West Australia)
Jutting into Indian Ocean on the Dampier Peninsula a few hours down a dusty corrugated road north of Broome, Cape Leveque is a worthy entrée into West Australia’s dramatic Kimberley region. Ochre-coloured cliffs absorb the rays of the setting sun, bouncing glorious golden light across an untamed beach at dusk. Atop the cliffs, Indigenous-owned Kooljaman Safari Camp is a glamping adventure with a heart as big as the Kimberley itself.
8. Denmark (West Australia)
At the other end of West Australia, Denmark is quietly building a reputation for its cool climate Great Southern wines. Reveling in the shadows of her more famous vigneron cousin to the north, vines in the Great Southern were planted one hundred odd years before Margaret River’s (now famous) first plantings. Claim serious bragging rights by producing cellar door-purchased Denmark plonk at your next dinner party. You’ll have a table full of new besties, we promise!
9. Coffin Bay (South Australia)
Unfortunately named Coffin Bay is already well-known amongst oyster connoisseurs. For the rest of us, abalone, scallops and crayfish are the delicious attraction of this seaside town on the Eyre Peninsula. If you’d rather photograph the wildlife than eat it, emus and kangaroos tend to hang out around Coffin Bay too so keep your camera handy. So, what’s with the name? Don’t worry, it’s got nothing to do with sombre pine boxes draped with eye-watering lilies. Coffin Bay was named by Matthew Flinders in honour of his old Naval mate Sir Isaac Coffin.
10. Melrose (South Australia)
Melrose sits at the base of Mt Remarkable in the Flinders Ranges three hours north of Adelaide. Mountain bikers and hikers use Melrose as a base for getting out on the network of trails in the ranges. History buffs on the other hand are enthralled by leisurely walks through streets that hint at former glory days when New Melrose was declared a town in 1856. Don’t leave town without spending a couple of hours in the Heritage Museum.
11. Larapinta Trail (Northern Territory)
More an activity than a place, we’re breaking the mold here (it’s ok – the Territory’s a little different!) and flagging a hike along the Larapinta Trail as a definite ‘must do.’ If you’ve ever cast your eyes over an Albert Namatjira painting, you’ll understand why. Few have captured the spirit of the untamed Red Centre as Namatjira did. Hiking his country, camping out beneath the stars is the only way to savour every sun-hardened inch of it.
12. Bremer Island (Northern Territory)
Not the sort of island you’d visit on am impulsive weekend getaway, getting to Bremer Island requires a flight from Darwin to Gove (Nhulunbuy), itself quite remote in East Arnhem Land, then an hour-long boat ride into Yolgnu Sea Country and the Gulf of Carpentaria. It’s worth the journey. Eco-sensitive Indigenous run Banubanu Beach Retreat, where sun-drenched days revolve around the rising sun and the falling tide, awaits weary travellers. Sigh.
13. Sugarloaf Point (New South Wales)
What is it about staying in a lighthouse keeper’s cottages that brings out the hopeless romantic in us? It’s probably got something to do with brooding skies shadowing a coastline awash with tempestuous seas that make us want to retreat indoors to be seduced with a snappy shiraz and a crackling fire. Wild ocean vistas rarely get better than this. Originally built in 1875 to warn mariners of the danger of Seal Rocks, Sugarloaf Point offers a great viewing point for humpback whales on their annual migration.
14. Castlemaine (Victoria)
A serious contender for one of Australia’s best preserved historic towns, Castlemaine’s gold mining heritage is evident in her elaborate Victorian and Art Deco architecture. Luring cultural and culinary types from Melbourne, the Botanic Gardens are significant enough for inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register while the Theatre Royal claims to be the oldest theatre on mainland Australia. An eclectic cafe culture supported by bespoke fine food and wine producers creates a lively buzz beneath bullnose verandas that line the city’s wide streets.
15. Johanna (Victoria)
Named after a schooner wrecked on these wild Bass Strait shores almost 200 years ago, Johanna is more a district along Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Rd, than an actual town. Nearby the Lavers Hill pub-come roadhouse-come caravan park is the closest thing you’ll find to ‘downtown’ in these parts. Mostly, the Shipwreck Coast is all picturesque rolling green pastures book-ended by sweeping beaches and crashing surf with accommodatio noptions B&B’s or homestay cottages. Oh, Johanna has some famous neighbors down the road too if you can stomach the crowds. Ever hear of the Twelve Apostles?
Are you ready to pack your bags and start exploring Australia’s lesser known treasures? Skyscanner Australia has cheap deals on airfares, hotels and car hire with no booking fees!
About the author
Fiona Harper // @travelboatinglifestyle
Fiona Harper is an Australian travel writer who likes to get offroad and offshore. Follow her at Travel Boating Lifestyle. Widely travelled, highly acclaimed and much published, Fiona’s articles & images are published across the globe. When not writing she’s probably running a marathon or exploring the world by foot, bike, kayak, camel or boat: whatever mode of transport she can get her hands on!