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11 weird, unique and abandoned places to visit in Australia

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

Travel is all about broadening your horizons and finding new experiences. All over there world, you can find weird, unique and abandoned places to visit, like the Spotted Lake in Canada, the Cat Village in Aoshima or Pripyat in Ukraine.

However, with travel restrictions still firmly in place for Australians, it pays to focus on offbeat travel experiences closer to home. Read on to find our tips for where to go in Australia for something a little bit different.

Please note: Travel restrictions may change at any time and without notice. Be sure to check official government advice before your journey.

Lake Hillier, Western Australia

Picture a lake, and it’s likely you’re thinking of a blue stretch of water. In most cases, you’d be right, but there’s something in the water at Lake Hillier near Esperance, that defies expectations.

There, the water is pink. Not just ‘pinkish’ or ‘kind of pink’, but startlingly pink. When seen from above—you can book a scenic plane tour for this—you can see the pink juxtaposed with a strip of green bush, a stretch of white sand and then the shocking blue of the Indian Ocean.

Mena Creek, Queensland

Mena Creek is found in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, best known for its cassowary population, but more uniquely for Paronella Park.

Started in 1925, Paronella Park is home to a Spanish-style castle that was built by Jose Paronella who was supposed to be honeymooning with his wife. The two stayed on the five-hectare property and Jose spent the next twenty years building a sprawling and ornate property.

Helensburgh, Australia

As abandoned places go, a disused rail tunnel might not sound like the most exciting find, but the former Metropolitan Tunnel has taken on a life of its own since closing in 1915.

Although it has gone through various states of abandon in that time, a group of glowworms settled in and made the tunnel home. What should be a dark, avoidable tunnel becomes a thing of beauty as the bioluminescent worms shine like constellations.

Wolfe Creek, Western Australia

Although better known for the horror film bearing its name, the crater at Wolfe Creek is well worth a visit. Thought to have been created around 300,000 years ago, the crater was formed by a meteorite going so fast it could have passed over Australia in just five minutes. There are many such impact sites in the country, but few as well-preserved and clear to see as the one at Wolfe Creek.

Today, the impact site has a 400m crater climb, is home to a variety of wildlife and is best visited between May and October.

Read: Top unusual things to do in Western Australia

Cook, South Australia

The Nullarbor is one of Australia’s most beautiful stretches of scenery, but there’s one town on the rail line that stands out for other reasons. Cook was established in 1917 and quickly became a busy outback town with its own hospital and general facilities. However, over time, people have moved to less remote areas and the town is now home to just four people. Many of the old buildings remain intact, but are off limits to visitors.

The rail line still passes through the town and the train does stop there, which gives the residents a chance to open the shop and give tours to visitors.

Warburton, Victoria

To the east of Melbourne is the small town of Warburton. It’s a special place for many reasons, but is mostly visited by art lovers.

On the outskirts of town, you’ll find a California redwood forest—intriguing in itself—but artist David Digapony has added to the splendour by creating works of art woven from sticks and branches.

Back in town, you’ll be able to find examples of work by Boinga Bob, including his spectacular home, that have been created using discarded materials. Truly treasures thanks to this man.

Unique (and abandoned) places: Warburton's redwood forest

Kakadu/Litchfield, Northern Territory

Termites are some of the most hated creatures in Australia, but once you see their architectural skills you’ll see another side to the white ant.

In two of NT’s famed national parks you can find (or your guide can show you) fields full of majestic Cathedral termite mounds—some up to eight metres tall.

Wentworth Point, New South Wales

Sitting off Wentworth Point in Sydney’s Homebush Bay is the SS Ayrfield, a century-old freighter that’s been left to decompose in the water. Not so much an abandoned place as a foresaken vessel.

As the ship has given up the ghost, it has become a platform for life. The deck is completed covered in mangrove trees, with branches hanging over the edge and skimming the water of the bay.

Coober Pedy, South Australia

Australia’s a hot country and the closer you get to the centre, the more extreme it can be. The opal miners of Coober Pedy came up with an innovative solution by moving their buildings underground. Home, shops and churches all make use of this natural climate control, giving the town a sci-fi look and feel. Film lovers may recognise it from the dystopian sci fi movie, Mad Max.

Two Rocks, Western Australia

Around 60km north of Perth you can find Atlantis Marine Park, an abandoned place with a murky history. Open for less than a decade in the 1980s, the marine park captured wild dolphins and trained them to perform for audiences.

Unable and unwilling to create habitats suitable for the dolphins, the park shut down. But curious members of the public can still explore the grounds. Among the attractions is a statue of Neptune, standing an impressive 10m tall, watching over his failed kingdom.

Raymond Island, Victoria

If pink lakes aren’t your thing, what about glowing ones?

As a result of heavy input of ash and nitrogen following bushfires and heavy rain, Lake Gippsland changed. It saw a huge development of bioluminescent algae. Red by day, this algae glows dramatically at night.

Unique (and abandoned) places: Lake Gippsland

While top ten attractions in any state or territory are certainly worth a visit, it pays to explore the sights unseen. Venture off the beaten path to unique, odd, and abandoned places for a trip you won’t find in the pages of a well-worn guidebook.

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