Feel as though you’ve done Australia? Ticked off the capital cities and major tourist attractions, and you’re looking for something new?[related_articles]20764,23065,11563[/related_articles]
Our fair, wide land is home to plenty of hidden gems that should be on your radar, so we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best – and possibly most unexpected – holiday destinations across the country. Get planning.
#1 Agnes Water, Queensland
If you’re a water-lover, welcome to heaven. Smack-bang in the middle of some of Queensland’s most pristine beaches and national parks, the small towns of Agnes Water and Town of 1770 are discreet, yet stunning.
Located at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, the area is known for its snorkelling, surfing, diving and kayaking. Keep an eye out for sea turtles, dugongs and humpback whales. And, if you happen to be there in February, the Agnes Blues Roots and Rock Festival will be off and running.
#2 Newcastle, New South Wales
Traditionally a coal, steel and timber hub, the harbour city of Newcastle is angling to be Australia’s new arts capital. Back in 2011, not-for-profit collective Renew Newcastle set out to populate the city’s empty CBD by connecting artists and community groups to fill unused spaces until permanent tenants were found. It’s safe to say they succeeded, as Newcastle now has more artists per capita than any other city in Australia.
To top it off, there are beaches and sea baths galore, and top-notch restaurants popping up all over the place.
#3 Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Ah, the Red Centre. The harsh climate, rich arts and culture scene, and mammoth rock formations make Alice Springs a place like no other. A common hub for exploring nearby (ish) attractions like Uluru, Simpson’s Gap and the Larapinta Trail through the West MacDonnell Ranges, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to nature and culture.
Walk up Anzac Hill for a view of the city and sprawling red soil, or head to the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre to learn about Arrente land and its people.
#4 Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Accessible by ferry from Cape Jervis, Kangaroo Island is a favourite destination for South Australians. Famous for its honey and dairy, ‘KI’ is the place for foodies and nature junkies alike.
One third of the island is national park, so, despite the name, you’ll see a lot more than kangaroos. From sea lions and bats, to goannas and echidnas, Kangaroo Island is teeming with unique wildlife. When you’re finished spotting animal friends, check out some of the island’s local seafood and artisanal produce.
#5 Yamba, New South Wales
The chilled out beachside town of Yamba is Australian east-coast beauty at its finest. Located at the mouth of the Clarence River, Yamba is your typical family holiday location reminiscent of what bohemian Byron Bay used to be.
Home of famous Aussie surfer Nat Young, Yamba is the place for waves, swimming holes, bush walks and water sports. Drive just up the road to Yuraygir National Park for some camping and coastal strolls to walk off the fish and chips.
#6 Magnetic Island, Queensland
Of course, you’ve got all your seaside options on Magnetic Island – snorkelling, water-skiing, scuba diving and kayaking – but horse riding on the beach has to top the lot. Horseshoe Bay Ranch has made the friendliest of ponies available to tourists of all ages who want to see the island from atop a gentle giant. The rides last for two hours and take you through the native bushland; you can even go bareback in the waves.
Afterwards, go koala spotting and find a seasonal waterhole to cool off in if you’re visiting during the wet season. Relaxation station, population: you.
#7 Bermagui, New South Wales
The Sapphire Coast is exactly as it sounds. The lengthy drive from Melbourne or even Sydney might sound arduous, but by the time you get in the water, the stuffy car ride will feel like ages ago.
If you’ve always wanted to catch your own fish for dinner, this is the place. Do it from a beach, a boat, a rock, or by the side of an estuary and you’ll most likely get at least a few nibbles. With any luck, you can bring home a bream or a flathead for a feast.
If you’re keen for someone else to catch your supper, Mimosa Restaurant and Winery will sort you out.
#8 Lakes Entrance, Victoria
Lakes Entrance is a cruisy four-hour drive from Melbourne and boasts Australia’s most extensive inland network of waterways, the infamous Ninety Mile Beach, and easy access to nearby Raymond Island and Lake Tyers. You could enjoy the beachside by foot, but you could also hire a bike or a paddleboat to mix it up a bit.
If you’ve had your time in the sun, go underground and visit Buchan Caves Reserve to get amongst the limestone formations. Alternatively, you could hire a whole entire island for the night for you and 37 friends. Your call.
#9 Launceston, Tasmania
Ever since MONA opened in Hobart in 2011, tourists have been drawn off the mainland to bask in Tasmania’s natural beauty. And while Hobart is drawing the crowds, but don’t forget about nearby Launceston. She may be small, but her wilderness is mighty.[related_articles]60853,57226,56597[/related_articles]
Nearby Cradle Mountain and its dramatic rock formations, alpine heathlands and glacial lakes will make you wonder why you didn’t come to Tasmania sooner. Get some culture at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and a walk at Cataract Gorge to warm up those muscles before heading into the mountains.
#10 Broome, Western Australia
Broome feels like a million miles away (or about 5000km, if you’re from the east coast), but it could be the most stunning place in all of Australia. That’s a big call, but when you see the bluest water lapping against bright red soil, you’ll know what we mean.
Depending on what time of year you go, there may be a chance of the odd stinger or Jurassic Park-sized crocodile, but if you keep your wits about you, you’ll be fine. Even if you have to look at the water instead of getting in it, your eyes will be pretty stoked.
If you’ve got the time, head four hours north to Cape Leveque and stay at Kooljaman, the Indigenous-owned eco-resort.
(Lead image: Matt Netthiem / SATC)