When you visit Australia, you have to tick off and visit the key attractions - Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock etc. But there are lots of beautiful places that the locals would like to keep all to themselves.
Below is a list of the hidden gems that really are worth incorporating into your Australian holiday.
Beauty Point, Tamar Valley, Tasmania
Whilst you can stay in Launceston to explore the Tamar Valley region, you should consider spending at least a night at Beauty Point as part of your visit Australia. The area is most picturesque and has the oldest deep water port in the area. It’s 47km from Launceston and a great base from which to explore the local wine region. It’s also very close to the Seahorse museum.
Here you will find a few amenities such as a post office, cafes and coffee houses. There is also a daily shuttlefish Ferry that takes you across the Tamar River to George Town.
The best place to stay is Pomona Spa Cottages. They have great views over the River and surrounding area. Cottages start at $250 per cottage per night although special prices can be negotiated if you intend to stay more than 2 nights. They even make their own bread.
The Blue Mountians - The Old Dairy in Leura
The Blue Mountains themselves are well and truly on the tourist trail and are not to be missed as you visit Australia. But if you are looking to make your trip here extra special then stay in Old Leura Dairy
. There are just 6 lodgings here, all totally unique. They offer all mod cons in an old world eco-sensitive charm. The studio starts from $230 but prices quickly shoot up to nearer $500 for the “milking shed” and “workers cottages” Bird life is plentiful and there are plenty of places to enjoy the views and birds.
Leura itself is a charming and quaint village – my favourite, without a doubt, in the Blue Mountains. You can base yourself here and have easy access to the touristy Katoomba for the three sisters, railway and cable car.
Here in Leura, you can relax and enjoy the charming streets which are full of interesting and querky stores. You’ll find everything from old fashioned sweet shops, arts and craft stores, shops selling trinkets and lots of cafes and restaurants ready to serve you afternoon tea or something more substantial.
Expect the pace of life to be slow here, particularly if you are heading directly from Sydney. You need to go with the flow and not be in any sort of rush or you may find the service here a little too slow for your liking.
Whilst here you should visit the Toy and Railway museum (especially if you are a big kid at heart or you have kids.) The Leura cascades are worth a view and you makes a good starting point for a bushwalk. If you are into old houses and gardens then the Everglades Historic House and Gardens is a must.
The Central Coast
Drive just an hour north of Sydney, and you will find the central coast of NSW. This area offers beautiful beaches which are very unspoiled and quiet. You could easily spend a couple of days here as you visit Australia. You could stay in a beach house, enjoying the uncrowded beaches, cafes and restaurants. Terrigal is the main hub but the smaller townships of Avoca, Copacabana and Kilcare all offer stunning views and wonderful beaches.
This is a great place to kick back and relax. There’s very little here other than pristine beaches and the odd café. You’ll find more amenities in Terrigal if you are after a little more nightlife and things to do.
Use www.stayz.com.au to find yourself a beach front cottage and enjoy the views.
Chalkies Beach, Whitsundays
Whilst Whitehaven beach has to be incorporated to your visit Australia, you should consider combining it with a trip to Chalkies Beach. This is another pristine beach to rival Whitehaven and is much quieter.
You can only get there by boat. It’s likely you’ll stop here if you decide to cruise your way round the Whitsundays. If not, Banjo Paterson will take you on an intimate day cruise, taking in both Whitehaven and Chalkies.
Coober Pedy South Australia
So there’s not that much to do here and it is a little bit touristy, but it still deserves to be on this list and on your visit Australia.
This is probably one of the strangest places you will ever visit and it’s not easy to get to either. It’s a 10 hour drive (846km) northwest of Adelaide or an 8 hour drive (690km) from Alice Springs. This is the Opal Capital of the World and one of the hottest places too right in the middle of the harshest part of the outback.
So much so that 80% of the residents have built homes underground. These residencies are luxurious with swimming pools and entertainment rooms. They have to be seen to be believed.
If you can take the heat then come here in the summer when you are more likely to get a bargain on an opal (it is very quiet at this time due to the intense heat.)
There’s nothing much else to do here. If you are into films then you may recognise some of the scenery from Mad Max III and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
You can have a go at night golf with balls that glow. It’s just too hot to play in the day. One word of advice, watch where you walk. There are lots of warning signs to mark the very deep mine shafts that are scattered around the area.
Part of the fun of coming here is staying in an underground room. There are other options if that makes you feel a bit claustrophobic.
Try the Underground Motel – value for money. It’s not on the main street so you have to rely on the owner to take you in and out of the main town as you can’t take your car. He’s very helpful though.
Or go for Desert Cave Hotel. The facilities and rooms are nicer than the Underground Motel but the staff are not as helpful or friendly. They have below or above ground options.
If you intend to visit Australia and drive through the outback, try and see Coober Pedy. You won't forget this place in a hurry.
Coral Bay, Western Australia
Exmouth on the west coast of Australia, is well known as the gateway to Ningaloo Reef, rich in marine life and the place you can swim with whale sharks between April and July. It’s still a bit of a drive from the beach ( a cyclone precaution) and it’s become very touristy. I was personally very disappointed.
Instead head 2 hours up the coast to Coral Bay where you can still experience Ningaloo Reef and all the same marine life but in much quieter surroundings.
If you are not into diving, there is still plenty to see – Manta Rays, turtles and lots of fish. There are glass bottom boats, snorkeling and fishing trips right from Coral Bay. If that’s not enough, the beach boasts extremely white sand and perfect seas. You can even hire quad bikes to trek over the dunes. A great place to relax and enjoy the marine life.
Accommodation is a little limited and basic. Ningaloo Reef Resort has the best location – just moments to the beach. For a room with a view of the ocean, it’s about $250 per night.
To incorporate Coral Bay into your visit Australia, you can fly from Perth to Learnmouth airport and then hire a car to drive to Coral Bay. Or the drive from Perth, via Monkey Mia will take you 9 hours
Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay
This is is one of my top 10 beaches in Australia and the most fab way to spend a long weekend away from Sydney. Nestled in the Booderee National Park, a three hour drive from Sydney, this beach is everything that you could wish for and more. Turquoise clear sea and white sandy beaches.
If you dared to get bored here, you can explore the other beaches within the National Park. You can also Kayak, snorkel and search out the fish in the many rockpools. A perfect place for your visit Australia.
There are two entrances to the beach. I prefer the second entrance which is inside the National Park at Green Patch. The other entrance attracts those that don’t want to pay the entrance fee to the park so tends to be much busier. You can camp at Green Patch but book in advance to avoid disappointment, particularly at Christmas when it is the busiest time to visit Australia.
There is some accommodation in Hyams itself – These are generally privately owned beach houses that you can rent. There is much more on offer in Huskisson and Vincentia, which are only a few minutes away by car.
Huskisson and Vincentia also have more amenities, cafes and shops. Hyams has escaped the commercial developers. There is however a lovely café at the first entrance selling gourmet food. Perfect for breakfast, brunch and lunch.
There are also some good B&B’s in this area and you can find these on the same website. If you fancy a splash out go to Paperbark Camp ($900 for two nights in a luxury Safari Tent)
Kangaroo Valley NSW
Just over 2 hours drive from Sydney, this is a great first stop off if you intend to travel to either Melbourne on the coast road or inland via Canberra. This is the Sydneysiders secret place for getting away from the city lights. A quaint township surrounded by rolling green hills and forests. This area always looks green and lush – a stark contrast to the rest of Australia’s orange burnt landscape.
If you are coming from the coast road, the drive into the village takes you up and over Cambewarra Mountain on a narrow windy path. The panoramic views from up here are spectacular.
This is a relaxing place where you can meander down the one main street and browse quaint stores, have coffee or enjoy an infamous Aussie Pie from the old Barrengarry Store. Fitzroy Falls are also worth a visit.
If you are feeling more adventurous, why not do a kayak Safari to Kangaroo River and Shoalhaven Gorge. (www.kangaroovalleycanoes.com.au)
It’s also a great place for horse riding given those rolling hills and rainforests. A recommended an on whilst you visit Australia. (www.kangaroovalleyhorseriding.com)
The old bridge is also worthy of note. Hampden Bridge is just before the village and is the oldest surviving suspension bridge in Victoria.
Given this secret place is inland, it can get very hot during summer, so be prepared! A good one to add to your visit Australia if you fancy roaring fires in the winter months perhaps?
This is B&B territory. But if you prefer to camp there is a great campsite right near the Bridge called Kangaroo Valley Tourist Park. They also have cabins and you can hire bikes and kayaks from here too. (Cabins from $120 for the weekend)
Tall Trees B&B – beautiful surroundings, comfortable accommodation from $145 per couple per night.
Kurunda, Tropical North Queensland
Given it’s proximity to Cairns (just 30 mins northwest), this is a place you should take a day trip to and incorporate into your visit Australia.
It used to be very under-developed but it seems more and more people are getting to know about it and it’s quickly turning into a typical resort village. So come here soon!
Kuranda is about going back to nature and visiting some fabulous markets. You can visit the markets 8.30am to 3pm Wednesday, Friday and Sunday but there are always some stalls open every day.
You then need to explore the heavily protected rainforest and there are numerous ways to do that. You can take the scenic railway or the Skyrail cable car or you can take a duck ride which takes you on and off water through the rainforests.
If that’s not enough and you still have the time, try the Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld or Venom Zoo. A perfect add on to your visit Australia and the Great Barrier Reef.
This island features in my Island Getaways page and is picked as an affordable holiday destination.
This island has everything and despite being in the Tropical north of Queensland, it boasts to have 320 days of sunshine. The rain doesn't seem to hit here although I'd still skip January through to March if you want to guarantee yourself no rain.
Best time would be October through to December with temperatures dipping slightly in June and July.
You would need to get yourself to Townsville to get the passenger or vehicle ferry over to Magnetic island (there are plenty of ferries every day) The cheap airlines (Virgin Blue) fly to Townsville from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, making this a good affordable island holiday. Perfect for you to visit Australia and stay on an Island.
As well as snorkeling, sunbathing and horse riding, 54% of this island is National Park. That means there are plenty of beautiful walks and treks. You can do one trek that takes you to the remains of a WWII military base. The views from here are amazing – you can see all the bays, the ocean and Mt Cook which petrudes from the middle of the island. A definite for your visit Australia.
Another well kept secret. This trip offers visitors an exclusive look at a nature reserve Island. If you want to see seals, penguins, bird life and spectacular coastal scenery, then this is the place for you. If you are here between June and July or September and October, you may also see whales.
Five Hour’s South of Sydney on the coastal drive towards Melbourne you will find a small town called Narooma. It’s just after Bateman’s Bay. From here you can catch a ferry over to Montague Island. Whilst you can take a half day tour of the island, I would recommend their 2 day stay as part of your visit Australia. You get a guide to show you all the best sites and animal hideouts. You also get to stay in 4.5 star accommodation and there’s a chance to help out on some truly worthwhile nature research initiatives.
A 3.5 hour drive from Sydney, this wine region is often overlooked in favour of the more famous Hunter Valley. I would strongly recommend coming here instead as part of your visit Australia.
It’s much more compact as it is just a single town and the wines are growing in importance – notably Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
It’s hard to say which are the best wineries to visit but I’d certainly check out the following as part of your
And when you’ve had enough of eating and drinking, there are a few bush walks in the area or try canoeing. There is also a golf course in the area. Add this one to your visit Australia if you are into food and wine.
This little gem of a town is on the Great Ocean Drive near Melbourne. Most visitors to this area get to the 12 Apostles and turn round. Carrying on a bit further will get you to Port Fairy and I whole heartedly recommend staying here for at least one night, more if your itinerary will allow. (It’s probably about a 4 hour drive from Melbourne)
Port Fairy is an old fishing village and has a quaint harbour, beautiful town with over 50 historic buildings to explore. Griffith Lighthouse is also very charming and from here you can walk on what is usually, a deserted beach.
There are some wonderful old B&B’s and beach houses here, making this perfect for a long weekend or a good stop off before carrying on to Adelaide or along the Great Ocean Drive to Melbourne. You can't visit Australia and not make it here.
Places to stay:
Oscar’s Waterfront Boutique Hotel – a grand old house offering good size rooms with views of the water. Breakfast is also pretty awesome. $250+
Hearns Beach Villas – right on the beach with very modern interiors. It’s just a short drive to the town of Port Fairy. $200
Wytonia Studios - $170 for 2 people
Big 4 Holiday Park cabins and hotel) $95 - $140 holiday homes
Cherry Plum Cottages B&B from $130
Recently voted “Best Australian Town” by an Australian magazine, this really is a local’s secret. As one reader put it, “Like Byron Bay was 20 years ago Relaxed, unpretentious and all about the community” A good one to incorporate into your visit Australia.
This small town is 670km north of Sydney (8.5 hours) on the coastal road up to Brisbane (280km/ 4 hours from Brisbane) Yamba has a great mixture of incredible surfing beaches and calm seas suitable for swimming. It’s a quiet town with limited night life. There’s lots of great cafes, restaurants and boutique shops to keep you occupied. There are also local markets every Sunday.
The local area is perfect for hiring bikes or even a boat and there are plenty of good walks in the two nearby National Parks of Yuraygir and Bundjalung. The nearby town of Maclean is also worth a visit, offering interesting architecture and some Scottish history.
Many couples and families come back every year to enjoy Yamba’s slow, chilled and laid back lifestyle. Visit Australia and see Yamba. try www.Stayz.com.au for accommodation ideas.