Sydney Opera House, Federation Square… there’s many places in Australia that are simply iconic worldwide. But we’re also full of incredible hidden treasures, that are less known but absolutely fantastic. Part of travelling is discovering the best-kept secrets of your destination, and from secret gardens to salt lakes, ghost towns to cave cities, Australia delivers. Whether you’re dreaming of your next trip down under, you’re bubbling with excitement over the NZ/AU travel bubble, or you’re looking for amazing things to do in your backyard, here’s some fodder for your travel bug – and hopefully sometime soon, for your Instagram!
Here’s your off-the-beaten-track bucket-list Aussie itinerary.
Remember to check the latest travel alerts for Australia and your destination state or territory, and stay COVID-safe.
1. Umpherston Sinkhole
Located in the lush Mount Gambier, SA, the Umpherston Sinkhole is a seriously spectacular sinkhole, converted into a sunken garden in the late 1900s. It was once a typical limestone cave, naturally created when the roof of the chamber collapsed. In the evening, the sinkhole comes alive with hundreds of possums, making for a truly special experience in itself, and there’s almost many scenic spots that are just picture-perfect (and picnic-perfect, too!)
Umpherston Sinkhole. Photo Credit: Offroad Images
2. Bay of Fires
One of the Australia’s most startling natural wonders, the Bay of Fires is located on the remote northeastern coast of Tasmania. Brilliant orange lichen grows on the granite boulders lining the bay, giving the area its iconic firelit look. Gorgeous coastline stretches over 50 kilometres, drawing in visitors for decades. The beach is considered to be one of the world’s most stunning, with powder-white sand and turquoise waters making for a picture-perfect spot to relax and unwind.
Bay of Fires Tasmania. Photo Credit: Stu Gibson
3. Daintree Rainforest
The truly extraordinary Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, with unique and beautiful flora and fauna galore. Located an hour north of Cairns, the Daintree is billed as “a world away from your everyday” for good reason: from bushwalks to fishing, adventure, history, and spectacular natural beauty, it’s a must for nature-lovers, bird-lovers, explorers, families, couples… in short, pretty much everyone! From cruising the River looking for crocs, to zip-lining through forest canopy, entertaining and informative guided tours, this World Heritage Listed Aussie treasure is well worth a visit.
Walkabout Cultural Adventures. Photo Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
4. Broken Hill
Known as the Gateway to the Outback, and proudly Australia’s first Heritage-Listed City, this eclectic NSW mining city is full of history and heritage, a thriving art scene, and a ton of attractions in and surrounding Broken Hill. Given its isolated location, this city really is full of surprises: from its iconic Broken Heel Festival paying homage to Priscilla Queen of the Desert, to its Living Desert Sculptures, and the world’s largest acrylic painting ‘The Big Picture’. The surrounding landscapes paid muse to the Brushmen of the Bush, and you can see their works at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery; there’s also incredible Aboriginal art both ancient and contemporary to admire.
We’ve really only touched the surface; from true-blue Aussie pubs in iconic heritage buildings, to the Hollywood-darling ghost town of Silverton, Broken Hill is really like nowhere else on earth. Find out more in our feature on Taking a Break in Broken Hill, and head to brokenhillaustralia.com.au for even more fun in the Silver City.
5. Tiwi islands
Only a 2.5 hour ferry ride away from Darwin, this off-the-beaten-track travel destination is known for its welcoming locals (most of whom are of Aboriginal descent), vibrant arts & culture, stunning landscapes, fantastic fishing and some serious love of AFL. Stay in a tropical fishing lodge, check out the informative and entertaining cultural and nature tours, visit an art centre, and meet the famous “morning tea ladies” (Tiwi women elders serving damper and billy tea).
The Tiwi Islands are an amazing insight into the traditional rhythms of life. After visiting the islands you’ll understand why they’re nicknamed the “Island of Smiles” – you’re bound to have one on your face too.
6. Kings Canyon
The towering sandstone walls of the Kings Canyon are truly ethereal, and scaling them to watch an outback sunrise is nothing short of exquisite. Located in the remote Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory, you’ll find spectacular gorge views on the 6km Kings Canyon Rim Walk, and fascinating tours including an Under the Moon Experience courtesy of the nearby Kings Canyon Resort. There’s also the 22km Giles Track from the Canyon to the Kathleen Springs waterhole. Find suggested itineraries and more at northernterritory.com.
Rim Walk at Kings Canyon. Photo Credit: Tourism NT/Nic Morley
7. Undara Lava Tubes
We’d venture a guess that most Aussies haven’t heard of this hidden treasure, but they’re definitely bucket-list material! This amazing volcanic marvel in Tropical North Queensland is the site of some of the world’s longest lava tubes, created about 190,000 years ago from 23 cubic km of lava which flowed into a river bed for 160km continuously. Huge caves have formed in places along the Undara Lava Tubes, creating gaping holes which can be entered by visitors taking guided tours. Very exciting!
Undara Lava Tubes Experience. Imagery copyright Rowan Bestmann 2010
8. Aurora Australis
You’ve no doubt heard of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), but what about the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis)? There’s no need to travel all the way to Scandinavia to witness an aurora phenomenon: if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot this incredible night-sky lightshow in various places in Australia and NZ including Tasmania, VIC and WA. According to Smithsonian Mag, “the website Aurora Service offers an hourly forecast based on real-time solar wind data procured from the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) a NASA spacecraft in orbit. Most southern lightshows occur during the Southern Hemisphere’s fall and winter months, which stretch from March through September.” Mount Wellington in TAS is considered a particularly good spot for chasing the southern lights, so go forth, intrepid stargazer!
Want to know more? You’ll find ideas and itineraries galore to whet your Aussie travel appetite at Tourism Australia, the official website, representing our country and its amazing travel destinations. Get in touch with an ATAS-accredited travel agent to plan your fab Aussie getaway!
Looking for more true-blue Aussie travel tips and insight from ATAS? Check out our traveller’s guide to SA and Adelaide, uncover Perth’s hidden gems, find out why Hobart is for lovers and why NT belongs on your Aussie bucket list.