Down Under: the land of gum trees, beaches, the Outback, weird animals and people who seem as if they’ve been born with a surfboard under the arm. Australia is a country that just begs to be explored on a long, slow road trip. You already know that you need to see Sydney Harbour, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef but just because these are the country’s most famous attractions doesn’t mean there aren’t any others. These 20 hidden gems to visit in Australia will inspire you to make the long flight down south and start practicing how to say “G’day, mate!”
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North Stradbroke Island, Queensland
North Stradbroke Island, or Straddie as it’s known around here, should rightfully be one of the world’s best islands. After all, where can you see whales, dolphins, koalas and kangaroos all in the same place? The island is some 30 km southeast of Brisbane and you can reach it by water taxi. Don't miss it on your big trip to Australia.
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Bay of Fires, Tasmania
Whitehaven Beach may be one of the world’s most beautiful places but that’s just because the Bay of Fires is such a well-kept secret. Located on Tasmania’s northeastern coast, the bay features the white of the sand beaches, the blue of the clear waters, the green of the vegetation and the bright orange of the lichen-covered rocks. No filter necessary.
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Convict Brick Trail, Campbell Town, Tasmania
One of the most poignant reminders of Australia’s convict past is the Convict Brick Trail in Campbell Town. The trail consists of red bricks, each with the name of a convict transported to Australia, the person’s crime – often something as small as stealing some food – and sometimes their age. The trail starts at the Red Bridge.
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ACDC Lane, Melbourne, Victoria
Australia has given the world some great rock bands and nobody embodies down and dirty quite like AC/DC. Melbourne’s ACDC Lane is named for the band and is one of the best places to see the city’s graffiti, one of the most important things to see in Australia. It’s also home to restaurants and watering holes like the infamous Cherry Bar.
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Kings Canyon, Northern Territory
The original idea for the ending of the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was that the three main characters would climb Uluru in drag. Because climbing the sacred Aboriginal site in any kind of garb is frowned upon, though, the setting was changed to Kings Canyon. Kings Canyon is especially spectacular – and not as scorching – at sunrise.
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Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath, New South Wales
The afternoon activity at the Hydro Majestic Hotel is a far cry from the stereotypical “shrimp on the barbie.” On Mondays and Saturdays, the historic clifftop hotel offers high tea in an elegant setting. The view of the Megalong Valley and the Blue Mountains is to die for too.
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Baird Bay, South Australia
There’s nothing like getting up close and personal with sea lions and dolphins and it’s even better when they’re wild. You can do this, and more, at the isolated seaside village of Baird Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. It’s a great destination for camping, bushwalking, fishing and enjoying some time by the water.
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Coober Pedy, South Australia
Australia’s self-styled opal capital, Coober Pedy is more (in)famous for something else. It’s so hot here that the town’s inhabitants have built their homes, hotels, shops and even churches underground. You may want to visit between May and August: the Australian winter.
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The Palace Hotel, Broken Hill, New South Wales
Why visit a hotel while you're in Australia, you ask? Formerly known as Mario’s Palace, the Palace Hotel features colourful murals of Australian landscapes, painted by Gordon Wayne, an Aboriginal artist.
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MONA, Hobart, Tasmania
If you’re an art lover, you can spend your days wandering the halls of staid old museums. Alternatively, you can be inspired by the edgy exhibits in MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. The fact that the entrance to the museum features a tennis court – because why not? – gives you a clue to the surprises you’ll find inside.
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They’re quirky, tacky and the perfect excuse for a road trip. Australia’s Big Things are oversized versions of everything from pineapples to Ugg boots, lobsters to cricket wickets. Australia's big things are found throughout the country, most often in small towns that you probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise. Like this giant koala in Dadswells Bridge, Victoria.
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Wave Rock, Western Australia
Of course a country so closely associated with surf culture would have a rock formation shaped like a breaking wave. Some 300 km southeast of Perth, Wave Rock is about 15 m high and 110 m long. You can’t surf it but it is the ultimate skate park for the world’s wealthiest skateboarders and us regular folk alike.
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Hawkesbury Region, New South Wales
Less than an hour’s drive from downtown, the Hawkesbury Region is Sydney’s playground. This farm country is a foodie paradise but it’s also popular with lovers of the great outdoors. You can go hiking, biking, canyoning, rock-climbing, wakeboarding, caving: name most of the heart-stopping things to check off your travel bucket list and you can probably do them here.
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Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
Located about 500 km east of Darwin, Arnhem Land is as Outback as the Outback comes. This vast, unspoiled wilderness is populated mainly by Aboriginal people. They gather near Nhulunbuy every August for the Garma Festival, one of the most important events on the Aboriginal social and cultural calendar.
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Shark Bay, Western Australia
If you’re looking for inspiring ancient places you can visit around the planet, look no further than Shark Bay. This remote bay is home to living stromatolites, the oldest known living organisms in the world. There’s some great hiking, beachcombing, swimming and snorkelling to be had here too.
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Adelaide, South Australia
Normally overshadowed by bigger and more famous Australian cities, Adelaide truly is a hidden gem. Cricket and footy, beaches, fine dining, Adelaide Zoo, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and a host of museums and galleries are just some of the reasons to visit. The Barossa Valley and other nearby wine regions make for a good day trip.
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One of 2018’s up-and-coming destinations, Brisbane is finally being appreciated in its own right rather as just the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Laid-back yet vibrant, the city is very much an outdoorsy one with biking, water sports, boating and rock climbing opportunities.
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Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Even though it’s Australia’s capital, visitors tend to skip Canberra. This is a mistake. The planned city is home to Australia’s most important national museums and galleries. It’s probably also the only capital city in the world where you can see kangaroos in the wild.
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Daintree Rainforest, Queensland
The Daintree Rainforest is Australia’s largest tropical rainforest and a fascinating, biodiverse ecosystem. What makes it even more special is that it stretches right to the beach, so you can explore the rainforest, the beach and the offshore coral reef all from the same camping spot.
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Snowy Mountains, New South Wales
The country’s highest mountain range is one of the world's best places to visit in June, if for no other reason than you’ll be able to say you’ve gone skiing in Australia. There’s plenty to do here during the warmer months too, including bushwalking, rock climbing, caving, fishing and mountain biking.