Six Of Australia’s Most Underrated Regional Gems
Because cities don't get to have all the fun.
We lucky ducks grew up with the world as our oyster and a thirst for adventure to match. It’s too easy to jump on a flight to Thailand, Bali, New Zealand, Europe or the States. So easy, in fact, that we can completely overlook the possibility of spending our next holiday on home soil even though there are many Australian travel destinations that are real gems.
Yes, it’s hard to go past a relaxing beach holiday to one of our neighbouring nations – especially somewhere your dollar goes further – but you might find that exploring your own country opens your eyes to a whole new perspective. I learnt this lesson first-hand. After spending a total of three years gallivanting around the world, it’s a 10-day road trip in a camper van through the outback that I still talk about as one of the best trips I’ve taken.
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Weipa and Cape York Peninsula, Qld
It’s forgivable if you’ve never heard of Weipa. It’s a small and isolated town in Far North Queensland, a gruelling 19-hour drive from Cairns if you’re up for it. Most of Weipa’s 3300 residents are tradies and miners who work at the nearby bauxite mine, but flying into Weipa puts Cape York – Australia’s northernmost point – on your doorstep.
Take some of the world’s most famous 4WD rally roads through dense rainforest, passing by sprawling cattle stations, through remote Indigenous communities and over the infamous Jardine River Crossing (a very expensive-but-worth-it ferry ride). Along the way, you’ll have refreshing waterfalls and swimming holes all to yourself.
The highlight reel of your trip from Weipa to “The Tip” includes tropical butterflies, goannas, mangroves, crocs, florescent lizards, gigantic termite mounds and cane toads galore. This is the “real” Australia; all isolated terrains and unforgiving landscapes.
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Lord Howe Island, NSW
Just look at it. The pictures say it all, right? This untouched paradise is only a two-hour flight from Brisbane or Sydney.
Lord Howe Island is an utterly striking volcanic formation in the Tasman Sea, half-way between Australia and New Zealand. The crescent-shaped island has secluded white sand beaches, offering some of the world’s best snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, bird-watching and hiking. It’s also a certified World Heritage site for its pristine ecosystem overflowing with plants and wildlife found nowhere else in the world.
But don’t take my word for it, take the word of nature man David Attenborough who said it’s “so extraordinary it is almost unbelievable… few islands, surely, can be so accessible, so remarkable, yet so unspoilt.”
A population of just 360 people call Lord Howe their permanent home, and only 400 people are allowed to visit at any one time, so meeting the locals and chatting to them about life on the island is an integral part of any trip. Consider visiting in March for the Rockfest Music Festival, or book in during April/May or September to November for the five-day Seven Peaks Walk.
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Mildura and the Murray River, Vic
Nicknamed the “Mighty Murray”, the Murray River is the beating heart of regional Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. And, from Mildura, you’re within a one-hour drive from all three.
Lined with rugged bush scenery, the river has played a monumental part in Australia’s settlement and agriculture history. Today it’s a mega-highway of holidaymakers enjoying the dry heat from their ski-boats (adventure-types) and houseboats (leisurely-types). Go for the fishing, waterskiing, and beautiful old Australian pubs.
There’s world-class wineries, breweries and olive groves dotted around the area, but the Sunraysia and Riverina regions are most famous for an abundance of juicy fresh fruits: think oranges, mangos, watermelons and stone fruits, all which you can pick up by the side of the road for little more than a few bucks.
Along the Murray, there’s no shortage of paid or free campgrounds and caravan parks to choose from, or “country club” venues serving up cheap meals, cheap rooms and well-kept golf courses.
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Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast, Qld
OK, I know we bang on about this place a fair bit, but that’s because it deserves the hype. Hervey Bay is your gateway to Fraser Island and the Fraser Coast, and it’s heaven. This is a destination for nature and adventure lovers first and foremost.
Fraser Island has a beach ranked in the Top 20 beaches in the world and, like Lord Howe, the island holds a World Heritage listing. The must dos for all first timers are to drive a 4WD along the beach (Aussie as), swim in the clear waters of Lake McKenzie, and marvel at the marine life (anyone for whale watching?). But secondly it’s a destination for foodies, bursting with top class wines and seafood (visit in early-June for the annual Relish Food And Wine Festival).
The Hervey Bay region boasts a mix of backpacker hostels, luxury beach resorts and beachside camping and glamping, so you’ll be set no matter what experience you’ll looking for.
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Broome and the Kimberley, WA
The Kimberley is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the world. It’s remote, yes, but getting there is half the fun and, once you’re there, you’ll see why it’s one of the best Australian travel destinations.
Fly into Broome in the country’s northwest and hire a 4WD or a campervan to take you the rest of the way. The Kimberley is kind of a quieter, wilder version of Kakadu – and Kakadu is pretty damn amazing. You’ll spend your days cooling off in pristine swimming holes, marvelling at ancient rock art, and taking photos of each and every sunrise and sunset. Fork out on a chopper ride to see the impressive region from the air, and if there’s one on, you should definitely visit a local rodeo. Just trust us.
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Coober Pedy, SA
You’ve probably heard of Coober Pedy and you might even know that it’s the capital of opal mining in Australia. But it’s a six-hour drive from both Alice Springs and Adelaide, and it’s really hot there, so you’ve probably never thought of actually making the journey. So let me sell it to you.
Coober Pedy is one of the most photogenic towns in Australia. Not because of it’s beaches or wildlife or rainbow bagels served with fairy floss garnish, but because it’s totally underground in a very real way. To battle the scorching Outback heat, opal miners looking for shelter built their houses, shops, pubs, churches and hotels in underground caves known as “dug-outs”. This makes Coober Pedy one of the most unusual towns in the world without even trying.
Now you’re inspired for your next trip to these excellent Australian travel destinations, check out our most romantic beaches.
(Lead image: Lord Howe Island)