Australia – top 10 hidden gems
There’s so much to see in our own backyard but where to start? Here are a few hidden gems to inspire you...
1. Stanthorpe, QLD
Remember how apples used to taste? Stanthorpe, in Queensland’s Granite Belt, has outstanding fresh apples, picked right off the tree. Go there in autumn to enjoy crisp, fresh apples with real flavour. Stanthorpe is also known for award-winning cool climate wineries, art and crafts, and wonderful cafes and B&Bs. Try an afternoon at Robert Channon Wines, enjoying a concert with wine and food in the Swigmore Hall.
2. Horseshoe Bay, Port Elliott, SA
On the Fleurieu Peninsula, Port Elliott in South Australia is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. The Flying Fish café right on the idyllic beachfront at Horseshoe Bay serves wonderful seasonally-based local seafood and is a relaxing way to while away an afternoon. The food is Modern Australian style with Asian and Mediterranean influences. Visit during whale-watching season for an up-close view of these beautiful creatures.
3. Port Fairy, VIC
A pretty little fishing village four hours drive west of Melbourne along the Princes Highway – a little off the track but worth the drive. Port Fairy is a historic seaside town with many charming old-world houses, cafes and shops. Check out the Whalebone Gallery, which displays the work of local artists. Take a relaxing informative cruise along the Moyne river which borders the town. Visit the fishing village to see the boats returning after a morning’s catch. Port Fairy also has an award-winning Folk Festival, held annually each March on the Victoria Labour Day long weekend.
4. Coral Bay, WA
Glass-bottomed boats to take you out to see the spectacular coral reef. Calm, blue-green clear waters and a small beach make it perfect for little swimmers. The town is small, so it is not too touristy except for very popular times around Christmas. Further up the coast, visit Shell Beach – as the name suggests, this is a 120km long beach made up of tiny white coquina shells, sometimes 10m deep – a fascinating and different beach experience. Take footwear, and call in at Denham or Monkey Mia close by to stay and eat.
5. Kuranda, QLD
Take a trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway through a tropical rainforest paradise, across deep mountain gorges, past thundering waterfalls and through quaint little towns. The railway was built by hand over 100 years ago by early pioneers of the region and is still considered a spectacular engineering feat today. See the magnificent Barron Gorge, river and waterfalls on one of the stops, and enjoy spectacular scenery, beautiful tropical birds and butterflies and other indigenous wildlife throughout the trip. The town of Kuranda is also worth exploring for its village markets, heritage-listed buildings and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
6. North-West Coast, TAS
The north-west coast of Tasmania is one of the cleanest and most unspoiled areas in the world. The region’s scenic coastline is beautiful for walking or driving and there are lots of small picturesque towns along the coast with many eco-certified or eco-friendly accommodation options to choose from. Cruise the Arthur River, take a walk in the Tarkine Wilderness or visit one of the many wineries, breweries and distilleries of the area.
7. Boshack Outback, WA
Boshack Outback is a working farm 90 minutes from Perth, surrounded by unspoiled bushland, and with a freshwater lake close by. Enjoy a truly authentic Australian farm experience with canoeing, fishing, bushwalking or just relaxing in the Australian bush. Stay in a humpy (basic tent) or glamping tent (more glamorous!) depending on your preference. All tents are comfortable and spotless. Boshack really is a chance to get away from it all.
8. Hawkesbury River, NSW
Take a houseboat and stay for a couple of nights on this beautiful pristine river in the heart of NSW’s unspoiled bushland. The Hawkesbury is just one hour north of Sydney but feels like half a world away. Swim at secluded beaches, fish the river or just relax with a good book. Wake up to the morning mist and take your morning coffee listening to the birdcalls and enjoying the tranquil water scenery.
The moon rises over Yarramundi, where the Hawkesbury River meets the Grose River.
9. Valley of the Winds Walk, Kata Tjuta, Uluru National Park, NT
This is for travellers with a moderate level of fitness, and needs water and snacks as it is around 7km long in outback conditions, but it is worth the walk for the incredible views of the red rocks, the deep blue sky and the silence. The Valley of the Winds is a series of spectacular gorges and rock formations in Uluru National Park, and contains a vast treasury of indigenous history as well as some sacred sites. There is a sense of ‘the real Australia’ all along this walk. Go with a guide to get the most from the experience.
10. Great Alpine Walk, VIC
For families with older children, this is a wonderful way to experience the stunning Alpine scenery of the Victorian High Plains region. You can choose a day walk, or for the more adventurous, walk and camp for a couple of days as a family. Some companies in the region also offer ‘Inn-to-Inn’ walks where you walk between villages or sleeping huts during the day, with your luggage transported by your tour hosts. Maps and clear instructions are also provided to help you on your way. As well as breathtaking mountain scenery, see a variety of forests, summer flowers unlike any other in Australia, and bird life. Along some paths you will also see rough mustering yards for cattle, and old drover’s tracks.