How well do you really know Australia? With a land so vast, the country is full of hidden gems in Australia. Alternative routes are just waiting to be explored! Those looking to plan for a bigger bucket-list trip such as The Great Ocean Road, Red Centre Way and the Nullarbor, can find more inspiration on Australia.com.
The Central West region of New South Wales is known for its orchards, vineyards and soil-rich vegetable growing terrain. A “must-stop” on any road trip through the Blue Mountains is Logan Brae Orchard in Blackheath – a family-run orchard on the Shipley Plateau where you can enjoy sweeping views of the Blue Mountains while eating a freshly homemade apple pie to fuel yourself for the rest of the trip!
New South Wales’ Southern Highlands (Pie-lands!) is home to award-winning pie makers and with over 30 pie outlets in the region it’s known as Australia’s Home of Pies and even has its own dedicated Pie Trail. Be sure to add Gumnut Patisserie to your itinerary and taste one of the best Banoffee Pies you will ever have. Luckily there are three different branches between Mittagong, Berrima and Bowral so there’s no chance you’ll miss out. If you’re looking for a longer, more savoury stop, duck into the Bendooley Estate just off the Old Hume Highway for a delicious meal and glass of wine – just make sure you book in advance! Roam around the picturesque estate or stop into the spellbinding space that is the Berkelouw Book Shop – a book-lovers’ paradise showcasing rows of rare books and cathedral ceilings.
Most have already driven along the eastern coast with seaside views. It’s worthwhile taking mini detours inland to explore the charming towns through the tablelands of New South Wales. Stop into the small leafy town of Bellingen where you can find hippie art and eclectic boutiques. If you’re headed all the way north up the coast to Byron Bay, be sure to make a detour through the charming town of Bangalow to have your fill of cute cafes and boutiques and find Killen Falls, a wondrous ‘walk in waterfall’, perfect for a photo opp. Or stop in Yamba to walk to local landmarks, like the Yamba Lighthouse and the 1934-built Pacific Hotel. Locals that have been travelling up and down the east coast will often choose to detour and stop into these towns rather than waiting in traffic to get into Byron. These small sea-side towns (Ballina, Lennox Heads and Bangalow) offer up more of the ‘authentic’ hippie and surfer vibes which made this area famous in the first place.
When exploring the Outback in New South Wales, the mining town of Broken Hill is a must-visit. Mainly known for its mining, the town also has pubs a plenty. There are many gems to be discovered. Take Palace Hotel as an example, which featured in the movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It even has a Priscilla Suite complete with glitter tiles and a disco ball. If you’re travelling with kids, they’ll be in for a surprise!
Alice Springs vanilla slice, it’s a thing! Casa Nostra is a little secret locals have been keeping to themselves for around 30 years. This old-school and family-friendly restaurant is a dining staple in Alice Springs. One local tip: you’ll need to pre-order their famous vanilla slice to avoid missing out. Tourists looking to cool off while in town will mostly head to Ellery Big Hole in the West MacDonnell Ranges. While Ellery is one of the most Instagrammable waterholes. If you really want to get off the beaten track, head to Serpentine Gorge and Chalet. These gorges are often overlooked by travellers, purely because they don’t know about them.
In case you weren’t able to stop in at Mission Beach to catch a glimpse of the local cassowaries, be sure to take the 15-minute detour from Innisfail to Etty Bay – a rainforest-enclosed beach on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Schedule this stop for the early morning or late afternoon. That’s when the Cassowaries and their chicks patrol the beach. If you don’t spot one, at least you’ve stopped in at the perfect spot for a quick dip!
Take a detour to Seventeen Seventy (known as The Town of 1770), gaining its name from the historic landing site of James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour in May 1770. This picturesque seaside village is surrounded on three sides by the Coral Sea and Bustard Bay. You can enjoy stand up paddle boarding, fishing and swimming in calm waters. Or, take a walk along the extensive boardwalk and grassed picnic areas.
At the southernmost tip of Queensland, make your way to Springbrook National Park, where you can find spectacular waterfalls, lush rainforest, ancient trees and amazing viewpoints. Part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, the national park also features the Natural Bridge. Just what it sounds like, this is a rock formation with a waterfall after a 1km walking trail. If you’re a regular visitor to the Gold Coast, chances are you’ve heard of the Currumbin Rock Pools however travel to the very end of Currumbin Creek Road and you’ll find the bush oasis that is Cougal Cascades. These mountain rock pools are one of the Coast’s most spectacular places to cool off. As you walk the track to them, keep a look out for the land mullet, the world’s largest skink.
Drive south-west of Winton to Lark Quarry Conservation Park, where you can find 3,300 giant stone dinosaur footprints. It is the world’s only recorded evidence of a dinosaur stampede, and features ancient mesas, gullies and broken escarpments. Jurassic Park fans, prepare to step back in time on the guided Australian Age of Dinosaurs tour! Just be sure to book at least one hour ahead.
Whilst Mexico is well known for their cenotes, you can also find them right here in Australia. Head down to Mount Gambier along South Australia’s limestone coast and find the Umpherston Sinkhole, also known as The Sunken Garden, whose beauty has to be seen to be believed. Other notable ‘sinkholes’ include Hell’s Holes, Caroline Sinkhole and Kilsby Sinkhole. These plunging gardens and aquatic formations each have their own distinctive features and plant life. Explore remnants of a volcanic past of caves and crystal crater lakes. The aptly named Blue Lake turns cobalt blue in the summer months.
If you’re after a one-of-a-kind outback experience, head to what may be Australia’s most unusual town: Coober Pedy. With much of the town built underground, you’ll find many attractions hidden under the hot surface of the South Australian desert, including local homes (some have even been used as movie sets), an opal museum, a Serbian church and even the Desert Caves Hotel. There’s plenty to discover above ground, too, such as the vivid colours of Painted Desert!
Hike to the hidden Walls of Jerusalem
If you’re planning a road trip to the famous Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, keen hikers can schedule a stop to hike the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. While you can do a day walk into the area, most hikers opt to camp for a night or two. Part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the park contains alpine forests amid a high plateau of peaks. A dramatic landscape of high country tarns, lakes and glacially formed moraines beckons. The park is exposed to the extremes of Tasmania’s changeable weather and has no road access or casual visitor facilities. This means visitors are advised to be well-equipped with everything they need to be self-sufficient.
Along the scenic coastal drive from Orford to Swansea toward Freycinet Peninsula, drop into Kate’s Berry Farm and pick up a punnet of fresh locally picked berries and famous chocolates. Alternatively, stop for a coffee and treat at Kate’s Just Desserts & Cafe, which overlooks rows of berries and breathtaking views across Great Oyster Bay, before heading over to one of the local wineries, such as Milton Vineyard, for its signature Pinot Noir and Riesling.
In the small town of Myrtleford is Coffee Chakra, the owners and staff pride themselves on their menu with an Indian inspiration and authentic Chai that’s brewed onsite. Stop in on your tour of the Great Alpine Road. Discover a village brimming with life! Sample fresh local produce, visit cellar doors and delve into the region’s gold mining history. Experience it all with a dramatic backdrop of the banks of the Ovens River, Mount Buffalo and the Alps.
Follow the trail of Australian Silo Art in the Wimmera-Malle region. There are over 36 painted silos located throughout the region! The trail weaves through a number of quaint regional villages and scenic driving routes between the towns of Rochester, Tongala, Shepparton and Benalla.
Detour off the coast to find Budj Bim National Park, whose tranquil crater lake and nature trails around the older crater rim and bushland make it a great place for picnicking and bushwalking. This UNESCO World Heritage Listed park also contains evidence of aquaculture and stone dwellings. These were built by the Gunditjmara people over 6,600 years ago.
For those heading from Melbourne to Sydney or vice versa, the Sydney-Melbourne Heritage Drive takes you to historic towns built on the riches of 19th-century gold rushes. These are ports where paddle steamers dock and Australia’s capital city. But those looking for a unique detour can head out to Strathmerton. This small town is located where the Goulburn Valley and Murray Valley Highway cross paths. It’s also home to prickly passion pear. Cactus Country draws visitors from around the globe to explore the gardens with more than 4,000 species of cacti and succulents make for an unforgettable trip, with eight garden paths to explore and plenty to see and do for all ages.
If you’re going past Bunbury, take a detour to Gnomesville and see the community-driven gnome village – home to over five thousand inhabitants! Known to locals as the quirkiest pit stop in Western Australia, it’s well worth the stop to experience. Not many people know, but you can also bring your own gnome and add it to the collection.
Australia is known for its impressive ocean waves, but there’s also an unexpected photo opportunity in the small town of Hyden, called Wave Rock. It’s a natural multi-coloured granite cliff, standing at 15 metres high and 110 metres long. It started to form more than 2,700 million years ago and looks like a wave about to break. It might be a little out of your way, but it’s well worth the photo standing under ‘the break’.
When planning your road trip, check out our resources for camping and caravanning!