5 Best Hidden places to visit in Australia- not your typical tour
Since I can remember I have always had a bucket list. Things I needed to see before I got old. One of them was to visit Australia on my backpacking trip around the world. It happened but not as I expected, I had the opportunity to move there for work and I took every weekend as an opportunity to explore the great outdoors. After my work contract expired my husband and I packed up the car with the essentials, sold everything else and went on a 6-month camping trip around Australia. We found some fantastic scenic spots with no tourists at all, completely off the beaten path and definitively worth your while.
If you are traveling to Australia for the first time with only a few weeks to spend in this magnificent country, you will have to pick the most traveled spots, like Sydney, Whitsundays, Brisbane, etc. Even though constantly visited they are absolutely fantastic. Skipping them would be like visiting the United States and not having New York City in your itinerary. For a second visit however, you might want to add new places that will give you a different kind of experience, learn more about the culture and its hidden treasures. Here is a list of the top 5 most fantastic off-the-beaten-path places we found while camping out in the vastness of the Australian continent.
1. Coral Bay, Western Australia
The way we found Coral Bay was driving due North from Perth along 1000 kilometers of uninhabited desert. Keeping the gas gauge in sight and treating fuel like water- a highly valuable commodity. We were traveling during the fall months of March and April and here at Coral Bay the water was still warm enough to swim in. I suggest carrying with you a mask and snorkeling everywhere you go in Australia, at Coral Bay you do not have to get on a boat for great snorkeling. 100 feet off the beach and there is plenty of coral and underwater fauna in crystal clear water.
Relax on the beach or if you are up for an adventure and your wallet allows it, join the tours to swim alongside a whale shark. There are only a few places in the world where you can see this magnificent giants let alone swim with them. It is pricey because the tour uses a spotter plane to locate the whale shark and then radios back to the boats to follow, sighting is guaranteed.
Coral Bay, Western Australia
Coral Coast-Coral Bay Further Reading and Info
- Coral Bay WA - Tourism Western Australia
- Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef - Australia's Coral Coast
Swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef is the experience of a lifetime. Join a whale shark watching or snorkeling tour from Exmouth or Coral Bay.
- Watch this video on how close and personal you can get to the whale shark
Snorkeling with a whale shark off the Ningaloo Reef, just off Coral Bay in Western Australia.
2. Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia
Flinders Ranges are located approximately 450 kilometers north of Adelaide. It can easily be a detour from the tourist trail going from Adelaide to Alice Springs and Uluru. As the name indicates it is a range of mountains in the desolate outback. At the park you can traverse part of one of the world’s greatest hiking trail and Australia’s longest: The Heysen Trail. If you are into mountain biking, The Mawson Trail is designed specifically for bike lovers; the trail has small detours to see the best features of the park like the Wilpena Pound a 80-square kilometer Natural amphitheater. Stay and camp right at the visitor center’s campground, the amenities are top notch. The national park has maps of the bike and hiking trails, it is a big park keep this with you.
Flinder Ranges, South Australia
Flinders Ranges National Park Further Reading and Info
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Flinders Range
Find more information on Flinders Ranges National Park
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Wilpena Pound
National Park features- Wilpena Pound
- The Heysen Trail
Find information about the Heysen Trail
3. Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy is a city in the middle of the desert, about 845 kilometers north of Adelaide. It is very dry and very hot but the city thrives on opal mining. Most of the town’s folk are opal miners and they supply 95% of the world’s opals. Anyone can be a miner; you can apply for your permit, buy a piece of land and start digging. Heavy machinery can destroy the opal so most of the digging is done by hand. If you are just visiting you can get down and dirty and dig through piles of discarded rock to find your own opal or visit one of the many shops that sell the gems.
Besides being the best place to buy opals in Australia, this unique place stands out because most of the people here live underground. Their home are called "dugouts" and it is a great idea since the temperature underground is constant at 72 degrees and makes living here bearable during the summer. These dugouts are in no way rudimentary they have everything a modern world can supply from tiled flooring to pool tables. If you need to expand there is no need to move you can always dig out another bedroom. A great place to stay if you are camping here is an underground camping area where you have your own site to pitch your tent. Natural light is rare so bring your flashlight.
Coober Pedy Further Reading and Info
- Coober Pedy - Home - Tourism - Opal Capital of The World
Coober Pedy is known as the "Opal Capital of the World" and has many attractions such as underground "dugout" homes, tours, diverse accommodation and fantastic restaurants
- Coober Pedy - Opal Mining
Learn about Opal mining and how it is done here in Coober Pedy
- Mining Opals- From the locals
Read the story of Opal mining from the miners themselves.
4. Kununurra and the Ord River, Western Australia
Kununurra is a small town located approximately 850 km west of Darwin. It is quiet, remote and most everyone here is a rodeo rider. The real attraction here is along the Ord River. A 3-day self-guided canoe tour will take you from the dam at beautiful Lake Argyle all the way back to Kununurra. It is the best way to take in the gorgeous surroundings.
You rent a cooler, tent and a waterproof map and you are the tour guide. The map has your highlighted route and things to do and see along the way. This tour is an Australian-style tour with a no-worries and go-for-it attitude- for example: jumping off a 12-meter rock is highly recommended, and do not worry about the small crocks they are only freshies; oh and by the way you will be about an 8-hour paddle ride from the nearest telephone. No worries! it is a fun adventure that you will remember for the rest of your life.
There are designated campgrounds where you will find everything you need including rudimentary toilets, cooker and off-the-ground tent placements. You are encouraged to go deep into the tributaries, go on shore and hike up to waterfalls and other landmarks. Incredible scenery and lots of wildlife including snakes and spiders but this is why we love Australia. The third day brings you along a settled area, stop at the Zebra Rock art gallery, Northern Australia is the only place in the world where you will be able to see this kind of gorgeous rock and it is well worth a look. Also inquire inside the gallery for amazingly refreshing mango shakes, after 3 days paddling they taste like heaven!
Kununurra Further Reading and Info
- Mineralogical Society of America- Zebra Rock
For the Geology buffs here is a full description of the Zebra rock and its properties.
- University of Toronto- Zebra Rock
Here is a short description of the Zebra rock unique to Kununurra.
- Zebra Rock Gallery Kununurra East Kimberley
Welcome to Zebra Rock Gallery. Here in the air-conditioned comfort of the Gallery you will find a welcome respite from the heat of the Kimberley sun. Scott, Bruce and Dianne will be pleased to tell you about the interesting rocks that we fashion. We
- Kununurra Tours
This is one of the tour operators for the 3-day self guided tour.
5. Cradle Mountain
Cradle Mountain is located at the beginning of the Great Overland Track approximately 330 kilometers north of Hobart. The Overland Track is 65 kilometers long and it takes 6 days to traverse. It follows through the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. If you are into hiking by all means complete the 6-day journey it is well worth it, however we found that the 6-hour hike to the crown of Cradle Mountain alone would give you the best view of the track, a sample of the great scenery and your effort well rewarded.
The climb is not easy, at times you will need to be on your hands and knees to go over the boulders at the top. In the pure Australian style there are no safety features installed along the track only markers to guide your way- it is all natural the way it should be. The hard way to the top makes the view at the top most rewarding.
Cradle Mountain Further Reading and Info
- Parks & Wildlife Service - Introduction
Overland Track - Information
- Tasmanian Wilderness - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Planning your tip? I highly recommend taking only one book: the backpacker's bible
If you are planning on heading down to Tasmania, then I would also recommend to get this book which will only pertain to that area therefore it has a lot more detail.