Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth; it’s easy to become stuck in a rut when planning your Australian holiday. With many of us visiting Australia each year, you can find yourself returning with the same stories, the same souvenirs, and the same holiday snaps as your friends at home.
However, if Australia has one thing, it’s room for adventure. Getting off the beaten track requires some careful research but is well-worth the effort when you discover that hidden gem.
These six Australian towns have flown under the radar for visiting Kiwis, and will appeal to coastal creatures and culture-lovers alike.
Three unknown beach towns in Australia
If it’s a beachside escape you’re after, there are few places better than Australia. If you were to visit one of the country’s 10,685 beaches each day, it would take you almost 30 years (how does that sound for your next holiday?). The point is, Bondi Beach is just one of 10,685 beaches in Australia. It may be the most convenient if you’re visiting Sydney, but it’s far from the most beautiful.
Before you board the bus to Bondi, consider these three lesser-known beach towns for the same white sand without the bustling crowd. But remember, even relaxed beachside holidays require careful planning to stay safe in the sun.
1. Kiama, New South Wales
The sleepy coastal village of Kiama is known for its impressive lighthouse, iconic blowhole, dazzling harbour and picturesque (and often-empty) beaches. The town is nestled between hilly farmland on one side and sweeping beaches on the other, meaning there’s no shortage of scenery when lazing on the sand.
Kiama is situated on the South Coast of New South Wales, just an hour-and-a-half driving from Sydney Airport. Alternatively, visitors can catch the train to Kiama from Central Station in Sydney, using the South Coast Line.
Surfers and sun-lovers will thrive in Kiama, with several quality surf breaks in the area and kilometres of coastline to explore. However, there are also plenty of attractions to keep you occupied on the cloudy days. Countless boutique stores operate out of historic cottage-style houses, whilst restaurants, cafes and ice creameries line the main streets. Wednesday Farmers’ Markets run from late March to late September, and the annual New Year's Eve fireworks set the ocean alight with colour.
There are seven beaches in Kiama that are patrolled by surf lifesavers, and one un-patrolled beach. It’s essential that you only swim between the red and yellow flags at patrolled beaches, because waves in the area can often be powerful and rip currents are common. If you’re venturing north or south of Kiama, you’ll encounter a number of stunningly beautiful but un-patrolled beaches, making them unsuitable for swimming.
2. Seventeen Seventy, Queensland
Seventeen Seventy, commonly spelled ‘1770’, is one of the more peculiar towns in Australia. The coastal oasis in North Queensland was actually the second landing site of Captain James Cook in May 1770, an event which is re-enacted by local residents at the annual ‘1770 Festival’ each May.
But Seventeen Seventy’s historical significance is overshadowed by its breathtaking scenery. The town is bordered by water on three sides, with estuaries, creeks, national parkland and the Pacific Ocean all contributing to the natural splendour of ‘the Birthplace of Queensland’.
For beachgoers with a taste for serenity and silence, the Deepwater National Park will not disappoint. The park includes a number of beaches, which are easily accessible from nearby camping grounds (which include public toilets and showers). Arguably, the best adventure in town is the 1770 LARC amphibious car tour, which will have you traversing all terrains while enjoying the native wildlife.
Unlike other parts of North Queensland, Seventeen Seventy is safe from deadly marine stingers, like the infamous box jellyfish. However, the weather can be severely hot, so adequate sun protection is essential, even on overcast days. If you plan to book with one of the many diving and snorkelling tour providers in town, do your research and ensure they’re a licensed operator. Make sure you have an open water dive certification or are diving with a qualified instructor, otherwise we won’t be able to cover you.
3. King Island, Tasmania
For a coastal holiday with a twist, the isolated King Island off the north coast of Tasmania offers natural seclusion of the rawest form. The rugged island is just over 1,000 square kilometres and has a population of around 2,000. Famous for its beef, cheese, the largest lighthouse in the southern hemisphere, and absolutely frigid temperatures, King Island is far from your typical Australian beach holiday.
Nevertheless, its coastal beauty is astonishing. Big swells slam the western side of the island in the winter months, creating perfect waves and ideal winds on the eastern side for hardy visiting surfers. The beaches are windy, cold, and truly untouched. The King Island tourism website has some great itinerary suggestions based on your travelling tastes.
If you’re considering visiting King Island for a coastal escape, note that the raw isolation presents some risks. There is a hospital located in town, however in emergencies, repatriation back to the Australian mainland may be required. Take care when hiking and extra special care if you’re visiting for the surf. The small-aircraft flight from Melbourne to King Island can be notoriously turbulent, and strict baggage load limits are enforced. Ensure you don’t over pack and always check flight information with your carrier from Melbourne because last-minute cancellations are common due to the weather.
Three unknown foodie towns in Australia
Australia isn’t just rich with coastal towns that have flown under the radar. The country boasts some hidden gems that are sure to delight wandering foodies hoping to avoid the crowds. However, getting off the well-worn path can sometimes mean hitting the highway, so careful preparation is essential.
1. Manjimup, Western Australia
When you think Australian wine, you may think Hunter Valley or Margaret River. However, climatic research conducted in the 1980s discovered that Manjimup was in fact the most suitable region for wine growing in Western Australia, the country’s largest state.
Manjimup is the ideal retreat for food-lovers with a taste for the finer things, and it doesn’t get much finer than black perigord truffles served with a glass of some of the best wine in the country. The Truffle & Wine Co. has emerged as one of Manjimup’s crowning jewels since it opened in 1997, creating truffle-infused “earthly delights” in a homely setting with an open fireplace.
Flying into Perth and renting a car is the best way to enjoy a farm-to-plate foodie experience in Manjimup. It’s a three-hour scenic drive to the region, passing other noteworthy towns of Mandurah and Bunbury. However, travellers to Western Australia should be on high alert for bushfires, which are common in the summer months and can cut off highway roads without warning.
The West Australian Government has an up-to-date interactive map of bushfire-prone areas in the state, which notes that the Manjimup region is a danger area. If you are visiting in the summer months, monitor live bushfire updates on the Emergency WA website and obey official evacuation advice.
But visit Western Australia in the winter months and you won’t only dodge the bushfire season, you’ll be able to enjoy a truffle hunt with The Truffle & Wine Co. The truffle hunts run through winter, with visitors combing the forest of truffle trees with trained dogs, and enjoying breakfast, afternoon food and wine tasting.
2. Marrickville, Sydney
Eating out in Sydney isn’t all about the Sydney Fish Markets, The Rocks, and the many restaurants in the CBD. The truth is, some of the best eating experiences in Sydney can be found just out of town, in an area called the Inner West.
Suburbs like Marrickville are just a 20-minute bus ride from the CBD and boast hidden bars, microbreweries, and authentic cuisine from all around the world. In Marrickville, Vietnamese, Thai, and Greek influences reign supreme. Thai Patong on Marrickville’s main street was voted the Best Thai Restaurant in Sydney four years in a row. Just up the road is the local favourite, Lazybones Lounge Restaurant & Bar, which hosts some of Sydney’s best jazz and soul music acts, and great pizza in an effortlessly cool dimly-lit setting.
Marrickville is not included in Sydney’s ‘lockout laws’, which prevent people entering bars in the CBD after 1.30am. However, the legislation has resulted in more partygoers heading to suburbs like Marrickville and neighbouring Newtown.
If you intend to explore Sydney’s Inner West for dinner, drinks, and some great live music, be wary of partygoers who may have had one too many to drink, as the region is quickly becoming Sydney’s go-to nightlife destination. Train services from the Inner West to the CBD stop shortly after midnight on weekends. And remember, we can’t cover you for loss or damage to valuables that occurs as a result of you being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
3. Bangalow, NSW
Bangalow is nestled just outside the coastal mecca of Byron Bay on the New South Wales north coast. And unlike its famous neighbour, Bangalow still retains its small country town feel.
Visitors will find several homely cottage-style eateries along Byron Street in the centre of town, with boutique cafes and charming restaurants all making good use of Bangalow’s famous local produce. The annual Sample Food Festival is held each September, and attracts almost 20,000 revellers from near and far. There are over 200 market stalls set up by local restaurants, food producers, and farmers.
The New South Wales north coast is the ideal location for a road trip. The coastal highway winds through other charming country towns like Lennox Head, Mullumbimby, and of course, Byron Bay. Flying into the Gold Coast and renting a car is easy with a valid New Zealand drivers licence, and from there it’s a short drive south to the stunning NSW north coast.
However, the NSW Pacific Highway is notorious for road accidents. The highway is currently being upgraded, yet a number of stretches around the Byron Bay area remain unfinished. Always use caution on the Pacific Highway, obey local speed limits, and be conservative when using overtaking lanes.
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