Our Fave Hidden Gems in Australia
There’s no doubt about it. Australia is an incredible place. When we saw we could travel to Australia on Working Holiday Visas in 2014, we jumped at the chance. Australia is a massive nation that compares pretty closely to the size of the continental US. Setting off on our campervan roadtrip, we knew the distances would be far and the hours would be long. What we didn’t know is that the route we chose would introduce us to some of the best hidden gems in Australia, it’s lesser-known but truly amazing spots.
Rottnest Island, Western Australia
After you’ve experienced all the great things to do in Perth, head about 45 minutes off the coast to a gorgeous tiny island known as Rottnest. Although quite popular with travelers and locals in that region, many tourists never make it there, and it’s definitely one of the hidden gems in Australia. It’s a bit off the beaten path (as is all of WA). But Rottnest is stunning. The water, as shown in the photo below, is absolutely pristine. There are many places to walk around the island, but biking is ideal.
The best part about Rottnest? It’s filled with furry little animals called quokkas that peer at you curiously.
Katherine, Northern Territory
Of the many things to do (and not to do (and not to do) in Australia, we tried to cross most off our bucket list. But we also wanted to find the more “off-the-beaten path” destinations. A lot of visitors to Australia make it to Uluru, Darwin, and Kakadu, but not as many visit Katherine. In the far north, Katherine is a pleasant settlement after driving for miles of semi-desert landscape. We had a great time in Katherine, exploring museums, hiking, and visiting the gorges in the Nitmiluk National Park. We felt as though we’d stumbled across a rare treasure: perhaps another of the hidden gems in Australia? The photo below is of the awesome Butterfly Gorge.
The northern parts of Australia are infamous for containing a deadly and aggressive animal, the saltwater crocodile. In nearly every body of water in the upper parts of WA, NT, and QLD, you should be alert for the presence of “salties” as they’re called. They are found in both salt and freshwater. If they are known to be in the area, there will always be an abundance of signs warning you of their presence. You don’t want to mess with salties.
It’s very hot up in the tropical north of Australia, however so cooling off is a necessity, even in the winter, which is when we were there. Fortunately, this area, Buttergly Gorge is reputed to be crocodile free (* in the dry season). We took a refreshing dip in this beautiful gorge after a long and strenuous hike. Please note, according to research, Katherine Gorge is NOT crocodile free year round, and at any time of year, there is the potential for the presence crocodiles. Always check with rangers before swimming, and definitely adhere to signs posted at any watering hole in the upper NT, WA, or QLD.
We then climbed up to this vantage point and dried ourselves in the sun. As we sat, a boat tour of the gorges came by and we waved at them. We overheard the guide tell the passengers they were lucky enough to see a rare sighting of backpackers in the wild! HA!
Karijini National Park, Western Australia
Australia is full of stunning national parks, but a lesser known one is Karijini, tucked into a remote part of Western Australia. We went there and camped for a few days and were not disappointed. There are wonderful hikes, beautiful waterfalls, and fascinating wildlife. Apparently there are many dingoes in the area, but we didn’t see any of those. (Darn!)
Karijini is HUGE and unfortunately, you need a 4WD vehicle to see most things. We’ve mentioned before that a 4WD is a great asset on an Australian roadtrip, but we were in a mere 2WD campervan.
Still, our hike was awesome, and we were rewarded with this magical swimming spot and a few waterfalls at the end. First was the impressive Fortescue Falls, and then the serene Fern Pool, as seen below.
Coober Pedy, South Australia
One of the most incredible places on our journey, if not the most beautiful, was the fascinating opal mining town of Coober Pedy, set in the center of the South Australian desert. It’s unbelievably hot here, so most residents have built their homes and businesses underground to stay cool throughout the year. Tourism may be a small part of the local economy, but the rest of it comes from the lucrative opal mining business. We visited an old mining site, learned about opals, and explored the crazy scenery around town. We also stepped into a cool and cavernous underground church. When seeking hidden gems in Australia, Coober Pedy might just top the list.
There are countless amazing places to visit in Australia. But don’t just see the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House. Step off the beaten path and find something unique and special. We are chagrined that we didn’t see much of the east coast, to be sure. Next time, we might consider an East Coast Australia package to see even more. To spend a longer time in Australia, considering looking into the magic of a working holiday visa, the perfect starting point for extended travels.
Also check out:
↠ How to survive campervan life with your travel partner
↠ A great road trip playlist
↠ Advice for buying a campervan in Australia
Have you been to Australia? Tell us about your favorite place in the comments.
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