While Australia boasts some of the most famous sites globally, as with any other country, it also hides a fair share of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. From the surreal limestone formations called the Pinnacles to Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, which offers pink granite mountains and secluded beaches, Australia offers more than the iconic landmarks in the metropolitan hubs of Sydney and Melbourne. Embracing the road less travelled, especially in Australia, promises an enriching journey as it unveils a side to the country's lesser-known
Betray the beaten path and embark on the road not taken as you explore some of the must visit hidden gems of Australia.
Lord Howe Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Tasman Sea, known for its exceptional natural beauty and diverse biodiversity. The island boasts volcanic mountains, sandy beaches, subtropical forests, clear waters, seabird colonies, and coral reefs, making it a popular tourist destination.
The island has a surface area of 14.55 square km and is home to approximately 450 people in winter and 800 in summer. The population is made up of farmers, cottagers, and retirees.
The unmissable top attractions on the island are Mount Gower, the highest mountain on Lord Howe Island in Australia's Tasman Sea. It offers a challenging trek and breathtaking panoramic views. Another must-visit site is the Ned's Beach, which is perfect for snorkelling amongst vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. Here, you can hire wetsuits and gear from a stall and wade into the water to feed the fish. The Lagoon Beach, a serene spot with crystal-clear waters ideal for swimming and relaxation, is another attraction not to miss.
If you plan to visit Lord Howe Island, you can take a two-hour flight from Sydney. There are connecting flights available from all major Australian cities. It's important to note that the island only allows a maximum of 400 tourists at a time. Hence, making a confirmed accommodation booking is recommended before arranging your flights.
Kangaroo Island, the third-largest island in Australia, is a wildlife sanctuary with diverse landscapes. One-third of the island is protected in nature reserves, home to sea lions, koalas, and birds. Flinders Chase National Park, located in the west, is famous for penguin colonies and coastal rock formations like Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.
The Kangaroo Island boasts several significant attractions you would want to absorb on your visit. Flinders Chase National Park, extended to 326 square kilometers, is home to prominent landmarks such as Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. At Seal Bay Conservation Park, home to the third largest colony of Australian sea lions in the world, you can witness sea lions in their natural habitat. Lastly, Little Sahara offers a unique landscape of rolling dunes perfect for sandboarding.
The Flinders Chase National Park charges INR 1,083 (USD 13) for adults and INR 583 (USD 7) as its entry fees. It remains open for 24 hours around the year.
The Seal Bay Conservation Park has not entry charges, though additional charges for guided trips may be applicable. It functions from 9 am to 5 pm.
To reach Kangaroo Bay, fly to Kingscote Airport from Adelaide Airport. The flight which takes around 30 minutes. After that, take a 45-minute ferry ride from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. Two ferry services are available, namely SeaLink and Kangaroo Island Connect, and during peak periods, ferries may operate up to 12 times a day.
Nambung National Park is home to the Pinnacles, a unique landscape of limestone formations rising from the desert floor. Visitors can spot western grey kangaroos grazing on the park's vegetation and other wildlife. The park is also home to several plant species. The Pinnacles were not well-known until 1967, when the area became a reserve. It was later combined with two adjacent reserves in 1994.
When visiting Pinnacles, there are a few key attractions that you should not miss. These include the Pinnacles Desert Lookout, lunar-like landscape of thousands of limestone spires that rise from the desert sands, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the limestone pillars. Another must-see is the Thirsty Point Lookout, which overlooks the Indian Ocean and offers stunning sunsets. For those who love wildlife spotting, the Pinnacles Drive, a four-kilometer loop, is a scenic route through the desert that offers plenty of opportunities to see the local fauna. The entry fee to the park is INR 1,250 (USD 15) per passenger vehicle.
To get to the Pinnacles from Perth, there are two routes. Option one is to head north on Wanneroo Road, which becomes Indian Ocean Drive. Take a right turn at the Pinnacles sign. Option two is to drive north on Brand Highway, turn left at the Cervantes sign, travel 2 km south, and turn left at the Pinnacles sign.
Freycinet National Park is located on Tasmania's east coast and is well-known for its pink granite mountains, white sand beaches, and clear turquoise waters. The park is home to 49 endemic species found only in Tasmania. The mammal species found in the park include brushtail possum, ringtail possum, sugar glider, eastern pygmy possum, little pygmy possum, echidna, wombats, New Holland mouse, swamp rat, water rat, Tasmanian bettong, and the long-nosed potoroo.
The top attractions in the area are Wineglass Bay, a crescent beach with hiking trails which is an outcrop of wild, pristine coast land on Tasmania's east coast; Hazards Beach, located on the inside of Great Oyster Bay, across from Wineglass Bay, a secluded spot accessible by boat or multi-day hike; and Cape Tourville Lighthouse, which offers panoramic views of the coastline.
A single day pass for Cape Tourville Lighthouse costs INR 3,335 (USD 40).
To get to the Freycinet National Park, you can fly to Hobart or Launceston or take the ferry to Devonport, and then transfer to Freycinet by car or bus.
Undara in Northern Queensland is home to the world's longest lava tube and offers a unique glimpse into Australia's volcanic past. The park's name comes from the Aboriginal word undara, which means "long way." It boasts internationally significant ecosystems and an impressive range of flora (including semi-evergreen vine thicket, dry rainforest, and cavernicolous fernand) and fauna (including bats, wallabies, snakes, and birds of prey). Visitors can explore the lava tubes, observe the wildlife, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Gulf Country.
The area's main attractions include the Undara Lava Tubes, considered to be the oldest and largest lava tubes in the world created when a volcano erupted 190,000 years ago, spewing lava over the surrounding landscape which can be explored through guided tours. There's also the Kalkani Crater, a mountain in the Great Dividing Range, which features walking trails and scenic views, and the opportunity to spot wildlife such as wallabies and various bird species.
Located approximately 300 km southwest of Cairns, you can reach Undara Volcanic National Park by driving along the Bruce Highway to Gordonvale and following signs to the Atherton Tableland up the Gillies Range.
Be mindful when exploring lesser-known sites in different countries. The delicate ecologies of these locations are under threat from tourism. Adopt eco-friendly habits like minimising single-use plastics, sticking to designated trails, and supporting conservation efforts. Choose eco-conscious accommodations and transportation options to reduce your ecological footprint. Respect the environment and local communities to preserve the beauty and biodiversity of these rare destinations for future generations.