Australia, the world’s largest island and smallest continent, is full of wonder, unique sites and incredible travel destinations. Most people tend to be more familiar with the capital cities and what they have to offer and are aware of the other major tourist attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, and coastal hotspots such as Byron Bay. These locations are all worth seeing, filled with incredible activities and places to drive, but sometimes you want something a little off the beaten path, unique and less-touristy in a travel destination.
Not many people know that Australia is surrounded by islands, over 8,000 in fact, ranging from small sand plots to the size of large cities. Many regional towns act as the gateway to these islands, with ferries and boat hires taking from the port out to the island. You can spend a day or a week on these islands with many having their own accommodation. Few travellers venture off the mainland when they drive or fly around Australia, but these islands are truly spectacular and worth visiting.
Kangaroo Island is off the coast of South Australia, close to the capital city of Adelaide. The island is filled with attractions to keep you busy during your stay. With wildlife parks and an aquarium, you can get a guaranteed look at some of the native animals, or if you prefer to see them in their natural setting, head out on one of the wildlife trails. Kangaroo Island has, as you would expect, kangaroos, but you can also see wallabies, koalas, echidnas, goannas, seals and many more unique native species. With walks ranging from easy strolls across boardwalks to longer full-day treks, there is something for everyone.
Kangaroo Island is also home to an incredible food and spirits industry. The island is the birthplace of Australian gin, with the first distillery located on the island, using the local botanicals to flavour the gin in new and interesting ways. Take in a cellar door experience at Kangaroo Island Spirits, with international accolades and awards being heaped on the distillery; it’s not just Aussies who think it’s good. Enjoy lavender fields, local honey, art galleries, restaurants, bushwalks, coastal views, and bounding marsupials.
Kangaroo Island is just one of Australia’s island’s that can hold its own as a tourist destination. Check out Bruny Island, Rottnest Island, Fraser Island, Hamilton Island and Lord Howe Island, to name a few.
Australia is so much more than just its major cities, with spectacular regional towns and cities in every state.
In Victoria, you have the goldrush cities such as Bendigo and Ballarat, known for their heritage architecture, large streets and old-world charm. With art galleries, restaurants, regional produce, museums, vineyards, wineries and unique accommodation. These two cities pack in the best of regional Victoria.
In Bendigo, choose a new and exciting craft beer or boutique wine from one of the many bars and hotels serving the local brews. Colonial hotels mixed with modern beer gardens provide a fantastic atmosphere. Stop in at the world-class Bendigo Art Gallery, with modern, colonial and Aboriginal Australian artwork mixed with some fantastic international exhibits.
Ballarat offers as much as Bendigo, with Sovereign Hill an ever-popular regional attraction, taking visitors back to the days of the Victorian gold rush, fossicking for gold and taking in the blacksmiths and other workshops demonstrating the skills and professions of the time. But there is more to Ballarat than what once was. Modern-day Ballarat is a thriving cultural hub, with art exhibitions, 5-star restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes, breweries, distilleries, wineries, farms, markets and more. The regional produce of the area floods into Ballarat, and many consider it one of the best food capitals of Australia.
If we had to pick one stunning off the beaten path location to seek out in Australia, it would have to be the Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool, located inside Dales Gorge in Karijini National Park, close to the northwest cape of Western Australia. The pools feel like something out of a fantasy novel, with crystal clear water, lush vegetation, trickling waterfalls and iron-rich coloured rock. It’s certainly a trek to reach the pool, but you will be rewarded with a once in a lifetime experience.
All around Australia, you will find terrific regional towns such as these, offering something different to the main cities. With a particular benefit being their close proximity to national parks and wineries. To get the best out of Australian wine, nature and produce, you simply have to stay in regional towns and cities. So whether you’re heading out to an island, winery or national park, keep in mind that regional towns are more than just gateways; they’re hubs for culture, food, unique attractions and history. Start planning your regional road trips today. Happy driving.