Almost a decade ago now, I tried to highlight some of Australia’s lesser-known spots in a two-part article, Australia’s Best Kept Secrets (Part One) and Australia’s Best Kept Secrets (Part Two).
With regional carriers like Tiger Air making it easier than ever to jet around Australia’s vastness, I thought it was high time I highlighted some more off the beaten path Australian destinations that will give you a glimpse into that elusive “real Australia”.
Obviously, any Australian tour worth its salt is going to include Sydney and Melbourne. Perth, Cairns, and the Gold Coast probably make appearances too.
You don’t need me to tell you how great these places are, so I’ve gone for cities (or regions, in two cases) that tend to go under the radar when people are plotting their tour of Australia.
Some of the below are far from unknown, while others just might have you flicking frantically through Google Maps muttering: “Such a place cannot be!”
As Seinfeld once said, “They’re real, and they’re spectacular”
#10 – Coffs Harbour & Bellingen, NSW
Two for the price of one to get the ball rolling!
It’s no secret that Adventures Around Asia and I love the Coffs Harbour region. Not only did I go to university there, but also we’re getting married there this October!
Bellingen, a rapidly developing tourism hotspot full of trendy eateries and boutiques, still retains a lot of the hippie charm that has drawn people to it for decades now.
My favorite spot in Bellingen? Either the delicious pub food at Cedar Bar (where we’ll tie the knot) or the little-known swimming holes of the aptly named Promised Lands.
If beaches, shopping, and international cuisine are more your speed, the larger city of Coffs Harbour is just a short drive away.
Jumping off the titular jetty at Jetty Beach, having a delicious beachside brunch at Cafe Treeo, or paying homage at the famous Big Banana are all worth a look while you’re on the road between Sydney and Byron Bay.
Getting There: TigerAir has daily flights from Sydney. You can also take a train from Sydney.
#9 – Hobart, Tasmania
Tasmania is getting itself on more and more radars when it comes to touring Australia, but it’s criminal how few people make the trek across the Bass Strait to Australia’s most beautiful state.
The quirky Museum of Old & New Art (MONA) was recently included in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List in the Top 20, beating out the likes of Yosemite National Park, Myanmar’s Bagan, Victoria Falls, and the freaking Pyramids! High praise indeed.
Hobart is a city with a small town feel and the perfect place to launch into exploring Tasmania’s many national parks and beaches.
Planning an extended visit to Tasmania? I’ve got you covered with an exhaustive list of things to do in Tasmania.
Getting There: Multiple domestic carriers including TigerAir fly to Hobart from multiple cities. You could also take the ferry from Victoria as part of an extended Australian bucket list tour.
#8 – High Country, Victoria
So underrated that I hadn’t heard of it until a friend mentioned it, Victoria’s High Country gives you a third reason to visit Victoria after Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road.
Like the Southern Highlands in NSW, High Country is a great place for a romantic getaway with its vineyards and quaint country towns laden with Australian frontier history.
For me, though, it’s the prospect of exploring Alpine National Park and taking the Great Alpine Road that really has me interested. The alpine and sub-alpine aren’t often associated with Australia, so it’s something you won’t find in many other places.
Between that and a little Australian colonial history, it sounds like it’s well worth a visit.
Getting There: The High Country is a three-hour drive from Melbourne.
#7 – Broken Hill, NSW
Set against the kind of backdrop that made it a perfect filming location for Mad Max 2, Broken Hill is the Australian outback epitomized.
An old mining town whose boom days are behind it, Broken Hill is surrounded by isolated little country towns and even a few ghost towns.
I spent a few of my formative years growing up on the shores of nearby Lake Menindee, and have fond memories of visiting the ghost town of Silverton as a kid before stopping in at some local cafe for what I called a ‘dippy cheese’ but what full-grown humans call ‘grilled cheese’.
While Broken Hill is literally ‘Beyond Burke’ (and if you don’t understand that, you need to brush up on your Aussie lingo), it’s accessible by a train from Sydney for just $100 AUD.
Getting There: Broken Hill is best reached by taking a train from Sydney or driving on an Outback road trip, but you can also fly there from Adelaide, Sydney, or Melbourne.
#6 – Brisbane, Queensland
You’d think that Queensland’s capital and Australia’s third largest city wouldn’t warrant a mention – but many visitors to Australia tend to skip over Brisbane on their pilgrimage from the Gold Coast to Cairns.
While Brisbane may not have the cosmopolitan charm of Melbourne or the laundry list of ‘must see’ sights that Sydney can boast, it’s a city not without considerable appeal of its own.
Whether it’s abseiling off Story Bridge, wandering the kooky hipster streets of West End, ducking across to Moreton Island for a bit of whale watching, catching a Brisbane Broncos game, or hanging out amidst the eateries along the man-made Southbank Beach, Brisbane has something for everybody.
Getting There: Brisbane is serviced by its own international airport, with countless domestic flights also landing every day.
Win Big with Tiger Air!
Want to check out one of these underrated gems for yourself?
Tiger Air is giving you the chance to win a $250 TigerAir gift voucher for use on your next Australian adventure!
How to Win
- Share a picture of your favorite underrated Australian spot on Instagram.
- Use the #GoLikeALocal hashtag.
- Tag @aussieontheroad and @tigerairaustralia.
- Tell us why this is your favorite underrated gem.
I’ll choose the most creative entry on March 14th.
A few important notes:
- Only people aged 18+ can enter.
- I will choose the most creative entry. This is not a random draw.
- Entries close at 11:590pm (AEST) on March 13th.
- I will contact the winner via Instagram to get their best contact details.
- TigerAir will organise the delivery of the prize to the winner.
#5 – Sunshine Coast, Queensland
North of Brisbane and the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast is a popular tourist destination with locals but seems to be criminally overlooked by international tourists.
With gorgeous beaches, a variety of family-friendly local attractions such as Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, and the immense beauty of the nearby hinterlands, the Sunshine Coast is a perfect stop for a young family or for those looking for a more leisurely pace.
I grew up holidaying in Mooloolaba every spring, so have fond memories of sunrise beach sessions and dragging my parents to the tragically dull Nostalgia Town. Don’t worry, intrepid readers, the park is closed and can’t hurt anybody anymore.
If you’re making the lengthy road trip from Melbourne to Cairns, don’t forget to swing through the relaxed towns of the Sunshine Coast. It’s a breath of fresh air after the crowds on the Gold Coast.
Getting There: Sunshine Coast Airport is not only serviced by a number of domestic carriers from major Australian cities, but also has seasonal international flights to and from New Zealand.
#4 – Broome, Western Australia
Perth is rapidly becoming a popular stop for tourists, especially British and South African expats.
Broome is hardly unknown, mind you, as both Cable Beach and nearby Ningaloo Beach are already on the tourism radar, but Broome itself doesn’t get nearly as much play as its laid-back, beachy charm warrants.
While beach towns may be a dime a dozen in Australia, very few can offer the same access to the vast Australian outback. You can be on the beach one day and out in Australia’s red center the next.
Getting There: Broome Airport has regular flights from Darwin and Perth, while it also has flights from larger cities during the holiday season.
#3 – Newcastle, NSW
I’ve harped on about Newcastle’s unfulfilled potential before, and I’m not the only blogger who has sung its praises – with the likes of Caroline in the City & Drink Tea Travel also being aware of this beach city’s immense charm.
One of Australia’s oldest cities, Newcastle’s industrial background and reputation for being a little backward have always kept it in Sydney’s shadow, but its world-class beaches, proximity to the famous Hunter Valley wine region, and emerging arts & entertainment scene are fast turning it into a spot worth visiting.
A short train ride from Sydney, “Newie” is where I spent every summer as a kid, and a city I still hold a great deal of affection for.
Getting There: It’s easiest to reach Newcastle by car or train from Sydney, but it is also serviced by an international airport with connections to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and farther-flung Auckland, New Zealand.
#2 – Darwin, Northern Territory
Darwin isn’t exactly a secret these days. More and more people are headed north to visit Australia’s northernmost capital.
It’s where modern Australia meets Australia as it was before Europe swept in, with the nearby Tiwi Islands being a great place to learn more about indigenous culture.
Nature lovers will be drawn to the nearby Litchfield National Park with its amazing landscapes, while families can enjoy its market culture and laid back vibe.
There’s so much to see in “En Tee”, so I’ve saved you some legwork by writing a post about things to do in the Northern Territory.
Getting There: Darwin is accessible with a huge number of domestic and international carriers. Headed to Bali, Malaysia, or the Philippines after your Australian trip? Darwin offers the shortest flights to these destinations.
#1 – Adelaide, South Australia
While I’m quick to dismiss Australia’s City of Churches as SADelaide or BADelaide, more and more people are starting to call it by the name locals have for it: RADelaide.
It pains me to admit it, but the more I research the South Australian capital, the more I want to check it out.
Where do I begin? The city’s uncrowded but beautiful beaches? Its proximity to the world-famous Barossa Valley wine region? The presence of the popular Monarto Zoo with its safari-style enclosures? Historic architecture? The fact it has more bars and live music venues per capita than any other Aussie city? Its abundance of parklands?
Adelaide has shrugged off its reputation as a stuffy country town. It’s just a matter of time before everyone else figures it out.
Getting There: Adelaide is serviced by an international airport and has connections to all major Australian cities.
What do you think are some of Australia’s underrated gems?
What are some underrated cities in your own country?
Check out TigerAir’s Go Like a Local for more underrated Aussie gems!
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