When people plan their trip to Australia, places like the Sydney Opera House, the Great Ocean Road, the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru tend to be on their list of places to see. However, there are many more amazing spots that should be on every travel list. The 21 incredible locations on this list are amongst these hidden gems in Australia. And I would like to believe that they are the secret places.
Admittedly a lot of them are outdoors, but then again so is the Australian way of life. And if you want to explore the country as the locals do, you definitely have to get out there and explore the stunning landscapes. Be it at the coast or in the Outback – Australia’s nature is unique and amazing.
If there is one thing you have to do while in the country, it is seeing at least some of these hidden gems in Australia with your own eyes. So be prepared to leave behind the bustling cities like Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, and step away from the commonly known places.
Hidden Gems in Australia
I love Australia and all the country has to offer, but it is the hidden gems in Australia that have the biggest appeal. Many of them are hidden somewhere within thick travel guides. Therefore few travelers know that these astonishing secret places in Australia exist.
I was lucky enough to see about half of the locations on this list while living abroad in Australia. But I always try to find new locations that take your breath away. Therefore I asked locals or fellow travelers to share their favorite hidden gems in Australia. And I promise you that I cannot wait to see those secret locations I haven’t seen yet with my own eyes.
Moreton Island, QLD
A short 60 minute boat ride from Brisbane is one of Australia’s best kept secrets – Moreton Island. A small island made entirely of sand, Moreton Island is a true hidden gem as it’s home to one of the largest and most spectacular man-made reefs in the world – the Tangalooma Wrecks!
To get to Moreton Island, catch the Tangalooma Ferry (passengers only) from Holt Street Wharf in Pinkenba, Brisbane. The second option is the Micat Ferry which transports passengers and vehicles from Port of Brisbane to Moreton Island. Please note there are no sealed roads on Moreton Island, so only 4WD vehicles are allowed.
Submitted by Amada from FlyStayLuxe
The Grotto, VIC
Every year, thousands of tourists from around the world flock to the Great Ocean Road. This picturesque stretch of coastal scenery is known for its rugged limestone cliffs, stunning white-sand beaches, lush green rainforests, as well as abundant wildlife. Many tours go through the area, and most stop at hotspots like the Twelve Apostles. If you want to beat the crowds while still taking in the coastline’s natural beauty, check out the Grotto, one of Australia’s best hidden gems.
From the sandy beach, you can look through the archway and get a close-up look of glimmering smooth rock pools within. There are informative panels along the way that explain the science of the Grotto’s formation in further detail. This is a great off the beaten track stop for those traveling Victoria’s famous coastline. So be sure to add this hidden gem in Australia to your itinerary.
Karijini National Park, WA
If there is one place deserving the title ‘best hidden gem of Australia’ it is likely Karijini National Park in Western Australia. Located 325 km inland from Port Hedland, this national park makes you realize how much life the Outback has to offer. Thanks to a long history of fire stick farming by the Aboriginal people the flora and fauna within Karijini thrives around and in the gorges.
Karijini National Park is a stunning combination of red rocks formed by water and an abundance of life. Therefore it is a real heaven for nature loves that are looking for great gorge hikes in a serene environment. At locations like the Fern Pool in Dales Gorge, you can go for a swim in the refreshing and crystal clear water or just sit under the waterfall itself. And if you are looking for a thrill, the climb down to the impressive area at the foot of the Joffre Falls is a real highlight.
Out of all the amazing hidden gems in Australia, Karijini might just be the most remote, but you will not regret going there.
The Breakaways, SA
Located in the Australian Outback, on the outskirts of the town of Coober Pedy, the Breakaways are one the most beautiful hidden gems in Australia.
This somewhat random chain of mountains is breath-taking. It features a very unexpected range of colours from white to yellow, orange and red. There is just no place quite like it!
Although you don’t need a 4WD vehicle to get there, make sure to drive slowly as there are a lot of potholes. Alternatively, you can book a tour from Coober Pedy.
For the full experience, stay in one of the underground dugouts in Coober Pedy. It’s a very unique experience. Between the mars-like landscapes and the opal mines, you will definitely never forget your visit at the Breakaways and Coober Pedy.
Submitted by Pauline from BeelovedCity
Cape Range National Park, WA
Located on Australia’s west coast near the small town of Exmouth is Cape Range National Park. Full of spectacular gorges and pristine beaches, this hidden gem is worthy of a spot on your Australia bucket list! Getting to Cape Range National Park can be done by flying into Exmouth from Perth, or including it as a stop on your Perth to Exmouth road trip.
There are a number of highlights in the national park that cannot be missed during your visit. Go for a swim at Turquoise Bay, one of the most stunning, pristine beaches you will ever see. Enjoy world-class snorkeling on the coral reef only steps from the shore where you’ll see turtles and many colorful fish. With soft white sand, clear turquoise water and an incredible reef to explore, Turquoise Bay is a true paradise.
Contributed by Ann from The Road Is Life
For us, Bicheno is one of the best beach towns in Australia. It is located on the East Coast of Tasmania about 2 and a half hours from Hobart. Its central location makes it easy to visit famous attractions like Wineglass Bay and The Wine Route. However, those looking to slow down, will find everything they need in Bicheno.
Other attractions can be found in the nearby Freycinet National Park. This isolated beauty is known for its pristine nature made up of craggy peaks, white sand beaches, and turquoise waters. There is lots to do in this park from snorkeling to hiking and wildlife watching. If you’re lucky you might even be able to spot the famous Tasmanian Devil.
Contributed by sustainable travel bloggers Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
Blue Mountains Waterfalls, NSW
The Blue Mountains is known for its sandstone cliffs, vast bushland, and some impressive and large waterfalls, but some of the best waterfalls in the Blue Mountains are unlikely to be found in the average guidebook and are well worth the visits. These waterfalls are real hidden gems of Australia.
As with most of the Blue Mountains towns, Lawson and Hazelbrook are to be found adjacent along the Great Western Highway, and both are home to some picturesque bushland that falls outside of the Blue Mountains National Park, meaning walkers are allowed to bring their furry four-legged friends along with them. All of these are easy walks that can be completed in under two hours.
On the Northern side of the highway is the Horseshoe Falls track and the North Lawson Park which features two different tracks that head to waterfalls, Fairy Falls, Dante’s Glen and St Michaels Falls on one side, and Frederica Falls on the other. The Horseshoe Falls track is another four waterfalls track, and is notable for the rock overhangs on Horseshoe Glow-worm Nook Falls and Oakland Falls, allowing you to walk behind the falls. As the name suggests Glow-worms can also be found beneath the overhangs.
Submitted by Holly from Globeblogging
Darwin is usually just a transit point for most travellers. There does not seem to be much to do in the city itself except for trying to avoid a heat stroke. Few visit the capital of the Northern Territory for its attractions, but more for being the gateway to Kakadu and Litchfield National Park.
Darwin is known for its international cuisine and prides itself in being the laksa capital of Australia. Enjoy anything from fresh fish to vegan delicacies while watching street performers or hunting for hand-crafted and sustainable goodies. Don’t miss out on the stunning sunset on the beach!
If you fancy to cool down during the day, look no further than the Waterfront Precinct. Boasting a wave and recreational lagoon, the water park is the perfect place to take a dip without fear of crocodiles. The fairly modern area is one of the prettier precincts of Darwin and therefore the event hub of the city. Check out all of their events on their website.
Nitmiluk National Park, NT
If you do want to leave the city and immerse yourself in nature, how about paying a visit to Nitmiluk National Park? Featuring breathtaking views from the top of Katherine Gorge and stunning waterfalls, this hidden gem in Australia should be a must-do on every Northern Territory bucket list. Located roughly three hours from Darwin and only thirty minutes from Katherine, it makes a great day trip.
Lean back on a cruise or canoe and watch the sandstone gorges change colour in the sunlight while discovering thousand-year-old aboriginal rock paintings or hike the beautiful country on the many tracks.
Darwin & Nitmiluk National Park were contributed by Caro from Letters from Caro
Glasshouse Mountains, QLD
Most visitors to Australia may not have heard of the Glasshouse Mountains, but anyone living in southeast Queensland would agree that the Glasshouse Mountains are stunning. Many would say that these hidden gems of Australia really should be on the list of Australian landmarks to visit. The 11 peaks are tucked away in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, about an hour’s drive north of Brisbane. The Glass House Mountains were created by volcanic activity that happened around 27 million years ago, and the landscape is the result of nature’s sculpturing over millions of years. The most eye-catching are Mount Beerwah and Mount Ngungun.
The Glass House Mountains were a meeting place for the First Nations people of the region, who flocked to the mountains to trade and attend spiritual ceremonies. James Cook spotted them while on sailing past Australia’s east coast and gave them the name because they looked like a natural version of Yorkshire’s glass furnaces. Besides admiring the lovely views, other attractions include hiking, horse riding, exploring farms, visiting country towns around the area, and spending the day at Australia Zoo, the famous zoo founded by Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter).
Submitted by Roger from TravelSassySeniors.com
Ningaloo Reef, WA
Most people that visit Australia dream of snorking or diving in the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast. However the Ningaloo Reef on the west coast has even better diving as the coral reefs here are more pristine.
Read More: Diving the Ningaloo Reef in Australia
Kangaroo Island, SA
Ever wondered what it is like to live on an island?
Covering an area of 4416 square kilometers and exhibiting all four seasons, many would argue, that Kangaroo Island does not really evoke the typical image of island life. Regardless, this little slice of paradise will make you feel spirited away. Therefore it is one of the best hidden gems in Australia.
Located 13km off the coast of South Australia and accessible by plane or Sealink ferry from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is not on everyone’s Down Under itinerary. In fact, it may seem like a costly detour without distinction to other destinations.
Here is why Australia’s third-largest island is worth a visit, even if you are traveling on a budget:
Kangaroo Island is the perfect place to see all of these animals in the wild and it can easily be done with your own vehicle.
2. Memorable experiences
Kangaroo Island can be a relaxing getaway and a great adventure. If you fancy jumping off the beaten track, there is a multitude of spectacular hikes and you can walk for miles without meeting a single soul. Relax on one of the many beaches to absorb the beauty of the landscape and you may even spot a whale. Or take a little bit more initiative and embark on an Ocean Safari to watch dolphins and other marine life.
Known to aboriginals as the place where souls join their ancestors, Remarkable Rocks are of great cultural importance. There are multiple tour providers offering adventure activities, but they are also accessible on your own. Treat yourself to an exquisite glass of wine at Dudley Wines or fresh Fish and Chips at the Penneshaw Hotel and support local businesses like Clifford’s Honey Farm and Rancho Relaxo. But don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of “to do”s, the island is the perfect place to just lean back let island life happen.
3. Island life done differently
No matter the time of the year, there always is something to explore and the different seasons have their benefits. From camping grounds and a backpackers hostel to luxury hotels, accommodation options cater to every budget. Your trip can be a great learning experience as Kangaroo Island promotes conservation and sustainability and invites you to take part in and take away a little bit of island life.
Due to the bushfires from December 2019 – January 2020, some activities and certain locations may be closed. Nonetheless, vegetation is recovering rapidly and the island would greatly benefit from your visit. Find special #WelcomeBack deals on tourkangarooisland.com and support small businesses and wildlife sanctuaries to help with recovery.
Beloved hidden gem in Australia recommended by Caro from Letters from Caro
Toowoomba, also known as “The Garden City” because of all its gardens and parks, is a hidden gem in Australia that a lot of people miss to put on their east coast Australia itinerary. The city is located less than 2 hours away from Brisbane and has a population of over 100 000, which makes it Queensland’s largest inland city.
This place has a lot to offer. If you like hiking or mountain biking, you’ll be happy to find that Toowoomba is around 700 meters above sea level. Coming from Brisbane, you’ll notice this while driving up the steep slope just before entering Toowoomba. Upon arrival in the city, you’ll also notice that there’s a lot of surrounding hills and mountains to explore.
Recommended by Amanda from My Backpacker Life
Gippsland is a complete hidden gem in the state of Victoria, Australia and it is a huge area. Stretching from just outside of Melbourne in a place called Warragul all the way to the NSW border. It doesn’t just have something for everyone, it has it all.
From sweeping plains to rugged mountain ranges, from majestic beaches to mighty rivers there is a town that will give you the perfect place to discover all that Gippsland has to offer.
Not only is Gippsland blessed with some of the most amazing scenery it has some of the best food and wine in the state as well. Gippsland’s fresh produce is the envy of so many places. From local, delicious wines, craft beer and all the very best food to go with it, you will find an absolute delight for foodies of all kinds.
Visiting Gippsland is perfect for couples, singles and families. You can explore Gippsland by car, enjoy a boat ride or use the amazing rail trails to cycle through some of the most wonderful and diverse Australian bush you will see. From a short stay to a visit and never leaving, Gippsland will steal a piece of your heart and you will always have to return.
By Bec from Travels in Gippsland
Australia is an island with so many fantastic beaches, and anyone looking for a beach destination has plenty of beaches to choose from. Most first-time visitors head to Sydney’s Bondi Beach, Queensland’s Noosa or the famous Whitehaven Beach. While these beaches are iconic beaches to go sunbaking and to enjoy a vacation by the sea, they can also get rather crowded. Not far from the famous Byron Bay, the small seaside town of Yamba in NSW is starting to attract a holiday crowd.
Recommended by Christina from Travel2Next.com
Shark Bay, WA
Monkey Mia and its dolphins that come to the shore might be popular amongst those exploring the west coast of Australia, but it is only a small part of the amazing Shark Bay area. However, most people do not take the time to explore the rest this hidden gem in Australia has to offer.
And of course, there are also the Stromatolites of Hamelin Bay. These living fossils that can only be found at two places on earth, so a stop here is a must.
Read more: Exploring Shark Bay in Western Australia
Big Crystal Creek – Natural Waterslide, QLD
If you find yourself in North Queensland (between Townsville and Ingham) and are looking for some free outdoor fun, then make sure you head to Paluma Range National Park.
One of the highlights of Paluma Range NP is Big Crystal Creek with its rock pools, waterfalls and natural waterslides.
Once you’ve enjoyed the waterslides, head back to the Big Crystal Creek camping ground for a picnic lunch. The camping ground has flushing toilets, cold showers, gas BBQ’s and picnic tables and is located just near the largest of the Big Crystal Creek waterholes called Paradise Waterhole. Paradise Waterhole is the perfect location for a final swim before heading home.
Big Crystal Creek is incredibly popular with the locals which is always a good sign, so make sure you arrive there early in the day.
Suggested by Susan Gan from Australia Bucket List
Kalbarri National Park, WA
Kalbarri National Park is located 600 km north of Perth and a place you have to explore when traveling along Australia’s west coast. This hidden gem of Australia offers both a coastal area with stunning cliffs and an inland gorge area. The local Aboriginal people, known as the Nanda, believe that the landscape with the Murchison River was formed by the Rainbow Serpent.
There are many things you can do in Kalbarri National Park. In the inland Murchison River gorge area the highlights are the Natural Window trail and an 8 km loop, the Z Bend lookout, and Z Bend Trail (2,6 km). Hereby the last one involves climbing and scrambling. In addition to several other lookouts, the new Kalbarri Skywalk provides a stunning view and allows you to stand over a 100 m drop.
Coastal Kalbarri National Park is an area of stunning cliffs and interesting. Park your car and walk along the Bigurda Trail that connects the highlights. It is a moderately easy walk and if you are lucky you can see dolphins or from May to September migrating whales. Take the time to see the Natural Bridge, Castle Cove, Island Rock and Shell House.
Spend at least two days in Kalbarri National Park to see the very best of what both parts of this park have to offer.
Do not forget a quick stop at nearby Hutt Lagoon while you are in the area. On sunny days the water is a bright pink, so it is an incredible sight. And unlike the Pink Lake in Melbourne’s Westgate Park, this one does not smell and is usually pink year-round.
Read more: 2 Days in Kalbarri National Park
North Stradbroke Island, QLD
Located just off the coast of Brisbane, North Stradbroke Island is one of the most underrated places along the iconic East Coast of Australia. The local Queenslanders refer to it as ‘Straddie’ in typical Australian fashion. Straddie is a sub-tropical island & the worlds second-largest sand island, measuring an impressive 38km long by 11km wide. Stradbroke Island was separated in two when the ocean permanently broke through at Tuleen, creating North & South Stradbroke in 1898.
This stunning Island is home to picturesque beaches with luscious golden sands & cool turquoise oceans. Its location offshore makes it an excellent place to watch the stars on a clear night, after watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. As it’s located off Brisbane it’s a great place to escape the city & explore the incredible bays around the Island & top up your summer tan. Sit on the beach & marvel at the enormous humpback whales breaching in the distance.
Recommended by Jamie Boucher from Bristolian Abroad
Great Otway National Park, VIC
Anyone with even the slightest interest in Australia will know, or at least will have heard about the Great Ocean Road – it’s one of the most famous road trip routes in the world. But just behind the famous coastal road is the lesser-known and most spectacular rainforest in the whole of Victoria, the Great Otway National Park, otherwise known as the Otways.
Up into the Otways hinterland and away from the crowds of tourists on the beaches and coastal towns, you will find over 1,000sq km of serene temperate rainforest. Windy roads lead through Jurassic-like ancient trees and ferns, magical redwood forests will mesmerize you and boardwalks and hiking paths take visitors on a journey through lush nature and past toadstool-lined trickling streams.
The one thing especially not to be missed on a visit here are the various waterfalls in the Otways.
Due to the highest level of rainfall in the state of Victoria, there is an abundance of truly stunning cascading falls, such as the Triplet Falls and the atmospheric Beauchamp Falls. The magical setting at Beauchamp of mossy banks and ferns surrounding a dramatic crash of water from a 10-meter drop- really is breath-taking.
When you’re in Victoria, a visit to the Otways and its hidden natural treasures are an absolute must, and well worth deviating away from the crowd for.
Recommended by Tammy from Travelling Tam
The camels at Cable Beach in Broome are a common motive of photos of Western Australia. And yet this beautiful city in the Kimberley region is a hidden gem in Australia as only a very limited amount of international travelers venture there. A fact that will surprise you the very second the plane start descending over the incredible surroundings including Roebuck Bay.
Another highlight of Broome are the dinosaur tracks near Gantheaume Point that become visible during very low tides. So be sure to plan your tip to this hidden gem in Australia according to the tides if you wish to see them. Especially as there is another highlight, the flying boats wrecks from WWII, that can only be fully observed during low tide.
Between March and October it is possible to see the natural phenomena known as ‘Staircase to the Moon’. For two or three days a month, the light reflected by the moon hits the exposed mudflats of Roebuck Bay and creates the illusion of a staircase that seems to touch the moon. Additionally there is a Staircase to the Moon market at Town Beach where locals sell hand-crafted items, international food and music is played.
While in Broome, it is also possible to book a boat tour or scenic flight to see the Horizontal Falls.
Read more: Things to Do in Broome
How to visit these hidden gems in Australia?
As these secret locations in Australia are located all over the country, it is close to impossible to visit all of them in one trip. At least, if you do not have plans to do a full loop of Australia which will take you at least 6 months if you do not want to miss the all great things you can see along the way.
Regardless of that fact, the best way to explore Australia is by embarking on a road trip. Hereby most of the hidden gems in Australia are located either along the popular east coast roadtrip from Cairns to Sydney or the more rugged west coast trip from Broome to Perth.
I have planned both of these trips in the past and know all the struggles connected with the process of planning a road trip in Australia. I created the guide below to help you plan it, so I hope you will find it useful.