When travelling to Australia, you shouldn’t miss the most touristy destinations. They’re on everyone’s bucket list for good reasons. However, I also highly recommend going off the beaten track and finding hidden gems in Australia. You can get stunning spots just for yourself and have amazing wildlife encounters away from the crowd. Here’s a selection of my favourite secret places in Australia.
I’ve ordered this list of hidden gems in Australia clockwise, starting from the northeast. The number refers to the map at the end of the article.
1. Hinchinbrook Island
Region: Cassowary Coast, North Queensland
Hinchinbrook Island is perfect for those who want to go on an adventure. There’s almost nothing but beautiful nature on this island. The best way to visit the island is by hiking or kayaking. But you can also go on the island by boat for a day trip to the stunning Zoe Bay and Zoe Falls. While you’re on the Cassowary Coast, make sure you spend time at Mission Beach on the mainland. It’s a lovely coastal town where you have high chances of spotting iconic Australian wildlife, including cassowaries!
How to get there: You’ll need a vessel to go to Hinchinbrook Island. Boats bring hikers and one side of the island and pick them up on the other side. They can also drop you at Zoe Bay. Our kayaking tour left via minibus from Mission Beach, and we paddled from Lucinda back to Mission Beach.
Where to stay: There are no resorts on the island. Hinchinbrook Resort* is actually in Lucinda and Vista Hinchinbrook* is in Cardwell, both on the mainland. You can camp on the island, but amenities are very limited. If you want an island getaway, check out Orpheus Island* just next to Hinchinbrook; it’s dreamy (but pricey!).
2. SS Yongala
Region: Dry Tropics, North Queensland
When people consider scuba diving in North Queensland, they almost only think about diving the Great Barrier Reef. Only those digging a little bit will put the SS Yongala on their list. This hidden gem is for advanced certified scuba divers only. It’s my favourite dive in Australia. The size and amount of marine life on the wreck are incredible. I’ve done multiple dives multiple times at the SS Yongala and always had a great time.
How to get there: Boats leave for a day trip from Townsville (where you’ll find an airport with connections to Australia’s main cities), Magnetic Island (another gem in the region!) and Ayr (a small town one hour south of Townsville).
Where to stay: In Townsville, you can treat yourself to a room with a view at Aquarius on the Beach* or stay at the good value for money Civic Guesthouse*. On Magnetic Island, I recommend checking availabilities at the Base Backpacker* and the YHA in Horseshoe Bay*. In Ayr, you can stay at the dive shop or at the Alva Beach Tourist Park*.
3. Heron Island
Region: Southern Great Barrier Reef
Many people go to Cairns to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Personally, I prefer the islands on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, such as Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island and Lady Musgrave Island. I picked Heron Island for this list as I find it’s the best one for those who may not want to spend most of their time in the water. I was amazed by how much we could see without getting wet on Heron Island. Our best visits were in January, during the turtle nesting and hatchling season.
How to get there: The ferry to Heron Island leaves from Gladstone. It takes about three hours to reach the island. You can also book a scenic flight on a seaplane to save time (and avoid risks of sea sickness).
4. Carnarvon Gorge
Region: Outback Queensland
Every year, 70,000 people visit Carnarvon Gorge. It’s true that it’s a bit far from everything else, but a good opportunity to explore Outback Queensland. For Queenslanders, Carnarvon Gorge isn’t a hidden secret. So you’ll find many people there during the school holidays, and it can be challenging to find accommodation. But the park is big, so it doesn’t feel crowded even when it’s busy. It’s a heaven for hikers with beautiful long and short walks to explore the gorge from top to bottom. The Moss Garden was truly special.
Cobbold Gorge is another beautiful gorge in Outback Queensland, but you’ll have to join a guided tour to explore the gorge, so it’s unlikely you’ll get the place to yourself.
How to get there: You’ll need a vehicle to drive to Carnarvon Gorge. It takes about 9 hrs from Brisbane.
Where to stay: A trip to Carnarvon Gorge is great for camping. The national park campground next to the visitor centre – and where all the tracks start – is very popular. For those on a budget but wanting more facilities, or if you don’t have camping equipment, the Big 4 Breeze Holiday Park* is only three kilometres away. If you don’t want to camp, Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge* is the closest accommodation to the gorge.
5. Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island)
Region: South East Queensland
Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island) is well-known by locals but not so much by tourists. This beautiful island near Brisbane has a lot to offer to nature lovers. The North Gorge Walk is a stunning hike with fantastic opportunities to spot wildlife. There are opportunities to connect with the local Aboriginal culture. And it’s one of the best spots for scuba diving in Brisbane. Its neighbouring island, Moreton Island, is also stunning, and if you have a 4WD, you can go to stunning places with very few other visitors.
How to get there: Passengers and car ferries regularly leave from Cleveland, 40-minute south of Brisbane. A bus connects the train station to the port. Once on the island, you can use a public bus to go to different places.
6. Coombabah Lake Conservation Park
Region: South East Queensland, Gold Coast
If you want to see koalas and kangaroos in the wild without going too far off the beaten track, then don’t miss Coombabah Lake Conservation Park. You’re guaranteed to see kangaroos, and we also spotted koalas every time we visited. Although we visited during the weekend, there weren’t many people on the easy walking tracks.
How to get there: You’ll need a vehicle to go to Coombabah Lake Conservation Park. It’s less than one hour south of Brisbane and 20-minute south of the Gold Coast.
7. Look At Me Now Headland
Region: Coffs Coast, north coast of New South Wales
The Look At Me Now Headland is perfect to get the Australian cliché of kangaroos with a stunning white sand beach in the background. It’s an easy walk perfect to stretch your legs while driving on Australia’s East Coast. We often stop there on our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney.
How to get there: You’ll need a vehicle to reach the Look At Me Now Headland. It is not far from Coffs Harbour. If you spend time in this region, I highly recommend joining a kayaking tour to learn more about the Aboriginal culture in the area.
Where to stay: Whether you’re looking for a B&B or a holiday house, you will find beautiful accommodations in this region. Check out the spa bath with nature views at Lake Russell Retreat* for example, or the beach views at Eagles Loft*, artHOUSE* and Ciao Korora*.
8. Crowdy Bay National Park
Region: Mid-north Coast of New South Wales, Port Macquarie
We stopped randomly at Crowdy Bay National Park while driving from Brisbane to Sydney. What a surprise! I have no idea why this national park is not a more popular stop. We hadn’t even started the walk when we saw cute wallabies just near the car park. The beach looked stunning with the beautiful rocks. We only had time to do an easy short walk and wished we could have stayed longer.
How to get there: You can only reach Crowdy Bay National Park with a vehicle. It is 250km north of Sydney and less than one hour south of Port Macquarie.
Where to stay: If you don’t want to camp, I recommend staying in Port Macquarie. It is a lovely coastal city that I enjoyed visiting. Click here to view accommodations available*.
9. Pulpit Rock
Visitors to the Blue Mountains all want to see Echo Point (Three Sisters) and Wentworth Falls. I was surprised to see very few people at Pulpit Rock, which is actually the best lookout I’ve visited in the Blue Mountains. You’ll find other secret places only 10 minutes away, Anvil Rock and the Wind Eroded Cave.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, the best hidden gem in Australia’s most visited national park is canyoning. Your guide will take you to secluded spots with splendid views and no other tourists but your group.
How to get there: You’ll need a vehicle to reach Pulpit Rock. Alternatively, you can catch a train from Sydney to Blackheath. Govett Leaps lookout is about 4 kilometres (1 hour) from the train station via the beautiful Braeside Walk. From there, a stunning walking track (3.5 kilometres one way) will take you to Pulpit Rock.
Where to stay: You’ll find many accommodation options in the Blue Mountains, from free camping to very expensive villas. If you don’t have to worry about budget, check out this stunning chalet in Blackheath*. This cottage* also has beautiful views at a more affordable price. You’ll also find boutique hotels like Kyah* and B&B like Secrets Hideaway*.
10. Barunguba (Montague Island)
Region: Sapphire Coast, Narooma
Barunguba (Montague Island) is another amazing place to see wildlife in Australia. After scuba diving and snorkelling with seals in the afternoon, we could spot little penguins at sunset in a much smaller group compared to the experience offered on the more famous Phillip Island near Melbourne. It’s not-to-be-missed if you’re driving from Sydney to Melbourne.
How to get there: You can go to Barunguba by joining a tour from Narooma. It’s about five hours south of Sydney.
Where to stay: For the best views of Narooma, check out this apartment at the Grand Pacific*. If you don’t mind the drive, you can stay almost on the beach at the cabins at Tuross Head*, 40-minute north of Narooma.
11. Mornington Peninsula
Region: Mornington Peninsula, near Melbourne
The Mornington Peninsula is a popular day trip or weekend away from Melbourne. So why do I put it as a hidden gem? Because it’s so much better than what you’d expect. With impressive landscape and great marine life encounter opportunities, it’s a must-do for nature lovers visiting Melbourne.
How to get there: The best way to visit the Mornington Peninsula is by car. You’ll also find tours from Melbourne.
Where to stay: There are many accommodation options on the Mornington Peninsula. It’s a good opportunity to treat yourself to a room with ocean views. Check out Sapphire Shores Luxury Retreat* and ArthursView*.
Region: Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
Whyalla has one of the bluest water in the region, but you’ll be surprised to see – and smell! – the factories and mines literally on the beach. So why is it on the list of hidden gems in Australia? In winter, Whyalla becomes the world’s capital of giant cuttlefish. It is the only known place on Earth where they aggregate by thousands to reproduce. Find out more about what’s so special about giant cuttlefish (you’ll be amazed!) and how to see them.
How to get there: You will need a vehicle to go to Whyalla. It’s a five-hour drive from Adelaide and a 2.5-hour drive from the closest airport, Port Lincoln.
Where to stay: Whyalla Caravan Park* was great to stay within our limited budget for that trip.
13. Lake Gairdner
Region: Gawler Ranges, South Australia
We were looking for activities to fill up our time while driving back from the Eyre Peninsula to Adelaide. We saw Lake Gairdner on the map and decided to take a detour to check it out. I could not believe we were the only ones there and that no one I knew in Australia had heard about it. It is indeed very remote, but the large salt lake contrasting with the red soil is so beautiful that it’s worth the long detour.
Bonus: we spotted many kangaroos and emus while driving in this region.
How to get there: On a beautiful dry day, it takes about 3.5 hours to drive from Port Augusta (300 km north of Adelaide) to Lake Gairdner. It can take a lot longer if the track has been damaged by the rain.
Where to stay: Mt Ive Sheep Station* is only half an hour’s drive away from Lake Gairdner. It’s very basic, but it’s great to have an accommodation option in such a remote area.
14. Baird Bay
Region: Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
It’s been years since we went swimming with dolphins and snorkelling with sea lions at Baird Bay. But I loved it so much that it’s still my background image on my phone. We had such an intimate encounter with these cute and funny pups! You can also see them from a lookout without going on the boat: Baird Bay has the largest sea lion colony on Australia’s mainland.
How to get there: It takes around 8 hours to drive from Adelaide to Baird Bay.
Where to stay: You’ll find apartments with sea views* in Streaky Bay.
15. Fitzgerald River National Park
Region: South coast of Western Australia
I was mesmerised by the beauty of Fitzgerald River National Park and its serenity. Indeed, we had the spot just for ourselves. There were a few other people at the campground, but the sites were far from each other. Fitzgerald River National Park was a fantastic surprise on our road trip from Perth to Esperance.
How to get there: Fitzgerald River National Park is between Albany and Esperance, on the south coast of Western Australia. You’ll need a vehicle to get there.
Where to stay: You can camp in Fitzgerald National Park.
16. Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree
Region: South coast of Western Australia
The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is a giant 75 metres high karri tree that Visitors can climb to get impressive views of the beautiful surrounding forest on a platform that might be used to spot bushfires. It is quite an experience, and maybe the scariest tourist attraction in Australia. If you’re scared of heights, you may not even be able to watch the brave visitors going up on the small pegs with wobbly legs!
How to get there: You’ll need a car to get to the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree in Warren National Park. It takes only 15 minutes to drive there from the town of Pemberton.
Where to stay: You’ll find many chalets in Pemberton to enjoy nature. For a memorable stay, check out Mudstone Spa Retreat*.
17. Exmouth (Ningaloo Reef)
Region: Western Australia
It’s one of the two hidden gems in Australia on this list that I haven’t visited yet. I planned a trip there but had to postpone it. When we talk about coral reefs in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef always comes to mind first. But Ningaloo Reef is excellent too. And if you plan a trip in autumn or winter (from March to August), you’ll be there during the whale shark season.
How to get there: You can fly to Exmouth from Perth.
Where to stay: Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort* has rooms with ocean views.
18. Purnululu National Park
Region: Western Australia
This is the second destination on this list that I haven’t been to. It’s quite remote, but I hope I’ll have a chance to visit Purnululu National Park one day. It looks stunning, and I’ve heard of fantastic cultural experiences there too. The Bungles Bungles are one of the most famous spots in the national park.
How to get there: Purnululu National Park is between Broome and Darwin (more than 1,000 km from each city…). You don’t have to have a 4WD to get there, but it’s recommended to have at least an SUV as there are a lot of dirt roads. If you don’t have a 4WD, you can book tours to visit the best places in the park.
19. Nitmiluk National Park
Region: Northern Territory
When planning a trip to Australia’s Northern Territory, we hear a lot about Darwin, Litchfield National Park, Kakadu National Park and Uluru. Nitmiluk National Park isn’t at the top of the must-see things. We had a fantastic experience hiking to beautiful waterfalls – with only a few other people – and kayaking Katherine Gorge.
How to get there: You’ll need a car to go to Nitmiluk National Park. It takes three hours to drive there from Darwin. Alternatively, you can join a tour from Darwin.
Where to stay: You can find accommodations in Katherine*.
20. Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Region: Red Center, Northern Territory
Uluru is the biggest attraction in the Red Centre, but other spots are also worth visiting nearby. King Canyon Rim Walk is a 6-kilometre circuit going to the top of Kings Canyon. With around 500 steep steps to climb at the start of the hike, often under the heat of the Red Centre, some people skip it. But it’s the only hard part of the walk. The 360-degree views and the Lost City are stunning. The detour to the Garden of Eden is also worth it.
How to get there: The closest airports are you can fly into Alice Springs or Uluru airport. It takes five hours on the Lasseter Highway to drive from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon and 3.5hrs from Uluru. Alternatively, tours leave from Alice Spring to go to Kings Canyon.
Where to stay: I camped and slept in a swag when I visited Kings Canyon. You’ll find a campground at Kings Canyon Resort*. But you don’t have to rough it if you don’t want to: Kings Canyon Resort* also offers rooms with a spa with stunning nature views. You should also check out the Drovers Dream at Kings Creek Station*.
Have you been to one of these hidden gems in Australia? Share your experience at your favourite secret spot below!
Map of where to find these hidden gems in Australia
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