Although visiting somewhere new is always exciting, some places are not as tempting as others. Simply because a friend didn’t have the best experience, or because I feel it may be crowded or not enough nature-based, a destination may not reach my to-do list at first.

But sometimes, travel plans change, and you do get to visit the places you removed from your itinerary. And after a few years in Australia, I also got closer to the bottom of my must-see list. That’s how I found some places that I shouldn’t have avoided for that long!

Here’s a list of 10 places in Australia where I had an excellent time and could not believe I ever thought about skipping these destinations.

1. Magnetic Island

We flew to Townsville to dive the SS Yongala. We had a spare day before the dive that was perfect to fit in a day trip to Magnetic Island. But I had heard negative feedback about the island, and it’s not cheap to go there for the day, so we hesitated.

In the end, we had a fantastic day hiking and riding to stunning beaches, while snorkelling and spotting wildlife on the way.

Why did I hear it wasn’t that good? If you only have one day and use public transport to move around, you may not see as much as we did on a day trip.

Magnetic Island Day Trip - Is it worth it

2. Moreton Bay

Moreton Bay is Brisbane’s jewel. I love going out on the bay during weekends – to one of the islands (Moreton Island, Stradbroke Island) or for scuba diving (Flinders Reef is fantastic!).

But when my friends wanted to take one day off for a sailing adventure around the bay, I wished we picked another destination. I felt it wasn’t worth using one of my precious days off for such a local destination. But I’m glad they convinced me to join them.

I loved it so much that I took again twice one day off to spend extra time on the bay for the weekend.

View from Moreton Island with Brisbane City in the background

3. Gold Coast Seaway

I am not a fan of the Gold Coast. I associate it with Surfers Paradise, and it’s there are too many buildings to my taste. But after a few years living nearby, it revealed its best facet to me: the Gold Coast Seaway.

The Gold Coast Seaway is one of the rare shore dives near Brisbane. I had heard a lot about it before finally seeing what it’s all about. Never had I expected that much marine life. They made it easy for divers to access the site, and it’s always a pleasure to be able to go underwater without needing a full day out on a boat. It’s also great for night dives!

Gold Coast Seaway night dive boxfish

4. Heron Island

I wouldn’t say that I wasn’t interested in going to Heron Island. But it was our second choice after we found out Lady Elliot Island was fully booked.

And the second choice ended up being better than the memories I had of the first choice. The snorkelling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef were fun, but it’s actually the time on the island delivered over my expectations. From the beach, we saw turtles nesting, hatchlings, baby sharks and gigantic rays.

Heron Island can be fully booked during peak season. Check availability here* and book early to avoid disappointment.

5. The Blue Mountains

Most visitors stop at the Three Sisters to visit the Blue Mountains. It’s hard not to put such an iconic place on the list when you’re nearby. But many people don’t see more than that. And they aren’t overwhelmed by the World Heritage Site. I first wasn’t convinced that the Blue Mountains were worth a second trip.

But after a few years, I got the opportunity to see the Blue Mountains from a different angle. When we went back there for canyoning and hiking another part of the park, Blackheath, it totally changed my love for the Blue Mountains.

Barrow Lookout Bridal Veils Blackheath Govetts Leap Blue Mountains
Barrow Lookout

6. Granite Belt

I’ve never seen the Granite Belt on any Australia bucket list. It’s far from the Australian clich√©. At first, that’s why I wasn’t too interested in going. Australia has so many iconic landscapes, so why would I choose a destination that’s not one of them?

In the end, that’s why I loved it so much. As much as I appreciate that we can easily access beautiful rainforests and sandy beaches from Brisbane, it felt good to explore something different, not too far from Brisbane.

Bonus: they make the best wines in Queensland, and our farm stay allowed us to meet the cutest little creatures.

Girraween National Park - View from the top of Castle Rock

7. Rottnest Island

I initially decided to skip Rottnest Island. I found the ferry was expensive to justify going just for a day trip, and all accommodations get fully booked in advance during the peak season. But our trip plan changed. Because of a sporting event, we ended up having one extra day in Perth. I’m glad it pushed us to go on a day trip to Rottnest Island. I ended up loving it, and it would have been a shame to miss out.

The famous quokkas were adorable. But they weren’t the only amazing wildlife we saw – and the landscapes were breathtaking. Despite the peak season, we managed to enjoy places just the two of us. It wasn’t as crowded as I imagined.

Rottnest Island Quokka 02

8. Whyalla

Whyalla is known as the “Steel City” and the first thing I noticed there was the Steelworks. It was weird to see industries ruining the beautiful coastline. Still, as I was watching the turquoise blue, I swore I’d come again, in winter. During the coldest month, thousands of Giant Cuttlefish aggregate in Whyalla.

It was unreal to see so many of them from close and watch their whereabouts. They didn’t care about us as they were too busy changing colours to seduce their partners. A fantastic underwater show and surely a unique place in Australia!

9. Barunguba (Montague Island)

Barunguba (Montague Island) is about three hours south of Sydney. Although I lived in Sydney for a couple of years, I had never heard of it.

If you look for the best place to see penguins in Australia, you’ll probably hear a lot about Phillip Island. And a lot less about Barunguba (Montague Island). Surprisingly, I found Barunguba a lot more exciting. Not only did we get to see penguins, but we also dived with seals and climbed a lighthouse for sunset.

Montague Island pano

10. Eungella National Park

You may have heard of Eungella National Park as the best place to spot a platypus in Australia. I have stopped counting how many hours I spent hopping to spot a platypus. I saw one from close in Jenolan Caves and thought it would be hard to beat this experience.

Broken River in Eungella National Park ended up being better. We were lucky to see platypus without having to look for them. From the bridge, the river banks and the dedicated platforms, we got many opportunities to see them from close and different angles. Plus, we also saw cute turtles and the hikes nearby were lovely.

Broken River Mackay Platypus

Have you visited a place in Australia that ended up being better than you expected? Share your experience in the comments below!

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