It's no secret that Australians love travel but - whilst everyone from A-listers to backpackers flock to Australia for their vacations - Australians have always had a wandering eye. However, now that we're holidaying at home, Australians are finally exploring our own backyard! And, as it turns out, there's so much to explore in the good ol' land down under from beaches to bushland, cities to campgrounds, forests, pink lakes and even island escapes. No matter what you're in the mood for, be it a family getaway, a road trip or a romantic retreat there's a perfect Australian holiday destination for you.
Moving beyond our coastal hotspots and gorgeous capital cities, the hidden gem, under-the-radar spots on our edit of the top ten most unique Australian holiday destinations are the perfect spots to add to your Australian destination bucket list.
Unique Australian Holiday Destinations: New South Wales
This UNESCO World Heritage-listed island is truly out of this world. The true embodiment of paradise, Lord Howe Island is the remnant of a now-extinct volcano, which over he last 7 million years it has been eroded to one-fortieth of its original size. The number of visitors is limited to 400 at a time which helps keep Lord Howe Island feeling like a serene and ethereal paradise. With rolling green hills, a rich system of coral reefs, a crystal clear lagoon and glorious mountain peaks, Lord Howe is resplendent with natural beauty. The island is just a two hour flight from Sydney but you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world and even another time, the scale and pristine-nature of the island makes Lord Howe feel almost pre-historic.
Unique Australian Holiday Destinations: Queensland
Can you say archipelago? This stunning chain of 74 magical islands stretch 2,300 kilometres along the edge of Australia’s most famous landmark, the Great Barrier Reef. Over stretches of achingly beautiful turquoise water you’ll find stunning natural landscapes, islands dotted with secluded beaches, friendly towns and even friendlier people. This World Heritage-listed wonder is perfect for snorkelling, sunbaking and, of course, sailing with the famous Hamilton Island Race Week. You’ll want to visit Daydream Island, Hayman Island and Whitehaven Beach with its glowing white silica sand. There are plenty of accommodation options but, for luxury , you can’t look past Qualia, one of the most iconic accommodation options in Australia!
Unique Australian Holiday Destinations: Western Australia
Fringed by rugged desert but with a magnificent coastline, Broome is something special. From their beaches to the desert, mudflats and spectacular vistas, there is no end to the natural beauty that Broome offers. Not only is Broome the world’s largest pearling port but it’s also home to the world’s oldest outdoor picture theatre, Sun Pictures. When planning your trip make sure you make time to check out their famous horizontal waterfalls and visit Roebuck Bay to see the otherworldly staircase to the moon visible each year between March and October. Under the hot Western Australian sun, you’ll want to make time to head to the beach. Though Broome is known for the famous Cable Beach you might want to check out the little known Riddell Beach or head to Gantheaume Point for cliff diving and a spot of fishing
The 19-kilometre-squared Rottnest is an island gem that feels worlds away from the red dirt of Broome and the hustle and bustle of Perth. Famously inhabited by the photogenic Quokkas, the island can be explored by bike or by hopping on and off the Island Explorer bus. Bring your snorkels and explore some of the 63 secluded beaches and 20 pristine bays dotted around the island and see if you can catch a glimpse of the friendly fur seals that bask on the warm rocks.
Unique Australian Holiday Destinations: South Australia
Brace yourself, it’s thepink lake! With beaches, salt pans, and the world’s longest stretch of unbroken sea cliffs the Eyre Peninsula is full of Instagrammable wonders. With over 2000 kilometres of shoreline get ready to take in the beauty of the Nullarbor and the Bunda Cliffs, undulating white sand hills at Yanerbie and of course the gorgeous pastel pink waters at Lake Macdonnell, the Eyre Peninsula is jam-packed with other-worldly beauty. Check out oyster sheds and local townships and see if you can carve out of time to hang out with Eyre’s favourite locals, the sea lions!
Kangaroo Island is renowned for its abundant native wildlife and picture perfect scenery. And, even though nearly half of Kangaroo Island’s landmass was burnt during the devastating bushfires of January 2020, this island getaway is still one of the most beautiful places in Australia. With wild sand dunes, the bold and dramatic Remarkable Rocks and gorgeous snorkeling opportunities over the ethereal Kangaroo Island Shipwreck Trail as well as friendly wildlife like the famous (and endangered) sea lions at Seal Bay or the eponymous kangaroos – this gorgeous spot should be at the top of any destination bucket list.
Not just one of the most unique towns in Australia, but one of the most unique places on the planet. Ten hours northwest of Adelaide, eight hours south of Alice Springs, Coober Pedy is truly out of this world. The South Australian mining town was built 100 years ago when opals were discovered underground. Speaking of all things subterranean, the majority of Coober Pedy’s 3000 residents - four out of five, in fact - live underground in dugouts. To beat the heat, the residents have built luxurious underground dwellings and visitors will also be lured down under to stay in underground hotels and hostels.
See a movie at the desert drive-in or visit the underground Serbian Orthodox Church with ornate carved underground alters. Visit The Breakaways, a red desert which is basically the closest you can get to Mars on this planet, seriously, Mad Max II, Priscilla and Red Planet all filmed in Coober Pedy. Make sure you head to Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest & Dugout, the eccentric former home of local legend Crocodile Harry, a Latvian-born soldier who made a name for himself as a crocodile hunter and, to his death, claimed that he was a Baron who had been in hiding since the second world war. Just a taste of the local colour you can expect from Coober Pedy!
Unique Australian Holiday Destinations: Victoria
Ninety minutes south of Melbourne, Phillip Island, with its turquoise waters and famous penguins, is a perfect unique holiday destination. With long stretches of pristine coastline, it's their cute-as-a-button pint-sized penguins that have earned them a spot on this list. Head to Penguin Parade at sundown to watch these famous little penguins make their way up the beach. During the day you can relax in the sun and frolick in the waves at the beautiful Cowes Beach.
Unique Australian Holiday Destinations: Tasmania
Looking for a place that exudes Wes Andersen whimsy? Look no further. Set in the middle of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the moody and ethereal beauty of Australia’s deepest freshwater lake is a truly tranquil and enchanted place. Called Leeawuleena, meaning sleeping water by the local Indigenous people, the lake was carved out by glaciers over millions of years. Fringed by forests of ancient pines and high mountains and perfect for nature lovers, the area offers a range of hikes including the iconic multi-day walk, the Overland Track. Expect wallabies, pademelons, wombats, echidnas, quolls and platypi and get ready for the time of your life. Looking for somewhere to stay? Check out Pumphouse Point for a taste of five star luxury in the middle of a secluded oasis.
Unique Australian Holiday Destinations: Northern Territory
When you picture the Northern Territory you think red dirt, harsh terrain and dry desert and, whilst, it is definitely home to all those things it is also home to a veritable oasis of waterfalls, gorges and swimming holes. When approaching the Katherine Gorge you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d come across a mirage, something you’d simply imaged but, in reality, the 23 million year old gorge made with 70-metre high sandstone cliffs and complete with gorges, thundering falls and rapids. Exploring the Nitmiluk National Park, just 30km north-east of Katherine is an absolute must for visitors to the top end. Cruise or paddle down the river enjoying the beauty of being in clear, cold water whilst still being in the middle of the outback. Take in a full spectrum of colours and enjoy chasing waterfalls and swimming in natural rockpools.