Getting off the Beaten Track
With a country as big as Australia, it’s worthwhile veering your camper off the beaten path to experience some more unusual or remote spots – and there is no shortage of them.
1. Wave Rock, Hyden, W.A.
This unique rock formation (part of the northern face of Hyden rock) sculptured by time and the elements stands 15m high and 100m long, looking exactly like a huge frozen wave that is eternally about to crash. Mineral deposits have coloured it in artistic stripes that add to the sweeping effect, and it’s surrounded by smaller granite “breakers”. It’s an impressive site and a spectacular photo opportunity, as is the surrounding wildlife and bushland, and Hippo’s Yawn, another distinctively shaped formation nearby.
2. Wineglass Bay, Tasmania
So often the most beautiful places are crowded with people because they are so beautiful. Not so with Wineglass Bay in Tasmania, probably due to the fact that it’s only accessibly by foot – about an hour’s walk over the steep crest of a hill. From the top of the hill though are stunning views of white sand, verdant bush and brilliant blue water, sometime populated with dolphins.
3. Old Dadswell Town, Vic.
A wonderful spot full of Aussie humour. The township consists of a Village Square surrounded by "old" typical Australia buildings (which are actually all very tastefully furnished B&Bs). Campervanners are more than welcome to pop in and take a peek, and you can overnight provided you are self contained. You are welcome to use the "Shire Office" (the public restroom!). A must-see photographers paradise just a few kilometres past Horsham (travelling west).
4. Venom Zoo, Kuranda, Qld.
If you’re in Cairns take a drive up into the mountains to the rainforest village of Kuranda and its fascinating Venom Zoo – home to beasties you won’t find in any other zoo in the world. Aside from daily live venom extractions, they also house a variety of tarantulas (some up to 17cm), Australia’s top five venomous snakes, scorpions, centipedes, insects and reptiles. The various venoms are sent all over the world for medical research to find cures for some of the most fatal diseases – so if these guys aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps a visit here will improve your opinion of them!
5. Ormiston Gorge, N.T.
After travelling from Alice Springs up the Mereenie Loop Road, stumbling upon the oasis of Ormiston Gorge after dusty trails and dry riverbeds feels miraculous. Its 300m red walls enclose a waterhole at the southern end that’s perfect for an undisturbed swim. Halway along the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell National Park, the gorge is just past Glen Helen at the end of the sealed road section of Namatjira Drive.
6. Gnomesville, Ferguson Valley, W.A.
What was once a couple of garden ornaments sitting on a roundabout ten years ago has grown into a virtual city of roadside garden gnomes. Garden variety gnomes, sports-playing gnomes, fishing gnomes, partying gnomes from all corners of the globe are all left here with accompanying names and messages - in fact wishes are granted to those who add to the collection when they visit (and incredible bad luck will befall anyone foolish enough to steal from or damage Gnomesville). Go to the roundabout joining Ferguson Rd and Wellington Mill Rd in Ferguson Valley, about a 15min drive from Bunbury.
7. Greens Pool, William Bay National Park, W.A.
Just one shining example of the many secret spots dotted along this coast, Greens Pool has cool, clear, emerald-tinged waters, and a cove with rock pools, a sheltering shelf of granite, soft sand, tiny islands and perfect snorkelling. Just a little further to the east of Greens Pool lies another special cove, Elephant Rocks, so named because of the reddish elephantine boulders strewn everywhere that take on the appearance of herd of the beasts. Drive to Denmark, west of Albany, and a further a further 20mins west of that, Greens Pool is at end of a track running right through William Bay National Park to the beach.
8. Dalhousie Springs, Simpson Desert, S.A
The largest complex of artesian springs in Australia, Dalhousie’s 70 or so active thermal springs are fed by water that comes all the way from the Great Dividing Range, hundreds of kilometres to the east.. When the magical liquid eventually gushes in, it varies from scalding to tepid. Take a dip in the main spring, which is about bathwater temperature and also home to fish species found nowhere else in the world: the Dalhousie catfish, hardyhead, mogurnda, and gobi. You’ll find them in Witjira National Park on the western edge of the Simpson Desert in S.A.’s far north, 180km northeast of Oodnadatta.
9. Burning Mountain, Upper Hunter Region, N.S.W.
Originally thought to be an active volcano, but actually considered the world’s oldest coal fire, Burning Mountain in the Upper Hunter Region is Australia’s only example of a naturally combusting coal seam (one of only three in the world). Less than an hour from the carpark and you’ll be at the site where you can smell acrid sulphur, feel the heat from the 350-degree surface and watch the smoke waft into the air. Look for wedge-tailed eagles soaring on the thermal currents above. Interestingly, the site moves about 1m south each year, and since it’s already moved 6km it’s estimated that it’s been burning for about 6000. It’s just off the New England Hwy near Wingen in the Upper Hunter Valley area.
10. Lake Ballard, Menzies, W.A.
North of Kalgoorlie, Ballard Lake is a barren salt lake – with a difference. Scattered over 10 square kilometres of the lake (approximately 55km west from the townsite of Menzies) are 51 stainless steel sculptures by artist Antony Gormley created from laser scans of naked residents of the town. The strangely alien-like figures were then placed at intervals across the blank canvas of the million-year-old salt lake, making for an eerie and haunting installation, particularly at dawn and dusk. A book of the process has since been published, called Antony Gormley: Inside Australia.