50 Fantastic Places to Visit
There are so many things to see and do in Australia in your campervan that it’s impossible to list them all.
Of course, there are the main ones that it would be odd to not have on the list, such as Sydney, the huge monolith Uluru, and the Great Barrier Reef, but don’t forget that Australia has so much more to offer – charming towns, breathtaking beaches, rainforest villages, imposing mountains and picturesque farmland. Following are 50 highly-recommended spots.
1. Busselton, W.A
A comfortable three-hour drive from Perth, Busselton boasts some 30 kilometres of sheltered sandy beaches with calm, clear and safe waters. Many campervanners use the township as a base from which to explore the region's numerous other attractions. The wonders of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, Ngilgi Cave and Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse are only a short drive away.
2. Esperance, W.A.
The blindingly white sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters of the Esperance area in Western Australia place the region at the top of many campervanners’ best destinations list. Esperance itself boasts a stunning 38-kilometre scenic drive that follows the local coastline and then loops back into town. There are several idyllic beaches where you can take a break for a swim as well as some lovely walkways and viewing platforms for some incredible coastal scenery. And, if it’s stunning non-caravan park camping spots you’re after, you’re in luck. The region also has three national parks.
3. Arltunga Historical Reserve - MacDonnell Ranges, east of Alice Springs, N.T.
You’ll enjoy having a look through the ruins of this old mining community. There is an information centre that provides visitors with lots of history - especially the hardships miners endured during the gold rush.
4. Darwin, N.T.
It's growing fast and is a completely different place to the one that was so famously devastated by Cyclone Tracy a few decades back. It's tropical, multicultural, relaxed and unique. The big draw - besides the weather - for most visitors is the markets that sell all sorts of Asian foods, veges and arts and crafts. Plus, a Northern Territory sunset is like no other on earth and, all along the coast, mini parties kick off as people bring their campchairs and a bottle of wine to enjoy the nightly show.
5. Flinders Ranges, S.A.
The fabulous Flinders is often portrayed as the gateway to the Outback and that's exactly what it is. Situated only 160 kilometres or so north of Port Augusta in South Australia, their accessibility, as well as their incredible beauty, make the Flinders a very popular destination during peak season. The Flinders Ranges has it all – ghost towns and ghost stories, ancient Aboriginal art, Outback activities, caves, canyons, gorges, walks, opals, steam trains and even volcanoes. Central to the northern part of the National Park is the amazing Wilpena Pound, a quite spectacular natural amphitheatre that is five kilometres wide and 10 kilometres long.
6. St Helens - East Coast of Tasmania
Like a mini-Riviera right there in Oz! This truly is one of the most scenic spots on the east coast of Tasmania and is the gateway to the Bay of Fires to the north and Scamander in the south. You can have lunch in the charming marina beside the boats and there is a fish and chip shop right on the water open for lunches.
7. Yamba, NSW
Liberally blessed with a perfect climate, quasi-bohemian lifestyle and peerless surf beaches, the jewel in Yamba’s board-riding crown is the revered and treacherous Angourie point break – beginners need not apply. Picture postcard pretty, Yamba prides itself on providing a relaxed, unpretentious and peaceful getaway.
8. Lake Eyre, S.A.
In S.A.’s remote interior 700kms north of Adelaide lies a huge, flat, salty lake that hardly ever contains water. But whenever there’s rain, it attracts a wealth of birdlife and wildlife, including dingoes, and is a fascinating place to see. It’s the lowest point in Australia so trying to reach it on foot or in vehicles can be treacherous, so many choose to view it from the air. Various tours offer joyrides over the 9500km2 saltpan that fills or near-fills only around four times a century.
9. Shark Bay, W.A
This is a World Heritage area, and for good reason – or several. The oldest living things on the planet (oxygen-excreting stromatolites whose ancestors go back 3.5 billion years and they themselves are a few thousand) live in the salty Hamelin Pool to the south. The area is also home to the world’s only major populations of Burrowing Bettong, Rufous Hare Wallabies, Banded Hare Wallabies, Western Barred Bandicoots and Shark Bay Mice. Around one eighth of the world’s Dugongs are also found here, along with 11 species of endemic birds and eight species of endemic reptiles.
10. Jewel Cave, Margaret River, W.A.
Deep inside dazzling Jewel Cave in Margaret River hangs the largest calcite straw stalactite of any show cave (open to the public) in the world. Longer straw stalactites exist, but they’re very difficult to gain access to. They’re very delicate, narrow and hollow, and the jewel in Jewel Cave is a staggering 5.4m long. As well as being one of the largest show caves in Australia, Jewel is also one of the world’s youngest. Its main chamber is 90m long and 30m high and guided tours take you through the exceptional forms and beautiful chambers of its uniquely formed soft Tamala limestone.
11. Dreamworld, Gold Coast, Qld.
As well as the obvious attractions, Dreamworld is also home to Frankie, the world’s first blue-eyed koala. Born in April 2007 and named after the equally famous blue-eyed Sinatra, it’s unknown whether his eyes are due to a remote genetic strand or a random event, but while koalas can be found in the wild throughout Australia (except Tasmania and W.A.), Frankie is the world’s only known blue-eyed koala.
12. Cape Tribulation, Qld.
Around 110km north of Cairns, “Cape Trib” is the only place on Earth where two World Heritage-listed areas lie side by side: the Daintree Rainforest, the most ancient and primeval in the world at 135 million years of age, and the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef. Described as the “land that time forgot”, the Daintree is home to 20 percent of Australia’s bird species and around 60 percent of its butterfly species. There are even ancient species of trees – like the Idiospermum australiense and King fern – which were believed to be extinct for millions of years until being rediscovered in the Daintree.
13. Sydney Harbour, N.S.W.
There are so many ways to experience one of the most exciting harbours in the world – cruise on it, sail on it, swim in it, fish in it, eat on it, drive over or under it, view it from Taronga Zoo or an island in it… you can also walk around it: 28km of tracks, many through national parks and along beaches, form the Harbour Circle Walk. Make sure you visit The Rocks, the site of Old Sydney Town, to visit the historic buildings and The Rocks Market. Sydney Aquarium is also fantastic and the harbour hosts the world’s largest annual fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.
14. The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park, W.A.
These tall, jagged limestone pillars about three hours north of Perth were buried under sand dunes for hundreds of years before being exposed to the wind. There is about one thousand of them (still being simultaneously buried and exposed). They make an amazingly surreal photo opportunity, especially at sunset – particularly if you visit between August and October when a spectacular display of wildflowers blooms in the area.
15. The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic.
The international branch of the gallery in St Kilda, and its Ian Potter Centre, off Federation Square, combine to offer a collection of international art including works by Rembrandt, Delacroix, Van Eyck, Gainsborough, El Greco, Monet, Manet, Matisse and many more, not to mention over 20 rooms dedicated to Australian art.
16. Kakadu National Park, N.T.
Even though visiting here is much more comfortable in the dry season (lower temperatures and much less rain), many travellers say that seeing it during the wet, or early dry season is the only time to do so. You’ll experience the splendour of bright tropical colours, humidity and raging storms and waterways for much more dramatic effect. Located there are 75 different kinds of reptile, 26 types of bat, 10,000 species of insect and 2000 types of plants plus prolific Aboriginal rock art.
17. Marree Man, S.A.
While there are many fascinating geoglyphs in Australia, the world’s biggest lies in the remote centre of the southern state, the origins of which are still a mystery. 60km west of the town of Marree, the huge drawing on the ground is of an Aboriginal man hunting with a stick and is over 4km long. Take a flying tour and see Lake Eyre (no.8) at the same time.
18. Whitsunday Islands, Qld.
This dazzling setting north east of Mackay almost defies belief with its hundreds of insanely beautiful islands, sparkling turquoise water, lush rainforest, bright coral and pure white sand. Any time of the year is equally beautiful but you’re likely to spot whales if you go between July and September.
19. Cape Byron, N.S.W.
The cape is the most easterly point on Australia’s mainland, so a good place to visit if you want to feel like you’ve done the country properly! It doesn’t come free though – you have to climb the World Heritage-listed Mt Warning first. It’s the first place in Australia to be touched by the sun each morning and is a popular place for wedding proposals.
20. Broome, W.A.
While this pearling town itself is a little unspectacular, the same can’t be said for the surrounding area and beaches with their clear blue water, white sand and gentle swells. Town Beach at the eastern end of the town is the site of the famous Stairway to the Moon, where a receding tide and a rising moon combine to create a magnificent natural phenomenon. On these nights, a food a craft market operates on the beach.
21. MacDonnell Ranges, N.T.
These mountains to the east and west of Alice Springs offer a stunning array of gorges and different-coloured rock formations. The most famous of the gorges and camping spots are found in the West MacDonnell National Park. Ormiston Gorge is the most well-established campsite and even boasts solar heated showers, as well as a visitor centre and live-in rangers. As with all of the gorges, there are some wonderful walks to be enjoyed and there are swimming opportunities along the way.
22. Stanley and the Nut, Tasmania
In the rugged north western region of Tasmania is the little town of Stanley, nestled at the base of a huge volcanic plug known as “The Nut”. If you’re feeling energetic you can walk to the top of The Nut (or just take the chairlift) for stunning views of the Bass Strait, or take tours to spot seals, penguins, sea birds and other wildlife close to Stanley. The town itself is “toy-town” gorgeous with well-maintained historic buildings that look like dollhouses.
23. Bondi Beach, Sydney, N.S.W.
With its lifesavers, surfers, sun worshippers and barefoot locals, Bondi is a definitive example of Sydney's city beach culture. While the beach is popular, cross Campbell Parade and enjoy Bondi away from the sand. Take in the view of the Pacific from one of the laidback outdoor cafes or trendy restaurants that serve lively crowds with brunch, lunch and dinner. Watch for celebrities from behind your sunglasses. Don't have any? Bondi is the place to buy them, with an abundance of shops selling the whole range of fashionable surfwear and beach accessories, or visit the popular beachside markets on Sundays.
24. Port Douglas, Qld.
An hour north of Cairns, this tropical seaside town boasts a relaxed atmosphere, balmy weather, superb restaurants and the closest proximity to the Great Barrier Reef than anywhere in Australia. It’s also close to the Daintree rainforest, Mossman Gorge and various other attractions, and its Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary is the only place in the world where you can see eight species of kangaroo in one park (not to mention cassowaries, koalas, parrots, crocs and much more).
25. Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, W.A.
Built according to an open range principle, Western Plains Zoo keeps its 1100-plus animals from all over the world apart using moats rather than fences. The effect is spellbinding: you drive down a road or walk along a track and can easily imagine you’re on an African plain, surrounded by wildlife in its natural habitat. The zoo is also a renowned centre for the care of wildlife, breeding programs, conservation programs and education facilities. It’s acknowledged as Australia’s great open plains zoo. It also offers accommodation so you could skip the campervan for the night and go to sleep in a tent to the sound of lions roaring.
26. Undara Lave Tubes, Qld.
275km west of Cairns are the Undara Lava Tubes, formed some 190,000 years ago when a major volcano erupted, its molten lava flowing down a dry river bed. As the eruption slowed and then stopped, the lava drained out of the tubes leaving a series of long, hollow tunnels. (One section of the tubes known as “The Wall” is the closest geological example on Earth of basaltic ridges on the Moon, which were also formed by lava flows). Ancient roof collapses created deep, dark and moist depressions where fertile pockets of rainforest can now be seen. Visit there in the third week of October to when Undara Experiences put on “Opera in the Outback” at sunset.
27. Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge, N.T.
This 12km-long series of 13 stunning gorges with highly reflective waters and stark, 70m-high walls is picture-perfect, and a magnificent experience from start to finish. There are more than 100km of walking trails around the gorge, allowing visitors to take their time and meet much of the wildlife abundant in this lovely area, including the fish. The entire area around Katherine, located 340km south of Darwin, is characterised by limestone formations with bubbling thermal springs - and plenty of convoluted cave systems.
28. Twelve Apostles, Vic.
These giant rock pillars that rise out of the Southern Ocean are the central feature of the rugged Port Campbell National Park. They were originally created by erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland which, as they softened, formed caves and then arches which eventually collapsed leaving stacks of rock. Viewed from lookouts along the Great Ocean road, there may not at first appear to be twelve “apostles”, but others are located behind rocky headlands and outcrops.
29. Broken Hill, N.S.W.
As well as being a great base from which to explore New South Wales, Broken Hill is one of the world’s most prolific art posts – Sydney mayor Frank Sartor once called it “the only country town in Australia with more art galleries than pubs.” A must-see is the Sculpture Symposium, also known as the Living Desert Reserve, where you can see huge sandstone sculptures from 12 different artists. Broken Hill is a gateway to the Outback and even has its own ghost town.
30. Great Barrier Reef, Qld.
The largest structure composed of living organisms in the world, it’s easy to see why this is a favourite site of divers across the globe. It’s 2,300kms-worth of mesmerising under-seascape of coral, fish, molluscs, turtles, dolphins and much more. Gateways stretch all the way along the north east coast of Australia, so you’re spoilt for choice. You haven’t experienced Australia unless you’ve seen this magnificent natural wonder.
31. Exmouth Region, W.A.
Located on the very tip of the North West Cape, the location was originally a military base in WWII, and later supported a nearby United States naval communication station. Nowadays, it’s more of a tourist town, and can boast the “range to reef” experience, with the spectacular Cape Range National Park bordering the spellbinding Ningaloo Reef. The climate is gorgeous, the swimming and fishing are incredible and box jellyfish don’t venture this far south.
32. Coff’s Harbour, N.S.W.
This city on the north coast of N.S.W is just about halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. Its major claim to fame is the iconic “Big Banana” located just north of the city on the Pacific Highway, one of Australia’s most recognisable tourist attractions that it’s almost a crime not to have your photo taken in front of. Coff’s Harbour is also reputed to have the best climate in Australia which combined with its beautiful mountainous and coastal landscape, makes it a bit of a mini-paradise.
33. Kangaroo Island, S.A.
This is Australia’s third-largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island and is home to fantastic swimming and surfing beaches, shipwrecks and National Parks. It’s also a sanctuary for many native animals that were otherwise under threat from animals such as dingoes and foxes. The main towns are Kingscote and Penneshaw, with American River in between that shelters the bird sanctuary Pelican Lagoon. Catch the Kangaroo Island Sealink Vehicular Ferry from Cape Jervis on the mainland.
34. Windjana Gorge, Kimberley, W.A.
Even if you’re not taking the Gibb River road, it’s worth taking a detour to see this impressive gorge that offers stunning bushwalking through the Outback wilderness. Unlike many Kimberley gorges, it’s easily accessible (only in the dry season though) by following a 3.5km path through a monsoonal strip of vegetation and permanent pools that remain after the wet season. The walls of the gorge rise up from the floodplain of the Lennard River, reaching 100m high in some places. It’s one of the best places for seeing freshwater crocs in the wild – and the campsite is excellent, too.
35. Longreach, Qld.
Roll up your swag and go bush at Longreach, a town steeped in Outback history and heritage in north west Queensland. Situated about 1200 kilometres northwest of Brisbane, you can visit the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame (a tribute to Australia's Outback heroes including a variety of traditional artefacts, electronic displays, photographs, films and stories of bush life) or the Qantas Founders Outback Museoum which includes a decommissioned Qantas Boeing 747. Alternatively, there’s unbelievable sunsets, breathtaking night skies, vast Mitchell Grass plains, an abundance of unique wildlife, and the tranquil coolibah-lined Thomson River.
36. Devil’s Marbles/Karlu Karlu, N.T.
Located about 114kms south of Tennant Creek, the Devil’s Marbles (or Karlu Karlu to the traditional Aboriginal owners) are gigantic, rounded granite boulders, some spectacularly poised, making for a remarkable landscape. Scattered clusters of these “marbles” are spread across a wide, shallow valley. Many diverse traditional “Dreaming” stories intersect at and around Karlu Karlu, giving it great importance as a sacred site. The precarious piles of huge granite boulders, wide open skies, and golden sunlight make Karlu Karlu an unforgettable place to visit. The Reserve is accessible all year round and has a network of pathways with information boards and a basic camping area.
37. Cape York, Qld.
Australia’s northernmost point is still an untamed wilderness that has defied the onslaught of civilisation – although some say not for too much longer. The dusty tracks contrast dramatically with the abundant river systems, crystal clear creeks and spectacular waterfalls. If you love bushwalking, wildlife, fishing, bird watching and remote camping, Cape York is for you. The gateway top Cape York is Cooktown, a gold rush town with an interesting history. Cooktown is only accessible for campervans by the inland road, via the Mulligan Highway and the Peninsula Development Road, and once there you’d have to rent a 4WD to access the Cape. But it’s worth it.
38. St Kilda, Melbourne, Vic.
St. Kilda, is situated on the coast to the east of the city and is considered to be one of Melbourne's most fashionable suburbs. Apart from the very popular beach, which during the summer months attracts thousands of visitors, there are a number of other attractions in St Kilda to keep you occupied. Visiting the Luna Park amusement park, built in 1912, is a must! It is a charming historic seaside amusement park complete with a wooden roller coaster and other rides. For evening entertainment try the Esplanade Hotel, which has comedy nights and various bands playing.
39. Innes National Park, N.S.W.
On the southern tip of the Yorke Peninsula, Innes National Park encompasses spectacular coastal landscapes rich in mining and maritime history and is a major wildlife habitat of the area. Starting at Stenhouse bay, there's a $5 fee for vehicles – but from there there’s hours of scenery. There’s also a wide variety of recreation opportunities including bushwalking, bird watching, photography, discovering the Aboriginal and European history, fishing and surfing. South Australia's most prestigious surfing event, the Cutloose Yorke's Surfing Classic, is held in Innes National Park every October. You need a permit to camp in this area.
40. Fraser Island, Qld.
The world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island contains half of the world’s freshwater perched dune lakes and is the only place in the world above elevations of 200m where tall rainforest grows directly on sand dunes. Its freshwater lakes are among the cleanest on the planet, the beach is both highway and runway, and some of the purest breeds of dingoes live there. Leave the campervan in Hervey Bay (3.5 hours out of Brisbane) and take a 35 minute boat ride to this World Heritage-listed site.
41. Moree, N.S.W.
This region is known for its hot thermal mineral pools (discovered accidentally in 1895 when searching for irrigation water) created from bores sunk into the amazing Great Artesian Basin. The famous healing waters are said to contain at least eight different minerals and maintain a temperature of 39 degrees. Two-thirds of Australia’s cotton is grown in the Moree region and if you time your visit for February, you‘ll see millions of bulbous white fibres bursting from cotton plants in vast fields – a spectacular sight. The Pecan Nut Farm is another main attraction which is located 35 kilometres east of Moree on the Gwydir Highway.
42. Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
This is a distinctive mountain in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and is said to be one of the most beautiful places on the plant. Composed of dolerite columns, it has four summits. Take one of 20 walking tracks to suit any fitness level (it’s a tough trek to the top and takes 8 hours), see flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth, mountain bike, fly fish, or take a trail on horseback. There are three lakes at the bottom: Crater Lake, Lake Wilks, and Dove Lake – the deepest in Australia.
43. North Stradbroke Island, Qld.
Known as “Straddie” to the locals, this island is only 90 minutes away from downtown Brisbane (accessible by vehicular ferry) but feels like days. The island itself is a mixture of rugged coastlines, placid inland lakes, and unspoilt beaches. The eastern side of the island is lined with 35 kilometres of white sandy beaches, however it is only accessible by four wheel drive, bicycle or on foot. There are numerous popular camping sites dotted all the way down Main Beach. A fantastic, laid-back combination of pristine wilderness and modern facilities, restaurants and cafes.
44. Downtown Melbourne, Vic.
Australia’s second-largest city is often compared to Sydney but they are completely different. Melbourne is less flashy, much more stately and old-world. Take a tram ride (the Circle City Tram is free and has running commentary on history, attractions and famous places of downtown Melbourne); stroll through the stunning Botanic Gardens; or visit one of two scenic lookouts in Melbourne - both the Eureka Tower Skydeck and the Rialto Towers & Observation Deck have awesome views of the downtown and suburbs.
45. Canberra, A.C.T.
The political hub of Australia, Canberra is a planned city similar in architectural concept to Washington D.C. It’s surrounded by bushland and is home to come of the country’s best museums, national attractions and restaurants.
46. Blue Mountains, N.S.W.
The foothills of the Blue Mountains start approximately 50kms west of Sydney’s metropolitan area. The sandstone plateau is dissected by deep gorges and the “Giant Staircase” walking track takes you down a cliff into the Jamison Valley for a view of the Three Sisters, the most famous rock formation in the region. Also worth experiencing is the Katoomba Scenic World, home of the Katoomba Scenic Railway (the steepest railway in the world), a revolving restaurant and an aerial cable car.
47. Noosa region, Sunshine Coast, Qld.
This area is rich in Aboriginal and early settle history as well as being a lovely slice of Queensland heaven. The shire has a cluster of suburbs (none of which are actually called Noosa) and a hinterland region. Spend a day on the Noosa River watching the birdlife, or exploring the mountain range and inland plains with their rambling streams and waterfalls. Alternatively, visit one of the many fabulous beaches – anywhere called the “Sunshine Coast” sounds pretty good, right?
48. Kununurra, Kimberley, W.A.
This town’s name translates to “the meeting of the big waters” and water is definitely a feature – gorges, waterfalls, rivers, streams and creeks are all there waiting to be fished in, swum on, gazed upon or cruised on. There’s also amazing corresponding flora, wildlife and landscape alongside a friendly, lively town.
49. The Olgas/Kata Tjuta, N.T.
This site, whose name means “many heads” to the Aborigines, is a group of about 30 huge rounded red rocks rising out of the desert plains, the highest of which is called Mt Olga. Like their nearby neighbour, Uluru (26kms away) they form a site sacred to the Aborigines which is frequently featured in stories of The Creation. The rocks are best viewed at sunset and many visitors say they can feel a strong spiritual energy there.
50. Port Arthur, Tasmania
Port Arthur Historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula is Australia’s best-preserved and most evocative convict site. More than 30 buildings, ruins and period homes dating from 1830 to the prison’s closure in 1877 provide an insight into the lives of those who were part of the penal settlement including 12,500 convicts, soldiers, civilians and their families. Nearby is Point Puer Boys Prison where you can walk among the remains of structures built by the boys in a bush landscape little changed since the 19th century.