Visiting Australia is not about ticking off tourist spots on a checklist. If you’ve seen the most iconic sights of Australia, it’s time to get off the beaten path and discover the lesser-known, but equally spectacular, parts of the country.
Why not strike out on your own, where you can plan your own itinerary and travel at your leisure?
Even though it seems like a vast country, Australia is surprisingly easy to navigate on your own, as there are plenty of established driving routes – not to mention, the Aussies are so friendly and helpful, they won’t let you get lost!
Here are some gems you’d never get to discover on a typical tour.
Lake MacDonnell, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
Australia’s extraordinary pink lakes are something you won’t see every day on your social media feed. These bubblegum-pink bodies of water are a natural phenomenon due to their high salt concentration.
Imagine driving on a dirt road with pink water on one side, and turquoise-green water on the other. That’s the track along Eyre Peninsula’s Lake MacDonnell, one of the most famous pink lakes in South Australia.
At the end of the road, you’ll reach the beautiful Cactus Beach, an oceanic wonderland known for its powerful waves and picturesque coastline.
For more pink lakes to round off your photo album, you can criss-cross South Australia to hit Clare Valley’s Lake Bumbunga, Fleurieu Peninsula’s Lake Albert or the outback’s Lake Hart and Lake Eyre. Pantone’s got nothing on these luminous pink hues.
Driving through regional Victoria
There’s more to the state of Victoria than its capital city Melbourne, and the best way to experience it is at your own pace.
Take Victoria’s Go Beyond Melbourne Touring Route which will take you from the tall mountains of the Dandenong Ranges to the sweeping coastlines of the Bellarine. There’s never a dull moment, as you’ll get to taste wine in the Yarra Valley, spot the penguins in Phillip Island and relax in the hot springs of the Mornington Peninsula.
In the autumn, you can photograph the changing autumn hues as you drive through Marysville. During your trip, make some time to take a five-day trip along the Great Southern Touring Route, which includes the Great Ocean Road, Grampians National Park and the historic gold-mining town of Ballarat.
Cycling around Rottnest Island, Western Australia
You won’t need a folding bike for a cycling adventure in Australia, as there are plenty of opportunities to rent a bicycle (though you might want to bring along your favourite bike helmet).
Once you disembark from the ferry at Rottnest Island, grab yourself a bike and take a joy ride around any of the 63 beaches on the island.
Make sure you say hi to the happiest animal on earth – the quokka, which can only be found on Rottnest – and grab a selfie with it! After that, trade in your bike for a parachute and skydive over the island.
If you’re on the island between late August and November, jump on a whale-watching cruise to spot humpbacks and southern right whales on their migration route back to the Antarctic.
Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, Sydney, New South Wales
Australia’s walking trails are one of the best ways to get away from the cities and discover some of the lesser-known regions. The views from Sydney’s spectacular coastal cliff walk are a great reward for venturing out on your own.
The Bondi To Bronte walk connects three of Sydney's most beautiful beaches – Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte – with great views of the ocean and cliffs. From October to November, a 2km stretch on this walk is transformed into a public sculpture exhibition, known as Sculpture by the Sea, featuring works by artists from Australia and across the world.
Other walking trails that you should definitely meander along are in Tasmania, where the air is so fresh, it almost hurts to breathe. Try the 6km Dove Lake Circuit to experience Tasmania’s rugged natural attractions, which include views of Cradle Mountain, and spotting of the occasional echidna or platypus.
Your hiking trek should also include the Daintree Rainforest, one of Australia’s greatest natural treasures and the oldest tropical rainforest in the world.
A 2½-hour drive from Cairns, this ancient jungle offers aerial walkways and viewing platforms to explore all levels of the rainforest up close, guided night walks, and a Dreamtime Walk through the Mossman Gorge with an Aboriginal guide.