Travel

Get Off the Beaten Track With These 10 Secret Australian Destinations

Wander somewhere different.

best secret places australia
Photo: Tourism NT/Natalie Sum

If you’re a seasoned traveller you might think you’ve seen it all, but we’re here to tell you there’s more. Australia’s vast and diverse landscape birthed a mighty playground of rivers, valleys, mountains, red desserts, sapphire coasts, and more. It’s nearly impossible to scratch off everything this sunburned country has to offer, but if you’re looking to get off the beaten track, you’re in luck. Travel expert, Quentin Long, along with local Toyota drivers scoured the country to find some hidden gems.

Whether you are a lifelong Aussie or a new resident on the block, there’s always something new or something you never knew about, to fuel curious minds. So, take a detour to these hidden gems and discover a new side of the country you might not have seen before.

best secret places australia
Photo: @seano_777

Five Beaches Track

Queensland
A mixture of rocky, sandy tracks weave up over ridges and through a breathtaking rainforest. The track starts at approximately 10km south of The Tip. Discover the beautiful white sands and great spots along the way with plenty of camping areas to spend the night.

best secret places australia
Photo: @michaelmartinsphotos

Lake Pedder

Tasmania
Lake Pedder is the most underrated place in Tasmania. Edged with beautiful mountain ranges, this lake seems to change at every lookout. Along the road that lines the lake, there are numerous dirt tracks that lead to the water’s edge where fishing enthusiasts or eager campers can set up for the day and night. Not to mention, Lake Pedder isn’t a huge tourist destination like Cradle Mountain so not as many people.

best secret places australia
Photo: Ron Walker

Billy Goat Bluff Track

Victoria
The High Country in Victoria is not only a must for avid four-wheel drivers but it is home to one of the most famous tracks in Australia, the Billy Goat Bluff Track. This challenging track rewards drivers with its steep climb and views of rolling hills as far as the eye can see. A few minutes from the top of the track is The Pinnacles fire lookout. 

best secret places australia
Photo: @jloguepianta_

Pender Bay Escape

Western Australia
It requires a 4WD on soft sand, rocks and steep inclines to access this isolated location. You will be greeted with a generous campsite perched high on the cliff tops overlooking the Indian Ocean and white sand perfect for whale watching, dolphins, fishing, and relaxing. 

best secret places australia
Photo: @jennyscolourfultravels

Secret Springs

Western Australia
Spring Creek is Kunnunura’s best-kept secret, hence the name. The springs can be accessed down a short but gruelling four-wheel drive track to be greeted with palm trees and the most amazing waterfalls and rockpools. The waterfalls flow with cold, refreshing water for those needing to cool off from hours in the heat and those wanting to discover more, numerous pools and waterfalls are a short climb up the waterfall.

best secret places australia

Sturt Steps Touring Route

New South Wales
There is so much history and incredible landscape to take in throughout this region and with the main highway, all fully sealed it provides a safe outback experience for those who are new to caravanning or four-wheel driving.

best secret places australia
Photo: Tourism NT/Natalie Sum

Explorer’s Way

South Australia to Northern Territory
The Explorers’ Way stretches between Adelaide in South Australia and Darwin in the Northern Territory. There is a certain feeling out there that this incredibly vast landscape is the spiritual heart of the country. Nature is unbelievable out here and the colours are something else. Standing amongst the ancient giants Uluru and Kata-Tjuta, life’s worries can seem fairly insignificant.

best secret places australia
Photo: @alera_bowden_photography

Canning Stock Route

Western Australia
The Canning Stock Route is the ultimate four-wheel drive exploration for those who are experienced adventurers. Those who tackle the Canning Stock Route will experience a quintessentially Australian—remote rough, historic and beautiful adventure.

best secret places australia

Lost City

New South Wales
On the doorstep of Sydneysiders lies a hidden gem, the Lost City on the Newness Plateau in the Blue Mountains. The Lost City can be done as a day trip, or overnight at one of the most spectacular campsites in Australia, Newnes Campground. Take the Old Bells Line of Road from the Zig Zag to the Lost City and then onto Glow Worm Tunnel and onto Newnes Campground. 

best secret places australia
Photo: South Australian Tourism Commission

Chace Ranges Flinders Ranges

South Australia
This ancient land is probably the most underrated outback gem in Australia. It provides spectacular views of the Flinders ranges and Wilpena Pound. It’s a challenging track for those new to four-wheel driving however this can be done with a guide who can take to the wheel.

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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