Silky Oaks Lodge, Mossman, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland
Australia’s most eco-friendly destinations
A connection to nature can be found across Australia, but in some areas, showcasing and protecting our wild places is embedded in everyday life.
If sustainability ranks high on your holiday planning list, you’re in good company, with many travellers beginning to seek out more responsible choices on holidays. Perhaps you need more than just the odd eco-hotel or nature activity? Perhaps you’re seeking a holiday region where the eco-vibe runs deep, and sustainability is a way of life, weaving tendrils through the grassroots community right up to the local government level? Australia has loads of eco-friendly destinations just waiting to immerse you in nature and activities that tread lightly on the planet.
Eco Certified Destinations
Deciding how to assess whether a region is eco-friendly can be tricky and, sometimes, subjective. Australia’s leading certification body Ecotourism Australia, seeks to remove the guess-work and greenwashing and, in a world first, offers accreditation to nature-focused tourist destinations, certifying them as Eco Destinations. It’s a rigorous process, usually driven by the local government, and backed by community action.
The first of these Eco Destinations to be certified was Port Douglas Daintree in Tropical North Queensland. This region is ecologically unique, and home to two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Within the region, there are many sustainable tourism operators, but don’t miss the Mossman Gorge Centre, integrating First Nations Kuku Yalanji culture with environmental protection. Visitors to the region can stay in an eco-lodge, join a Master Reef Guide on the Great Barrier Reef, and take a rainforest stroll.
In Western Australia, the Margaret River region has also achieved Eco Destination status. It’s one of Australia’s premium wine growing regions, and it hosts an eclectic mix of locals that are all united by a connection to nature. Visit an integrated farm and winery, lingering over the sustainable farm to table dining at Glenarty Road, or follow the organic and biodynamic wine trail showcasing those committed to the soil-nurturing methods. The region is full of eco tours (fancy visiting wineries and breweries by e-bike?) and eco accommodation, like tiny houses.
Two other regions with Eco Destination status are the Central Coast and Coffs Coast, both north of Sydney. They offer forested national parks, golden beaches, and sheltered estuaries for visitors to explore, and dedicated communities that protect them.
Living on an island brings special challenges for sustainability. Innovative thinking on energy production, waste disposal and the protection of fragile ecosystems is needed. Although they are not Eco Certified yet, having these considerations at the fore has led to island communities being some of our most eco-minded.
On Lord Howe Island, 75 per cent of the island’s vegetation remains intact, and a Marine Park protects the diverse marine life. The island has a strict cap on visitor numbers, and the community had a famous conservation success, bringing the Lord Howe Island Woodhen back from the brink of extinction.
Its Pacific neighbour, Norfolk Island embraces its unique ecosystems. When you land, you’ll be greeted by the community’s welcome video, which enlightens guests on how to visit the island sustainably. The locals have instigated insightful waste management programs, planning to repurpose waste into reusable products.
On the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island was once denuded of vegetation by guano mining, but these days, it is a beacon of sustainable practices. The resort runs on solar power, is revegetating the island and participating in manta ray conservation programs.
Wildlife is plentiful on Kangaroo Island, with the chance to spot kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and sea lions. There are many sustainable tour operators here, and also a thriving eco-conscious food production scene, from pure Ligurian-bee honey to sustainably farmed oysters.
With its breathtaking ocean cliffs and bucolic farmland, Bruny Island in Tasmania is another eco-friendly travel destination. Try a marine tour with Pennicott Wilderness Cruises, visit an organic dairy at Glen Huon Dairy Co, or stay in boutique environmental accommodation.
Close to our cities
You don’t need to visit a remote island to find eco-friendly destinations in Australia, with plenty of options close to our cities. Just west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains offers crisp mountain air and soul-lifting views. Stay in an off-grid camping bubble, explore rocky cliffs via the world’s steepest railway, or simply hike through the wilderness.
Outside Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a foodie’s delight, and if you follow the Wine, Food, Farmgate Trail, you’ll sample everything from farm fresh strawberries to heirloom vegetables, and gourmet pies. Take a coastal stroll through well-preserved bushland, and taste the sustainable wine.
You’ll also find boutique wineries aplenty in the Adelaide Hills just above Adelaide, where the temperatures are cool, and the countryside bucolic. Walk a section of the iconic Heysen Trail and drop in to small-scale food producers. Treat yourself at the organic Jurlique skincare farm, or learn more about koala conservation at Cleland Wildlife Park.
Finding eco-friendly destinations in Tasmania is easy, and two and a half hours from Hobart, you’ll find Coles Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula. Hiking to the breathtaking lookout of Wineglass Bay is unforgettable, but there are other eco-friendly activities here, too. Join a kayak tour of Great Oyster Bay, and taste oysters straight from the sustainable Freycinet Marine Farm.