Dirk Hartog Island National Park, Shark Bay, Western Australia © Tourism Western Australia/Mark Boskell
3 secret holiday destinations in Australia
Venture beyond Australia’s most popular holiday spots to discover amazing places you may even get to enjoy all to yourself.
By Lee Atkinson
One of the delights of travelling is finding your very own special place off the beaten track and away from the holiday crowds; a place where it feels like you’re the first to discover somewhere few others have heard of. Getting off the tourist trail is easy in a place as large as Australia, because there are plenty of sublimely beautiful spots and authentic experiences that still fly beneath the radars of many travellers. And there has never been a better time for some trailblazing.
Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia
In 1616, Dutch Captain Dirk Hartog became the first recorded European to visit Australia, leaving an “I was here” message on a pewter plate nailed to a tree at a place now known as Cape Inscription on Dirk Hartog Island. Hardly anyone has been there since, and even now just 20 vehicles at a time are allowed on the 80-kilometre-long (50-mile) island, so you’re never going to get crowded out.
Pitch your own tent, or enjoy ocean views from your room in the historic shearers quarters at the family-run Eco Lodge, the only established accommodation on the island. The young owners are the third generation to live there and also run 4WD island tours.
How to experience it: You can explore the island with your own 4WD, but be sure you bring enough fuel or pre-order it to the homestead before your stay.
Cobourg Peninsula, Northern Territory
Few people have ever heard about the Victoria Settlement, a remote colonial outpost built in 1839 to fortify northern Australia against the Dutch. The third of four ill-fated northern outposts that were abandoned before Darwin was successfully established in 1869, its ruins can still be seen on the Cobourg Peninsula in north-western Arnhem Land.
Famous for its fishing, wildlife, and Aboriginal culture, the Cobourg Peninsula is the ultimate off-the-tourist trail destination, accessible only by 4WD. But just because it’s remote, doesn't mean you’ll have to rough it: Venture North’s Cobourg Coastal Camp – catering to no more than 16 guests at any one time – has luxe hard-floored safari tents strung out along the edge of a small cliff overlooking the beach, as well as clifftop bathrooms with amazing water views.
How to experience it: Visit during the dry season (April to October) for a comfortable climate and a smooth drive.
Where: Corinna, a 3.5-hour drive from Launceston.
Strahan is one of the most popular spots on Tasmania’s west coast, but few people make it to Corinna, deep in the Tarkine rainforest – even though it’s only a 90-minute drive further north. Back in 1883, the largest gold nugget ever found in Tasmania was unearthed here, and soon Corinna was a booming gold town. The rush was short-lived, and by the early 20th century Corinna was a ghost town.
Fast forward the best part of a century and you can stay in the original buildings – now renovated – or in new wilderness retreats. There's plenty to do in the area, from pub lunches to rainforest walks beginning right outside your door. Take to the water and paddle a kayak to cascading waterfalls or cruise the Pieman River aboard the Arcadia II, a historic boat crafted from rare Huon pine. The scenery is every bit as magnificent as what you’ll see on the Gordon River at Strahan, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to have the entire place to yourself, which is as good as gold.
How to experience it: Make sure to bring warm clothing, hiking boots, waterproofs and an open mind – your digital detox awaits.