With international travel off the cards for the time being, many of us are embracing the local road trip to scratch the holiday itch.
So there’s been no better time to get off the beaten track – especially at a time when we’re uneasy about crowds and we value a little social distancing.
While popular holiday towns like Byron Bay, Port Douglas and Lorne have their obvious charms, there are plenty of spots that are often overlooked, but still have lots to offer.
Now’s the time to hit up those untapped gems.
Also, please consider travelling to one of the regions that has been hit by the double whammy of bush fires and COVID. They need our travel dollar now more than ever. You can get inspo for some of those destinations here.
Otherwise, here are some spots that fly a little under the radar.
For a long time when people headed to Victoria’s spa country / goldfields area, they would gravitate to cute-as-a-button Daylesford. Castlemaine was often overlooked, but it’s come a heck of a long way in the past decade or so. It’s only an hour and a half from Melbourne, but it has a great classic country town feel. The beautiful Theatre Royal offers a great night out, you can pick up amazing wines from Boomtown and Bress, and munch on incredible food at Wild and Johnny Baker.
Like Castlemaine, Portarlington has often been passed over for its shiny Bellarine Peninsula neighbours Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale. But these days, Portarlington has a heck of a lot going for it. There’s a ferry that runs directly from Melbourne, you can sit and down fresh mussels at The Little Mussel Cafe, and the bay beach is a delightfully tranquil spot for a summer dip. Nearby wineries like Bennetts and distilleries like The Whiskery are great places to go to eat snacks, soak up some fresh coastal air and imbibe local drops.
The Yorke Peninsula is a great place to explore, just over two hours drive from Adelaide. Here you’ll find 700km of pristine coast and the beautiful Innes National Park – it’s the perfect spot to spend your days swimming, surfing, fishing, camping and bush walking. Have a day trip on a fully functioning oyster boat, visit wineries and breweries, and be sure to have a long lunch at Marion Bay Tavern.
Just over an hour from Adelaide at Port Elliot you’ll find postcard-worthy beaches, cute homeware shops, stylish cafes and chic, beachside cottages. It has some of the most amazing beaches in the country, so it’s a prime spot for swimming, surfing and kayaking. It also has plenty of charm in the cooler months, when you can go whale watching, bike riding, skydiving and ballooning. Take a day trip to the world famous McLaren Vale wine region, have al fresco lunch at the Flying Fish Cafe and try the famous doughnut flavour of the month at Port Elliot Bakery.
This is the perfect alternative to frenetic Byron Bay. Yamba still has plenty of laid-back beach vibes with amazing surf breaks, The Pacific Hotel with its spectacular views of the coastline and plenty of cheap and cheerful accommodation options. Take a walk up to the lighthouse, visit the local farmers market and spend the afternoon lazing around the Blue and Green Pools at nearby Angourie. Yamba is about a 3.5-hour drive from Brisbane.
The small rural town of Dorrigo is an hour’s drive inland from Coffs Harbour on the Waterfall Way, a scenic driving route that winds past five stunning national parks. This character-filled town is the gateway to the World Heritage-listed Dorrigo National Park, home to ancient rainforest and dramatic waterfalls. Once you arrive you can walk the Skywalk above the rainforest canopy and visit the Food Angel Cafe where you can buy a second hand book and spend the afternoon lazily eating their delicious baked treats.
Seventeen Seventy (1770)
Fun fact: this is the only town in the world that has a number for a name. It was called this after the year Captain James Cook first landed in Queensland. Located at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, this destination is a real untapped gem with incredible beaches and a real laid-back coastal vibe. Once you arrive you can take a Scooter Roo adventure where you cruise around looking for kangaroos on a Harley Davidson. It’s also a departure point for reef cruises and fishing charters to the outer Great Barrier Reef. Eight kilometres away is its sister town Agnes Water, where you can go for surfing, fishing, kayaking or simply laze on the beach.