Australia is often touted by tourists as a glittering paradise of pristine beaches, blue skies, and crashing waves – a place where locals are tanned, fit, and carefree, and summer seems eternal. While this is true for some parts of the country (give or take some tanned, fit locals), the same can’t be said for a large chunk of the nation.
Boasting one of the most unique and diverse ecosystems in the world, Australia varies dramatically as you travel from place to place. From the tropical jungles of Far North Queensland to the frosty winds of Tasmania’s Eggs And Bacon Bay, this is Australia as you’ve never seen it before.
It’s not hard to find images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, and Bondi Beach and immediately add them to your bucket list, but in Australia, looking further afield goes a long way – the best of Australia lies beyond the major cities.
Whether you’re in the country for two-weeks or three-months, renting a car is by far the best way to see the place. Australia is huge, and having your own vehicle will open scenic doors you won’t have access to on public transport, and allow you to stop where you like, when you like, for as long as you like, without the fear of missing out on great photo opportunities.
Australia is largely known for having great weather, but visiting during the winter months will change your perspective. Temperatures in regional NSW, for example, can drop below freezing from May to September, with feet of snow falling over the many ski resorts across NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania.
Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bn) also plunges in to winter with cool gusts coming in from the south, but Melbourne is a city of culture and atmosphere rather than one of attractions, and locals know to rug-up and wander through the decorated alleyways on their way to one of the many hidden bars dotted around the city, or to sit under the heaters on Degraves Street, sipping coffees and munching on warm croissants. Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is also windy and chilly at this time of year, but off-season travelers can feel as though they’re the only ones there.
As Australia’s southern-most point, Tasmania also experiences a cold winter, albeit a little wilder than in other parts of the country. On the western side of the island is a small town called Strahan (pronounced Strawn), which gets so much wind and rain that locals enjoy just 15-days of clear skies per year, but it’s the gateway to the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, and what is arguably the most spectacular river cruise Australia has to offer.
Driving along the coastlines of Eggs And Bacon Bay in the heart of the Huon Valley will also give you a taste of Aussie life in winter, and it’s the perfect time of year to find a guest house, grab an Italian-style coffee, and go apple-picking at one of the many fruit farms in the region.
To see the true Australian outback, you’ll need a 4WD. Stand in the Red Center and watch the sun set in the blue sky against the red Earth in Alice Springs. Take Australia’s best 4WD route around the waterfalls, gorges, canyons, freshwater swimming holes, and untouched coastlines in the Kimberley – one of the world’s last wilderness frontiers.
It’s also well-worth taking the road up past Cairns and Port Douglas to see the Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland. Travel to the end of the Mulligan Highway and you’ll find the small community of Cooktown, where you can drop in to Grassy Hill Lookout. As you stand overlooking the town, surrounded by plants and heat that could almost trick you in to thinking you’re in South East Asia, it’s not hard to imagine how out of place the fleet of more than 50 British city-dwellers in heavy, colonial attire may have felt when they were shipwrecked there in 1770. Especially when they realized they weren’t alone.
Captain Cook stood at the lookout for a good view of the bay while trying to chart a path out of the reef, and the site today features fragments of his journal from that time which can basically be summarized in two words: “Well, damn”.
Today, Cooktown remains a place like no other due to its tropical climate, unique plant life, and relaxed atmosphere. Venturing further north and off the sealed roads lies the wonders of Cape York. Isolated, warm, vibrant, and undisturbed, this is the peak of the country, and a sight missed by many.
These are just a few options you can take, but the main thing to remember about Australia is that the sheer size of the place means sightseeing options are almost endless – you really have to commit two-weeks at the very minimum if you want to spend any time outside the cities.
So what are you waiting for? Call a travel agent today, book your trip to the land down under, and experience everything Australia has to offer.