Many of Australia’s small towns outperform their size in tourist attractions, offering cool coastal getaways, rural retreats, and a chance to escape crowded cities and interact with local culture more leisurely. These ten small Australian towns, each with fewer than 15,000 residents, should be on your travel itinerary.
Exmouth, Western Australia
Ever seen an emu cross the street? It’s a typical sight in Exmouth, a remote coastal Aussie town where the desert meets the sea, two hours by plane north of Perth. From March to July, this is one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks because it is the entrance to the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. In the nearby Cape Range National Park, also home to Sal Salis, an opulent tented eco-camp, you can go hiking and kayaking in the stunning red gorges.
Margaret River, Australian small town
More than 25% of Australia’s top wines are made in Margaret River, one of the most renowned wine regions in the country. The town bearing the same name is located at its center. The township makes an excellent starting point for exploring the nearby wineries and the renowned beaches of the South West region beyond, with the main drag lined with artisan boutiques, galleries, street art, and cafes, as well as several charming guesthouses (try Karri House) hidden in its backstreets.
Byron Bay, New South Wales
Australia’s most easterly Aussie town has long drawn surfers, shamans, celebrities, foodies, and more recently, Netflix. As a result, locals staged a “paddle out” to voice their opposition to the reality show “Byron Baes” being filmed here. New reasons to adore this genetically fortunate beach town include Byron’s first Aboriginal tours and the excellent Belongil Beach Italian Food. Visit the nearby coastal communities of Brunswick Heads and Lennox Head for a more laid-back atmosphere.
Gourmet restaurants, refreshing day spas, and upscale guesthouses combine to make Daylesford, a picturesque country town 90 minutes northwest of Melbourne, a luxurious getaway. At Lake House, a chic hotel on the shores of Lake Daylesford that also houses a two-hatted restaurant (Australia’s equivalent of a Michelin star), you can take advantage of the restorative powers of the area’s natural mineral springs with an opulent spa experience. You won’t go hungry in Daylesford because of the unusually high concentration of local eateries, and several wineries are nearby.
Bellingen, Australian small towns
Boho Bellingen, which hugs the Bellingen River’s banks on the Mid-North Coast, offers small-town charm and convenient access to the lush rain forests of Dorrigo National Park, which are only a 30-minute drive away to the west along the picturesque Waterfall Way. The former logging town, which serves as the traditional home of the Gumbaynggirr people, has a vibrant arts scene, with markets, galleries, and boutiques brimming with handcrafted and gently used clothing and gifts. Foodies won’t be let down either, as Bellingen offers a hip brewery and an artisan bakery among its culinary attractions.
One of the island state’s first settlements was Stanley’s fishing community, which is located in the isolated northwest of Tasmania. One of Australia’s most charming 19th-century streetscapes is this one, which is rich in history and beautifully preserved. Some of the heritage cottages have been transformed into guesthouses and even a gourmet deli called Providore 24. Th Aussie town is tucked away at the foot of a striking volcanic plug known as The Nut. For a 360-degree view of the rocky coastline, either hike up there or take the cable car.
Coober Pedy, South Australia
More than half of Coober Pedy’s 2,500 residents now live underground to escape the stifling heat in a subterranean community that began in 1916 as one of the largest opal mining operations in the world. 80 feet underground, where the temperature is a comfortable 75 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, visitors can also stay, eat, shop, and even pray. Above ground, visitors can play a round of golf on a course without any grass, go “noodling” for opals, or watch a movie at one of Australia’s oldest drive-in theaters.
Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Birdsville is a must-stop on a road trip through Queensland because of its iconic Outback pub, The Birdsville Hotel, and its yearly horse races, which take place on the first weekend of September. The Simpson Desert (Munga-Thirri National Park), which offers scenic flights over its golden sand dunes, and Lake Eyre in nearby South Australia are both close to Birdsville, which is also home to the world’s most remote country music festival, Big Red Bash. Both of these destinations can be booked through the hotel.
The small beach town of Lorne, located on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road between the ocean and Great Otway National Park, is beloved for both its stunning stretch of beach and nearby waterfalls as well as its culinary offerings, which range from the decadent Spanish tapas at MoVida to the contemporary Australian dining at Brae, located just 30 minutes away in Birregurra. On the renowned driving route, Teddy’s Lookout on the Lorne’s Headland Reserve offers some of the best views.
Bright, Victoria, famous Australian towns
The charming alpine Aussie town of Bright is located in Victoria’s High Country, 3.5 hours’ drive northeast of Melbourne, and it’s all about outdoor activities and natural beauty. During its captivating Autumn Festival, which takes place between April and May, the trees lining Bright’s streets burst into fiery hues, enchanting visitors. Come at any time of year to find cellar doors producing cool-climate wines and farm gates bursting with fresh produce. In the summer, come for hiking and biking. In the winter, come for skiing at nearby resorts.
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