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The Road Less Traveled - Staff Picks for Australia's Hidden Gems

You don't realise just how massive Australia is until you get here. What looks close on a map is often a 5 hour drive. For this reason, there are so many gorgeous locations in this vast country that are seldom visited by the average international two-week tourist. Since you will be studying here for 6 months to a year, you have the opportunity to veer off the tourist track and discover your own secluded beach, remote campsite or hidden oasis.

The Study Abroad and Exchange team is going to share with you our favourite hidden gems, just don't go and tell everybody!


Name: Lisa Barrie

Role: Study Abroad and Exchange Assistant

Destination: Heron Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef - Queesland

My favourite untouritsy destination is a bit tricky to get to but so worth it! First, you fly from Sydney to Brisbane and then to Gladstone. From Gladstone you get on a ferry that takes you two hours off the coast to Heron Island. After a day of travel you are rewarded with crystal blue water, colourful fish and dramatic sunsets. As the island is located on the southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef, the water is not affected by stinger (jellyfish) season. This means you can swim year round without a protective suit (be sure to check the island FAQs for updates)!

Heron Island is one of the few places where you can actually spend the night on the reef. It's pretty incredible waking up and diving directly into the UNESCO World Heritage site.


Name: Veronica Wong

Role: Study Abroad Manager

Just an hour’s drive east from Melbourne is the lush landscape of the magnificent Dandenong Ranges, part of the Great Dividing mountain range which runs the entire length of the east coast of Australia. An oft ignored gem for those who head west towards the Great Ocean Road and Twelve Apostles, there is so much to explore in the Ranges amidst pristine nature and charming mountain villages. Witness the breathtaking view from Skyhigh Mount Dandenong and see the entire Melbourne landscape stretch out before you towards the waters of Port Philip Bay. You an even watch planes come in to land as they sweep past the city skyscrapers. The Ranges are home to countless quaint and quirky cafes and restaurants. Step back to the world of Agatha Christie and savour High Tea at Miss Marple’s Tearoom in Sassafrass or sample delicacies from the Barvarian smorgasbord at Cuckoo’s Restaurant as hearty Barvarian entertainment gets you in the mood in the background. Meander through beautiful gardens and explore the wildlife on outdoor walks and hikes. The National Rhododendron Gardens is awash with colour when in full bloom September to October. Reflect and replenish your spirit in William Ricketts Sanctuary created by a quiet gentleman who drew his inspiration from the Aboriginal philosophies he grew to respect from his time living with aboriginal communities in central Australia. Try your stamina on the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (1000 steps), a living memorial to those who fought for Australia during World War II. Then there’s the old Puffing Billy Railway and Steam Train that winds amongst dense forest, traversing old trestle bridges. Go along for the ride or enjoy a meal onboard in one of the various themed events such as the Murder Mystery Dinner! There is so much to see in the Dandenong Ranges; just grab one of the numerous cottage B&B guesthouse options and make a proper trip of it!


Name: Kate Cormie

Role: Study Abroad and Exchange Officer

Destination: Karijini National Park - Western Australia

I’d recommend Karijini National Park in Western Australia. It’s spectacularly beautiful system of gorges cut down through layers of red rock representing, the oldest layers of which are 2 billion years old. Part of the real beauty for me comes from knowing how it was formed. The pulses of oxygen in the ocean from early photosynthetic organisms (Stromatolites) caused the layers of red oxidised iron to be laid down – it’s like seeing the ancient breathing of the planet captured in stone. It’s a great place for bush walking, swimming in the cool green waters at the bottom or canyoning. Awesome sunsets up the top too!


Name: Simon Watson

Role: Senior Manager, Mobility & Services

Destination: Bellingen - New South Wales

Swim in the Never Never Creek in the Promised Land, just near Bellingen, NSW. Why, because this stunning place is where the river comes fresh out from the rainforest above, pure enough to drink! There are platypus here if you are quiet in the morning, beautiful rainforest birds and butterflies and since it's warm, you can swim about and float down for a bit. It’s a great place to cool off if you have been in the Dorrigo National Park for a bushwalk in the 100 million year old Gondwanan Rainforest. This is actually part of the same UNESCO World Heritage listed rainforest strip from Queensland which includes the Springbrook National Park. Stay in the cool Youth Hostel in Bellingen and eat up a storm at the great cafes and restaurants and pubs in this super cute town!


Name: Raffaela (Raff) Costa

Role: Study Abroad and Exchange Officer

Destination: Phillip Island - Victoria

Phillip Island in Victoria is just a short day trip from Melbourne. The main attraction is the nightly "Penguin Parade" where you can watch the little blue penguins coming up onto the beach at night and following them around into their little homes. Plenty of organised tour companies to choose from. The Island also offers beautiful hiking trails, beaches and close encounters with koalas. If you choose to stay a bit longer, there are accommodation options for all budgets.

Photo: JJ Harrison


Name: Kartika Paksi

Role: Study Abroad and Exchange Officer

Destination: Kangaroo Island - South Australia

If you like wildlife this is the place for you! Discover abundant Australian wildlife in their habitat! visit Flinders Chase National Park, have a walk at Admirals Arch and watch fur seals rest and breed and visit one of the best known icons of Kangaroo Island, Remarkable Rocks. If you are seeking thrilling activities, you can sandboarding at the massive dunes of Little Sahara!


Other honourable mentions:

Bruny Island, Tasmania

It gives the ultimate Tasmanian wilderness experience, bushwalks, stunning coastline of the island and the best foodie tour! Must try Bruny Island Oysters from Get Shucked oyster farm and cheese tasting at Bruny Island Cheese Co.

Take a road trip out from Quorn into the Wilpena Pound. This is truly Australia, long red stretches of an ancient mountain range, worn down by millions of years of erosion, and settling into the edge of the Simpson desert. You drive in through the dramatic rolling hills, then ‘The Pound’ rises out like a giant meteor crater. Camp at the park and you can walk around the edge of it, and marvel at the amazing colours and light at sunset and sunrise. Emus chasing your car with chicks, big red kangaroos and screeching cockatoos. Its also a great place to find little billabongs and dried creek beds where you can feel the dreamtime. There are aboriginal experiences here such as hand paintings etc. It’s a special place to feel the red beating heart of Australia.

Armidale to Glouster, New South Wales

Be sure to take Thunderbolt Way. Once the home of bushrangers, this stunning road drops from the New England Highlands down thorough grasslands to rainforest, best late afternoon. Beautiful!!!

It is a short day trip from Brisbane or Gold Coast and one of the most pretty rainforests I have seen. The waterfall and glow worm cave is definitely a must. It is worth hiring car and organising a group to drive there.

Bundeena, New South Wales

If you are looking to stay close to Sydney, take the ferry trip to Bundeena. It's such a beautiful old ferry and there is a quiet beach and nice walks on the other side.

Enjoy some of Melbourne’s beautiful bay beaches on your way to Sorrento, on the eastern side of Port Philp Bay. Once you hit Sorrento, just drive your car straight onboard the Searoad Ferry for your cruise across Port Philip Bay without the hassle of driving back to Melbourne through the suburbs. The views are amazing and you might even find dolphins join you, leaping alongside the ferry, catching the swell. Alight at Queenscliff (western tip of the bay) and continue 2.5 hours along the Great Ocean Road towards Port Campbell National Park and the 12 Apostles.


Do you have any destinations on your Australia Bucket List?

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