The long lazy stretch of summer holidays beckons Down Under and, given its size, Australia offers a vast variety of holiday choices. But, are there experiences and destinations where you can really escape the crowds and feel like you have the entire place to yourself?
Lonely Planet’s Chris Zeiher picks the best places as featured in Offbeat and Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Australia Travel List.
Epic concrete canvas of the Silo Art Trail in West Wimmera-Mallee © Quinn Rooney / Getty
Silo Art Trail, West Wimmera, Victoria
Best for: Instagram worthy shots
The disused grain silos that punctuate Victoria’s expansive Wimmera-Mallee plains have found new life as epic concrete canvases for street artists such as Rone and Adnate. The 200km+ Silo Art Trail is Australia’s largest outdoor gallery where talented artists have transformed giant concrete cylinders into moving, jaw-dropping works of art.
Each piece is inspired by or echoes the town or local history in which it’s located, from sweeping depictions of Indigenous elders to gorgeous native birdlife. Be sure to detour to Murtoa’s Stick Shed, Australia’s only remaining grain stick shed boasting over 560 unmilled timber poles that keep the structure aloft, and catch a sunset at Lake Tyrrell where the night sky is reflected in the shallow waters of Victoria’s largest inland salt lake.
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Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia
Best for: Getting off grid with a digital detox
Off the coast of northwestern Australia, the 42-island Dampier Archipelago would be world-famous if it was not so remote. The piercing blue of sea and sky provide a stirring backdrop to islands littered with rocky outcrops, white sand beaches and mangrove forests. Twenty-five of the islands have been declared nature reserves and they shelter rock wallabies, northern quolls and countless shorebirds.
Offshore, the coral reefs sponge gardens and underwater seagrass plains provide habitat for turtles, dugongs, dolphins and over 650 species of dish. Tour operators in Dampier and Karratha can organise excursions to the islands.
Venturing off the beaten path at Arthur River in north west Tasmania © Mandy Creighton/Shutterstock
North West Tasmania
Best for: Stunning accessible costal hikes
Dotted with quirky towns, gorgeous stretches of beaches and pristine forest, North West Tasmania is criminally overlooked by travelers who, on arrival, immediately head south. Those venturing west along the coastal road have a plethora of off-the-beaten path places to explore. From the stunning white sand beaches of Boat Harbour, a coastal community with a chilled vibe, to the gorgeously preserved township of Stanley, which is dominated by the geological feature known as “the Nut”. The Rocky Cape National Park offers a variety of day walks or coastal jaunts that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
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Stokes Bay, access via narrow caves and prepare to be wowed © Getty Images/EyeEm
Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Best for: beach lovers seeking that special place
There’s something very special about Stokes Bay, a hidden beach located on the Northern coast of picturesque Kangaroo Island. Partly it’s the fact it’s only accessible via a labyrinth of narrow caves. Partly it’s the sheltered nature of the beach that allows swimmers a chance to frolic in the gorgeous turquoise waters. Partly it’s the idling kangaroos that will make your company during your time lounging on the beach. But mostly, it’s because the effort to get here pays off in spades. This really is Australia’s best kept beach secret.
Whilst visiting the island make sure you pop into award-winning distillery KI Spirits for a tipple or venture down to Seal Bay Conservation Park for an observational beach tour of Australian Sea Lion colonies.
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A sea turtle off the coast of Palm Island on the Great Barrier Reef © Anthony Britten/ 500px
Palm Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Best for: Conservation conscious divers and snorkelers
Palm Island isn’t your typical Great Barrier Reef hideaway. There are no luxe resorts, no hip restaurants or bars. Palm Island is often described as the island tourism forgot. Or was, until it was earmarked for instalment of the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) in 2022.
Designed to inspire ocean conservation, the series of spectacular underwater sculptures invites snorkelers and divers to experience the Great Barrier Marine Park – which Palm Island forms part of – in a whole new way. A local Indigeous guides training program launched in 2021 also means that you can be guided with a knowledgeable Traditional Custodian of this rustic escape. If you want to avoid a resort-style holiday this is the place to come.
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The Fremantle Prison extensive tunnel tour – there will be screams © Fleur Bainger/Lonely Planet
Fremantle Prison, Western Australia
Best for: Families with teens seeking adventure
Want to impress the kids this Summer holidays with something super adventurous? Well, the Fremantle Prison tunnel tour is just the ticket. After slipping into some “Breaking Bad” style overalls and donning a hard hat you’ll use a locking ladder system to descend 20+ metres into the tunnels below. It’s here that prisoners carved out an elaborate network of tunnels. Visitors get to explore the dry tunnels on foot before boarding two-person punts to explore the submerged passageways only accessible via boat. And when the lights go out…there will be screams. It’s amazing.
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