Australia has an amazing array of jaw-dropping destinations for self-drive travellers doing the long haul.
It's time to check out part 2 of our amazing list of spectacular Aussie touring hot spots. The following destinations are located in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, and if they don't make you want to hit the road and get exploring, we don't know what will!
Canunda NP, SA
SA’s wild Limestone Coast has plenty to offer those willing to take the time to explore.
In the far eastern corner of SA’s wild Limestone Coast, the tiny seaside town of Southend is famous for two things: a million-dollar live export market in southern rock lobster and the remarkable coastal wilderness of Canunda National Park.
Stretching for 40km from Southend to Cape Banks, Canunda NP covers an area of more than 9000ha and demands a patient itinerary to really explore. Although it flies under the radar, Canunda is the kind of national park that blow minds, thrilling visitors with ever-changing views of sea-ravaged cliffs, sandy coves and giant shifting sand dunes, carved by the sea to reveal ancient shells and middens.
This five-star destination offers one of the best wilderness escapes in the state, with 4WD and hiker access to incredible trails that lead to Indigenous and pioneering historical sites and lofty lookouts over the sea.
From Southend, begin exploring at Cape Buffon where a boat ramp accesses Rivoli Bay’s secure anchorage and a hundred good fishing spots on offshore reefs and headlands to the south. We drove then walked, tackling an easy amble along Cape Buffon’s sculpted cliff top trail. But by far my favourite adventures were had along the Seaview Hike, a much longer walking experience that follows a coastal trail for 6km through vast, eroded dunes, with rugged vistas of undercut limestone cliffs sculpted with sea caves.
The beach fishing is reputedly brilliant along the entire limestone coast, where steep sandy banks give way to deep gutters. Surfers and snorkellers tough enough to brave the chilly waters will be thrilled by Canunda’s remote reef and beach surf breaks and, on calm days, the abundant marine life that thrives around headlands closer to shore.
From Southend, a 65km-long 4WD track cuts a rugged, sandy route that runs the entire length of Canunda NP, reaching Kyber Pass where the views seem utterly endless, and pushing south across a sea of shifting dunes to Geltwood Beach, Lake Bonney and Cape Banks Lighthouse near Carpenter Rocks.
If your offroad rig is up to the task, this route provides a great 4WD adventure, but you can also tackle it as a daytrip from either end of the park.
Canunda NP is located 428km south-east of Adelaide and stretches from Southend to Cape Banks Lighthouse, 43km west of Mt Gambier.
Walk through the dunes and along the cliff tops for spectacular views, set a pot and test your luck with the crays, explore the beaches and dunes in your 4WD.
Bay of Fires, Tas
With its whiter-than-white sand and crystal-clear water, this famed coastline is a free-campers’ paradise.
Even if you haven’t spent a lot of time in Tassie, you may well have heard of this place – Lonely Planet named it one of the world’s ‘hottest’ travel destinations back in 2009. I reckon they were right on the money, but despite the accolades this is still a sleepy place where you can get away from it all.
Stretching from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point, the Bay of Fires encompasses arcs of some of the whitest sand around, lapped by crystal-clear azure water and dotted with orange lichen-encrusted granite boulders. The area was given its name back in 1773 by Captain Tobias Furneaux who supposedly saw the fires of local Aboriginal people dotted along the coastline, and middens still remain from the original inhabitants of the area.
Stock up on supplies in nearby St Helens then head to the Bay of Fires Conservation Area, where numerous options for camping can be found along the ensuing 13km stretch, including RV-friendly campsites at Grants Lagoon, Jeanneret Beach, Swimcart Beach and Cosy Corner. Camping is free and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
The campsites range from open and grassy to secluded nooks tucked in among the sheoaks. One of the best things about this place is you can camp right behind the dunes and wake up to the sound of the waves pounding the beach, with just a short stroll down to the water’s edge.
This is the kind of place where you can just kick back at camp and relax.
When you’ve tired of that, take a rod down to the beach and try your luck off the rocks or straight off the steep, sandy banks. Some of the beaches can be rough, with strong currents and dumping waves, but protected swimming spots can be found at Cosy Corner or at nearby Binalong Bay.
Further afield, check out the northern part of the bay where Eddystone Point Lighthouse stands watch atop the tall cliffs of Mt William NP. If you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of whales on their annual migration.
At the end of the day, sit back around the campfire and watch the stars come out over the ocean – you really do feel like you’re a million miles from anywhere.
The turn-off to The Gardens at the southern end of the Bay of Fires is around 8km from St Helens. From Hobart, it’s around 250km north to St Helens and from Launceston, it’s around 165km east.
Beachside camping, fishing, swimming and beachcombing.
Tarkine Wilderness, Tas
A new road has opened up the Tarkine to tourism, making it Tassie’s latest go-to wilderness spot.
The Tarkine is an extremely important wilderness area and, while it may not have the hype of nearby Cradle Mountain, it offers intrepid travellers the opportunity to experience near-pristine wilderness, expansive temperate rainforest, awe-inspiring views and now, thanks to the newly tarmacked road, it is accessible to everyone.
The Tarkine is a huge area, encompassing the Tarkine Drive, Arthur River on the west coast and Corinna at the southern end. The best way to see it is by car and my recommendation is that you choose one of these three locales to base yourself for a few days, to give you easy access to the Tarkine’s tourist drives and walks.
Tarkine Drive is the newly sealed road with around 12 tourist stop-offs, taking in sinkholes, lookouts, waterfall walks and rainforest rambles, with barbecue and picnic facilities at some of the stops. The cute historic hamlet of Stanley (of The Nut fame) makes a good base for exploring this area; it’s only a 45-minute drive from there to the start of the Tarkine Drive.
The coastal stretch of the Tarkine is speckled with tiny communities, their makeshift shacks braced against the constant wind. Apart from the windswept beaches, there is not much out this way – and that’s just the way they like it. Arthur River, the area’s main settlement, is home to The Edge of the World Lookout, which is definitely worth braving the elements to visit.
The wild heart of the Tarkine is Corinna. Surrounded by old-growth forest and untamed mountains, it is accessible via a two-and-a-half-hour wilderness drive from Arthur River. It’s a shorter drive from Waratah, but visitors need to cross the Pieman River via the wonderfully-named Fatman Barge.
This part of the Tarkine is predominantly rainforest and there are numerous walks to explore. The standout is Mount Donaldson – it’s a two-hour uphill trudge, but once you’re at the top, you are rewarded with wraparound valley views.
The Tarkine is located in north-west Tasmania, a 2.5-hour drive or 230km from Launceston.
Rainforest walks, kayaking on the Pieman River, scenic drives, off-grid serenity.
Bruny Island, Tas
With stunning natural beauty, delicious cuisine and an abundance of great camping spots, this bite of the Apple Isle is a fascinating destination.
Bruny Island is actually two landmasses – North Bruny and South Bruny – joined by a long, narrow isthmus called The Neck. The island’s combined length is only about 100km, but the landscape changes dramatically from sheltered sandy beaches and farmlands in the north, to tall forests, open bays and dramatic sea cliffs in the south. The relatively sheltered channel side of the island is popular for fishing and recreational boating, whereas the exposed eastern side is extremely rugged, with dolerite cliffs towering 200m above the Tasman Sea.
Bruny is a great place for touring. Most of the roads are easy 2WD standard, suitable for towing and cycling. But there are many unsealed sections and some slippery unsealed forest tracks more suited to offroad vehicles. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can see and do everything in a day; get the most out of your ferry fare and stay for a few days at the numerous campgrounds dotted across the island.
Bruny is renowned as a foodie’s paradise, offering a range of local produce and it’s worth stopping in for tastings. Try the Bruny Island Smokehouse, the Bruny Island Cheese Company and Get Shucked Oyster Farm for starters.
The narrow ridge of sand that makes up The Neck houses a game reserve, which is an important habitat for native wildlife. Boardwalks with viewing platforms enable visitors to observe short-tailed shearwaters and fairy penguins in their rookeries among the dunes.
Don’t miss Cloudy Bay, where a relentless barrage of waves push onto the beach at one of the most dynamic surfing spots in Tasmania. Further south, the unsealed road leads you to the iconic Cape Bruny Lighthouse at the island’s south-west tip.
While you’re down south, treat yourself to a fast boat ride along the island’s south-east coast with Bruny Island Cruises. Departing from Adventure Bay, this half-day ‘cruise’ gets up close and personal with soaring sea cliffs and plenty of the native inhabitants. It is fun, fascinating and unforgettable. If you do nothing else in Tasmania, you must do this.
Bruny is accessible by a 20-minute crossing of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel on the Mirambeena ferry from Kettering, 40km south of Hobart.
Excellent swimming, boating and fishing, forest drives and bushwalks, birdwatching and wildlife tours, local heritage and history, ‘Made on Bruny’ Gourmet Trail.
The Otways, Vic
Away from the coast, the breathtaking beauty of the Otways reaches new heights.
Inland of Victoria’s most famous crumbling coastline, on the rainforested flanks of the Otway Range, tall canopies of mountain ash and ancient myrtle beech trees tower above a vast network of fern-fringed streams and dramatic, multi-tiered waterfalls.
These lush, lofty forests provide a quiet escape from the coastal crowds where you can walk in solitude and discover secluded pools and swimming holes. They also harbour an excellent trio of free forest camps – a surprising find in a region where campsites are at a premium – and it’s all thanks to their state forest boundaries.
Exploring the Otways is tremendous fun and with extensive coastline and undulating inland plains to explore on either side of the range there are plenty of routes you might tackle. To escape the crowds, try this easy waterfall circuit, looping inland from Apollo Bay to overnight at the base of Stevensons Falls, bushwalk around the picturesque hamlet of Beech Forest, and picnic beneath a giant stand of Californian Redwoods before ending your journey at the historic Cape Otway Lighthouse.
The Stevensons Falls campground makes a great base for exploring the nearby historical timber town of Forrest, before seeking out platypus at Lake Elizabeth along some excellent walking trails. The big attraction for mountain bikers is Forrest’s 50km of offroad biking trails.
One of the most thrilling attractions on this loop is the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures where you can stroll the treetop boardwalk 30m above the forest floor and climb the Spiral Staircase to eyeball rainforest giants stretching 45m high.
Close by, the much photographed triple cascades of Triplet Falls are one of the Otways’ most beautiful waterfalls, accessed via a short boardwalk loop that takes about an hour.
For an unbeatable picnic spot, pull in to the Redwoods picnic area, in the midst of a magnificent grove of California redwoods, planted in the 1930s. Meandering along the 10-minute walking trail through the grove of forest giants is an awe-inspiring experience.
Further west, a final detour off the Great Ocean Road to the south leads to Cape Otway, where colonies of koalas can be spotted sleeping silently in the crooked limbs of manna gums, making a lovely diversion on the way to the historic Cape Otway Lighthouse.
To start this loop, follow the Great Ocean Rd 5.5km east of Apollo Bay then turn north onto the Forrest-Apollo Bay Rd.
Explore the numerous walking trails, check out the stunning waterfalls, make the most of the free bush camping and enjoy a self-drive tour of this spectacular region.
Murray-Sunset NP, Vic
Red dirt adventures await in Victoria’s own slice of the outback.
For those living in the south east of this great country, and particularly for people who live in Victoria, the outback can seem like a distant dream, a long way off in the centre of the continent. But it turns out you don’t need to travel for days to get that feeling of isolation or to see endless stretches of red dirt and mallee scrub; you can find all this, and more, tucked away in the far north-west corner of Victoria, in the Murray-Sunset National Park.
Murray-Sunset NP comprises 677,000ha of mallee bushland, and can be seen as encompassing three different sections. The far north-west takes in Lindsay Island, right on the Murray River. The southern section is around the Pink Lakes area, where red algae in the lakes creates a beautiful pink tinge and makes for some great photo opportunities.
In the centre and north (the bulk of the park), are bush camping sites, unsealed roads (varying from good condition to pretty average tracks) and plenty of isolation. This part of the park has some challenging sections of track – there are some soft, sandy strips, quite a few corrugations and, in the low-lying areas, it can get boggy in the wet. For this central section, you’ll want a pretty tough offroad camper or van or, alternatively, leave the trailer at the Pink Lakes and head off solo in the 4WD.
The distances are not daunting but travel throughout the park can be slow and the majority of places to see are in the eastern quarter. Get your hands on a decent map before you go and you should get around without too much difficulty.
There’s plenty to look at as you tour around. In the north-west, stop in for a look at the Shearers’ Quarters – grazing began here in the mid-1800s and the pastoral heritage is a feature of the park. Heading east, take a break at the Cattleyards on the Grub Track. These are a classic post and rail structure, now totally dilapidated. But these are great little bits of nostalgia and this one confirms the ingenuity and seriously hard toil the pastoralists injected into the country. From here, continue east to the relative civilisation of the Pink Lakes. The main campground at Lake Crosby is neatly set out in defined sites. There are a few short walking trails and Pioneer Drive is okay for cycling if you have bikes on hand.
Murray-Sunset NP is in the north-west corner of Victoria, about 80km south of Mildura.
This is a do-it-yourself experience, so you’ll need to make your own fun – enjoy the rich mallee scrub, go bushwalking, do some birdwatching, and check out some of the pastoral relics.
High Country, Vic
Victoria’s High Country has some of the best camping and 4WD tracks going around.
When it comes to spectacular scenery, the Victorian High Country would have to be one of the most highly regarded destinations in the country. A 4WD is without a doubt the best way to experience this area, but you’ll need knackers of steel to tackle some of the steeper tracks in the region – they really do range from mild to absolutely insane, and it’s not just the steepness that can bring you undone, it’s the weather. A good rain can turn these tracks into a near vertical slosh pit, and there’s plenty of wrecks lying down the bottom of those big gullies to testify to the need to keep your wits about you. Plus, every now and then the High Country is home to a big blanket of fluffy white snow, which can simply make some of these tracks too dangerous to drive.
Check out the Crooked River Track (a little beauty that will have you tackling 24 river crossings in just 7km), the Billy Goat Bluff Track (which takes you scrambling up a seemingly near vertical track to a height of 1200m) and the Blue Rag Range Track (for epic views some 1700m up).
If steep tracks aren’t your forte there’s a lot more to see and do. There are freshwater river streams like you’ve never seen before, a climate that can really turn it up a notch and more history and quirky facts than Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Make sure you pack your fishing rod and your camera too – you’re guaranteed to get a few cracking happy snaps!
No trip to the High Country is complete without a stopover at the small town of Dargo. Surrounded by towering mountains, it's a great place to base yourself while exploring places like the mystery-riven Wonnangatta.
You’ll also find old mountain cattleman's huts all over the High Country, and they’re filled with history from the last few hundred years of cattle musters. One of the most popular is Craigs Hut, once home to Jim Craig in the iconic film The Man from Snowy River. It offers some spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges, especially Indian Head. Camp around here and you’ll be greeted with one of the most insane sunrises you’ve ever seen in your life, no bull!
Dargo is 320km north-east of Melbourne.
Epic 4WD tracks, clear mountain stream fishing, spectacular photo opportunities.