Australia is a vast, diverse country celebrated for its iconic landmarks and natural beauty.

But beyond the well-trodden destinations there's another side to the country. This less-visited Australia offers not just beautiful vistas and epic natural wonders but laid-back experiences away from the typical tourist routes.

Follow our writers as they uncover the spots beloved by locals, revealing where Australians really love to travel.

Shots of Beechworth village, incl. a horse-drawn carriage on main street, a bakery and vintage clothes for sale outside a shop
Beechworth is a relaxing, craft-filled weekend escape from Melbourne © Getty Images

Retro shops and secret swimming holes: Beechworth, Victoria

Travel writer and editor Tasmin Waby grew up in Melbourne but now splits her time between Australia, the UK and New Zealand.

Beechworth is this unique little town halfway between Melbourne and Canberra in the foothills of the Victorian Alps. At first it’s hard to put your finger on why it’s so aesthetic. Yes it’s an historic gold-mining town with wide roads, sandstone buildings, and European trees that turn crimson, yellow and gold as the weather cools, but there are similar kinds of places in Australia. Then it hits you: without any major chain stores Beechworth’s largely independent high street – from retro furnishings to gourmet stores and book shops – all have a harmonious look which is inexplicably relaxing. Nothing is shouting at you in garish colors or neon lights. 

Obviously this is not the only reason I am totally in love with Beechworth. The town's allure extends beyond its visual appeal. You can swim or canoe on Lake Sambell in the center of town, or venture further afield to secret swimming holes in surrounding hills. There’s a dramatic gorge walk and Woolshed Falls to explore, plus local forests to get lost in. Mountain bikers can get an adrenaline hit here, but there’s also an off-road cycle path (the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail) that takes you down to the vineyard-strewn Ovens valley (it’s harder on the way back up). Plus Beechworth has a bunch of excellent pubs including Bridge Road Brewers, a craft beer brewery, and restaurants like Provenance, which is consistently ranked among Australia's best restaurants – and offers accommodations. And for the after-dark thrillseeker, there are haunting ghost tours of the old asylum and historic prison, or one might enjoy gazing at the moonrise from Murmungee Lookout.

Shots of a waterfall, trees with autumn leaves, a traditional Australian pub and a koala climbing a tree
Adelaide Hills is filled with absorbing art villages, vineyards and nature trails © Getty Images

Wine, art and burnt butter porridge: Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Shaney Hudson is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Sydney.

Adelaide Hills is an easy place to unwind for a long weekend, with its cool climate wineries and scenic country drives connecting quaint villages-such as the Angas River Scenic Drive and Torrens Valley Drive. The region is known for its art scene, especially in the town of Hahndorf, Australia's oldest German settlement, where galleries and studios showcase works from local artists. It's surrounded by gorgeous nature too, and there's a fair chance you'll spot a koala in a eucalyptus tree.

When I visit the region, I stay at Mount Lofty House. It's a luxurious place that's worth the splurge with panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards. The property features artworks by local artist Stephen Trebilcock, offers spectacular in-house fine dining at Hardy’s Verandah, and is rumored to host a resident ghost (it's said the ghost likes to hang around room 7).

Adelaide Hills is an epicurean paradise; it's surrounded by rich farmland and is home to some of Australia's best wineries. When I visit, I can never pass up a chance to enjoy a bowl of burnt butter porridge with oat crumble and butterscotch sauce at Comida, located in Hahndorf.

In addition to the well-known Hills Sculpture Trail art lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to The Cedars in Hahndorf. It was the home, studio, and gardens of the famous Adelaide Hills landscape painter, Hans Heysen, and his daughter, the artist Nora Heysen, offering visitors the chance to delve into their artistic legacy.

Shots of bats sleeping upside down and images of lakes and lush, country roads in the Tweed, NSW
Most people skip by The Tweed on their way to the Gold Coast but they're missing out on an area of incredible natural beauty © Getty Images

Sleeping bats and sleepy villages: The Tweed, New South Wales

Canadian Jessica Lockhart is Lonely Planet’s Destination Editor for Oceania and has called Australia home for the best part of the last decade.

Sitting on the front porch of the Chesson Lodge, my mom and I were transfixed. As the sky glowed deep purple, hundreds of bats flew overhead, silhouetted against the backdrop of Mt Warning/Wollumbin’s distinctive peak.

I’ve always loved the phenomenon known as “bat hour,” when massive fruit bats leave their daytime roosts en masse. Witnessing it in Uki, a small village in the Tweed, takes the experience up a notch. It became the part of day we looked forward to most. That, and when we grabbed our morning coffee from the innovative Uki Post Office, where you can mail a parcel, watch coffee being roasted, or admire local artwork.

Situated just north of Byron Bay, international visitors often speed through the Tweed on their way to the Gold Coast. But what they’re missing out on is a lush green countryside with historic villages, each with incredible culinary experiences (like paddock-to-bottle distillery, Husk Farm) and their own personality.

One of the best ways to explore them is on the new Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which launched in March 2023. Starting from Murwillumbah, the relatively easy e-bike ride passes alongside sugarcane fields, under thick wooded groves and through historic railway tunnels. You can stop to meet the animals at Hosanna Farmstay, shop the impressive array of antiques at Heaths Old Wares in Burringbar, or spend an hour exploring the Tweed Regional Gallery, with its sweeping views over the Tweed River and collections worthy of a much larger city.

Aerial shots of dolphins in the water and the seaside town of Culburra
Culburra is a quieter alternative to the popular beaches of Jervis Bay © Getty Images

Freshly-shucked oysters and paddleboarding: Culburra, New South Wales

Perth-based writer Rebecca Haddad usually spends her time traveling up and down Western Australia but her favorite Aussie holiday destination lies on the East Coast.

Like most kids growing up in Sydney, summer holidays meant a beachside escape. For my family, that was an annual pilgrimage to Culburra on the NSW South Coast. While the likes of nearby Hyams Beach and Huskisson have long attracted tourists for their respective white sand and population of whales, Culburra has successfully managed to avoid the influx of international holidaymakers.

Culburra is located just outside of the Jervis Bay territory and a 2.5-hour drive from Sydney. The town is framed by Crookhaven River and Wollumboola Lake, which enhances its getting-away-from-it-all feeling. My childhood summers were spent in our grandparents' 1960s fibro holiday home, enjoying twice-daily beach swims and indulging in marble cakes from Culburra Bakery. 

Many of those classic beach houses now serve as rental accommodations, alongside other budget-friendly options including the caravan park at the mouth of the river. Those in the market for a more luxurious stay can find premium rentals along the beachfront, providing direct access to the sand.

It would be remiss to visit Culburra without trying the local seafood. The Little Snapper serves up platters of freshly shucked oysters and mussels in cheery environs. I recommend heading to nearby Culburra Fish & Chips for a takeaway box to devour on the beach, and don't forget to add some pineapple fritters for dessert.

Aquatic pursuits can be as tame or as thrilling as you like, from stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking on the lake, to surfing Culburra or adjacent Warrain Beach. Keen for beachside fun without getting your hair wet? Hire a bike and tour the coastline, stopping at Penguin Head lookout on one end and the historic Crookhaven Lighthouse on the other for some epic views of "Burradise" from above.

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