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They say you can take a girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of a girl! I was born and bred in the country and lived on a dairy farm for a few years in a fairly remote area. I’ve always had a soft spot for country towns and during our travels throughout Australia there are many favourites. I have asked some of my travel blog colleagues where they consider to be the best country towns in Australia.
My father was born and raised in Atherton in Far North Queensland and in fact my grandparents lived there, in the same house, for over 80 years. I spent a lot of time there as a kid and many of my fondest childhood memories were at my Nana and Grandad’s house which always smelt like passion fruit, mangoes and granadilla pie.
Atherton has a population today of around 7,000 people and sits in the middle of the fertile Atherton Tablelands about one hour’s drive inland from Cairns. The area has a sub-tropical climate and is renowned for its crops and produce including milk, tobacco, fruit, sugar cane and macadamia nuts. There is a lot to do including visiting the nearby volcanic lakes at Lake Eacham ( pictured),Lake Barinne and Tinaroo Dam as well as a number of waterfalls, caves and historic villages.
Atherton is great to visit year round although it can get surprisingly chilly in winter. Most people fly into Cairns and drive up either the Gillies Highway to the South of the Kennedy Highway through Kuranda. There is also a bus service.
Bellingen or Bello as friends call it, is a beautiful and green thirty minute drive inland from the New South Wales coastal town of Coffs Harbour. Set on the banks of the Bellinger River, it has a great swimming hole with kayaking opportunities.
It’s not only the well preserved historic buildings in the main street that appeal, but what the town’s people have done to keep them relevant and the town thriving.
Bellingen’s vibe is of a grown up hippy town. The local supermarket shelves are full of gourmet produce and the range of cheeses would give any sophisticated City Deli a run for their money.
It’s the kind of place where the C.W.A. ladies sell cakes and rainforest jams and where trendy cafes rub shoulders with organic greengrocers.
Bellingen has an unusual amount of interesting cafes, bars and restaurants that host an eclectic array of great musicians.
But Bello is small and in the blink of an eye (or another thirty minutes) you are out in the countryside at Dorrigo National Park, where the dairy cows are fat and the fields are an intense photo-shopped green.
If you are caravanning we suggest staying at the Bellingen Showgrounds – a short walking distance of the main street.
Nestled in the far north of Western Australia, Broome is well off the typical tourists trail – although the popularity of travel to the town is increasing every year. If your definition of ‘country town’ is somewhere that is remote and difficult to get to, Broome is just that – it is located a 6 hour drive east of Port Hedland and a 2 hour drive west of Derby, the only towns of any notable size in the area.
Broome is where the outback meets the sea, where red dirt becomes golden sand and eventually shockingly blue ocean. It’s home to natural features like the cliffs at Gantheaume Point (with dinosaur footprints!), Coconut Wells and the monthly Staircase to the Moon phenomenon – which means that many tourists are happy to make the 2300 kilometre journey from Perth, the state capital!
Other attractions in Broome include Aboriginal art galleries and important memorials that nod to the pearling industry and its tragedies. The oldest open air cinema in the world is in Broome, as well as a handful of relaxed cafes, bars and restaurants.
And when the day’s done, head to Cable Beach for an emu export or local Matsos beer and watch the sun slowly descend over the Indian Ocean… it’s an experience like no other.
Possibly the piece de resistance on the Murray River, is the town of Echuca, near where I grew up on a dairy farm. Echuca was Australia’s largest inland port in the 1870s, has a rich cultural heritage and is known as the paddlesteamer capital of Australia.
One of the main attractions in Echuca is the Port of Echuca, with a re-created port village, restored wharf and the fabulous Echuca Discovery Centre. From the new red gum walkways we watched old nostalgic paddlesteamers departing the wharf, cruising down the Murray. We learnt that one paddlesteamer, the PS Pevensey, was the one used in the TV series “All The Rivers Run”.
After we had finished exploring the port, we sauntered into the adjoining park and the historic Henry’s Bridge Hotel, built by pioneer and ex-convict Henry Hopwood. We ended up strolling along the main thoroughfare of High Street through the town with plenty of interesting old buildings, shops and cafes.
The other must dos and sees in Echuca, are a cruise on one of the gracious, historic paddlesteamers, or visit some true Aussie icons at the National Holden Motor Museum and the Great Aussie Beer Shed. Boating and water skiing is also extremely popular along the Murray River between Echuca and Torrumbarry.
We love exploring regional Australia and for us Victoria has some of the most wonderful country towns to discover. One of our favourites has to be the town of Halls Gap, located around 3 hours or 254km outside of Melbourne in the incredible Grampians National Park. Sitting in a picturesque valley surrounded by the incredible sandstone peaks and lush forests of the mountains it is the gateway to exploring the Grampians.
Some of the best places to explore around Halls Gap are:
MacKenzie Falls, one of the largest and most impressive waterfalls in Victoria and one of only a small number to flow all year round. It is also quite common to see some wild wallabies around here often too.
Reeds and Boroka lookouts. The Grampians National park is full of incredible lookouts that take in the magnificent vista of the burning orange mountain ranges and lush forests of Eucalyptus trees below. Two of the most iconic are Reeds and Boroka which can be reached by car or hikes from Halls Gap.
Katherine is an outback town in Australia’s Northern Territory, around 320 kilometres south of Darwin.
The main reason most people visit Katherine is to see the Katherine Gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park. The Gorge is made up of 13 stunning gorges and there are a variety of ways to explore the gorge including cruise, kayak, bush walk and even fly over it. If you are short on time, take the 2-hour cruise, where part way through you jump out of the boat and get the opportunity to wander through one of the gigantic gorges which are carved from ancient sandstone. If you had more time I would recommend taking the time to kayak through the gorges. The area is just mesmorizing.
Another must do whilst in Katherine is to swim in the nearby hot springs of Mataranka Hot Springs or Bitter Springs. You can also visit the Katherine School of Air as well as have a swim in the natural swimming holes at Edith Falls.
Katherine can get crazy hot, so I recommend you visit during the winter months which are June to August.
Most people visit Katherine whilst doing a road trip from Darwin down to Alice Springs or vice versa. Alternatively it can reached as a long day trip from Darwin. So the best way to visit is by your own vehicle or as part of a tour group.
Known as the main town in the Blue Mountains, Katoomba is welcoming, charming and perfectly located if you are keen on heading on some bush walks and hikes. It’s convenient location explains the big number of tourists that base themselves there for a few days while visiting nearby cities such as Sydney.
Only two hours train ride from the vibrant city, you enter a world surrounded by nature. Katoomba is a small town that is probably best to visit in May or September, when it’s not too hot but reasonably warm and less touristy. If you plan it as a day trip, which many people do, it’s advisable to do it on a Sunday when the train fare will cost you only $2.50 one way from Sydney.
On the main street there are several cute boutiques and shops with personality and of course some nice cafes, a pub or two and a few meditation centres as well. The main attraction is the Three Sisters rock formation that can be admired without too much effort, from the observation platform a few minutes walk from the town centre. Nature lover’s paradise, Katoomba is a great base for hikers but also for cave explorers, having the Jenolan Caves nearby.
Lennox Head is a small beach town on the Northern NSW coast, south of Byron Bay. Perhaps not as cool as its neighbour, Lennox Head nevertheless ticks all the boxes for the perfect beach holiday destination.
The town is centred on the main beach which is a great spot for a swim, a spot of surfing or even a surf lesson. At low tide the southern end of the beach reveals rock pools to explore.
If you can drag yourselves away from the beach, pop over to Lake Ainsworth, where a swim or paddle on the fresh water tea coloured lake is a hit with kids and adults alike.
When you are in need of a little exercise, head for the walk way at the southern end of the beach all the way up to the headland. It is a popular spot to watch the surfers tackling the break on the point and has a lovely view of the coast.
Lennox Head is perfectly located for easy day trips to the Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, Brunswick Heads, and to the pretty hinterland areas of Bangalow and Newrybar.
Whilst the best weather is in summer from December to February, Lennox Head enjoys mild weather all year round and is a great place to visit over the shoulder seasons.
Victor Harbor is an easy, one hour drive south of Adelaide, South Australia. It’s the place where locals go to escape the city and enjoy the beach.
The beach may be popular in summer, but there is plenty to do here all year round. Take the horse drawn tram over to Granite Island to check out the wacky art trail as you hike around the island. Relive the age of steam and ride the Cockle Train to Goolwa and back.
Put on your hiking shoes and make your way to the top of The Bluff for scenic views over the town and out to sea. This might be a cold climb in winter, but you can also spot Southern Right Whales playing below in the bay during the cooler months.
For the adventurous, there’s the opportunity to swim with tuna or take a quad bike tour. The kids will also love visiting the Urimbirra Wildlife Park to see the kangaroos and koalas.
With accommodation for all budgets, it’s well worth spending a day or two here during your Australian odyssey.
Yamba is a small coast town in New South Wales with approximately 6,000 inhabitants. It’s a lovely little village, in fact, in 2009 Yamba was voted the number 1 town in Australia by Australian Traveller Magazine. There are lots of things to see and do in Yamba, for starters, it is a great place to go surfing! You can also go for a walk around Hickey Island or Yamba Main beach. Check out Yamba Lighthouse, catch a movie at the small but cute Yamba Cinema or get a frozen Yoghurt at Amicici, (pro-tip: go for the cake batter flavour – delicious!).
Yamba is served by local buses, but in my opinion Australia is best explored with your own wheels. Plus, when you have your own transport you can take a short trip to Angourie. Angourie is an even smaller village just south of Yamba where you can go for a dip in the Blue and Green Lagoon.
I visited Yamba in November, but it’s a lovely place to visit year-round. July is the coolest month (average of 19 degrees Celsius) and February generally the hottest (average of 27 degrees Celsius). The driest month is September and the wettest month is March.
York is a small regional town about 97kms east of Perth, and it is known to be Western Australia’s first inland town.
Walking around the town, is like going back in history. Avon Terrace (the heritage part of the town) is full of old buildings and historic hotels dating back to the late 1800s.
On a Spring or Autumn day, a stroll along the Avon river and over the suspension bridge is a lovely thing to do and gives you a real feel of being far from the madding crowd. This suspension bridge was the first temporary bridge over the river in York, and was built by convicts around 1853.
York Town Hall is a grand and imposing piece of architecture. Built in 1911 it typifies the boom times, when money was spent on magnificent buildings and hotels. One of these, The Castle Hotel is the oldest existing inland hotel in Western Australia.
Another thing not to be missed is The York Motor museum which was established in 1979 and is recognized as one of the best private collections of veteran, vintage, classic and racing cars in Australia.
If you’re after a birds’ eye view of the town, you might head to Mount Brown Lookout 342m above sea level where you’ll get 360 degree panoramic view of York and the surrounding countryside.
What a great selection of country towns! In part 2 of Best Country Towns in Australia there will be more interesting places to check out, from Cooper Pedy in the Outback to Maleny in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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