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Who would have thought there were so many fabulous country towns in Australia? When I asked some other travel bloggers for their favourite places, I was bowled over with the responses! So here are the best country towns in Australia part 2.
Alice Springs is a remote town located in Australia’s Outback. For many people, Alice Springs is just the gate to the Red Centre, the starting point of their Uluru Tour. However, this is a cute small town with interesting things to see and do without leaving its boundaries.
Alice Springs was founded in the 1870s as a telegraph station and history buffs will love to visit some beautiful colonial buildings from that period. Nature lovers will love to explore some of the walking trails around “Alice” spring, the waterhole in the Todd River after which the town was named. Also, the town is the starting point of the Larapinta Trail through the desert, one of the best multi-day hikes in Australia.
Finally, don’t miss the Royal Flying Doctor Service Base, which provides 24-hour medical assistance across a vast but totally desert area. The base has a small but interesting museum where visitors can learn the history of the Royal Flying Doctor and see some of its vintage artefacts.
I recommend going to Alice Spring during winter time when the temperatures are not that high. This is a desert area in the outback so pack your bag accordingly.
A beautiful country town in northwest NSW, Bathurst is home to heritage buildings, pretty parks, excellent cafes and is also the home of Australian motor racing, with the Mount Panorama racing circuit. This gold rush era town and Australia’s oldest inland settlement has transformed over the years into a vibrant regional centre, accessible by car, train, bus and plane.
If you drive to Bathurst, take your car for a spin on the Mount Panorama race circuit – it’s free and easily accessible to the public. Check out an excellent Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and large gem display at the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum, or take in Australian paintings and modern artworks at the Bathurst Regional Gallery.
Kids will love the excellent Adventure Playground, featuring dinosaur statues and footprints, a dual flying fox, maze, sandpit and slides.
Stay the night at the luxurious Bishop’s Court Estate, an 1870 Victorian mansion that has been beautifully restored.
Bathurst is best visited in Spring or Autumn.
Halfway between Ballarat and Ararat, Beaufort is a pretty country town in central Victoria. Founded in the 1830s, the town’s population boomed several decades later when gold was discovered in 1852. The town prospered in the gold rush and then became an agricultural and timber industry hub.
These days Beaufort is a typically friendly country town with cafe lined streets and beautiful historic architecture. Only a two hour drive from Melbourne, Beaufort is a great place for a day trip or as a rest stop on your way to the Grampians. There are several walking trails around Beaufort Lake and nearby Lake Goldsmith wildlife reserve. If you like water activities Beaufort Lake is a great spot to go fishing, waterskiing, swimming and boating.
Once you have built up your appetite, we recommend heading back into town for a hearty lunch at Pyrenees Pantry complete with delicious cool climate wines from the surrounding wine region.
Just a couple of hours south of Sydney, lies a quaint foodie paradise full of cute homewares stores in the Shoalhaven region. A drive down the Grand Pacific Drive along Sydney’s South Coast is a wonderfully scenic way to make your way to Berry on a lazy summer’s day and at the end destination an abundance of great cafes and restaurants await you.
Berry is also the home of the Drawing Room Rocks lookout – which offers remarkable views of the lush, green valley and the NSW coastline. Berry is perfect to visit at any time of year, although it is worth noting that it can get quite cold & windy in the winter months.
For food that won’t break the budget, the Famous Berry Donut Van is a favourite with locals and tourists alike, serving up hot cinnamon donuts all day and no trip to Berry is complete without a coffee from Sourdough Bakery or Milkwood.
Simply getting to Coober Pedy in the heart of the South Australian Outback is an adventure. It’s hundreds of kilometres from the nearest city and this means to get there you’ll have to embark on an epic road trip or fly over what looks like the surface of Mars.
The reason the town of Coober Pedy was created in such a seemingly inhospitable location was because of the density of opals found there. It became the opal capital of the world, and you can visit places such as the Umoona Opal Mine & Museum to see the harsh conditions endured by the opal miners and check out these minerals up close. The natural landscape is breathtaking, particularly the Breakaways, a beautiful hilly reserve that turns a brilliant dark red at sunset and sunrise.
Coober Pedy is also one of the driest parts of Australia and the difficulty of life in this climate has made it a unique traveller’s destination. Due to the heat, a lot of the town is underground, including hotels and churches. But there are also some quirky things above ground too, such as the golf course without a blade of grass, the sculptures of Crocodile Harry’s or the drive-in outback cinema.
Due to the hot temperatures the best time to visit Coober Pedy is between April and October when it is at its coolest.
Dubbo, in central west NSW, is famous for being home to Taronga Western Plains Zoo. This is a truly magnificent zoo with sprawling, beautifully landscaped grounds, hundreds of animals and a 6 km circuit, which can be toured by car, bike or golf cart (need to get in early but definitely the most fun!). At about 5 hours’ drive west of Sydney or north of Canberra, a visit to Dubbo is quite the expedition, but so worth it.
While you could easily spend a couple of days at the zoo, there is plenty more to do in Dubbo. The Royal Flying Doctor Service has a visitors’ centre, where you can learn about the wonderful work that this unique service does. The Old Dubbo Gaol gives a fascinating insight into life inside a prison in the 1800s. And one of our particular highlights was going down into the Wellington Caves, 45 min outside Dubbo. We loved the exquisite natural beauty of the hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites.
Ideally, visit in the milder weather of autumn or spring, as it gets down to around 15°c on winter days (June to August) and up to at least 32°c in summer (December to February).
The coastal town of Dunsborough is one of the best country towns in Australia because of its location, and suitability as a base for exploring the Margaret River region.
We visited in summer, which is a great time to visit, but the best time to go is in spring, as is the case for much of WA, because of its extraordinary wildflowers.
It’s a straightforward three-hour drive south from Perth, and is at the northern end of the Margaret River wine region. It’s on the shore of sheltered Geographe Bay, and faces eastwards, meaning that the water is a lot calmer than on the Indian Ocean, on the other side of the Cape Naturaliste peninsula on which it is located.
Dunsborough is the best base to explore some of the most beautiful coastline we’ve ever seen. The beaches at Castle Rock, Meelup and Eagle Bay are stunning, and have some of the clearest, most pristine water we’ve ever seen. A few miles further on, Cape Naturaliste lighthouse is also worth a visit, especially for its tearooms.
Dunsborough is also well-placed for visiting the Margaret River wineries. Some of the best wineries in the region are within a few miles of Dunsborough, including Vasse Felix, Clairault and Leeuwin. There are over a hundred wineries in the region, and many of these have fine restaurants attached, so it’s a great destination for gourmet food as well as wine.
The Sunshine Coast Hinterland village of Maleny is simply a breath of fresh air and is only around 37 kms from the coast. For an escape from the hot sand and sun, it’s always a cooler change in the hinterland, and the scenery is so lush and green.
Maleny has an abundance of restaurants, cafes and dining options available, both in the town and on its outskirts. But there is also the Maleny Dairies with their farm tours and factory rides. Then there’s Maleny Cheese Boutique Cheeses which is a popular place to buy all sorts of different cheeses and yoghurt products.
You can’t miss the Big Barrel, home to Maleny Mountain Wines and MacLeod Brewing Company. The 8 metre high wine barrel show room offers wine and beer tasting as well as an all day bistro menu filled with local produce from the hinterland region. They also have a lovely garden setting that offers wonderful views of the Glass House Mountains.
During your day’s driving stop at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, a remnant of the rainforests that once covered the Blackall Range, just outside of Maleny in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. The forest is home to a wide array of Australian flora and fauna and is perfect for bushwalking.
There is a great range of accommodation options in Maleny, from guesthouses, B&Bs, lodges to boutique hotels. Book your Maleny Accommodation HERE
Queenscliff is located at the south-eastern tip of the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria. The delightful fishing village has an abundance of 19th-century stone and timber cottages, that sit alongside grand old hotels and impressive public buildings.
The town has a relaxed vibe and is perfect for long lazy days by the sea. But there are plenty of activities to keep you busy too. Visitors are treated to elegant guesthouses, galleries and museums, and chic cafes serving barista made coffee and local treats. Try the Australian classic vanilla slice but be prepared for sticky fingers!
Spend a day shopping and taste testing at boutique wineries, breweries, dairy farms and artisanal produce.
Fort Queenscliff has over 150 years of Australia’s heritage on display and is not to be missed. Guided tours are available daily. Photo ID is required.
For water enthusiasts there’s fishing, diving, surfing, boating and of course swimming. Or you can take a stroll along the shoreline to Point Lonsdale and the lighthouse.
But the best thing to do is buy some fish and chips and watch the Sorrento ferry come in.
Tip: The shop on Hesse St sells the best fish and chips on the peninsula. Don’t forget to ask for tomato sauce!
Strahan is a beautiful coastal town on the west coast of Tasmania. It is one of the most remote and least visited large towns in the entire country of Australia, sitting in the western wilderness. There is a beautiful harbour here, a local museum and some excellent hotels, bars and restaurants.
However the highlight of any visit to Strahan is the journey on the Western Wilderness Railway. This is a train through the remote forest which features the highest train station in Australia, Rinadeena which is a huge steep track to climb up. Along the way there is also a honey manufacturing plant and the remains of what was once a wonderful gold mining industrial area, hence the reason why the railroad was built here.
Strahan also has a peaceful harbour and acts as the gateway to the western wilderness national park where you can see Tasmanian devils in the wild and where the (presumed to be) extinct Tasmanian tiger once roamed.
Getting here you have three main options, drive by car along the coastal road from Zeehan, which also has bus connections or take the railway from Queenstown.
Australia has so much to offer and not because of its cosmopolitan cities, but the regional cities and towns also pack a punch. So tell me, which country town is your favourite and why?
This post is part of the Lovin’ Life Linky with a Lovin’ Life Team of the “ageing positively” kind who are as keen as I am to promote the Lovin’ Life mindset.
The Lovin’ Life Team includes:
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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