Australia in 12 Coastal HOT Spots!
Long Coastline, HUGE Landmass, Low Population.
That’s how it is downunder where unspoiled coastline, geographic diversity and extreme beauty all converge to create a COOL contingent of AMAZING Australian coastal HOT spots!
HOT Spots so COOL you can follow their trail right round Australia and see something different every time!! So sit back, slip on your sunnies*, sip something soothing, and get set for a stunning scenic tour of my 12 favourite OZ coastal HOT Spots!
WARNING: Discerning readers MAY feel an uncontrollable urge to contact a travel specialist after reading!! (Click each heading for more information)
Its almost impossible to single out a favourite spot along the 400 km (~248 mile) strip of surf beaches, shipwreck sites, staggering scenery, holiday towns, walks, National Parks, cafés and historic points of interest that comprise Victoria’s Great Ocean Road – an adventure playground starting at the South Australian border and stretching nearly to Melbourne.
But you have to start somewhere. So for a cross-section of what the Great Ocean Road has to offer, Port Fairy is a 2-bakery teaser that includes historic Griffiths Island and lighthouse, a Short-tailed Shearwater nesting spot, site of the Bonney Upwelling phenomenon, and a rich maritime heritage with magnificent coastal scenery.
Unaccountably, not everyone wants to visit the sewage ponds at the Western Treatment Plant while in Melbourne. In fact, aquatic activists, lighthouse lovers, beach bums, seaside sportsfolk, National Park nature lovers and coastal culturalists could all contribute to a successful argument that Melbourne exists merely as accomodation while indulging in the amazing variety of water-based activities on and around Port Philip Bay.
35 times larger than Sydney Harbour and home of Australia’s biggest cargo port, if you can’t find something to do in this area, you’re just not trying!
Horrified to hear that the fabulously archetypal fishing village of South West Rocks we’d ‘discovered’ in the 1990s was a favourite of Ray Martin, one-time Aussie TV ‘personality’, it took a temporary dive in our estimation.
But with its array of attractions like Macleay River fishing, the staggering scenery from Smoky Cape Lighthouse, a superb bakery, intriguing hinterland, Trial Bay Gaol, and nearby coastal gems Hat Head, Stuarts Point and Scotts Head, it made a speedy recovery and it’s still one of our all-time favourite NSW coastal spots.
It’s OK with us not yet spotting Ray there … and it’s probably OK with him too!
The amazing Northern Rivers region of NSW has (arguably) some of the best coastal scenery in OZ, including the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse on Australia’s most easterly point. But wilder and less crowded is the little hamlet of Broken Head just a short distance south of Byron Bay.
If you need more reason to visit than the magnificent stretch of rainforest-lined unspoiled beach that curves all the way round to Cape Byron, then stop dodging the scrub-turkeys in the car park and dodge the surfers and fishermen instead on the coastal walk south across the Head to the beaches and wilderness beyond. Interpretive signs explain historic and cultural points of interest, and the view goes on forever …
On a good day, it’s pretty hard to beat!
There’s a lot more to do in Bundaberg than see turtles, but nearby Mon Repos Conservation Park is one of the largest turtle rookeries in OZ. At night during laying season (Nov to Jan), female turtles lay their eggs on the beach – and a few lucky people, supervised by the interpretive centre, are privileged to watch.
If you’re thinking I look a bit rough in this November 1998 photo, it’s because it’s about 3:00 am – the turtles don’t perform on demand! This is an extraordinary opportunity to see something amazing – and a must-so for your coastal repertoire!
If turtles aren’t your thing, then maybe a tasting trip to the Bundaberg Rum factory – it also makes a killer Ginger Beer and selection of fruit-flavoured soft drinks – might do the trick!
It’s quite possible that every visitor to Cooktown has a photo of the 1885 Grassy Hill Lighthouse – and the killer view along the wild and heavily-rainforested coastline. Its colonial history includes a visit of several weeks by Captain Cook (yes, THAT one) while repairing the Endeavour, and a busy port that serviced the nearby Palmer River goldfields.
Now a popular winter fishing destination, it’s also a jumping off point for one of the most iconic of Australian road-trips – the trek to the most northerly point in Australia, Cape York!
Australia’s most northerly major city, Darwin isn’t for the fainthearted. The town was virtually destroyed by bombings during the 2nd World War and again by Tropical Cyclone Tracey on Christmas Day, 1974. Regularly lashed by tropical storms and isolated by floods during the annual ‘Wet’ season (Nov-March), its tropical waters contain crocodiles and stingers.
But fair-weather tourists like me who venture this far north during the ‘Dry’ are rewarded by magnificent scenery, milder temperatures and the most laid-back lifestyle in OZ. Across the bay by ferry, holiday town Mandorah epitomises the tropics at their best.
I don’t know if I’ll ever visit Darwin during the Wet. But its a fairly sure thing I’ll be back there one day to experience it’s Aussie Winter 30ºC (86º F) temperatures again!
Likely the worst you’ll ever see of Broome’s famous full moon/low tide/massive mudflats combo, this photo should provide a wordless warning to anyone attempting low light photography without pre-requisites a) tripod; b) shutter release cable; and c) skill.
Sceptical of its ‘uniqueness’ – it’s just the moon rising over water and mud for goodness sake, and that happens in LOTS of places – seeing the real thing’s sharply delineated resemblance to a staircase (don’t look for this in my poor pic) changed my mind.
If moonlight and mudflats don’t do it for you, make a night of it at the markets instead!
Never turn your back on an active blowhole – if you want to stay dry, that is!! By a happy coincidence, the tides were perfect for optimum blowhole performance, and some dodging and weaving around the rocks ensured we stayed dry. Not that it would have mattered – the perfection of a fine, warm and sunny winter’s day on Western Australia’s Outback Coast means we wouldn’t have stayed wet for long!
But high-pressure sea spray bursting through rockholes isn’t the only kind of blowhole on offer below the impressive Quobba lighthouse and beautiful bay – whales are also sighted along this stretch of coastline.
For a different perspective, try blowhole-spotting from the vantage point high above at the lighthouse – it’s easier than it looks as the white spray stands out perfectly against the deep, deep blue of the sea!
With one of the most distinctive coastlines in OZ, the layered sandstone of Kalbarri’s 100 metre high cliffs can sometimes overshadow its other main attraction – the 500+ wildflower species for which the area is reknowned! But a series of cliff top walks atop sheer drops right down into the wild and whale-ridden waters of the Indian Ocean make the high concentration of shipwrecks – such as the Batavia in 1629 – unsurprising.
If you can tear yourself away from the cliffs, the impressive Murchison River, after carving its way through the sandstone from 80 km inland, enters the sea at Kalbarri in the shadow of the magnificent Red Bluff. The Kalbarri National Park – full of birds, wildlife and wildflowers – surrounds the town. And just up the road is the World Heritage area of Shark Bay.
But who needs other attractions when all roads lead to the stupendous cliffs?!
Its pretty hard to just drop in to Head of Bight – at the very top of the Great Australian Bight stretching across much of southern Australia’s coastline, it’s at least a couple of days drive along the Eyre Highway from the closest major town in any direction.
But if you DO find yourself in the area from June to October, you’ll find a southern right whale nursery under the unbroken 200 km line of the fabulous Bunda cliffs that mark where the world’s largest karst limestone formation meets the Great Southern Ocean.
But the whales are the main attraction – easily seen from the viewing platform below the cliffs, they’ll make that long drive across the middle of nowhere worthwhile!
The long coastline around the Yorke Peninsula, a narrow neck of land a couple of hours from Adelaide, virtually guarantees one of the highest concentrations of coastal Scenic Public Toilets in Australia! And I’ve photographed nearly all of them …
AND turned them into a FAAAAABULOUS book: Aussie Loos with Views!
I wonder how many others can make that claim??
Who knew you could tour 12 of Australia’s HOTTEST Coastal Spots without seeing a beach?? But wait – there’s a thought for another post!! Just watch this space …