In this post I want to mention a few places which are lesser known on Australia’s East Coast, places that I would have missed out on if I hadn’t spoken to other travellers or just decided to randomly follow a sign because it looked interesting. So I want to share these with you all so that you don’t miss them out on your way around Oz!
I would have never known about this place if it hadn’t been for farm work. Just an hour and a half up from Hervey Bay, Elliott Heads is a great place to stop off and experience real Aussie life with the locals. The beach reminded me of a mini Whitsundays (although the sand isn’t quite silica and I went here before seeing the Whitsundays), nevertheless it is still one of my favorite beaches on the East Coast. Elliott Heads really shows off some of the natural beauty that Australia has to offer while remaining a very ‘normal’ local beach. So take some food to throw on the barbie along with an Esky full of beers and chill in these beautiful surroundings.
This was a random stop off on the way down from Noosa, only about half an hour south, just stay on the coastal road and follow the signs. Although, to say we were unprepared for a hike is a massive understatement – 2L of water between us and flip flops. It took us around an hour to reach the top (with a few short breaks) and the views across the Sunshine Coast were definitely worth the climb! Another great place to escape the touristy feel of the East Coast as we were mainly joined by families and local people who were just out on an afternoon hike. I’d advise suitable footwear and not flip flops which you then have to take off so end up walking up the mountain bare foot…
(Yes, you do have to climb up there)
We’d climbed to helicopter height.
Kondalilla Falls & National Park
Now I’m not sure if this one is a ‘hidden gem’ as there were a few tourists here, however, I wouldn’t have known about it if we hadn’t been in the area and googling what was near us. Therefore I’m going to put Kondalilla National Park on the list. Kondalilla is about half an hour inland from the Sunshine Coast and google maps will take you straight to the free car park. Go prepared and take plenty water and food for a picnic as you can easily spend the day here. Its about a 30 minute forest walk to the waterfall with some stunning views of the park and there are various walking trails you can take if you’re feeling energetic; we went straight for a swim in the waterfall and then a sunbathe on the rocks overlooking the forest. Whilst I was reading, a 4ft Goanna came up near me and decided that’s where he wanted to bask for a while, so if you want to get back to nature, you certainly can at Kondalilla Falls.
Firstly, apologies for mentioning this place again as I have recently written a post mainly about Montville, but I couldn’t not put it on the list. I was blown away by this small town, it has so much character with its antique shops, art gallery, patisseries and beautiful countryside views. It’s basically right next to Kondalilla, so if you’re heading that way, don’t miss Montville out; it’s without a doubt the most unique place I visited whilst in Australia.
Around 50 minutes inland from the Gold Coast is Tamborine Mountain and some real Australian countryside; surrounded by farms and vineyards Mount Tamborine is a great place to experience a different side of Oz away from the beaches and hostels along the East Coast. The mountain itself boasts some great views and walking trails, the one we took lasted around two hours and took us to the Cameron Falls lookout. Once you’ve explored the mountain, checkout the town of Tamborine and get a real feel for Aussie country living.
Tin Can Bay
One of my favourite places along the East Coast, mainly because I LOVE dolphins! Tin can bay is a small town on the East Coast about an hour North of Noosa and a bit out of the way off of the Bruce Highway but well worth the detour! Barnacles Dolphin Centre is a a small visitor centre which looks after the preservation of wild humpback dolphins. There is a fee of $5 entry plus and extra $5 to feed a fish to one of the dolphins, it’s a worthy investment as the centre is run by volunteers. Barnacles only feeds the dolphins 1/8 of their daily diet so that they don’t become dependent on humans feeding them and still need to go out and hunt for food as they usually would. The centre opens at 7.00am (I would get there as early as possible to avoid the queue as they only let a certain amount of visitors in), viewing is from 7-am-8am and feeding starts at 8am. An amazing experience made all the better knowing that these are wild animals and you are helping to preserve them.
Again, I know I’ve mentioned Lake Wyaralong / Wyaralong Dam in a previous post but it has to be on the list as we stumbled upon it by chance and had one of the best nights here. It’s about an hour and a quarter south of Brisbane, nestled in the countryside. You can camp for free here and it is equipped with free BBQ’s and toilets for your convenience. Such a peaceful area with very few tourists, you’ll feel like you’re one of the first people to discover this place!
Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary
LOVED this place so much! Near the small town of 1770 about two and a half hours south of Rockhampton is Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary and Campground. When we visited there were about 5 other campers here, you can camp for $25 per night for two people on an unpowered site or just pop in and meet the Roos. The kangaroos are free to roam wherever they please and most of them are animals which were rehabilitated here after an injury and have been released back into the wild but choose to come back to the sanctuary every now and again. The sanctuary is located up a rather steep hill so isn’t suitable for caravans or large campers. We heard about Horizons from some of our friends and its the only place I know of where you can get up close with wild kangaroos and support a good cause at the same time!
So that concludes my ‘hidden gems’ for the East Coast, I hope I’ve inspired you to take a turn off the main highway and explore some lesser known places up and down the coast. Safe and happy travels! 🙂