If you’re travelling around Australia, you will probably be road-tripping on the East Coast at some point. Along the 2,600kms separating Cairns from Sydney you will discover so many different aspects of the country : from the tropical rainforest to the dry outback, from amazing beaches to the summits of the Glass House Mountains, from little villages to the bright lights of Brisbane… I already made you discover the beauty of the islands off the East Coast but if you want to escape crowds, this article is for you: you won’t have to share these 6 hidden gems with busloads of tourists and dozens of selfie sticks. Ready to go?
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1/ Cairns botanical garden
If you’re going to Cairns, it might be for three different reasons: exploring the Daintree Rainforest a bit further North, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or partying with hundreds of drunk backpackers. But while you’re waiting for your cruise to the reef, why not visiting the botanical garden?
It’s a little bit outside the city in the direction of Kuranda which explains why there aren’t so many people there, but it’s really nice and quiet. It’s one of the richest botanical gardens I’ve seen in Australia : birds, cactus and weird trees like the Kigelia, also known as… sausage tree, because of the shape of its fruit! It’s the perfect place to go for resting and recovering if you’re still hangover from a night at the Gilligan’s…
2/ Cape Hillsborough
As I already told you, it’s not as easy as you might think to see kangaroos in Australia. They may very well be twice as numerous as the humans, sometimes it seems that they are all perfectly hidden. But there’s one place on the East Coast where you’ll be sure to see some of them… and what a place!
South from Airlie Beach, shortly before arriving in Mackay, there’s a little peninsula called Cape Hillsborough. It’s quite far away from the Bruce Highway, and most of the people will just keep driving and look for another place to stop. Huge mistake! At the end of the road you’ll find a beautiful beach, completely empty… except for sunrise when kangaroos come here every morning!
The sight of that beach with the colors of sunrise and the kangaroos jumping around me or just sunbathing on the sand will remain as one of my greatest memories from Australia. I don’t know where they go when the sun is up, all I know is that when I came back a little bit later after walking around the peninsula (a nice track with spectacular lookouts) they were all gone. So don’t forget to set your alarm very early!
3/ Springbrook National Park
Just next to the Gold Coast, there’s a national park that not so many people know: the Springbrook National Park. It features nice hiking tracks, impressive waterfalls and great lookouts… well, as you can see when I was there the view was a bit obstructed by the clouds, but I could imagine!
The most interesting part of the park is a bit on the edge of it, on the winding road heading to Murwillumbah, the closest town. It’s called Natural Bridge; there, erosion created a bridge and a cavern with a small waterfall. Just lovely! After sunset, the cavern gets progressively illuminated from the light of hundreds of glow worms who live there. I didn’t stay that late, but I’ve seen glow worms in another place nearby and it was really amazing. See the pictures below!
4/ Heart Pool
Here’s a little game for you if you’re in Australia; a friend of mine who lived a few months in Brisbane challenged me to find a naturally heart shaped pool where he went to during his stay. All I had was a picture that he gave me. So I’m challenging you now : my only hint will be that it’s not far away from the Springbrook National Park… and here’s my picture of the place.
Good luck! Upload your own pictures in the comment section if you find it!
5/ Mt Warning
When you stare at the coastline from Byron Bay, you can see a summit overhanging the multiple hills rolling until the horizon: it’s Mt Warning, also known more poetically as “Wollumbin” which means “cloud catcher” in aboriginal language.
It’s possible to hike to its summit: it’s quite steep and the last part is more rock climbing than walking, but thanks to a chain it’s possible to easily reach the top even for people like me who are afraid of heights! Anyway, the wonderful 360° view from the top will briefly make you forget that you’ll have to walk down on the same path…
The climb is not too difficult by daylight but if you really feel adventurous you can do it very early in the morning, only with the light of a torch to guide you. Your reward for that effort: the summit from Mt Warning is the very first place in Australia where you can see the sun rising. Pretty cool isn’t it?
6/ Nambucca Heads
Some people will tell you that there’s nothing interesting between Byron Bay and Sydney. Don’t listen to them! If you drive the almost 800kms separating both cities in just one day, you will miss a few awesome places, like South West Rocks (maybe my favourite spot in Australia; special article coming soon) and Nambucca Heads.
I discovered this place completely randomly: it was lunch time and I was looking for somewhere to pull off and eat my sandwiches. I saw a road sign indicating “Captain Cook Lookout” on the highway, found the name interesting so I turned there. I stopped at a car park next to the river, and discovered a long jetty lined with many painted rocks, called the V Wall: beautiful and completely unexpected!
After taking a few pictures and looking after a flag from home (I found one! There’s always a flag from Brittany everywhere you go), I climbed to the lookout that I came for and stared at a beautiful sight: a lovely beach called Shelly Beach on one side and the mouth of Nambucca River on the other, that reminded me a little bit of Whitehaven Beach on the Whitsundays.
Not bad for a place where I only stopped because I was hungry, right?
Do you know more remote places in Australia that you would advise to travellers? Share it in the comments!
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