Getting Off The Beaten Track: Five Unusual Things To See When Backpacking Around Australia
From my home in New Zealand it’s not too much of a hop over to Australia, relatively speaking, and it’s a country I know well and love. Oz is a truly unique, beautiful land, and no matter how long you’re visiting for, you will never run out of things to do. But while everyone knows about the tours of the Sydney opera house, the walk up Uluru and the amazing snorkelling trips, there are a few more surprising things you could find to do if you’re in Australia on a gap year or holiday. If you’re looking for something a bit more out of the ordinary and a bit more off the beaten track, here’s a fun little top five for you to think about.
With its lurid, bright pink water, Lake Hillier in the Recherche Archipelago is a truly breathtaking sight and one which few people seem to take in during trips to Australia. Nobody is entirely sure what causes the shocking, bubble-gum shade of the lake, but the prevailing theory is that its high saline content makes it the perfect home for the pink halo bacteria. Because Lake Hillier is on an island used for research purposes, you can’t get to it by land and taking a dip is out of the question, but seen from a helicopter this is one of the most unusual things you’ll discover in a country which is already full of surprises.
Newnes Glow Worm Tunnel
Located in Putty in the Wollemi National Park, this man-made tunnel was once part of Newnes railway which closed back in the 1930s. As so often happens when man leaves, nature quickly moves back in. Six hundred metres in length, this tunnel is now home to thousands upon thousands of glow worms, with the larvae of the harmless fungus gnat making sticky strings of glowing mucus all along the cave walls. Venture towards the middle of the tunnel during daylight hours and you’ll be treated to one of the most unusual light displays you’re ever likely to see, definitely well worth leaving the beaten track for.
The Devil’s Marbles
Known to the Aborigine people as Karlu Karlu, the Devil’s Marbles are an unusual feature of the Northern Territory’s outback landscape. You may already be familiar with photographs of these near perfect, spherical stones standing proud in the desert landscape, but taking a detour to see them up close is well worth it. Some have a diameter of twenty feet, and because the conservation area they are in covers more than 4,500 acres, you’re unlikely to meet many other people getting in the way of a good photo opportunity.
Melbourne Storm Tunnels
You might think you’ve seen all there is to see in Melbourne. This is a fantastic city, fact. You’ve probably become familiar with the metropolis and sampled all the delights you’ll find on the surface. If you’re feeling adventurous, now might be the time to take a closer look at the underside of the city by touring the maze of storm drains beneath its streets. With nine hundred miles of concrete tubes snaking around beneath the urban landscape, this is an unusual and fascinating experience which so often gets missed off the itineraries of most tourists.
Wolfe Creek Crater
The sheer scale of Australia can make you feel small at the best of times, but visit the Wolfe Creek Crater and you’ll start to feel even tinier. With a diameter of 3,000 feet and a depth of 200, this perfectly preserved crater was formed when a giant meteorite struck in the outback thousands of years ago. This is one of the least known and most awe-inspiring sites you can visit while backpacking in Australia. Somewhat surprisingly given the age of this big dent in the earth, it wasn’t ‘discovered’ until 1947, although the aborigine people had known about it long before then. If you’re looking to do something a bit out of the ordinary, then making your way out to this fantastic landmark must make it onto your to-do list while you’re in Australia.
Narrowing down the amazing and unusual sites you can visit while backpacking in Australia has been an incredibly difficult task. Whether you can find the time to fit in any or all of these during your stay is going to be determined by how long you have and how adventurous you’re feeling. My advice would be to take some time out at the beginning of your trip to decide where you want to go and what you want to do. Perhaps the best place to start is by finding your feet with Oz Intro, who can offer practical advice and guidance on how best to get around and enjoy this fantastically rich country. However long you’re there, and whatever you decide to do, Australia is a country which never disappoints.
About the Author
Isaac is an established travel writer and one of the main contributors to Going NZ and OzIntro a Sydney backpacking tour. In 2014 Isaac moved from the UK to New Zealand to pursue his love of travel and setup a business in Auckland.
This article was published in May 2016.