State border restrictions are slowly relaxing, lockdowns are ending across the East Coast, and summer is here - finally. While some of us may have to wait a little longer until we can pack our bags for an overseas jaunt, there's plenty to see right here in Australia.
Exploring your own backyard by car is a great way to give your brain a break from the four walls that half the country has been confined to in 2021 and help avoid airplanes if you're feeling nervous about joining the outside world again.
Here are seven destinations across the country that aren't on the top of every tourist's list (goodbye, crowds) so grab your pals and get ready for the Hot-Vaxxed Summer Road Trip.
VIC - Mallacoota Coastal Walks - Bidawal Country
Sitting close to the border of New South Wales, Mallacoota is a small Victorian town. A six-hour drive from Melbourne’s city centre, there’s plenty to see and do including the Mallacoota Coastal Walk. You can choose hikes based on your ability and spend hours walking the beautiful sea-view bushtracks. After spending time outdoors, visit the town's creative hub, the Mallacoota Art Space. There you'll find workshops by artisans, music events, and crafts by resident artists. With Mallacoota being affected by the 2019/2020 Bushfires, head to the East Gippsland region this summer and support local businesses.
NSW - Wombeyan Caves - Gundungurra Country
Hidden among the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, you’ll find the Wombeyan Caves. A perfect pick for a weekend camping trip, there are a number of natural limestone caves to explore. When you’re not underground there’s spectacular bushwalks, flowing waterfalls and even a limestone gorge for swimming. Learn from the locals with tours of the ancient formations or enjoy a self-guided explore of the Fig Tree Cave. The campsite has all of the amenities for an outdoors summer getaway. Hot tip: fill up your tank with fuel on the way into the park because there’s no petrol station at Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve.
QLD - Big Crystal Creek - Nywaigi Country
Enjoying the Sunshine State this summer? Experience nature’s very own Wet’n’Wild theme park at Big Crystal Creek. Described as the gateway to the Wet Tropic World Heritage Area, you can find Big Crystal Creek in the Paluma Range National Park. If you’re coming from Townsville, drive north up the Bruce Highway (what an apt name for a Queensland road) for around an hour before turning down some back streets to find the free camping spot. There are also day-use areas and places perfect for a picnic. If you're looking for a road trip with a view then be sure to take a hike up to the top of McClelland's Lookout for a truly jaw-dropping sight. With fresh water streams, a natural slip n slide and luscious waterfalls, the Far North Queensland destination is one to put at the top of your road trip list.
SA - Hardwicke Bay - Narungga Country
For those looking for a quiet summer escape, Hardwicke Bay in South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula is the road trip for you. Located just two and a half hours drive from Adelaide, the sheltered bay is perfect for swimming, boating, and windsurfing. Not into water sports? The tiny town is also a great spot to simply read and relax. Explore other towns close-by by car, and enjoy the long stretches of crowd-less sand. And you can't beat local seafood at sunset while lounging beside the crystal clear water. This is one to remember for immuno-compromised folks who may be feeling a bit nervous about holidaying this year.
ACT - Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve - Ngunnawal Country
Located about 40 kilometres from Canberra, the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a great road trip spot for locals and tourists alike. The name derives from the Ngunnawal word ‘Jedbinbilla’ which means, ‘where boys become men’. Surrounded by Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla is an ecologically-diverse place to experience wildlife, walking trails, wetlands and more. Spend a weekend exploring the parks where there are designated fire pits, picnic tables and shelters for those hot summer days. Tidbinbilla is best experienced by car as once you’re in, you can easily access more of the sprawling reserve, so don’t forget to fill up the tank and grab some hiking snacks from the service station while you’re at it.
NT - Fogg Dam Reservation Centre - Limilngan-Wulna Country
The Northern Territory may not be your first pick when choosing a road trip destination (hello, crocodiles) but the Fogg Dam Reservation Centre is a must-do for wildlife lovers. A 45 minute drive from Darwin, the reserve is actually one of the most accessible places to spot wildlife in the Northern Territory. Stroll along the boardwalks to observe one of the catchments that make up the important Top End wetlands. Unlike most other NT destinations, you don’t need a four-wheel drive to get there and it’s close to Darwin’s city centre so you’re not totally isolated. Enjoy walking tracks, wildlife spotting, birdwatching and more.
WA - Peaceful Bay - Noongar Country
For the Western Australians who aren’t able to travel east this summer, take a tour along the coast to the town of Denmark. About five hours drive from Perth and 45 kilometres from Denmark’s town centre, this quiet (and aptly named) bay is a nature lover’s paradise. Enjoy swimming, snorkelling and pristine stretches of beaches at Peaceful Bay before hitting the highway to explore the local townships. When you're tired of the salt water, get a bird's eye view of Western Australia's glorious Tingle Trees at the Tree Top walk. A quiet, Lorde-esque, hot-vaxxed summer awaits.