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Travelling Australia: SECRET AUSTRALIA

The pick of Australia's lesser known travel and holiday destinations

Like any country, Australia has plenty of interesting corners that few people know about that have much to offer the traveller, but are overlooked because they are not well promoted (often a deliberate ploy by the locals to keep their communities quiet and peaceful), or because they are not on a regular tourist route. Some are perfect to stop for a while and do some exploring, while others are interesting diversions on a journey to somewhere else. These are some that we have found - many by accident - that took us by surprise and left us feeling glad we'd looked them out and make the effort to go there.
See also A Touch of Paradise, about Australia's picture-perfect places, and Places of Peace and Solitude for the world weary holiday-maker.

Crab Claw Island, Northern Territory
Crab Claw Island, on the way to Dundee Beach from Darwin, is a terrific destination for anyone visiting Darwin who wants to experience the Top End's coastal regions in their natural state without having to go too far from civilisation. The island is surrounded by 2500km2 of pristine waterways which include Bynoe Harbour, salt water estuaries and fresh water creeks and rivers. A peninsula jutting out into Bynoe Harbour, it becomes an island at very high tides only.
Bynoe Harbour hosts some of the best fishing grounds in the Northern Territory.  Five islands are nestled in the mouth of the Harbour and the harbour coastline is made up of mangroves, fringing and sub tidal reefs, sandy beaches, seagrass and mud flat/sand flat habitats.   
An artificial reef constructed from the former Crab Claw Resort Jetty that was damaged severely by a cyclone and subsequently demolished is now home to huge Jewfish, this is accessible by small boats. Other activities catered for by the island's resort are mud crabbing, boating, bird watching, photography, bush walking and generally relaxing.

Flinders Island, Tasmania
Located in Bass Strait, some 20 km off the north-eastern tip of Tasmania and to the south Victoria's Gippsland region, Flinders Island is Australia's 6th largest and Tasmania's largest island. It is one of Australia's best kept secrets, and that in itself is what makes Flinders Island so special.
In spite of its close proximity to the nation's second largest city (Melbourne), it's a place few Australians have visited. Why this is so is a mystery, given that it enjoys one of Australia's most idyllic natural settings - 50 mostly uninhabited islands are scattered around its shore, along with more than 65 shipwrecks. There is abundant wildlife, virgin wetlands, and over 120 pristine, isolated beaches, many of which rarely see a visitor
Not many people live there, and not many people go there, making it a great destination for a relaxing, rejuvenating holiday that you don't have to share with the rest of Australia.

Venus Bay, South Australia
Venus Bay is a small tourist and fishing town on the shores of the Great Australia Bight on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula. Its population numbers in the twenties throughout most of the year, but the number greatly increases during the summer holidays when those in the know come hear to fish or partake in other water sport based activities. Venus Bay is is a great place to catch whiting, salmon, garfish, snook, tommy ruff, flathead and gummy shark. The town lookout offers breathtaking views of towering cliffs and booming surf rolling in from the Great Australian Bight. Keen board riders can also view surf conditions at the numerous nearby surf beaches from here.

Walkerville, Victoria
Walkerville is a long forgotten tiny settlement on the sandy shores of Waratah Bay. It was once one of the busiest places in South Gippsland due to its thriving lime industry, but today it is generally bypassed by travellers on the Princes Highway because of its isolation. You can still see remnants of the burnt-out lime kilns on the cliffs of Walkerville South, which is also home to an historic cemetery. Walkerville North, reached by a separate road or along the 750-metre beach walking track, has a boat ramp, swimming and camping facilities.

Cobbold Gorge, Queensland
Cobbold Gorge is located within the rugged sandstone formations that dominate the local area 400km west of Cairns in north Queensland. This stunning gorge is extremely narrow, closing to a mere two meters wide in places, with spectacular 30 metre cliffs on either side. The Cobbold Gorge area is home to a diverse range of wildlife. Mammals, for example, include Eastern Grey Kangaroos, the Agile Wallabies, Dingoes, and Echidnas. Reptiles abound including goannas, monitor lizards, legless lizards and pythons. Many species of frogs are identifiable by their different calls. Native fish abound in these waters including archer fish, sooty grunter, long tom, perch, and of course, the freshwater or johnstone river crocodiles. A large variety of birds frequent the lower waterhole.

Ben Lomond, New South Wales
Travellers on the New England Highway in northern NSW between Guyra and Glen Innes have a treat in store when they take a short detour at Llangothlin and visit the historic village of Ben Lomond. The road winds alongside an abandoned railway line through some extremely picturesque farming country on its way up the hillside to the sleepy village of Ben Lomond. The highest town in northern NSW, Ben Lomond is home to the longest hand cut railway cutting in Australia, the highest passenger railway station in the southern hemisphere (at the time of the construction of the railway), and a scattering of old and historical relics of past times in and around the village.
During the construction of the railway line (opened in 1888), Ben Lomond was a vibrant community boasting modest local industry, several schools (although only one was a state school), and several sporting teams. Following the closure of the railway line in December 1985 and the bypassing of the town by the New England Highway soon after, the population has dwindled to around 30 persons in the village, and a further 70 or so in the surrounding district.

Point Ann, Western Australia
Point Ann in Fitzgerald River National Park near Esperance, WA, is the best shore-based locality in Australia to see the giant whales that visit our coasts each winter. In fact, it is one of only two places in Australia where southern right whales and humpbacks consistently come to calve in big numbers (the other being the head of the Bight in South Australia).
Whales can be seen from the shore or the viewing platforms at Point Ann between July and November, sometimes just a few metres off the beach. There have been sightings of up to 40 whales on some days; often more than the number of people who come to see them, due to the isolation of the locality. It is an unforgettable experience to see the whales, especially the playful young ones, so close, as they learn to breach and feed before making their long journey south. 
Fitzgerald River National Park lies on the central south coast between Bremer Bay and Hopetoun, 420km south-east of Perth.

Agnes Water / Town of 1770, Queensland
For many years, a little corner of paradise called 1770 has been Queensland's best kept secret. The people who live there, along with those who visit there religiously every holiday season, would love to keep it that way. The absence of floods of tourists has played a big part in giving this place and its neighbour, Agnes Water, the feel of a quiet forgotten backwater in an idyllic tropical setting. Development has occurred in recent years, but thus far the region's natural ambience has not been affected.
Situated some 60 kms north of Bundaberg,
1770 and Agnes Water are surrounded by National Parks and hinterland beauty, they enjoy unspoilt serenity, pristine coral reefs and magnificent panoramic views up and down kilometres of beautiful beach fronting onto the Coral Sea. 

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