The hidden gems in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands are some of the most remote and unspoiled places on Earth. This is due in part to their location: Australia is the most isolated continent in the world, and New Zealand and the Pacific Islands are scattered across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. As a result, they are not as easily accessible as many other popular tourist destinations, especially for those travelling from the Americas, Europe, and Northern Asia.
However, the remoteness of these destinations is also part of their appeal. It means that they are less crowded and more pristine than many other tourist destinations. It also means that they are home to a unique array of flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
Let’s dive into these remote locations and add one or two to your bucket list!
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Introduction by Patricia of Spanish Nomad
Australia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with just 25 people per square kilometre. But despite its vast size and small population, Australia is a popular tourist destination, especially for young people who come to the country with the Working Holiday Visa (WHV) program. The WHV program allows citizens of certain countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada, to live and work in Australia for up to one year. This makes it possible for young travellers to experience Australian culture and lifestyle while also earning money to travel the country.
The most popular tourist destinations in Australia are on the east coast, where Sydney and Brisbane are located. According to the Tourism Australia website statistics, Sydney received 8.8 million domestic overnight visitors and 1.9 million international visitors in 2022. On the other hand, there are fewer visited states such as Western Australia – my personal favourite – which received 3.6 million domestic overnight visitors and 0.5 million international visitors, or South Australia, with 2.9 million domestic overnight visitors and 0.3 million international visitors.
Now that we got the stats out of the way, let’s get personal. I first visited Australia when I was 26. I spent around three months there, most of it on the most incredible road trip. And then, a couple of years later, I moved in with a guy I had met during my trip back then and we’ve been happily together since. I had a great experience living in Australia as an expat and we both travelled the country extensively.
I can guarantee that in order to experience the uniqueness of this country, you must get off the beaten track. Sydney is cool, don’t get me wrong, but Australia is so much more than that, so I insist that you go a step further and explore Western Australia, South Australia or any place in the Top End- where I used to live. You will not regret it.
Hidden Gems in Australia: Tasmania
Contribution by Kate of Passports and Playgrounds
The city of Hobart, Tasmania, is such a unique hidden gem that even some Australians have never visited.
Tasmania is great to visit for those who love to explore or want to taste the local cuisine.
What makes Tasmania so unique is the vast history of this small island. Visitors can learn about the Tasmanian Aboriginals via their preserved artefacts, videos, and educational demonstrations.
Did you also know that Hobart is one of the five global cities that can bring visitors, scientists, and explorers to Antarctica? It was so much fun to learn about penguins and living in Antarctica as a scientist.
When arriving at Hobart International Airport, I found it very easy to get a lift from Uber. If I wanted to explore the city, I could easily rent an e-bike or an e-scooter from either Beams, Neuron Motor, or Lime Bikes. Not a bad way to save on petrol. Unfortunately, to get to Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, you would need to rent a car.
The one thing that I cannot stress enough is when to visit Tasmania. Typically, people visit Southern Hemisphere countries from December to February to get the warm weather. When I went in January, there were almost 16 hours of daylight and the sun did not set until 11 pm! Thank goodness for the hotel’s blackout curtains.
Underrated destinations in Australia: South Australia
Collaboration by Victoria from Guide Your Travel Blog
I embarked on a journey through the heart of Australia, venturing along the iconic Birdsville Track, a route that encapsulates the raw beauty and rugged allure of the Australian Outback. The highlights of this expedition were as diverse as the landscape itself. The surreal sight of vast red dunes shifting beneath a boundless sky, the ancient salt lakes that seemed to stretch into infinity, and the chance encounter with wildlife uniquely adapted to this harsh environment all left an indelible mark.
One of the best memories from this trip was camping under a star-studded sky at Mungerannie, a remote outpost along the track. The camaraderie with fellow travellers around a crackling campfire, sharing stories and laughter, made for an unforgettable evening. The eccentric hospitality of the outback locals, who generously offered tales of the land’s history and survival tips, added a layer of authenticity to the experience.
I recommend this destination to intrepid adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and those seeking solace in the untouched wilderness. Photographers will find endless opportunities to capture the interplay of light and shadows over the stark terrain. History buffs will be captivated by the stories of Indigenous heritage and the region’s pioneering spirit. Responsible travel is crucial in this delicate ecosystem. Minimizing waste, respecting indigenous cultures, and sticking to designated paths to prevent erosion are vital practices.
For those who journey along the Birdsville Track, the rewards are manifold. The sense of isolation amid the mesmerizing landscape, the heartwarming connections forged with fellow explorers, and the knowledge that we are treading lightly upon a fragile ecosystem – these elements combined to make my time in the Australian Outback an experience that was not just enriching but profoundly humbling.
Contributed by Josie Kelsh of Exploring South Australia
Coober Pedy is a unique and quirky town in the South Australian outback. It is best known for being the opal capital of the world, and because much of the town is located underground to avoid the searing heat of summer.
When I decided to visit Coober Pedy I wanted to experience sleeping underground as the locals do to alleviate the need to heat or cool their homes in the harsh desert environment. Not only is this an unusual and fun experience, but it is sustainable too. There are a number of underground hotels, but I decided to stay in a tent at an underground campground. Where else can you do that?
The attractions in the town run from slightly unusual to downright bizarre. Take the spaceship on the main street (actually a leftover prop from a movie) or the headstones in the cemetery – keg of beer anyone?
Perhaps the weirdest place I visited was the dugout home of Crocodile Harry, who claimed to be a Latvian baron escaping the war. His home is covered in all sorts of strange objects.
One of my favourite things to do was a tour out to the Breakaways, a stunning natural range of hills nearby. On the way out we stopped at the Dingo Fence, the longest in the world, and Moon Plain, a gibber desert as barren as the moon.
Coober Pedy is a long way from anywhere else, so simply getting here is an adventure, but once you do, you are sure to remember this out-of-the-ordinary town.
Contribution by Olivia of Defining Decade
My first trip to McLaren Vale was part of a solo road trip to Kangaroo Island, and let me tell you, it was love at first sight! Yep, you can embark on a solo adventure to this romantic wine region and have a blast.
Picture this: winery hopping, relaxing by the beaches nearby, and hiking at the crack of dawn – McLaren Vale is a playground for adventure seekers.
And let’s not forget the food scene. McLaren Vale takes farm-to-table dining to the next level. As you sip on the region’s finest Shiraz, indulge in sustainable cooking and soak in the view of those rolling hills.
A visit to Down The Rabit Hole Winery is a must, the tasting in the double decker bus was my fondest memory! Sipping wine on New Year’s Eve in the beautiful setting and making new friends, the atmosphere was just buzzing.
What’s even better, McLaren Vale is just a quick 40-minute drive from Adelaide. That means you can swing by for a day trip with your friends or whisk your partner away for a romantic getaway.
Now, let me drop a little gem of a suggestion: make sure you plan a day trip to the spectacular pink Lake Bumbunga. It’s a 2 hour and 30 minutes drive but trust me, it’s an experience like no other! The water is legitimately pink, and if you visit during the summer, you can walk on those pink salt crystals – talk about a surreal moment!
Off the beaten path destinations in Australia: Western Australia
If I have to be honest, the whole West Coast of Australia is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered, especially by foreign tourists. The best way to do this is by embarking on a road trip starting from Perth. The Western Australia Tourism Board website has a varied list of unique road trips that focus on different types of experiences and look absolutely epic. In the meantime, these are some unique destinations along the coast you should not miss.
Contribution by Natalie & Steve from Curious Campers
Any way you look at it, Exmouth is a remote location. It is on the north coast of Australia’s most isolated state, Western Australia. Despite its isolation, we love it here. The town is the best place to explore the world heritage listed Ningaloo Reef, the longest fringing reef in the world where you can swim with whale sharks, manta rays and dugongs.
The main reason to go to Exmouth is Ningaloo Reef. We love it here because, unlike the Great Barrier Reef, you can snorkel on Ningaloo Reef right off the beach – and the snorkelling is amazing. As you drift over coral gardens you are surrounded by colourful fish, rays, turtles and reef sharks.
Our favourite thing about Exmouth is the incredible experience of swimming with whale sharks. Tours run from March to August. Australian whale shark tours are the most ethically run in the world. Everything from the number of tour operators to how close you get to the whale sharks is managed so this amazing experience does not interfere with the animals.
Exmouth is a great location for nature lovers and slow travellers who want a unique Australian travel experience. Part of the adventure of Exmouth is getting there. We recommend allowing 2 weeks and doing the 1200km road trip from Perth. You’ll see where the red desert meets the Indian Ocean. The scenery at Jurien Bay, Kalbarri and Shark Bay is spectacular. The best time to do the trip is from April to October.
Contributed by Catrina of 24 Hours Layover
I’ve travelled across the world in search of unique experiences, and for me – Jurien Bay in Western Australia stood out as an exceptional off-the-beaten-path destination.
Jurien Bay is a coastal town that has retained its laid-back charm, and I loved how I found myself slowing down to match the pace of life here. The locals are warm and welcoming, and it’s a place away from the general tourist trail in Australia where you can truly immerse yourself in the culture.
Exploring Jurien Bay offered me a wealth of learning experiences and the opportunity to experience some incredible activities. I loved visiting the nearby Pinnacles Desert, an incredibly impressive and picturesque otherworldly place where you can learn about the unique limestone formations that dot the eerie yet captivating landscape. You can also swim with the playful resident sea lions in Jurien Bay in their natural environment! This was definitely my most memorable moment in Jurien Bay! Witnessing these curious and playful animals willingly coming so close to you was incredible!
For thrill-seekers, Jurien Bay offers the opportunity to experience the breathtaking views of the coastline through a tandem skydive, although I am too chicken for that!
Jurien Bay is the ideal place for a wide range of travellers. Nature enthusiasts will love the desert landscapes, adventure seekers will love skydiving and swimming with sea lions, photographers will be in paradise with all the stunning views, and foodies can indulge in delicious fresh seafood!
Contribution by Emma from Journey Of A Nomadic Family
A true natural paradise, World Heritage Site Shark Bay is a gem for those adventurous enough to go. This area, a nine hour drive from Perth, is perfect for everyone; however, it is a remote area and you should be confident to off road a 4×4. It is spectacular and perfect for people looking for rugged, off-the-beaten-track exploration holidays.
Head to Whale Bone Beach for an encounter with nature. I love this area, and from here we saw countless small sharks and turtles. If you want to learn about Aboriginal history, Francois Peron National Park is for you. The park is located in the desert, so don’t forget to take plenty of water and a bin liner before you head off. Another great area worth visiting is the limestone cliffs at Steep Point and very close by, Shelter Bay, which is perfect for SUP boarding and canoeing.
Known as Wirruwana to Indigenous people, you must visit Dirk Hartog Island. A unique experience awaits you if you’ve never taken a landing barge over to an island before. Turtle Bay is about 80km north of Sharp Point on the far north of the island and every January it becomes home to thousands of turtles who return every year to lay eggs. You might also be able to spot Dugong in the waters here.
Remember to be sensitive to flora and fauna and take into account that these remote areas don’t have rubbish bins or toilets. Leave no trace of yourself and enjoy the ride.
Off the beaten track in New Zealand
New Zealand is known for its stunning natural beauty, from its snow-capped mountains and glaciers to its lush rainforests and pristine beaches. But while many tourists flock to popular destinations such as Queenstown, Auckland, and Rotorua, there are also a number of hidden gems that are just as worth a visit.
Contribution of Ksenia of Explore with Wonder
New Zealand’s South Island offers a raft of incredible places to visit, including some hidden gems that often get overlooked in favour of big-name destinations like Queenstown and Abel Tasman.
One such gem is the town of Akaroa, nestled in a beautiful harbour that shares its name. Just an hour’s drive southeast of Christchurch, Akaroa boasts historic charm, stunning natural landscapes, and unique wildlife experiences.
Akaroa has a unique history as it is the only town in New Zealand set up by French settlers. Their heritage lives on through period architecture, French street names and a delightful foodie scene.
Travellers can learn about the town’s history by visiting the Akaroa Museum, enjoy incredible views on a walk to the historic Akaroa Lighthouse, and explore local hiking trails. French-inspired bakeries and bistros are waiting to be discovered in between adventures.
My personal highlight from a visit to Akaroa is an encounter with Hector’s Dolphins. They are the smallest and rarest species of dolphin on Earth and are unique to New Zealand. Akaroa happens to be home to a significant Hector’s Dolphin population.
You can enjoy an encounter with Hector’s Dolphin on a small boat cruise or a guided swim experience. I highly recommend the latter if you don’t mind being in the open water. The dolphins are curious and often happy to get up close and personal with human visitors.
There are a handful of locally owned tour operators that will ensure you have the best experience on the day. A portion of the tour fee will contribute to the research and protection of Hector’s Dolphin.
Keep in mind that the dolphins are wild animals that might not appear on cue. Sightings are highly likely but are not guaranteed.
Golden Bay, South Island
Contribution by Oli of New Zealand South Island Travel Insider Guide
Golden Bay, nestled at the top of the South Island of New Zealand in the Nelson Tasman region, is a true natural wonderland ideal for adventure and nature lovers alike. The enchanting destination boasts an abundance of hiking trails, waterfalls, and pristine beaches.
Reaching Golden Bay is an adventure in itself. To get to this off-the-beaten-path gem, you must traverse the formidable Takaka Hill. The journey is a thrilling drive on a steep and winding road, with the added adventure of retracing your steps on the way back. It’s this epic road trip that keeps Golden Bay off the well-trodden path.
For us, Golden Bay isn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime destination; it’s a place we visit a few times a year. Each visit reveals new hiking trails to explore, and some of our best memories are the leisurely days spent wandering along secluded bush trails that lead to hidden beaches.
It’s precisely what makes Golden Bay one of our favourite places in the South Island. This untouched and unspoiled paradise offers lush national parks, enchanting wildlife encounters, remote beaches, striking sand dunes, and breathtaking coastal vistas that make Golden Bay extraordinary.
As slow travellers, we find ourselves enchanted by Golden Bay’s laid-back ambience time and time again. Here, sustainability isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a way of life. The prominence of eco-accommodations and eco-tourism initiatives highlights the area’s commitment to responsible travel.
Additionally, numerous opportunities await to support local businesses and connect with the community. Among these, the vibrant Takaka village market shines as an example. Every Saturday, you can discover local arts and crafts, uncover hidden treasures among secondhand and vintage goods, find fresh produce, and relish tasty local cuisine while entertained by local performers.
New Zealand South Island Travel Insider Guide Tips:
- Be sure to savour the spectacular Golden Bay sunsets.
- And while you’re on your way, don’t miss out on the exciting Nelson Tasman activities.
The Pacific Islands are a vast and diverse region, with over 10,000 islands scattered across the ocean, make them remote locations that not everybody will venture into visiting. Many tourists flock to popular destinations such as Hawaii, but there are also a number of off-the-beaten-path destinations that are just as worth a visit.
Contributed by Catrina of Fiji Itinerary
If you’re looking for a really off-the-beaten-path destination that is perfect for adventurous travellers, then Fiji is for you. With over 300 islands, Fiji is not only a tropical paradise but also a unique destination offering a wide range of local experiences.
It’s also a fantastic place for slow travel and cultural immersion. The local Fijians, known for their warm hospitality, are eager to share their customs and traditions. From participating in a kava ceremony to joining a village tour and having a local lovo feast, getting involved in marine conservation projects, or exploring the history of cannibalism at the Fiji Museum, every moment is an opportunity to connect with their culture and learn.
Visiting the Yasawa Islands was a highlight of my 3 months in Fiji. These stunning, remote islands offer many opportunities for trekking, snorkelling, or simply relaxing amidst breathtaking scenery. Here we swam with manta rays and reef sharks several times and it was the most incredible experience!
I was also happy to see that Fiji takes sustainability seriously. There are many eco-friendly activities we took part in, including coral planting and planting trees with the local school children. When visiting the villages, dress modestly, and try to buy souvenirs from here as opposed to any chain stores to help support the local people.
Fiji caters to a wide range of travellers, from luxury travellers to backpackers, foodies, history buffs, hikers, divers and photographers. There is honestly something for everyone in these amazing islands.
Contribution by Kristin of Global Travel Escapades
An off-the-beaten-path destination that is perfect for those looking for a relaxing getaway or one filled with thrilling adventures is Tahiti. For example, the island is known for being home to some of the best surf in the world. As a result, my friends and I would go around the island every single day in search of new surf spots to try out.
Alternatively, you can opt to spend your time learning about the island’s history. Scattered around the island are museums and ancient Marae, which are old ceremonial sites that date back several centuries.
If you’re keen on exploring the island’s interior, I recommend doing some hiking. My friends and I spent a day hiking to Fautaua waterfall, and it was one of the most amazing experiences. We passed through tiny villages, wandered through a verdant rainforest, and were rewarded with seeing the tallest waterfall on the island!
For those looking to do a bit of slow travel here, consider staying in a pension. These are essentially guest houses, operated by locals. They not only cost less and allow you to better experience the local culture but also help put money into the pockets of local families instead of hotel chains.
Final thoughts on these off the beaten path destinations in Ocenania
I hope you enjoyed this list of hidden gems in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands! These destinations offer a wide range of experiences, from stunning natural scenery to unique cultural attractions. I have added a few of these places to my bucket list, and I hope you have too!
Remember to follow the responsible traveller principles, leave no trace and respect the culture around you.
For more underrated travel destinations around the world, check out these articles:
14 Underrated Destinations in Europe you Need to Explore
16 Unique Asian Destinations Off The Beaten Path
America travel destinations off the beaten path that will blow your mind