Discover where to visit on your travels throughout Australia with our expert list of Australia’s best touring towns.
1. Blackall, QLD
Situated in the heart of Central Queensland, Blackall is a country town with all the charms to match. In the late 19th century, surveyors used a large tree stump in town as a base to check Queensland’s state boundaries to the west, which meant Blackall spontaneously became a membrane that separated civilisation from the Outback - resulting in the term ‘Beyond the Black Stump’.
Image credit: Chris Fithall
From here, it’s unsurprising to know that Blackall still delivers a strong dose of pastoral history to travellers as they pass through: the Blackall Woolscour is Australia’s only remaining wool-washing plant that’s fully intact, while an ancient artesian spring has been harnessed by the Aquatic Centre on the outskirts of town that allows you to wash away the aches and pains of travel in pleasant fashion. Perhaps most importantly, Blackall is the launching point for a sojourn into Outback Queensland and Idalia National Park in particular, which is home to unique fauna and impressive escarpments that can be explored by vehicle and on foot.
2. Tibooburra, NSW
An isolated town on the edge of a wilderness – one that’s filled with red dirt and ancient history - Tibooburra is synonymous with Outback New South Wales. The town is the gateway to the arid landscapes of Sturt National Park, which itself was named after the explorer Charles Sturt, whose expedition to find Australia’s inland sea was rebuffed by the harsh conditions and interminable landscapes of Sturt’s Stony Desert northwest of the park.
That same remote and starkly beautiful place has been opened up thanks to modern vehicular travel and towns like Tibooburra which, in a profound way, allow travellers to spring into the unknown after getting their toes wet in town beforehand. This is in no small part owed to the fact that Tibooburra is, in itself, incredibly remote – a tiny pocket of somewhere in the midst of the surrounding Nowhere – which makes its endurance both pleasing and practical for those who pass through.
In town are two excellent pubs with embedded character and history, as well as essential supply points for those beginning or continuing their adventure. The vision of large granite tors around the town’s buildings and past its extents are a memorable sight, as well as a sign that Tibooburra is a town that’s truly part of the Outback.
3. Venus Bay, SA
An unassuming hamlet on the Eyre Peninsula, Venus Bay is an endearingly small piece of civilisation amongst wild South Australian coastline. While the bay itself is calm and sheltered, beyond Venus Bay Lookout are imposing cliffs and relentless ocean that characterise the peninsula.
The town has an array of accommodation options from which you can enjoy its inherent peace and quiet, as well as some excellent natural attractions – including unique limestone and granite formations along the coast – with walking trails for discovering the area at a slower pace.
4. Omeo, VIC
Omeo is a quaint and unassuming regional town, and one that’s fortuitously positioned in the midst of Victoria’s rugged alpine country. Framed against green rolling hills, open skies and historic buildings in the cool climes of the High Country, Omeo is a country town with a distinct and endearing character. Originally a pastoral area, the town experienced a boom when gold was found in the mid-1800s, which actually led to much of the memorable colonial architecture that still remains today.
In addition to its scenic and historical charms, the town is close by to many creeks (and a good park), walking and horse riding trails, as well as a vast labyrinth of 4WD tracks – such as the Ingeegoodbee Track and the areas around Benambra and Tom Groggin – that make Omeo a key supply point for both tourers heading from Bright or Bairnsdale or four-wheel drivers looking to make for the hills.
5. Kununurra, WA
A town that’s almost synonymous with the Gibb River Road, Kununurra has a surprising amount to offer to those who expected to simply breeze through. Its isolation has made the town a key meeting point for Outback travellers, which has resulted in Kununurra becoming well-equipped in accommodation and supplies.
Image: Middle Spring near Kununurra
Moreover, it’s close by to some excellent day trips, most notably Mirima National Park, which features striking sandstone formations and escarpments that range in colour and hue. From Kununurra it’s easy to reach Kimberley classics such as Purnululu National Park, El Questro and its many attractions, as well as Five Rivers Lookout in Wyndham, Lake Argyle, Keep River National Park, Home Valley and much more.
6. Hughenden, QLD
Sitting on a bend in the Flinders River and at the edge of a bygone inland sea, Hughenden is a charming country town with tangible links to Australia’s ancient history. The aforementioned sea, which existed around 100 million years ago, played a key role in protecting ancient skeletal remains throughout the ages, hence creating an unusually high concentration of dinosaur fossils in the area around Hughenden. This has led to a number of fossil discoveries and the creation of the Dinosaur Trail - a touring route that links Hughenden, Richmond and Winton – which boasts a number of unique attractions and dinosaur fun.
Image credit: Gondwananet
In town is a huge sculpture of a Muttaburrasaurus, a dinosaur whose fossilised remains were found in the area and are displayed in the Flinders Discovery Centre, in addition to a number of other fossil and dinosaur-themed sculptures that colour the town. The Discovery Centre is both an educational and insightful look into another time, and its exhibits are all the more impressive given that Hughenden was once a hotbed of dinosaur activity. The town is also close by to the jaw-dropping Porcupine Gorge, in addition to a number of national parks and other points of interest on the Dinosaur Trail.
7. Hawker, SA
A small Outback town with historical links, Hawker is an ideal starting point for a jaunt through the Flinders Ranges. Once a bustling railway town along the Old Ghan Line, the railway was moved west in the 1950s as part of an upgrade, and Hawker’s size and population diminished. In its stead are many relics from this era, which give this tight-knit town a distinctive character that visitors can enjoy by way of Hawker’s varying accommodation options.
Hawker is right on the doorstep of the Flinders Ranges – Australia’s most accessible Outback region – and so it’s reputation is largely as a major resupply point. However, with its laid-back atmosphere, ample history and small-town charm, Hawker itself is the true beginning of any adventure into this special region.
8. Strahan, TAS
Much of Tasmania’s touring appeal is wrapped up in its differences from the mainland, and few places capture those differences as perfectly as Strahan. An understated seaside village with a rustic European vibe, the town’s mix of quaint architecture, cool climate and encroaching wilderness combine to brilliant effect, while also giving the impression that Strahan is from another time and place. Enhancing this feeling is the West Coast Wilderness Railway that runs through town, which takes visitors through spectacular Tasmanian mountain ranges and gorge country within nineteenth and twentieth century-era steam engines.
Image credit: Steve Penton
Other visitor attractions in Strahan include a plethora of excellent seafood, artisanal shops, river boat cruises and the chance to head east into the dramatic green ranges of Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and the other parks in the region.
9. Coonabarabran, NSW
While it’s best known as the astronomy capital of Australia, Coonabarabran is also an incredibly scenic location that’s well-appointed with facilities for those passing through to bigger adventures. The town’s elevation is a part of its practicality as an astronomy base, but it also means Coonabarabran offers fantastic vistas of the ranges around the area.
A visit to the Siding Spring or Warrumbungle observatories are the best way to experience the clear night skies around Coonabarabran, however even without magnification the night skies are impressive. To the town’s west is the magnificent Warrumbungle National Park, which feature arresting volcanic outcrops that rise above the vegetated peaks of the Warrumbungle Range, while to the northeast is the vast wilderness of the Pilliga Scrub and its criss-crossing forestry tracks.
10. Coffin Bay, SA
Coffin Bay is an idyllic town for many reasons: it fronts a calm and pristine bay, has a thriving seafood culture, and is within touching distance of the enticing coastal wilderness that is Coffin Bay National Park. The town’s beachside magnetism is such that in the summer period its population can increase tenfold, with many holiday-goers searching for their own slice of paradise on the Eyre Peninsula.
Around town are a variety of walks, an excellent waterside caravan park and a number of public spaces and playgrounds that are tailor-made for families. For adventurous types, a trip into the town’s titular national park is a necessity, whose rugged coastal heath, remote coastline and electric-blue waters are perfect either as a day trip or an overnight sojourn.