Australia is full of famous off-road locations which every traveller worth their salt knows, but away from the spotlight, each state has some hidden gems that are just as enthralling to explore as their more well-known counterparts.
Words & images by Marion Halliday aka Red Nomad OZ
1. Jump Up Loop Road - Sturt National Park, NSW
Head north from remote Tibooburra near the north-west corner of NSW and you'll most likely be taking the Silver City Highway to Queensland; or the UR 8 to Cameron Corner, the iconic Outback landmark where Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales meet.
Either way you'll pass through the 340,000 hectare Sturt National Park and a stunning array of arid landscapes with unusual land formations and far-reaching vistas.
View from Lookout, Jump Up Loop Road, Sturt National Park NSW
But instead of sticking to the main roads, take the Jump Up Loop road north of Tibooburra through the Mt Wood Hills and Grey Range, a collection of flat-topped mesas that once formed an inland sea. The awesome view from the lookout at the top of the range is well worth the few extra kilometres!
Stop at the nearby Olive Downs campground to explore this amazing area, or at the end of the loop turn right for the Silver City Highway, or left along Middle Road to Cameron Corner.
2. Tathra National Park via Carnamah - WA
Western Australian wildflowers are known around Australia – if not the world – as the best. So everyone flocks to well known wildflower hotspots north to Kalbarri, down to the south-east corner or north-east to Wildflower Way in Spring.
But the best wildflowers I ever saw were off the beaten track in Tathra National Park between Eneabba and Carnamah, a small wheatbelt town 220 km north of Perth.
Tathra National Park Wildflowers,Western Australia
The district has regional specialities like the well known Wreath Leschenaultia and endemic Carnamah Bell. Walk through any of Tathra National Park's 43 km² and you'll be admiring a different wildflower varieties every few steps. The lack of facilities other than marked tracks probably means you'll have the park all to yourself!
3. Mount Moffatt - Carnarvon National Park, QLD
As the centrepiece of Carnarvon National Park, the spectacular Carnarvon Gorge is its most visited attraction. But the wild and remote Mount Moffatt section of the park gets way fewer visitors, even though it's more spectacular.
That's probably because it isn't accessible from the Gorge section off the highway between Roma and Emerald – to get there, drive 220 km north of Mitchell or 150 km east of Injune.
Mt Moffatt Rock Formations, Carnarvon National Park, Queensland
Its remoteness made it the ideal hideout for the bushrangers, including the violent Kenniff brothers and notorious cattle duffer Harry Redford (sometimes known as Captain Starlight), who operated in the area. And the local Bidjara people, who refused to be ousted from their land, left a legacy of rock imagery throughout the park.
Full of stunning sandstone rock formations and containing Queensland's highest plateau (the Consuelo Tableland), it's worth the long drive – even if you get a flat tyre we got the instant you drive into the park as we did many years ago!
4. Troubridge Scenic Drive - Yorke Peninsula, SA
In a country with one of the longest coastlines in the world, we're spoiled for choice when it comes to scenic coastal drives, so it's not always easy to find one that the world hasn't already seen.
It's 700km+ of rugged coastline strewn with beautiful beaches, crazy-high rocky cliffs, tropical-blue water and lovely lighthouses make the leg-shaped Yorke Peninsula THE place to go for a dose of stunning coastal scenery. And the good news is, not many people know about it!
The Troubridge Scenic Drive runs along the coast from Edithburgh around the 'heel' at the bottom of the 'leg' to Port Moorowie. With the classic coastal beach/cliff/water/lighthouse combo the drive is best taken slow.
That way, you won't miss the wildlife – seals, dolphins, schools of fish, sharks, lizards and birds – and you'll have time for swimming, fishing, walking the beach and taking in the spectacular views up and down the coast, and across Investigator Strait to Kangaroo Island
5. Elsey National Park - NT
The famous Mataranka hot springs are a dead giveaway that you've reached the tropical north when you head up the Stuart Highway to Darwin. It's also the setting for Australian classic 'We of the Never Never', a true colonial adventure by Jeannie Gunn, a Melbourne teacher who married the Elsey Station manager and moved up here to live.
Mataranka Homestead Resort, now a motel and campground where Jeannie Gunn's homestead is set up as a museum, plays the movie version every day in the bar and café, which is as far as most people go before heading back to the hot springs.
Scenes from Elsey National Park via Mataranka, Northern Territory
But for a different perspective, take a drive just 7 km east to Elsey National Park, once the original Elsey station where ruins of the original stockyards and a cemetery, last resting place for many of the book's characters, bring the story to life.
6. Mt Abrupt - Grampians, VIC
Visit the stunning Grampians National Park, and chances are good that you'll climb the Pinnacle, a slender, rocky – yes – pinnacle, with spectacular views over Lake Bellfield, the Serra Ranges and Halls Gap 400 metres below.
Looking north over Signal Peak from Mt Abrupt Summit, Grampians, Victoria
But for a far less crowded climb and (arguably) better view, head for Mount Abrupt, penultimate peak at the southern end of the Grampians near Dunkeld. It's a strenuous 6.5 km return climb, but the 360° panorama taking in the wildest part of the Serra Range, the Victoria Valley and Range and the volcanoes of the Kanawinka Geotrail in the distance are worth every step!
7. Liffey Falls via Deloraine - TAS
Cataract Gorge, the Tamar Valley, nearby World Heritage convict sites, and the caves and sinkholes of Mole Creek National park are just some of Launceston's main attractions – and the sensational regional produce makes it easy to stay on the main tourist trails.
Liffey Falls, via Deloraine, Tasmania
But while you're following the Western Tiers trail to Mole Creek, do yourself a favour and take a half hour detour south of Deloraine to the Liffey Falls World Heritage Area for an accessible taste of the Tasmanian Rainforest! And if, like me, you're an amateur photographer who's tired of waterfalls that look like white lines in your shots, then this is the place to go!
This post has Red Nomad's TOP 7 hidden secrets. We promised you 14, so you'll have to visit our Top 7 Secret Spots on RedzAustralia.
Red Nomad OZ is Marion Halliday – blogger, traveller and author of Aussie Loos With Views! For Australian travel inspiration and more about that book, visit her blog at www.redzaustralia.com.