Say “Bello” to Bellingen – a leafy paradise of hippie art, eclectic boutiques, the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and mind-blowing nature experiences. Located somewhere between Sydney and Brisbane, your first experience of Bellingen will be as a memorable stopover, but we can bet that after one taste, you’ll be back again and again! There’s no shortage of things to do here in this bohemian haven, but kick things off on a high note with a visit to the Old Butter Factory Café. Once the finest producer of butter in the state, the factory has been refashioned into an idyllic café, famous for their creamy ricotta pancakes. Work it off with a walk around Dorrigo National Park, enjoying the serenity of the rainforest with cascading waterfalls and great birdwatching opportunities. Cool off with a dip in the famous swimming hole, Never Never Creek, the water almost inhumanly clear and tempting. For your home away from home, stay at Bellingen YHA, with the balcony overlooking the river and rainforest gardens.
Grab your surfboard, shakkas, swimmers and your beachiest alter ego – you’re off to one of the coolest, laid-back towns on the east coast! Yamba is frequently considered one of the best hidden gems in Australia and it’s not hard to see why, with the best surf breaks on the coast, the most stunning beaches and views, and the friendly vibe of the entire town that keeps you smiling the whole time. Yamba is the perfect place to finally learn how to surf – the experts will have you standing up in no time, and you’ll be a seasoned surfie before you know it. Be sure to pay a visit to Turner’s Beach, the most popular beach in town, which also happens to be an excellent fishing spot. Climb up Pilot Hill to visit Yamba lighthouse, for a stunning view serving as a romantic picnic spot to watch the moon rise. Obviously you’ll be stating at Yamba YHA, so to get the full lowdown from a local, take Manager Shane’s $20 tour for three hours of fun, sun, sea, sand, cliff jumping and loads of laughter and good times!
Photo: Tourism Australia
Ever wanted to swim freely alongside a real life shark and be totally safe? Then make a beeline for Exmouth, a true hidden paradise in northern Western Australia. Exmouth is the closest town to the Ningaloo Reef – the only place on earth where from March to July, you can swim alongside majestic whale sharks. Sure, you know all about the Great Barrier Reef, but Ningaloo Reef is underrated, untouched and completely breathtaking. The experience of swimming alongside the gentle whale shark - the largest known extant fish species - is truly one in a million, but with long summers and warm winters, there’s plenty to discover in Exmouth all year round. At Ningaloo Reef, you can try your hand at drift snorkelling – let the current carry you along the reef as you observe the stunning coral life below you. Jump in the car and pay a visit to Cape Range National Park, a magical mecca of deep canyons, picturesque beaches and limestone ranges for days, with wildlife such as birds, emus and kangaroos running amok. Stay at Exmouth YHA while you’re at it, enjoying a dip in one of the three (yes, three) pools on-site after a long day!
Nope, not the capital of New York, but so much better than that. The town of Albany in south-west Western Australia has recently won the gong for best town in Australia, coming as no surprise to anyone who’s ever journeyed off the beaten track to this charming town. Albany is one of the best spots in Australia to spot whales during the migration season, and you can learn even more about the significance of whales to this town with a visit to the famous Albany Whale Museum. Albany is also one of the towns the Bibbulmun Track passes through, one of the best long distance walks in the world with wildflowers and breathtaking vistas aplenty. What makes Albany truly special is its history and stories: it marks the spot where the first European colonisers set foot in Western Australia, and their legacy is evident through the heritage-listed buildings dotted throughout the town, refashioned as restaurants, museums and more. Even the building that houses Albany YHA dates back to the 1800s, so you can literally sleep in the unique history of this town!
You’re already captivated by its very name, and we can personally assure you that Port Fairy is every bit as magical as you may think! A secluded little paradise along the Great Ocean Road, this captivating town will make you so glad you didn’t just come on a day trip from Melbourne. One of the busiest fishing ports in Victoria, you can watch the fishermen unload their catch for the day and of course, there is ample opportunity for you to sample this delicious seafood – Merrijig Kitchen for one, located at the oldest inn in Victoria. Get in touch with nature and visit Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, for magnificent scenery and an opportunity to get up close with kangaroos, emus, koalas and more! Lose track of time weaving your way through unique boutiques and cafes, or lazing around on the beach. Rest your bones at Port Fairy YHA - a heritage-listed cottage boasting dreamy Victorian era vibes. Curl up by the open fire place after a day breathing in the fresh salty air and feel totally, 100 per cent at peace with the world.
Another reason to take your time on the Great Ocean Road – you definitely do not want to miss experiencing the lustrous green heaven-on-earth that is Apollo Bay. Apollo Bay is the ideal spot to base yourself for seeing the Twelve Apostles in all their glory – it’s about an hour drive away, and you should see them at both sunset and sunrise to get the full effect. If you’re the adventurous type, don’t leave without doing the Otway Fly Treetop Walk – one of five canopy walks in Australia and the only one in Victoria, offering you the opportunity to feel on top of the world as you walk through the treetops and enjoy magnificent views of the Otway Ranges in the process. If it’s a relaxing getaway you’re after, Apollo Bay is one of the best spots in Victoria to laze around on the beach, or enjoy a leisurely kayak, hopefully spotting some seals on the way! A definite must-do is taking the Kennett River Koala Walk, though koalas have been known to hang around very close to Apollo Bay Eco YHA – you can spot them with the help of hostel dog Amber!
Nothing soothes the soul like a genuinely relaxing beach getaway, and Port Elliot in South Australia happens to be one of the best places in the country to make that happen. If you have no desire to do anything but laze on the beach, all you have to do is wander across the road from your digs at Port Elliot YHA and find yourself on Port Elliot Beach, perfect for swimming, surfing, kayaking or just soaking up the rays. There’s plenty going on for adventure seekers too, with whale watching in the winter months, bike riding, skydiving and ballooning. Are you a wine buff? Take a day trip to the world famous McLaren Vale wine and produce region, and get happy tipsy on some of the finest vinos and fresh food you ever did taste. It’s also a one hour drive from beautiful Kangaroo Island, but there’s no need to leave Port Elliot at all if you want amazing walks, beautiful vistas, a friendly vibe and that fresh salty air. Port Elliot YHA is a historical boutique beach with priceless views of the Southern Ocean – fall asleep to the crashing waves every single night.
Germans and Germanophiles rejoice – little Germany is just outside of big, bustling Adelaide! Worlds away, yet just a 36 minute drive from Adelaide Central YHA! Hahndorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement and people of all ages have fallen in love with its sheer charm. The architecturally stunning buildings evoke a strong sense of the colonial past, and you’ll be hard pressed not to feel like you’ve stepped directly into a storybook. If you’re a foodie, Hahndorf will be your seventh heaven, with a massive collection of artisanal, German-inspired goodies ranging from apple strudel to Australia’s largest hotdog. The bustling main street is an experience in itself, with a delightful selection of boutiques, eateries and natural beauty products, making Hahndorf a shopper’s paradise. The main street is also home to winery cellar doors, where you can sample the best of South Australian wines and cheeses. We could write an entire series on all the incredible things to do in this hidden gem, but trust us – you need to go.
Confused by the name? It is hard to get your head around, but basically it’s named after the year Captain James Cook first landed in what is now the state of Queensland. Officially spelled out as “Seventeen Seventy,” the town holds the re-enactment of this landing every year as part of the 1770 Festival. History aside, 1770 is an untouched hidden gem that should definitely be on your east coast bucket list. Located at the southern end of the iconic Great Barrier Reef, this destination is an incredible beauty. First thing on your to-do list should be a Scooteroo adventure – cruise around on a badass Harley Davidson looking out for kangaroos and taking in the stunning scenery. You often don’t hear of 1770 without also hearing about the neighbouring town of Agnes Water – just 8 kilometres away, this is where you go for your epic surf and water adventures. As the northernmost location on the east coast, there are some bloody huge waves to test your luck on. But be sure to round off every day witnessing a sublime sunset at 1770, then crash at 1770 YHA.
Located in stunning North Queensland, Mission Beach is a hidden gem for sure, but for Aussies in the know, it’s the perfect spot for whatever you make of it: a romantic rendezvous, a relaxing detox or a jam-packed adventure. Leave the tech behind and avail of the free rainforest and creek walks that Mission Beach YHA leads six days a week, enjoying the cool tranquillity and sheer beauty of it all. Mission Beach is also home to a large population of dinosaur-like birds known as cassowaries – see if you can spot one as you explore the area, but keep your distance! If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at White Water Rafting on the Tully River, which incidentally is even better in the rain. Mission Beach is also the best possible access point for Dunk Island, a tropical paradise where you can do pretty much anything that is possible to do in water. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, face your fears and try Skydive Mission Beach, 14,000 feet over the lush rainforests and the experience of a lifetime.
Browse our full list of Australian hostels, boasting a mixture of big city dreams and small town charm!