Not all road trips are about wide-open roads and amazing sunsets. Sometimes they can be about the odd, interesting, and frankly whacky things that you find across a country as vast as Australia.

The good news is that Australia has lots of both! Before you head out on your next road trip, look over this list of the more obscure of Australia’s tourist destinations. If you find one you like, use it as the basis of your next adventure (and yes, enjoy the sunsets on the way as well).

Remember, the perfect GoGet car for your next trip is just waiting for your booking a few minutes away!

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Unusual road trips near Sydney, NSW

If you’re based in Australia’s biggest city, here are some of the strange road trip destinations we can recommend.

The Giant Stairway

Just 90 minutes’ drive Sydney, from The Giant Stairway in the Blue Mountains isn’t unusual, but its history is a good yarn. The ranger who built the stairs that lead up to the most incredible view of the Three Sisters almost didn’t finish it!

Luckily it did get built, and you can now ascent 800 steps and 1000 feet. There are great edges to freak out those afraid of heights…

The Giant Stairway in Katoomba NSW leading to the best lookout in the mountains

Wedding Cake Rock

Alas, you can’t eat it, but this incredibly fortunate erosion is less than an hour’s drive from the Sydney CBD – and it’s only here for a limited time!

Unlike the surrounding Sydney sandstone, Wedding Cake Rock is pure limestone, and a unique piece of Tasman coastline. However, it’s so precariously overhanging, it’s expected it will topple into the sea in under a decade.

See it while you still can!

Wedding Cake rRock over the Tasman Sea in Sydney Australia

Lightning Ridge and Grawin

The Gold Rush might be over, but Australia’s opal mining towns still host a bona fide outback frontier spirit that’s been lost in the last 150 years.

Opal can’t be mass-mined like gold and silver, so opal fields are still frequented by solo adventurers keen to strike it rich! Opal Miners are eccentric characters, and when they’re not underground, they’ll spin some great yarns about life off the grid.

6 hour’s drive from Sydney, Lightning Ridge offers plenty of mining fields full of mullock heaps and abandoned cars, but with more accessible mine tours and museums. For the original, more rugged Opal town experience, head to nearby Grawin for a pub crawl and a game of bush golf at the Club in the Scrub.

A car door sign pointing to lunatic lookout in lightning ridge

Newnes Glow Worm Tunnel

Until 1932 the Newnes Railway Tunnel hosted trains carrying shale oil, but it’s now home to tens of thousands of glow worms! Walk to the bend halfway through the tunnel and turn off your torch for a few minutes to see the place light up.

The tunnel is accessible by a 22km or 9km hike along the old railway track or fire trail, respectively. Newnes is a great camping spot, so consider pitching a tent.

The entrance to the Newnes Glow Worm tunnel near Sydney

Big Things near Sydney

Australia is known for a particular kind of roadside attraction above all others, The Big (insert thing here). These are all Instagramable, so here are a few near Sydney:

The big banana road side attraction in Coffs Harbour Australia

 

Unusual road trips near Brisbane, QLD

If you’re enjoying the gift from above that is Queensland’s year round weather, you’re just on the edge of some of the most exciting parts of Australia. For lovers of the more eclectic, read on.

Nimbin

Two hours south of Brisbane in the Byron Bay hinterland is the quintessential Aussie hippie community, Nimbin. The 1973 Aquarius Festival brought a more alternative crowd to town, many of whom settled in after the festival ended.

An unusual but very welcoming local population now run a banger of a town, worth a visit for those keen to relax. Unfortunately, the fabled hemp museum burned down a few years back, but the town’s vivid history is still told by most of the locals.

The alternative township of nimbin in northern nsw

Lake McKenzie

Found on Fraser Island, a three-hour road trip north of Brisbane, Lake McKenzie is 100 metres above sea level. As a result, it’s comprised of just rainwater, and thanks to a high acidity has virtually no life in its waters, making it almost impossibly pure.

The impact of swimmers is impacting on the lake, so you’d best be extra responsible if you visit the cracker of a swimming hole. Just fyi, you won’t be able to drive on Fraser Island without a well equipped 4X4, so leave the car in Harvey Bay while you visit.

The pristine waters of Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island made for an unusual road trip experience

Paronella Park

Paronella Park isn’t actually near Brisbane, but if you’re road tripping up to Port Douglas you can’t afford to miss it. The park hosts the ruins of an almost 100-year-old Spanish-style mansion, built by Spanish immigrant Jose Paronella.

Paronella built a great castle inspired by those in his home country, as well as the oldest hydro-electric dam in North Queensland. After generations of floods, fire, and cyclones, the ruins are all that are left, but are well taken care of by the Evans family, who run tours and host overnight stays at the on-site caravan park.

The Spanish caslte of Paronella Park in Northern Queensland

Other unusual road trips near Brisbane

Here are a couple of other spots you should check out on your oddball, unusual road trip experience.

  • SS Maheno. On the eastern side of Fraser Island is one of Australia’s best looking ship wrecks, the SS Maheno. It’s great to look at, but don’t try to go inside.
  • Kilcoy. A charming town in it’s own right, Kilcoy prides itself as being the home of Yowie!
  • Dularcha Rail Tunnel. For a natural hike with a man made twist, Dularcha National Park has made a feature of its abandoned rail tunnel, incorporating it into the parks hiking trails.

The wreck of SS Maheno on Fraser Island

Big things near Brisbane

As far as big things go, Queensland has more than its fair share. It is a pretty big state though. With all that said, some of these are in northern New South Wales:

Unusual road trips near Melbourne, VIC

Travellers based out of Melbourne are lucky to have access to a state tightly packed with adventures, all quickly accessible from the state capital. Here are our recommendations for unusual road trips near Melbourne.

Squeaky Beach

As if white sands and a marvellous ocean weren’t enough, Squeaky Beach has one extra selling point – squeaky sand! Thanks to the level of quartz in the sand, it squeaks as you walk through it.

Located on Wilsons Promontory three hour’s drive from Melbourne, Squeaky Beach also has picturesque headlands and some incredible granite boulders to explore. It’s also a great beach.

The Rocks, sand, and surf of squeaky beach on wilsons promontory in Victoria

East Warburton Redwoods

Country Victoria is the last place you’d expect to see a vast forest of Californian Redwoods, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in East Warburton. It’s two hours east of Melbourne, into the Yarra ranges.

But wait, there’s more. Along with the thousands of towering redwoods, planted in a 1930’s revegetation program, the wooden art installations of David Digapony are scattered throughout the forest, giving the place a ghostly vibe, somewhere between the Cottingley Fairies and Blair Witch Project.

The mysterious branch art of David Digapony in East Warburton Redwood Forest

Ashcombe Maze

Taking the title of Australia’s largest hedge maze, Ashcombe Maze offers a simple, yet irresistible proposition. Get lost, then get out!

Live your Alice in Wonderland Dreams in reality just an hour’s drive south of Melbourne, enjoying the sights of the Mornington Peninsula en route.

A hedge maze, which always makes for an unusual road trip

Phillip Island Penguin Parade

Hardly under the radar, Phillip Island’s Little Penguins are certainly unusual. All the world’s Little, or Fairy Penguins live in Australia and New Zealand, but Phillip Island hosts 30,000 of them.

Each evening they walk from the sea to their cubbies on the land in the incredible Penguin Parade. Thanks to the low light and the penguin’s reflective eyes, photographing them is almost impossible, so you’ve got to see this one in real life.

Phillip Island is just two hour’s drive south of Melbourne (don’t worry, there’s a bridge to the island itself).

Little Penguins in the Port Phillip Penguin Parade, a destination for a great unusual road trip

Other unusual road trips near Melbourne:

Here are a few other destinations worth getting to in Victoria, if you’re keen for something a little off the beaten track.

  • Hanging Rock. A distinctive former volcano and occasional concert venue, Hanging Rock was also the scene of one of Australia’s most famous novels, Picnic at Hanging Rock. As long as you don’t go missing, it’s still a great spot for a picnic!
  • Mungo National Park. The Willandra Lakes dried up 19,000 years back, but millennia of sediment deposits left some incredible rock formations behind.
  • The Ned Kelly road trip. For a real Aussie historical experience, these two single day trips from Melbourne will trace the life of Ned Kelly, Australia’s most famous bushranger. As well as the story of Kelly, it’s a great way to experience country Victoria quickly.

A William Ford painting of Hanging Rock

Big things near Melbourne

Victoria has its share of big things. Here are just a couple you might include on your next road trip:

Unusual road trips near Adelaide, SA

South Australia might actually be the best state in Australia for the weird and wonderful road trip enthusiast. While you’re munching down your frog cakes and Cornish pasties, make sure you hit some of these absolute gems.

Coober Pedy

While Lightning Ridge is higher on this list, the crown for Australia’s most famous opal mining town goes to Coober Pedy, in the South Australian outback. Admittedly, Coober is hardly an under the radar road trip destination in Australia, with tens of thousands of tourists visiting each year. However, the opal mining towns of Australia are just that interesting that there’s no way a list of Australia’s weirdest road trips would leave it out.

Coober Pedy offers underground hotels, opal mining tours, and conversations with some of the most eccentric locals you’ll find in any town across Australia. It’s an essential stop on the road trip from Adelaide to Darwin, but it’s well worth a weekend road trip from Adelaide too.

The truck sculpture at Coober Pedy South Australia, an opal mining town that is one of the weirdest australian road trips you'll find

Umpherston Sinkhole and Blue Lake

A few hour’s drive east of Adelaide, Mount Gambier is home to a host of left-of-field wonders that any traveller will love. The town is renowned for it’s caves, and the Umpherston Sinkhole it a stark reminder of that, sitting in the middle of town. The sinkhole is a result of a collapsed cave system that now hosts a lush oasis.

While you’re in town, check out Blue Lake. It’s an enormous lake in an old volcanic crater just out of town, with water that turns an incredible shade of blue during certain months of the year. December to March sees Blue Lake at its bluest, while in the cooler months it has a slightly grey tone.

Umpherston Sinkhole in Mount Gambier, one of the most bizarre road trip attractions in Australia

The Whispering Wall

The Barossa Valley is mostly known for its Shiraz, but there’s at least one oddball road trip destination while you’re in the wine region, just north of Adelaide. The Whispering Wall is in fact the dam wall, built to create the Barossa Resevoir in 1902. It was an engineering marvel at the time, and the highest dam wall in Australia at the time, at 36 metres high.

These days it’s worth a visit due to it’s incredibly parabola effect, where a whisper on one side of the dam wall can be clearly heard on the opposite side, around 140 metres away!

Broken Hill and Silverton

It’s not really near Sydney or Adelaide, but Broken Hill and Silverton are must see destinations for anyone who likes something different in their road trips. Broken Hill is without a doubt one of the most fun outback towns in the country. In fact, most of it’s destinations really deserve their own place on a list like this – cheese slaw included

When you visit, be sure to head up to Silverton, where the original Mad Max films were shot. Be sure to visit the pub there too – it’s an absolute blast. The nearby opal mining town White Cliffs is also worth the 3 hour drive – just watch for black cattle on the road from Wilcannia.

Other unusual road trips in South Australia

We didn’t have enough space to feature them all, but here are a few other weird and wonderful road trip destinations across South Australia that we would recommend looking into. There’s a link for each to get you some more information.

  • Snowtown. The infamous location of the Snowtown murders, and the setting for the related film and TV series. Yes, the abandoned bank is still there – but it’s just a house now. Snowtown is about 90 minutes north of Adelaide.
  • Magnetic Hill. Cars don’t roll up hill, do they? At Magnetic Hill they can (as long as they’re made of enough steel). A couple of hours north east of Adelaide.
  • Burra Homestead. It may not interest everyone, but the Burra Homestead holds a special place in the heart of many, having graced the cover of the Midnight Oil album Diesel and Dust (their best album, according to at least one GoGet writer).

 The magnet sculpture by the side of the road at Magnetic Hill in South Australia, one of Australia's more unusual road trip destinations

Big things in South Australia

Australia’s obsession with giant road side attractions thrives in South Australia, with the state boasting a tonne of one of a kind big things.

  • The Big Lobster. A downright ugly crusty that spends its days in Kingston, in the state’s south east, near the Victoria border.
  • The Big Rocking Horse. This giant rocking horse can be found at the adjoining toy museum in the Adelaide Hills.
  • The Big Galah. For 8 metres of flaming galah, mark the town of Kimba on your map while road tripping the Yorke Peninsula.
  • The Big Miner. While you’re on the YP, visit Kapunda and say g’day to Map the Miner, a tribute to the Cornish miners that immigrated to the region.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC and SBS.