Kathmandu ambassadors Alesha and Jarryd are professional photographers, writers and founders of adventure travel blog NOMADasaurus. They’ve been exploring the world together since 2008, searching for culture and adventure in off-the-beaten-path destinations.
With travel restrictions meaning those big overseas holidays have been put on hold, this'll be the year of local adventures. Luckily if you live in one of Australia’s major cities, some of the country’s most gorgeous landscapes can be found less than a two-hour drive from downtown.
Royal National Park
Only 45 minutes south from the city, Royal National Park is the oldest in the country and has a number of stunning hikes that are suitable for people of all ages and abilities. If you just prefer to have a picnic with your family, there’s also plenty of reserves that can be accessed by car.
If you’re feeling active tackle the 26km-long Coast Track. Not only will you have jaw-dropping views of the park’s huge ocean cliffs, during the winter you may even see migrating humpback whales just offshore.
Pack the car (or jump on a train) and head towards Katoomba, the gateway to adventure in the Blue Mountains. From here you can head out on easy walks towards the Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls or Echo Point, or make your way down into the valley via the Scenic Railway.
If you feel like a bit more of a challenge, the Grand Canyon is not-to-be-missed, and Govett’s Leap has some of the most spectacular views over the Blue Mountains.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield is one of Australia’s most legendary national parks, and at only 90 minutes from Darwin, it’s well worth a trip if you’re itching to explore the Top End. The main highlights are the Lost City, a group of sandstone formations, and the huge Florence Falls.
Make sure you stay ‘Croc wise’ if you’re going to explore the Northern Territory.
Kakadu National Park
The Northern Territory’s largest national park is a timeless wonder, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for when you want to head out of Darwin for a trip. The ancient indigenous art gives an insight into the oldest culture on the planet, and there are plenty of waterfalls, hikes and wildlife activities to keep you interested.
The Dandenong Ranges
Just an hour from downtown will have you at the footsteps of the Dandenong Ranges, a lovely place to travel to close to Melbourne. Offering a mix of outdoor activities and cultural experiences, you can easily spend the day bouncing between nature walks and delicious restaurants.
For a real challenge, don’t miss the 1000 Steps, a steep trail dedicated to the fallen soldiers of Kokoda. Get here early though, as it’s very popular.
Great Ocean Road
Australia’s most famous road trip can be done in one big tour from Melbourne, or broken up over a few nights if you have the time. The 12 Apostles are the obvious highlight, but there are plenty of quieter beaches and coves to explore. Definitely check out the Grotto, Gibson Steps and Bay of Islands.
Lorne is the best place to stop for lunch along here. If you’re wanting a change of scenery from coastal views, head to nearby Great Otway National Park for some rainforest hikes.
Lamington National Park
If being home to the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world isn’t enough to make you head down to Lamington National Park, the thousands of years of Aboriginal history, cascading waterfalls and plenty of hiking trails will surely convince you to drive the 90 minutes from Brisbane.
While the Green Mountains area of the park is undoubtedly beautiful, if you want to avoid the crowds head to Binna Burra.
Once you’ve had your rainforest fix, jump on the ferry from Brisbane to Moreton Island for endless beaches, towering sand dunes and tropical vibes. 95% of the island is designated as a national park, meaning it is a vastly wild and untouched paradise. If you prefer to have your adventures beneath the surface, don’t miss out on snorkelling and diving around the string of Tangalooma Wrecks.
There are a few small townships and campgrounds you can stay at, and if you have a 4x4 you can bring it over on the ferry.
Mount Field National Park
There’s no shortage of incredible places to visit in Tasmania, but if you’re based in Hobart you have to check out Mount Field National Park, which is almost on your backdoor. Filled with sprawling vistas, limestone caves and kilometre after kilometre of tranquil bushwalking trails, you could easily spend a couple of days wandering between the highlights.
Russell Falls is the main attraction here, and it’s so iconic that it even featured on the first-ever Australian stamp.
Tasman National Park
Tasmania is a wild place, and a trip from Hobart to Tasman National Park will give you a glimpse at just how rugged it can be. Best known for its dramatic sea cliffs, this park is also home to one of the gnarliest surf breaks on the planet, Shipsterns Bluff.
If you’re feeling adventurous, book in for the four day Three Capes Track.
Only 90 minutes north of Perth is the chilled beach town of Lancelin. A very popular surfing destination, it’s also a haven for wind and kite surfers. What brings most visitors to Lancelin though is the chance to go four-wheel-driving and sandboarding on the huge sand dunes right next to town.
If you have your own car, make sure you drive 45 minutes further to the Pinnacles, where thousands of limestone pillars rise out of the desert creating a dramatic scene at sunset.
John Forrest National Park
John Forrest National Park in the Darling Ranges just outside of Perth is Western Australia’s first national park (and one of the oldest conservation parks in the country). It’s a wonderful place to escape the city, with scores of hiking and cycling trails weaving their way around the reserve. You’ll also find lots of wildlife, including kangaroos and bandicoots.
Come up here in the spring to see the wildflowers in bloom.
Kangaroo Island might be more than two hours from Adelaide, but if any place is worth the long trip, it’s this one. You’ll find miles of vacant beaches to relax on, fascinating geological sites like the Remarkable Rocks and a bunch of caves to explore. If wildlife is your thing, keep an eye out for koalas, seals, and of course kangaroos.
Kangaroo Island was badly affected by the recent bushfires, but it is safe to visit again. By travelling out here your tourist dollars will really benefit the local communities.
The Adelaide Hills
Head 20 minutes east of the city and you’ll be in the Adelaide Hills, a perfect getaway if you’re craving a bit of time in nature close to home. There are lots of great cafes and restaurants to enjoy meals up here, but the real reason you make the trip is to appreciate some of Adelaide’s nicest hiking trails.
Waterfall Gully is the most popular walk and definitely worth checking out, but don’t miss other gems like Second Falls Gorge Hike, and the 15km Chambers Gully to Mount Lofty trail.
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