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Australian gems according to Instagram

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 20 December 2017 | Views [256]

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When stumbling across a real hidden gem on your travels, one of the first things we all feel compelled to do is break out the camera andget some great photos. It’s a universal urge that’s almost impossible to resist – especially now that social media makes it possible to share those magical moments of discovery with friends and family around the world, more or less in real time.

It’s a fantastic way to share your most exciting travel finds, and unearth new ones to explore – and, as in many other locations around the globe, that’s precisely what visitors to Australia have been doing on Instagram for the past few years. By calculating the number of times certain location tags have been used, one Aussie freight company recentlyplotted a nifty map of the nation’s best (and worst!) kept secrets on and off the established tourist trails.

In no particular order, here are a few of the Down Under off-piste highlights we definitely agree with:

Andamooka is an unusual and isolated little township, tucked well away from the usual tourist routes some 600 km north of Adelaide in South Australia. Its rich andsomewhat chequered history as a gem-mining settlement has seen it survive incredibly extreme weather conditions, repeated periods of severe drought, and the ever-shifting fortunes of the international opal trade since first becoming established as a desolate outpost in the early 1870s. It’s principally known by visitors today for its unique semi-subterranean housing tracts, made up of dug-out cottages embedded in the hillsides by enterprising early miners looking for a way to insulate themselves against the brutal heat of the Outback sun.

The craggy rise of the Cockburn Range often sinks to a blood red at sunset, looking for all the world like something imported straight from a movie set as you travel along theGibb River Road through Kimberley, Western Australia. It’s truly a spectacular and iconic sight, but you’ll want to keep your eyes on the road as you approach the notorious Pentecost River Crossing: if the rocky riverbed carrying you over a wide, sometimes alarmingly deep waterway don’t hold your attention, then the resident saltwater crocodiles certainly will! That said, it’s a relatively easy jaunt for most bush-suitable vehicles during the drier seasons, and the chance to camp out under those vast Outback skies once you reach the expansive croc-free grasslands well away from the water’s edge.

While not as ‘hidden’ as some of the other gems on this list (it’s actually one of Tasmania’s most celebrated conservation reserves), the fact that you’ll need to leave mainland Oz to reach the Bay of Fires - a spectacular landscape of pristine white sands, clear waters and rocky forested gullies - means you’re pretty unlikely to have your photos ruined by other snap-seekers wandering into frame. The sweeping arc of Binalong Bay beach serves as a the southernmost focal hub for much of the area’s incredible game fishing, reef snorkelling and surf action, but its well worth exploring further afield among theorange lichen-covered granite boulders of Ansons Bay and, further north still, Eddystone Point with its lighthouse watchtower.

Undara Volcanic National Park is best known for its network of spectacular cave tunnels, once carved through the ancient bedrock by our planet’s longest ever single-origin volcanic lava flow. Only accessible via guided tour, thesetruly otherworldly natural warrens wind for miles underground beneath rural Queensland’s scattered ribbons of remnant dry rainforest. You’re likely to encounter bats, birds, predatory mammals and knotted tangles of hardy vegetation at every turn, making it one of Australia’s many thrillingly unique visitor destinations. It’s well worth the fairly epic drive to get out there – the fact that ‘Undara’ is an Aboriginal word for ‘long way’ is no coincidence.

After a steep climb up through Gunlom Waterfall Creek, enjoyingmajestic Northern Territory views from its picture-book series of clifftop lagoons, you’re rewarded – if, er, that’s the right word – with an opportunity to fling yourself 30m straight down into an expansive natural plunge pool. After all that excitement, you’ll probably want a lie down and a cold beer; luckily, you can simply wade over to ashoreline fringed by tranquil picnic areas under the shade of the overhanging gum thickets. The pool itself is almost always croc-free, but you can’t say the same for the area as a whole: as with so many of Australia’s hidden gems, wildlife remains one of the best reasons to visit and one of the best reasons to be vigilant!

Tags: australia, travel

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