Off-Peak Australia: Our Top 5 Spots

As 2016 makes its debut, we prepare to leave Australia after an eventful year spent working and living Downunder. Unlike most travellers here, we concentrated our twelve months purely in the southern portion of Oz, travelling East to West.
Poor timing saw us hitting all the major sites in the less than recommended season – which actually worked out in our favour. We paid off-peak prices, always got the best campsite, and didn’t have to fight the hordes of tourists to get prime photo positioning.
So long as you are prepared to brave the cold, can survive sudden torrential rain, and are up for a bit of an adventure, then we can highly recommend avoiding high tourist season completely.

Here is a compliation of our five favourite spots, that you will enjoy even more by visiting at the ‘wrong’ time:

Sydney’s Northern Beaches, NSW

Sydney Northern Beaches We were lucky enough to live in this gorgeous area for five months. The name says it all, a string of breathtaking beaches and beach towns to the North of Sydney. Spanning from Manly, to the most northern peninsula of Palm Beach, there is something for everyone. As it is with beaches, the nicer the weather the busier they get, so high season here would of course be summer (Dec – Feb). Whether you want to surf, dive, swim or simply enjoy a stroll, I find this stretch of coast much more pleasant in Autumn. It may be a little cooler, but the water temperature will still be holding summer heat, and you will find the beaches much less crowded. A lot of the local houses are kept as holiday homes, so once the vacationers have left, the place is yours to enjoy!

Blue MountainsBlue Mountains National Park, NSW
No matter when you visit, the Blue Mountains will always be stunning. The elevated altitude means that it is always cooler than on the coast, often with a chilly breeze. All I can say is avoid local holiday periods, as it is a common mini-break location for many within a four hour radius. Take advantage of clear, crisp winter days. Wrap up warm and keep your blood pupming on one of the many walking trails. There is so much natural beauty to be seen in this national park.

Bright, Victoria (and Mount Buffalo)

Bright, VictoriaThis quaint little town is known for its trees. That is to say the colourful display they put on every year throughout Autumn. Lining the banks of Ovens River, their reflections dancing playfully on the ripples, it really is very picturesque. If you wish to experience Bright in its full glory, aim for the beginning or end of the autumnal season (beginning March or end May). Enjoy the boutique shops and cute cafes. Top of our list were the chocolate factory and the brewery!Mount Buffalo

When in Bright, it is well worth taking the 45 minute detour to drive up Mount Buffalo. From there, hike the last few metres to the summit and enjoy the views from 1,723m (5,653ft) up. Try to do this in the dead of winter and you may find your way blocked by snow, compensate by trying your hand at cross country skiing!

The Great Ocean Road, Victoria
243km (151 miles) of postcard perfect views. Everytime you round a corner, you find yourself waiting with bated breath to see what Mother Nature has in store for you next. Time it wrong, and the answer will be a car park full of tour buses. Come the summer months, you will struggle to get a photo of the iconic Twelve Apostles without a stranger’s head featuring in there somewhere.

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road We drove this world famous scenic route in the dead of winter. The eastern starting point, Tourquay, home of Rip Curl, and usually a bustling surfers’ paradise, was more of a ghost town. For us, this boded well. We drove the 250km slowly, taking four days to complete it. We met very few cars on the road, allowing us to amble along leisurely, stopping as frequently as we desired. The weather held out for the most part – although cold, the sun shone down on us – until rain hit us on the last day. This just gave us an excuse to hunker down in a cafe with hot drinks and watch the waves roll onto the beach.
This stretch of coast is, to me, one of the world’s most stunning works of art. I simply recommend that you try to see it in its purest form. The less people, the better.

Hamelin Eagle Ray, Hamelin BayBay, Western Australia
Do not be fooled by the lack of an actual town. The beach holds all the reason you need to visit. Wade ankle deep into the refreshing water and experience the thrill of graceful eagle rays, and giant smooth stingrays (short-tail stingrays) swimming around you.
The setting is so fabulous that, even without encountering these majestic creatures, Hamelin Bay would be worth a visit. Fortunately, the rays are drawn to the constant fishing that occurs in the area, and due to their size, are not that hard to spot!
Summer months are the best time to travel to Hamelin Bay. The location is one to be enjoyed in the sun, and warmer, calmer weather makes finding the rays easier. We timed it well, arriving on a weekday just before the start of summer holidays. As soon as we got to the beach, there were five humongous rays just waiting for us! An awesome experience.

Bonus Spot: Cliff Camp, Nullabor National Park, South Australia
Cliff Camp, Eyre Hwy
No word of a lie, this is one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen. We were driving from Adelaide, South Australia, to Perth, Western Australia. It is a five day drive that takes you through the Nullabor Plains, aptly named for its lack of trees, and anything else for that matter. We found this spot on WikiCamps – a handy little app for finding campsites. It is on Eyre Highway (A1), 33km before Border Village (coordinates: 31° 38′ 44″ S – 129° 20′ 8″ E).
We did pass the turn off initially, a little dirt track that seemingly leads you off the face of the earth. After ‘chucking a U-ey’, as they say here is Oz, we arrived at our destination. Careful not to park our beloved van too close to the crumbling cliff face, we jumped out and let our eyes gaze over the Great Australian Bight that lay, a sprawling mass of blue, ahead of us.
It was such a calm, peaceful place to camp. We spent our afternoon watching out for migrating Southern Right Whales, and doing a bit of yoga ‘au naturel’. That night, the great and mighty Thor treated us to a spectacular light show of bright sheet and forked lightning, illuminating the sea and sky in pinks and purples. Our desire to stay the next day and simply do nothing, was washed away by the steady rain which ensued.
If you are driving through the Nullabor, please, please stop here, if only for a picnic, and let us know what you think.

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