Capital cities have the hum drum, the hustle and a whole lot more bustle, but people often forget about the rest of the state. Australia is expansive and diverse, golden plains, girt by sea at every edge and blistering sun reaching to every corner. So for each mainstay on the map, this fine coastline of ours has a lot more to offer. Considering a sea change or a road trip nearby, we’ve rounded up the second largest cities and all they have to offer.
The surfer town is naturally gorgeous, a stunner by the beach. Trek the memorial walk with views over the city and sea, guaranteed to catch a barge or two in your eye line. A harbour to rival it’s big sister Sydney too, there’s seaside bars galore. After a long day of sun soaking at Mereweather or a dip at Bogeys Hole, you’ll have earnt a drink.
The Edwards Bar is a charming option, open all day long for a bite or host to many an eclectic event. Gilmore Girls screening, don’t mind if we do. For open air bevs why not visit Customs House Hotel, an alfresco delight with a side of history. Or for a little Latin flavour, head to local favourite Barcito in Hamilton; they’ve even got a bar side swing under construction.
For the window shoppers and trinket aware, Newcastle’s art scene coming alive is good news for you. Markets, boutiques and waterside stalls will make you reconsider that no souvenir policy. Pappa Sven is a must; a homewares store where every item will be added to your wish list. Centenary Antique Centre is a journey to another time, like you raided your grandparents house, great for the treasure hunters out there.
Or for fashion for both him and her, head to Abicus, vinyl collections sit aside hero pieces. Your bag will be fuller but all for the better, upon your return home. A short trip from Sydney will see you land in a sea sprayed heaven, Newcastle you’re looking good.
Gold Coast, QLD
No longer the site of just schoolies or tourists en masse, the Gold Coast has cleaned up its act. A thriving local food scene, a beach for every mood and that little glimmer of glitz that makes it so unique. Walking the cliffside at Burleigh Heads and taking that obligatory shot or an in land waterfall chase, the Gold Coast is allowed to be a little vain.
For eats with a view, cruise your way along the Gold Coast Highway. A stop at every beach along the way certainly wouldn’t do any harm. The local Little Mermaid is a new favourite, taking you under the sea without a cliché in sight. Pour yourself a drink from a freshly stirred cocktail jug and watch the day go by. Pineapple margarita is our pick.
Whether it’s jet ski revs or paddle board streams you fancy, for water sport this is the place to be. Stand up paddle boarding lets you sweep across the coast from a whole new perspective. Or if you’re into a steadier mode of transport why not hire a party pontoon for the crew? Gold Coast Party Pontoons will have your day drinking afloat in no time.
Avoiding the clutter of Surfers itself may be your plan of attack, but tucked amongst it are some real winners. For collectors of Hawaiian shirts from another era or searchers of 501 Levis in their size, look no further than Arkive Vintage. An arcade haunt worth braving the crowds for. The owner moved to Australia for love from the UK and imports all his wares, thrifting through their extensive collection is an adventure in itself.
So next time you see those bargain flights to the Gold Coast, jump aboard. Not a bad spot to escape the scorching heat, much more than Cavill Ave.
What Melbourne lacks in bayside charm, Geelong makes up for in spades. Arts, eats and footy, this hub has it all. Home of the Geelong cats, a weekend game lights up the local crowd, an atmosphere not to miss. A charming combination of Melbourne’s aesthetic pride and stunning natural vistas, it’s a prime spot to explore both. Or the ideal start before the beginning of your Great Ocean Rd trip.
From Geelong you can venture to You Yangs, a granite ridgeway of land once volcanic, the view is second to none. Be transported to a landscape unfamiliar, you can walk it or for those keen to pick up the pace, traverse the hills by mountain bike. Or stumble along the city foreshore, a wharf curves its way out into the sea for an even better swim.
You can venture into the CBD for coffee before you explore, 10 sq M is our pick. A little slice of laneway life in Geelong. Graffiti covers the walls and the baristas just as cool as Melbourne’s offering. Plus, the brew is too excellent to pass up, a second cup is on the cards.
For post footy drinks or just an evening sip, look no further than Geelong Cellar Door. A venue worth settling in for endless wine and chats, it feels like home. If home had an excellent wine selection, Parisian finishes and charcuterie to keep your platter endlessly full.
Thrifters will already have heard about Geelong Vintage Market open all but Christmas Day, an eclectic coming together of bits and bobs. Plus the old wool mill building it calls home is from another time entirely.
With Avalon (that second airport with the dirt cheap flights) just around the corner, make Geelong an additional stop on your Victorian adventure. Or swap Melbourne’s all black aesthetic for a little sea and sand, for the weekend at least.
With Margaret River down the road, it’s hard not to see what locals love about Perth’s southern neighbour. Bunburry is a sun drenched holiday destination so relaxed the locals may as well be on a vacation year round. Dolphins brush the coast, national parks sit on the edge and the street art scene has come alive. Road trip anyone?
Choose your adventure, an underwater dive at Busselton Jetty, a local taste tour in the outback or wine tasting the region nearby. Bunburry has a little something for every traveller. If you’re more the type to sun themselves all day long, you may have trouble choosing a beach to perch yourself at. Snorkel, dive or swim with the locals, dolphins that is. Or head to Meelup National Park for a paddle board, an untouched oasis.
Thanks to an initiative by the local council, the streets are dotted with captivating murals. Take yourself on a tour of the city centre, weaving you way around the art. The back walls are worth the search.
40 wineries are located in the vicinity, so while you may not be able to conquer them all, what’s the harm in trying. Famous for it’s shiraz, a glass or two in the lush surrounds certainly won’t hurt.
Bunburry is a summer dream, so book your spot and account for extra baggage. You’ll be carrying back a little slice of the vineyard to remember the trip.
Mount Gambier, SA
So much more than the Big Lobster, Mount Gambier is a natural paradise. You may have seen the captivating cobalt of the Blue Lake but the landscape on offer takes you even deeper. An underwater exploration of Ewen Ponds, limestone sinkholes is a must. Or Piccaninnie Ponds for a shallower visit, not just fun to say either. Crystal clear waters make for a real sight. In fact there’s a sinkhole for every taste around here.
For those who prefer to stay dry, Tantanoola Caves is more for you. This isn’t a trek, it’s been paved so you can make your way to the stalactites and stalagmites with ease. Just don’t hurt yourself trying to remember which one’s which.
Taste the quality local produce at Mayura Station, purveyors of Wagyu beef. Take a cooking class or sit back and watch the masters work, paddock to plate in it’s purest form. Marbled to perfection you will never eat a better steak.
After all your adventures, stroll down to Beachport where the jetty extends over Rivoli Bay. Azure blue waters to rival Queensland are yours to soak up. South Australia was named in Lonely Planet’s 2017 regions to visit, and Mount Gambier is only another example of fine adventures to be had.
Image source: Metropolist, The Vintage Map, Jane Sleeps Here, Hunter Hunter, Concrete Playground, Virtual Tourist, Return of the Road Trip, I Am Here and There, A Tactile Life, Visit Bunbury,