Driving down the East Coast of Australia can be an adventure. There are many hidden gems along the way that are worth a detour. Keep on reading for my favorite places off the beaten path. They are mentioned in the order from North to South and are all located between Cairns and Brisbane.
This tropical creek is located on the way from Cairns to Townsville. It is lined with huge boulders which build multiple large pools for people to swim. If you don’t want to get wet, you can just go for a walk next to the creek and enjoy the amazing views.
But there is more to Babinda Boulders than meets the eye. The area holds great significance for Aboriginal people because of the legend of a beautiful girl named Oolana who married a respected elder from her tribe called Waroonoo. However, shortly after she met Dyga from another tribe and they fell in love which led them to escape to the valleys. When the elders captured them, Oolana threw herself onto the still waters and her cries for her lost lover turned them into a rushing torrent. Huge boulders scattered around the creek and the aboriginal legend says that her spirit still guards the boulders.
Millaa Millaa Falls
To be fair, these are not that much of a hidden gem; they are the most photographed falls in Australia. In addition, they are a popular swimming location and you can actually even go behind the 30-meter waterfall. Definitely worth a stop, in my opinion.
To see Babinda Boulders and Millaa Millaa Falls (as well as Josephine Falls and Lake Eacham), you can join one of Uncle Brian’s Waterfall tours. I didn’t do it but a friend of mine did and really recommended it.
Finch Hatton Gorge
Located on the drive from Airlie Beach to Mackay, is Finch Hatton Gorge. It’s a detour, but so worth it. There are multiple walking tracks. One leads you 1.6 km to the Araluen waterfall.
It’s beautiful but I urge you to go further until you reach the Wheel of Fire Cascades. You’ll have to cross a small creek on the way (which should be possible without getting your feet wet but I just took off my shoes) and there are some stairs and uphill segments. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful waterfall with a large rock pool at its base. If you are as lucky as we were, you’ll have this stunning place completely to yourself! Definitely go for a swim!
Paperbark Forest Walk
This short walk was honestly one of the coolest places in Australia. Don’t believe me? Just look at these pictures! You’ll feel like you are in an enchanted forest. The Paperbark Forest Walk is located close to Agnes Water, on the drive from Rockhampton to Hervey Bay. The stepping stones, boardwalks, and water crossings make it the perfect location for pictures.
Pro Tip: Just a 5-minute drive away from the boardwalk, is a cafe called 1770 Getaway, one of the cutest cafes I’ve been to. Stay tuned for my vegan food guide for the East Coast coming out soon.
Carlo Sand Blow
The next one of the hidden gems along the East Coast Australia is located at Rainbow Beach, on the way from Hervey Bay to Noosa. Carlo Sand Blow is a big sand mass, covering 15 hectares to be exact, it can even be seen from Noosa National Park. It also offers stunning Views of Double Island Point, Tin Can Bay, and the colored sands.
The sand blow is just a short walk away from the car park at the end of Cooloola Drive.
These are the perfect spot for some Instagram pictures (but also just to have a fun time in an awesome place). The Fairy Pools are two natural tidal pools in Noosa National Park.
How to find them: The Fairy Pools are located down the rocks on the coastal track in Noosa National Park. This beautiful walk is a 10.8 km return track and I highly recommend going all the way to Sunshine Beach but you won’t have to walk as long to reach the Fairy Pools. Depending on your pace, it should take you 30-45 minutes to get to them. To find them, look out for a bench a few hundred meters after the Picnic Cove sign. From there, you will have to find your way down to the rocks.
When to go: First of all, it is important to keep the tide in mind. The fairy pools will only be disconnected from the sea during low tide. Second, consider that they are a popular place so it might be best to go early in the morning or on a weekday. We went early in the morning on a Saturday and were still lucky enough to only share the pools with a handful of other people. However, we had to wait for a parking spot for ten minutes because all the surfers were already there. So, if you can get to Noosa National Park by walking, that would probably be a good idea.
Here you go, these are my (sometimes not so) hidden gems along the East Coast Australia. Have you been to any of these places before? As always, I would love to hear about your experiences.