Remote Australian destinations for travellers who want to continue to social distance when they can leave home again, include everywhere from the holiday town of Esperance, 700 kilometres from Australia’s most remote capital Perth, to the Kimberley region, one of the most sparsely populated areas on the planet.
While these two travel writers are itching to travel again after more than 18 months in one place – the longest we’ve ever not travelled in our lives – we’re also eager to get home to Australia, and are dreaming of remote Australian destinations where we can continue to social distance to some extent.
With Covid-19 spinning out of control again in so many countries, sparsely populated places, isolated accommodation, empty beaches, and desolate landscapes are all very appealing right now. The list below is a highly selective list of our personal recommendations based on places we’ve spent time in and enjoyed.
We’ve not included Aboriginal communities, most of which require a permit to visit at the best of times and are off-limits during the pandemic to protect residents. The Kiwirrkurra community is often included on lists of the most remote Australian places, without mention that a permit is required to visit.
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Remote Australian Destinations for Travellers Who Really Want to Get Away From It All
Before planning a trip to any of these remote Australian destinations, check the latest travel restrictions. State government websites and official tourist board websites are the best place to start. Make sure to take out travel insurance in case restrictions change and you have to cancel your holiday.
If driving long distances doesn’t appeal, Luxury Escapes currently has fantastic offers on packages to some of the most remote Australian destinations including the Kimberley and Cape Leveque, Cape York, Cooktown and Cairns, and the York Peninsula and Flinders Ranges.
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
The ruggedly beautiful Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is around 460 kilometres or a 5-hour road trip from Adelaide, South Australia’s capital. The Flinders Ranges are the state’s largest mountain ranges, sprawling some 912 square kilometres, and are home to abundant birdlife and wildlife, ancient rock art, historic ruins, and walking trails.
‘Ikara’ means ‘meeting place’ in the local Adnyamathanha language and it’s the traditional name for the national park’s star attraction, Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre covering some 80 square kilometres, which is home to St Mary Peak, the Flinders’ highest peak at 1,170 metres.
While you can reach the 800 million-year-old Wilpena Pound by a good sealed road, other parts of the park are only accessible by unsealed roads, which are manageable by 2WD or AWD vehicles in good weather but better tackled by 4WD.
Once you arrive, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, birdwatching and wildlife spotting, and gawking at gob-smacking scenery at lookouts and on short and long walking tracks, including the Heysen Trail and Mawson Trail.
Highlights include Hucks Lookout, Wilkawillina Gorge, Bunyeroo Gorge, Brachina Gorge, and Arkaroo Rock. Whatever you do, don’t miss the two-hour hike to Wangara Lookout, for sweeping views across Wilpena Pound.
Expect to spot an abundance of birds, including emus, parrots and wedge-tailed eagles while wildlife includes western grey kangaroos, red kangaroos, yellow-footed rock-wallabies, echidnas, goannas, and geckos.
Art lovers will relish the ancient Aboriginal rock art, while photographers, sketchers and water-colourists will enjoy capturing the historic stone ruins of early European settlements.
Where to Stay near Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
While there are camping opportunities, for a real outback experience we recommend staying at the 30,000-acre Rawnsley Park Station, a working sheep station near Wilpena Pound, on the edge of the national park, where you can spend your evenings around the campfire or star-gazing from your cabin deck.
Esperance and Southeast Western Australia
Some of the most remote Australian destinations are naturally within the most remote state, Western Australia, home to some of the country’s most sparsely populated places and emptiest landscapes. If this wasn’t a selective list, I could include a dozen remote places in Western Australia, but it is, so I’m focusing on Esperance.
Around 700 kilometres from Australia’s most remote capital city, Perth, it will take you one very long day to drive direct to Esperance, in the southeast of the state, which is why it’s best to break up the journey and drive from Perth to the Margaret River wine region (and explore the Margaret River area for a few days), drive from Margaret River to Denmark, then Denmark to Albany, and Albany to Ravensthorpe, then it’s an easy 188km drive to Esperance.
This beachside town is one of Australia’s prettiest with its Norfolk Pine tree-lined esplanade and pristine stretches of white sand, and crystal-clear sea, but it’s the surrounding area that you really want to get out and explore.
Nearby Cape Le Grand National Park and Cape Arid National Park are home to some of Western Australia’s most beautiful beaches such as beguiling Lucky Bay, famous for its kangaroos who bask on the beach.
There are countless bushwalking trails offering breathtaking vistas, enriching tours with indigenous Australian guides, plenty of spots for camping, swimming and snorkelling, opportunities for diving and fishing, and from late winter to spring, when wildflowers cover the headlands, there’s whale-watching.
Where to Stay in Esperance
There are plenty of camping opportunities in the national parks around Esperance, however, if you’re visiting in winter you’ll want something cosy. Esperance Chalet Village just out of town on Bandy Creek has A-frame chalets, cottages, family shacks, and log cabins with plush bedding and lamb’s wool throws. The large chalets have a kitchenette, lounge and barbecue, while the two-bedroom shacks, cottages and log cabin have proper kitchens and outdoor fire pits. There’s self check-in, complimentary home-baked treats, bikes, kayaks, and it’s a short walk to the beach.
The Kimberley Region
The Kimberley is the most remote region in Australia’s most remote state and one of the most sparsely populated areas on the planet, making it one of the most remote Australian destinations for those of you who really want to get away from it all. The region is around the same size as Germany and its two largest towns, Broome in the West Kimberley and Kununurra in the East Kimberley, are closer to Indonesia than to Perth.
Like Esperance, Broome is a dreamy destination in itself, boasting another of Australia’s most gob-smacking stretches of sand, 22-kilometre long Cable Beach, easy access to the rich indigenous culture, a fascinating multicultural history, a charming little Chinatown, dotted with Aboriginal art galleries, cafés and an historic outdoor cinema.
Broome is also the departure point for excursions to remote Cape Leveque, a 240-kilometre drive away on a now-sealed road at the northernmost tip of the Dampier Peninsula. With few facilities, you can expect to while away your time on indigenous tours, fishing, swimming, bushwalking, and beachcombing.
Broome to Kununurra requires an epic road trip across the northwest which you can punctuate with stops to explore stupendous gorges, cruise along serene rivers shaded by towering ochre cliffs, take dips in natural swimming holes, and do hikes to absorb ancient Aboriginal rock art. See this guide for things to do in the Kimberley.
From Derby, you could drive through some of the most remote parts of Australia along the epic 660-kilometre 4WD-only Gibb River Road to Kununurra. Plan well, take plenty of supplies, book accommodation well in advance, and expect to drive long distances without seeing another soul.
Kununurra means ‘big water’ in the language of the indigenous Miriuwung Gajerrong people of the area and 75 kilometres south of the town is the inland sea of Lake Argyle, a staggering 1,000 square kilometres in size at normal capacity. Take a cruise or spend a day on the lake’s shores kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding to experience the immensity of this massive dam, which is 18 times the size of Sydney Harbour.
From Kununurra it’s a four-hour drive to Purnululu National Park and the otherworldly Bungle Bungle Range with its beehive domes, where you can be quite alone on day-long hikes, or you could join a small group tour and stay in luxury glamping lodgings in this magical part of the country.
Where to Stay in the Kimberley
In Broome, check into the iconic Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa on heavenly Cable Beach. You can break up your journey at Derby, where the Spinifex Hotel has an outdoor pool while Derby Lodge Self Contained Apartments has outdoor barbecue areas. If you take the Gibb River Road, El Questro Station has handsome bungalows at The Station while Emma Gorge Resort has safari style tents with private bathrooms and a pool. At Kununurra, try the Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments or Discovery Parks Kununurra opposite Lake Kununurra, which has a pool.
Kakadu National Park
It’s not hard to find yourself alone at UNESCO World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park, one of the most remote Australian destinations and largest national park, which at almost 20,000 square kilometres is around half the size of Switzerland – especially if you have your own 4WD to access tranquil swimming holes and towering waterfalls only accessible on rough dirt tracks.
Jabiru, Kakadu’s main town, is a 254-kilometre drive southeast of Darwin, another of Australia’s most remote capitals. You’ll be driving along good sealed roads, however, so if you depart Darwin in the morning, you can be at Jabiru by midday.
Despite Kakadu having a heritage listing, it never feels as busy as Litchfield National Park, which is closer to Darwin, and even in the peak dry season period it’s possible to hike walking tracks to waterholes or clamber up rocky trails to stone escarpments for ancient rock art and sweeping views and still not see another soul.
You will of course see other travellers if you stop en route at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve and Adelaide River for the Jumping Crocodile Cruise, and once at Kakadu do the Yellow Waters Cruise for birdlife and wildlife spotting, and hike up to the monumental Nourlangie Rock and Anbangbang Shelter, for ancient art galleries, but they are absolutely worth it.
To really get off the beaten track, take the 4WD-only tracks to the breathtaking Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls, a 1.5-hour drive from the highway, and then a further 30-minute drive on a sandy track, respectively. It’s a challenging hike of around 3 kilometres, which will take about 4-6 hours to the top of the cliff, but you’ll probably have the place to yourself. No swimming unfortunately due to crocodiles.
Another remote sight is Maguk, for which you’ll also need a high-clearance 4WD to tackle the 12-kilometre bumpy track to gorgeous Maguk or Barramundi Gorge, where you can swim in a tantalising natural swimming pool with cool water courtesy of high rock walls. Hike above the waterfalls and you’ll discover even more stunning swimming holes, however, check for warning signs as crocs have been found here in the past.
Gobsmacking Koolpin Gorge or Jarrangbarnmi is another remote spot accessible only by 4WD, where you’ll find more serene natural swimming pools with shaded areas and small sandy beaches that are brilliant for picnics or simply taking in the silence.
Where to Stay at Kakadu
There are plenty of camping spots at Kakadu if you really want to get away from everyone, otherwise, there are a handful of caravan parks and resorts, including the 4-star crocodile shaped Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel at Jabiru, which has a swimming pool, and Cooinda Lodge Kakadu near the Warradjan centre, which is a great base for 4WD excursions to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. To really get away from it all, however, consider luxury lodge Bamurru Plains, which must be booked well in advice.
Images courtesy of Luxury Escapes
Have you been to any of these remote Australian destinations? What are your picks of Australia’s most isolated places for travellers who want to continue to social distance when they can travel again?