As the days heat up and planning for the summer holiday begins, it’s tempting to just make a beeline for one of Australia’s tried-and-tested coastal towns. But resist the automatic beachside booking in favour of a trip to one of these inland hamlets, and be rewarded with cooler temperatures, scenic beauty, gourmet offerings and outdoor adventures – all minus the crowds.
With its outback temperatures and vast blankets of red earth, the Northern Territory might not be the first place that comes to mind for a summer escape. But drive three scenic hours south of Darwin along the Nature’s Way to Katherine, and you’ll be in the jumping-off spot to some of the most memorable summer experiences in the country.
Uniquely positioned where the Top End’s tropics meet Central Australia’s outback, Katherine is located on the edge of the Nitmiluk National Park with its multitude of waterfalls, walking trails and pristine outback swimming holes (oh hey Edith Falls, we’re looking at you). Australia’s only tropical limestone cave system, Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, is 30 kilometres south of the township (and 15 metres underground). The Top End park offers a respite from the heat and a fascinating insight into the local Jawoyn people.
But if you opt for just one summer experience while in Katherine, make it the famous Nitmiluk Gorge (or Katherine Gorge), one of the region’s most spectacular sights to behold. Hire a canoe and paddle underneath majestic sandstone cliffs and past waterfalls, ancient Aboriginal rock art and local wildlife, or take a sunrise or sunset boat cruise for moments that will linger in the mind long after you leave.
Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, Hahndorf, should do the trick if your taste is a little less focused on nature and a little more focused on your stomach.
This historic town is just 30 minutes from Adelaide, making it conveniently located for a day trip or weekender. Expect serious family fun in summer, too, with plenty to appeal beyond German sausages and sauerkraut…the main street is a fairytale display of 19th-century German architecture with artisanal food stores, galleries showcasing cuckoo clocks and wooden folk art, boutiques, a craft brewery, winery cellar doors, a gin distillery and German-style pubs.