Must visit small towns in Australia

From the stunning Sydney Opera House to the beautiful botanical gardens in Brisbane, Australia’s big cities have obvious appeal. But if you want to get a deeper sense of what this amazing country is all about, escape to one of its many charming small towns. Here, you can get to know the locals, sample traditional cuisine and take things at your own pace, without the crowds of the city. Each of these small towns in Australia offers something different – from idyllic vineyards to laid-back beaches.

So, here they are…a handful of beautiful small towns in Australia that we believe are not to be missed!

Healesville

Located just under an hour from Melbourne and right in the centre of the Yarra Valley food and wine district, Healesville is also home to some of the region’s most talented artists whose wares you’ll find in the town’s galleries and studios. Partake in a leisurely lunch at one of the many al fresco cafes or popular restaurants, potter around the boutique shops, and stock up on fresh regional produce from the huge range of local growers and suppliers. You can interact with Australia’s native wildlife at the town’s Animal Sanctuary. There’s plenty of cellar doors close by and the famous Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.

Birregurra

This historic town lies approximately 130 kilometres (81 miles) south-west of Melbourne and is home to the highly regarded restaurant Brae which features prominently in the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The town itself is charming, with wonderfully restored facades on buildings giving it a historic and reminiscent feel. Like Healesville, it has plenty for foodies to explore including amazing farm gates, growers and producers, breweries and winemakers of the Otway Harvest Trail.

Portland

A four-hour drive from Melbourne and 100 kilometres (63 miles) past the end of the Great Ocean Road, the beautiful Victorian town of Portland doesn’t get much of a look-in compared to better-known Great Ocean Road towns like Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne and Apollo Bay. The town is home to good-looking old Australian architecture but it’s yet to be overrun by tourists.

Lorne

Lorne is a small town on the Great Ocean Road route. It’s a relaxing place surrounded by a forest full of waterfalls and a beach that’s perfect for surfing. It’s an ideal base from which to explore the stunning Great Ocean Road and some of Australia’s most iconic sights, including the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and Gibson Steps.

Bangalow

Bangalow is a picturesque town combining a traditional streetscape with modern appeal. The main street is a pleasure to stroll along, filled with opportunities to indulge in excellent local food and boutique shopping. Located in the gentle hills of the Northern Rivers, Bangalow is 16km (10 miles) or a 20-minute scenic drive from Byron Bay. The historical architecture of the federation buildings give a warm ambiance to the town while the surrounding landscape consists of fertile countryside producing macadamia nuts, fruits and vegetables, coffee, dairy and beef.

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay lies right in the middle of the Great Ocean Road route, and it’s a perfect stop if like us you’re doing a multi-day road trip. It’s a seafood town – home to my favourite fish shack –  embraced by tranquil beaches, rolling green hills and the Great Otway National Park.

Eden

Mid-way between Melbourne and Sydney, this small town is a natural paradise on the sparkling Sapphire Coast of NSW. Eden’s extraordinary attractions range from spotting humpback whales in the deep blue waters of Twofold Bay – third-deepest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere – to learning about the region’s whaling heritage and bushwalking in Ben Boyd National Park. There are plenty of things to do in Eden throughout the year, like relaxing on beautiful sandy beaches, fishing, kayaking, bushwalking and snorkelling. The wharf at Snug Cove is home to a number of restaurants serving fresh seafood or you can buy mussels directly from the fishing boats.

Hahndorf

Located just half an hour from Adelaide, in the Adelaide Hills, Hahndorf is a contemporary village proud of its German heritage still visible in its traditional streetscape with small goods stores, bakeries, cuckoo clocks, wooden folk art and German-style pubs. It’s Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, built by Prussian settlers in 1839. It’s also home to the Beerenberg Farm which produces lots of wonderful jams and preserves. I’m particularly fond of these.

There are so many wonderful small towns that we’ve visited or just passed through on our four vacations in Australia. I’m hoping we’ll have plenty of future additions to this list on subsequent trips.